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CUENCO v.s.

COURT OF APPEALS
(G.R. No. L-24742, October 26, 1973)

FACTS:

Senator Mariano Jesus Cuenco died in Manila. He was survived by his widow and two minor
sons, residing in Quezon City, and children of the first marriage, residing in Cebu. Lourdes, one of
the children from the first marriage, filed a Petition for Letters of Administration with the Court of
First Instance (CFI) Cebu, alleging that the senator died intestate in Manila but a resident of
Cebu with properties in Cebu and Quezon City.

The petition still pending with CFI Cebu, Rosa Cayetano Cuenco, the second wife, filed a
petition with CFI Rizal for the probate of the last will and testament, where she was named
executrix. Rosa also filed an opposition and motion to dismiss in CFI Cebu but this court held in
abeyance resolution over the opposition until CFI Quezon shall have acted on the probate
proceedings.

Lourdes filed an opposition and motion to dismiss in CFI Quezon, on ground of lack of jurisdiction
and/or improper venue, considering that CFI Cebu already acquired exclusive jurisdiction over
the case. The opposition and motion to dismiss were denied. Upon appeal CA ruled in favor of
Lourdes and issued a writ of prohibition to CFI Quezon.

ISSUES:

Whether or not CA erred in issuing the writ of prohibition

Whether or not CFI Quezon acted without jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion in taking
cognizance and assuming exclusive jurisdiction over the probate proceedings in pursuance to
CFI Cebu's order expressly consenting in deference to the precedence of probate over intestate
proceedings

HELD:

The Supreme Court found that CA erred in law in issuing the writ of prohibition against the
Quezon City court from proceeding with the testate proceedings and annulling and setting
aside all its orders and actions, particularly its admission to probate of the last will and testament
of the deceased and appointing petitioner-widow as executrix thereof without bond pursuant to
the deceased testator's wish.

On Venue and Jurisdiction

Under Rule 73, the court first taking cognizance of the settlement of the estate of a decent, shall
exercise jurisdiction to the exclusion of all other courts.

The residence of the decent or the location of his estate is not an element of jurisdiction over the
subject matter but merely of venue. If this were otherwise, it would affect the prompt
administration of justice.

The court with whom the petition is first filed must also first take cognizance of the settlement of
the estate in order to exercise jurisdiction over it to the exclusion of all other courts.
SOLIVIO vs. COURT OF APPEALS
(G.R. No. 83484, February 12, 1990)

FACTS:

This case involves the estate of the late novelist, Esteban Javellana, Jr," who died a bachelor,
without descendants, ascendants, brothers, sisters, nephews or nieces. His only surviving relatives
are: (1) his maternal aunt, petitioner Celedonia Solivio, the spinster half-sister of his mother,
Salustia Solivio; and (2) the private respondent, Concordia Javellana-Villanueva, sister of his
deceased father, Esteban Javellana, Sr.

During his lifetime, Esteban, Jr. had, more than once, expressed to his aunt Celedonia and some
close friends his plan to place his estate in a foundation to honor his mother and to help poor
but deserving students obtain a college education. Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack
without having set up the foundation.

Two weeks after his funeral, Concordia and Celedonia talked about what to do with Esteban's
properties. Pursuant to their agreement that Celedonia would take care of the proceedings
leading to the formation of the foundation, Celedonia in good faith and upon the advice of her
counsel, filed a Spl. Proceeding No. 2540 for her appointment as special administratrix of the
estate of Esteban Javellana, Jr.. Later, she filed an amended petition praying that letters of
administration be issued to her; that she be declared sole heir of the deceased; and that after
payment of all claims and rendition of inventory and accounting, the estate be adjudicated to
her.

After due publication and hearing of her petition, as well as her amended petition, she was
declared sole heir of the estate of Esteban Javellana, Jr. Thereafter, she sold properties of the
estate to pay the taxes and other obligations of the deceased and proceeded to set up the
"SALUSTIA SOLIVIO VDA. DE JAVELLANA FOUNDATION" which she caused to be registered in the
Securities and Exchange Commission on July 17,1981 under Reg. No. 0100027.

Four months later, Concordia Javellana Villanueva filed a motion for reconsideration of the
court's order declaring Celedonia as "sole heir" of Esteban, Jr., because she too was an heir of
the deceased. Her motion was denied by the court for tardiness. Instead of appealing the
denial, Concordia filed a civil case in the RTC of Iloilo for partition, recovery of possession,
ownership and damages.

