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[ GR No. L-23828, Feb 28, 1966 ]



123 Phil. 160

[ G.R. No. L-23828, February 28, 1966 ]

(With resolutions of May 19, 1966 and June 7, 1966)



A petition for adoption of Paulina Santos and Aurora Santos was filed by Simplicio Santos and Juliana Reyes in the Court of First Instance of Manila on June 4, 1949.[1] Paulina Santos was then 17 years old and Aurora Santos, 8 years old. The petition, which was under oath, alleged inter alia, that the whereabouts of the minors' nearest of kin, particularly their parents, were unknown; that since the outbreak of the war said minors have been abandoned by their respective parents; and that for years, since their infancy, said children have continously been in petitioners' care and custody. A guardian ad litem Crisanto de Mesa, was thereafter appointed for the minors. Said guardian ad litem forthwith gave his written consent to the adoption. Paulina Santos, being over fourteen years of age, likewise gave her written consent thereto.[2]

After due publication and hearing, the adoption court (CFI) rendered on August 25, 1949 a decision, hereunder quoted in full:


"This is a petition for the adoption of the minors Paulina Santos Reyes and Aurora Santos Reyes by the spouses Simplicio Santos and Juliana R. Santos. After due publication in the 'National Weekly, a newspaper of general circulation in the City of Manila, once a week for three consecutive weeks, the case was then set for trial. The office of the Solicitor General was duly notified of the petition and at the hearing did not offer any objection.


"From the evidence presented at the hearing, it appears that the petitioners have been married for the past twenty-seven years and have no children of their own. They desire to adopt the minors Paulina Santos Reyes and Aurora Santos Reyes, both of whom are and for years have been living; under their cam and custody; that the former, since she was barely three months old has already been taken cared of by them up to the present time, and the latter has been cared for since she was only fifteen days old. Paulina Santos Reyes is now seventeen years old and has given her consent to the adoption as shown by her signature at the foot of the petition. She ratified the same in open Court. Roth parents of the minors have long been unheard from and in spite of diligent efforts of the petitioners to locate them, they could not be found. The consent to the adoption has been given by the guardian ad litem appointed by the Court. The petitioners are both proprietors and have substantial income, more than enough to support and educate the minors. The Court is of the opinion that this adoption will be for the host interest and welfare of the minors.


Wherefore, the Court hereby grants the petition of the spouses Simplicio Santos and Juliana If. Santos to adopt the minors Paulina Santos Reyes and Aurora Santos Reyes and in accordance with Rule 100 of the Rules of Court in the Philippines, hence forth, the minors are freed from all legal obligations of obedience and maintenance with respect to their natural parents and are, to all legal intents and purposes the children of the petitioners. 




"Manila, Philippines, August 25, 1949." 

No appeal was taken from the aforesaid decision.

Subsequently—eight years later—on October 21, 1957, Juliana Reyes died, in Manila, without testament. On November 25, 1957 Simplicio Santos filed in the Court of First Instance of Manila a petition for the settlement of the intestate estate of Juliana Reyes.[3] In said petition he stated among other things that the surviving heirs of the deceased are: he. as surviving spouse, Paulina Santos and Aurora Santos, 27 and 17 years of age, respectively. In the same petition, he asked that he be appointed administrator of the estate.

Gregoria Aranzanso, alleging that she is first cousin to the deceased, filed on January 2, 1958 an opposition to the petition for appointment of administrator. For her grounds she asserted that Simplicio Santos' marriage to the late Juliana Reyes was bigamous and thus void; and that the adoption of Paulina Santos and Aurora Santos was likewise void ab initio for want of the written consent of their parents, who were then living and had not abandoned them. An answer to the opposition was filed by Simplicio Santos on March 7, 1958 and oppositor Aranzanso filed a reply thereto on March 17, 1958.

Demetria Ventura, alleging likewise that she is the first cousin of the deceased Juliana Reyes and adding that she is the mother of the child Paulina Santos, filed on March 19, 1959 an opposition to the petition of Simplicio Santos to be named administrator, and, moreover, thereunder adopted, as her own, the pleadings filed by Gregoria Aranzanso.

By order of April 6, 1959, the Court of First Instance decided the point in dispute, ruling that the validity of the adoption in question could not be assailed collaterally in the intestate proceedings (Sp. Proc. No- 34354). From the order Gregoria Aranzanso and Demetria Ventura appealed to the Court of Appeals.

In its decision, promulgated on September 14, 1964, the Court of Appeals reversed the appealed order, finding instead that the adoption was null and void ab initio due to the absence of consent thereto by the natural parents of the minor children, which it deemed a jurisdictional defect still open to collateral attack.

