Writ of Habeas Data

Rodriguez vs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GR: 191805)

The writ of habeas data provides a judicial remedy to protect a persons right to control information regarding oneself, particularly in instances where such information is being collected through unlawful means in order to achieve unlawful ends. As an independent and summary remedy to protect the right to privacy especially the right to informational privacy the proceedings for the issuance of the writ of habeas data does not entail any finding of criminal, civil or administrative culpability. If the allegations in the petition are proven through substantial evidence, then the Court may (a) grant access to the database or information; (b) enjoin the act complained of; or (c) in case the database or information contains erroneous data or information, order its deletion, destruction or rectification.

Roxas vs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GR: 189155)

Justice Perez:

The writ of habeas data was conceptualized as a judicial remedy enforcing the right to privacy, most especially the right to informational privacy of individuals. The writ operates to protect a persons right to control information regarding himself, particularly in the instances where such information is being collected through unlawful means in order to achieve unlawful ends.

Needless to state, an indispensable requirement before the privilege of the writ may be extended is the showing, at least by substantial evidence, of an actual or threatened violation of the right to privacy in life, liberty or security of the victim.

Meralco vs. Lim (GR: 184769)

Justice Carpio-Morales:

Petitioners go on to point out that the Rule on the Writ of Habeas Data directs the issuance of the writ only against public officials or employees, or private individuals or entities engaged in the gathering, collecting or storing of data or information regarding an aggrieved partys person, family or home; and that MERALCO (or its officers) is clearly not engaged in such activities.

The petition is impressed with merit.

Respondents plea that she be spared from complying with MERALCOs Memorandum directing her reassignment to the Alabang Sector, under the guise of a quest for information or data allegedly in possession of petitioners, does not fall within the province of a writ of habeas data.

Section 1 of the Rule on the Writ of Habeas Data provides:

Section 1. Habeas Data. The writ of habeas data is a remedy available to any person whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee or of a private individual or entity engaged in the gathering, collecting or storing of data or information regarding the person, family, home and correspondence of the aggrieved party.

The habeas data rule, in general, is designed to protect by means of judicial complaint the image, privacy, honor, information, and freedom of information of an individual. It is meant to provide a forum to enforce ones right to the truth and to informational privacy, thus safeguarding the constitutional guarantees of a persons right to life, liberty and security against abuse in this age of information technology.

It bears reiteration that like the writ of amparo, habeas data was conceived as a response, given the lack of effective and available remedies, to address the extraordinary rise in the number of killings and enforced disappearances. Its intent is to address violations of or threats to the rights to life, liberty or security as a remedy independently from those provided under prevailing Rules.

Castillo v. Cruz underscores the emphasis laid down in Tapuz v. del Rosario that the writs of amparo and habeas data will NOT issue to protect purely property or commercial concerns nor when the grounds invoked in support of the petitions therefor are vague or doubtful. Employment constitutes a property right under the context of the due process clause of the Constitution. It is evident that respondents reservations on the real reasons for her transfer – a legitimate concern respecting the terms and conditions of ones employment – are what prompted her to adopt the extraordinary remedy of habeas data. Jurisdiction over such concerns is inarguably lodged by law with the NLRC and the Labor Arbiters.

Castillo vs. Cruz (GR: 182165)

Justice Carpio-Morales:

Before the filing of the petition for writs of amparo and habeas data, or on February 22, 2008, petitioners even instituted a petition for habeas corpus which was considered moot and academic by Branch 14 of the Malolos RTC and was accordingly denied by Order of April 8, 2008.

More. Respondent Amanda and one of her sons, Francisco Jr., likewise filed a petition for writs of amparo and habeas data before the Sandiganbayan, they alleging the commission of continuing threats by petitioners after the issuance of the writs by the RTC, which petition was dismissed for insufficiency and forum shopping.

It thus appears that respondents are not without recourse and have in fact taken full advantage of the legal system with the filing of civil, criminal and administrative charges.

It need not be underlined that respondents petitions for writs of amparo and habeas data are extraordinary remedies which cannot be used as tools to stall the execution of a final and executory decision in a property dispute.

At all events, respondents filing of the petitions for writs of amparo and habeas data should have been barred, for criminal proceedings against them had commenced after they were arrested in flagrante delicto and proceeded against in accordance with Section 6, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court. Validity of the arrest or the proceedings conducted thereafter is a defense that may be set up by respondents during trial and not before a petition for writs of amparo and habeas data. The reliefs afforded by the writs may, however, be made available to the aggrieved party by motion in the criminal proceedings.

