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G.R. No.

95329 January 27, 1993


HERACIO R. REVILLA, petitioner,
vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS, FORTUNATO REVILLA, LUZ REVILLA DAVID, LORETO REVILLA GUTIERREZ, VENERANDA REVILLA MANIQUEZ,
NICASIO REVILLA, PERFECTA REVILLA BALACANIA, JUSTINA REVILLA DEL ROSARIO and AGRIPINA REVILLA CHACON, respondents.
Manahan, Conrado De Vera, Aquino & Associates Law Offices for petitioner.
Abad, Bautista & Associates for private respondents.
GRIO-AQUINO, J.:
This is a petition for review of the decision dated September 13, 1990 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 18190 affirming the decision of the
Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 39, in Special Proceeding No. 86-38444 which disallowed the second will supposedly executed on September 13,
1982 by the late Don Cayetano Revilla whose first Will dated January 28, 1978 had been probated on March 21, 1980 on his own petition in Special
Proceeding No. 128828 of the same court, while he was still alive.
In our resolution of November 19, 1990, we denied the petition for review for it raises only factual issues. However, upon the petitioner's motion for
reconsideration, we set aside that resolution and gave due course to the petition so that the parties may argue their respective positions with more depth
and scope. After a more thorough consideration of those arguments, we are persuaded that the decision of the Court of Appeals should not be changed.
Don Cayetano Revilla y De la Fuente owned two valuable pieces of land with buildings on Calle Azcarraga (now C.M. Recto Street) in the City of Manila,
and six (6) parcels of land in his hometown of San Miguel, Bulacan. These properties, now worth some P30 million, are registered in his name and more
particularly described as follows:
a) TRANSFER CERTIFICATE OF TITLE NO. 76620 (not TCT No. 170750-ind.) REGISTRY OF DEEDS FOR THE CITY OF MANILA
A PARCEL OF LAND (Lot. No. 22 of Block No. 2565 of the Cadastral Survey of the City of Manila, Cadastral Case No. 46, G.L.R.O. Cadastral Record
No. 229) with the buildings and other improvements now found thereon, situated on the SW, line of Calle Azcarraga, District of Quiapo, . . . containing an
area of ONE THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED NINETY THREE SQUARE METERS AND SEVENTY SQUARE DECIMETERS (1,193.70), more or less,
Assessed value P1,834,980.00.
b) TRANSFER CERTIFICATE OF TITLE NO. 66173 (now TCT No. 170751-ind.) REGISTRY OF DEEDS FOR THE CITY OF MANILA
A PARCEL OF LAND ( Lot No. 24 of Block No. 2565 of the Cadastral Survey of the City of Manila, Cadastral Case No. 46, G.L.R.O. Cadastral Record
No. 229) with the buildings and improvements now found thereon, situated on the SW. line of Calle Azcarraga; District of Quiapo. . . . containing an area
of SEVEN HUNDRED SQUARE METERS AND SEVENTY SQUARE DECIMETERS (700.70), MORE OR LESS.
Assessed value P3,297,150.00
c) TRANSFER CERTIFICATE OF TITLE NO. T-192136 REGISTRY OF DEEDS FOR THE PROVINCE OF BULACAN
A parcel of land (Lot 1245-A-6 of the subd. plan (LRC) Psd-177051, being a portion of Lot 1245-A, Psd-11366, LRC Cad. Rec. No. 700), situated in the
Barrio of Salacot, Mun. of San Miguel, Prov. of Bulacan, Island of Luzon. . . . containing an area of TEN THOUSAND (10,000) SQUARE METERS, more
or less.
Assessed value P4.000.00
d) TRANSFER CERTIFICATE OF TITLE NO. T-192137 REGISTRY OF DEEDS FOR THE PROVINCE OF BULACAN
A parcel of land [Lot 1245-A-7 of the subd. plan (LRC) Psd-177051, being a portion of Lot 1245-A, Psd-11366, LRC Cad. Rec. No. 700], situated in the
Barrio of Salacot, Mun. of San Miguel, Prov. of Bulacan, Island of Luzon, . . . containing an area of SEVEN THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED NINETY
(7,890) SQUARE METERS, more or less.
Assessed value P3,790.00
e) TRANSFER CERTIFICATE OF TITLE NO. T-22049 REGISTRY OF DEEDS FOR THE PROVINCE OF BULACAN
A parcel of land (Lot 1245-A-9 of the subd. plan (LRC) Psd-177051, being a portion of Lot 1245-A, Psd-11366, LRC Cad. Rec. No. 700), situated in the
Barrio of Salacot, Municipality of San Miguel, Prov. of Bulacan, . . . containing an area of ONE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED FOURTEEN (1,514)
SQUARE METERS, more or less.
Assessed value P4,000.00
f) TRANSFER CERTIFICATE OF TITLE NO. 22263 REGISTRY OF DEEDS FOR THE PROVINCE OF BULACAN
A parcel of land (Lot No. 722 of the Cadastral Survey of San Miguel), situated in the Municipality of San Miguel. . . . containing an area of SEVENTEEN
THOUSAND AND EIGHTY SIX (17,086) SQUARE METERS, more or less.
Assessed value P4,190.00
g) TRANSFER CERTIFICATE OF TITLE NO. T-242301 REGISTRY OF DEEDS FOR THE PROVINCE OF BULACAN
A parcel of land (Lot 108 of the Cad. Survey of San Miguel), situated in the Municipality of San Miguel. . . . containing an area of FIVE HUNDRED AND
SEVENTY THREE SQUARE METERS more or less.
Assessed value P8,600.00
h) Cemetery lots with a mausoleum (Lots Nos. 66, 67, 68, 69, 70 and 71, Block No. 3) situated at the Sta. Rita Memorial Park, San Miguel, Bulacan (no
commercial value). (pp. 63-64, Rollo.)
On January 28, 1978, Don Cayetano Revilla, a bachelor, without issue nor any surviving ascendants, executed a last will and testament bequeathing all
his properties to his nine (9) nephews and nieces, the parties herein, who are full blood brothers and sisters, including the petitioner, Heracio Revilla. To
each of them, he bequeathed an undivided one-tenth (1/10) of his estate reserving the last tenth for masses to be said after his death, and for the care
of the religious images which he kept in a chapel in San Miguel, Bulacan, where masses could be held also (p. 126, Records).
During his lifetime, Don Cayetano had himself sought the probate of his will and on March 21, 1980 the Court of First Instance of Manila, Branch X, after
due hearing in Special Proceeding No. 128828, allowed and admitted said will to probate.
On November 19, 1981, however, the City Hall of Manila was destroyed by fire. The records of Special Proceeding No. 128828 also went up in flames.
Shortly thereafter, a petition for the reconstitution of the records of Special Proceeding No. 128828 was filed, and after a proper hearing wherein Don
Cayetano testified again, the petition for reconstitution was granted. (Exh. "34"). (pp. 51-52, 179, Rollo.)
Don Cayetano died on November 11, 1986 at the age of 91.
On November 19, 1986, Heracio Revilla, the oldest nephew, filed a petition for probate of another will, allegedly executed by Don Cayetano on
September 13, 1982 wherein he (Heracio) was instituted as sole heir of his uncle's estate and executor of the will.
The probate of the second will was opposed by Heracio's eight (8) brothers and sisters, the private respondents herein. As grounds for their opposition,
they alleged:
. . . a) that on March 21, 1980 in Special Proceeding No. 128828, the then Court of First Instance of Manila, Branch 10, allowed and admitted to probate
the last will and testament of the deceased Cayetano Revilla and that since then and up to the time of his death, Cayetano Revilla never informed that
he revoked the will dated January 28, 1978; (b) that the will sought to be probated was not executed in accordance with law and that the signature of

Cayetano Revilla was different from his usual and customary signature; (c) that when the will was allegedly executed the decedent was already of
unsound mind or otherwise mentally incapable of making a will or was already incompetent and could not, without outside aid, take care of himself and
manage his properties becoming thereby an easy prey of deceit and exploitation; d) that the alleged will was executed with undue and improper
pressure and influence on the part of he beneficiaries thereon or some other persons for their benefit; e) that the will is void and ineffective for the reason
that it was executed under duress or the influence of fear or of threats; and f) that the decedent acted by mistake and the signatures in the alleged will
were procured by fraud or trick, and he did not intend that the instrument should be his will at the time of fixing (sic) his signatures thereto (Opposition to
Probate of Alleged Will, pp. 7-8, Records).
The private respondents also opposed Heracio's petition for appointment as executor and/or special administrator of the estate on the ground that the
alleged will is null and void, hence the designation therein of Heracio as executor is likewise null and void, and that moreover, he is unfit for the trust (pp.
9-12. Records).
In an order dated May 7, 1987, the lower court held in abeyance the resolution of the issue with regard to the propriety of Heracio's being appointed as
executor (pp. 34-36, Records), but ordered the parties to present their evidence pro and con vis-a-vis the probate of the second will (Ibid).
On December 1, 1987, the trial court rendered a decision disallowing the second will and, accordingly, dismissed the case with costs against the
petitioner (Decision. pp. 144-184, Records; pp. 52-53. Rollo.)
On appeal to the Court of Appeals (CA-G.R. CV No. 18190, Sept. 19, 1990), the decision of the lower court was affirmed. This petition for review was
filed by Heracio under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.
The lone issue in this case is whether the Court of Appeals (and the trial court) erred in disallowing the alleged second will of Don Cayetano Revilla.
After a careful examination of the records, we share the appellate court's doubts regarding the authenticity and due execution of the second will. Indeed,
when Don Cayetano testified on November 27, 1982 in the reconstitution proceedings, he was unaware of the second will which he supposedly made
only two months previous on September 13, 1982. He identified his first will and declared that it was his true and only will. He denied having
subsequently made another will. He could not have executed a second will on September 13, 1982 because he was sick in the hospital at that time
for two (2) months before October 21, 1982, or, in August to September 1982, and he did not, and could not, sign any papers while he was confined in
the hospital.
ATTY. DAVID
May I request that this letter dated October 21, 1982, be marked Exhibit "C" . . .
xxx xxx xxx
By the way Mr. Revilla, will you tell us whether you can still read when you signed this letter?
A Yes, I can.
Q Did you read the contents of this letter?
A Yes, I did.
Q When you were sick, before you signed this letter on October 21, 1982, were you confined at the hospital?
A Yes.
Q How long were you confined at the hospital, was it for one month?
A More than one month, may be two months.
Q When you were in the hospital you cannot sign because you were sick?
A No, I cannot sign.
xxx xxx xxx
Q Will you tell us Don Cayetano if you ever executed a last will and testament after this one has been probated by the Court?
A None, sir. (pp. 20-30, tsn, November 27, 1982.)
He recognized the original will and acknowledged that he signed it.
ATTY. DAVID
. . . we were granted by the Court permission to come here to find out from you about your will approved by the Court which was burned which needs to
be reconstituted which Atty. Dacanay undertook as your counsel and I was included because your heirs requested me, . . . Since the documents were
burned, we have here a brown envelope which states on its face "Buksan ito pagkalibing ko" then a signature Cayetano Revilla that one in the
Court which was approved by the Court we would like to request from you if this is the envelope which contains a copy of the will and if this is your
signature?
xxx xxx xxx
Q And at the back of this envelope are four signatures, are these your signatures?
A (Looking over the four signatures at the back of the envelope) Yes, these are all my signatures.
Q And your instructions were to open this envelope . . . "Buksan ito pagkalibing ko."
A Yes, that is right.
Q And since you are still alive you asked the Court that your last will and testament be approved and allowed and what is in the last will and testament
is what will prevail?
A Yes, sir. (pp. 119-120, Rollo; Emphasis ours.)
He identified his first will and directed Atty. David to deliver it to the Court: "siyang ibigay sa husgado" (p. 122.Rollo).
ATTY. DAVID
Now that I have told you in the presence of your grandson-in-law, Atty. Latosa, that the last will and testament which the court admitted and allowed to
probate was burned, why I asked you if this is the envelope and you remember this is the envelope and you said you do, and that the five signatures
appearing in this envelope are your signatures, now are you willing to have this envelope opened?
A Yes, kung anong nandiyan, siyang ibigay sa husgado. (p. 122, Rollo.)
Although the envelope containing a copy of the first will was sealed, with instructions to open it after his funeral, Don Cayetano wanted "to open it now"
(p. 123, Rollo).
ATTY. LATOSA
Can you please read what is written in that envelope which you allowed to be opened.
A Yes, "buksan ito pagkalibing ko."
ATTY. DAVID
Do you want to open this now?
A Yes.
Q Do you wish to open this envelope now?
A Yes, I want to open it now.
(p. 23, Rollo.)
Don Cayetano declared that he understood that the document inside the envelope was his will ["naiintindihan ko po iyon" (p. 131, Rollo)].

