by Loise Del Rosario

ERNESTO M. GUEVARA v. ROSARIO GUEVARA, GR No. L-5405, 1956-01-31

Facts:

"This case being the sequel to, and aftermath of, a previous litigation between the parties that reached the  Supreme Court through the former Court of Appeal's,  it becomes necessary to restate the essential  antecedent facts to view the issues in... proper perspective. For this purpose, it is important to recall that on "August 26, 1931, Victorino  L.  Guevara, a  resident of Bayambang, Pangasinan, executed  a will  (Exhibit A), distributing assorted movables and a residential lot  among his... children, Rosario and Ernesto Guevara,  and his stepchildren, Vivencio, Eduvigis, Dionista, Candida, and Pio Guevara.

The balance of the 259 odd hectares ho distributed as follows:

100  hectares  reserved  for  disposal during the testator's lifetime and for payment of his  debts  and family expenses;

108.0854 hectares to  his legitimate son Ernesto  Guevara, including therein 43.2342 hectares by way of mejora;

21.6171 hectares to 'mi hija natural reconocida Rosario Guavara.' Ernesto Guevara was  appointed  executor  without bond.

On July  12, 1933, the  same testator executed  a deed  of  sale in favor of Ernesto  Guevara, conveying to the  latter the southern half of 'the 259-hectare lot heretofore mentioned, and expressly recognized Ernesto  Guevara ... as  owner of the northern half.

Prior  to  this sale, oh November 1,  1932,  Victorino and his son Ernesto  had jointly applied for registration  of the big parcel  (case No. 15174), but in  view of the sale from the former to  the latter, the decree was... issued  in the name of  Ernesto Guevara exclusively and for the whole tract a certificate of title

Fifteen days previously,  i.e., on September 27, 1933,  Victorinc Guevara died,  but his ¦will was not filed  for probate.

About four years later,  Rbsario Guevara, claiming; to be a recognized natural child of the deceased Victorino,  and on... the assumption that  he had died intestate,  brought'  suit against' Ernesto  Guevara  to recover. 423,492 square  meters

The case  reached the former Court of Appeals  in due  course and was decided in Rosario  Guevara's  favor... but  upon certiorari, the  Supreme Court rnodified  the  judgment

Judgment of said court insofar  as it awarded any relief  to the respondent Rosario Guevara, in this action is hereby reversed and set aside, and the parties  are hereby ordered to present the document Exhibit A to the proper) court for... probate in accordance with law, without prejudice to such action as the provincial  fiscal Pangasinan may take against the responsible party or  parties under section 4 of Rule 76.  After the said document, is approve and allowed by  the  court as the... last will  and testament of the deceased Victorino L. Guevara, the heirs and legatees herein named may take such action, judicial or extra judicial,  as necessary to partition the estate of the testator, taking  in consideration. the pronouncements  made in... part II of this opinion No -finding as to costs  in  any of the three instances.'

Claiming to act pursuant to the foregoing decision Rosario Guevara commenced on October 5, 1945,  special proceedings No. 2646 in the Court  of First Instance of  Pangasinan for  the probate of the will of Victorino Guevara.

Notice of the petition having been  duly  published pursuant to Rule of Court 77,. section 4,  Ernesto Guevara  appeared and opposed the  probate.  Pedro L.  Quinto,  counsel for Rosarioin theformer litigation,  was ... allowed  to intervene in view  of  his recorded attorney's  lien.

Ernesto. Guevara, through counsel, filed a motion to  dismiss the petition on' the grounds that (a petition itself alleged that the will was revoked;   (b) that 'whatever right to probate the parties may have has ... already  prescribe (Record on Appeal,, p. 14);  and  (c)  that the purpose  of  th probate was, solely  to have petitioner Rosario declared  an acknowledged  natural child of the deceased.

Judge Sotero  Rodas denied  the motion, to  dismiss; but upon motion of reconsideratio Judge Mainalac of the same  court, on June 23, 1937, reconsidaration set aside the previous resolution  and ordered the... petition dismissed on the  ground that Rosario Guevara's petition  did  not for  the probate  in toto of the will,  contrary to the order of Supreme Court;  that her  right to petition for the probate  o testament .

of  Victorino L. Guevara had  prescribed; and that  her  action for judicial declaration of acknowledgment had likewise prescribed.

Issues:

(c) Is the petition for probate of the alleged will of the deceased Victorino L,  Guevara barred by  the  statute of limitations?