After denial of their motion for reconsideration by the Court of Appeals, Paulina Santos and Aurora Santos appealed to this Court by way of petition for review, filed on November 18, 1964, to which due course was given. Five months after submission of this case for decision or on October 14, 1965—petitioners herein filed a petition for preliminary injunction, and later, on October 26, 1965, a supplemental petition therefor, to stop the trial court from allowing Gregoria Aranzanso and Demetria Ventura, as well as of two other persons, namely, Consuelo and Pacita Pasion, to intervene in the settlement proceedings or to withdraw cash advances from the estate.

It was alleged in the petition and supplemental petition for preliminary injunction that on September 22, 1965 the probate court issued an order allowing Gregoria Aranzanso and Demetria Ventura to intervene in the settlement proceedings of Juliana Reyes' estate (Sp. Proc. No. 34354) ; that on October 2, 1965 said court issued an order allowing, on previous motions therefor, withdrawal of the sum of P7,000 each, under bond, to all the parties, including Gregoria Aranzanso and Demetria Ventura; that on October 7, 1965 two strangers to the proceedings—the aforesaid sisters Consuelo and Pacita Pasion—filed a motion, stating that they are also first cousins of the decedent and praying that an order be issued allowing them to withdraw the sum of P7,000 each under bond; that on October 13, 1965 the same Pasion sisters filed a supplemental motion in the same proceedings praying that their motion of October 7 be treated as a motion to intervene; that on October 18, 1965 the probate court issued an order allowing the Pasion sisters to intervene in the settlement proceedings and allowing them to withdraw under bond the sum of P7,000 each from the funds of the estate.

On November 4, 1965 respondents, together with Consuelo and Pacita Pasion—who thereby submitted themselves to this Court's jurisdiction and stated that they, "for purposes of expendiency, are also denominated respondents" —filed their "Comment", as required by this Court, opposing the aforesaid petition for preliminary injunction. On November 15, 1965 this Court granted the prayer for preliminary injunction and the writ was issued upon posting of a. bond of P5,000 on November 20, 1965. Respondents however moved for reconsideration or modification thereof on November 23, 1965, stating inter alia that they would now be precluded from taking pail in the scheduled hearing for settlement of the accounts of the special administratrix (Araceli A. Pilapil). On November 26, 1965 we ordered modification of the preliminary injunction, so that on November 29, the writ was modified so as to enjoin the probate court, until further orders: (1) from hearing and/or approving the settlement of special administratrix's accounts; (2) from allowing any sale, disposition or disbursement of the estate except when essential for strictly maintenance purposes; and (3) from allowing respondents, Gregoria Aranzanso and Demetria Ventura, or Consuelo and Pacita Pasion, or any of them, to receive any advance, cash or otherwise, from the funds of the intestate estate.

The principal issue on the merits in this appeal is whether respondents-oppositors Aranzanso and Ventura, could assail in the settlement proceedings the adoption decree in favor of Paulina and Aurora Santos. In sustaining their right to make such a collateral attack, the respondent Court of Appeals rested as abovementioned on the premise that failure to obtain the consent of the natural parents was a jurisdictional defect rendering the adoption void ab initio. In its view, said consent was not properly dispensed with, not only because the evidence adduced in the adoption proceedings was insufficient to support a finding that the parents had abandoned the children, but also since the adoption court fatally omitted to expressly and specifically find that such abandonment in fact occurred.

In this regard it should be stated that the Court of Appeals completely relied on American jurisprudence and authorities to the effect that parental consent to the adoption is a jurisdictional requisite (E.g., 2 C.J.S., Adoption of Children, Section 45 [a] p. 435; Whetmore vs. Fratello, -------Or.-------, 282 P2d 667, 670). The point to remember, however, is that under our law on the matter, consent by the parents to the adoption is not an absolute requisite:


"SEC. 3. Consent to adoption.—There shall be filed with the petition a written consent to the adoption signed by the child, if over fourteen years of age and not incompetent, and by each of its known living parents who is not insane or hopelessly intemperate or has not abandoned such child, or if there are no s-such parents by the genera] guardian or guardian ad litem of the child, or if the child is in the custody of an orphan asylum, children's home, or benevolent society or person, by the proper officer or officers of such asylum, home, or society, or by such person but if the child is illegitimate and has not been recognized the consent of its father to the adoption shall not be required." (Rule 100, Old Rules of Court)[4] 

Stated otherwise, if the natural parents have abandoned their children, consent to the adoption by the guardian ad litem suffices. This brings us to the question whether in the proceedings at bar the Court of Appeals can still review the evidence in the adoption case and conclude that it was not sufficiently established therein that the parents of Paulina and Aurora Santos had abandoned them.

