Rule 73 – Settlement of Estate of Deceased Persons

Cortes vs. CA (GR: 117417)

The long standing rule is that probate courts, or those in charge of proceedings whether testate or intestate, cannot adjudicate or determine title to properties claimed to be part of the estate and which are claimed to belong to outside parties. Stated otherwise, “claims for title to, or right of possession of, personal or real property, made by the heirs themselves, by title adverse to that of the deceased, or made by third persons, cannot be entertained by the (probate) court.

In the present case, however, private respondent Menandro A. Reselva, who refused to vacate the house and lot being eyed as part of the estate of the late Teodoro T. Reselva, cannot be considered an “outside party” for he is one of the three compulsory heirs of the former. As such, he is very much involved in the settlement of Teodoro’s estate. By way of exception to the above-mentioned rule, “when the parties are all heirs of the decedent, it is optional upon them to submit to the probate court the question of title to property.” Here, the probate court is competent to decide the question of ownership. More so, when the opposing parties belong to the poor stratum of society and a separate action would be most expensive and inexpedient.

In addition, Menandro’s claim is not at all adverse to, or in conflict with that of, the decedent since the former’s theory merely advances co-ownership with the latter. In the same way, when the controversy is whether the property in issue belongs to the conjugal partnership or exclusively to the decedent, the same is properly within the jurisdiction of the probate court, which necessarily has to liquidate the conjugal partnership in order to determine the estate of the decedent which is to be distributed among the heirs.

Mendoza vs. Teh (GR: 122646)

An action for reconveyance, which involves title title to property worth millions of pesos, such as the lots subject of this case, is cognizable by the RTC. Likewise falling within its jurisdiction are actions incapable of pecuniary estimation, such as the appointment of an administratrix for an estate. Even the Rules on venue of estate proceedings (Section 1 of Rule 73) impliedly recognizes the jurisdiction of the RTC over petitions for granting of letters of administration. On the other hand, probate proceedings for the settlement of estate are within the ambit of either the RTC or MTC depending on the net worth of the estate. By arguing that the allegation seeking such appointment as administratrix ousted the RTC of its jurisdiction, both public and private respondents confuses jurisdiction with venue. Section 2 of Rule 4 as revised by Circular 13-95 provides that actions involving title to property shall be tried in the province where the property is located, in this case, – Batangas. The mere fact that petitioners deceased husband resides in Quezon City at the time of his death affects only the venue but not the jurisdiction of the Court.

Second, the cases cited by private respondents are not at point as they involve settlement of estate where the probate court was asked to resolve questions of ownership of certain properties. 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 the exercise of the limited jurisdiction of a probate court. The above allegation is not even a jurisdictional fact which must be stated in an action for reconveyance. The Court therefore, should have at least, proceeded with the reconveyance suit rather than dismiss the entire case.

Third, jurisprudential rulings that a probate court cannot generally decide questions of ownership or title to property is not applicable in this case, because: there is no settlement of estate involved and the RTC of Batangas was not acting as a probate court. It should be clarified that whether a particular matter should be resolved by the RTC in the exercise of its general jurisdiction or its limited probate jurisdiction, is not a jurisdictional issue but a mere question of procedure.  Moreover, the instant action for reconveyance does not even invoke the limited jurisdiction of a probate court.  Considering that the RTC has jurisdiction, whether it be on the reconveyance suit or as to the appointment of an administratrix, it was improper for respondent judge to dismiss the whole complaint for alleged lack of jurisdiction.

In Re:  Palaganas (GR: 169144)

The key issue presented in this case is whether or not a will executed by a foreigner abroad may be probated in the Philippines although it has not been previously probated and allowed in the country where it was executed.

XXX

Our laws do not prohibit the probate of wills executed by foreigners abroad although the same have not as yet been probated and allowed in the countries of their execution. A foreign will can be given legal effects in our jurisdiction. Article 816 of the Civil Code states that the will of an alien who is abroad produces effect in the Philippines if made in accordance with the formalities prescribed by the law of the place where he resides, or according to the formalities observed in his country.

In this connection, Section 1, Rule 73 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure provides that if the decedent is an inhabitant of a foreign country, the RTC of the province where he has an estate may take cognizance of the settlement of such estate. Sections 1 and 2 of Rule 76 further state that the executor, devisee, or legatee named in the will, or any other person interested in the estate, may, at any time after the death of the testator, petition the court having jurisdiction to have the will allowed, whether the same be in his possession or not, or is lost or destroyed.