Q This envelope which contained the last will and testament which I took the contents in your presence and in the presence of the other
representation here including the representatives of the Court, the document contained therein is entitled, "Unang Pahina, Huling Habilin Ni Don
Cayetano Revilla," consisting of fourteen pages, the title means that this is your last will and testament?
A Yes, Naiintindihan ko po iyon.
Q And you executed this on the 28 of January as appearing . . . 28th of January 1978, as appearing on the 13th page of this last will and testament?
A Yes.
Q And all pages of this last will and testament were all signed by you which reads Cayetano Revilla, will you go over these fourteen pages and tell us
if the signatures here reading Cayetano Revilla are your signatures?
A (After going over the document, page by page and looking at the signature reading Cayetano Revilla in every page) Yes, these are all my
signatures, the ones reading Cayetano Revilla. (p 131, Rollo; Emphasis supplied.)
He recognized himself and his lawyer, Attorney Benjamin Dacanay, in the pictures that were taken during the signing of his first will.
Q Now, in this envelope there are pictures five pictures in all, will you go over these and tell us if you can remember any of those persons appearing
in the pictures?
A This one, (testator pointing to a person in the picture) is Mr. Dacanay.
ATTY. DAVID
May I request that this picture wherein Don Cayetano Revilla identified Atty. Dacanay, be marked as Exhibit "D".
There is a person in this picture, the one second from the left, will you go over it and see if you remember that person?
A I am that person.
Q Now in this second picture, do you recognize anybody here?
A Yes, I can recognize myself when I was signing the will.
Q Who else do you know is present in that picture?
A This one, he is Mr. Dacanay.
Q How about the other one?
A I don't know the others. (p. 133, Rollo; Emphasis supplied.)
Don Cayetano assured Attorney David that his original will was his "genuine will and testament and not changed" (p. 134, Rollo).
ATTY. DAVID
xxx xxx xxx
We are doing this Mr. Revilla because in case there will be an opposition to this last will and testament we can prove that this is the genuine will and
testament and not changed.
A Yes, that is true sir, that is the truth. (p. 134, Rollo.)
He declared that he did not execute another last will and testament after the original will had been probated.
Q Will you tell us Don Cayetano if you ever executed a last will and testament after this one has been probated by the Court?
A None, sir. (p. 135. Rollo.)
The petitioner's contention that Don Cayetano's denial constitutes "negative declaration" which has no "probative value under the rules of evidence" (p.
73, Rollo) is not correct. Don Cayetano's assertion that he did not execute another will, was not negative evidence. Evidence is negative when the
witness states that he did not see or know the occurrence of a fact, and positive when the witness affirms that a fact did or did not occur (2 Moore an
Facts,
p 1338). Don Cayetano's declaration that he did not execute a second will, constitutes positive evidence of a fact personally known to himself: that he
did not make a second will. As correctly held by the Court of Appeals:
This categorical denial by the late Cayetano Revilla must be believed by everybody. If he denied having executed another will, who are we to insist that
he made another or second will after the probate of his will dated January 28, 1978? The testimonies of the alleged notary public as well as the three
instrumental witnesses of the alleged second will of the late Cayetano Revilla cannot outweigh the denial of the late Cayetano Revilla. . . . . (p. 95,
Rollo.)
Significantly, although the petitioner opposed the reconstitution of Don Cayetano's first will, he did not reveal the second will which Don Cayetano
supposedly made only two (2) months before he testified in the reconstitution proceeding. Why was the second will kept under wraps? Did Heracio fear
that if Don Cayetano were confronted with the document, he would have disowned it? The explanation of the petitioner that an inquiry into the existence
of the second will "was totally uncalled for, immaterial, and irrelevant" (p. 96, Rollo), is unconvincing. For if the second will already existed on November
27, 1982, it would have been Heracio's strongest argument against the reconstitution of the probate of the first will.
The petitioner's argument that Don Cayetano's testimony is inadmissible because petitioner's counsel, Attorney Layosa, had no opportunity to crossexamine him (p. 146, Rollo), does not wash. The opportunity was there all the time. Attorney Layosa simply made no attempt to exercise his right to
cross-examine Don Cayetano.
If Don Cayetano's testimony was "an honest mistake due to a misapprehension of fact" as the petitioner insists (p. 35, Rollo), that mistake would have
been rectified by inviting his attention to the second will. It seems, however, that Attorney Layosa was under constraint not to disclose the second will to
Don Cayetano.
Even the letter that Don Cayetano supposedly sent to the court disowning the petition for reconstitution of the records of the first probate proceeding, did
not disclose that he had already made another will. As pointedly observed by the Court of Appeals, if Don Cayetano were aware that he made a second
will, he "could have easily told the Court that the reconstitution proceeding was useless" because he had already made a second will revoking the first
(pp. 54-55, Rollo).
The testimonies of the notary and attesting witnesses and even the photographs of what purported to be the signing of the second will were not given
credit by the trial court and the Court of Appeals. The court's observation that the photographs do not show the nature of the document that was being
signed, nor the date of the transaction, is valid. The lower court's distrust for the testimonies of the attesting witnesses to the second will deserves our
highest respect (People vs. Sarol, 139 SCRA 125; Guita vs. CA., 139 SCRA 576; People vs. Cabanit, 139 SCRA 94).
Since the execution of the second will could not have occurred on the date (September 13, 1982) appearing therein (for Don Cayetano was admittedly
sick in the hospital then) it must have been procured at the time when the testator was a virtual prisoner, held incommunicado, in his house. The
Honorable Judge (later Court of Appeals Justice) Eduardo Bengson had to issue an order commanding the petitioner to allow his eight (8) brothers and
sisters to visit Don Cayetano. Only then were they able to penetrate the iron curtain that Heracio had placed around their uncle. A videotape, taken
during their pleasant visit with the old man and shown in court, belied Heracio's allegation that Don Cayetano was displeased with his said nephews and
nieces, that was why he left them out of his second will.
Despite Judge Bengzon's order, Heracio did not cease his efforts to monopolize Don Cayetano and his estate. To isolate Don Cayetano and make him
inacessible to the private respondents, Heracio transferred him from his own house on Claro M. Recto Avenue in Manila to Heracio's house in
Novaliches, Quezon City.

The execution of the second will in an environment of secrecy and seclusion and the disinheritance of his eight (8) other nephews and nieces of whom
he was equally fond, justified the trial court's and the Court of Appeals' belief that undue influence was exercised by Horacio over Don Cayetano to make
him sign the second will (which Don Cayetano did not know to be such) in order to deprive his brothers and sisters of their rightful share in their uncle's
estate.
The employment of undue influence by Heracio was not "mutually repugnant" to fraud (p. 172, Rollo) as the petitioner insists, for it was the means
employed by Heracio to defraud his brothers and sisters of their share in Don Cayetano's estate.
There was fraud because Don Cayetano was not apprised that the document he was signing with Co, Barredo and Lim was a second will revoking the
dispositions of property that he made in his first will. Had he been aware that it was a second will, and if it were prepared at his own behest, he would not
have denied that he made it. He would probably have caused it to be probated while he was still alive, as he did with his first will.
But apparently, the instrument was foisted on him without his being aware of its true nature which the petitioner assiduously concealed, not only from the
court and the private respondents, but from Don Cayetano himself.
That the dispositions in the second will were not made by Don Cayetano is proven by the omission therefrom of Don Cayetano's reservation of one-tenth
of his properties and the income thereof to pay for holy masses for the repose of his soul and to be spent for the maintenance of his family chapel which
houses the religious images he owned in San Miguel, Bulacan. That provision in his first will, for his personal benefit, would not have been deleted by
Don Cayetano if his only purpose in making a second will was to disinherit his eight nephews and nieces. But Heracio overdid himself. He wanted
everything.
The objection to the deposition of Don Cayetano for want of an oath before he testified, is tardy. Objection to the lack of an oath should have been made
at the taking of his deposition. Section 29(d), Rule 24 of the Rules of Court provides:
(d) As to oral examination and other particulars
Errors and irregularities occurring at the oral examination in the manner of taking the deposition, in the form of the questions or answers, in the oath or
affirmation, or in the conduct of the parties anderrors of any kind which might be obviated, removed, or cured if promptly prosecuted, are waived unless
reasonable objection thereto is made at the taking of the deposition. (Emphasis ours.)
While the petitioner puts much stock in the supposed due execution of the will and the competence of the attesting witnesses Co, Barredo and Lim
the trial court, with whom the Court of Appeals agreed, gave them low marks for credibility. The factual observations of the Court of Appeals on this point
are quoted below:
Assuming for the sake of arguments that the second will was executed, the testimonies of the notary public who prepared and before whom the will was
acknowledged, as well as those of the three (3) instrumental witnesses thereof were not given credit by the lower court, and so with this Court, because
of major contradictions in testimonies.
As regards notary public Atty. Mendoza, the court a quo doubted his credibility as follows:
The prevarications on the testimonies of witnesses are not difficult to find especially if we consider that in a second meeting only with Don Cayetano,
Atty. Mendoza would readily be entrusted with the delicate and confidential preparation of a second will, designed to disinherit his eight nephews and
nieces in favor of Heracio, the operator of the bowling alley where witness Mendoza always play; . . . (p. 36, Decision; p. 179, Records)
. . . Added to this is the statement of Atty. Mendoza that the old man could understood (sic) both English or Tagalog. On this score, this Court entertains
doubt as to its truthfulness because it was testified to by Barredo, prosecution witness and corroborated by Ms. Bingel, principal witness for the
oppositors, that the old man is versatile in Tagalog as he is a Bulakeo but could not speak English except to say word, yes, sir. . . . . (p. 33, Decision, p.
176, Records).
With respect to witness Alfredo Barredo, the truthfulness of his testimonies was doubted by the lower court in this wise:
. . . . Another point noticed by this Court is the testimony of Alfredo Barredo that after talking with Atty. Mendoza at the phone he was asked by the old
man to fetch the 2 witnesses however when asked on direct examination, he stated that he stayed all along with the old man and did not leave him even
after talking with Atty. Mendoza, which spells a whale of difference in time element and enormously distanced from the truth. So also, his exaggerated
demonstration of the ability of the old man in answering even small children yes, sir, is too good to be true. . . . . (pp. 33-34, Decision, pp. 176-177,
Records).
Witness Dr. Co's testimony that he did not charge the late Cayetano Revilla for two services rendered by him and that he only charged when a third
service was made was also doubted by the lower court. Said the court a quo:
. . . witnesses Co, a practicing dentist was munificent enough not to charge Don Cayetano for two time services and only charged him the 3rd time.
It may be added here that the testimony of Dr. Co that the testator read his will in silence before they were asked to affix their signatures (tsn., Aug. 17,
1987, pp. 30-31, 45) is completely different from the testimony of another witness (Fernando Lim) who testified that the late Don Cayetano read his will
aloud before he gave it to the witnesses for their signatures (tsn., Aug. 13, 1987, pp. 47, 52).
The above citations of the inconsistencies and contradictions fatally made by said witnesses are only some of the more important ones as discussed in
the decision of the lower court. But they are enough, to say the least, to convince this Court that indeed said witnesses crossed the boundaries of their
credibilities. (pp. 56-57, Rollo.)
WHEREFORE, finding no reversible error in the decision of the Court of Appeals, the petition for review is DENIED. Costs against the petitioner.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 45629