 

 

Writ of Amparo

Tapuz vs. Judge Del Rosario (GR: 182484)

To start off with the basics, the writ of amparo was originally conceived as a response to the extraordinary rise in the number of killings and enforced disappearances, and to the perceived lack of available and effective remedies to address these extraordinary concerns. It is intended to address violations of or threats to the rights to life, liberty or security, as an extraordinary and independent remedy beyond those available under the prevailing Rules, or as a remedy supplemental to these Rules. What it is not, is a writ to protect concerns that are purely property or commercial. Neither is it a writ that we shall issue on amorphous and uncertain grounds. Consequently, the Rule on the Writ of Amparo in line with the extraordinary character of the writ and the reasonable certainty that its issuance demands requires that every petition for the issuance of the Pwrit must be supported by justifying allegations of fact, to wit:

(a) The personal circumstances of the petitioner;

(b) The name and personal circumstances of the respondent responsible for the threat, act or omission, or, if the name is unknown or uncertain, the respondent may be described by an assumed appellation;

(c) The right to life, liberty and security of the aggrieved party violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of the respondent, and how such threat or violation is committed with the attendant circumstances detailed in supporting affidavits;

(d) The investigation conducted, if any, specifying the names, personal circumstances, and addresses of the investigating authority or individuals, as well as the manner and conduct of the investigation, together with any report;

(e) The actions and recourses taken by the petitioner to determine the fate or whereabouts of the aggrieved party and the identity of the person responsible for the threat, act or omission; and

(f) The relief prayed for.

The petition may include a general prayer for other just and equitable reliefs.

The writ shall issue if the Court is preliminarily satisfied with the prima facie existence of the ultimate facts determinable from the supporting affidavits that detail the circumstances of how and to what extent a threat to or violation of the rights to life, liberty and security of the aggrieved party was or is being committed.

Roxas vs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GR: 189155)

It must be stated at the outset that the use by the petitioner of the doctrine of command responsibility as the justification in impleading the public respondents in her amparo petition, is legally inaccurate, if not incorrect. The doctrine of command responsibility is a rule of substantive law that establishes liability and, by this account, cannot be a proper legal basis to implead a party-respondent in an amparo petition.

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It must be clarified, however, that the inapplicability of the doctrine of command responsibility in an amparo proceeding does not, by any measure, preclude impleading military or police commanders on the ground that the complained acts in the petition were committed with their direct or indirect acquiescence. In which case, commanders may be impleadednot actually on the basis of command responsibilitybut rather on the ground of their responsibility, or at least accountability.

Lozada, Jr. vs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GR: 184379-80)

The writ of amparo is an independent and summary remedy that provides rapid judicial relief to protect the peoples right to life, liberty and security. Having been originally intended as a response to the alarming cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the country, it serves both preventive and curative roles to address the said human rights violations. It is preventive in that it breaks the expectation of impunity in the commission of these offenses, and it is curative in that it facilitates the subsequent punishment of perpetrators by inevitably leading to subsequent investigation and action.

As it stands, the writ of amparo is confined only to cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, or to threats thereof. Considering that this remedy is aimed at addressing these serious violations of or threats to the right to life, liberty and security, it cannot be issued on amorphous and uncertain grounds, or in cases where the alleged threat has ceased and is no longer imminent or continuing. Instead, it must be granted judiciously so as not to dilute the extraordinary and remedial character of the writ.

Navia vs. Pardico (GR: 184467)

From the statutory definition of enforced disappearance, thus, we can derive the following elements that constitute it:

  • that there be an arrest, detention, abduction or any form of deprivation of liberty;
  • that it be carried out by, or with the authorization, support or acquiescence of, the State or a political organization;
  • that it be followed by the State or political organizations refusal to acknowledge or give information on the fate or whereabouts of the person subject of the amparo petition; and,
  • that the intention for such refusal is to remove subject person from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time.

As thus dissected, it is now clear that for the protective writ of amparo to issue, allegation and proof that the persons subject thereof are missing are not enough. It must also be shown and proved by substantial evidence that the disappearance was carried out by, or with the authorization, support or acquiescence of, the State or a political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the same or give information on the fate or whereabouts of said missing persons, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time. Simply put, the petitioner in an amparo case has the burden of proving by substantial evidence the indispensable element of government participation.

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But lest it be overlooked, in an amparo petition, proof of disappearance alone is not enough. It is likewise essential to establish that such disappearance was carried out with the direct or indirect authorization, support or acquiescence of the government. This indispensable element of State participation is not present in this case. The petition does not contain any allegation of State complicity, and none of the evidence presented tend to show that the government or any of its agents orchestrated Bens disappearance. In fact, none of its agents, officials, or employees were impleaded or implicated in Virginias amparo petition whether as responsible or accountable persons.  Thus, in the absence of an allegation or proof that the government or its agents had a hand in Bens disappearance or that they failed to exercise extraordinary diligence in investigating his case, the Court will definitely not hold the government or its agents either as responsible or accountable persons.

Razon vs. Tagitis (GR: 182498)

As the law now stands, extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances in this jurisdiction are not crimes penalized separately from the component criminal acts undertaken to carry out these killings and enforced disappearances and are now penalized under the Revised Penal Code and special laws.  The simple reason is that the Legislature has not spoken on the matter; the determination of what acts are criminal and what the corresponding penalty these criminal acts should carry are matters of substantive law that only the Legislature has the power to enact under the country’s constitutional scheme and power structure.