First of all, it is not quite accurate to say that the adoption court made no determination of the fact of abandonment. As quoted earlier, it is stated in the decision of the adoption court, that:


"From the evidence presented of the hearing it appears that the petitioner." have been married for the past twenty-seven years and have no children of their own. They desire to adopt the minors Paulina Santos [y] Reyes and Aurora Santos [y] Reyes, both of whom are and for yearn have been living under their care and custody: that the former, since she was barely three months old has already been taken care of by them up to the present time, and the latter has been cared for since she was only fifteen days old. Paulina Santos [y] Reyes is now seventeen years old. * * * Both parents of the minors have long been unheard from and in spite of diligent efforts of the petitioners to locate them, they could not be found. The consent to the adoption has been given by the guardian ad litem appointed by the Court. * * *" (Italics supplied).

Abandonment—under persuasive American rulings— imports "any conduct on the part of the parent which evinces a settled purpose to forgo all parental duties and relinquish all parental claims to the child". It means "neglect or refusal to perform the natural and legal obligations of care and support which parents owe to their children." (2 Am. Jur. 2d, Adoption, Sec. 32, pp. 886-887.) It can thus readily be seen that altho the CFI judgment approving the adoption does not use the word "abandoned", its findings sufficiently contain a set of facts and circumstances which truly constitutes a finding of abandonment.

Coming now to the power of the Court of Appeals to review in this case the finding of abandonment made by the adoption court, we find that even under American jurisprudence—relied upon, as stated, by said Court—the settled rule is that even when the jurisdiction of an inferior or special tribunal depends upon the existence of a fact to be established before it, the determination of that fact by the tribunal cannot be questioned in a collateral attack upon its order (In re: Mc-Keag's Estate, 141 Cal. 403, 71 Par. 1039, 1040; In re: Camp's Estate, 131 Cal. 469, 63 Pac. 736).

Anent this point the rulings are summed up in 2 American Jurisprudence, 2nd Series, Adoption, Sec. 75 p. 922, thus:


"An adoption order implies the finding of the necessary facts and the burden of proof is on the party attacking it; it cannot be confide red void merely because the fact needed to show .statutory compliance is obscure. While a judicial determination of some particular fact, such as the abandonment of the minor by his parent, or the consent of his next of kin to the adoption, may be essential to the exercise of jurisdiction to enter the order of adoption, this does not make it essential to the jurisdictional validity of the decree that the fact be determined upon proper evidence, or necessarily in accordance with the truth; a mere error cannot affect the jurisdiction, and the determination must stand until reversed on appeal, and hence can not be collaterally attacked. If this were not the rule, the status of adopted children would always be uncertain, since the evidence might not be the same at all investigations, and might be regarded with different effect by different tribunals, and the adoption might be held by one court to have been valid, while another court would hold it to have been of no avail." 

Freeman on Judgments says the same thing:


"In general, therefore, where the right of the court to assume jurisdiction of a cause and proceed to judgment, depends upon the ascertainment of facts in pais and the court retains jurisdiction it thereby impliedly adjudges that the requisite jurisdictional facts exist and having found such facts in favor of jurisdiction, its decision in this respect, whether erroneous or not, cannot be questioned in a collateral proceedings, for a presumption arises in such cases, when the validity of the judgment is attacked, that the necessary jurisdictional facts were proven. * * *" (Vol. I, Sec. 350, pp. 719-720).

The Supreme Court of Wisconsin, construing a statute akin to our law in this regard, said in Parsons vs. Parsons, 101 Wis. 76, 77 N.W. 147, 148:


"The statute to be considered is section 4022, Rev. St. 1878, which reads as follows: 'No such adoption shall be made without the written consent of the living parents of such child unless the court shall find that one of the parents has abandoned the child or gone to parts unknown.' Thus it will be seen that upon the fact being established that the living parent has abandoned his child, be is deemed by the statute to have thereby relinquished all parental right to be consulted in respect to the child's welfare, and his consent to the adoption is therefore dispensed with. The term 'abandon' obviously means no more than neglect or refusal to perform the natural and legal obligations of care and "support which parents owe to their children. The fact of abandonment, judicially determined, was essential to the jurisdiction; not essential that it should be determined on proper evidence, necessarily, or in accordance with the truth, because mere error in that regard does not affect jurisdiction. If jurisdiction be obtained to determine a fact, its determination wrong or on insufficient or improper evidence is immaterial on the question of legal right to proceed judicially to the next step. That is deemed to be elementary, * * * A judicial determination may be contrary to conclusive evidence, or legal evidence, or without any evidence, yet cannot be impeached for want of jurisdiction. Van Fleet, Coll. Attack, Secs. 663, 605. That rule applies to all judicial proceedings. * * *" 

It follows, therefore, that the Court of Appeals erred in reviewing, under a collateral attack, the determination of the adoption court that the parents of Paulina and Aurora Santos had abandoned them. This is so even if such fact of abandonment is deemed jurisdictional, a point which we need not—and do not—rule upon in this case.

