by K_trina

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. To his second wife Augustia Posadas, the testator bequeathed, in addition to various movables, a portion of 25 hectares to lie .taken out of a 259 odd... hectare parcel outlined in Plan Psu-68618, plus another five  (5) hectares in settlement, of her widow's usufruct. 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;

08.0854 hectares to  his legitimate son Ernesto  Guevara, including therein 43.2342 hectares by way of mejora;

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  (No. 51691  of  Pangawnan) being issued in his sole  name on October 12, 1933.

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 of the  tract covered by  certificate of title No.  51691 as the portion that  should correspond to... her  (Rosario). by way of  legitime.

he case  reached the former Court of Appeals  in due  course and was decided in Rosario  Guevara's  favor (Exhibit  E)';  but  upon certiorari, the  Supreme Court rnodified  the  judgment in  December, 1043, as follows

(Exhibit F);

: the other half to Ernesto M. Guevara in consideration  of the latter's assumption of the obligation to  pay all the debts of the  deceased, is hereby... affirmed;  but the 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.' (Appellant's  Brief, pp. 13-14.)... laiming 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.   In paragraph 10 of the... petition, it

On January 31, 1946,  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.

By order  of  December 9, 1946, 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.

An  amended petition for the probate of the will  in toto and another petition to reconsider the previous order were subsequently denied; the former on the ground, that there  was a radical change of  theory  from that embodied ... in  the  original petition,  and the second for the same reasons stated  in the order of June, 23,  1947. Rosario L,  Guevara and  Pedro L. Quinto thereupon brought the case-on appeal to this Court,  assigning no less than ... twenty  (20) alleged errors committed by the court below."  (Guevara  vs.  Guevara, C.A. G. R.  No. 5416-R, promulgated December 26, 1951; see Appendix to brief  for the petitioner-appellant, pp. 1-6.)

The dispositive  part of the  decision  of  the  Court  of Appeals reads as follows:

"The order of dismissal of the petition  for probate is reversed and the  court of origin ordered to reinstate the  petition,  and to  hear and decide whether the will of Victorino Guevara, deceased, should be allowed to probate. 

Costs  against appellees in  both  instances." (Ibid.)

Said petition for reconsideration appears, however,  to be predicated, in effect, upon the ground that the evidence is insufficient to justify the decision of the court of first instance, and that  said decision is contrary to law.  It partakes, therefore, of the... nature of a  motion for new trial, stating specifically the  reasons in support thereof, and,  hence,  it suspended the  period to appeal  until the determination of said motion.

Issues:

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, upon the following grounds:

Ruling:

The Court of Appeals resolved the question in the negative, upon the following grounds:

It  is likewise reasonable to assume that if the Supreme Court had considered  the  ten-year limitation applicable to probate proceedings, it  would not have  ordered  the  parties  on December  29, 1943  'to present the... document Exhibit A to the proper court for probate in accordance  with law', because the ten  years from the  death  of the testator expired in September of that same year, two months  before the  decision.  It is safe to assume that the high

Court would not order a  useless step.  The reasoning that the  phrase 'in  accordance with law' was  a  qualification signifying 'if  still legally possible*, appears  to be far-fetched and unjustified.  The plain import of the words... employed by the  high  Court is that the probate should follow the  procedure provided for the  purpose."

"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." (Appendix to brief for the petitioner-appellant, pp. 7- 17-20.)

Principles:

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.   This was expressly recognized by  the  Supreme  Court  in its  previous decision, G.  R. No. 48840 '(Exhibit  E) when it said:

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.'  (Italics  supplied)

In  holding  the statute of limitations  applicable to the  probate of wills,  the  court  below  failed , to  notice  that its doctrine  was destructive of the right of testamentary disposition and violative  of the... owner's  right to  control  his property within  the legal  limits. The appealed order in fact  leaves wills  at the mercy  and whim of custodians and heirs interested in  their suppression.  The lower court would  in ... effect abdicate the tutelary power that passed to the Republic from the former sovereigns, that 'potestad suprcma que  en ml reside  para velar  por el  puntual cumplimiento de las  ultimas ¦voluntaries',  asserted as one of the  royal ... prerogatives in  the  'Real Cedula'  of March 18, 1776.

It is not without purpose  that Rule  of  Court 77 prescribes that any 'person interested in  the  estate  may, at  any time  after the death of the  testator, petition the court having  jurisdiction to have the will... allowed'. Taken from the Code of Procedure of  California, this provision has  been interpreted as meaning that the statute of limitations has  no  application to probate of wills.  In case of In  re  Hume's Estate,  179  Calif.

338,  176 Pac. 681, th California Supreme Court  ruled that:

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 (Matter of Watson's Will, 262 N.Y.

284, 294, 186 N.E. 787; Matter of Marriman's  Estate, 124 Misc.  320, 325, 208 N.Y.S. 672; Foley,.S. affirmed 217 App. Div. 733,  216 N.Y.S.

To that end, the court is, in effect,  an  additional party to  every litigation affecting the disposal of the assets  of the deceased.  Matter of Van Valkenburgh's Estate, 164 Misc. 

295,  296, 298 N.Y.S. 219. A determination, therefore,  that the mere  non-action of a person upon ivhmn no legal duty rested  in this regard, could have the effect of subverting the wishes of one who  was no  longer  able to protect his own... unquestionable  rights, would strike at the very foundation of all  conceptions of  justice  as  administered  i... n  probate courts.'

These decisions are  of high  persuasive  value (Cu  vs. Republic, G. R.  L-3018, July 18, 1951); they represent  the trend of authority (57 Am. Jur.  535),  and enable  us  to  conclude  that reason and precedent... reject the applicability of  the Statute of Limitations to probate proceedings, because these are not exclusively  established in the interest of  the surviving heirs, but primarily for the protection of the testator's expressed wishes, that are  entitled... to  respect as an effect  of his ownership and right  of disposition.   If the  probate of validly executed wills is required by public  policy, as declared by the Supreme Court  in  the  previous  case, G.R. 

48840  (Exhibit E), the state could  not have intended the  statute of limitations to  defeat that policy.

Assuming that  the  original petition violated  the order of the Supreme Court in  so  far as it  did not  ask  for the allowance  of the  entire will, the court below  erred in  dismissing1 the  petition,... for  it thereby  sanctioned  further  disobedience to the order of the superior court.  Once again, it must be repeated  that the  order  of dismissal failed to take into  account that the case involved  not only the ... interests  of Eosario Guevara,  and those of the appellee Ernesto Guevara and the  other legatees,  but specially the  express desires of the testator; and that the  protection and  defense of the latter developed  upon the court ... itself,  since  no one else made any  move to enforce them.

'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.'

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