Ruling:

(3)  The last question  for determination in  this case is whether or not  the petition for probate of  the will  of Victorino L. Guevara is barred by  the statute  of limitations, considering that the testator died on September 27, 19S3,... and that the petition for probate  of  said will was filed twelve (12) years later, or, to be exact, on October 5, 1945.  The Court of Appeals resolved the question in the negative

"We  are of the opinion that the Court  below was in  error  when it  declared that the petition  for  probate of the will of  Victorino Guevara was barred by prescription.  The provision of  Article 756 of the old

Civil  Code (1042 of the New) and of Rule 76 of the Rules of Court, reiterating those of the old Code of Civil Procedure (Act 190), point out that the presentation  of a decedent's will to the competent court has  always been deemed by our law as  more of a... duty than a right,  and the neglect  of such obligation carries with it the  corresponding penalty;  and it is inconsistent with that policy that the court should refuse to admit wills to probate, without inquiry into their validity.

The authority... given  to testators  to dispose freely  of a portion  of their  estate  would  be imperfectly safeguarded, unless adequate measures were provided by the state to assure that the  wishes of  the  deceased  would  be... carried out. Because the  decedent  may no longer act to have  his testamentary dispositions  duly executed, the state  authority  must  take over  the opposite vigilance and supervision,  so that free testamentary disposition does... not remain a delusion and a dream.

we hold that under section 1  of  Rule  74, in  relation to Rule 76,  if  the decedent left a will  and no  debts 'and the heirs and legatees  desire to  make an extra-judicial  partition of the... estate, they must first present that will to  the court for probate and divide the estate in accordance with  the  will.

They may  not  disregard the provisions  of the  will unless those provisions are contrary  to law. 

Neither may they do away with the presentation of the will to the  court for probate,  because such suppression  of the will  is contrary to  law  and  public  policy. The  law  enjoins the  probate of the  will... and public policy  requires it, because unless the will  is probated and notice thereof given to  the  whole world, the right  of ¦a person to dispose of his property by will may be rendered nugatory, as is  attempted  to  be... done  in the instant case.  Absent legatees and devisees, or  such of them as  may have no knowledge of the will, could be cheated of their inheritance thru the collusion of some of the  heirs who might agree to the  partition  of the estate... among themselves to the exclusion of  others.'

'This excludes the bar of the statute of limitation from consideration as one of  the  matters which may  be shown in opposition to the probate.  This  is further emphasized by  section 1341 which, in substance, declares that,  if upon the... verdict of the jury facts mentioned in  section 1317  as aforesaid appear to be established, the court 'must'  admit the will to probate.  Section 1314 makes it imperative that  the  court  shall  admit the "will to probate if the... execution  is  proven and the  grounds  of opposition authorized by section  1312  are not  established.  This  clearly implies that no grounds of  opposition other than those enumerated in section 1312 may be set  up, ... and it leaves no  place  for the application of  the statute  of limitations.

'One of the most fundamental conceptions of probate law, is that it is the duty of the court to effectuate, in so far as may be compatible  with  the  public interest, the  devolutionary wishes  of a deceased person

'Even  if the decedent left no debts and nobody raises any question as tot the authenticity and due execution of the will, none of heirs may sue for the partition of  the estate in  accordance with that will without first securing its  allowance  or... probate  by the court: first, because the law expressly provides that 'no will shall pass either real or  personal estate unless it  is proved and allowed in the  proper court; and, second, because  the probate of a will, which is a proceeding in... rem,  cannot be  dispensed with and substituted by  any other proceeding, judicial or extrajudicial, with offending against  public  policy  designed to effectuate the testator's right to dispose of his property by will in accordance with law and to... protect the  rights of the heirs and legatees under the will thru the means provided by law,  among which are the publication and the personal notices to each and  all of said  heirs  and  legatees. Nor may the court approve and allow the will... presented in evidence in such an action for  partition, which is  one in personam, any  more than it could decree the registration under  the Torrens system of the land involved in an  ordinary action for revindicacion or partition.'

"From whatever angle the case is viewed, a hearing on the allowance of the will is unavoidable.  The persistent,  albeit obnoxious, attempts of Rosario Guevara to sidetrack the will are not remedied by dismissing the petition for probate of  will, and allowing

Ernesto to  retain a greater interest than that intended by  the testator.

Principles:

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