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CASE DIGEST – BELLIS VS BELLIS GR # L-23678, JUNE.

6,1967

If a Texan (US) provides in his will that his properties in the Philippines should be distributed
in accordance with the Philippine law on succession, the provision is to be regarded as VOID
because it contravenes Art. 16 (par. 2) which ordains the application of his own national law.
Thus, if the Texan, under Texan law, has no compulsory heirs, the Philippine law on the
legitimes of compulsory heirs cannot be applied.

FACTS: Amos G. Bellis was a citizen and resident of Texas at the time of his death. Before
he died, he had made two wills, one disposing of his Texas properties, the other, disposing
of his Philippine properties. In both wills, his recognized illegitimate children were not given
anything. Texas has no conflicts rule (rule of Private International Law) governing
successional rights. Furthermore, under Texas Law, there are no compulsory heirs and
therefore, no legitimes. The illegitimate children opposed the wills on the ground that they
have been deprived of the legitimes (to which they would be entitled, if Philippine law were to
apply). Issue: Are they entitled to their legitimes?
HELD:
(1) Said children are NOT entitled to their legitimes for under Texas law which we must apply
(because it is the national law of the deceased), there are no legitimes. (See Art. 16, par. 2,
Civil Code).
(2) The renvoi doctrine, applied in Testate Estate of Edward Christensen, Aznar v.
Christensen Garcia, L6759, Jan. 31, 1963, cannot be applied. Said doctrine is usually
pertinent where the decedent is a national of one country, and a domiciliary of another. In the
present case, the decedent was BOTH a national and a domiciliary of Texas at the time of
his death. So that even assuming that Texas has a conflicts of law rule providing that the law
of the domicile should govern, the same would not result in a reference back (renvoi) to
Philippine law, but would still refer to Texas Law. Nonetheless, if Texas has a conflicts rule
adopting the situs theory (lex rei sitae) calling for the application of the law of the place where
the properties are situated, renvoi would arise, since the properties here involved are found
in the Philippines. In the absence however of proof as to the conflicts of law rule in Texas, it
should not be presumed different from ours. (Lim v. Collector, 36 Phil. 427; In re Testate
Estate of Suntay, 95 Phil. 500).
(3) The contention that the national law of the deceased (Art. 16, par. 2; Art. 1039) should be
disregarded because of Art. 17, par. 3 which in effect provides that our prohibitive laws should
not be rendered nugatory by foreign laws, is WRONG, firstly, because Art. 16, par. 2 and Art.
1039 are special provisions while Art. 17, par. 3 is merely a general provision; and secondly,
because Congress deleted the phrase “notwithstanding the provisions of this and the next
preceding article” when it incorporated Art. 11 of the old Civil Code as Art. 17 of the new Civil
Code, while reproducing without substantial change, the second paragraph of Art. 10 of the
old Civil Code as Art. 16 in the new. It must have been its purpose to make the second
paragraph of Art. 16 a specific provision in itself, which must be applied in testate and intestate
successions. As further indication of this legislative intent, Congress added a new provision,
under Art. 1039, which decrees that capacity to succeed is to be governed by the national
law of the decedent. It is, therefore, evident that whatever public policy or good customs may
CASE DIGEST – BELLIS VS BELLIS GR # L-23678, JUNE.6,1967

be involved in our system of legitimes, Congress has not intended to extend the same to the
succession of foreign nationals.
(4) It has been pointed out by the oppositor that the decedent executed two wills — one to
govern his Texas estate and the other his Philippine estate — arguing from this that he
intended Philippine law to govern his Philippine estate. Assuming that such was the
decedent’s intention in executing a separate Philippine will, it will NOT ALTER the law, for as
this Court ruled in Miciano v. Brimo, 60 Phil. 867, 870, a provision in a foreigner’s will to the
effect that his properties shall be distributed in accordance with Philippine law and not with
his national law, is illegal and void for his national law, in this regard, cannot be ignored.

Whether the will was executed in accordance with the formalities required is answered by
referring to Philippine law. In fact, the will was duly probated. As a guide, however, the trial
court should note that whatever public policy or good customs may be involved in our system
of legitimes, Congress did not intend to extend the same to the succession of foreign
nationals. Congress specifi cally left the amount of successional rights to the decedent’s
national law. (Bellis v. Bellis, 126 Phil. 726 [1967]).

INTRINSIC VALIDITY
1) From the viewpoint of TIME — successional rights are governed by the law in force at the
time of the DECEDENT’S DEATH. (See Art. 2263).
2) From the viewpoint of PLACE or COUNTRY — the national law of the decedent, that is,
the law of his country or nationality (Art. 16) — regardless of the place of execution or the
place of death. (See Miciano v. Brimo, 50 Phil. 867). Thus, a provison in the will of an alien
to the effect that his properties should be distributed in accordance with internal Philippine
law, and not in accordance with his own national law, is void because said proviso
contravenes Art. 16, par. 2 of the Civil Code. (Bellis v. Bellis, L-23678, June 8, 1967)