Rodriguez vs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GR: 191805)

The writ of amparo is an extraordinary and independent remedy that provides rapid judicial relief, as it partakes of a summary proceeding that requires only substantial evidence to make the appropriate interim and permanent reliefs available to the petitioner. It is not an action to determine criminal guilt requiring proof beyond reasonable doubt, or liability for damages requiring preponderance of evidence, or administrative responsibility requiring substantial evidence that will require full and exhaustive proceedings. Rather, it serves both preventive and curative roles in addressing the problem of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.  It is preventive in that it breaks the expectation of impunity in the commission of these offenses, and it is curative in that it facilitates the subsequent punishment of perpetrators by inevitably leading to subsequent investigation and action.

 

 

Habeas Corpus Cases II

Ampatuan vs. Judge Macaraig (GR: 182497)

In general, the purpose of the writ of habeas corpus is to determine whether or not a particular person is legally held. A prime specification of an application for a writ of habeas corpus, in fact, is an actual and effective, and not merely nominal or moral, illegal restraint of liberty. The writ of habeas corpus was devised and exists as a speedy and effectual remedy to relieve persons from unlawful restraint, and as the best and only sufficient defense of personal freedom. A prime specification of an application for a writ of habeas corpus is restraint of liberty. The essential object and purpose of the writ of habeas corpus is to inquire into all manner of involuntary restraint as distinguished from voluntary, and to relieve a person therefrom if such restraint is illegal. Any restraint which will preclude freedom of action is sufficient.

In passing upon a petition for habeas corpus, a court or judge must first inquire into whether the petitioner is being restrained of his liberty. If he is not, the writ will be refused. Inquiry into the cause of detention will proceed only where such restraint exists. If the alleged cause is thereafter found to be unlawful, then the writ should be granted and the petitioner discharged. Needless to state, if otherwise, again the writ will be refused

Go vs. Dimagiba (GR: 151876)

In his Petition for habeas corpus, respondent raised the same arguments that he had invoked in the said Motions. We believe that his resort to this extraordinary remedy was a procedural infirmity. The remedy should have been an appeal of the MTCC Order denying his Motions, in which he should have prayed that the execution of the judgment be stayed. But he effectively misused the action he had chosen, obviously with the intent of finding a favorable court. His Petition for a writ of habeas corpus was clearly an attempt to reopen a case that had already become final and executory. Such an action deplorably amounted to forum shopping. Respondent should have resorted to the proper, available remedy instead of instituting a different action in another forum.

Feria vs. CA (GR: 122954)

The mere loss or destruction of the records of a criminal case subsequent to conviction of the accused will not render the judgment of conviction void, nor will it warrant the release of the convict by virtue of a writ of habeas corpus. The proper remedy is the reconstitution of judicial records which is as much a duty of the prosecution as of the defense.

Contreras vs. Judge Solis (GR:A.M. RTJ-94-1266)

When the court where the criminal case was filed is without jurisdiction, the authority of the court to hold the accused in confinement pending trial is a valid subject of a petition for habeas corpus. Where the petitioner is held upon a judicial order, the writ will lie where the order is void because the court issuing it had no jurisdiction over the crime charged or over the person accused where the latter had challenged on time, the jurisdiction of the court over his person (Francisco, p. 665, Rules of Court in the Philippines Vol. V-B; citing the case of Banayo vs. President of San Pablo, 2 Phil. 413; Collins vs. Wolfe, 4 Phil. 534; Malinao et al. vs. Peterson, No. L-16464 July 26, 1960). But this remedy should not be secured before a court of equal rank in order to avoid undue interference upon the functions of another branch unless the former court has declared itself to be without jurisdiction, as in the instant case.

Jackson vs. Macalino (GR: 139255)

The term court includes quasi-judicial bodies like the Deportation Board of the Bureau of Immigration.

Even if the arrest of a person is illegal, supervening events may bar his release or discharge from custody. What is to be inquired into is the legality of his detention as of, at the earliest, the filing of the application for a writ of habeas corpus, for even if the detention is at its inception illegal, it may, by reason of same supervening events such as the instances mentioned in Section 4, Rule 102, be no longer illegal at the time of the filing of the application. Any such supervening events are the issuance of a judicial process preventing the discharge of the detained person.

 

 

Habeas Corpus Cases

Fletcher vs. Director Bureau of Prisons (UDK-14071)

Petitioner Martin Gibbs Fletcher seeks his release from prison in this petition for the issuance of the writ of habeas corpus. He claims that his prison sentence of 12 to 17 years was commuted by then President Fidel V. Ramos to nine to 12 years. Since he had already served 14 years, three months and 12 days, including his good conduct allowance, his continued imprisonment is illegal.

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We note the issuance of a warrant for petitioners arrest on March 8, 1996, the date he was first set for arraignment in Criminal Case No. 94-6988. Pursuant to Section 4, Rule 102 of the Rules of Court, the writ cannot be issued and petitioner cannot be discharged since he has been charged with another criminal offense.  His continued detention is without doubt warranted under the circumstances.

