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On October 31, 1979, Capt. Julio J. Lucero, Jr. was appointed by petitioner Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc., Company
for short, as master/captain to its vessel M/V Eastern Minicon plying the HongkongManila route, with the salary of
P5,560.00 exclusive of ship board allowances and other benefits. Under the contract, his employment was good for
one (1) round trip only, i.e., the contract would automatically terminate upon arrival of the vessel at the Port of
Manila, unless renewed. It was further agreed that part of the captain's salary, while abroad, should be paid to Mrs.
Josephine Lucero, his wife, in Manila.

On February 16, 1980, while the vessel was enroute from Hongkong to Manila where it was expected to arrive on
February 18, 1980, Capt. Lucero sent three (3) messages to the Company's Manila office and the ship sank.
Subsequently, the Lloyds of London, insurer of the M/V Eastern Minicon through its surveyors, confirmed the loss of
the vessel. Thereafter, the Company paid the corresponding death benefits to the heirs of the crew members,
except respondent Josephine Lucero, who refused to accept the same. On July 16, 1980, Mrs. Lucerofiled a
complaint with -the National Seamen Board, Board for short, for payment of her accrued monthly allotment of

On May 19, 1981, the Board rendered the aforecited judgment in favor of Mrs. Josephine Lucero and against
petitioner Company. The Board held that the presumption of death could not be applied because the four-year
period provided for by Article 391(l) of the Civil Code had not yet expired; and that the payment of death benefits to
the heirs of the other crew 'members was based upon a voluntary agreement entered into by and between the heirs
and the Company, and did not bind respondent Mrs. Lucero who was not a party thereto.

ISSUE: WON the presumption of death could not be applied because the four-year period provided for by Article
391(l) of the Civil Code had not yet expired.


There is thus enough evidence to show the circumstances attending the loss and disappearance of the M/V Eastern
Minicon and its crew. The foregoing facts, quite logically. are sufficient to lead Us to a moral certainty that the vessel
had sunk and that the persons aboard had perished with it. upon this premise, the rule on presumption of death
under Article 391 (1) of the Civil Code must yield to the rule of preponderance of evidence
Vizconde v. Court of Appeals
G.R. No. 118449 February 11, 1998

Petitioner Lauro G. Vizconde and his wife Estrellita Nicolas-Vizconde had two children, viz., Carmela and
Jennifer. Petitioners wife, Estrellita, is one of the five siblings of spouses Rafael Nicolas and Salud Gonzales-
Nicolas. The other children of Rafael and Salud are Antonio Nicolas; Ramon Nicolas; Teresita Nicolas de Leon,
and Ricardo Nicolas, an incompetent. Antonio predeceased his parents and is now survived by his widow,
Zenaida, and their four children.

On May 22, 1979, Estrellita purchased from Rafael a parcel of land Valenzuela, Bulacan (hereafter Valenzuela
property) covered by TCT No. (T-36734) In view thereof, TCT No. V-554 covering the Valenzuela property was
issued to Estrellita. On March 30, 1990, Estrellita sold the Valenzuela property to Amelia Lim and Maria
Natividad Balictar. In June of the same year, Estrellita bought from Premier Homes, Inc., a parcel of land
with improvements situated at Vinzon St., BF Homes, Paraaque (hereafter Paraaque property) using a
portion of the proceeds of sale of the Valenzuela property. The remaining amount of the proceeds was used
in buying a car while the balance was deposited in a bank.

The following year an unfortunate event in petitioners life occurred. Estrellita and her two daughters,
Carmela and Jennifer, were killed on June 30, 1991, an incident popularly known as the Vizconde
Massacre. The findings of the investigation conducted by the NBI reveal that Estrellita died ahead of her
daughters.[4] Accordingly, Carmela, Jennifer and herein petitioner succeeded Estrellita and, with the
subsequent death of Carmela and Jennifer, petitioner was left as the sole heir of his daughters

On November 18, 1992, Rafael died. To settle Rafaels estate, Teresita instituted an intestate estate
proceeding docketed as Sp. Proc. No. C-1679, with Branch 120 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Caloocan
City listing as heirs Salud, Ramon, Ricardo, and the wife (Zenaida) and children of Antonio. Teresita prayed to
be appointed Special Administratrix of Rafaels estate. Additionally, she sought to be appointed as guardian ad
litem of Salud, now senile, and Ricardo, her incompetent brother. Herein private respondent Ramon filed an
opposition dated March 24, 1993, praying to be appointed instead as Salud and Ricardos guardian. Barely
three weeks passed, Ramon filed another opposition alleging, among others, that Estrellita was given the
Valenzuela property by Rafael which she sold for not less than Six Million Pesos (P6,000,000.00) before
her gruesome murder. Ramon pleaded for the courts intervention to determine the legality and validity
of the intervivos distribution made by deceased Rafael to his children, Estrellita included. On May 12,
1993, Ramon filed his own petition, docketed as Sp. Proc. No. C-1699, entitled In The Matter Of
The Guardianship Of Salud G. Nicolas and Ricardo G. Nicolas and averred that their legitime should come
from the collation of all the properties distributed to his children by Rafael during his lifetime. Ramon stated that
herein petitioner is one of Rafaels children by right of representation as the widower of deceased
legitimate daughter of Estrellita.

Issue: WON the probate court may pass upon and determine the title or ownership of a property which may or
may not be included in the estate proceedings.


As a rule, the probate court may pass upon and determine the title or ownership of a property which may
or may not be included in the estate proceedings.[32] Such determination is provisional in character and is
subject to final decision in a separate action to resolve title. [33] In the case at bench, however, we note that the
probate court went beyond the scope of its jurisdiction when it proceeded to determine the validity of the sale
of the Valenzuela property between Rafael and Estrellita and ruled that the transfer of the subject property
between the concerned parties was gratuitous. The interpretation of the deed and the true intent of the
contracting parties, as well as the presence or absence of consideration, are matter outside the probate courts
jurisdiction. These issues should be ventilated in an appropriate action. We reiterate:

x x x we are of the opinion and so hold, that a court which takes cognizance of testate or intestate proceedings
has power and jurisdiction to determine whether or not the properties included therein or excluded therefrom
belong prima facie to the deceased, although such a determination is not final or ultimate in nature, and without
prejudice to the right of the interested parties, in a proper action, to raise the question bearing on the
ownership or existence of the right or credit