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3/2/2017 G.R.No.

133000

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RepublicofthePhilippines
SUPREMECOURT
Manila

SECONDDIVISION

G.R.No.133000October2,2001

PATRICIANATCHER,petitioner,
vs.
HON.COURTOFAPPEALSANDTHEHEIROFGRACIANODELROSARIOLETICIADELROSARIO,EMILIA
DELRESORIOMANANGAN,ROSALINDAFUENTESLLANA,RODOLFOFUENTES,ALBERTOFUENTES,
EVELYNDELROSARIO,andEDUARDODELROSARIO,respondent..

BUENA,J.:

MayaRegionalTrialCourt,actingasacourtofgeneraljurisdictioninanactionforreconveyanceannulmentof
titlewithdamages,adjudicatemattersrelatingtothesettlementoftheestateofadeceasedpersonparticularlyon
questionsastoadvancementofpropertymadebythedecedenttoanyoftheheirs?

SoughttobereversedinthispetitionforreviewoncertiorariunderRule45isthedecision1ofpublicrespondent
CourtofAppeals,thedecretalportionofwhichdeclares:

"Whereforeinviewoftheforegoingconsiderations,judgmentappealedfromisreversedandsetasideand
anotheroneenteredannullingtheDeedofSaleexecutedbyGracianoDelRosarioinfavorofdefendant
appellee Patricia Natcher, and ordering the Register of Deeds to Cancel TCT No. 186059 and reinstate
TCT No. 107443 without prejudice to the filing of a special proceeding for the settlement of the estate of
GracianoDelRosarioinapropercourt.Nocosts.

"Soordered."

SpousesGracianodelRosarioandGracianaEsguerrawereregisteredownersofaparceloflandwithanareaof
9,322squaremeterslocatedinManilaandcoveredbyTransferCertificateofTitleNo.11889.Uponthedeathof
Gracianain1951,Graciano,togetherwithhissixchildren,namely:Bayani,Ricardo,Rafael,Leticia,Emilianaand
Nieves, entered into an extrajudicial settlement of Graciana's estate on 09 February 1954 adjudicating and
dividingamongthemselvestherealpropertysubjectofTCTNo.11889.Undertheagreement,Gracianoreceived
8/14 share while each of the six children received 1/14 share of the said property. Accordingly, TCT No. 11889
wascancelled,andinlieuthereof,TCTNo.35980wasissuedinthenameofGracianoandtheSixchildren. 1 w p h i1 .n t

Further, on 09 February 1954, said heirs executed and forged an "Agreement of ConsolidationSubdivision of
RealPropertywithWaiverofRights"wheretheysubdividedamongthemselvestheparceloflandcoveredbyTCT
No.35980intoseverallots.Gracianothendonatedtohischildren,shareandsharealike,aportionofhisinterest
inthelandamountingto4,849.38squaremetersleavingonly447.60squaremetersregisteredunderGraciano's
name,ascoveredbyTCTNo.35988.Subsequently,thelandsubjectofTCTNo.35988wasfurthersubdivided
into two separate lots where the first lot with a land area of 80.90 square meter was registered under TCT No.
107442 and the second lot with a land area of 396.70 square meters was registered under TCT No. 107443.
Eventually,Gracianosoldthefirstlot2toathirdpersonbutretainedownershipoverthesecondlot.3

On20March1980,GracianomarriedhereinpetitionerPatriciaNatcher.Duringtheirmarriage,Gracianosoldthe
land covered by TCT No. 107443 to his wife Patricia as a result of which TCT No. 1860594 was issued in the
latter'sname.On07October1985,GracianodiedleavinghissecondwifePatriciaandhissixchildrenbyhisfirst
marriage,asheirs.

Inacomplaint5filedinCivilCaseNo.71075beforetheRegionalTrialCourtofManila,Branch55,hereinprivate
respondents alleged that upon Graciano's death, petitioner Natcher, through the employment of fraud,
misrepresentationandforgery,acquiredTCTNo.107443,bymakingitappearthatGracianoexecutedaDeedof
Sale dated 25 June 19876 in favor herein petitioner resulting in the cancellation of TCT No. 107443 and the

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issuanceofTCTno.186059inthenameofPatriciaNatcher.Similarly,hereinprivaterespondentsallegedinsaid
complaintthatasaconsequenceofsuchfraudulentsale,theirlegitimeshavebeenimpaired.

Inheranswer7dated19August1994,hereinpetitionerNatcheraverredthatshewaslegallymarriedtoGraciano
in20March1980andthus,underthelaw,shewaslikewiseconsideredacompulsoryheirofthelatter.Petitioner
furtherallegedthatduringGraciano'slifetime,Gracianoalreadydistributed,inadvance,propertiestohischildren,
hence,hereinprivaterespondentsmaynotanymoreclaimagainstGraciano'sestateoragainsthereinpetitioner's
property.