Petitioner asserts that his sentence in Criminal Case No. 95-995 was commuted by then President Ramos. However, he presented no proof of such commutation. Other than indorsements by the Chief Justice, Public Attorneys Office and Undersecretary of the Department of Justice, no document purporting to be the commutation of his sentence by then President Ramos was attached in his petition and in his subsequent missives to this Court. His barren claim of commutation therefore deserves scant consideration, lest we be accused of usurping the Presidents sole prerogative to commute petitioners sentence in Criminal Case No. 95-995.

Bagtas vs. Hon. Santos (GR: 166682)

Section 1, Rule 102, of the Rules of Court states that the writ of habeas corpus shall extend to all cases where the rightful custody of any person is withheld from the persons entitled thereto. In cases involving minors, the purpose of a petition for habeas corpus is not limited to the production of the child before the court. The main purpose of the petition for habeas corpus is to determine who has the rightful custody over the child. In Tijing v. Court of Appeals, the Court held that:

The writ of habeas corpus extends to all cases of illegal confinement or detention by which any person is deprived of his liberty, or by which the rightful custody of any person is withheld from the person entitled thereto. Thus, it is the proper legal remedy to enable parents to regain the custody of a minor child even if the latter be in the custody of a third person of his own free will. It may even be said that in custody cases involving minors, the question of illegal and involuntary restraint of liberty is not the underlying rationale for the availability of the writ as a remedy. Rather, it is prosecuted for the purpose of determining the right of custody over a child. (Emphasis supplied).

The RTC erred when it hastily dismissed the action for having become moot after Maryl Joy was produced before the trial court. It should have conducted a trial to determine who had the rightful custody over Maryl Joy. In dismissing the action, the RTC, in effect, granted the petition for habeas corpus and awarded the custody of Maryl Joy to the Spouses Gallardo without sufficient basis.

Thornton vs. Thornton (GR: 154598)

The only issue before us therefore is whether the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to issue writs of habeas corpus in cases involving custody of minors in the light of the provision in RA 8369 giving family courts exclusive original jurisdiction over such petitions.

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The Court of Appeals opines that RA 8369 impliedly repealed RA 7902 and BP 129 since, by giving family courts exclusive jurisdiction over habeas corpus cases, the lawmakers intended it to be the sole court which can issue writs of habeas corpus. To the court a quo, the word exclusive apparently cannot be construed any other way.

We disagree with the CAs reasoning because it will result in an iniquitous situation, leaving individuals like petitioner without legal recourse in obtaining custody of their children. Individuals who do not know the whereabouts of minors they are looking for would be helpless since they cannot seek redress from family courts whose writs are enforceable only in their respective territorial jurisdictions. Thus, if a minor is being transferred from one place to another, which seems to be the case here, the petitioner in a habeas corpus case will be left without legal remedy. This lack of recourse could not have been the intention of the lawmakers when they passed the Family Courts Act of 1997.

De Villa vs. Director of Prisons (GR: 158802)

The most basic criterion for the issuance of the writ, therefore, is that the individual seeking such relief be illegally deprived of his freedom of movement or placed under some form of illegal restraint. If an individuals liberty is restrained via some legal process, the writ of habeas corpus is unavailing. Concomitant to this principle, the writ of habeas corpus cannot be used to directly assail a judgment rendered by a competent court or tribunal which, having duly acquired jurisdiction, was not deprived or ousted of this jurisdiction through some anomaly in the conduct of the proceedings.

Thus, notwithstanding its historic function as the great writ of liberty, the writ of habeas corpus has very limited availability as a post-conviction remedy. In the recent case of Feria v. Court of Appeals, we ruled that review of a judgment of conviction is allowed in a petition for the issuance of the writ of habeas corpus only in very specific instances, such as when, as a consequence of a judicial proceeding, (a) there has been a deprivation of a constitutional right resulting in the restraint of a person; (b) the court had no jurisdiction to impose the sentence; or (c) an excessive penalty has been imposed, as such sentence is void as to such excess.

In this instance, petitioner invokes the writ of habeas corpus to assail a final judgment of conviction, without, however, providing a legal ground on which to anchor his petition. In fine, petitioner alleges neither the deprivation of a constitutional right, the absence of jurisdiction of the court imposing the sentence, or that an excessive penalty has been imposed upon him.

In fine, petitioner invokes the remedy of habeas corpus in order to seek the review of findings of fact long passed upon with finality. This relief is far outside the scope of habeas corpus proceedings. In the early case of Abriol v. Homeres, for example, this Court stated the general rule that the writ of habeas corpus is not a writ of error, and should not be thus used. The writ of habeas corpus, whereas permitting a collateral challenge of the jurisdiction of the court or tribunal issuing the process or judgment by which an individual is deprived of his liberty, cannot be distorted by extending the inquiry to mere errors of trial courts acting squarely within their jurisdiction. The reason for this is explained very simply in the case of Velasco v. Court of Appeals: a habeas corpus petition reaches the body, but not the record of the case.  A record must be allowed to remain extant, and cannot be revised, modified, altered or amended by the simple expedient of resort to habeas corpus proceedings.