Our rules require merely that the petition for the allowance of a will must show, so far as known to the petitioner: (a) the jurisdictional facts; (b) the names, ages, and residences of the heirs, legatees, and devisees of the testator or decedent; (c) the probable value and character of the property of the estate; (d) the name of the person for whom letters are prayed; and (e)  if the will has not been delivered to the court, the name of the person having custody of it. Jurisdictional facts refer to the fact of death of the decedent, his residence at the time of his death in the province where the probate court is sitting, or if he is an inhabitant of a foreign country, the estate he left in such province. The rules do not require proof that the foreign will has already been allowed and probated in the country of its execution.

San Luis vs. Sagalongos (GR 133743)

It is incorrect for petitioners to argue that residence, for purposes of fixing the venue of the settlement of the estate of Felicisimo, is synonymous with domicile. The rulings in Nuval and Romualdez are inapplicable to the instant case because they involve election cases. Needless to say, there is a distinction between residence for purposes of election laws and residence for purposes of fixing the venue of actions. In election cases, residence and domicile are treated as synonymous terms, that is, the fixed permanent residence to which when absent, one has the intention of returning. However, for purposes of fixing venue under the Rules of Court, the residence of a person is his personal, actual or physical habitation, or actual residence or place of abode, which may not necessarily be his legal residence or domicile provided he resides therein with continuity and consistency.  Hence, it is possible that a person may have his residence in one place and domicile in another.

In the instant case, while petitioners established that Felicisimo was domiciled in Sta. Cruz, Laguna, respondent proved that he also maintained a residence in Alabang, Muntinlupa from 1982 up to the time of his death. Respondent submitted in evidence the Deed of Absolute Sale dated January 5, 1983 showing that the deceased purchased the aforesaid property. She also presented billing statements from the Philippine Heart Center and Chinese General Hospital for the period August to December 1992 indicating the address of Felicisimo at 100 San Juanico, Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa. Respondent also presented proof of membership of the deceased in the Ayala Alabang Village Association and Ayala Country Club, Inc., letter-envelopes from 1988 to 1990 sent by the deceaseds children to him at his Alabang address, and the deceaseds calling cards stating that his home/city address is at 100 San Juanico, Ayala Alabang Village, Muntinlupa while his office/provincial address is in Provincial Capitol, Sta. Cruz, Laguna.

 

 

 

 

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Republic Act 7610. Anti-Child Abuse Law

R.A. 7610 – An Act providing for stronger deterrence and special protection against child abuse, exploitation and discrimination, providing penalties for its violation and for other purposes.

Pp vs. Dahilig (GR: 187083)

The question now is what crime has been committed? Is it Rape (Violation of Article 266-A par. 1 in relation to Article 266-B, 1st par. of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. No. 8353), or is it Child Abuse, defined and penalized by Sec. 5, (b), R.A. No. 7610?

As elucidated by the RTC and the CA in their respective decisions, all the elements of both crimes are present in this case. The case of People v. Abay, however, is enlightening and instructional on this issue. It was stated in that case that if the victim is 12 years or older, the offender should be charged with either sexual abuse under Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610 or rape under Article 266-A (except paragraph 1[d]) of the Revised Penal Code. However, the offender cannot be accused of both crimes for the same act because his right against double jeopardy will be prejudiced. A person cannot be subjected twice to criminal liability for a single criminal act.

Garingarao vs. PP (GR: 192760)

Garingarao alleges that the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the trial courts decision finding him guilty of acts of lasciviousness in relation to RA 7610. Garingarao insists that it was physically impossible for him to commit the acts charged against him because there were many patients and hospital employees around. He alleges that AAAs room was well lighted and that he had an assistant when the incident allegedly occurred. Garingarao further alleges that, assuming the charges were correct, there was only one incident when he allegedly touched AAA and as such, he should have been convicted only of acts of lasciviousness and not of violation of RA 7610.

We do not agree.

In this case, the prosecution established that Garingarao touched AAAs breasts and inserted his finger into her private part for his sexual gratification. Garingarao used his influence as a nurse by pretending that his actions were part of the physical examination he was doing. Garingarao persisted on what he was doing despite AAAs objections. AAA twice asked Garingarao what he was doing and he answered that he was just examining her.

XXX

The elements of sexual abuse under Section 5, Article III of RA 7610 are the following:

  1. The accused commits the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct;
  2. The said act is performed with a child exploited in prostitution or subjected to other sexual abuse; and
  3. The child, whether male or female, is below 18 years of age.

