You are on page 1of 36

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 124320. March 2, 1999]

HEIRS OF GUIDO YAPTINCHAY AND ISABEL YAPTINCHAY, NAMELY: LETICIA ENCISO-GADINGAN, EMILIO ENCISO, AURORA ENCISO, AND NORBERTO ENCISO, REPRESENTED BY LETICIA ENCISO-GADINGAN, ATTORNEY-IN-FACT, petitioners, vs. HON. ROY S. DEL ROSARIO, PRESIDING JUDGE, RTC, BRANCH 21, IMUS, CAVITE; THE REGISTER OF DEEDS FOR TRECE MARTIRES CITY, GEORGE T. CHUA, SPS. ALFONSO NG AND ANNABELLE CHUA, SPS. ROSENDO L. DY AND DIANA DY, SPS. ALEXANDER NG AND CRISTINA NG, SPS. SAMUEL MADRID AND BELEN MADRID, SPS. JOSE MADRID AND BERNARDA MADRID, SPS. DAVID MADRID AND VIOLETA MADRID, JONATHAN NG, SPS. VICTORIANO CHAN, JR. AND CARMELITA CHAN, SPS. MARIE TES C. LEE AND GREGORIE W.C. LEE, JACINTO C. NG, JR., SPS. ADELAIDO S. DE GUZMAN AND ROSITA C. DE GUZMAN, SPS. RICARDO G. ONG AND JULIE LIM-IT, SPS. MISAEL ADELAIDA P. SOLIMAN AND FERDINAND SOLIMAN, SPS. MYLENE T. LIM AND ARTHUR LIM, EVELYN K. CHUA, GOLDEN BAY REALTY AND DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, respondents. DECISION PURISIMA, J.: At bar is a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court assailing the Orders dated October 25, 1995 and February 23, 1996, respectively, of Branch 21 of the Regional Trial Court in Imus, Cavite (RTC). The facts that matter are, as follows: Petitioners claim that they are the legal heirs of the late Guido and Isabel Yaptinchay, the owners-claimants of Lot No. 1131 with an area of 520,638 and Lot No. 1132 with an area of 96,235 square meters, more or less situated in Bancal, Carmona, Cavite. On March 17, 1994, petitioners executed an Extra-Judicial Settlement of the estate of the deceased Guido and Isabel Yaptinchay. On August 26, 1994, petitioners discovered that a portion, if not all, of the aforesaid properties were titled in the name of respondent Golden Bay Realty and Development Corporation (Golden Bay) under Transfer Certificate of Title Nos. (TCT) 225254 and 225255. With the discovery of what happened to subject parcels of land, petitioners filed a complaint for ANNULMENT and/or DECLARATION OF NULLITY OF TCT NO. 493363, 493364, 493665, 493366, 493367; and its Derivatives; As Alternative Reconveyance of Realty WITH A PRAYER FOR A WRIT OF PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION and/or RESTRAINING ORDER WITH DAMAGES, docketed as RTC BCV-94-127 before Branch 21 of the Regional Trial Court in Imus, Cavite. Upon learning that Golden Bay sold portions of the parcels of land in question, petitioners filed with the RTC an Amended Complaint to implead new and additional defendants and to mention the TCTs to be annulled. But the respondent court dismissed the Amended Complaint. Petitioners moved for reconsideration of the Order dismissing the Amended Complaint. The motion was granted by the RTC in an Order[1] dated July 7, 1995, which further allowed the herein petitioners to file a Second Amended Complaint, [2] which they promptly did. On August 12, 1995, the private respondents presented a Motion to Dismiss [3] on the grounds that the complaint failed to state a cause of action, that plaintiffs did not have a right of action, that they have not established their status as heirs, that the land being claimed is different from that of the defendants, and that plaintiffs claim was barred by laches. The said Motion to Dismiss was granted by the respondent court in its Order[4] dated October 25, 1995, holding that petitioners have not shown any proof or even a semblance of it - except the allegations that they are the legal heirs of the above-named Yaptinchays - that they have been declared the legal heirs of the deceased couple. Petitioners interposed a Motion for Reconsideration[5] but to no avail. The same was denied by the RTC in its Order[6] of February 23, 1996. Undaunted, petitioners have come before this Court to seek relief from respondent courts Orders under attack. Petitioners contend that the respondent court acted with grave abuse of discretion in ruling that the issue of heirship should first be determined before trial of the case could proceed. It is petitioners submission that the respondent court should have proceeded with the trial and simultaneously resolved the issue of heirship in the same case. The petition is not impressed with merit.

To begin with, petitioners Petition for Certiorari before this Court is an improper recourse. Their proper remedy should have been an appeal. An order of dismissal, be it right or wrong, is a final order, which is subject to appeal and not a proper subject of certiorari[7]. Where appeal is available as a remedy, certiorariwill not lie[8]. Neither did the respondent court commit grave abuse of discretion in issuing the questioned Order dismissing the Second Amended Complaint of petitioners, as it aptly ratiocinated and ruled: But the plaintiffs who claimed to be the legal heirs of the said Guido and Isabel Yaptinchay have not shown any proof or even a semblance of it except the allegations that they are the legal heirs of the aforementioned Yaptinchays - that they have been declared the legal heirs of the deceased couple. Now, the determination of who are the legal heirs of the deceased couple must be made in the proper special proceedings in court, and not in an ordinary suit for reconveyance of property. This must take precedence over the action for reconveyance (Elena C. Monzon, et. al., v. Angelita Taligato, CA-G-R No. 33355, August 12, 1992). In Litam, etc., et. al. v. Rivera[9], this court opined that the declaration of heirship must be made in an administration proceeding, and not in an independent civil action. This doctrine was reiterated in Solivio v. Court of Appeals[10] where the court held: "In Litam, et al. v. Rivera, 100 Phil. 364, where despite the pendency of the special proceedings for the settlement of the intestate estate of the deceased Rafael Litam, the plaintiffs-appellants filed a civil action in which they claimed that they were the children by a previous marriage of the deceased to a Chinese woman, hence, entitled to inherit his one-half share of the conjugal properties acquired during his marriage to Marcosa Rivera, the trial court in the civil case declared that the plaintiffs-appellants were not children of the deceased, that the properties in question were paraphernal properties of his wife, Marcosa Rivera, and that the latter was his only heir. On appeal to this Court, we ruled that such declarations (that Marcosa Rivera was the only heir of the decedent) is improper, in Civil Case No. 2071,it being within the exclusive competence of the court in Special Proceedings No. 1537, in which it is not as yet, in issue, and, will not be, ordinarily, in issue until the presentation of the project of partition. (p. 378). The trial court cannot make a declaration of heirship in the civil action for the reason that such a declaration can only be made in a special proceeding. Under Section 3, Rule 1 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Court, a civil action is defined as one by which a party sues another for the enforcement or protection of a right, or the prevention or redress of a wrong while a special proceeding is a remedy by which a party seeks to establish a status, a right, or a particular fact. It is then decisively clear that the declaration of heirship can be made only in a special proceeding inasmuch as the petitioners here are seeking the establishment of a status or right. We therefore hold that the respondent court did the right thing in dismissing the Second Amended Complaint, which stated no cause of action. In Travel Wide Associated Sales (Phils.), Inc. v. Court of Appeals[11], it was ruled that: xxx If the suit is not brought in the name of or against the real party in interest, a motion to dismiss may be filed on the ground that the complaint states no cause of action. WHEREFORE, for lack of merit, the Petition under consideration is hereby DISMISSED. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. Romero, (Chairman), and Gonzaga-Reyes, JJ., concur. Vitug, J., abroad on official business. Panganiban, J., on leave.

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 155555. August 16, 2005]

ISABEL P. PORTUGAL and JOSE DOUGLAS PORTUGAL JR., petitioners, vs. LEONILA PORTUGAL-BELTRAN, respondent. DECISION CARPIO MORALES, J.: Petitioners Isabel P. Portugal and her son, Jose Douglas Portugal Jr., assail the September 24, 2002 [1] Decision of the Court of Appeals affirming that of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Caloocan City, Branch 124 [2] which dismissed, after trial, their complaint for annulment of titlefor failure to state a cause of action and lack of jurisdiction. From the records of the case are gathered the following material allegations claims of the parties which they sought to prove bytestimonial and documentary evidence during the trial of the case: On November 25, 1942, Jose Q. Portugal (Portugal) married Paz Lazo.[3] On May 22, 1948, Portugal married petitioner Isabel de la Puerta.[4] On September 13, 1949, petitioner Isabel gave birth to a boy whom she named Jose Douglas Portugal Jr., her herein co-petitioner.[5] On April 11, 1950, Paz gave birth to a girl, Aleli,[6] later baptized as Leonila Perpetua Aleli Portugal, herein respondent.[7] On May 16, 1968, Portugal and his four (4) siblings executed a Deed of Extra-Judicial Partition and Waiver of Rights[8] over the estate of their father, Mariano Portugal, who died intestate on November 2, 1964.[9] In the deed, Portugals siblings waived their rights, interests, and participation over a 155 sq. m. parcel of land located in Caloocan in his favor.[10] On January 2, 1970, the Registry of Deeds for Caloocan City issued Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 34292 covering the Caloocan parcel of land in the name of Jose Q. Portugal, married to Paz C. Lazo.[11] On February 18, 1984, Paz died. On April 21, 1985, Portugal died intestate. On February 15, 1988, respondent executed an Affidavit of Adjudication by Sole Heir of Estate of Deceased Person[12] adjudicating to herself the Caloocan parcel of land. TCT No. 34292/T-172[13] in Portugals name was subsequently cancelled and in its stead TCT No. 159813 [14] was issued by the Registry of Deeds for Caloocan City on March 9, 1988 in the name of respondent, Leonila Portugal-Beltran, married to Merardo M. Beltran, Jr. Later getting wind of the death in 1985 of Portugal and still later of the 1988 transfer by respondent of the title to the Caloocan property in her name, petitioners filed before the RTC of Caloocan City on July 23, 1996 a complaint [15] against respondent for annulment of the Affidavit of Adjudication executed by her and the transfer certificate of title issued in her name. In their complaint, petitioners alleged that respondent is not related whatsoever to the deceased Portugal, hence, not entitled to inherit the Caloocan parcel of land and that she perjured herself when she made false representations in her Affidavit of Adjudication. Petitioners accordingly prayed that respondents Affidavit of Adjudication and the TCT in her name be declared void and that the Registry of Deeds for Caloocan be ordered to cancel the TCT in respondents name and to issue in its stead a new one in their (petitioners) name, and that actual, moral and exemplary damages and attorneys fees and litigation expenses be awarded to them. Following respondents filing of her answer, the trial court issued a Pre-Trial Order chronicling, among other things, the issues as follows:

a. b. c. d.

Which of the two (2) marriages contracted by the deceased Jose Q. Portugal Sr., is valid? Which of the plaintiff . . . Jose Portugal Jr. and defendant Leonila P. Beltran is the legal heir of the deceased Jose Q. Portugal Sr.? Whether or not TCT No. 159813 was issued in due course and can still be contested by plaintiffs. Whether or not plaintiffs are entitled to their claims under the complaint.[16] (Underscoring supplied)

After trial, the trial court, by Decision of January 18, 2001,[17] after giving an account of the testimonies of the parties and their witnesses and of their documentary evidence, without resolving the issues defined during pre-trial, dismissed the case for lack of cause of action on the ground that petitioners status and right as putative heirs had not been established before a probate (sic) court, and lack of jurisdiction over the case, citing Heirs of Guido and Isabel Yaptinchay v. Del Rosario.[18] In relying on Heirs of Guido and Isabel Yaptinchay, the trial court held: The Heirs of Yaptinchay case arose from facts not dissimilar to the case at bar. xxx In the instant case, plaintiffs presented a Marriage Contract, a Certificate of Live Birth, pictures (sic) and testimonial evidence to establish their right as heirs of the decedent. Thus, the preliminary act of having a status and right to the estate of the decedent, was sought to be determined herein. However, the establishment of a status, a right, or a particular fact is remedied through a special proceeding (Sec. 3(c), Rule 1, 1997 Rules of Court), not an ordinary civil action whereby a party sues another for the enforcement or protection of a right, or the protection or redress of a wrong (ibid, a). The operative term in the former is to establish, while in the latter, it is to enforce, a right. Their status and right as putative heirs of the decedent not having been established, as yet, the Complaint failed to state a cause of action. The court, not being a probate (sic) court, is without jurisdiction to rule on plaintiffs cause to establish their status and right herein. Plaintiffs do not have the personality to sue (Secs. 1 and 2, Rule 3, in relation to Secs. 1 and 2, Rule 2, supra).[19] (Italics in the original; emphasis and underscoring supplied). Petitioners thereupon appealed to the Court of Appeals, questioning the trial courts ratio decedendi in dismissing the case as diametrically opposed to this Courts following ruling in Cario v. Cario,[20] viz: Under Article 40 of the Family Code, the absolute nullity of a previous marriage may be invoked for purposes of remarriage on the basis solely of a final judgment declaring such previous marriage void. Meaning, where the absolute nullity of a previous marriage is sought to be invoked for purposes of contracting a second marriage, the sole basis acceptable in law, for said projected marriage to be free from legal infirmity, is a final judgment declaring the previous void. (Domingo v. Court of Appeals, 226 SCRA 572, 579 [1993]) However, for purposes other than remarriage, no judicial action is necessary to declare a marriage an absolute nullity. For other purposes, such as but not limited to the determination of heirship, legitimacy or illegitimacy of a child, settlement of estate, dissolution of property regime, or a criminal case for that matter, the court may pass upon the validity of marriage even after the death of the parties thereto, and even in a suit not directly instituted to question the validity of said marriage, so long as it is essential to the determination of the case. (Nial, et al. v. Bayadog, GR No. 13378, March 14, 2000). In such cases, evidence must be adduced, testimonial or documentary, to prove the existence of grounds rendering such a previous marriage an absolute nullity. These need not be limited solely to an earlier final judgment of a court declaring such previous marriage void. (Domingo v. Court of Appeals, supra) (Emphasis and underscoring supplied). Conceding that the ruling in Cario was promulgated (in 2001) subsequent to that of Heirs of Guido and Isabel Yaptinchay (in 1999), the appellate court found Cario to be inapplicable, however, to the case in this wise: To be borne in mind is the fact that the main issue in the Cario case was the validity of the two marriages contracted by the deceased SPO4 Santiago Cario, whose death benefits was the bone of contention between the two women both named Susan (viz., Susan Nicdao Cario and Susan Yee Cario) both of whom he married. It is not disputed in said case that SPO4 S. Cario contracted two marriages with said two women during his lifetime, and the only question was: which of these two marriages was validly celebrated? The award of the death benefits of the deceased Cario was thus, merely an incident to the question of which of the two marriages was valid. Upon the other hand, the case at bench is of a different milieu. The main issue here is the annulment of title to property. The only undisputed fact in this case is that the deceased Jose Portugal, during his lifetime, owned a parcel of land covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T-34292. However, here come two contending parties, herein plaintiffs-appellants and defendant-appellee, both now insisting to be the legal heir(s) of the decedent. x x x. The status and rights of the parties herein have not, therefore, been definitively established, as yet. x x x. Necessarily and naturally, such questions as to such status or right must be properly ventilated in an appropriate special proceeding, not in an ordinary civil action, whereunder a party sues another for