Clearly, mere errors of fact or law, which did not have the effect of depriving the trial court of its jurisdiction over the case and the person of the defendant, are not correctible in a petition for the issuance of the writ of habeas corpus; if at all, these errors must be corrected on certiorari or on appeal, in the form and manner prescribed by law. In the past, this Court has disallowed the review of a courts appreciation of the evidence in a petition for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, as this is not the function of said writ. A survey of our decisions in habeas corpus cases demonstrates that, in general, the writ of habeas corpus is a high prerogative writ which furnishes an extraordinary remedy; it may thus be invoked only under extraordinary circumstances. We have been categorical in our pronouncements that the writ of habeas corpus is not to be used as a substitute for another, more proper remedy. Resort to the writ of habeas corpus is available only in the limited instances when a judgment is rendered by a court or tribunal devoid of jurisdiction. If, for instance, it can be demonstrated that there was a deprivation of a constitutional right, the writ can be granted even after an individual has been meted a sentence by final judgment.

Tribiana vs. Tribiana (GR: 137359)

Under Rule 102 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may resort to a habeas corpus proceeding in two instances. The first is when any person is deprived of liberty either through illegal confinement or through detention. The second instance is when custody of any person is withheld from the person entitled to such custody. The most common case falling under the second instance involves children who are taken away from a parent by another parent or by a relative. The case filed by Lourdes falls under this category.

The barangay conciliation requirement in Section 412 of the LGC does not apply to habeas corpus proceedings where a person is deprived of personal liberty. In such a case, Section 412 expressly authorizes the parties to go directly to court without need of any conciliation proceedings. There is deprivation of personal liberty warranting a petition for habeas corpus where the rightful custody of any person is withheld from the person entitled thereto. Thus, the Court of Appeals did not err when it dismissed Edwins contentions on the additional ground that Section 412 exempts petitions for habeas corpus from the barangay conciliation requirement.

 

Rule 92-97 Guardians and Guardianship

Alamayri vs. Pabale (GR: 151243)

A petition for appointment of a guardian is a special proceeding, without the usual parties, i.e., petitioner versus respondent, in an ordinary civil case. Accordingly, SP. PROC. No. 146-86-C bears the title: In re: Guardianship of Nelly S. Nave for Incompetency, Verdasto Gesmundo y Banayo, petitioner, with no named respondent/s.

Sections 2 and 3 of Rule 93 of the Rules of Court, though, require that the petition contain the names, ages, and residences of relatives of the supposed minor or incompetent and those having him in their care, so that those residing within the same province as the minor or incompetent can be notified of the time and place of the hearing on the petition.

The objectives of an RTC hearing a petition for appointment of a guardian under Rule 93 of the Rules of Court is to determine, first, whether a person is indeed a minor or an incompetent who has no capacity to care for himself and/or his properties; and, second, who is most qualified to be appointed as his guardian. The rules reasonably assume that the people who best could help the trial court settle such issues would be those who are closest to and most familiar with the supposed minor or incompetent, namely, his relatives living within the same province and/or the persons caring for him.

It is significant to note that the rules do not necessitate that creditors of the minor or incompetent be likewise identified and notified. The reason is simple: because their presence is not essential to the proceedings for appointment of a guardian. It is almost a given, and understandably so, that they will only insist that the supposed minor or incompetent is actually capacitated to enter into contracts, so as to preserve the validity of said contracts and keep the supposed minor or incompetent obligated to comply therewith.

Oropesa vs. Oropesa (GR:  184528)

In a guardianship proceeding, a court may appoint a qualified guardian if the prospective ward is proven to be a minor or an incompetent.

A reading of Section 2, Rule 92 of the Rules of Court tells us that persons who, though of sound mind but by reason of age, disease, weak mind or other similar causes, are incapable of taking care of themselves and their property without outside aid are considered as incompetents who may properly be placed under guardianship.

Cabales vs. CA (GR: 162421)

The legal guardian only has the plenary power of administration of the minors property. It does not include the power of alienation which needs judicial authority. Thus, when Saturnina, as legal guardian of petitioner Rito, sold the latters pro-indiviso share in subject land, she did not have the legal authority to do so.

Rivero vs. CA (GR: 141273)

In resolving whether to appoint a guardian ad litem for the respondent, the appellate court needed only to determine whether the individual for whom a guardian was proposed was so incapable of handling personal and financial affairs as to warrant the need for the appointment of a temporary guardian. It only needed to make a finding that, based on clear and convincing evidence, the respondent is incompetent and that it is more likely than not that his welfare requires the immediate appointment of a temporary guardian. A finding that the person for whom a guardian ad litem is proposed is incapable of managing his own personal and financial affairs by reason of his mental illness is enough.