For the same reason, it is not in point to argue here that Simplicio Santos "in fact concealed the adoption proceedings from the natural parents, thereby rendering the judgment obtained therein null and void for being secured by extrinsic fraud. The rule is well recognized that a judgment can be set aside on the ground of extrinsic fraud only in a separate action brought for that purpose; not by way of collateral attack (Gomez vs. Concepcion, 47 Phil. 717; Ramos vs. Mañalac, 89 Phil. 270).

Anent the alleged lack of notice of the adoption proceedings on the natural parents, suffice it to mark that adoption is a proceeding in rem[5] and that constructive notice, such as the publication duly made as aforesaid, is enough where the residence of the parents is unknown (2 Am. Jur. 2d, Adoption, Sec. 56, p. 906). Notice, moreover, is not required in adoption cases in regard to the abandoning parent (Parsons vs. Parsons, supra).

Assuming that Simplicio Santos was not validly married to Juliana Reyes, it will not make any difference as far as the right of respondents to intervene in the intestate proceedings is concerned. Juliana Reyes should then be deemed to have filed the petition for adoption as a person whose status is single, not married. The defect would then lie only as to Simplicio Santos, who, as allegedly married to another person (a point that we do not decide in this case), could not adopt without joining his wife in the petition.[6] It being the estate—of Juliana Reyes that is the subject matter of the settlement proceedings, the flaw, if any, would not affect the consideration of the right of Paulina and Aurora Santos to succeed as adopted children of Juliana Reyes, to the exclusion of respondents.

It must not be forgotten that the philosophy behind adoption statutes is to promote the welfare of the child. Accordingly, the modern trend is to encourage adoption (Prasnik vs. Republic, 52 Off. Gaz., 1942) and every reasonable intendment should be sustained to promote that objective.

From 2 Corpus Juris Secundum 375-376 we quote:


"Accordingly, as the main purpose of adoption statutes is the promotion of the welfare of children, bereft of the benefits of the home and care of their real parents, whenever possible without doing violence to the terms of the statute, such a construction should be given adoption laws as will sustain, rather than defeat, this purpose.


"Although, as against the interests of the child, the proceedings must be strictly in accordance with the statute, there is n tendency on the part of the courts, however, where the adoption has been fully consummated, to construe the statute with a reasonable decree of liberality, to the end that the assumed relationship and the intention of the parties be upheld, particularly as against strangers to the proceedings collaterally attacking thorn. * * *" 

From all the foregoing it follows that respondents-oppositors Aranzanso and Ventura and those who, like them (Pasion sisters), claim an interest in the estate of Juliana Reyes as alleged first cousins, cannot intervene, as such, in the settlement proceedings, in view of the fact that in the order of intestate succession adopted children exclude first cousins (Articles 979 and 1003, New Civil Code). The same holds true as long as the adoption must be—as in the instant case—considered valid.

Wherefore, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is ' hereby reversed and the order of the probate court a quo sustaining the adoption, dated April 6, 1959, is affirmed. Respondents Gregoria Aranzanso and Demetria Ventura as well as Consuelo and Pacita Pasion are declared without right to intervene as heirs in the settlement of the intestate estate of Juliana Reyes. The preliminary injunction heretofore issued is dissolved, except insofar as it enjoins the intervention or allowance of withdrawals of property from the estate by Gregoria Aranzanso, Demetria Ventura, Consuelo and Pacita Pasion, in the concept of heirs, as to which it is hereby made permanent. No costs. So ordered.

Bengzon, C. J., Bautista- Angelo, Concepcion, Reyes, J. B. L., Barrera, Dizon, Regala, Makalintal, Zaldivar and Sanchez, JJ., concur.

Decision reversed.

[1] Special Proceedings No. A-232.

[2] See CFI decision approving adoption, quoted in Petitioners' Brief, pp. 4-43, infra.

[3] Special Proceedings No. 34354.

[4] See also Sec. 3, Rule 99, Revised Rules of Court.

[5] Jacinto, Special Proceedings, 1965 Ed., p. 347; Van Matre vs. Sankey, 148 III. 536; 36 N.E. 628.

[6] Sec. 2, Rule 100, Rules of Court (old), then applicable.