Aftertrial,theRegionalTrialCourtofManila,Branch55,renderedadecisiondated26January1996holding:8

"1)ThedeedofsaleexecutedbythelateGracianodelRosarioinfavorofPatriciaNatcherisprohibitedby
lawandthusacompletenullity.Therebeingnoevidencethataseparationofpropertywasagreeduponin
the marriage settlements or that there has been decreed a judicial separation of property between them,
thespousesareprohibitedfromentering(into)acontractofsale

"2)Thedeedassalecannotbelikewiseregardedasavaliddonationasitwasequallyprohibitedbylaw
underArticle133oftheNewCivilCode

"3)Althoughthedeedofsalecannotberegardedassuchorasadonation,itmayhoweverberegardedas
anextensionofadvanceinheritanceofPatriciaNatcherbeingacompulsoryheirofthedeceased."

Onappeal,theCourtofAppealsreversedandsetasidethelowercourt'sdecisionratiocinating,interalia:

"Itistheprobatecourtthathasexclusivejurisdictiontomakeajustandlegaldistributionoftheestate.The
court a quo, trying an ordinary action for reconveyance / annulment of title, went beyond its jurisdiction
whenitperformedtheactsproperonlyinaspecialproceedingforthesettlementofestateofadeceased
person.XXX

"XXXThusthecourtaquoerredinregardingthesubjectpropertyasadvanceinheritance.Whatthecourt
shouldhavedonewasmerelytoruleonthevalidityof(the)saleandleavetheissueonadvancementtobe
resolvedinaseparateproceedinginstitutedforthatpurpose.XXX"

Aggrieved,hereinpetitionerseeksrefugeunderourprotectivemantlethroughtheexpediencyofRule45ofthe
RulesofCourtandassailstheappellatecourt'sdecision"forbeingcontrarytolawandthefactsofthecase."

WeconcurwiththeCourtofAppealsandfindnomeritintheinstantpetition.

Section3,Rule1ofthe1997RulesofCivilProceduredefinescivilactionandspecialproceedings,inthiswise:

"XXXa)Acivilactionisonebywhichapartysuesanotherfortheenforcementorprotectionofaright,or
thepreventionorredressofawrong.

"Acivilactionmayeitherbeordinaryorspecial.Botharegovernmentbytherulesforordinarycivilactions,
subjecttospecificrulesprescribedforaspecialcivilaction.

"XXX

"c) A special proceeding is a remedy by which a party seeks to establish a status, a right or a particular
fact."

As could be gleaned from the foregoing, there lies a marked distinction between an action and a special
proceeding.Anactionisaformaldemandofone'srightinacourtofjusticeinthemannerprescribedbythecourt
orbythelaw.Itisthemethodofapplyinglegalremediesaccordingtodefiniteestablishedrules.Theterm"special
proceeding" may be defined as an application or proceeding to establish the status or right of a party, or a
particularfact.Usually,inspecialproceedings,noformalpleadingsarerequiredunlessthestatuteexpresslyso
provides.Inspecialproceedings,theremedyisgrantedgenerallyuponanapplicationormotion."9

CitingAmericanJurisprudence,anotedauthorityinRemedialLawexpoundsfurther:

"It may accordingly be stated generally that actions include those proceedings which are instituted and
prosecutedaccordingtotheordinaryrulesandprovisionsrelatingtoactionsatlaworsuitsinequity,and
that special proceedings include those proceedings which are not ordinary in this sense, but is instituted
and prosecuted according to some special mode as in the case of proceedings commenced without
summons and prosecuted without regular pleadings, which are characteristics of ordinary actions. XXX A
specialproceedingmustthereforebeinthenatureofadistinctandindependentproceedingforparticular
relief,suchasmaybeinstitutedindependentlyofapendingaction,bypetitionormotionuponnotice."10

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Applying these principles, an action for reconveyance and annulment of title with damages is a civil action,
whereas matters relating to settlement of the estate of a deceased person such as advancement of property
made by the decedent, partake of the nature of a special proceeding, which concomitantly requires the
applicationofspecificrulesasprovidedforintheRulesofCourt.

Clearly, matters which involve settlement and distribution of the estate of the decedent fall within the exclusive
provinceoftheprobatecourtintheexerciseofitslimitedjurisdiction.

Thus,underSection2,Rule90oftheRulesofCourt,questionsastoadvancementmadeorallegedtohavebeen
madebythedeceasedtoanyheirmaybeheardanddeterminedbythecourthavingjurisdictionoftheestate
proceedingsandthefinalorderofthecourtthereonshallbebindingonthepersonraisingthequestionsandon
theheir.

While it may be true that the Rules used the word "may", it is nevertheless clear that the same provision11
contemplatesaprobatecourtwhenitspeaksofthe"courthavingjurisdictionoftheestateproceedings".

Corollarily,theRegionalTrialCourtintheinstantcase,actinginitsgeneraljurisdiction,isdevoidofauthorityto
render an adjudication and resolve the issue of advancement of the real property in favor of herein petitioner
Natcher,inasmuchasCivilCaseNo.471075forreconveyanceandannulmentoftitlewithdamagesisnot,toour
mind, the proper vehicle to thresh out said question. Moreover, under the present circumstances, the RTC of
Manila, Branch 55 was not properly constituted as a probate court so as to validly pass upon the question of
advancementmadebythedecedentGracianoDelRosariotohiswife,hereinpetitionerNatcher.