the enforcement or protection of a right, or the protection or redress of a wrong. The institution of an ordinary civil suit for that purpose in the present case is thus impermissible. For it is axiomatic that what the law prohibits or forbids directly, it cannot permit or allow indirectly. To permit, or allow, a declaration of heirship, or the establishment of the legitimacy or illegitimacy of a child to be determined in an ordinary civil action, not in an appropriate special proceeding brought for that purpose, is thus to impinge upon this axiom. x x x [21] (Emphasis in the original, underscoring supplied). The appellate court, by Decision of September 24, 2002,[22] thus affirmed the trial courts dismissal of the case. Hence, the present Petition for Review on Certiorari,[23] faulting the appellate court to have erred when I. . . . it affirmed the RTC decision dismissing the initiatory complaint as it failed to state a cause of action. II. . . . (i) it applied the ruling in Heirs of Guido [and Isabel] Yaptingchay despite the existence of a later and contrary ruling in Cario, and (ii) when the Honorable CA and the lower court failed to render judgment based on the evidence presented relative to the issues raised during pre-trial, . . .[24] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied). Petitioners thus prayed as follows: WHEREFORE, it is respectfully prayed of this Honorable Supreme Court that the questioned CA decision be reversed, and a new one entered in accordance with the prayers set forth in the instant complaint based on the above disquisition and evidence adduced by petitioners in the court a quo. IN THE ALTERNATIVE, should the Honorable Supreme Court find that the pronouncements in Cario apply, a decision be entered remanding to the court a quothe determination of the issues of which of the two marriages is valid, and the determination of heirship and legitimacy of Jose Jr. and Leonila preparatory to the determination of the annulment of title issued in the name of Leonila. Other relief and remedy just and equitable in the premises are likewise prayed for.[25] (Underscoring supplied). Petitioners, in the main, argue that the appellate court misapplied Heirs of Guido and Isabel Yaptinchay and in effect encouraged multiplicity of suits which is discouraged by this Court as a reading of Cario shows; that Cario allows courts to pass on the determination of heirship and the legitimacy or illegitimacy of a child so long as it is necessary to the determination of the case; and that contrary to the appellate courts ruling, they had established their status as compulsory heirs. In the main, the issue in the present petition is whether petitioners have to institute a special proceeding to determine their status as heirs before they can pursue the case for annulment of respondents Affidavit of Adjudication and of the TCT issued in her name. In the above-cited case of Heirs of Guido and Isabel Yaptinchay,[26] the therein petitioners executed on March 17, 1994 an extrajudicial settlement of the estate of the deceased Guido and Isabel Yaptinchay, owners-claimants of the two lots mentioned therein. They later discovered on August 26, 1994 that a portion, if not all, of the two lots had been titled in the name of the therein respondent Golden Bay Realty and Development Corporation which in turn sold portions thereof to the therein individual respondents. The therein petitioners Heirs thus filed a complaint for annulment of titles. The therein respondents moved to dismiss the case for failure of the therein petitioners to, inter alia, state a cause of action and prove their status as heirs. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss in this wise: But the plaintiffs who claimed to be the legal heirs of the said Guido and Isabel Yaptinchay have not shown any proof or even a semblance of it except the allegations that they are the legal heirs of the aforementioned Yaptinchaysthat they have been declared the legal heirs of the deceased couple. Now, the determination of who are the legal heirs of the deceased couple must be made in the proper special proceedings in court, and not in an ordinary suit for reconveyance of property. This must take precedence over the action for reconveyance . . . [27] (Italics in the original; underscoring supplied). On petition for certiorari by the Heirs, this Court, albeit holding that the petition was an improper recourse, found that the trial court did not commit grave abuse of discretion in dismissing the case. Citing Litam et al. v. Rivera[28] and Solivio v. Court of Appeals,[29] this Court held that the declaration of heirship can be made only in a special proceeding inasmuch as the petitioners here are seeking the establishment of a status or right. In the above-cited case of Litam,[30] Gregorio Dy Tam instituted a special proceeding for issuance of letters of administration before the then Court of First Instance (CFI) of Rizal, alleging in his petition that he is the son of Rafael Litam who died in Manila on January 10, 1951 and is

survived by him and his therein named seven (7) siblings who are children of the decedent by his marriage to Sia Khin celebrated in China in 1911; that the decedent contracted in 1922 in the Philippines another marriage with Marcosa Rivera; and that the decedent left neither a will nor debt. Dy Tam thus prayed for the issuance of letters of administration to Marcosa Rivera, the surviving spouse of the decedent. The CFI granted the petition and issued letters of administration to, on Marcosas request, her nephew Arminio Rivera. While the special proceeding was pending, Dy Tam and his purported siblings filed a civil case before the same court, against the estate of Rafael Litam administrator Arminio Rivera and Remedios R. Espiritu, duly appointed guardian of Marcosa. In their complaint, Dy Tam and his purported siblings substantially reproduced the allegations made in his petition in the special proceeding, with the addition of a list of properties allegedly acquired during the marriage of the decedent and Marcosa. Finding the issue raised in the civil case to be identical to some unresolved incidents in the special proceeding, both were jointly heard by the trial court, following which it rendered a decision in the civil case dismissing it, declaring, inter alia, that the plaintiffs Dy Tam et al. are not the children of the decedent whose only surviving heir is Marcosa. On appeal to this Court by Dy Tam et al., one of the two issues raised for determination was whether they are the legitimate children of Rafael Litam. This Court, holding that the issue hinged on whether Rafael Litam and Sia Khin were married in 1911, and whether Rafael Litam is the father of appellants Dy Tam et al., found substantially correct the trial courts findings of fact and its conclusion that, among other things, the birth certificates of Dy Tam et al. do not establish the identity of the deceased Rafael Litam and the persons named therein as father [and] it does not appear in the said certificates of birth that Rafael Litam had in any manner intervened in the preparation and filing thereof; and that [t]he other documentary evidence presented by [them] [is] entirely immaterial and highly insufficient to prove the alleged marriage between the deceased Rafael Litam and Sia Khin and [their] alleged status . . . as children of said decedent. This Court went on to opine in Litam, however, that the lower court should not have declared, in the decision appealed from, that Marcosa is the only heir of the decedent, for such declaration is improper in the [civil case], it being within the exclusive competence of the court in [the] [s]pecial [p]roceeding. In Solivio,[31] also cited in Heirs of Guido and Isabel Yaptinchay, there was a special proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased, who was a soltero, filed before the RTC of Iloilo. In the special proceeding, Branch 23 of said court declared as sole heir Celedonia Solivio, the decedents maternal aunt-half sister of his mother. Concordia Javellana-Villanueva, the decedents paternal aunt-sister of his father, moved to reconsider the courts order declaring Celedonia Solivio as sole heir of the decedent, she claiming that she too was an heir. The court denied the motion on the ground of tardiness. Instead of appealing the denial of her motion, Concordia filed a civil case against Celedonia before the same RTC, for partition, recovery of possession, ownership and damages. The civil case was raffled to Branch 26 of the RTC, which rendered judgment in favor of Concordia. On appeal by Celedonia, the appellate court affirmed the said judgment. On petition for review filed before this Court by Celedonia who posed, among other issues, whether Branch 26 of the RTC of Iloilo had jurisdiction to entertain [the civil action] for partition and recovery of Concordia Villanuevas share of the estate of [the deceased] while the [estate] proceedings . . . were still pending . . . in Branch 23 of the same court, this Court held that [i]n the interest of orderly procedure and to avoid confusing and conflicting dispositions of a decedents estate, a court should not interfere with [estate] proceedingspending in a co-equal court, citing Guilas v. CFI Judge of Pampanga.[32] This Court, however, in Solivio, upon [c]onsidering that the estate proceedings are still pending, but nonetheless [therein private respondentConcordia Villanueva] had lost her right to have herself declared as co-heir in said proceedings, opted to proceed to discuss the merits of her claim in the interest of justice, and declared her an heir of the decedent. In Guilas[33] cited in Solivio, a project of partition between an adopted daughter, the therein petitioner Juanita Lopez Guilas (Juanita), and her adoptive father was approved in the proceedings for the settlement of the testate estate of the decedent-adoptive mother, following which the probate court directed that the records of the case be archived. Juanita subsequently filed a civil action against her adoptive father to annul the project of partition on the ground of lesion, preterition and fraud, and prayed that her adoptive father immediately deliver to her the two lots allocated to her in the project of partition. She subsequentlyfiled a motion in the testate estate proceedings for her adoptive father to deliver to her, among other things, the same two lots allotted to her. After conducting pre-trial in the civil case, the trial court, noting the parties agreement to suspend action or resolution on Juanitas motion in the testate estate proceedings for the delivery to her of the two lots alloted to her until after her complaint in the civil case had been decided, set said case for trial. Juanita later filed in the civil case a motion to set aside the order setting it for trial on the ground that in the amended complaint she, in the meantime, filed, she acknowledged the partial legality and validity of the project of partition insofar as she was allotted the two lots, the delivery of which she was seeking. She thus posited in her motion to set aside the April 27, 1966 order setting the civil case for hearing that there was no longer a prejudicial question to her motion in the testate estate proceedings for the delivery to her of the actual possession of the two lots. The trial court, by order of April 27, 1966, denied the motion. Juanita thereupon assailed the April 27, 1966 order before this Court.

The probate courts approval of the project of partition and directive that the records of the case be sent to the archives notwithstanding, this Court held that the testate estate proceedings had not been legally terminated as Juanitas share under the project of partition had not been delivered to her. Explained this Court: As long as the order of the distribution of the estate has not been complied with, the probate proceedings cannot be deemed closed and terminated (Siguiong vs. Tecson, supra.); because a judicial partition is not final and conclusive and does not prevent the heir from bringing an action to obtain his share, provided the prescriptive period therefor has not elapse (Mari vs. Bonilla, 83 Phil., 137). The better practice, however, for the heir who has not received his share, is to demand his share through a proper motion in the same probate or administration proceedings, or for reopening of the probate or administrative proceedings if it had already been closed, and not through an independent action, which would be tried by another court or Judge which may thus reverse a decision or order of the probate o[r] intestate court already final and executed and re-shuffle properties long ago distributed and disposed of (Ramos vs. Ortuzar, 89 Phil. 730, 741-742; Timbol vs. Cano, supra,; Jingco vs. Daluz, L-5107, April 24, 1953, 92 Phil. 1082; Roman Catholic vs. Agustines, L-14710, March 29, 1960, 107 Phil., 455, 460-461).[34] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied). This Court thus set aside the assailed April 27, 1966 order of the trial court setting the civil case for hearing, but allowed the civil case to continuebecause it involves no longer the two lots adjudicated to Juanita. The common doctrine in Litam, Solivio and Guilas in which the adverse parties are putative heirs to the estate of a decedent or parties to the special proceedings for its settlement is that if the special proceedings are pending, or if there are no special proceedings filed but there is, under the circumstances of the case, a need to file one, then the determination of, among other issues, heirship should be raised and settled in said special proceedings. Where special proceedings had been instituted but had been finally closed and terminated, however, or if a putative heir has lost the right to have himself declared in the special proceedings as co-heir and he can no longer ask for its re-opening, then an ordinary civil action can be filed for his declaration as heir in order to bring about the annulment of the partition or distribution or adjudication of a property or properties belonging to the estate of the deceased. In the case at bar, respondent, believing rightly or wrongly that she was the sole heir to Portugals estate, executed on February 15, 1988[35]the questioned Affidavit of Adjudication under the second sentence of Rule 74, Section 1 of the Revised Rules of Court. [36] Said rule is an exception to the general rule that when a person dies leaving a property, it should be judicially administered and the competent court should appoint a qualified administrator, in the order established in Sec. 6, Rule 78 in case the deceased left no will, or in case he did, he failed to name an executor therein.[37] Petitioners claim, however, to be the exclusive heirs of Portugal. A probate or intestate court, no doubt, has jurisdiction to declare who are the heirs of a deceased. It appearing, however, that in the present case the only property of the intestate estate of Portugal is the Caloocan parcel of land,[38] to still subject it, under the circumstances of the case, to a special proceeding which could be long, hence, not expeditious, just to establish the status of petitioners as heirs is not only impractical; it is burdensome to the estate with the costs and expenses of an administration proceeding. And it is superfluous in light of the fact that the parties to the civil case subject of the present case, could and had already in fact presented evidence before the trial court which assumed jurisdiction over the case upon the issues it defined during pre-trial. In fine, under the circumstances of the present case, there being no compelling reason to still subject Portugals estate to administration proceedings since a determination of petitioners status as heirs could be achieved in the civil case filed by petitioners, [39] the trial court should proceed to evaluate the evidence presented by the parties during the trial and render a decision thereon upon the issues it defined during pre-trial, which bear repeating, to wit: 1. Which of the two (2) marriages contracted by the deceased Jose Q. Portugal, is valid; 2. Which of the plaintiff, Jose Portugal Jr. and defendant Leonila P. Beltran is the legal heir of the deceased Jose Q. Portugal (Sr.); 3. Whether or not TCT No. 159813 was issued in due course and can still be contested by plaintiffs; 4. Whether or not plaintiffs are entitled to their claim under the complaint.[40] WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The assailed September 24, 2002 Decision of the Court of Appeals is hereby SET ASIDE. Let the records of the case be REMANDED to the trial court, Branch 124 of the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City, for it to evaluate the evidence presented by the parties and render a decision on the above-enumerated issues defined during the pre-trial. No costs. SO ORDERED. Panganiban, (Chairman), Sandoval-Gutierrez, Corona, and Garcia, JJ., concur.

