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REPUBLIC v. CA and the executor of her will.

May 6, 2005| Carpio-Morales, J. | Applicability of Rules in Civil RTC: allowed the probate of the will of the decedent and
Actions directing the issuance of letters testamentary to respondent
Digester: Alexis Bea More than 4 months later, petitioners filed a motion for the
reopening of the probate proceedings and an opposition
SUMMARY: The Ormoc City Regional Trial Court, granted the to the allowance of the will of the decedent, as well as the
petition declaring the absentee spouse, who had left his petitioner- issuance of letters testamentary to respondent, claiming that
wife nine years earlier, presumptively dead. (In granting the they are the intestate heirs of the decedent.
petition, the trial judge, cited Article 41, par. 2 of the Family Code. PETITIONERS: RTC did not acquire jurisdiction over the
Said article provides that for the purpose of contracting a valid petition due to non-payment of the correct docket fees,
subsequent marriage during the subsistence of a previous defective publication, and lack of notice to the other heirs.
marriage where the prior spouse had been absent for four o Also, the will could not have been probated because:
consecutive years, the spouse present must institute summary (1) the signature of the decedent was forged;
proceedings for the declaration of presumptive death of the (2) the will was not executed in accordance with
absentee spouse, without prejudice to the effect of the law, that is, the witnesses failed to sign below the
reappearance of the absent spouse.) attestation clause;
(3) the decedent lacked testamentary capacity to
The Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General, sought execute and publish a will;
to appeal the trial court's order by filing a Notice of Appeal which (4) the will was executed by force and under
was subsequently disapproved by the trial court. MR, denied. duress and improper pressure;
Petition for Certiorari to CA, also denied. Hence this petition, (5) the decedent had no intention to make a will
which questioned the trial court's Order which declared Clemente at the time of affixing of her signature; and
Jomoc presumptively dead, likewise for having been issued with (6) she did not know the properties to be
grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction, yet, not disposed of, having included in the will
even a copy could be found in the records. On this score alone, the properties which no longer belonged to her.
petition should have been dismissed outright in accordance with Petitioners prayed that the letters testamentary
Sec. 3, Rule 46 of the Rules of Court. The principal issue in this issued to respondent be withdrawn and the
case is whether a petition for declaration of the presumptive death estate of the decedent disposed of under
of a person is in the nature of a special proceeding The SC held intestate succession
that it is NOT A SPECIAL PROCEEDING because the basis of
RTC: denied the petitioners motion
the TC decision was Art. 41 of the Family Code.
o RE jurisdiction: the RTC held that petitioners were
deemed notified of the hearing by publication and that
DOCTRINE: Art. 238. Unless modified by the Supreme Court, the the deficiency in the payment of docket fees is not a
procedural rules in this Title shall apply in all cases provided for in ground for the outright dismissal of the petition. (It
this Codes requiring summary court proceedings. Such cases shall merely required respondent to pay the deficiency.)
be decided in an expeditious manner without regard to technical o Moreover, the RTCs Decision was already final and
rules. executory even before petitioners filing of the motion to
reopen
FACTS: Petitioners thereafter filed a petition with an application for
Francisco Provido (respondent) filed a petition for the probate preliminary injunction with the CA, seeking the annulment of
of the Last Will and Testament of the late Soledad Provido the RTCs decision.
Elevencionado (decedent), who died on 26 October 2000 in PETITIONERS: after the death of the decedent, petitioners,
Janiuay, Iloilo together with respondent, held several conferences to discuss
o Respondent alleged that he was the heir of the decedent
the matter of dividing the estate of the decedent, with they could not have availed of the ordinary remedies of
respondent agreeing to a one-sixth (1/6) portion as his share. new trial, appeal, petition for relief from judgment and
o Petitioners allegedly drafted a compromise agreement other appropriate remedies, contrary to the ruling of
to implement the division of the estate. the CA.
o Despite receipt of the agreement, respondent refused to o They aver that respondents offer of a false compromise
sign and return the same. and his failure to notify them of the probate of the will
o Petitioners opined that respondent feigned interest in constitute extrinsic fraud that necessitates the
participating in the compromise agreement so that they annulment of the RTCs judgment
would not suspect his intention to secure the probate of RESPONDENTS: petitioners were in a position to avail of the
the will. remedies provided in Rules 37 and 38, as they in fact did when
o They claimed that they learnt of the probate they filed a motion for new trial
proceedings only in July of 2001 (3 months later after o Moreover, they could have resorted to a petition for
promulgation), as a result of which they filed their relief from judgment since they learned of the RTCs
motion to reopen the proceedings and admit their judgment only three and a half months after its
opposition to the probate of the will only on 4 October promulgation
2001. o Also, no extrinsic fraud exists to warrant the annulment
o They argued that the RTC Decision should be annulled of the RTCs Decision, since there was no showing that
and set aside on the ground of extrinsic fraud and lack they were denied their day in court.
of jurisdiction on the part of the RTC o Petitioners were not made parties to the probate
CA: dismissed the petition. It found that there was no showing proceedings because the decedent did not institute
that petitioners failed to avail of or resort to the ordinary them as her heirs
remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief from judgment, o Besides, assuming arguendo that petitioners are heirs of
or other appropriate remedies through no fault of their own the decedent, lack of notice to them is not a fatal defect
o Moreover, the CA declared as baseless petitioners claim since personal notice upon the heirs is a matter of
that the proceedings in the RTC was attended by procedural convenience and not a jurisdictional
extrinsic fraud. requisite
o Neither was there any showing that they availed of this o Finally, respondent charges petitioners of forum
ground in a motion for new trial or petition for relief shopping, since the latter have a pending suit involving
from judgment in the RTC, the CA added the same issues as those in the probate proceedings
Petitioners sought reconsideration of the Resolution, but the filed before Branch 23, RTC of General Santos City and
same was denied by the CA for lack of merit. subsequently pending on appeal before the CA in CA-
Hence, this petition. They argue that: G.R. No.74924.
o CA committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to It appears that one of the petitioners herein,
lack of jurisdiction when it dismissed their petition for Dolores M. Flores (Flores), who is a niece of the
the alleged failure to show that they have not availed of decedent, filed a petition for letters of
or resorted to the remedies of new trial, appeal, petition administration with the RTC of General Santos
for relief from judgment or other remedies through no City, claiming that the decedent died intestate
fault of their own; without any issue, survived by five groups of
o In addition, they assert that this Court has yet to decide collateral heirs. Flores, armed with a Special
a case involving Rule 47 of the Rules of Court and, Power of Attorney from most of the other
therefore, the instant petition should be given due petitioners, prayed for her appointment as
course for the guidance of the bench and bar administratrix of the estate of the decedent.
o They were not made parties to the case in which the The RTC dismissed the petition on the ground of
decision sought to be annulled was rendered and, thus, lack of jurisdiction, stating that the probate court
in Janiuay, Iloilo has jurisdiction since the venue decedent is the place where the decedent died.
for a petition for the settlement of the estate of a