September 22, 1938
ANTILANO G. MERCADO, petitioner,
vs.
ALFONSO SANTOS, Judge of First Instance of Pampanga, respondents.
ROSARIO BASA DE LEON, ET AL., intervenors.
Claro M. Recto and Benigno S. Aquino for petitioner.
Esperanza de la Cruz and Heracio Abistao for respondents.
Sotto and Sotto for intervenors.
LAUREL, J.:
On May 28, 1931, the petitioner herein filed in the Court of First Instance of Pampanga a petition for the probate of the will of his deceased wife, Ines
Basa. Without any opposition, and upon the testimony of Benigno F. Gabino, one of the attesting witnesses, the probate court, on June 27,1931,
admitted the will to probate. Almost three years later, on April 11, 1934, the five intervenors herein moved ex parte to reopen the proceedings, alleging
lack of jurisdiction of the court to probate the will and to close the proceedings. Because filed ex parte, the motion was denied. The same motion was
filed a second time, but with notice to the adverse party. The motion was nevertheless denied by the probate court on May 24, 1934. On appeal to this
court, the order of denial was affirmed on July 26, 1935. (Basa vs. Mercado, 33 Off. Gaz., 2521.)
It appears that on October 27, 1932, i. e., sixteen months after the probate of the will of Ines Basa, intervenor Rosario Basa de Leon filed with the justice
of the peace court of San Fernando, Pampanga, a complaint against the petitioner herein, for falsification or forgery of the will probated as above
indicated. The petitioner was arrested. He put up a bond in the sum of P4,000 and engaged the services of an attorney to undertake his defense.
Preliminary investigation of the case was continued twice upon petition of the complainant. The complaint was finally dismissed, at the instance of the
complainant herself, in an order dated December 8, 1932. Three months later, or on March 2, 1933, the same intervenor charged the petitioner for the
second time with the same offense, presenting the complaint this time in the justice of the peace court of Mexico, Pampanga. The petitioner was again
arrested, again put up a bond in the sum of P4,000, and engaged the services of counsel to defend him. This second complaint, after investigation, was
also dismissed, again at the instance of the complainant herself who alleged that the petitioner was in poor health. That was on April 27, 1933. Some
nine months later, on February 2, 1934, to be exact, the same intervenor accused the same petitioner for the third time of the same offense. The
information was filed by the provincial fiscal of Pampanga in the justice of the peace court of Mexico. The petitioner was again arrested, again put up a
bond of P4,000, and engaged the services of defense counsel. The case was dismissed on April 24, 1934, after due investigation, on the ground that the
will alleged to have been falsified had already been probated and there was no evidence that the petitioner had forged the signature of the testatrix
appearing thereon, but that, on the contrary, the evidence satisfactorily established the authenticity of the signature aforesaid. Dissatisfied with the result,
the provincial fiscal, on May 9, 1934, moved in the Court of First Instance of Pampanga for reinvestigation of the case. The motion was granted on May
23, 1934, and, for the fourth time, the petitioner was arrested, filed a bond and engaged the services of counsel to handle his defense. The
reinvestigation dragged on for almost a year until February 18, 1934, when the Court of First Instance ordered that the case be tried on the merits. The
petitioner interposed a demurrer on November 25, 1935, on the ground that the will alleged to have been forged had already been probated. This
demurrer was overruled on December 24, 1935, whereupon an exception was taken and a motion for reconsideration and notice of appeal were filed.
The motion for reconsideration and the proposed appeal were denied on January 14, 1936. The case proceeded to trial, and forthwith petitioner moved
to dismiss the case claiming again that the will alleged to have been forged had already been probated and, further, that the order probating the will is
conclusive as to the authenticity and due execution thereof. The motion was overruled and the petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for
certiorari with preliminary injunction to enjoin the trial court from further proceedings in the matter. The injunction was issued and thereafter, on June 19,
1937, the Court of Appeals denied the petition for certiorari, and dissolved the writ of preliminary injunction. Three justices dissented in a separate
opinion. The case is now before this court for review on certiorari.
Petitioner contends (1) that the probate of the will of his deceased wife is a bar to his criminal prosecution for the alleged forgery of
1. Section 306 of our Code of Civil Procedure provides as to the effect of judgments.
SEC. 306. Effect of judgment. The effect of a judgment or final order in an action or special proceeding before a court or judge of the Philippine
Islands or of the United States, or of any State or Territory of the United States, having jurisdiction to pronounce the judgment or order, may be as
follows.
1. In case of a judgment or order against a specific thing, or in respect to the probate of a will, or the administration of the estate of a deceased person,
or in respect to the personal, political, or legal condition or relation of a particular person, the judgment or order is conclusive upon the title of the thing,
the will or administration, or the condition or relation of the person Provided, That the probate of a will or granting of letters of administration shall only be
prima facie evidence of the death of the testator or intestate.
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(Emphasis ours.)
Section 625 of the same Code is more explicit as to the conclusiveness of the due execution of a probate will. It says.
SEC. 625. Allowance Necessary, and Conclusive as to Execution. No will shall pass either the real or personal estate, unless it is proved and allowed
in the Court of First Instance, or by appeal to the Supreme Court; and the allowance by the court of a will of real and personal estate shall be conclusive
as to its due execution. (Emphasis ours.)
(In Manahan vs. Manahan 58 Phil., 448, 451), we held:
. . . The decree of probate is conclusive with respect to the due execution thereof and it cannot be impugned on any of the grounds authorized by law,
except that of fraud, in any separate or independent action or proceeding. Sec. 625, Code of Civil Procedure; Castaeda vs. Alemany, 3 Phil., 426;
Pimentel vs.Palanca, 5 Phil., 436; Sahagun vs. De Gorostiza, 7 Phil., 347; Limjuco vs. Ganara, 11 Phil., 393; Montaano vs. Suesa, 14 Phil., 676; in re
Estate of Johnson, 39 Phil, 156; Riera vs. Palmaroli, 40 Phil., 105; Austria vs. Ventenilla, 21 Phil., 180; Ramirez vs. Gmur, 42 Phil., 855; and Chiong
Jocsoy vs. Vano, 8 Phil., 119.
In 28 R. C. L., p. 377, section 378, it is said.
The probate of a will by the probate court having jurisdiction thereof is usually considered as conclusive as to its due execution and validity, and is also
conclusive that the testator was of sound and disposing mind at the time when he executed the will, and was not acting under duress, menace, fraud, or
undue influence,and that the will is genuine and not a forgery. (Emphasis ours.)
As our law on wills, particularly section 625 of our Code of Civil Procedure aforequoted, was taken almost bodily from the Statutes of Vermont, the
decisions of the Supreme Court of the State relative to the effect of the probate of a will are of persuasive authority in this jurisdiction. The Vermont
statute as to the conclusiveness of the due execution of a probated will reads as follows.
SEC. 2356. No will shall pass either real or personal estate, unless it is proved and allowed in the probate court, or by appeal in the county or supreme
court; and the probate of a will of real or personal estate shall be conclusive as to its due execution. (Vermont Statutes, p. 451.)
Said the Supreme Court of Vermont in the case of Missionary Society vs. Eells (68 Vt., 497, 504): "The probate of a will by the probate court having
jurisdiction thereof, upon the due notice, is conclusive as to its due execution against the whole world . (Vt. St., sec. 2336; Fosters Exrs. vs. Dickerson,
64 Vt., 233.)"

The probate of a will in this jurisdiction is a proceeding in rem. The provision of notice by Publication as a prerequisite to the allowance of a will is
constructive notice to the whole world, and when probate is granted, the judgment of the court is binding upon everybody, even against the State. This
court held in the case of Manalo vs. Paredes and Philippine Food Co. (47 Phil., 938):
The proceeding for the probate of a will is one in rem (40 Cyc., 1265), and the court acquires jurisdiction over all the persons interested, through the
publication of the notice prescribed by section 630 of the Code of Civil Procedure, and any order that may be entered therein is binding against all of
them.
Through the publication of the petition for the probate of the will, the court acquires jurisdiction over all such persons as are interested in said will; and
any judgment that may be rendered after said proceeding is binding against the whole world.
In Everrett vs. Wing (103 Vt., 488, 492), the Supreme Court of Vermont held.
In this State the probate of a will is a proceeding in rem being in form and substance upon the will itself to determine its validity. The judgment
determines the status of the instrument, whether it is or is not the will of the testator. When the proper steps required by law have been taken the
judgment is binding upon everybody, and makes the instrument as to all the world just what the judgment declares it to be. (Woodruff vs. Taylor, 20 Vt.,
65, 73; Burbeck vs. Little, 50 Vt., 713, 715; Missionary Society vs. Eells, 68 Vt., 497, 504; 35 Atl., 463.) The proceedings before the probate court are
statutory and are not governed by common law rules as to parties or causes of action. (Holdrige vs. Holdriges Estate, 53 Vt., 546, 550; Purdy vs. Estate
of Purdy, 67 Vt. 50, 55; 30 Atl., 695.) No process is issued against anyone in such proceedings, but all persons interested in determining the state or
conditions of the instrument are constructively notified by the publication of notice as required by G. L. 3219. (Woodruff vs. Taylor, supra; In re Warners
Estate 98 Vt., 254; 271; 127 Atl., 362.)
Section 333, paragraph 4, of the Code of Civil Procedure establishes an incontrovertible presumption in favor of judgments declared by it to be
conclusive.
SEC. 333. Conclusive Presumptions. The following presumptions or deductions, which the law expressly directs to be made from particular facts, are
deemed conclusive.
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4. The judgment or order of a court, when declared by this code to be conclusive.
Conclusive presumptions are inferences which the law makes so peremptory that it will not allow them to be overturned by any contrary proof however
strong. (Brant vs. Morning Journal Assn., 80 N.Y.S., 1002, 1004; 81 App. Div., 183; see, also, Joslyn vs. Puloer, 59 Hun., 129, 140, 13 N.Y.S., 311.) The
will in question having been probated by a competent court, the law will not admit any proof to overthrow the legal presumption that it is genuine and not
a forgery.
The majority decision of the Court of Appeals cites English decisions to bolster up its conclusion that "the judgment admitting the will to probate is
binding upon the whole world as to the due execution and genuineness of the will insofar as civil rights and liabilities are concerned, but not for the
purpose of punishment of a crime." The cases of Dominus Rex vs. Vincent, 93 English Reports, Full Reprint, 795, the first case being decided in 1721,
were cited to illustrate the earlier English decisions to the effect that upon indictment for forging a will, the probating of the same is conclusive evidence
in the defendants favor of its genuine character. Reference is made, however, to the cases of Rex vs. Gibson, 168 English Reports, Full Reprint, 836,
footnote (a), decided in 1802, and Rex vs. Buttery and Macnamarra, 168 English Reports, Full Reprint, 836, decided in 1818, which establish a contrary
rule. Citing these later cases, we find the following quotation from Black on Judgments, Vol. II, page 764.
A judgment admitting a will to probate cannot be attacked collaterally although the will was forged; and a payment to the executor named therein of a
debt due the decedent will discharge the same, notwithstanding the spurious character of the instrument probated. It has also been held that, upon an
indictment for forging a will, the probate of the paper in question is conclusive evidence in the defendants favor of its genuine character. But this
particular point has lately been ruled otherwise.
It was the case of Rex vs. Buttery, supra, which induced the Supreme Court of Massachussetts in the case of Waters vs. Stickney (12 Allen 1; 90 Am.
Dec., 122) also cited by the majority opinion, to hold that "according to later and sounder decisions, the probate, though conclusive until set aside of the
disposition of the property, does not protect the forger from punishment." This was reproduced in 28 R.C.L., p. 376, and quoted in Barry vs.Walker (103
Fla., 533; 137 So., 711, 715), and Thompson vs. Freeman (149 So., 740, 742), also cited in support of the majority opinion of the Court of Appeals. The
dissenting opinion of the Court of Appeals in the instant case under review makes a cursory study of the statutes obtaining in England, Massachussetts
and Florida, and comes to the conclusion that the decisions cited in the majority opinion do not appear to "have been promulgated in the face of statutes
similar to ours." The dissenting opinion cites Whartons Criminal Evidence (11th ed., sec. 831), to show that the probate of a will in England is only prima
facie proof of the validity of the will (Op. Cit. quoting Marriot vs. Marriot, 93 English Reprint, 770); and 21 L.R.A. (pp. 686689 and note), to show that in
Massachussetts there is no statute making the probate of a will conclusive, and that in Florida the statute(sec. 1810, Revised Statutes) makes the
probate conclusive evidence as to the validity of the will with regard to personal, and prima facie as to real estate. The cases decided by the Supreme
Court of Florida cited by the majority opinion, supra, refer to wills of both personal and real estate.
The petitioner cites the case of State vs. McGlynn (20 Cal., 233, decided in 1862), in which Justice Norton of the Supreme Court of California, makes the
following review of the nature of probate proceedings in England with respect to wills personal and real property.
In England, the probate of wills of personal estate belongs to the Ecclesiastical Courts. No probate of a will relating to real estate is there necessary. The
real estate, upon the death of the party seized, passes immediately to the devisee under the will if there be one; or if there be no will, to the heir at law.
The person who thus becomes entitled takes possession. If one person claims to be the owner under a will, and another denies the validity of the will
and claims to be the owner as heir at law, an action of ejectment is brought against the party who may be in possession by the adverse claimant; and on
the trial of such an action, the validity of the will is contested, and evidence may be given by the respective parties as to the capacity of the testator to
make a will, or as to any fraud practiced upon him, or as to the actual execution of it, or as to any other circumstance affecting its character as a valid
devise of the real estate in dispute. The decision upon the validity of the will in such action becomes res adjudicata, and is binding and conclusive upon
the parties to that action and upon any person who may subsequently acquire the title from either of those parties; but the decision has no effect upon
other parties, and does not settle what may be called the status or character of the will, leaving it subject to be enforced as a valid will, or defeated as
invalid, whenever other parties may have a contest depending upon it. A probate of a will of personal property, on the contrary, is a judicial determination
of the character of the will itself. It does not necessarily or ordinarily arise from any controversy between adverse claimants, but is necessary in order to
authorize a disposition of the personal estate in pursuance of its provisions. In case of any controversy between adverse claimants of the personal
estate, the probate is given in evidence and is binding upon the parties, who are not at liberty to introduce any other evidence as to the validity of the will.
The intervenors, on the other hand, attempt to show that the English law on wills is different from that stated in the case of State vs. McGlynn, supra,
citing the following statutes.
1. The Wills Act, 1837 (7 Will. 4 E 1 Vict. c. 26).
2. The Court of Probate Act, 1857 (20 and 21 Vict. c. 77).