Guardians ad litem are considered officers of the court in a limited sense, and the office of such guardian is to represent the interest of the incompetent or the minor. Whether or not to appoint a guardian ad litem for the petitioners is addressed to the sound discretion of the court where the petition was filed, taking into account the best interest of the incompetent or the minor. The court has discretion in appointing a guardian ad litem that will best promote the interest of justice. The appointment of a guardian ad litem is designed to assist the court in its determination of the incompetents best interest.

 

Rule 91 – Escheats

Republic of the Phils. vs. CA (GR: 143483)

Escheat is a proceeding, unlike that of succession or assignment, whereby the state, by virtue of its sovereignty, steps in and claims the real or personal property of a person who dies intestate leaving no heir. In the absence of a lawful owner, a property is claimed by the state to forestall an open “invitation to self-service by the first comers.” Since escheat is one of the incidents of sovereignty, the state may, and usually does, prescribe the conditions and limits the time within which a claim to such property may be made. The procedure by which the escheated property may be recovered is generally prescribed by statue, and a time limit is imposed within which such action must be brought.

In this jurisdiction, a claimant to an escheated property must file his claim “within five (5) years from the date of such judgment, such person shall have possession of and title to the same, or if sold, the municipality or city shall be accountable to him for the proceeds, after deducting the estate; but a claim not made shall be barred forever.” The 5-year period is not a device capriciously conjured by the state to defraud any claimant; on the contrary, it is decidedly prescribed to encourage would-be claimants to be punctilious in asserting their claims, otherwise they may lose them forever in a final judgment.

 

Rule 84 – Gneral Powers and Duties of Executors and Administrators

The Estate of Ruiz vs. CA (GR: 118671)

petitioner cannot correctly claim that the assailed order deprived him of his right to take possession of all the real and personal properties of the estate. The right of an executor or administrator to the possession and management of the real and personal properties of the deceased is not absolute and can only be exercised so long as it is necessary for the payment of the debts and expenses of administration, Section 3 of Rule 84 of the Revised Rules of Court explicitly provides:

Sec. 3. Executor or administrator to retain whole estate to pay debts, and to administer estate not willed. – An executor or administrator shall have the right to the possession and management of the real as well as the personal estate of the deceased so long as it is necessary for the payment of the debts and expenses for administration.

When petitioner moved for further release of the funds deposited with the clerk of court, he had been previously granted by the probate court certain amounts for repair and maintenance expenses on the properties of the estate, and payment of the real estate taxes thereon. But petitioner moved again for the release of additional funds for the same reasons he previously cited. It was correct for the probate court to require him to submit an accounting of the necessary expenses for administration before releasing any further money in his favor.

 

Rule 78 – Letters Testamentary and of Administration, When and to Whom Issued

In Re: Intestate Estate of Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay (GR: 183053)

Section 6, Rule 78 of the Rules of Court lists the order of preference in the appointment of an administrator of an estate…

However, the order of preference is not absolute for it depends on the attendant facts and circumstances of each case. Jurisprudence has long held that the selection of an administrator lies in the sound discretion of the trial court.  In the main, the attendant facts and circumstances of this case necessitate, at the least, a joint administration by both respondent and Emilio III of their grandmothers, Cristinas, estate.

Ocampo vs. Ocampo (GR:  187879)

It may be mentioned that, despite the filing by respondents of their Opposition and Comment to the motion to revoke the special administration, the prayer for the appointment of Melinda as regular administratrix of the estate was not specifically traversed in the said pleading. Thus, the capacity, competency, and legality of Melindas appointment as such was not properly objected to by respondents despite being the next of kin to the decedent spouses, and was not threshed out by the RTC acting as a probate court in accordance with the above mentioned Rules.

However, having in mind the objective of facilitating the settlement of the estate of Vicente and Maxima, with a view to putting an end to the squabbles of the heirs, we take into account the fact that Melinda, pursuant to the RTC Order dated March 13, 2008, already posted the required bond of P200,000.00 on March 26, 2008, by virtue of which, Letters of Administration were issued to her the following day, and that she filed an Inventory of the Properties of the Estate dated April 15, 2008. These acts clearly manifested her intention to serve willingly as administratrix of the decedents estate, but her appointment should be converted into one of special administration, pending the proceedings for regular administration. Furthermore, since it appears that the only unpaid obligation is the hospital bill due from Leonardos estate, which is not subject of this case, judicial partition may then proceed with dispatch.

Avelino vs. CA (GR:  115181)

When a person dies intestate, or, if testate, failed to name an executor in his will or the executor so named is incompetent, or refuses the trust, or fails to furnish the bond required by the Rules of Court, then the decedent’s estate shall be judicially administered and the competent court shall appoint a qualified administrator in the order established in Section 6 of Rule 78. The exceptions to this rule are found in Sections 1 and 2 of Rule 74.