Republic of the Philippines Supreme Court Baguio City

FIRST DIVISION

FAUSTINO REYES, ESPERIDION REYES, JULIETA C. RIVERA, and EUTIQUIO DICO, JR., Petitioners,

G.R. No. 162956

Present:

PUNO, C.J., Chairperson, - versus CARPIO, CORONA, *AZCUNA, and LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, JJ. PETER B. ENRIQUEZ, for himself and Attorney-in-Fact of his daughter DEBORAH ANN C. ENRIQUEZ, and SPS. DIONISIO FERNANDEZ and CATALINA FERNANDEZ, Promulgated:

Respondents.

April 10, 2008

x------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

PUNO, C.J.: This case is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court from the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) dated September 29, 2003 in CA G.R. CV No. 68147, entitled Peter B. Enriquez, et al. v. Faustino Reyes, et al., reversing the decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Cebu City, Branch XI dated June 29, 2000, which dismissed the complaint filed by the respondents herein.[1] The subject matter of the present case is a parcel of land known as Lot No. 1851 Flr-133 with an aggregate area of 2,017 square meters located in Talisay, Cebu.[2] According to petitioners Faustino Reyes, Esperidion Reyes, Julieta C. Rivera, and Eutiquio Dico, Jr., they are the lawful heirs of Dionisia Reyes who co-owned the subject parcel of land with Anacleto Cabrera as evidenced by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. RT-3551 (T-8070). On April 17, 1996, petitioners executed an Extrajudicial Settlement with Sale of the Estate of Dionisia Reyes (the Extra Judicial Settlement) involving a portion of the subject parcel of land. On March 21, 1997, the petitioners and the known heirs of Anacleto Cabrera executed a Segregation of Real Estate and Confirmation of Sale (the Segregation and Confirmation) over the same property. By virtue of the aforestated documents, TCT No. RT35551 (T-8070) was cancelled and new TCTs were issued: (1) TCT No. T-98576 in the name of Anacleto Cabrera covering Lot 1851-A; (2) TCT No. T-98577 covering Lot 1851-B in the name of petitioner Eutiquio Dico, Jr.; (3) TCT No. T-98578 covering Lot 1851-C in the name of petitioner Faustino Reyes; (4) TCT No. T-98579 covering Lot 1851-D in the name of petitioner Esperidion Reyes; (5) TCT No. T-98580 covering Lot 1851-E in the name of petitioner Julieta G. Rivera; (6) TCT No. T-98581 covering Lot 1851-F in the name of Felipe Dico; and (7) TCT No. T-98582 covering Lot 1851-G in the name of Archimedes C. Villaluz.[3] Respondents Peter B. Enriquez (Peter) for himself and on behalf of his minor daughter Deborah Ann C. Enriquez (Deborah Ann), also known as Dina Abdullah Enriquez Alsagoff, on the other hand, alleges that their predecessor-in-interest Anacleto Cabrera and his wife Patricia Seguera Cabrera (collectively the Spouses Cabrera) owned pro-indiviso share in the subject parcel of land or 1051 sq. m. They further allege that Spouses Cabrera were survived by two daughters Graciana, who died single and without issue, and Etta, the wife of respondent Peter and mother of respondent Deborah Ann who succeeded their parents rights and took possession of the 1051 sq. m. of the subject parcel of land. During her lifetime, Graciana sold her share over the land to Etta. Thus, making the latter the sole owner of the one-half share of the subject parcel of land. Subsequently, Etta died and the property passed on to petitioners Peter and Deborah Ann by virtue of an Extra-Judicial Settlement of Estate. On June 19, 1999, petitioners Peter and Deborah Ann sold 200 sq. m. out of the 1051 sq. m. for P200,000.00 to Spouses Dionisio and Catalina Fernandez (Spouses Fernandez), also their co-respondents in the case at bar. After the sale, Spouses Fernandez took possession of the said area in the subject parcel of land.[4] When Spouses Fernandez, tried to register their share in the subject land, they discovered that certain documents prevent them from doing so: (1) Affidavit by Anacleto Cabrera dated March 16, 1957 stating that his share in Lot No. 1851, the subject property, is approximately 369 sq. m.; (2) Affidavit by Dionisia Reyes dated July 13, 1929 stating that Anacleto only owned of Lot No. 1851, while 302.55 sq. m. belongs to Dionisia and the rest of the property is co-owned by Nicolasa Bacalso, Juan Reyes, Florentino Reyes and Maximiano Dico; (3) Extra-Judicial Settlement with Sale of the Estate of Dionisia Reyes dated April 17, 1996; (4) certificates of title in the name of the herein petitioners; and (5) Deed of Segregation of Real Estate and Confirmation of Sale dated March 21, 1997 executed by the alleged heirs of Dionisia Reyes and Anacleto Cabrera.

Alleging that the foregoing documents are fraudulent and fictitious, the respondents filed a complaint for annulment or nullification of the aforementioned documents and for damages. [5] They likewise prayed for the repartition and resubdivision of the subject property.[6] The RTC, upon motion of the herein petitioners, dismissed the case on the ground that the respondents-plaintiffs were actually seeking first and foremost to be declared heirs of Anacleto Cabrera since they can not demand the partition of the real property without first being declared as legal heirs and such may not be done in an ordinary civil action, as in this case, but through a special proceeding specifically instituted for the purpose.[7] On appeal, the Court of Appeals (CA) reversed the RTC and directed the trial court to proceed with the hearing of the case. [8] The Motion for Reconsideration filed by the herein petitioners was similarly denied.[9] Hence this petition. The primary issue in this case is whether or not the respondents have to institute a special proceeding to determine their status as heirs of Anacleto Cabrera before they can file an ordinary civil action to nullify the affidavits of Anacleto Cabrera and Dionisia Reyes, the Extra-Judicial Settlement with the Sale of Estate of Dionisia Reyes, and the Deed of Segregation of Real Estate and Confirmation of Sale executed by the heirs of Dionisia Reyes and the heirs of Anacleto Cabrera, as well as to cancel the new transfer certificates of title issued by virtue of the above-questioned documents. We answer in the affirmative. An ordinary civil action is one by which a party sues another for the enforcement or protection of a right, or the prevention or redress of a wrong.[10] A special proceeding, on the other hand, is a remedy by which a party seeks to establish a status, a right or a particular fact. [11] The Rules of Court provide that only a real party in interest is allowed to prosecute and defend an action in court. [12] A real party in interest is the one who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit or the one entitled to the avails thereof. [13] Such interest, to be considered a real interest, must be one which is present and substantial, as distinguished from a mere expectancy, or a future, contingent, subordinate or consequential interest.[14] A plaintiff is a real party in interest when he is the one who has a legal right to enforce or protect, while a defendant is a real party in interest when he is the one who has a correlative legal obligation to redress a wrong done to the plaintiff by reason of the defendants act or omission which had violated the legal right of the former.[15] The purpose of the rule is to protect persons against undue and unnecessary litigation.[16] It likewise ensures that the court will have the benefit of having before it the real adverse parties in the consideration of a case.[17]Thus, a plaintiffs right to institute an ordinary civil action should be based on his own right to the relief sought. In cases wherein alleged heirs of a decedent in whose name a property was registered sue to recover the said property through the institution of an ordinary civil action, such as a complaint for reconveyance and partition, [18] or nullification of transfer certificate of titles and other deeds or documents related thereto,[19] this Court has consistently ruled that a declaration of heirship is improper in an ordinary civil action since the matter is within the exclusive competence of the court in a special proceeding. [20] In the recent case of Portugal v. Portugal-Beltran,[21] the Court had the occasion to clarify its ruling on the issue at hand, to wit: The common doctrine in Litam, Solivio and Guilas in which the adverse parties are putative heirs to the estate of a decedent or parties to the special proceedings for its settlement is that if the special proceedings are pending, or if there are no special proceedings filed but there is, under the circumstances of the case, a need to file one, then the determination of, among other issues, heirship should be raised and settled in said special proceedings. Where special proceedings had been instituted but had been finally closed and terminated, however, or if a putative heir has lost the right to have himself declared in the special proceedings as co-heir and he can no longer ask for its re-opening, then an ordinary civil action can be

10

filed for his declaration as heir in order to bring about the annulment of the partition or distribution or adjudication of a property or properties belonging to the estate of the deceased.[22]

In the instant case, while the complaint was denominated as an action for the Declaration of Non-Existency[sic], Nullity of Deeds, and Cancellation of Certificates of Title, etc., a review of the allegations therein reveals that the right being asserted by the respondents are their right as heirs of Anacleto Cabrera who they claim co-owned one-half of the subject property and not merely one-fourth as stated in the documents the respondents sought to annul. As correctly pointed out by the trial court, the ruling in the case of Heirs of Guido Yaptinchay v. Hon. Roy del Rosario[23] is applicable in the case at bar. In the said case, the petitioners therein, claiming to be the legal heirs of the late Guido and Isabel Yaptinchay filed for annulment of the transfer certificates of title issued in the name of Golden Bay Realty Corporation on the ground that the subject properties rightfully belong to the petitioners predecessor and by virtue of succession have passed on to them. In affirming the trial court therein, this Court ruled: ...(T)he plaintiffs who claimed to be the legal heirs of the said Guido and Isabel Yaptinchay have not shown any proof or even a semblance of it except the allegations that they are the legal heirs of the aforementioned Yaptinchays that they have been declared the legal heirs of the deceased couple. Now, the determination of who are the legal heirs of the deceased couple must be made in the proper special proceedings in court, and not in an ordinary suit for reconveyance of property. This must take precedence over the action for reconveyance.[24]

In the same manner, the respondents herein, except for their allegations, have yet to substantiate their claim as the legal heirs of Anacleto Cabrera who are, thus, entitled to the subject property. Neither is there anything in the records of this case which would show that a special proceeding to have themselves declared as heirs of Anacleto Cabrera had been instituted. As such, the trial court correctly dismissed the case for there is a lack of cause of action when a case is instituted by parties who are not real parties in interest. While a declaration of heirship was not prayed for in the complaint, it is clear from the allegations therein that the right the respondents sought to protect or enforce is that of an heir of one of the registered co-owners of the property prior to the issuance of the new transfer certificates of title that they seek to cancel. Thus, there is a need to establish their status as such heirs in the proper forum.

Furthermore, in Portugal,[25] the Court held that it would be superfluous to still subject the estate to administration proceedings since a determination of the parties' status as heirs could be achieved in the ordinary civil case filed because it appeared from the records of the case that the only property left by the decedent was the subject matter of the case and that the parties have already presented evidence to establish their right as heirs of the decedent. In the present case, however, nothing in the records of this case shows that the only property left by the deceased Anacleto Cabrera is the subject lot, and neither had respondents Peter and Deborah Ann presented any evidence to establish their rights as heirs, considering especially that it appears that there are other heirs of Anacleto Cabrera who are not parties in this case that had signed one of the questioned documents. Hence, under the circumstances in this case, this Court finds that a determination of the rights of respondents Peter and Deborah Ann as heirs of Anacleto Cabrera in a special proceeding is necessary. IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition is GRANTED. The decision of the Court of Appeals is hereby REVERSED and the decision of the Regional Trial Court dated June 29, 2000 DISMISSING the complaint is REINSTATED. No costs. SO ORDERED. REYNATO S. PUNO Chief Justice

11

WE CONCUR: ANTONIO T. CARPIO


Associate Justice

RENATO C. CORONA Associate Justice TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO Associate Justice CERTIFICATION

(on official leave) ADOLFO S. AZCUNA Associate Justice

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division. REYNATO S. PUNO Chief JusticeFIRST DIVISION HEIRS OF TEOFILO GABATAN,namely: LOLITA GABATAN, POMPEYO GABATAN, PEREGRINO GABATAN, REYNALDO GABATAN, NILA GABATAN and JESUS JABINIS, RIORITA GABATAN TUMALAand FREIRA GABATAN, Petitioners, -versusHON. COURT OF APPEALS andLOURDES EVERO PACANA, Respondents. G.R. No. 150206 Present: PUNO, C.J.,* YNARES-SANTIAGO,** CARPIO,*** CORONA, LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, and BRION,**** JJ.