3. The Judicature Act, 1873 (36 and 37 Vict. c. 66).


The Wills Act of 1837 provides that probate may be granted of "every instrumental purporting to be testamentary and executed in accordance with the
statutory requirements . . . if it disposes of property, whether personal or real." The Ecclesiastical Courts which took charge of testamentary causes
(Ewells Blackstone [1910], p. 460), were determined by the Court of Probate Act of 1857, and the Court of Probate in turn was, together with other
courts, incorporated into the Supreme Court of Judicature, and transformed into the Probate Division thereof, by the Judicature Act of 1873. (Lord
Halsbury, The Laws of England[1910], pp. 151156.) The intervenors overlook the fact, however, that the case of Rex vs. Buttery and Macnamarra, supra,
upon which they rely in support of their theory that the probate of a forged will does not protect the forger from punishment, was decided long before the
foregoing amendatory statutes to the English law on wills were enacted. The case of State vs. McGlynn may be considered, therefore, as more or less
authoritative on the law of England at the time of the promulgation of the decision in the case of Rex vs. Buttery and Macnamarra.
In the case of State vs. McGlynn, the Attorney General of California filed an information to set aside the probate of the will of one Broderick, after the
lapse of one year provided by the law of California for the review of an order probating a will, in order that the estate may be escheated to the State of
California for the review of an probated will was forged and that Broderick therefore died intestate, leaving no heirs, representatives or devisees capable
of inheriting his estate. Upon these facts, the Supreme Court of California held.
The fact that a will purporting to be genuine will of Broderick, devising his estate to a devisee capable of inheriting and holding it, has been admitted to
probate and established as a genuine will by the decree of a Probate Court having jurisdiction of the case, renders it necessary to decide whether that
decree, and the will established by it, or either of them, can be set aside and vacated by the judgment of any other court . If it shall be found that the
decree of the Probate Court, not reversed by the appellate court, is final and conclusive, and not liable to be vacated or questioned by any other court,
either incidentally or by any direct proceeding, for the purpose of impeaching it, and that so long as the probate stands the will must be recognized and
admitted in all courts to be valid, then it will be immaterial and useless to inquire whether the will in question was in fact genuine or forged. (State vs.
McGlynn, 20 Cal., 233; 81 Am. Dec., 118, 121.).
Although in the foregoing case the information filed by the State was to set aside the decree of probate on the ground that the will was forged, we see no
difference in principle between that case and the case at bar. A subtle distinction could perhaps be drawn between setting aside a decree of probate, and
declaring a probated will to be a forgery. It is clear, however, that a duly probated will cannot be declared to be a forgery without disturbing in a way the
decree allowing said will to probate. It is at least anomalous that a will should be regarded as genuine for one purpose and spurious for another.
The American and English cases show a conflict of authorities on the question as to whether or not the probate of a will bars criminal prosecution of the
alleged forger of the probate will. We have examined some important cases and have come to the conclusion that no fixed standard maybe adopted or
drawn therefrom, in view of the conflict no less than of diversity of statutory provisions obtaining in different jurisdictions. It behooves us, therefore, as the
court of last resort, to choose that rule most consistent with our statutory law, having in view the needed stability of property rights and the public interest
in general. To be sure, we have seriously reflected upon the dangers of evasion from punishment of culprits deserving of the severity of the law in cases
where, as here, forgery is discovered after the probate of the will and the prosecution is had before the prescription of the offense. By and large,
however, the balance seems inclined in favor of the view that we have taken. Not only does the law surround the execution of the will with the necessary
formalities and require probate to be made after an elaborate judicial proceeding, but section 113, not to speak of section 513, of our Code of Civil
Procedure provides for an adequate remedy to any party who might have been adversely affected by the probate of a forged will, much in the same way
as other parties against whom a judgment is rendered under the same or similar circumstances. (Pecson vs. Coronel, 43 Phil., 358.)The aggrieved party
may file an application for relief with the proper court within a reasonable time, but in no case exceeding six months after said court has rendered the
judgment of probate, on the ground of mistake, inadvertence, surprise or excusable neglect. An appeal lies to review the action of a court of first instance
when that court refuses to grant relief. (Banco Espaol Filipino vs.Palanca, 37 Phil., 921; Philippine Manufacturing Co. vs. Imperial, 47 Phil., 810; Samia
vs. Medina, 56 Phil., 613.) After a judgment allowing a will to be probated has become final and unappealable, and after the period fixed by section 113
of the Code of Civil Procedure has expired, the law as an expression of the legislative wisdom goes no further and the case ends there.
. . . The court of chancery has no capacity, as the authorities have settled, to judge or decide whether a will is or is not a forgery; and hence there would
be an incongruity in its assuming to set aside a probate decree establishing a will, on the ground that the decree was procured by fraud, when it can only
arrive at the fact of such fraud by first deciding that the will was a forgery. There seems, therefore, to be a substantial reason, so long as a court of
chancery is not allowed to judge of the validity of a will, except as shown by the probate, for the exception of probate decrees from the jurisdiction which
courts of chancery exercise in setting aside other judgments obtained by fraud. But whether the exception be founded in good reason or otherwise, it
has become too firmly established to be disregarded. At the present day, it would not be a greater assumption to deny the general rule that courts of
chancery may set aside judgments procured by fraud, than to deny the exception to that rule in the case of probate decrees. We must acquiesce in the
principle established by the authorities, if we are unable to approve of the reason. Judge Story was a staunch advocate for the most enlarged jurisdiction
of courts of chancery, and was compelled to yield to the weight of authority. He says "No other excepted case is known to exist; and it is not easy to
discover the grounds upon which this exception stands, in point of reason or principle, although it is clearly settled by authority. (1 Storys Eq. Jur. sec.
440.)" (State vs. McGlynn, 20 Cal., 233; 81 Am. Dec., 118, 129. See, also, Tracy vs. Muir, 121 American State Reports, 118, 125.)
We hold, therefore, that in view of the provisions of sections 306, 333 and 625 of our Code of Civil Procedure, criminal action will not lie in this
jurisdiction against the forger of a will which had been duly admitted to probate by a court of competent jurisdiction.
The resolution of the foregoing legal question is sufficient to dispose of the case. However, the other legal question with reference to the denial to the
accused of his right to a speedy trial having been squarely raised and submitted, we shall proceed to consider the same in the light of cases already
adjudicated by this court.
2. The Constitution of the Philippines provides that "In all criminal prosecutions the accused . . . shall enjoy the right . . . to have a speedy . . . trial. . . .
(Art. III, sec. 1, par. 17. See, also, G.O. No. 58, sec. 15, No. 7.) Similar provisions are to be found in the Presidents Instructions to the Second Philippine
Commission (par. 11), the Philippine Bill of July 1, 1902 (sec. 5, par. 2) and the Jones Act of August 29, 1916 (sec. 3, par. 2). The provisions in the
foregoing organic acts appear to have been taken from similar provisions in the Constitution of the United States (6th Amendment) and those of the
various states of the American Union. A similar injunction is contained in the Malolos Constitution (art. 8, Title IV), not to speak of other constitutions.
More than once this court had occasion to set aside the proceedings in criminal cases to give effect to the constitutional injunction of speedy trial.
(Conde vs. Judge of First Instance and Fiscal of Tayabas [1923], 45 Phil., 173; Conde vs. Rivera and Unson[1924], 45 Phil., 650; People vs. Castaeda
and Fernandez[1936]), 35 Off. Gaz., 1269; Kalaw vs. Apostol, Oct. 15, 1937, G.R. No. 45591; Esguerra vs. De la Costa, Aug. 30,1938, G.R. No.
46039.).
In Conde vs. Rivera and Unson, supra, decided before the adoption of our Constitution, we said.
Philippine organic and statutory law expressly guarantee that in all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right to have a speedy trial. Aurelia
Conde, like all other accused persons, has a right to a speedy trial in order that if innocent she may go free, and she has been deprived of that right in
defiance of law. Dismissed from her humble position, and compelled to dance attendance on courts while investigations and trials are arbitrarily
postponed without her consent, is palpably and openly unjust to her and a detriment to the public. By the use of reasonable diligence, the prosecution
could have settled upon the appropriate information, could have attended to the formal preliminary examination, and could have prepared the case for a
trial free from vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays.