San Luis vs. San Luis (GR: 133743)

Section 6, Rule 78 of the Rules of Court states that letters of administration may be granted to the surviving spouse of the decedent. However, Section 2, Rule 79 thereof also provides in part:

SEC. 2. Contents of petition for letters of administration. A petition for letters of administration must be filed by an interested person and must show, as far as known to the petitioner: x x x.

An interested person has been defined as one who would be benefited by the estate, such as an heir, or one who has a claim against the estate, such as a creditor. The interest must be material and direct, and not merely indirect or contingent.

In the instant case, respondent would qualify as an interested person who has a direct interest in the estate of Felicisimo by virtue of their cohabitation, the existence of which was not denied by petitioners.

Nittscher vs. Nittscher (GR: 160530)

In this case, records show that petitioner, with whom Dr. Nittscher had no child, and Dr. Nittscher’s children from his previous marriage were all duly notified, by registered mail, of the probate proceedings. Petitioner even appeared in court to oppose respondents petition for the issuance of letters testamentary and she also filed a motion to dismiss the said petition. She likewise filed a motion for reconsideration of the issuance of the letters testamentary and of the denial of her motion to dismiss. We are convinced petitioner was accorded every opportunity to defend her cause. Therefore, petitioners allegation that she was denied due process in the probate proceedings is without basis.

Heirs of Castillo vs. Lacuata-Gabriel (GR:  162934)

The ruling of the CA is correct. The Court has repeatedly held that the appointment of a special administrator lies in the sound discretion of the probate court. A special administrator is a representative of a decedent appointed by the probate court to care for and preserve his estate until an executor or general administrator is appointed. When appointed, a special administrator is regarded not as a representative of the agent of the parties suggesting the appointment, but as the administrator in charge of the estate, and, in fact, as an officer of the court. As such officer, he is subject to the supervision and control of the probate court and is expected to work for the best interests of the entire estate, especially its smooth administration and earliest settlement.

The principal object of appointment of temporary administrator is to preserve the estate until it can pass into hands of person fully authorized to administer it for the benefit of creditors and heirs. In many instances, the appointment of administrators for the estates of decedents frequently become involved in protracted litigations, thereby exposing such estates to great waste and losses unless an authorized agent to collect the debts and preserve the assets in the interim is appointed. The occasion for such an appointment, likewise, arises where, for some cause, such as a pendency of a suit concerning the proof of the will, regular administration is delayed.

Rule 77 – Allowance of Will Proved Outside of Philippines and Administration of Estate Thereunder

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.

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.

In insisting that Rupertas will should have been first probated and allowed by the court of California, petitioners Manuel and Benjamin obviously have in mind the procedure for the reprobate of will before admitting it here. But, reprobate or re-authentication of a will already probated and allowed in a foreign country is different from that probate where the will is presented for the first time before a competent court. Reprobate is specifically governed by Rule 77 of the Rules of Court. Contrary to petitioners stance, since this latter rule applies only to reprobate of a will, it cannot be made to apply to the present case. In reprobate, the local court acknowledges as binding the findings of the foreign probate court provided its jurisdiction over the matter can be established.

Ancheta vs. Guersey-Dalaygon (GR: 139868)

Petitioners failure to proficiently manage the distribution of Audreys estate according to the terms of her will and as dictated by the applicable law amounted to extrinsic fraud. Hence the CA Decision annulling the RTC Orders dated February 12, 1988 and April 7, 1988, must be upheld.

It is undisputed that Audrey Guersey was an American citizen domiciled in Maryland, U.S.A. During the reprobate of her will in Special Proceeding No. 9625, it was shown, among others, that at the time of Audreys death, she was residing in the Philippines but is domiciled in Maryland, U.S.A.; her Last Will and Testament dated August 18, 1972 was executed and probated before the Orphans Court in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A., which was duly authenticated and certified by the Register of Wills of Baltimore City and attested by the Chief Judge of said court; the will was admitted by the Orphans Court of Baltimore City on September 7, 1979; and the will was authenticated by the Secretary of State of Maryland and the Vice Consul of the Philippine Embassy.

xxx

Petitioner admitted that he failed to introduce in evidence the law of the State of Maryland on Estates and Trusts, and merely relied on the presumption that such law is the same as the Philippine law on wills and succession. Thus, the trial court peremptorily applied Philippine laws and totally disregarded the terms of Audreys will. The obvious result was that there was no fair submission of the case before the trial court or a judicious appreciation of the evidence presented.

 

Rule 76 – Allowance or Disallowance of Will

Alaban vs. CA (GR: 156021)

Under the Rules of Court, any executor, devisee, or legatee named in a 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. Notice of the time and place for proving the will must be published for three (3) consecutive weeks, in a newspaper of general circulation in the province, as well as furnished to the designated or other known heirs, legatees, and devisees of the testator. Thus, it has been held that a proceeding for the probate of a will is one in rem, such that with the corresponding publication of the petition the court’s jurisdiction extends to all persons interested in said will or in the settlement of the estate of the decedent.