Promulgated: March 13, 2009 x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x DECISION LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.: Assailed and sought to be set aside in the instant petition for review on certiorari are the Decision [1] dated April 28, 2000, and Resolution[2] dated September 12, 2001 of the Court of Appeals (CA), in CA G.R. CV No. 52273. The challenged Decision affirmed the decision[3] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Cagayan de Oro City, Branch 19, dated October 20, 1995 in Civil Case No. 89-092, an action for Recovery of Property and Ownership and Possession, thereat commenced by respondent Lourdes Evero Pacana against petitioners, heirs of Teofilo Gabatan, Jesus Jabinis and Catalino Acantilado. Subject of the present controversy is a 1.1062 hectare parcel of land, identified as Lot 3095 C-5 and situated at Calinugan, Balulang, Cagayan de Oro City. This lot was declared for taxation in the name of Juan Gabatan. In the complaint before the RTC, respondent alleged that

12

she is the sole owner of Lot 3095 C-5, having inherited the same from her deceased mother, Hermogena Gabatan Evero (Hermogena). Respondent further claimed that her mother, Hermogena, is the only child of Juan Gabatan and his wife, Laureana Clarito. Respondent alleged that upon the death of Juan Gabatan, Lot 3095 C-5 was entrusted to his brother, Teofilo Gabatan (Teofilo), and Teofilos wife, Rita Gabatan, for administration. It was also claimed that prior to her death Hermogena demanded for the return of the land but to no avail. After Hermogenas death, respondent also did the same but petitioners refused to heed the numerous demands to surrender the subject property. According to respondent, when Teofilo and his wife died, petitioners Jesus Jabinis and Catalino Acantilado took possession of the disputed land despite respondents demands for them to vacate the same. In their answer, petitioners denied that respondents mother Hermogena was the daughter of Juan Gabatan with Laureana Clarito and that Hermogena or respondent is the rightful heir of Juan Gabatan. Petitioners maintained that Juan Gabatan died single in 1934 and without any issue and that Juan was survived by one brother and two sisters, namely: Teofilo (petitioners predecessor-in-interest), Macaria and Justa. These siblings and/or their heirs, inherited the subject land from Juan Gabatan and have been in actual, physical, open, public, adverse, continuous and uninterrupted possession thereof in the concept of owners for more than fifty (50) years and enjoyed the fruits of the improvements thereon, to the exclusion of the whole world including respondent. Petitioners clarified that Jesus Jabinis and Catalino Acantilado have no interest in the subject land; the former is merely the husband of Teofilos daughter while the latter is just a caretaker. Petitioners added that a similar case was previously filed by respondent against Teofilos wife, Rita Vda. de Gabatan, on February 21, 1978, docketed as Civil Case No. 5840 but the case was dismissed on May 3, 1983 for lack of interest. Finally, petitioners contended that the complaint lacks or states no cause of action or, if there was any, the same has long prescribed and/or has been barred by laches. On June 20, 1989, the complaint was amended wherein the heirs of Teofilo were individually named, to wit: Lolita Gabatan, Pompeyo Gabatan, Peregrino Gabatan, Reynaldo Gabatan, Nila Gabatan and Jesus Jabinis, Riorita Gabatan Tumal and Freira Gabatan. On July 30, 1990, petitioners filed an amended answer, additionally alleging that the disputed land was already covered by OCT No. P3316 in the name of the heirs of Juan Gabatan represented by petitioner Riorita Gabatan (Teofilos daughter). On October 20, 1995, the RTC rendered a decision in favor of respondent, the dispositive portion of which reads: WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendants, declaring the plaintiff the owner of Lot No. 3095 C-5 situated at Calinugan, Balulang, Cagayan de Oro City; and ordering the defendants represented by Riorita Gabatan Tumala toRECONVEY Original Certificate of Title No. P-3316 in favor of plaintiff Lourdes Evero Pacana, free of any encumbrance; ordering the defendants to pay P10,000.00 by way of moral damages; P10,000.00 as Attorneys fees; and P2,000.00 for litigation expenses. SO ORDERED.[4] Aggrieved, petitioners appealed to the CA whereat their recourse was docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 52273. On April 28, 2000, the CA rendered the herein challenged Decision affirming that of the RTC. Dispositively, the Decision reads: WHEREFORE, premises considered, the questioned decision of the lower court dated October 20, 1995 is hereby AFFIRMED. With costs against appellants. SO ORDERED.

13

Discounting petitioners argument that respondent is not related to Juan Gabatan, the CA declared that respondents claim of filiation with Juan Gabatan was sufficiently established during trial. Thus, the CA echoed a long line of jurisprudence that findings of fact of the trial court are entitled to great weight and are not disturbed except for cogent reasons, such as when the findings of fact are not supported by evidence. The CA likewise gave weight to the Deed of Absolute Sale [5] executed by Macaria Gabatan de Abrogar, Teofilo, Hermogena and heirs of Justa Gabatan, wherein Hermogena was identified as an heir of Juan Gabatan: x x x HERMOGENA GABATAN, of legal age, married, Filipino citizen and presently residing at Kolambugan, Lanao del Norte, Philippines, as Heir of the deceased, JUAN GABATAN; x x x. To the CA, the Deed of Absolute Sale on July 30, 1966 containing such declaration which was signed by Teofilo and the latters nearest relatives by consanguinity, is a tangible proof that they acknowledged Hermogenas status as the daughter of Juan Gabatan. Applying Section 38, Rule 130[6] of the Rules of Court on the declaration against interest, the CA ruled that petitioners could not deny that even their very own father, Teofilo formally recognized Hermogenas right to heirship from Juan Gabatan which ultimately passed on to respondent. As to the issue of prescription, the CA ruled that petitioners possession of the disputed property could not ripen into acquisitive prescription because their predecessor-in-interest, Teofilo, never held the property in the concept of an owner. Aggrieved, petitioners are now with this Court via the present recourse principally contending that the CA committed the following reversible errors: FIRST ERROR: The lower court erred in not declaring that Juan Gabatan died single and without issue;

SECOND ERROR: The lower court erred in declaring the plaintiff-appellee (respondent) as the sole and surviving heir of Juan Gabatan, the only child of a certain Hermogena Clareto GABATAN; THIRD ERROR: Juan Gabatan; The lower court erred in declaring that a certain Hermogena Clareto GABATAN is the child and sole heir of

FOURTH ERROR: The lower court erred in failing to appreciate by preponderance of evidence in favor of the defendantsappellants (petitioners) claim that they and the heirs of Justa and Macaria both surnamed Gabatan are the sole and surviving heirs of Juan Gabatan and, therefore, entitled to inherit the land subject matter hereof; FIFTH ERROR: The lower court erred in not declaring that the cause of action of plaintiff-appellee (respondent) if any, has been barred by laches and/or prescription.[7] Before proceeding to the merits of the case, we must pass upon certain preliminary matters. In general, only questions of law may be raised in a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. Questions of fact cannot be the subject of this particular mode of appeal, for this Court is not a trier of facts.[8] It is not our function to examine and evaluate the probative value of the evidence presented before the concerned tribunal upon which its impugned decision or resolution is based. [9] However, there are established exceptions to the rule on conclusiveness of the findings of fact by the lower courts, such as (1) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculation, surmises or conjectures; (2) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken; (3) when there is grave abuse of discretion; (4) when the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; (5) when the findings of facts are conflicting; (6) when in making its findings the Court of Appeals went beyond the issues of the case, or its findings are contrary to the admissions of both the appellant and the appellee; (7) when the findings are contrary to the trial court; (8) when the findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (9) when the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioners main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondent; (10) when the findings of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record; and (11) when the Court

14

of Appeals manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties, which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion.[10] Moreover, our rules recognize the broad discretionary power of an appellate court to waive the lack of proper assignment of errors and to consider errors not assigned. Thus, the Court is clothed with ample authority to review rulings even if they are not assigned as errors in the appeal in these instances: (a) grounds not assigned as errors but affecting jurisdiction over the subject matter; (b) matters not assigned as errors on appeal but are evidently plain or clerical errors within contemplation of law; (c) matters not assigned as errors on appeal but consideration of which is necessary in arriving at a just decision and complete resolution of the case or to serve the interests of justice or to avoid dispensing piecemeal justice; (d) matters not specifically assigned as errors on appeal but raised in the trial court and are matters of record having some bearing on the issue submitted which the parties failed to raise or which the lower court ignored; (e) matters not assigned as errors on appeal but closely related to an error assigned; and (f) matters not assigned as errors on appeal but upon which the determination of a question properly assigned, is dependent. [11] In the light of the foregoing established doctrines, we now proceed to resolve the merits of the case. The respondents main cause of action in the court a quo is the recovery of ownership and possession of property. It is undisputed that the subject property, Lot 3095 C-5, was owned by the deceased Juan Gabatan, during his lifetime.[12] Before us are two contending parties, both insisting to be the legal heir(s) of the decedent. Jurisprudence dictates that the determination of who are the legal heirs of the deceased must be made in the proper special proceedings in court, and not in an ordinary suit for recovery of ownership and possession of property. This must take precedence over the action for recovery of possession and ownership. The Court has consistently ruled that the trial court cannot make a declaration of heirship in the civil action for the reason that such a declaration can only be made in a special proceeding. Under Section 3, Rule 1 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Court, a civil action is defined as one by which a party sues another for the enforcement or protection of a right, or the prevention or redress of a wrong while a special proceeding is a remedy by which a party seeks to establish a status, a right, or a particular fact. It is then decisively clear that the declaration of heirship can be made only in a special proceeding inasmuch as the petitioners here are seeking the establishment of a status or right.[13] In the early case of Litam, et al. v. Rivera,[14] this Court ruled that the declaration of heirship must be made in a special proceeding, and not in an independent civil action. This doctrine was reiterated in Solivio v. Court of Appeals[15] where the Court held: xxx where despite the pendency of the special proceedings for the settlement of the intestate estate of the deceased Rafael Litam, the plaintiffs-appellants filed a civil action in which they claimed that they were the children by a previous marriage of the deceased to a Chinese woman, hence, entitled to inherit his one-half share of the conjugal properties acquired during his marriage to Marcosa Rivera, the trial court in the civil case declared that the plaintiffs-appellants were not children of the deceased, that the properties in question were paraphernal properties of his wife, Marcosa Rivera, and that the latter was his only heir. On appeal to this Court, we ruled that such declarations (that Marcosa Rivera was the only heir of the decedent) is improper, in Civil Case No. 2071, it being within the exclusive competence of the court in Special Proceedings No.1537, in which it is not as yet, in issue, and, will not be, ordinarily, in issue until the presentation of the project of partition.

In the more recent case of Milagros Joaquino v. Lourdes Reyes,[16] the Court reiterated its ruling that matters relating to the rights of filiation and heirship must be ventilated in the proper probate court in a special proceeding instituted precisely for the purpose of determining such rights. Citing the case of Agapay v. Palang,[17] this Court held that the status of an illegitimate child who claimed to be an heir to a decedents estate could not be adjudicated in an ordinary civil action which, as in this case, was for the recovery of property. However, we are not unmindful of our decision in Portugal v. Portugal-Beltran,[18] where the Court relaxed its rule and allowed the trial court in a proceeding for annulment of title to determine the status of the party therein as heirs, to wit: It appearing, however, that in the present case the only property of the intestate estate of Portugal is the Caloocan parcel of land, to still subject it, under the circumstances of the case, to a special proceeding which could be long, hence, not expeditious, just to establish the status of petitioners as heirs is not only impractical; it is burdensome to the estate with the costs and expenses of an administration proceeding. And it is superfluous in light of the fact that the parties

15

to the civil case subject of the present case, could and had already in fact presented evidence before the trial court which assumed jurisdiction over the case upon the issues it defined during pre-trial. In fine, under the circumstances of the present case, there being no compelling reason to still subject Portugals estate to administration proceedings since a determination of petitioners status as heirs could be achieved in the civil case filed by petitioners (Vide Pereira v. Court of Appeals, 174 SCRA 154 [1989]; Intestate Estate of Mercado v. Magtibay, 96 Phil. 383 [1955]), the trial court should proceed to evaluate the evidence presented by the parties during the trial and render a decision thereon upon the issues it defined during pre-trial, x x x. (emphasis supplied) Similarly, in the present case, there appears to be only one parcel of land being claimed by the contending parties as their inheritance from Juan Gabatan. It would be more practical to dispense with a separate special proceeding for the determination of the status of respondent as the sole heir of Juan Gabatan, specially in light of the fact that the parties to Civil Case No. 89-092, had voluntarily submitted the issue to the RTC and already presented their evidence regarding the issue of heirship in these proceeding. Also the RTC assumed jurisdiction over the same and consequently rendered judgment thereon. We GRANT the petition. After a meticulous review of the records of this case, we find insufficient and questionable the basis of the RTC in conferring upon respondent the status of sole heir of Juan Gabatan. Respondent, in asserting to be entitled to possession and ownership of the property, pinned her claim entirely on her alleged status as sole heir of Juan Gabatan. It was incumbent upon her to present preponderant evidence in support of her complaint. Under the Civil Code, the filiation of legitimate children is established by any of the following: ART. 265. The filiation of legitimate children is proved by the record of birth appearing in the Civil Register, or by an authentic document or a final judgment. ART. 266. In the absence of the titles indicated in the preceding article, the filiation shall be proved by the continuous possession of status of a legitimate child. ART. 267. In the absence of a record of birth, authentic document, final judgment or possession of status, legitimate filiation may be proved by any other means allowed by the Rules of Court and special laws. Here, two conflicting birth certificates[19] of respondent were presented at the RTC. Respondent, during her direct testimony, presented and identified a purported certified true copy of her typewritten birth certificate which indicated that her mothers maiden name was Hermogena Clarito Gabatan. Petitioners, on the other hand, presented a certified true copy of respondents handwritten birth certificate which differed from the copy presented by respondent. Among the differences was respondents mothers full maiden name which was indicated as Hermogena Calarito in the handwritten birth certificate. In resolving this particular issue, the trial court ruled in this wise: The parties are trying to outdo with (sic) each other by presenting two conflicting Certificate (sic) of Live Birth of plaintiff herein, Lourdes Evero Pacana, which are Exhibit A for the plaintiff and Exhibit 1 for the defendants. Which of this (sic) is genuine, and which is falsified. These (sic) issue is crucial and requires serious scrutiny. The Court is of the observation that Exhibit A for the plaintiff which is a certified true copy is in due form and bears the as is and where is rule. It has the impression of the original certificate. The forms (sic) is an old one used in the 1950s. Her mothers maiden name appearing thereof is Hermogina (sic) Clarito Gabatan. While Exhibit 1, the entries found thereof (sic) is handwritten which is very unusual and of dubious source. The form used is of latest vintage. The entry on the space for mothers maiden name is Hermogena