Under Section 32, Article XIII of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 7610, lascivious conduct is defined as follows:

[T]he intentional touching, either directly or through clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks, or the introduction of any object into the genitalia, anus or mouth, of any person, whether of the same or opposite sex, with the intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, bestiality, masturbation, lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a person.

xxx

The Court has already ruled that it is inconsequential that sexual abuse under RA 7610 occurred only once. Section 3(b) of RA 7610 provides that the abuse may be habitual or not. Hence, the fact that the offense occurred only once is enough to hold Garingarao liable for acts of lasciviousness under RA 7610.

Sanchez Vs. PP, CA (GR: 179090)

Resolution: J. Nachura

Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure seeking the reversal of the Court of Appeals (CA) Decision dated February 20, 2007 which affirmed the Decision dated July 30, 2003 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Tagbilaran City, Bohol, convicting appellant Leonilo Sanchez alias Nilo (appellant) of the crime of Other Acts of Child Abuse punishable under Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7610 in relation to Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 603, with a modification of the penalty imposed.

XXX

The instant Petition is bereft of merit.

Under Subsection (b), Section 3 of R.A. No. 7610, child abuse refers to the maltreatment of a child, whether habitual or not, which includes any of the following:

(1) Psychological and physical abuse, neglect, cruelty, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment;

(2) Any act by deeds or words which debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being;

(3) Unreasonable deprivation of his basic needs for survival, such as food and shelter; or

(4) Failure to immediately give medical treatment to an injured child resulting in serious impairment of his growth and development or in his permanent incapacity or death.

XXX

Appellant contends that, after proof, the act should not be considered as child abuse but merely as slight physical injuries defined and punishable under Article 266 of the Revised Penal Code. Appellant conveniently forgets that when the incident happened, VVV was a child entitled to the protection extended by R.A. No. 7610, as mandated by the Constitution.  As defined in the law, child abuse includes physical abuse of the child, whether the same is habitual or not. The act of appellant falls squarely within this definition. We, therefore, cannot accept appellant’s contention.

De Ocampo vs. Hon. Sec. of Justice (GR:147932)

Petitioners single act of allegedly banging the heads of her students had two distinct victims, namely Ronald and Lorendo. Therefore, petitioner has to face prosecution for cruelty to each victim. For Ronalds death, petitioner is being charged with homicide under Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code in relation to Section 10(a), Article VI of RA 7610 punishable by reclusion perpetua. However, this does not mean that petitioner is being charged with the distinct offenses of homicide and child abuse for Ronalds death. On the other hand, for her cruelty to Lorendo, petitioner is being charged with violation of Section 10(a), Article VI of RA 7610 punishable by prision mayor in its minimum period.

Contrary to petitioners contention, Section 10(a), Article VI of RA 7610 is clear. This provision reads:

(a) Any person who shall commit any other acts of child abuse, cruelty or exploitation or be responsible for other conditions prejudicial to the childs development including those covered by Article 59 of Presidential Decree No. 603, as amended, but not covered by the Revised Penal Code, as amended, shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its minimum period.

Ambiguity is a condition of admitting two or more meanings, of being understood in more than one way, or of referring to two or more things at the same time. A statute is ambiguous if it is susceptible to more than one interpretation. In the present case, petitioner fails to show convincingly the ambiguity in Section 10(a), Article VI of RA 7610.

Section 3(b), Article VI of RA 7610 defines child abuse as the maltreatment, whether habitual or not, of the child which includes physical abuse and cruelty. Petitioners alleged banging of the heads of Ronald and Lorendo is clearly an act of cruelty.

PP vs. CA, Olayon (GR 171863)

The record shows that the Pasig City Prosecutors Office found that the acts of respondent did not amount to rape as they were done with the consent of the 14-year old AAA. Nevertheless, it found the acts constitutive of violations of [Republic] Act No. 7610, hence, its filing of the above-quoted Informations for violation of Section 10(a).

The Informations alleged that respondent, with lewd designs did willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously have sexual intercourse with and commit lewd and lascivious acts upon the person of [AAA], a minor, fourteen (14) years of age.

XXX

Held:

For consensual sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct with a minor, who is not exploited in prostitution, to thus fall within the purview of Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610, persuasion, inducement, enticement or coercion of the child must be present.

In the case at bar, even if respondent were charged under Section 5(b), instead of Section 10(a), respondent would just the same have been acquitted as there was no allegation that an element of the offense coercion or influence or intimidation attended its commission.