Publication is notice to the whole world that the proceeding has for its object to bar indefinitely all who might be minded to make an objection of any sort against the right sought to be established. It is the publication of such notice that brings in the whole world as a party in the case and vests the court with jurisdiction to hear and decide it. Thus, even though petitioners were not mentioned in the petition for probate, they eventually became parties thereto as a consequence of the publication of the notice of hearing.

Siangio vs. Hon. Reyes (GR 140371-72)

Segundos document, although it may initially come across as a mere disinheritance instrument, conforms to the formalities of a holographic will prescribed by law. It is written, dated and signed by the hand of Segundo himself. An intent to dispose mortis causa can be clearly deduced from the terms of the instrument, and while it does not make an affirmative disposition of the latters property, the disinheritance of Alfredo, nonetheless, is an act of disposition in itself. In other words, the disinheritance results in the disposition of the property of the testator Segundo in favor of those who would succeed in the absence of Alfredo.

Moreover, it is a fundamental principle that the intent or the will of the testator, expressed in the form and within the limits prescribed by law, must be recognized as the supreme law in succession. All rules of construction are designed to ascertain and give effect to that intention. It is only when the intention of the testator is contrary to law, morals, or public policy that it cannot be given effect.

Holographic wills, therefore, being usually prepared by one who is not learned in the law, as illustrated in the present case, should be construed more liberally than the ones drawn by an expert, taking into account the circumstances surrounding the execution of the instrument and the intention of the testator. In this regard, the Court is convinced that the document, even if captioned as Kasulatan ng Pag-Aalis ng Mana, was intended by Segundo to be his last testamentary act and was executed by him in accordance with law in the form of a holographic will. Unless the will is probated, the disinheritance cannot be given effect.

Considering that the questioned document is Segundos holographic will, and that the law favors testacy over intestacy, the probate of the will cannot be dispensed with. Article 838 of the Civil Code provides that no will shall pass either real or personal property unless it is proved and allowed in accordance with the Rules of Court. Thus, unless the will is probated, the right of a person to dispose of his property may be rendered nugatory.

Maloles vs. Phillips  (GR: 129505)

In cases for the probate of wills, it is well-settled that the authority of the court is limited to ascertaining the extrinsic validity of the will, i.e., whether the testator, being of sound mind, freely executed the will in accordance with the formalities prescribed by law.

Ordinarily, probate proceedings are instituted only after the death of the testator, so much so that, after approving and allowing the will, the court proceeds to issue letters testamentary and settle the estate of the testator. The cases cited by petitioner are of such nature. In fact, in most jurisdictions, courts cannot entertain a petition for probate of the will of a living testator under the principle of ambulatory nature of wills.

However, Art. 838 of the Civil Code authorizes the filing of a petition for probate of the will filed by the testator himself. It provides:

Civil Code, Art. 838. No will shall pass either real or personal property unless it is proved and allowed in accordance with the Rules of Court.

The testator himself may, during his lifetime, petition the court having jurisdiction for the allowance of his will. In such case, the pertinent provisions of the Rules of Court for the allowance of wills after the testators death shall govern.

The Supreme Court shall formulate such additional Rules of Court as may be necessary for the allowance of wills on petition of the testator.

Subject to the right of appeal, the allowance of the will, either during the lifetime of the testator or after his death, shall be conclusive as to its due execution.

Baltazar vs. Laxa (GR: 174489)

Issue:

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED WHEN IT ALLOWED THE PROBATE OF PACIENCIAS WILL DESPITE RESPONDENTS UTTER FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH SECTION 11, RULE 76 OF THE RULES OF COURT;

They insist that all subscribing witnesses and the notary public should have been presented in court since all but one witness, Francisco, are still living.

We cannot agree with petitioners.

We note that the inability of Faustino and Judge Limpin to appear and testify before the court was satisfactorily explained during the probate proceedings. As testified to by his son, Faustino had a heart attack, was already bedridden and could no longer talk and express himself due to brain damage. To prove this, said witness presented the corresponding medical certificate. For her part, Dra. Limpin testified that her father, Judge Limpin, suffered a stroke in 1991 and had to undergo brain surgery. At that time, Judge Limpin could no longer talk and could not even remember his daughters name so that Dra. Limpin stated that given such condition, her father could no longer testify. It is well to note that at that point, despite ample opportunity, petitioners neither interposed any objections to the testimonies of said witnesses nor challenged the same on cross examination.

We thus hold that for all intents and purposes, Lorenzo was able to satisfactorily account for the incapacity and failure of the said subscribing witness and of the notary public to testify in court. Because of this the probate of Paciencias Will may be allowed on the basis of Dra. Limpins testimony proving her sanity and the due execution of the Will, as well as on the proof of her handwriting. It is an established rule that [a] testament may not be disallowed just because the attesting witnesses declare against its due execution; neither does it have to be necessarily allowed just because all the attesting witnesses declare in favor of its legalization; what is decisive is that the court is convinced by evidence before it, not necessarily from the attesting witnesses, although they must testify, that the will was or was not duly executed in the manner required by law.