16

Calarito. There seems to be an apparent attempt to thwart plaintiffs mother filiation with the omission of the surname Gabatan. Considering these circumstances alone the Court is inclined to believe that Exhibit A for the plaintiff is far more genuine and authentic certificate of live birth.[20] Having carefully examined the questioned birth certificates, we simply cannot agree with the above-quoted findings of the trial court. To begin with, Exhibit A, as the trial court noted, was an original typewritten document, not a mere photocopy or facsimile. It uses a form of 1950s vintage[21] but this Court is unable to concur in the trial courts finding that Exhibit 1 [22] was of a later vintage than Exhibit A which was one of the trial courts bases for doubting the authenticity of Exhibit 1. On the contrary, the printed notation on the upper left hand corner of Exhibit 1 states Municipal Form No. 102 (Revised, January 1945) which makes it an older form than Exhibit A. Thus, the trial courts finding regarding which form was of more recent vintage was manifestly contradicted by the evidence on record. No actual signature appears on Exhibit A except that of a certain Maximo P. Noriga, Deputy Local Civil Registrar of the Office of the Local Civil Registrar, Cagayan de Oro City, who purportedly certified on July 6, 1977 that Exhibit A was a true copy of respondents birth certificate. The names of the attendant at birth (Petra Sambaan) and the local civil registrar (J.L. Rivera) in 1950 were typewritten with the notation (Sgd.) also merely typewritten beside their names. The words A certified true copy: July 6, 1977 above the signature of Maximo P. Noriga on Exhibit A appear to be inscribed by the same typewriter as the very entries in Exhibit A. It would seem that Exhibit A and the information stated therein were prepared and entered only in 1977. Significantly, Maximo P. Noriga was never presented as a witness to identify Exhibit A. Said document and the signature of Maximo P. Noriga therein were identified by respondent herself whose self-serving testimony cannot be deemed sufficient authentication of her birth certificate. We cannot subscribe to the trial courts view that since the entries in Exhibit 1 were handwritten, Exhibit 1 was the one of dubious credibility. Verily, the certified true copies of the handwritten birth certificate of respondent (petitioners Exhibits 1 and 8) were duly authenticated by two competent witnesses; namely, Rosita Vidal (Ms. Vidal), Assistant Registration Officer of the Office of the City Civil Registrar, Cagayan de Oro City and Maribeth E. Cacho (Ms. Cacho), Archivist of the National Statistics Office (NSO), Sta. Mesa, Manila. Both witnesses testified that: (a) as part of their official duties they have custody of birth records in their respective offices, [23] and (b) the certified true copy of respondents handwritten birth certificate is a faithful reproduction of the original birth certificate registered in their respective offices. [24] Ms. Vidal, during her testimony, even brought the original of the handwritten birth certificate before the trial court and respondents counsel confirmed that the certified true copy (which was eventually marked as Exhibit 1) was a faithful reproduction of the original. [25] Ms. Vidal likewise categorically testified that no other copy of respondents birth certificate exists in their records except the handwritten birth certificate. [26] Ms. Cacho, in turn, testified that the original of respondents handwritten birth certificate found in the records of the NSO Manila (from which Exhibit 8 was photocopied) was the one officially transmitted to their office by the Local Civil Registry Office of Cagayan de Oro. [27] Both Ms. Vidal and Ms. Cacho testified and brought their respective offices copies of respondents birth certificate in compliance with subpoenas issued by the trial court and there is no showing that they were motivated by ill will or bias in giving their testimonies. Thus, between respondents Exhibit A and petitioners Exhibits 1 and 8, the latter documents deserve to be given greater probative weight. Even assuming purely for the sake of argument that the birth certificate presented by respondent (Exhibit A) is a reliable document, the same on its face is insufficient to prove respondents filiation to her alleged grandfather, Juan Gabatan. All that Exhibit A, if it had been credible and authentic, would have proven was that respondents mother was a certain Hermogena Clarito Gabatan. It does not prove that same Hermogena Clarito Gabatan is the daughter of Juan Gabatan. Even the CA held that the conflicting certificates of live birth of respondent submitted by the parties only proved the filiation of respondent to Hermogena.[28] It was absolutely crucial to respondents cause of action that she convincingly proves the filiation of her mother to Juan Gabatan. To reiterate, to prove the relationship of respondents mother to Juan Gabatan, our laws dictate that the best evidence of such familial tie was the record of birth appearing in the Civil Register, or an authentic document or a final judgment. In the absence of these, respondent should have presented

17

proof that her mother enjoyed the continuous possession of the status of a legitimate child. Only in the absence of these two classes of evidence is the respondent allowed to present other proof admissible under the Rules of Court of her mothers relationship to Juan Gabatan. However, respondents mothers (Hermogenas) birth certificate, which would have been the best evidence of Hermogenas relationship to Juan Gabatan, was never offered as evidence at the RTC. Neither did respondent present any authentic document or final judgment categorically evidencing Hermogenas relationship to Juan Gabatan. Respondent relied on the testimony of her witnesses, Frisco Lawan, Felicisima Nagac Pacana and Cecilia Nagac Villareal who testified that they personally knew Hermogena (respondents mother) and/or Juan Gabatan, that they knew Juan Gabatan was married to Laureana Clarito and that Hermogena was the child of Juan and Laureana. However, none of these witnesses had personal knowledge of the fact of marriage of Juan to Laureana or the fact of birth of Hermogena to Juan and Laureana. They were not yet born or were very young when Juan supposedly married Laureana or when Hermogena was born and they all admitted that none of them were present at Juan and Laureanas wedding or Hermogenas birth. These witnesses based their testimony on what they had been told by, or heard from, others as young children. Their testimonies were, in a word, hearsay. Other circumstances prevent us from giving full faith to respondents witnesses testimonies. The records would show that they cannot be said to be credible and impartial witnesses. Frisco Lawan testified that he was the son of Laureana by a man other than Juan Gabatan and was admittedly not at all related to Juan Gabatan.[29] His testimony regarding the relationships within the Gabatan family is hardly reliable. As for Felicisima Nagac Pacana and Cecilia Nagac Villareal who are children of Justa Gabatan Nagac, [30] this Court is wary of according probative weight to their testimonies since respondent admitted during her cross-examination that her (respondents) husband is the son of Felicisima Nagac Pacana.[31] In other words, although these witnesses are indeed blood relatives of petitioners, they are also the mother and the aunt of respondents husband. They cannot be said to be entirely disinterested in the outcome of the case. Aside from the testimonies of respondents witnesses, both the RTC and the CA relied heavily on a photocopy of a Deed of Absolute Sale[32] (Exhibit H) presented by respondent and which appeared to be signed by the siblings and the heirs of the siblings of Juan Gabatan. In this document involving the sale of a lot different from Lot 3095 C-5, Hermogena Gabatan as heir of the deceased Juan Gabatan was indicated as one of the vendors. The RTC deemed the statement therein as an affirmation or recognition by Teofilo Gabatan, petitioners predecessor in interest, that Hermogena Gabatan was the heir of Juan Gabatan.[33] The CA considered the same statement as a declaration against interest on the part of Teofilo Gabatan.[34] However, the admission of this Deed of Absolute Sale, including its contents and the signatures therein, as competent evidence was vigorously and repeatedly objected to by petitioners counsel for being a mere photocopy and not being properly authenticated. [35] After a close scrutiny of the said photocopy of the Deed of Absolute Sale, this Court cannot uphold the admissibility of the same. Under the best evidence rule, when the subject of inquiry is the contents of a document, no evidence shall be admissible other than the original document itself.[36] Although the best evidence rule admits of exceptions and there are instances where the presentation of secondary evidence would be allowed, such as when the original is lost or the original is a public record, the basis for the presentation of secondary evidence must still be established. Thus, in Department of Education Culture and Sports v. Del Rosario,[37] we held that a party must first satisfactorily explain the loss of the best or primary evidence before he can resort to secondary evidence. A party must first present to the court proof of loss or other satisfactory explanation for non-production of the original instrument.

18

In the case at bar, a perusal of the transcript of the testimony of Felicisima Nagac Pacana (who identified the photocopy of the Deed of Absolute Sale) plainly shows that she gave no testimony regarding the whereabouts of the original, whether it was lost or whether it was recorded in any public office. There is an ostensible attempt to pass off Exhibit H as an admissible public document. For this, respondent relied on the stamped notation on the photocopy of the deed that it is a certified true xerox copy and said notation was signed by a certain Honesto P. Velez, Sr., Assessment Officer, who seems to be an officer in the local assessors office. Regarding the authentication of public documents, the Rules of Court[38] provide that the record of public documents, when admissible for any purpose, may be evidenced by an official publication thereof or by a copy attested by the officer having legal custody of the record, or by his deputy. [39] The attestation of the certifying officer must state, in substance, that the copy is a correct copy of the original, or a specific part thereof, as the case may be. [40] To begin with, no proof whatsoever was presented by respondent that an original of Exhibit H was registered or exists in the records of the local assessors office. Furthermore, the stamped certification of Honesto P. Velez is insufficient authentication of Exhibit H since Velezs certification did not state that Exhibit H was a true copy from the original. Even worse, Velez was not presented as a witness to attest that Exhibit H was a true copy from the original. Indeed, it is highly doubtful that Velez could have made such an attestation since the assessors office is not the official repository of original notarized deeds of sale and could not have been the legal custodian contemplated in the rules. It is the notary public who is mandated by law to keep an original of the Deed of Absolute Sale in his notarial register and to forward the same to the proper court. It is the notary public or the proper court that has custody of his notarial register that could have produced the original or a certified true copy thereof. Instead, the Deed of Absolute Sale was identified by Felicisima Nagac Pacana who, despite appearing to be a signatory thereto, is not a disinterested witness and as can be gleaned from her testimony, she had no personal knowledge of the preparation of the alleged certified true copy of the Deed of Absolute Sale. She did not even know who secured a copy of Exhibit H from the assessors office. [41] To be sure, the roundabout and defective manner of authentication of Exhibit H renders it inadmissible for the purpose it was offered, i.e. as proof that Teofilo Gabatan acknowledged or admitted the status of Hermogena Gabatan as heir of Juan Gabatan. Even if we are to overlook the lack of proper authentication of Exhibit H and consider the same admissible, it still nonetheless would have only provided proof that a certain Hermogena Gabatan was the heir of Juan Gabatan. Exhibit H does not show the filiation of respondent to either Hermogena Gabatan or Juan Gabatan. As discussed above, the only document that respondent produced to demonstrate her filiation to Hermogena Gabatan (respondents Exhibit A) was successfully put in doubt by contrary evidence presented by petitioners. As for the issue of laches, we are inclined to likewise rule against respondent. According to respondents own testimony,[42]Juan Gabatan died sometime in 1933 and thus, the cause of action of the heirs of Juan Gabatan to recover the decedents property from third parties or to quiet title to their inheritance accrued in 1933. Yet, respondent and/or her mother Hermogena, if they were truly the legal heirs of Juan Gabatan, did not assert their rights as such. It is only in 1978 that respondent filed her first complaint to recover the subject property, docketed as Civil Case No. 5840, against Rita Gabatan, the widow of Teofilo Gabatan.[43] However, that case was dismissed without prejudice for failure to prosecute. [44] Again, respondent waited until 1989 to refile her cause of action, i.e. the present case.[45] She claimed that she waited until the death of Rita Gabatan to refile her case out of respect because Rita was then already old.[46] We cannot accept respondents flimsy reason. It is precisely because Rita Gabatan and her contemporaries (who might have personal knowledge of the matters litigated in this case) were advancing in age and might soon expire that respondent should have exerted every effort to preserve valuable evidence and speedily litigate her claim. As we held in Republic of the Philippines v. Agunoy: Vigilantibus, sed non dormientibus,

19

jura subveniunt, the law aids the vigilant, not those who sleep on their rights[O]ne may not sleep on a right while expecting to preserve it in its pristine purity.[47] All in all, this Court finds that respondent dismally failed to substantiate, with convincing, credible and independently verifiable proof, her assertion that she is the sole heir of Juan Gabatan and thus, entitled to the property under litigation. Aggravating the weakness of her evidence were the circumstances that (a) she did not come to court with clean hands for she presented a tampered/altered, if not outright spurious, copy of her certificate of live birth and (b) she unreasonably delayed the prosecution of her own cause of action. If the Court cannot now affirm her claim, respondent has her own self to blame. WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Court of Appeals Decision in CA-G.R. CV No. 52273, affirming the decision of the Regional Trial Court in Civil Case No. 89-092, is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The complaint and amended complaint in Civil Case No. 89092 are DISMISSED for lack of merit. SO ORDERED.

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO Associate Justice WE CONCUR:

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO Associate Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO Associate Justice Acting Chairperson

RENATO C. CORONA Associate Justice

ARTURO D. BRION Associate Justice

ATTESTATION I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division

ANTONIO T. CARPIO Associate Justice Acting Chairperson, First Division

20

CERTIFICATION Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Acting Division Chairpersons Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING Acting Chief Justic

Republic of the Philippines Supreme Court Manila THIRD DIVISION

21

VALENTE RAYMUNDO, Petitioner,

G.R. No. 149017

Present:

PUNO, C.J.* YNARES-SANTIAGO, J., - versus Chairperson, AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, CHICO-NAZARIO, and NACHURA, JJ.

TEOFISTA ISAGON VDA. DE SUAREZ, DANILO I. SUAREZ, EUFROCINA SUAREZ, MARCELO I. SUAREZ, JR, EVELYN SUAREZ, ET AL., Respondents.

Promulgated:

November 28, 2008

x------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

NACHURA, J.:

This petition, filed under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, assails the Court of Appeals (CA) Decision[1] and Resolution[2] in CA-G.R. SP No. 58090 which reversed, set aside and recalled the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Orders [3] in Civil Case No. 51203.