ISSUES:

Whether the RTC of Iloilo had jurisdiction to entertain Civil Case No. 13207 for partition and
recovery of Concordia Villanueva's share of the estate of Esteban Javellana, Jr. even while the
probate proceedings were still pending in the same court;

HELD:

The Regional Trial Court, lacked jurisdiction to entertain Concordia Villanueva's action for
partition and recovery of her share of the estate of Esteban Javellana, Jr. while the probate
proceedings (Spl, Proc. No. 2540) for the settlement of said estate are still pending in the same
court, there being as yet no orders for the submission and approval of the administratix's
inventory and accounting, distributing the residue of the estate to the heir, and terminating the
proceedings.

It is the order of distribution directing the delivery of the residue of the estate to the persons
entitled thereto that brings to a close the intestate proceedings, puts an end to the
administration and thus far relieves the administrator from his duties.

The probate court loses jurisdiction of an estate under administration only after the payment of
all the debts and the remaining estate delivered to the heirs entitled to receive the same. The
finality of the approval of the project of The probate court, in the exercise of its jurisdiction to
make distribution, has power to determine the proportion or parts to which each distributed is
entitled. The power to determine the legality or illegality of the testamentary provision is inherent
in the jurisdiction of the court making a just and legal distribution of the inheritance. ... To hold
that a separate and independent action is necessary to that effect, would be contrary to the
general tendency of the jurisprudence of avoiding multiplicity of suits; and is further, expensive,
dilatory, and impractical.
URIARTE vs. CFI - NEGROS
(G.R. No. L-21938-39, May 29, 1970)

FACTS:

On November 6, 1961, petitioner Vicente Uriarte filed a petition for the settlement of the estate
of Don Juan Uriarte in the Negros Court, alleging that he is the natural son of Don Juan and the
sole heir. That during the lifetime of Don Juan, petitioner had filed a petition, Civil Case 6143, in
the Negros Court to be acknowledged as his natural child.

(Intestate Proceeding)

On December, 1961, Higinio Uriarte, one of the respondents, filed an opposition to the petition
alleging that he was a nephew of the deceased Juan Uriarte y Goite who had "executed a Last
Will and Testament in Spain, and also questioned petitioner's capacity and interest to
commence the intestate proceeding. On August 28, 1962, Juan Uriarte Zamacona, the other
respondent commenced in the Manila Court for the probate of a document (SP 513896)
alleged to be the last will of the deceased Juan Uriarte y Goite.

(Testate Proceeding)

He also filed a Motion to Dismiss on the grounds that: 1) as the deceased Juan Uriarte y Goite
had left a last will, there was no legal basis to proceed with said intestate proceedings, and 2)
petitioner had no legal personality and interest to initiate said intestate proceedings, he not
being an acknowledged natural son of the decedent. Petitioner opposed the motion to dismiss
on the grounds that the Negros Court was the first to take cognizance of the proceedings in
accordance with Rule 75 Sec 1.Negros court dismissed SP 6344. The motion for reconsideration
filed by Uriarte was denied. The petitioner then filed a record on appeal. Soon afterwards he
also filed a petition for certiorari directly to the SC. For this reason the Negros Court dismissed his
notice of appeal regarding SP 6344. He then filed for a petition for Mandamus to compel the
Negros Court to approve his record on appeal and give due course to his appeal. He also filed
an Omnibus motion to intervene on SP 513896 to annul the proceedings but this was denied by
the Manila Court

ISSUES:

Which court, between Negros and Manila, should take cognizance of the case?

HELD:

On the basis of hierarchy of proceedings between testate and intestate, it should have been
the Manila Court. However, inconsideration of public policy, it should have been filed in the
Negros Court (Venue). Nevertheless, Venue is waiveable and thus Manila Court has jurisdiction.
Under the Judiciary Act of 1948 [Section 44, paragraph (e)], Courts of First Instance have original
exclusive jurisdiction over "all matters of probate," that is, over special proceedings for the
settlement of the estate of deceased persons

