Aguinaldo-suntay v. Cojuangco-suntay Digest
Aguinaldo-suntay v. Cojuangco-suntay Digest...
AGUINALDO-SUNTAY v. COJUANGCO-SUNTAY G.R. No. 183053 June 16, 2010 FACTS: 1. On June 4, 1990, the decedent, Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay (Cristina), married to Dr. Federico Suntay (Federico), died intestate. a. In 1979, their only son, Emilio Aguinaldo Suntay (Emilio I), predeceased both Cristina and Federico. b. At the time of her death, Cristina was survived by her husband, Federico, and several grandchildren, including herein petitioner Emilio A.M. Suntay III (Emilio III) and respondent Isabel Cojuangco-Suntay 2. Emilio I was married to Isabel Cojuangco, and they begot three children, namely: herein respondent, Isabel; Margarita; and Emilio II 3. Emilio I’s marriage to Isabel Cojuangco was subsequently annulled. Thereafter, Emilio I had two children out of wedlock, Emilio III and Nenita, by two different women, Concepcion Mendoza and Isabel Santos, respectively. 4. Consequently, respondent and her siblings Margarita and Emilio II, lived with their mother, separately from their father and paternal grandparents. 5. After the death of Emilio I, Federico filed a petition for visitation rights over his grandchildren. It was altogether stopped because of a manifestation filed by respondent Isabel, articulating her sentiments on the unwanted visits of her grandparents. 6. After the death of his spouse, Federico, adopted their illegitimate grandchildren, Emilio III and Nenita 7. On October 26, 1995, respondent Isabela filed a petition for the issuance of letters of administration in her favor. Federico filed his opposition. Being the surviving spouse of Cristina, he is capable of administering her estate and he should be the one appointed as its administrator; that as part owner of the mass of conjugal properties left by Cristina, he must be accorded legal preference in the administration 8. After a failed attempt by the parties to settle the proceedings amicably, Federico filed a Manifestation, nominating his adopted son, Emilio III, as administrator of the decedent’s estate on his behalf. Subsequently, the trial court granted Emilio III’s Motion for Leave to Intervene considering his interest in the outcome of the case. 9. In the course of the proceedings, Federico died. 10. The trial court rendered a decision, appointing petitioner Emilio III, as administrator of decedent Cristina’s intestate estate. The RTC ruled that what matters most at this time is the welfare of the estate of the decedent in the light of such unfortunate and bitter estrangement. The Court honestly believes that to appoint the petitioner would go against the wishes of the decedent who raised Emilio III from infancy as her own child. Certainly, it would go against the wishes of the surviving spouse who nominated Emilio III for appointment as administrator. 11. Aggrieved, respondent filed an appeal before the CA, which reversed and set aside the decision of the RTC, revoked the Letters of Administration issued to Emilio III. The CA zeroed in on Emilio III’s status as an illegitimate child of Emilio I and, thus, barred from representing his deceased father in the estate of the latter’s legitimate mother, the decedent. That he cannot be appointed for the ff reasons: a. The appointment of Emilio III was subject to a suspensive condition, i.e., Federico’s appointment as administrator of the estate. The death of Federico before his appointment rendered the nomination of Emilio III inoperative. b. As between the legitimate offspring (Isabel) and illegitimate offspring (Emilio III) of decedent’s son, Emilio I, Isabel is preferred, being the "next of kin" referred to by Section 6, Rule 78 of the Rules of Court c. Jurisprudence has consistently held that Article 992 of the Civil Code bars the illegitimate child from inheriting ab intestato from the legitimate children and relatives of his father or mother. ISSUE : Who, as between Emilio III and respondent, is better qualified to act as administrator of the decedent's estate.
HELD: The Court cannot subscribe to the appellate court’s ruling excluding Emilio III in the administration of the decedent’s undivided estate. The underlying philosophy of our law on intestate succession is to give preference to the wishes and presumed will of the decedent, absent a valid and effective will. The basis for Article 992 of the Civil Code, referred to as the iron curtain bar rule, is quite the opposite scenario in the facts obtaining herein for the actual relationship between Federico and Cristina, on one hand, and Emilio III. Both spouses acknowledged Emilio III as their grandchild. Cristina’s properties forming part of her estate are still commingled with that of her husband, Federico, because her share in the conjugal partnership, albeit terminated upon her death, remains undetermined and unliquidated. Emilio III is a legally adopted child of Federico, entitled to share in the distribution of the latter’s estate as a direct heir, one degree from Federico, not simply representing his deceased illegitimate father, Emilio I. It is patently clear that the CA erred in excluding Emilio III from the administration of the decedent’s estate. As Federico’s adopted son, Emilio III’s interest in the estate of Cristina is as much as the interest therein of Isabel. Considering that the CA even declared that "under the law, Federico, being the surviving spouse, would have the right of succession over a portion of the exclusive property of the decedent, aside from his share in the conjugal partnership." However, the order of preference in the appointment of an administrator of an estate found in Section 6, Rule 78 of the Rules of Court 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 this case, the attendant facts and circumstances of this case necessitate, at the least, a joint administration by both respondent and Emilio III of their grandmother’s, Cristina’s, estate. In the appointment of an administrator, the principal consideration is the interest in the estate of the one to be appointed. The order of preference does not rule out the appointment of co-administrators, especially in cases where justice and equity demand that opposing parties or factions be represented in the management of the estates, a situation which obtains here. The subject estate in this case calls to the succession other putative heirs, including another illegitimate grandchild of Cristina and Federico, Nenita Tañedo.
Other issue: 1. Petitioner argues that Article 992 of the Civil Code, the successional bar between the legitimate and illegitimate relatives of a decedent, does not apply in this instance where facts indubitably demonstrate the contrary – Emilio III, an illegitimate grandchild of the decedent, was actually treated by the decedent and her husband as their own son. a. Indeed, the factual antecedents of this case accurately reflect the basis of intestate succession, i.e., love first descends, for the decedent, Cristina, did not distinguish between her legitimate and illegitimate grandchildren. Neither did her husband, Federico, who, in fact, legally raised the status of Emilio III from an illegitimate grandchild to that of a legitimate child. b. The peculiar circumstances of this case, painstakingly pointed out by counsel for petitioner, overthrow the legal presumption in Article 992 of the Civil Code that there exist animosity and antagonism between legitimate and illegitimate descendants of a deceased. It must be pointed out that judicial restraint impels us to refrain from making a final declaration of heirship and distributing the presumptive shares of the parties in the estates of Cristina and Federico, considering that the question on who will administer the properties of the long deceased couple has yet to be settled.