First, the long settled facts.

22

Marcelo and Teofista Isagon Suarez[4] marriage was blessed with both material wealth and progeny in herein respondents, namely, Danilo,[5] Eufrocina, Marcelo Jr., Evelyn, and Reggineo,[6] all surnamed Suarez. During their marriage, governed by the conjugal partnership of gains regime, they acquired numerous properties, which included the following: (1) a parcel of land situated in Barrio Caniogan, Pasig with an area of 348 square meters covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 30680; (2) property located in Pinagbuhatan, Pasig, with an area of 1,020 square meters under Tax Declaration No. A-016-01003; and (3) Lot Nos. 5, 6 & 7, Block 2 covered by Tax Declaration No. A-01700723 (subject properties).

After the death of Marcelo Sr. in 1955, Teofista and herein respondents, as well as Elpidio Suarez, [7] executed an Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate,[8] partitioning Marcelo Sr.s estate, thus:

WHEREAS, the said deceased is survived by the parties hereto who are his only legal heirs: TEOFISTA ISAGON, being the surviving spouse, and EUFROCINA S. ANDRES, ELPIDIO SUAREZ, DANILO SUAREZ, EVELYN SUAREZ, MARCELO SUAREZ, JR. and REGGINEO SUAREZ, being the legitimate children of the deceased with the said TEOFISTA ISAGON;

WHEREAS, the minors ELPIDIO, SUAREZ, DANILO SUAREZ, EVELYN SUAREZ, MARCELO SUAREZ, JR. and REGGINEO SUAREZ are represented herein by EUFROCINA S. ANDRES, in her capacity as the guardian and legal administrator of the property of the said minors;

WHEREAS, there are no known debts or financial obligations of whatever nature and amount against the estate of the deceased; NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of the foregoing premises, the Parties have agreed to settle and liquidate the assets of the conjugal partnership between the deceased and TEOFISTA ISAGON, and to settle and adjudicate the estate of the said deceased, by and pursuance to these presents, in the following manner, to wit:

1. That TEOFISTA ISAGON, as the surviving spouse and partner of the deceased, shall receive in absolute and exclusive ownership the following properties as her lawful share in the assets of the conjugal partnership of gains between her and the deceased, to wit:

(a)

Half (1/2) interest and participation in the parcel of land covered by Tax Declaration No. 6938, situated at Sitio Pantayan, Municipality of Taytay, Province of Rizal;

(b)

Half (1/2) interest and participation in the parcel of land covered by Tax Declaration No. 6939, situated at Sitio Pantayan, Municipality of Taytay, Province of Rizal;

(c)

Half (1/2) interest and participation in the parcel of land covered by TCT No. 38291, situated at Barrio Rosario, Municipality of Pasig, Province of Rizal;

23

(d)

Half (1/2) interest and participation in the parcel of land covered by TCT No. 38290, situated at Barrio Rosario, Municipality of Pasig, Province of Rizal;

(e)

TWELVE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED THIRTY PESOS AND NINETY (P12,530.90) deposited with the Commercial Bank and Trust Company of the Philippines, and THIRTY-NINE PESOS (P39.00) deposited with Prudential Bank.

2. That the Parties TEOFISTA ISAGON, EUFROCINA S. ANDRES, ELPIDIO SUAREZ, DANILO SUAREZ, EVELYN SUAREZ, MARCELO SUAREZ, JR. and REGGINEO SUAREZ, shall each and all receive and be entitled to a share equivalent to one-seventh (1/7) of the estate of the deceased MARCELO SUAREZ, which estate is comprised of the following properties, to wit:

(a)

parcel of land covered by TCT No. 30680, situated Kaniogan, Municipality of Pasig, Province of Rizal, with an assessed value of P4,150.00.

at

Barrio

(b)

Three (3) parcels of land covered by TCT Nos. 33982, 33983 and 33984, situated at Barrio Pineda, Municipality of Pasig, Province of Rizal, with an assessed value of P560.00.

(c)

A parcel of land covered by TCT 33986, situated at Barrio Pineda, Municipality of Pasig, Province of Rizal, with an assessed value of P440.00.

(d) Two (2) parcels of land, being Lots Nos. 42 and 44 of the amendment-subdivision plan TY-4653-Amd., being a portion of Lot 2 described on the original plan II-4653, G.L.R.O. Record No. _____, situated at Barrio Santolan, Municipality of Pasig, Province ofRizal, with a total assessed value of P590.00.

(e)

Two parcels of land, being Lots Nos. 43 and 45 of the amendment-subdivision plan TY-4653-Amd., being a portion of Lot 2 described on the original plan II-4653, G.L.R.O. Record No. _______, situated at Barrio Santolan, Municipality of Pasig, Provinceof Rizal, with a total assessed value of P1,190.00.

(f)

A parcel of land, being Lot No. 6, Block 269 of the subdivision plan pos-112, being a portion of Lot 2, Block 348, Psd-3188, G.L.R.O. Record Nos. 375,699 and 917, situated at San Felipe Neri, Province of Rizal, with an assessed value of P6,340.00.

(g)

A parcel of land covered by OCT No. 391, situated in the Municipality of Taytay, Province of Rizal, with an assessed value of P1,840.00.

24

(h)

TWELVE THOUSAND (12,000) shares of stock of the Consolidated Mines, Inc. represented by Certificate No. 71-5-B (for 1,000 shares) and Certificate No. 12736 (for 11,000 shares).

PROVIDED, that their title to the properties hereinabove mentioned shall be in common and the share of each heir being pro indiviso. Curiously, despite the partition, title to the foregoing properties, explicitly identified in the Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate as forming part of Marcelos and Isagons property regime, remained in the couples name. Not surprisingly, Teofista continued to administer and manage these properties. On the whole, apart from those now owned exclusively by Teofista, all the properties were held pro indiviso by Teofista and her children; and respective titles thereto were not changed, with Teofista as de facto administrator thereof. In 1975, Rizal Realty Corporation (Rizal Realty) and Teofista, the latter owning ninety percent (90%) of the formers shares of stock, were sued by petitioner Valente Raymundo, his wife Violeta, Virginia Banta and Maria Concepcion Vito (plaintiffs) in consolidated cases for Rescission of Contract and Damages, docketed as Civil Case Nos. 21736 to 21739. Thereafter, in 1975, the then Court of First Instance (CFI) of Rizal, Branch 1, rendered judgment: (1) rescinding the respective contracts of plaintiffs with Rizal Realty and Teofista, and (2) holding the two defendants solidarily liable to plaintiffs for damages in the aggregate principal amount of about P70,000.00.[9] When the judgment of the CFI became final and executory, herein subject properties were levied and sold on execution onJune 24, 1983 to satisfy the judgment against Teofista and Rizal Realty. The aforementioned plaintiffs were the highest bidder, and bought the levied properties for the amount of P94,170.00. As a result, a certificate of sale was issued to them and registered in their favor on August 1, 1983. On July 31, 1984, the Provincial Sheriff of Rizal issued a final deed of sale over the subject properties. Parenthetically, before expiration of the redemption period, or on June 21, 1984, herein respondents filed a revindicatory action against petitioner Valente, Violeta, Virginia and Maria Concepcion, docketed as Civil Case No. 51203, for the annulment of the auction sale and recovery of ownership of the levied properties. Essentially, respondents alleged in their complaint that they cannot be held liable for the judgment rendered against their mother, Teofista, not having been impleaded therein; and consequently, the subject properties, which they own pro indiviso with their mother, can neither be levied nor be sold on execution. Meanwhile, the RTC, Branch 151, formerly the CFI, Branch 1, in Civil Case Nos. 21376 to 21379, issued an Order[10]directing Teofista: (1) to vacate the subject properties, (2) to desist from despoiling, dismantling, removing or alienating the improvements thereon, (3) to place petitioner Valente, Violeta, Virginia and Maria Concepcion in peaceful possession thereof, and (4) to surrender to them the owners duplicate copy of the torrens title and other pertinent documents. Herein respondents, joined by their mother, Teofista, filed a Motion for Reconsideration arguing that the subject properties are co-owned by them and further informing the RTC of the filing and pendency of Civil Case No. 51203. Nonetheless, the trial court denied Teofistas and herein respondents motion, reiterated its previous order, which included, among others, the order for Teofista and all persons claiming right under her, to vacate the lots subject of the judicial sale. Undaunted, Teofista and herein respondents filed a petition for certiorari before the CA to annul the foregoing orders. The appellate court, on July 6, 1987, dismissed Teofistas and herein respondents petition, thus:

We believe this petition cannot prosper for two reasons. First, as purported case for certiorari it fails to show how the respondent judge had acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion. The two orders being assailed

25

were preceded by a final judgment, a corresponding writ of execution, a levy on execution and a judicial sale, all of which enjoy a strong sense presumption of regularity. Secondly, as far as [petitioner] Teofista Suarez is concerned, she cannot complain about the levy because she was a party in the consolidated cases where judgment was rendered against her in her personal capacity. Since she did not appeal from the decision, she cannot say that the judgment is erroneous for an obligation that belong to the corporation. And with respect to the children of Teofista Suarez, who are co-petitioners in this proceedings [herein respondents], suffice it to point out that not being parties in the consolidated cases, what they should have done was to immediately file a third party claim. The moment levy was made on the parcels of land, which they claim are theirs by virtue of hereditary succession, they should have seasonably filed such claim to protect their rights. As the record discloses, however, the children chose to remain silent, and even allowed the auction sale to be held, filing almost a year later a half-hearted complaint to annul the proceedings which they allowed to be dismissed by not diligently prosecuting it. In Santos v. Mojica (10 SCRA 318), a partition case with third- party claimants, the Supreme Court came out with the following ruling: The procedure (a petition for certiorari) followed by him (a petitioner not party to the original partition case) in vindicating his right is not the one sanctioned by law, for he should have filed a separate and independent action making parties therein the sheriff and the plaintiffs responsible for the execution xxx. It can, therefore, be said that (he) acted improperly in filing the present petition because his remedy was to file a separate and independent action to vindicate his ownership over the land. WHEREFORE, the petition is denied and the restraining order previously issued is DISSOLVED, with costs against petitioners.[11] On the other litigation front concerning Civil Case No. 51203, a writ of preliminary injunction was issued by the RTC Pasig, Branch 155, on February 25, 1985, enjoining petitioner Valente, Violeta, Virginia and Maria Concepcion from transferring to third parties the levied properties based on its preliminary finding that the auctioned properties are co-owned by Teofista and herein respondents. Subsequently, however, Civil Case No. 51203 was dismissed by the RTC, Branch 155, at the instance of petitioner Valente for failure of herein respondents to prosecute. But in yet another turn of events, the RTC, Branch 155, lifted its previous order of dismissal and directed the issuance of alias summons. Thus, it was now petitioner Valentes, Violetas, Virginias and Maria Concepcions turn to file a petition for certiorari with the CA, assailing the various orders of the RTC, Branch 155, which all rejected their bid to dismiss Civil Case No. 51203. The CA granted their petition, thus: And the fact that herein private respondents, as the legal heirs of Teofista Vda. de Suarez and supposedly not parties in Civil Case Nos. 21376 - 21379 does not preclude the application of the doctrine of res judicata since, apart from the requisites constitutive of this procedural tenet, they were admittedly the children of Teofista Suarez, who is the real party-in-interest in the previous final judgment. As successors-in-interest of Teofista Suarez, private respondents merely stepped into the shoes of their mother in regard to the levied pieces of property. Verily, there is identity of parties, not only where the parties in both actions are the same, but where there is privity with them as in the cases of successors-in-interest by title subsequent to the commencement of the action or where there is substantial identity. Finally, the action to annul the judicial sale filed by herein private respondents is not the reinvindicatory suit, much less the third party claim contemplated by Section 17 of Rule 39. WHEREFORE, the petition for certiorari is hereby granted and the questioned orders dated February 25, 1985, May 19, 1989 and February 26, 1990 issued in Civil Case No. 51203 are hereby annulled; further respondent judge is ordered to dismiss Civil Case No. 51203.[12] From this ruling, herein respondents appealed to the Supreme Court. In Suarez v. Court of Appeals,[13] we reversed the appellate court, thus: Even without touching on the incidents and issues raised by both petitioner [herein respondents] and private respondents [petitioner Valente, Violeta, Virginia and Maria Concepcion] and the developments subsequent to the filing of the complaint, [w]e cannot but notice the glaring error committed by the trial court.