Whether they died testate or intestate. Moreover, Rule 75 Sec 1 also provides that as regards
inhabitants of a foreign country, the CFI of any province in which he had estate shall be the
venue for the action. Don Juan, a non-resident alien had considerable properties, both in
Negros and Manila. However, between testate and intestate proceedings, it must be noted that
testate proceedings take precedence over intestate proceedings. Thus it has been held
repeatedly that, if in the course of intestate proceedings pending before a CFI if it is found it that
the decedent had left a last will, proceedings for the probate of the latter should replace the
intestate proceedings even if at that stage an administrator had already been appointed, the
latter being required to render final account and turn over the estate in his possession to the
executor subsequently appointed. If the alleged last will is later disapproved or rejected, then
the intestacy proceedings will continue.
UTULO vs. VDA. DE GARCIA
(G.R. No. 48904, September 30, 1938)

FACTS:

Juan Sanchez died intestate leaving his widow and 3 children as heirs. His widow, Vda. de
Garcia was appointed administratix. One of their children Luz, died leaving her spouse Pablo
Utulo and her mother as forced heirs. Utulo commenced the judicial administration of her
properties where Vda. de Garcia opposed arguing that there is no need for judicial
administration and in case it should be granted by court that she be appointed administratix.
The CFI appointed Utulo as judicial administrator hence this appeal.

ISSUES:

Whether or not there was need of judicial administration

HELD:

NO. The general rule as provided for in Sec. 642 of the Code of Civil Procedure is that if no
executor is named in the will, or if a person dies intestate, administration shall be granted.
However this is subject to 2 exceptions provided by Secs. 596 and 597 of the same Code. Sec.
596 provides that when all the heirs are of lawful age, and there are no debts due from the
estate, they may agree in writing to partition the property without instituting the judicial
administration or applying for the appointment of an administrator. Sec. 597 provides that if the
property left does not exceed P6,000, the heirs may apply to the competent court to proceed
with the summary partition without instituting the judicial administration and the appointment of
an administrator.

When a person dies without leaving pending obligations to be paid, his heirs, whether of age or
not, are not bound to submit the property to a judicial administration, which is always long and
costly or to apply for the appointment of an administrator by the court. Rights to the succession
of a person are transmitted from the moment of death hence his heirs succeed immediately to
all the property of the deceased. It is at their option if they want to enter upon the administration
of the property or if they want to partition it. When there are no debts existing against the estate,
there is no need for the intervention of an administrator.
VDA. DE REYES vs. COURT OF APPEALS
(G.R. No. 92436, July 26,1991)

FACTS:

During his lifetime, one Gavino Reyes owned a parcel of land of approximately 70 hectares,
more or less, located at Sangayad, Ulong-Tubig, Carmona, Cavite. He sought to bring said land
under the operation of the Torrens System of registration of property. Unfortunately, he died in
1921 without the title having been issued to him. The application was prosecuted by his son,
Marcelo Reyes, who was the administrator of his property.

In 1936 the above property was surveyed and subdivided by Gavino's heirs. In the subdivision
plan, each resultant lot was earmarked, indicated for and assigned to a specific heir. It appears
therein that two lots, one of which is Lot No. 1A-14 (Exh. "6-A"), were allotted to Rafael Reyes, Sr.,
one of Gavino's children. Per testimony of Juan Poblete, the children thereafter secured tax
declarations for the irrespective shares.

In 1941, or about twenty (20) years after the death of Gavino, the original certificate of title for
the whole property-OCT No. 255-was issued. It was, however, kept by Juan Poblete, son-in-law of
Marcelo Reyes, who was by then already deceased. The heirs of Gavino were not aware of this
fact.

On 3 December 1943, Rafael Reyes, Sr. sold a parcel of land with an area of 23,431 square
meters, more or less, to private respondent Dalmacio Gardiola (Exh. "5"). According to the
vendee, this parcel corresponds to Lot No.1-A-14 of the subdivision plan aforestated. The deed
of sale, however, did not specifically mention Lot No. I-A-14. The vendee immediately took
possession of the property and started paying the land taxes therein.

In 1967, the surviving heirs gave effect to the subdivision plan created on 1936. They formally
partitioned the property. Therefore, the heirs received their share of this land. Including Rafael
Reyes, Jr. Son of Rafael Sr. TCTs were issued to him representing the land which should have
been received by his father.

Now, the heirs of Rafael Jr. sued Gardiola, saying that they are the true owners of the land, as
shown by the torrens title over the land.

Gardiolas defense was that he bought the land from Rafael Sr. and that Rafael Jr. could not
have inherited this land for it was disposed of by his father way before he inherited it.

The trial court ruled in favor of Rafael Jr.s heirs. Stating that there was no evidence that the
Gavinos children had a written partition agreement. CA reversed

ISSUES:

Whether or not the CA IS correct in reversing the trial court?