In People vs. Castaeda and Fernandez, supra, this court found that the accused had not been given a fair and impartial trial. The case was to have
been remanded to the court a quo for a new trial before an impartial judge. This step, however, was found unnecessary. A review of the evidence
convinced this court that a judgment of conviction for theft, as charged, could not be sustained and, having in view the right to a speedy trial guaranteed
by the Constitution to every person accused of crime, entered a judgment acquitting the accused, with costs de oficio. We said.
. . . The Constitution, Article III, section 1, paragraph 17, guarantees to every accused person the right to a speedy trial. This criminal proceeding has
been dragging on for almost five years now. The accused have twice appealed to this court for redress from the wrong that they have suffered at the
hands of the trial court. At least one of them, namely Pedro Fernandez alias Piro, had been con-fined in prison from July 20, 1932 to November 27,
1934, for inability to post the required bond of P3,000 which was finally reduced to P300. The Government should be the last to set an example of delay
and oppression in the administration of justice and it is the moral and legal obligation of this court to see that the criminal proceedings against the
accused come to an end and that they be immediately dis-charged from the custody of the law. (Condevs. Rivera and Unson, 45 Phil., 651.)
In Kalaw vs. Apostol, supra, the petitioner invoked and this court applied and gave effect to the doctrines stated in the second Conde case, supra. In
granting the writs prayed for, this court, after referring to the constitutional and statutory provisions guaranteeing to persons accused of crime the right to
a speedy trial, said:
Se infiere de los preceptos legales transcritos que todo acusado en causa criminal tiene derecho a ser juzgado pronta y publicamente. Juicio rapido
significa un juicioque se celebra de acuerdo con la ley de procedimiento criminal y los reglamentos, libre de dilaciones vejatorias, caprichosas y
opersivas (Burnettvs. State, 76 Ark., 295; 88S. W., 956; 113 AMSR, 94; Stewart vs. State, 13 Ark., 720; Peo. vs. Shufelt, 61 Mich., 237; 28 N. W., 79;
Nixon vs. State, 10 Miss., 497; 41 AMD., 601; State vs. Cole, 4 Okl. Cr., 25; 109 P., 736; State vs. Caruthers, 1 Okl. Cr., 428; 98 P., 474; State vs. Keefe,
17 Wyo., 227, 98 p., 122;22 IRANS, 896; 17 Ann. Cas., 161). Segun los hechos admitidos resulta que al recurrente se le concedio vista parcial del
asunto, en el Juzgado de Primera Instancia de Samar, solo despues de haber transcurrido ya mas de un ao y medio desde la presentacion de la
primera querella y desde la recepcion de la causa en dicho Juzgado, y despues de haberse transferido dos veces la vista delasunto sin su
consentimiento. A esto debe aadirse que laprimera transferencia de vista era claramente injustificadaporque el motivo que se alego consistio
unicamente en laconveniencia personal del ofendido y su abogado, no habiendose probado suficientemente la alegacion del primero de quese hallaba
enfermo. Es cierto que el recurrente habia pedido que, en vez de sealarse a vista el asunto para el mayo de 1936, lo fuera para el noviembre del
mismo ao; pero,aparte de que la razon que alego era bastante fuerte porquesu abogado se oponia a comparecer por compromisos urgentes
contraidos con anterioridad y en tal circunstancia hubiera quedado indefenso si hubiese sido obligado a entraren juicio, aparece que la vista se pospuso
por el Juzgado amotu proprio, por haber cancelado todo el calendario judicial preparado por el Escribano para el mes de junio. Declaramos, con visto
de estos hechos, que al recurrents se leprivo de su derecho fundamental de ser juzgado prontamente.
Esguerra vs. De la Costa, supra, was a petition for mandamus to compel the respondent judge of the Court of First Instance of Rizal to dismiss the
complaint filed in a criminal case against the petitioner, to cancel the bond put up by the said petitioner and to declare the costs de oficio. In accepting
the contention that the petitioner had been denied speedy trial, this court said:
Consta que en menos de un ao el recurrente fue procesado criminalmente por el alegado delito de abusos deshonestos, en el Juzgado de Paz del
Municipio de Cainta, Rizal. Como consecuencia de las denuncias que contra el se presentaron fue arrestado tres veces y para gozar de libertad
provisional, en espera de los juicios, se vio obligado a prestartres fianzas por la suma de P1,000 cada una. Si no se da fin al proceso que ultimamente
se ha incoado contra el recurrente la incertidumbre continuara cerniendose sobre el y las consiguientes molestias y preocupaciones continuaran
igualmente abrumandole. El Titulo III, articulo 1, No. 17,de la Constitucion preceptua que en todo proceso criminalel acusado tiene derecho de ser
juzgado pronta y publicamente. El Articulo 15, No. 7, de la Orden General No. 58 dispone asimismo que en las causas criminales el acusado tendra
derecho a ser juzgado pronta y publicamente. Si el recurrente era realmente culpable del delito que se le imputo, tenia de todos modos derechos a que
fuera juzgado pronta y publicamente y sin dilaciones arbitrarias y vejatorias. Hemos declarado reiteradamente que existe un remedio positivo para los
casos en que se viola el derecho constitucional del acusado de ser juzgado prontamente. El acusado que esprivado de su derecho fundomental de ser
enjuiciado rapidamente tiene derecho a pedir que se le ponga en libertad, si estuviese detenido, o a que la causa que pende contra el sea sobreseida
definitivamente. (Conde contra Rivera y Unson, 45 Jur. Fil., 682; In the matter of Ford [1911], 160 Cal., 334; U. S. vs. Fox [1880], 3 Mont., 512; Kalaw
contra Apostol, R. G. No. 45591, Oct. 15, 1937; Pueblo contra Castaeda y Fernandez, 35 Gac. Of., 1357.)
We are again called upon to vindicate the fundamental right to a speedy trial. The facts of the present case may be at variance with those of the cases
hereinabove referred to. Nevertheless, we are of the opinion that, under the circumstances, we should consider the substance of the right instead of
indulging in more or less academic or undue factual differentiations. The petitioner herein has been arrested four times, has put up a bond in the sum of
P4,000 and has engaged the services of counsel to undertake his defense an equal number of times. The first arrest was made upon a complaint filed
by one of the intervenors herein for alleged falsification of a will which, sixteen months before, had been probated in court. This complaint, after
investigation, was dismissed at the complainant's own request. The second arrest was made upon a complaint charging the same offense and this
complaint, too, was dismissed at the behest of the complainant herself who alleged the quite startling ground that the petitioner was in poor health. The
third arrest was made following the filing of an information by the provincial fiscal of Pampanga, which information was dismissed, after due
investigation, because of insufficiency of the evidence. The fourth arrest was made when the provincial fiscal secured a reinvestigation of the case
against the petitioner on the pretext that he had additional evidence to present, although such evidence does not appear to have ever been presented.
It is true that the provincial fiscal did not intervene in the case until February 2, 1934, when he presented an information charging the petitioner, for the
third time, of the offense of falsification. This, however, does not matter. The prosecution of offenses is a matter of public interest and it is the duty of the
government or those acting in its behalf to prosecute all cases to their termination without oppressive, capricious and vexatious delay. The Constitution
does not say that the right to a speedy trial may be availed of only where the prosecution for crime is commenced and undertaken by the fiscal. It does
not exclude from its operation cases commenced by private individuals. Where once a person is prosecuted criminally, he is entitled to a speedy trial,
irrespective of the nature of the offense or the manner in which it is authorized to be commenced. In any event, even the actuations of the fiscal himself
in this case is not entirely free from criticism. From October 27, 1932, when the first complaint was filed in the justice of the peace court of San
Fernando, to February 2, 1934, when the provincial fiscal filed his information with the justice of the peace of Mexico, one year, three months and six
days transpired; and from April 27, 1933, when the second criminal complaint was dismissed by the justice of the peace of Mexico, to February 2, 1934,
nine months and six days elapsed. The investigation following the fourth arrest, made after the fiscal had secured a reinvestigation of the case, appears
also to have dragged on for about a year. There obviously has been a delay, and considering the antecedent facts and circumstances within the
knowledge of the fiscal, the delay may not at all be regarded as permissible. In Kalaw vs. Apostol, supra, we observed that the prosecuting officer all
prosecutions for public offenses (secs. 1681 and 2465 of the Rev. Adm. Code), and that it is his duty to see that criminal cases are heard without
vexatious, capricious and oppressive delays so that the courts of justice may dispose of them on the merits and determine whether the accused is guilty
or not. This is as clear an admonition as could be made. An accused person is entitled to a trial at the earliest opportunity. (Sutherland on the
Constitution, p. 664; United States vs. Fox, 3 Mont., 512.) He cannot be oppressed by delaying he commencement of trial for an unreasonable length of
time. If the proceedings pending trial are deferred, the trial itself is necessarily delayed. It is not to be supposed, of course, that the Constitution intends
to remove from the prosecution every reasonable opportunity to prepare for trial. Impossibilities cannot be expected or extraordinary efforts required on
the part of the prosecutor or the court. As stated by the Supreme Court of the United States, "The right of a speedy trial is necessarily relative. It is
consistent with delays and depends upon circumstances. It secures rights to a defendant. It does not preclude the rights of public justice." (Beavers

vs.Haubert [1905], 198 U. S., 86; 25 S. Ct., 573; 49 Law. ed., 950, 954.).
It may be true, as seems admitted by counsel for the intervenors, in paragraph 8, page 3 of his brief, that the delay was due to "the efforts towards
reaching an amicable extrajudicial compromise," but this fact, we think, casts doubt instead upon the motive which led the intervenors to bring criminal
action against the petitioner. The petitioner claims that the intention of the intervenors was to press upon settlement, with the continuous threat of
criminal prosecution, notwithstanding the probate of the will alleged to have been falsified. Argument of counsel for the petitioner in this regard is not
without justification. Thus after the filing of the second complaint with the justice of the peace court of Mexico, complainant herself, as we have seen,
asked for dismissal of the complaint, on the ground that "el acusado tenia la salud bastante delicada," and, apparently because of failure to arrive at any
settlement, she decided to renew her complaint.
Counsel for the intervenors contend and the contention is sustained by the Court of Appeals that the petitioner did not complain heretofore of the
denial of his constitutional right to a speedy trial. This is a mistake. When the petitioner, for the fourth time, was ordered arrested by the Court of First
Instance of Pampanga, he moved for reconsideration of the order of arrest, alleging, among other things, " Que por estas continuas acusaciones e
investigaciones, el acusado compareciente no obstante su mal estado de salud desde el ao 1932 en que tuvo que ser operado por padecer de
tuberculosis ha tenido que sostener litigios y ha sufrido la mar de humiliaciones y zozobras y ha incudo en enormes gastos y molestias y ha
desatendido su quebrantada salud." The foregoing allegation was inserted on page 6 of the amended petition for certiorari presented to the Court of
Appeals. The constitutional issue also appears to have been actually raised and considered in the Court of Appeals. In the majority opinion of that court,
it is stated:
Upon the foregoing facts, counsel for the petitioner submits for the consideration of this court the following questions of law: First, that the respondent
court acted arbitrarily and with abuse of its authority, with serious damage and prejudice to the rights and interests of the petitioner, in allowing that the
latter be prosecuted and arrested for the fourth time, and that he be subjected, also for the fourth time, to a preliminary investigation for the same
offense, hereby converting the court into an instrument of oppression and vengeance on the part of the alleged offended parties, Rosario Basa et al.; . . .
.
And in the dissenting opinion, we find the following opening paragraph:
We cannot join in a decision declining to stop a prosecution that has dragged for about five years and caused the arrest on four different occasions of a
law abiding citizen for the alleged offense of falsifying a will that years be competent jurisdiction.
From the view we take of the instant case, the petitioner is entitled to have the criminal proceedings against him quashed. The judgment of the Court of
Appeals is hereby reversed, without pronouncement regarding costs. So ordered.
Avancea, C.J., Villa-Real, Imperial, Diaz and Concepcion, JJ., concur.