26

It would be useless to discuss the procedural issue on the validity of the execution and the manner of publicly selling en masse the subject properties for auction. To start with, only one-half of the 5 parcels of land [subject properties] should have been the subject of the auction sale. The law in point is Article 777 of the Civil Code, the law applicable at the time of the institution of the case: The rights to the succession are transmitted from the moment of the death of the decedent. Article 888 further provides: The legitime of the legitimate children and descendants consists of one-half of the hereditary estate of the father and of the mother. The latter may freely dispose of the remaining half, subject to the rights of illegitimate children and of the surviving spouse as hereinafter provided. Article 892, par. 2 likewise provides: If there are two or more legitimate children or descendants, the surviving spouse shall be entitled to a portion equal to the legitime of each of the legitimate children or descendants. Thus, from the foregoing, the legitime of the surviving spouse is equal to the legitime of each child. The proprietary interest of petitioners [herein respondents] in the levied and auctioned property is different from and adverse to that of their mother [Teofista]. Petitioners [herein respondents] became co-owners of the property not because of their mother [Teofista] but through their own right as children of their deceased father [Marcelo Sr.]. Therefore, petitioners [herein respondents] are not barred in any way from instituting the action to annul the auction sale to protect their own interest. WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals dated July 27, 1990 as well as its Resolution of August 28, 1990 are hereby REVERSED and set aside; and Civil Case No. 51203 is reinstated only to determine that portion which belongs to petitioners and to annul the sale with regard to said portion. It was at this point when another series of events transpired, culminating in the present petition. Upon our reinstatement of Civil Case No. 51203, each and every pleading filed by herein respondents, as plaintiffs therein, was hotly contested and opposed by therein defendants, including petitioner Valente. Moreover, even at that stage, when the case had been remanded with a directive to determine that portion which belongs to [herein respondents] and to annul the sale with regard to said portion, Civil Case No. 51203 had to be re-raffled and transferred, for varied reasons, to the different court branches in Pasig City. In between all these, petitioner Valente, along with the other defendants, repeatedly filed a Motion to Dismiss Civil Case No. 51203 for the purported failure of herein respondents to prosecute the case. Most of these Motions to Dismiss were denied. With each transfer of Civil Case No. 51203, the judge to which the case was raffled had to study the records anew. Expectedly, part of the records went missing and were lost. On April 12, 1993, the Clerk of Court of RTC, Branch 71, to which Civil Case No. 51203 was remanded, filed a report on the records of the case, to wit: 1. The first volume of the record in the above-entitled case was recorded as received on June 20, 1990, by Sheriff Alejandro O. Loquinario; 2. That the staff of Branch 71 at this time was sharing a small room with Branch 161 at the First Floor of the Justice Hall, and as the Branch was newly formed, it had no equipment or furniture of its own, and was still undermanned 3. Justice Hall; That sometime in August 1990, Branch 71 moved to the staffroom of Branch 159 at the Second Floor of the

27

4. That on October 25, 1990, this Court received a Notice of Judgment dated October 22, 1990 from the Court of Appeals that ruled the dismissal of the above-entitled case, and as per standing instructions of Judge Graduacion A. ReyesClaravall, the same was bound as volume 2 of the case; 5. That just before the Christmas vacation in 1991, the branch was forced to hastily move all of its records and equipment to branch 69, because of the unexpected notice we received that the room we were occupying was to be demolished in order to meet the schedule for the renovation of the building; 6. That unfortunately, the room was demolished before the undersigned could make a last check to see if everything was transferred; 7. That it was only later on that this office discovered that important documents were indeed lost, including transcripts of stenographic notes in a case that was submitted for decision; 8. That sometime in May 1992, the branch moved its Office to its present location;

9. That on March 8, 1993, this Court received a copy of a Decision of the Supreme Court reversing the earlier ruling of the Court of Appeals; 10. That it was at this time that the first volume of this case, which was bundled along with other cases which were decided and/or archived, was reported as missing; 11. That from the time the same was found to be missing, Judge Claravall ordered that a search for the same be made in all of the offices wherein this branch was forced to share a room with, as well as the Court of Appeals, in the event that the same was transmitted to said Court; 12. That all the efforts were in vain, as said record could not be located anywhere;

13. That the undersigned now concludes that the first volume of the above-entitled case was probably lost during the renovation of theJustice Hall Building, and will have to be reconstituted with the use of documents in the possession of the parties, or documents entered as exhibits in other Courts.[14] In this regard, herein respondents filed a Motion for Reconstitution of Records [15] of the case. Initially, petitioner Valente, and the other defendants -- Violeta, Virginia and Maria Concepcion -- opposed the motion.[16] However, the trial court eventually granted the motion for reconstitution, and ordered petitioner Valente and the other defendants to submit a copy of their Answer filed thereat and copies of other pleadings pertinent to the case.[17] Thereafter, three (3) incidents, among numerous others, set off by the parties pleadings, are worth mentioning, to wit: 1. A Motion for Leave to File and Admit Supplemental Complaint[18] filed by herein respondents. The Supplemental Complaint additionally prayed that the levy and sale at public auction of the subject properties be annulled and set aside, as the bid price was unconscionable and grossly inadequate to the current value of the subject properties. The Supplemental Complaint further sought a rebidding with respect to Teofistas share in the subject properties. Finally, it prayed that TCT No. 6509 in the name of petitioner Valente, Violeta, Virginia and Maria Concepcion be cancelled and TCT No. 30680 in the name of Marcelo Suarez, married to Teofista Isagon, be reinstated. 2. A Manifestation and Motion (to Execute/Enforce Decision dated September 4, 1992 of the Supreme Court) [19] filed by herein respondents pointing out that the Supreme Court itself had noted the current increased value of the subject properties and that petitioner Valente, Violeta, Virginia and Maria Concepcion unjustly enriched themselves in appropriating the subject properties worth millions then, for a measly bid price of P94,170.00, for a judgment obligation worth only P70,000.00. 3. An Urgent Motion [to direct compliance by plaintiffs (herein respondents) with Supreme Court Decision or to consider the matter submitted

without evidence on the part of plaintiffs][20] filed by therein defendants, including herein petitioner Valente, pointing out that plaintiffs (herein

28

respondents) have yet to comply with the RTC, Branch 67 Order commanding them to submit (to the RTC) any evidence showing settlement of the estate of the deceased Marcelo Suarez, in order for the court to determine the portion in the estate which belongs to Teofista. The Urgent Motion stated in paragraph 2, thus: 2. The defendants [including herein petitioner Valente] did everything possible to expedite the disposition of this case while the plaintiffs [herein

respondents] did everything possible to DELAY the disposition of the same obviously because the plaintiffs [herein respondents] are in full possession and enjoyment of the property in dispute. In its decision of September 4, 1992, the SUPREME COURT nullified TWO final and executory DECISIONS of the Court of Appeals in an unprecedented action. In said decision, the Supreme Court ordered the plaintiffs [herein respondents] to establish with evidence their personality as heirs of Marcelo Suarez, and after being able to do so, to adduce evidence that would determine what portion belongs to plaintiffs hence the above matters need be litigated upon before the RTC can annul the sale with regard to said portion (belonging to the plaintiffs alleged heirs). On these incidents, the records reveal the following Orders issued by the different branches of the RTC: 1. Order dated March 17, 1995, issued by Presiding Judge Rodrigo B. Lorenzo of Branch 266, Pasig City, admitting herein respondents

Supplemental Complaint.[21] 2. Order dated January 22, 1996, issued by Judge Apolinario B. Santos resolving: (a) herein respondents Manifestation and Motion (to

execute/enforce Decision dated September 4, 1992 of the Supreme Court), and (b) therein defendants (including herein petitioner Valentes) Request for Answer to Written Interrogatories.[22] The RTC, Branch 67, resolved the incidents, thus: From the foregoing uncontroverted facts, this Court is convinced beyond a shadow of doubt that the Decision of the Supreme Court ofSeptember 4, 1992, being the final arbiter in any judicial dispute, should be implemented for the following reasons: xxxx On the request for Answers to Written Interrogatories filed by the defendants, it is obvious that at this stage of the proceedings where the Supreme Court had already pronounced the undisputed facts, which binds this court, the answer sought to be elicited through written interrogatories, therefore, are entirely irrelevant, aside from having been filed way out of time. WHEREFORE, premises considered, this court, implements the decision of the Supreme Court dated September 4, 1992 which mandates that: xxx and Civil Case No. 51203 is reinstated only to determine that portion which belongs to petitioner and to annul the sale with regard to said portion. In order to enforce such mandate of the Supreme Court, this court orders that: a. The auction sale of the five (5) parcels of land and all prior and subsequent proceedings in relation thereto are declared null and void. b. Transfer Certificate of Title No. 6509 in the name of defendant Valente Raymundo is also declared null and void, and the Register of Deeds of Rizal, Pasig City, is ordered to issue a new one in the name of the deceased Marcelo Suarez or to reinstate Transfer Certificate of Title No. 30680 in the name of Marcelo Suarez. c. Teofista Suarez is ordered to reimburse the amount of P94,170.00, plus legal interest from the date of issuance of this order, and failing which, the portion of the estate of Marcelo Suarez belonging to the surviving spouse, Teofista Suarez, may be levied on execution.

29

d. [Herein respondents], including Teofista Suarez, are hereby ordered to submit to this court any evidence showing settlement of the estate of the deceased, Marcelo Suarez, in order for this court to determine the portion in the estate which belongs to Teofista Suarez. Therein defendants, including petitioner Valente, filed a Motion for Reconsideration which the trial court denied on May 29, 1996.

3.

Order dated September 10, 1996, issued by Judge Santos denying the appeal interposed by petitioner Valente from the January 22,

1996 and May 29, 1996 Orders, ruling that these are interlocutory orders, and, therefore, not appealable.[23] 4. Order dated April 8, 1999, issued by Pairing Judge Santiago Estrella which declared, thus:

Considering that counsel for the plaintiffs does not have the birth certificates of the heirs of the plaintiff to prove their affiliation with the deceased which is one of the matters written in the decision of the higher court which must be complied with, and in order for counsel for the plaintiffs [herein respondents] to have the opportunity to complete all documentary evidence and in view of abbreviating the proceedings and as prayed for, todays scheduled pre-trial is re-set for the last time to May 19, 1999 at 8:30 a.m. In this connection, counsel for plaintiffs [herein respondents] is advised to secure all the documentary evidence she needs material to this case which will expedite the disposition of this case.[24] This last Order and therein defendants Urgent Motion spawned another contentious issue between the parties. In this connection, Judge Estrella issued an Order[25] requiring the parties to file their respective position papers due to the divergent views on the nature of the hearing that should be conducted in compliance with our decision in Suarez. Both parties duly filed their position papers, with herein respondents attaching thereto a copy of the Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate executed by the heirs of Marcelo Suarez in 1957. In resolving this latest crossfire between the parties, the RTC, Branch 67, issued an Order dated January 11, 2000, which reads, in part: This Court is of the view that the Honorable Supreme Court is not a trier of facts, precisely it directed that the records of this case be remanded to the Regional Trial Court for further proceedings. xxxx It is a matter of record that there was no trial on the merits completed in the Regional Trial Court. xxx The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals and ordered the reinstatement of Civil Case No. 51203. Naturally, there was no trial on the merits before this Court that allowed the parties to adduce evidence to establish their respective claims in the plaintiffs [herein respondents] complaint and in the defendants [including petitioner Valente] counter-claim, respectively. It is in this context that the Honorable Supreme Court reinstated the action [of herein respondents] to annul the auction sale to protect their [herein respondents] own interest. While this Court is of the view that trial on the merits is necessary for the purpose of giving the plaintiffs [herein respondents] a chance to adduce evidence to sustain their complaint and the defendants [including petitioner Valente] to prove their defense, consistent with the directive of the Honorable Supreme Court (in its Decision promulgated on September 4, 1992), the Court is, however, confronted with the very recent decision of the Honorable Supreme Court in Heirs of Guido Yaptinchay, et al. vs. Del Rosario, et al., G.R. No. 124320, March 2, 1999 where it held that The declaration of heirship must be made in an administration proceeding, and not in an independent civil action. This doctrine was reiterated in Solve vs. Court of Appeals (182 SCRA 119, 128). The trial court cannot make a declaration of heirship in the civil action for the reason that such a declaration can only be made in a special proceeding. Under Section 3, Rule 1 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Court, a civil action is defined as one by which a party sues another for the enforcement or protection of a right, or the prevention or redress of a wrong while a special proceeding is a remedy by which a party seeks to establish a status, a

30

right, or a particular fact. It is then decisively clear that the declaration of heirship can be made only in a special proceeding inasmuch as the petitioners here are seeking the establishment of a status or right. In as much as the leading case on the matter is that of Heirs of Yaptinchay v. Del Rosario, G.R. No. 124320, March 2, 1999 it is left with no choice but to obey said latter doctrine. WHEREFORE, the foregoing premises considered, this Court holds that in the light of the doctrine laid down in the case of Heirs of Yaptinchay vs. Del Rosario, G.R. No. 124320, March 2, 1999 this case is dismissed without prejudice to the plaintiffs [herein respondents] filing a special proceeding consistent with said latest ruling.[26]

Herein respondents moved for reconsideration thereof which, however, was denied by the RTC, Branch 67 on March 14, 2000.[27] Consequently, herein respondents filed a petition for certiorari before the CA alleging grave abuse of discretion in the trial courts order dismissing Civil Case No. 51203 without prejudice. All the defendants in the trial court were impleaded as private respondents in the petition. Yet, curiously, only petitioner Valente filed a Comment thereto. The appellate court granted the petition, recalled and set aside RTC, Branch 67s Orders dated January 11, 2000 and March 14, 2000, and reinstated Judge Santos Orders dated May 29, 1996 and September 6, 1996. It disposed of the petition, thus: We agree with [herein respondents]. On September 4, 1992, the Supreme Court (G.R. No. 94918) reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and mandates that Civil Case No. 51203 be reinstated in order to determine the portion in the estate which belongs to Teofista Suarez. The sale of the parcels of land was declared null and void. Necessarily, the title (TCT No. 5809) in the name of respondents was also declared null and void. Hon. Apolinario Santos of Br. 67, Regional Trial Court, Pasig City, on January 22, 1996 and on motion of [herein respondents], issued an order to execute/enforce the decision of the Supreme Court xxx. Petitioner Valente, Violeta, Virginia and Maria Concepcion] filed a notice of appeal on the order of Judge Santos. The appeal, on motion of [herein respondents] was denied on September 10, 1996. Obviously, the decision of the Supreme Court had become final and executory. Likewise, both orders of Judge Santos dated May 29, 1996 denying the motion for reconsideration and the denial of the notice of appeal dated September 6, 1996 had also become final and executory. The denial of petitioner Valentes Motion for Reconsideration prompted the filing of this present petition for certiorari. Petitioner Valente posits that the appellate court committed grave abuse of discretion in recalling and setting aside the Orders of Judge Estrella and reinstating those of Judge Santos because: 1. The CA ruled that the Orders dated May 29, 1996 and September 6, 1996 issued by Judge Santos were final and executory, and yet the latter did not allow an appeal to be taken therefrom ratiocinating that the questioned orders were interlocutory, and therefore, not appealable; and 2. The CA ignored and violated the Supreme Courts ruling in Heirs of Yaptinchay v. Del Rosario[28] which held that a declaration of heirship must

be made in a special proceeding and not in a civil action. We find the petition bereft of merit. At the outset, we note that petitioner Valente incorrectly filed a petition for certiorari to appeal the CA decision. Petitioner should have filed a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. Simply imputing in a petition that the decision sought to be reviewed is tainted with grave abuse of discretion does not magically transform a petition into a special civil action for certiorari. The CA decision disposed of the merits of a special