Atthispoint,theappellatecourt'sdisquisitioniselucidating:

"Before a court can make a partition and distribution of the estate of a deceased, it must first settle the
estateinaspecialproceedinginstitutedforthepurpose.Inthecaseathand,thecourtaquodetermined
therespectivelegitimesoftheplaintiffsappellantsandassignedthesubjectpropertyownedbytheestate
of the deceased to defendantappellee without observing the proper proceedings provided (for) by the
RulesofCourt.Fromtheaforeciteddiscussions,itisclearthattrialcourtstryinganordinaryactioncannot
resolvetoperformactspertainingtoaspecialproceedingbecauseitissubjecttospecificprescribedrules.
Thus,thecourtaquoerredinregardingthesubjectpropertyasanadvanceinheritance."12

In resolving the case at bench, this Court is not unaware of our pronouncement in Coca vs. Borromeo 13 and
Mendozavs.Teh 14thatwhetheraparticularmattershouldberesolvedbytheRegionalTrialCourt(thenCourt
of First Instance) in the exercise of its general jurisdiction or its limited probate jurisdiction is not a jurisdictional
issuebutamerequestionofprocedure.Inessence,itisproceduralquestioninvolvingamodeofpractice"which
maybewaived".15

Notwithstanding,wedonotseeanywaiveronthepartofhereinprivaterespondentsinasmuchasthesixchildren
of the decedent even assailed the authority of the trail court, acting in its general jurisdiction, to rule on this
specificissueofadvancementmadebythedecedenttopetitioner.

Analogously, in a train of decisions, this Court has consistently enunciated the long standing principle that
although generally, a probate court may not decide a question of title or ownership, yet if the interested parties
areallheirs,orthequestionisoneofcollationoradvancement,orthepartiesconsenttotheassumptionof
jurisdiction by the probate court and the rights of third parties are not impaired, then the probate court is
competenttodecidethequestionofownership.16

SimilarlyinMendozavs.Teh,wehadoccasiontohold:

"In the present suit, no settlement of estate is involved, but merely an allegation seeking appointment as
estate administratrix which does not necessarily involve settlement of estate that would have invited
theexerciseofthelimitedjurisdictionofaprobatecourt.17(emphasissupplied)

Of equal importance is that before any conclusion about the legal share due to a compulsory heir may be
reached,itisnecessarythatcertainstepsbetakenfirst.18Thenetestateofthedecedentmustbeascertained,
by deducting all payable obligations and charges from the value of the property owned by the deceased at the
time of his death then, all donations subject to collation would be added to it. With the partible estate thus
determined, the legitime of the compulsory heir or heirs can be established and only thereafter can it be
ascertainedwhetherornotadonationhadprejudicedthelegitimes.19

Aperusaloftherecords,specificallytheantecedentsandproceedingsinthepresentcase,revealsthatthetrial
court failed to observe established rules of procedure governing the settlement of the estate of Graciano Del
Rosario. This Court sees no cogent reason to sanction the nonobservance of these wellentrenched rules and
herebyholdsthatundertheprevailingcircumstances,aprobatecourt,intheexerciseofitslimitedjurisdiction,is
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indeed the best forum to ventilate and adjudge the issue of advancement as well as other related matters
involvingthesettlementofGracianoDelRosario'sestate. 1 w p h i1 .n t

WHEREFORE,premisesconsidered,theassaileddecisionoftheCourtofAppealsisherebyAFFIRMEDandthe
instantpetitionisDISMISSEDforlackofmerit.

SOORDERED.

Bellosillo,Mendoza,Quisumbing,DeLeon,Jr.,Davide,Jr.,JJ.,concur.

Footnote

1 C.A. Decision in C.A. GR No.CV No. 51390, promulgated on 09 December 1997, penned by Justice
QuirinoD.AbadSantos,Jr.andconcurredinbyJJ.RubenT.ReyesandHilarionL.AquinoRollo,pp.23
31.

2TCTNo.107442.

3TCTNo.107443.

4Annex"C"Records,p.5.

5Records,pp.17.

6ExhibitEDecisioninCivilCaseNo.9471075p.205.

7Records,pp.2023.

8Rollo,p.25.

9Hagansvs.Wislizenus,42Phil.880[1920].

10Francisco,V.J.,RevisedRulesofCourtinthePhilippines,Vol.VA,1970ed.,p.596citing1CJS1094
1095.
11Section2,Rule90.

12Rollo,p.30CADecision,p.8.

1381SCRA278[1978].

14269SCRA764[1997].

15Cunananvs.Amparo,80Phil.227[1948].

16Cocavs.Borromeo,supraPascual vs. Pascual, 73 Phil. 561 [1942] Alvarez vs. Espiritu, L1883,
August14,1965,14SCRA892[1965]Cunananvs.Amparo,80Phil227[1948]3Moran'sComments
ontheRulesofCourt,1970ed.,p.473.
17269SCRA764,769[1997].

18Pagkatipunanvs.IntermediateAppellateCourt,198SCRA718[1991].

19Mateovs.Laguna,29SCRA864[1969].

TheLawphilProjectArellanoLawFoundation

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