G.R. No. L-58509 December 7, 1982


IN THE MATTER OF THE PETITION TO APPROVE THE WILL OF RICARDO B. BONILLA deceased, MARCELA RODELAS, petitioner-appellant,
vs.
AMPARO ARANZA, ET AL., oppositors-appellees, ATTY. LORENZO SUMULONG, intervenor.
Luciano A. Joson for petitioner-appellant.
Cesar Paralejo for oppositor-appellee.
RELOVA, J.:
This case was certified to this Tribunal by the Court of Appeals for final determination pursuant to Section 3, Rule 50 of the Rules of Court.
As found by the Court of Appeals:
... On January 11, 1977, appellant filed a petition with the Court of First Instance of Rizal for the probate of the holographic will of Ricardo B. Bonilla and
the issuance of letters testamentary in her favor. The petition, docketed as Sp. Proc. No. 8432, was opposed by the appellees Amparo Aranza Bonilla,
Wilferine Bonilla Treyes Expedita Bonilla Frias and Ephraim Bonilla on the following grounds:
(1) Appellant was estopped from claiming that the deceased left a will by failing to produce the will within twenty days of the death of the testator as
required by Rule 75, section 2 of the Rules of Court;
(2) The alleged copy of the alleged holographic will did not contain a disposition of property after death and was not intended to take effect after death,
and therefore it was not a will
(3) The alleged hollographic will itself,and not an alleged copy thereof, must be produced, otherwise it would produce no effect, as held in Gam v. Yap,
104 Phil. 509; and
(4 ) The deceased did not leave any will, holographic or otherwise, executed and attested as required by law.
The appellees likewise moved for the consolidation of the case with another case Sp. Proc. No, 8275). Their motion was granted by the court in an order
dated April 4, 1977.
On November 13, 1978, following the consolidation of the cases, the appellees moved again to dismiss the petition for the probate of the will. They
argued that:
(1) The alleged holographic was not a last will but merely an instruction as to the management and improvement of the schools and colleges founded by
decedent Ricardo B. Bonilla; and
(2) Lost or destroyed holographic wills cannot be proved by secondary evidence unlike ordinary wills.
Upon opposition of the appellant, the motion to dismiss was denied by the court in its order of February 23, 1979.
The appellees then filed a motion for reconsideration on the ground that the order was contrary to law and settled pronouncements and rulings of the
Supreme Court, to which the appellant in turn filed an opposition. On July 23, 1979, the court set aside its order of February 23, 1979 and dismissed the
petition for the probate of the will of Ricardo B. Bonilla. The court said:
... It is our considered opinion that once the original copy of the holographic will is lost, a copy thereof cannot stand in lieu of the original.
In the case of Gam vs. Yap, 104 Phil. 509, 522, the Supreme Court held that 'in the matter of holographic wills the law, it is reasonable to suppose,
regards the document itself as the material proof of authenticity of said wills.
MOREOVER, this Court notes that the alleged holographic will was executed on January 25, 1962 while Ricardo B. Bonilla died on May 13, 1976. In
view of the lapse of more than 14 years from the time of the execution of the will to the death of the decedent, the fact that the original of the will could
not be located shows to our mind that the decedent had discarded before his death his allegedly missing Holographic Will.
Appellant's motion for reconsideration was denied. Hence, an appeal to the Court of Appeals in which it is contended that the dismissal of appellant's
petition is contrary to law and well-settled jurisprudence.
On July 7, 1980, appellees moved to forward the case to this Court on the ground that the appeal does not involve question of fact and alleged that the
trial court committed the following assigned errors:
I. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT A LOST HOLOGRAPHIC WILL MAY NOT BE PROVED BY A COPY THEREOF;
II. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE DECEDENT HAS DISCARDED BEFORE HIS DEATH THE MISSING HOLOGRAPHIC WILL;
III. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN DISMISSING APPELLANT'S WILL.
The only question here is whether a holographic will which was lost or cannot be found can be proved by means of a photostatic copy. Pursuant to
Article 811 of the Civil Code, probate of holographic wills is the allowance of the will by the court after its due execution has been proved. The probate
may be uncontested or not. If uncontested, at least one Identifying witness is required and, if no witness is available, experts may be resorted to. If
contested, at least three Identifying witnesses are required. However, if the holographic will has been lost or destroyed and no other copy is available,
the will can not be probated because the best and only evidence is the handwriting of the testator in said will. It is necessary that there be a comparison
between sample handwritten statements of the testator and the handwritten will. But, a photostatic copy or xerox copy of the holographic will may be
allowed because comparison can be made with the standard writings of the testator. In the case of Gam vs. Yap, 104 PHIL. 509, the Court ruled that "the
execution and the contents of a lost or destroyed holographic will may not be proved by the bare testimony of witnesses who have seen and/or read
such will. The will itself must be presented; otherwise, it shall produce no effect. The law regards the document itself as material proof of authenticity."
But, in Footnote 8 of said decision, it says that "Perhaps it may be proved by a photographic or photostatic copy. Even a mimeographed or carbon copy;
or by other similar means, if any, whereby the authenticity of the handwriting of the deceased may be exhibited and tested before the probate court,"
Evidently, the photostatic or xerox copy of the lost or destroyed holographic will may be admitted because then the authenticity of the handwriting of the
deceased can be determined by the probate court.
WHEREFORE, the order of the lower court dated October 3, 1979, denying appellant's motion for reconsideration dated August 9, 1979, of the Order
dated July 23, 1979, dismissing her petition to approve the will of the late Ricardo B. Bonilla, is hereby SET ASIDE.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 122880


April 12, 2006
FELIX AZUELA, Petitioner,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS, GERALDA AIDA CASTILLO substituted by ERNESTO G. CASTILLO, Respondents.
DECISION
TINGA, J.:
The core of this petition is a highly defective notarial will, purportedly executed by Eugenia E. Igsolo (decedent), who died on 16 December 1982 at the
age of 80. In refusing to give legal recognition to the due execution of this document, the Court is provided the opportunity to assert a few important
doctrinal rules in the execution of notarial wills, all self-evident in view of Articles 805 and 806 of the Civil Code.
A will whose attestation clause does not contain the number of pages on which the will is written is fatally defective. A will whose attestation
clause is not signed by the instrumental witnesses is fatally defective. And perhaps most importantly, a will which does not contain an
acknowledgment, but a merejurat, is fatally defective. Any one of these defects is sufficient to deny probate. A notarial will with all three
defects is just aching for judicial rejection.
There is a distinct and consequential reason the Civil Code provides a comprehensive catalog of imperatives for the proper execution of a notarial will.
Full and faithful compliance with all the detailed requisites under Article 805 of the Code leave little room for doubt as to the validity in the due execution
of the notarial will. Article 806 likewise imposes another safeguard to the validity of notarial wills that they be acknowledged before a notary public by
the testator and the witnesses. A notarial will executed with indifference to these two codal provisions opens itself to nagging questions as to its
legitimacy.
The case stems from a petition for probate filed on 10 April 1984 with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila. The petition filed by petitioner Felix
Azuela sought to admit to probate the notarial will of Eugenia E. Igsolo, which was notarized on 10 June 1981. Petitioner is the son of the cousin of the
decedent.
The will, consisting of two (2) pages and written in the vernacular Pilipino, read in full:
HULING HABILIN NI EUGENIA E. IGSOLO
SA NGALAN NG MAYKAPAL, AMEN:
AKO, si EUGENIA E. IGSOLO, nakatira sa 500 San Diego St., Sampaloc, Manila, pitongput siyam (79) na gulang, nasa hustong pagi-isip, pag-unawa at
memoria ay nag-hahayag na ito na ang aking huling habilin at testamento, at binabali wala ko lahat ang naunang ginawang habilin o testamento:
Una-Hinihiling ko na ako ay mailibing sa Sementerio del Norte, La Loma sang-ayong sa kaugalian at patakaran ng simbahang katoliko at ang taga-pagingat (Executor) ng habiling ito ay magtatayo ng bantayog upang silbing ala-ala sa akin ng aking pamilya at kaibigan;
Pangalawa-Aking ipinagkakaloob at isinasalin ang lahat ng karapatan sa aking pamangkin na si Felix Azuela, na siyang nag-alaga sa akin sa mahabang
panahon, yaong mga bahay na nakatirik sa lote numero 28, Block 24 at nakapangalan sa Pechaten Korporasyon, ganoon din ibinibigay ko ang lahat ng
karapatan sa bahay na nakatirik sa inoopahan kong lote, numero 43, Block 24 na pag-aari ng Pechaten Corporation. Ipinagkakaloob kong buong buo
ang lahat ng karapatan sa bahay at lupa na nasa 500 San Diego St., Lot 42, Block 24, Sampaloc, Manila kay Felix Azuela at ang pagkakaloob kong ito
ay walang pasubalit at kondiciones;
Pangatlo- Na ninunumbrahan ko si VART PAGUE na siyang nagpapatupad ng huling habiling ito at kagustuhan ko rin na hindi na kailanman siyang
mag-lagak ng piyansiya.
Aking nilagdaan ang Huling Habilin na ito dito sa Maynila ika 10 ng Hunyo, 1981.
(Sgd.)
EUGENIA E. IGSOLO
(Tagapagmana)
PATUNAY NG MGA SAKSI
Ang kasulatang ito, na binubuo ng ____ dahon pati ang huling dahong ito, na ipinahayag sa amin ni Eugenia E. Igsolo, tagapagmana na siya niyang
Huling Habilin, ngayon ika-10 ng Hunyo 1981, ay nilagdaan ng nasabing tagapagmana sa ilalim ng kasulatang nabanggit at sa kaliwang panig ng lahat
at bawat dahon, sa harap ng lahat at bawat sa amin, at kami namang mga saksi ay lumagda sa harap ng nasabing tagapagmana at sa harap ng lahat
at bawat isa sa amin, sa ilalim ng nasabing kasulatan at sa kaliwang panig ng lahat at bawat dahon ng kasulatan ito.
EUGENIA E. IGSOLO
address: 500 San Diego St.
Sampaloc, Manila Res. Cert. No. A-7717-37
Issued at Manila on March 10, 1981.
QUIRINO AGRAVA
address: 1228-Int. 3, Kahilum
Pandacan, Manila Res. Cert. No. A-458365
Issued at Manila on Jan. 21, 1981
LAMBERTO C. LEAO
address: Avenue 2, Blcok 7,
Lot 61, San Gabriel, G.MA., Cavite Res.
Cert. No. A-768277 issued at Carmona, Cavite on Feb. 7, 1981
JUANITO ESTRERA
address: City Court Compound,
City of Manila Res. Cert. No. A574829
Issued at Manila on March 2, 1981.
Nilagdaan ko at ninotario ko ngayong 10 ng Hunyo 10, 1981 dito sa Lungsod ng Maynila.
(Sgd.)
PETRONIO Y. BAUTISTA
Doc. No. 1232 ; NOTARIO PUBLIKO
Page No. 86 ; Until Dec. 31, 1981
Book No. 43 ; PTR-152041-1/2/81-Manila
Series of 1981 TAN # 1437-977-81
The three named witnesses to the will affixed their signatures on the left-hand margin of both pages of the will, but not at the bottom of the attestation
clause.
The probate petition adverted to only two (2) heirs, legatees and devisees of the decedent, namely: petitioner himself, and one Irene Lynn Igsolo, who
was alleged to have resided abroad. Petitioner prayed that the will be allowed, and that letters testamentary be issued to the designated executor, Vart
Prague.