HELD:
The Court of Appeals correctly held that the partition made by the children of Gavino Reyes in
1936, although oral, was valid and binding. There is no law that requires partition among heirs to
be in writing to be valid. In Hernandez vs. Andal, supra, this Court, interpreting Section 1 of Rule
74 of the Rules of Court, held that the requirement that a partition be put in a public document
and registered has for its purpose the protection of creditors and at the same time the
protection of the heirs themselves against tardy claims. The object of registration is to serve as
constructive notice to others. It follows then that the intrinsic validity of partition not executed
with the prescribed formalities does not come into play when there are no creditors or the rights
of creditors are not affected. Where no such rights are involved, it is competent for the heirs of
an estate to enter into an agreement for distribution in a manner and upon a plan different from
those provided by law. There is nothing in said section from which it can be inferred that a
writing or other formality is an essential requisite to the validity of the partition. Accordingly, an
oral partition is valid. Barcelona, et al. vs. Barcelona, et al., supra, provides the reason why oral
partition is valid and why it is not covered by the Statute of Frauds: partition among heirs or
renunciation of an inheritance by some of them is not exactly a conveyance of real property for
the reason that it does not involve transfer of property from one to the other, but rather a
confirmation or ratification of title or right of property by the heir renouncing in favor of another
heir accepting and receiving the inheritance. Additionally, the validity of such oral partition in
1936 has been expressly sustained by this Court in the Resolution of 20 August 1990 in G.R. No.
92811.25

But even if We are to assume arguendo that the oral partitio executed in 1936 was not valid for
some reason or another, we would still arrive at the same conclusion for upon the death of
Gavino Reyes in 1921, his heirs automatically became co-own, era of his 70-hectare parcel of
land. The rights to the succession. are transmitted horn the moment of death of the decedent,
The estate of the decedent would then be held in co-ownership by the heirs. The co-heir or co-
owner may validly dispose of his share or interest in the property subject to the condition that the
portion disposed of is eventually allotted to him in the division upon termination of the co-
ownership.

In the case at bar, the lot sold by Rafael Reyes, Sr. to private respondent Dalmacio Gardiola is his
share in the estate of his deceased father, Gavino Reyes. It is the same property which was
eventually adjudicated to his son and heir, Rafael Reyes, Jr., represented in turn by his heirs-
petitioners herein-in the extrajudicial settlement of 1967.

The same did not operate to divest the vendee of the share of Rafael Reyes, Sr. in the estate of
Gavino. Petitioners, as mere successors-in-interest of Rafael Reyes, Jr., son of Rafael Reyes, Sr.,
can only acquire that which Rafael, Jr. could transmit to them upon his death. The latter never
became the owner of Lot No. 1-A-14 because it was sold by his father in 1943. The issuance of
TCT No. T-27257 in the name of Rafael Reyes, Jr., in so far as Lot No. 1-14-A is concerned, was
clearly erroneous because he never became its owner. An extrajudicial settlement does not
create a right in favor of an heir. As this Court stated in the Barcelona case, it is but a
confirmation or ratification of title or right to property. Thus, since he never had any title of right
to Lot No. 1-14-A, the mere execution of the settlement did not improve his condition, and the
subsequent registration of the deed did not create any right or vest any title over the property in
favor of the petitioners as heirs of Rafael Reyes, Jr, The latter cannot give them what he never
had before. Nemo dare potest quod non habet.

There is one more point that should be stressed here. Petitioners' immediate predecessor-in-
interest, Rafael Reyes, Jr., never took any action against private respondents from the time his
father sold the lot to the latter. Neither did petitioners bring any action to recover from private
respondents the owner. Ship and possession of the lot from the time Rafael Reyes, Jr. died. As
categorically admitted by petitioners in their complaint and amended complaint, it was only in
or about September 1969 when, after the delivery of TCT No. 27257 by Candido Hebron to them,
that they definitely discovered that they were the owners of the property in question. And yet,
despite full knowledge that private respondents were in actual physical possession of the
property, it was only about thirteen and one half (13 1/2) years later that they decided to file an
action for recovery of possession. As stated earlier, the original complaint was filed in the trial
court on 14 March 1983. There was then absolutely no basis for the trial court to place the
burden on private respondents to bring an action for reconveyance within four (4) years from
their discovery of the issuance of the transfer certificate of title in the name of Rafael Reyes, Jr.