31

civil action, an original petition, filed thereat by herein respondents. That disposition is a final and executory order, appealable to, and may be questioned before, this Court by persons aggrieved thereby, such as petitioner Valente, via Rule 45. On this score alone, the petition should have been dismissed outright. However, we have disregarded this procedural flaw and now resolve this case based on the merits or lack thereof. Petitioner asseverates that the assailed CA ruling is unfair and it amounts to a trickery to prevent an appeal against a final order by claiming that the appealed order is merely interlocutory and later maintain that the same order has become final after declaring it to be interlocutory. We reject petitioners paltry contention. Petitioner apparently does not comprehend the distinction between an interlocutory order which is final and executory, and a final order which disposes of the controversy or case; much less, understand the available remedies therefrom. We have defined an interlocutory order as referring to something between the commencement and the end of the suit which decides some point or matter but it is not the final decision on the whole controversy. [29] It does not terminate or finally dismiss or finally dispose of the case, but leaves something to be done by the court before the case is finally decided on the merits. [30] Upon the other hand, a final order is one which leaves to the court nothing more to do to resolve the case.
[31]On

more than one occasion, we laid down the test to ascertain whether an order is interlocutory or final i.e., Does it leave something to be done in

the trial court with respect to the merits of the case? If it does, it is interlocutory; if it does not, it is final. The key test to what is interlocutory is when there is something more to be done on the merits of the case.[32] The Orders datedMay 29, 1996 and September 6, 1996 issued by Judge Santos are interlocutory, and therefore, not appealable, as they leave something more to be done on the merits of the case. In fact, in paragraph (d) of Judge Santos Order dated May 29, 1996, herein respondents were directed to submit evidence showing settlement of the estate of the deceased Marcelo Sr. Contrary to petitioner Valentes stance, there is no trickery or chicanery in the CAs distinction between an interlocutory and a final order. Indeed, as ruled by the CA, the RTC Order denying petitioner Valentes Notice of Appeal attained finality when he failed to file a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. We cannot overemphasize the rule that the correct identification of the nature of an assailed order determines the remedies available to an aggrieved party. The old Rules of Court in Section 2, Rule 41 reads, thus: SEC. 2. Judgments or orders subject to appeal.Only final judgments or orders shall be subject to appeal. No interlocutory or incidental judgment or order shall stay the progress of an action, nor shall it be the subject of appeal until final judgment or order is rendered for one party or the other. With the advent of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, Section 1, Rule 41 now provides for the appropriate remedy to be taken from an interlocutory order, thus: SECTION 1. Subject of appeal. An appeal may be taken from a judgment or final order that completely disposes of the case, or of a particular matter therein when declared by these Rules to be appealable. No appeal may be taken from:xxx (c) xxx In all the above instances where the judgment or final order is not appealable, the aggrieved party may file an appropriate special civil action under Rule 65. An interlocutory order;

32

Clearly, the denial of therein defendants (including petitioner Valentes) appeal from the Orders dated May 29, 1996 and September 6, 1996 was in order. Thus, the CA decision affirming the RTCs denial was correct. Further, on this crucial distinction as applied to this case, petitioner Valente filed a petition for certiorari from the CA decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 58090, which is not an interlocutory order. It is a final order which completely disposed of the merits of the case with nothing more left to be done therein. The correct and available remedy available to petitioner Valente was, as previously discussed, a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. In fine, petitioner Valente erroneously sought relief through reversed remedies. He tried to appeal the interlocutory orders of the RTC which are unappealable. Thus, the RTC properly denied his Notice of Appeal, and the CA correctly upheld the RTC. He should have filed a petition for certiorari; under Rule 65. On the other hand, from the final order of the CA, he comes before this Court on a petition for certiorari under Rule 65, when the proper remedy is an appeal by certiorari under Rule 45. In the recent case of Jan-Dec Construction Corporation v. Court of Appeals[33] we ruled in this wise: As a rule, the remedy from a judgment or final order of the CA is appeal via petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules. Under Rule 45, decisions, final orders or resolutions of the CA in any case, i.e., regardless of the nature of the action or proceedings involved, may be appealed to the Court by filing a petition for review, which would be but a continuation of the appellate process over the original case. It seeks to correct errors of judgment committed by the court, tribunal, or officer. In contrast, a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 is an independent action based on the specific grounds therein provided and proper only if there is no appeal or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. It is an extraordinary process for the correction of errors of jurisdiction and cannot be availed of as a substitute for the lost remedy of an ordinary appeal. Independently of this procedural infirmity, even on the merits of the case, the petition does not fare otherwise. It must be dismissed for lack of merit. Petitioner Valente insists that, following our ruling in Heirs of Yaptinchay v. Del Rosario,[34] herein respondents must first be declared heirs of Marcelo Sr. before they can file an action to annul the judicial sale of what is, undisputedly, conjugal property of Teofista and Marcelo Sr. We disagree. Our ruling in Heirs of Yaptinchay is not applicable. Herein respondents status as legitimate children of Marcelo Sr. and Teofista and thus, Marcelo Sr.s heirs has been firmly established, and confirmed by this Court in Suarez v. Court of Appeals.[35] True, this Court is not a trier of facts,[36] but as the final arbiter of disputes,[37] we found and so ruled that herein respondents are children, and heirs of their deceased father, Marcelo Sr. This having been settled, it should no longer have been a litigated issue when we ordered a remand to the lower court. In short, petitioner Valentes, Violetas, Virginias, and Maria Concepcions representation in the RTC that our ruling in Suarezrequired herein respondents to present evidence of their affiliation with the deceased, Marcelo Sr., is wrong. As was set forth in the dispositive portion of Suarez, Civil Case No. 51203 is reinstated only to determine that portion which belongs to [herein respondents] and to annul the sale with regard to said portion. There is clearly no intimation in our decision for the RTC to have to determine an already settled issue i.e., herein respondents status as heirs of Marcelo Sr. Moreover, petitioner Valente cannot assail, directly or indirectly, the status of herein respondents as legitimate children of Marcelo Sr. and Teofista, and likewise demand that herein respondents first prove their filiation to Marcelo Sr. The following records bear out Marcelo, Sr.s and Teofistas paternity of herein respondents, and the latters status as legitimate children: 1. The CA decision in CA-G.R. SP Nos. 10646 to 10649 where Teofista, along with herein respondents, questioned the RTC, Branch 151s

Orders dated October 10, 1984 and October 14, 1986. Although the CA ruled against Teofista and herein respondents, it explicitly recognized the latters status as legitimate children of Teofista and Marcelo Sr.; and[38] 2. The CA decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 20320 which incorrectly ruled that herein respondents were, as children of Teofista, merely successors-in-

interest of the latter to the property and by virtue thereof, bound by the judgment in Civil Case Nos. 21376 to 21379 consistent with the doctrine

33

of res judicata.[39] We subsequently reversed this ruling on the wrong application of res judicata in the conclusive case of Suarez. We retained and affirmed, however, the CAs factual finding of herein respondents status as heirs of Marcelo Sr. We categorically held therein that the proprietary interest of [herein respondents] in the levied and auctioned [properties] is different from and adverse to that of [Teofista]. [Herein respondents] became co-owners of the property not because of [Teofista] but through their own right as children of their deceased father [, Marcelo Sr.]. Clearly, herein respondents long possessed status of legitimate children of Marcelo Sr. and Teofista cannot be indirectly or directly attacked by petitioner Valente in an action to annul a judicial sale. Articles 262,[40] 263,[41] 265 and 266[42] of the Civil Code, the applicable law at the time of Marcelos death, support the foregoing conclusion, to wit: Art. 262. The heirs of the husband may impugn the legitimacy of the child only in the following cases: (1) (2) (3) If the husband should die before the expiration of the period fixed for bringing his action; If the husband should die after the filing of the complaint, without having desisted from the same; If the child was born after the death of the husband.

Art. 263. The action to impugn the legitimacy of the child shall be brought within one year from the recording of birth in the Civil Register, if the husband should be in the same place, or in a proper case, any of his heirs. If he or his heirs are absent, the period shall be eighteen months if they should reside in the Philippines; and two years if abroad. If the birth of the child has been concealed, the term shall be counted from the discovery of the fraud. Art. 265. The filiation of legitimate children is proved by the record of birth appearing in the Civil Register, or by an authentic document or a final judgment. Art. 266. In the absence of the titles indicated in the preceding article, the filiation shall be proved by the continuous possession of status of a legitimate child. In Heirs of Yaptinchay, the complaint for annulment and/or declaration of nullity of certain TCTs was dismissed for failure of the petitioners to demonstrate any proof or even a semblance of it that they had been declared the legal heirs of the deceased couple, the spouses Yaptinchay. In stark contrast, the records of this case reveal a document, an Extrajudicial Settlement of Marcelo Sr.s estate, which explicitly recognizes herein respondents as Marcelo Sr.s legitimate children and heirs. The same document settles and partitions the estate of Marcelo Sr. specifying Teofistas paraphernal properties, and separates the properties she owns in common with her children, herein respondents. Plainly, there is no need to re-declare herein respondents as heirs of Marcelo Sr., and prolong this case interminably. Petitioner Valente, along with Violeta, Virginia and Maria Concepcion, became owners of the subject properties only by virtue of an execution sale to recover Teofistas judgment obligation. This judgment obligation is solely Teofistas, and payment therefor cannot be made through an execution sale of properties not absolutely owned by her. These properties were evidently conjugal properties and were, in fact, even titled in the name of Marcelo, Sr. married to Teofista. Thus, upon Marcelo Sr.s death, by virtue of compulsory succession, Marcelo Sr.s share in the conjugal partnership was transmitted by operation of law to his compulsory heirs. Compulsory succession is a distinct kind of succession, albeit not categorized as such in Article 778[43] of the Civil Code. It reserves a portion of the net estate of the decedent in favor of certain heirs, or group of heirs, or combination of heirs, prevailing over all kinds of succession.[44] The portion that is so reserved is the legitime. Article 886 of the Civil Code defines legitime as that part of the testators property which he cannot dispose of because the law has reserved it for certain heirs who are, therefore, called compulsory heirs. Herein respondents are primary compulsory heirs,[45] excluding secondary compulsory heirs,[46] and preferred over concurring compulsory heirs in the distribution of the decedents estate.[47] Even without delving into the Extrajudicial Settlement of Marcelo Sr.s estate in 1957, it must be stressed that herein respondents rights to the succession vested from the moment of their fathers death.[48] Herein respondents ownership of the subject properties is no longer inchoate; it

34

became absolute upon Marcelos death, although their respective shares therein remainedpro indiviso. Ineluctably, at the time the subject properties were sold on execution sale to answer for Teofistas judgment obligation, the inclusion of herein respondents share therein was null and void. In fine, Teofistas ownership over the subject properties is not absolute. Significantly, petitioner Valente does not even attempt to dispute the conjugal nature of the subject properties. Since Teofista owns only a portion of the subject properties, only that portion could have been, and was actually, levied upon and sold on auction by the provincial sheriff of Rizal. Thus, a separate declaration of heirship by herein respondents is not necessary to annul the judicial sale of their share in the subject properties. We note the recent case of Portugal v. Portugal-Beltran,[49] where we scrutinized our rulings in Heirs of Yaptinchay and the cited cases of Litam v. Rivera[50] and Solivio v. Court of Appeals,[51] and Guilas v. CFI Judge of Pampanga[52] cited in Solivio. We ruled thus: The common doctrine in Litam, Solivio and Guilas in which the adverse parties are putative heirs to the estate of a decedent or parties to the special proceedings for its settlement is that if the special proceedings are pending, or if there are no special proceedings filed but there is, under the circumstances of the case, a need to file one, then the determination of, among other issues, heirship should be raised and settled in said special proceedings. Where special proceedings had been instituted but had been finally closed and terminated, however, or if a putative heirs has lost the right to have himself declared in the special proceedings as co-heir and he can no longer ask for its re-opening, then an ordinary civil action can be filed for his declaration as heir in order to bring about the annulment of the partition or distribution or adjudication of a property or properties belonging to the estate of the deceased. In the case at bar, respondent, believing rightly or wrongly that she was the sole heir to Portugals estate, executed on February 15, 1988 the questioned Affidavit of Adjudication under the second sentence of Rule 74, Section of the Revised Rules of Court. Said rule is an exception to the general rule that when a person dies leaving property, it should be judicially administered and the competent court should appoint a qualified administrator, in the order established in Sec. 6, Rule 78 in case the deceased left no will, or in case he did, he failed to name an executor therein. xxx It appearing, however, that in the present case the only property of the intestate estate of Portugal is the Caloocan parcel of land, to still subject it, under the circumstances of the case, to a special proceeding which could be long, hence, not expeditious, just to establish the status of petitioners as heirs is not only impractical; it is burdensome to the estate with the costs and expenses of an administration proceedings. And it is superfluous in light of the fact that the parties to the civil casesubject of the present case, could and had already in fact presented evidence before the trial court which assumed jurisdiction over the case upon the issues it defined during pre-trial. In fine, under the circumstances of the present case, there being no compelling reason to still subject Portugals estate to administration proceedings since a determination of petitioners status as heirs could be achieved in the civil case filed by petitioners xxx.[53] All told, under the circumstances, in addition to the already settled status of herein respondents as heirs of Marcelo Sr., there is no need to dismiss Civil Case No. 51203 and require herein respondents to institute a separate special proceeding for a declaration of their heirship. WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 58090 is AFFIRMED. The Orders dated May 29, 1996 and September 6, 1996 issued by Judge Santos are REINSTATED. Costs against the petitioner. SO ORDERED. ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA Associate Justice

35

36