The petition was opposed by Geralda Aida Castillo (Geralda Castillo), who represented herself as the attorney-in-fact of "the 12 legitimate heirs" of the
decedent.2 Geralda Castillo claimed that the will is a forgery, and that the true purpose of its emergence was so it could be utilized as a defense in
several court cases filed by oppositor against petitioner, particularly for forcible entry and usurpation of real property, all centering on petitioners right to
occupy the properties of the decedent.3 It also asserted that contrary to the representations of petitioner, the decedent was actually survived by 12
legitimate heirs, namely her grandchildren, who were then residing abroad. Per records, it was subsequently alleged that decedent was the widow of
Bonifacio Igsolo, who died in 1965,4 and the mother of a legitimate child, Asuncion E. Igsolo, who predeceased her mother by three (3) months. 5
Oppositor Geralda Castillo also argued that the will was not executed and attested to in accordance with law. She pointed out that decedents signature
did not appear on the second page of the will, and the will was not properly acknowledged. These twin arguments are among the central matters to this
petition.
After due trial, the RTC admitted the will to probate, in an Order dated 10 August 1992. 6 The RTC favorably took into account the testimony of the three
(3) witnesses to the will, Quirino Agrava, Lamberto Leano, and Juanito Estrada. The RTC also called to fore "the modern tendency in respect to the
formalities in the execution of a will x x x with the end in view of giving the testator more freedom in expressing his last wishes;" 7 and from this
perspective, rebutted oppositors arguments that the will was not properly executed and attested to in accordance with law.
After a careful examination of the will and consideration of the testimonies of the subscribing and attesting witnesses, and having in mind the modern
tendency in respect to the formalities in the execution of a will, i.e., the liberalization of the interpretation of the law on the formal requirements of a will
with the end in view of giving the testator more freedom in expressing his last wishes, this Court is persuaded to rule that the will in question is authentic
and had been executed by the testatrix in accordance with law.
On the issue of lack of acknowledgement, this Court has noted that at the end of the will after the signature of the testatrix, the following statement is
made under the sub-title, "Patunay Ng Mga Saksi":
"Ang kasulatang ito, na binubuo ng _____ dahon pati ang huling dahong ito, na ipinahayag sa amin ni Eugenia N. Igsolo, tagapagmana na siya niyang
Huling Habilin, ngayong ika-10 ng Hunyo 1981, ay nilagdaan ng nasabing tagapagmana sa ilalim ng kasulatang nabanggit at sa kaliwang panig ng lahat
at bawat dahon, sa harap ng lahat at bawat sa amin, at kami namang mga saksi ay lumagda sa harap ng nasabing tagapagmana at sa harap ng lahat
at bawat isa sa amin, sa ilalim ng nasabing kasulatan at sa kaliwang panig ng lahat at bawat dahon ng kasulatan ito."
The aforequoted declaration comprises the attestation clause and the acknowledgement and is considered by this Court as a substantial compliance
with the requirements of the law.
On the oppositors contention that the attestation clause was not signed by the subscribing witnesses at the bottom thereof, this Court is of the view that
the signing by the subscribing witnesses on the left margin of the second page of the will containing the attestation clause and acknowledgment, instead
of at the bottom thereof, substantially satisfies the purpose of identification and attestation of the will.
With regard to the oppositors argument that the will was not numbered correlatively in letters placed on upper part of each page and that the attestation
did not state the number of pages thereof, it is worthy to note that the will is composed of only two pages. The first page contains the entire text of the
testamentary dispositions, and the second page contains the last portion of the attestation clause and acknowledgement. Such being so, the defects are
not of a serious nature as to invalidate the will. For the same reason, the failure of the testatrix to affix her signature on the left margin of the second
page, which contains only the last portion of the attestation clause and acknowledgment is not a fatal defect.
As regards the oppositors assertion that the signature of the testatrix on the will is a forgery, the testimonies of the three subscribing witnesses to the will
are convincing enough to establish the genuineness of the signature of the testatrix and the due execution of the will. 8
The Order was appealed to the Court of Appeals by Ernesto Castillo, who had substituted his since deceased mother-in-law, Geralda Castillo. In a
Decision dated 17 August 1995, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and ordered the dismissal of the petition for probate. 9 The Court of Appeals
noted that the attestation clause failed to state the number of pages used in the will, thus rendering the will void and undeserving of probate. 10
Hence, the present petition.
Petitioner argues that the requirement under Article 805 of the Civil Code that "the number of pages used in a notarial will be stated in the attestation
clause" is merely directory, rather than mandatory, and thus susceptible to what he termed as "the substantial compliance rule." 11
The solution to this case calls for the application of Articles 805 and 806 of the Civil Code, which we replicate in full.
Art. 805. Every will, other than a holographic will, must be subscribed at the end thereof by the testator himself or by the testator's name written by some
other person in his presence, and by his express direction, and attested and subscribed by three or more credible witnesses in the presence of the
testator and of one another.
The testator or the person requested by him to write his name and the instrumental witnesses of the will, shall also sign, as aforesaid, each and every
page thereof, except the last, on the left margin, and all the pages shall be numbered correlatively in letters placed on the upper part of each page.
The attestation shall state the number of pages used upon which the will is written, and the fact that the testator signed the will and every page thereof,
or caused some other person to write his name, under his express direction, in the presence of the instrumental witnesses, and that the latter witnessed
and signed the will and all the pages thereof in the presence of the testator and of one another.
If the attestation clause is in a language not known to the witnesses, it shall be interpreted to them.
Art. 806. Every will must be acknowledged before a notary public by the testator and the witnesses. The notary public shall not be required to retain a
copy of the will, or file another with the office of the Clerk of Court.
The appellate court, in its Decision, considered only one defect, the failure of the attestation clause to state the number of pages of the will. But an
examination of the will itself reveals several more deficiencies.
As admitted by petitioner himself, the attestation clause fails to state the number of pages of the will. 12 There was an incomplete attempt to comply with
this requisite, a space having been allotted for the insertion of the number of pages in the attestation clause. Yet the blank was never filled in; hence, the
requisite was left uncomplied with.
The Court of Appeals pounced on this defect in reversing the trial court, citing in the process Uy Coque v. Navas L. Sioca13 and In re: Will of Andrada.14
In Uy Coque, the Court noted that among the defects of the will in question was the failure of the attestation clause to state the number of pages
contained in the will.15 In ruling that the will could not be admitted to probate, the Court made the following consideration which remains highly relevant to
this day: "The purpose of requiring the number of sheets to be stated in the attestation clause is obvious; the document might easily be so prepared

that the removal of a sheet would completely change the testamentary dispositions of the will and in the absence of a statement of the total
number of sheets such removal might be effected by taking out the sheet and changing the numbers at the top of the following sheets or
pages. If, on the other hand, the total number of sheets is stated in the attestation clause the falsification of the document will involve the inserting of
new pages and the forging of the signatures of the testator and witnesses in the margin, a matter attended with much greater difficulty." 16
The case of In re Will of Andrada concerned a will the attestation clause of which failed to state the number of sheets or pages used. This consideration
alone was sufficient for the Court to declare "unanim[ity] upon the point that the defect pointed out in the attesting clause is fatal." 17 It was further
observed that "it cannot be denied that the x x x requirement affords additional security against the danger that the will may be tampered with; and as
the Legislature has seen fit to prescribe this requirement, it must be considered material." 18
Against these cited cases, petitioner cites Singson v. Florentino19 and Taboada v. Hon. Rosal,20 wherein the Court allowed probate to the wills concerned
therein despite the fact that the attestation clause did not state the number of pages of the will. Yet the appellate court itself considered the import of
these two cases, and made the following distinction which petitioner is unable to rebut, and which we adopt with approval:
Even a cursory examination of the Will (Exhibit "D"), will readily show that the attestation does not state the number of pages used upon which the will is
written. Hence, the Will is void and undeserving of probate.
We are not impervious of the Decisions of the Supreme Court in "Manuel Singson versus Emilia Florentino, et al., 92 Phil. 161 and Apolonio [Taboada]
versus Hon. Avelino Rosal, et al., 118 SCRA 195," to the effect that a will may still be valid even if the attestation does not contain the number of pages
used upon which the Will is written. However, the Decisions of the Supreme Court are not applicable in the aforementioned appeal at bench. This is so
because, in the case of "Manuel Singson versus Emilia Florentino, et al., supra," although the attestation in the subject Will did not state the number of
pages used in the will, however, the same was found in the last part of the body of the Will:
"x x x
The law referred to is article 618 of the Code of Civil Procedure, as amended by Act No. 2645, which requires that the attestation clause shall state the
number of pages or sheets upon which the will is written, which requirement has been held to be mandatory as an effective safeguard against the
possibility of interpolation or omission of some of the pages of the will to the prejudice of the heirs to whom the property is intended to be bequeathed (In
re Will of Andrada, 42 Phil. 180; Uy Coque vs. Navas L. Sioca, 43 Phil., 405; Gumban vs. Gorcho, 50 Phil. 30; Quinto vs. Morata, 54 Phil. 481;
Echevarria vs. Sarmiento, 66 Phil. 611). The ratio decidendi of these cases seems to be that the attestation clause must contain a statement of the
number of sheets or pages composing the will and that if this is missing or is omitted, it will have the effect of invalidating the will if the deficiency cannot
be supplied, not by evidence aliunde, but by a consideration or examination of the will itself. But here the situation is different. While the attestation
clause does not state the number of sheets or pages upon which the will is written, however, the last part of the body of the will contains a statement that
it is composed of eight pages, which circumstance in our opinion takes this case out of the rigid rule of construction and places it within the realm of
similar cases where a broad and more liberal view has been adopted to prevent the will of the testator from being defeated by purely technical
considerations." (page 165-165, supra) (Underscoring supplied)
In "Apolonio Tabaoda versus Hon. Avelino Rosal, et al." supra, the notarial acknowledgement in the Will states the number of pages used in the:
"x x x
We have examined the will in question and noticed that the attestation clause failed to state the number of pages used in writing the will. This would
have been a fatal defect were it not for the fact that, in this case, it is discernible from the entire will that it is really and actually composed of only two
pages duly signed by the testatrix and her instrumental witnesses. As earlier stated, the first page which contains the entirety of the testamentary
dispositions is signed by the testatrix at the end or at the bottom while the instrumental witnesses signed at the left margin. The other page which is
marked as "Pagina dos" comprises the attestation clause and the acknowledgment. The acknowledgment itself states that "this Last Will and Testament
consists of two pages including this page" (pages 200-201, supra) (Underscoring supplied).
However, in the appeal at bench, the number of pages used in the will is not stated in any part of the Will. The will does not even contain any notarial
acknowledgment wherein the number of pages of the will should be stated.21
Both Uy Coque and Andrada were decided prior to the enactment of the Civil Code in 1950, at a time when the statutory provision governing the formal
requirement of wills was Section
618 of the Code of Civil Procedure. 22 Reliance on these cases remains apropos, considering that the requirement that the attestation state the number of
pages of the will is extant from Section 618. 23 However, the enactment of the Civil Code in 1950 did put in force a rule of interpretation of the
requirements of wills, at least insofar as the attestation clause is concerned, that may vary from the philosophy that governed these two cases. Article
809 of the Civil Code states: "In the absence of bad faith, forgery, or fraud, or undue and improper pressure and influence, defects and imperfections in
the form of attestation or in the language used therein shall not render the will invalid if it is proved that the will was in fact executed and attested in
substantial compliance with all the requirements of article 805."
In the same vein, petitioner cites the report of the Civil Code Commission, which stated that "the underlying and fundamental objective permeating the
provisions on the [law] on [wills] in this project consists in the [liberalization] of the manner of their execution with the end in view of giving the testator
more [freedom] in [expressing] his last wishes. This objective is in accord with the [modern tendency] in respect to the formalities in the execution of
wills."24 However, petitioner conveniently omits the qualification offered by the Code Commission in the very same paragraph he cites from their report,
that such liberalization be "but with sufficient safeguards and restrictions to prevent the commission of fraud and the exercise of undue and improper
pressure and influence upon the testator."25
Caneda v. Court of Appeals26 features an extensive discussion made by Justice Regalado, speaking for the Court on the conflicting views on the manner
of interpretation of the legal formalities required in the execution of the attestation clause in wills. 27 Uy Coque and Andrada are cited therein, along with
several other cases, as examples of the application of the rule of strict construction. 28 However, the Code Commission opted to recommend a more
liberal construction through the "substantial compliance rule" under Article 809. A cautionary note was struck though by Justice J.B.L. Reyes as to how
Article 809 should be applied:
x x x The rule must be limited to disregarding those defects that can be supplied by an examination of the will itself: whether all the pages are
consecutively numbered; whether the signatures appear in each and every page; whether the subscribing witnesses are three or the will was notarized.
All these are facts that the will itself can reveal, and defects or even omissions concerning them in the attestation clause can be safely disregarded. But
the total number of pages, and whether all persons required to sign did so in the presence of each other must substantially appear in the
attestation clause, being the only check against perjury in the probate proceedings.29 (Emphasis supplied.)
The Court of Appeals did cite these comments by Justice J.B.L. Reyes in its assailed decision, considering that the failure to state the number of pages
of the will in the attestation clause is one of the defects which cannot be simply disregarded. In Caneda itself, the Court refused to allow the probate of a
will whose attestation clause failed to state that the witnesses subscribed their respective signatures to the will in the presence of the testator and of
each other,30 the other omission cited by Justice J.B.L. Reyes which to his estimation cannot be lightly disregarded.

Caneda suggested: "[I]t may thus be stated that the rule, as it now stands, is that omission which can be supplied by an examination of the will itself,
without the need of resorting to extrinsic evidence, will not be fatal and, correspondingly, would not obstruct the allowance to probate of the will being
assailed. However, those omissions which cannot be supplied except by evidence aliunde would result in the invalidation of the attestation clause and
ultimately, of the will itself." 31 Thus, a failure by the attestation clause to state that the testator signed every page can be liberally construed, since that
fact can be checked by a visual examination; while a failure by the attestation clause to state that the witnesses signed in one anothers presence should
be considered a fatal flaw since the attestation is the only textual guarantee of compliance.32
The failure of the attestation clause to state the number of pages on which the will was written remains a fatal flaw, despite Article 809. The purpose of
the law in requiring the clause to state the number of pages on which the will is written is to safeguard against possible interpolation or omission of one
or some of its pages and to prevent any increase or decrease in the pages. 33 The failure to state the number of pages equates with the absence of an
averment on the part of the instrumental witnesses as to how many pages consisted the will, the execution of which they had ostensibly just witnessed
and subscribed to. Following Caneda, there is substantial compliance with this requirement if the will states elsewhere in it how many pages it is
comprised of, as was the situation inSingson and Taboada. However, in this case, there could have been no substantial compliance with the
requirements under Article 805 since there is no statement in the attestation clause or anywhere in the will itself as to the number of pages which
comprise the will.
At the same time, Article 809 should not deviate from the need to comply with the formal requirements as enumerated under Article 805. Whatever the
inclinations of the members of the Code Commission in incorporating Article 805, the fact remains that they saw fit to prescribe substantially the same
formal requisites as enumerated in Section 618 of the Code of Civil Procedure, convinced that these remained effective safeguards against the forgery
or intercalation of notarial wills.34 Compliance with these requirements, however picayune in impression, affords the public a high degree of comfort that
the testator himself or herself had decided to convey property post mortem in the manner established in the will. 35 The transcendent legislative intent,
even as expressed in the cited comments of the Code Commission, is for the fruition of the testators incontestable desires, and not for the
indulgent admission of wills to probate.
The Court could thus end here and affirm the Court of Appeals. However, an examination of the will itself reveals a couple of even more critical defects
that should necessarily lead to its rejection.
For one, the attestation clause was not signed by the instrumental witnesses. While the signatures of the instrumental witnesses appear on the
left-hand margin of the will, they do not appear at the bottom of the attestation clause which after all consists of their averments before the notary public.
Cagro v. Cagro36 is material on this point. As in this case, "the signatures of the three witnesses to the will do not appear at the bottom of the attestation
clause, although the page containing the same is signed by the witnesses on the left-hand margin." 37 While three (3) Justices38 considered the signature
requirement had been substantially complied with, a majority of six (6), speaking through Chief Justice Paras, ruled that the attestation clause had not
been duly signed, rendering the will fatally defective.
There is no question that the signatures of the three witnesses to the will do not appear at the bottom of the attestation clause, although the page
containing the same is signed by the witnesses on the left-hand margin.
We are of the opinion that the position taken by the appellant is correct. The attestation clause is "a memorandum of the facts attending the execution of
the will" required by law to be made by the attesting witnesses, and it must necessarily bear their signatures. An unsigned attestation clause cannot be
considered as an act of the witnesses, since the omission of their signatures at the bottom thereof negatives their participation.
The petitioner and appellee contends that signatures of the three witnesses on the left-hand margin conform substantially to the law and may be
deemed as their signatures to the attestation clause. This is untenable, because said signatures are in compliance with the legal mandate that the will be
signed on the left-hand margin of all its pages. If an attestation clause not signed by the three witnesses at the bottom thereof, be admitted as sufficient,
it would be easy to add such clause to a will on a subsequent occasion and in the absence of the testator and any or all of the witnesses. 39
The Court today reiterates the continued efficacy of Cagro. Article 805 particularly segregates the requirement that the instrumental witnesses sign each
page of the will, from the requisite that the will be "attested and subscribed by [the instrumental witnesses]." The respective intents behind these two
classes of signature are distinct from each other. The signatures on the left-hand corner of every page signify, among others, that the witnesses are
aware that the page they are signing forms part of the will. On the other hand, the signatures to the attestation clause establish that the witnesses are
referring to the statements contained in the attestation clause itself. Indeed, the attestation clause is separate and apart from the disposition of the will.
An unsigned attestation clause results in an unattested will. Even if the instrumental witnesses signed the left-hand margin of the page containing the
unsigned attestation clause, such signatures cannot demonstrate these witnesses undertakings in the clause, since the signatures that do appear on
the page were directed towards a wholly different avowal.
The Court may be more charitably disposed had the witnesses in this case signed the attestation clause itself, but not the left-hand margin of the page
containing such clause. Without diminishing the value of the instrumental witnesses signatures on each and every page, the fact must be noted that it is
the attestation clause which contains the utterances reduced into writing of the testamentary witnesses themselves. It is the witnesses, and not the
testator, who are required under Article 805 to state the number of pages used upon which the will is written; the fact that the testator had signed the will
and every page thereof; and that they witnessed and signed the will and all the pages thereof in the presence of the testator and of one another. The
only proof in the will that the witnesses have stated these elemental facts would be their signatures on the attestation clause.
Thus, the subject will cannot be considered to have been validly attested to by the instrumental witnesses, as they failed to sign the attestation clause.
Yet, there is another fatal defect to the will on which the denial of this petition should also hinge. The requirement under Article 806 that "every will must
be acknowledged before a notary public by the testator and the witnesses" has also not been complied with. The importance of this requirement is
highlighted by the fact that it had been segregated from the other requirements under Article 805 and entrusted into a separate provision, Article 806.
The non-observance of Article 806 in this case is equally as critical as the other cited flaws in compliance with Article 805, and should be treated as of
equivalent import.
In lieu of an acknowledgment, the notary public, Petronio Y. Bautista, wrote "Nilagdaan ko at ninotario ko ngayong10 ng Hunyo 10 (sic), 1981 dito sa
Lungsod ng Maynila."40 By no manner of contemplation can those words be construed as an acknowledgment. An acknowledgment is the act of one who
has executed a deed in going before some competent officer or court and declaring it to be his act or deed. 41 It involves an extra step undertaken
whereby the signor actually declares to the notary that the executor of a document has attested to the notary that the same is his/her own free act and
deed.
It might be possible to construe the averment as a jurat, even though it does not hew to the usual language thereof. A jurat is that part of an affidavit

where the notary certifies that before him/her, the document was subscribed and sworn to by the executor. 42 Ordinarily, the language of the jurat should
avow that the document was subscribed and sworn before the notary public, while in this case, the notary public averred that he himself "signed and
notarized" the document. Possibly though, the word "ninotario" or "notarized" encompasses the signing of and swearing in of the executors of the
document, which in this case would involve the decedent and the instrumental witnesses.
Yet even if we consider what was affixed by the notary public as a jurat, the will would nonetheless remain invalid, as the express requirement of Article
806 is that the will be "acknowledged", and not merely subscribed and sworn to. The will does not present any textual proof, much less one under oath,
that the decedent and the instrumental witnesses executed or signed the will as their own free act or deed. The acknowledgment made in a will provides
for another all-important legal safeguard against spurious wills or those made beyond the free consent of the testator. An acknowledgement is not an
empty meaningless act.43 The acknowledgment coerces the testator and the instrumental witnesses to declare before an officer of the law that they had
executed and subscribed to the will as their own free act or deed. Such declaration is under oath and under pain of perjury, thus allowing for the criminal
prosecution of persons who participate in the execution of spurious wills, or those executed without the free consent of the testator. It also provides a
further degree of assurance that the testator is of certain mindset in making the testamentary dispositions to those persons he/she had designated in the
will.
It may not have been said before, but we can assert the rule, self-evident as it is under Article 806. A notarial will that is not acknowledged before a
notary public by the testator and the witnesses is fatally defective, even if it is subscribed and sworn to before a notary public.
There are two other requirements under Article 805 which were not fully satisfied by the will in question. We need not discuss them at length, as they are
no longer material to the
disposition of this case. The provision requires that the testator and the instrumental witnesses sign each and every page of the will on the left margin,
except the last; and that all the pages shall be numbered correlatively in letters placed on the upper part of each page. In this case, the decedent, unlike
the witnesses, failed to sign both pages of the will on the left margin, her only signature appearing at the so-called "logical end" 44 of the will on its first
page. Also, the will itself is not numbered correlatively in letters on each page, but instead numbered with Arabic numerals. There is a line of thought that
has disabused the notion that these two requirements be construed as mandatory.45 Taken in isolation, these omissions, by themselves, may not be
sufficient to deny probate to a will. Yet even as these omissions are not decisive to the adjudication of this case, they need not be dwelt on, though
indicative as they may be of a general lack of due regard for the requirements under Article 805 by whoever executed the will.
All told, the string of mortal defects which the will in question suffers from makes the probate denial inexorable.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 151153


December 10, 2007
SPOUSES CHARLITO COJA and ANNIE MESA COJA, petitioners,
vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS and HEIRS OF FELICIANO AQUILLO, SR., namely: QUINCIANO VICTOR, SR., LORNA A. VICTOR, ANTONIO
VICTOR, QUINCIANO A. VICTOR, JR., SUSANA A. VICTOR, CLARA AQUILLO, CARMENCITA AQUILLO, AGAPITO AQUILLO, NOEL AQUILLO,
ADONIS AQUILLO, FELICIANO AQUILLO, JR., RONALD AQUILLO and ALDRIN AQUILLO, respondents.
DECISION
AZCUNA, J.:
Before us is a petition for review on certiorari1 assailing the Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 37583 dated February 5, 2001 and
the Resolution2 dated November 5, 2001 denying petitioners motion for reconsideration.
The facts of the case are as follows:
Luz Aquillo Victor (hereafter Luz) and Feliciano Aquillo, Jr. (hereafter Feliciano Jr.), both deceased, were the legitimate children of the late spouses
Feliciano Aquillo, Sr. (hereafter Feliciano Sr.) and Lorenza Mangarin Aquillo (hereafter Lorenza). 3 During their marriage, Feliciano Sr. and Lorenza
acquired a 120-square meter lot located at Poblacion, Mandaon, Masbate, upon which they built their conjugal home. 4 The subject lot was covered by
Tax Declaration No. 11515 issued in the name of Feliciano Sr.
After the death of Lorenza, Feliciano Sr. cohabited with Paz Lachica and lived at the aforesaid house. However, after Lorenzas death, her heirs failed to
partition their hereditary shares in their inheritance.
On February 27, 1960, while Lorenza was cohabiting with Feliciano Sr., Paz Lachica purchased a 192-square meter lot covered by Tax Declaration No.
02115 from the heirs of Juan Rivas.6 She later sold 40.10 square meters of the property to Isabel L. de Real leaving her with only 151.9 square meters. 7
On July 7, 1965, or two (2) days before he died, Feliciano Sr. married Paz Lachica. 8 After Feliciano Sr. died, his heirs also failed to partition among
themselves their hereditary shares in their inheritance.
Sometime in 1969, Paz Lachica was issued Tax Declaration No. 4424 9 over the remaining 151.9 square meters of the property covered by Tax
Declaration No. 02115. The aforesaid Tax Declaration was later cancelled by Tax Declaration No. 3443-Rev.10 On September 10, 1973, Tax Declaration
No. 351411 was issued, effectively canceling Tax Declaration No. 3443-Rev. Also, in said Tax Declaration No. 3514, the area originally covered by Tax
Declaration No. 3443-Rev was increased from 151.9 square meters to 336 square meters, and it included the 120-square meter property originally
covered by Tax Declaration No. 1151. It also contained an annotation at the back stating "Revised as per request of the owner to include the excess area
for taxation purposes."12Thereafter, Tax Declaration No. 3514 was cancelled by Tax Declaration No. 1558, 13 which was later cancelled by Tax Declaration
No. 1946,14 and later cancelled by Tax Declaration No. 2038.15
On December 18, 1986, Paz Lachica and herein petitioners, Spouses Charlito Coja and Annie Mesa Coja, executed a Deed of Absolute Sale 16 wherein
the former sold the 336-square meter parcel of land covered by Tax Declaration No. 2038 to the latter. Consequently, Tax Declaration No. 4946 17 was
issued in the name of petitioners, canceling Tax Declaration No. 2038.
Sometime in 1987, Charlito Coja filed an application for the issuance of title with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 46, Masbate, Masbate (now
Masbate City) docketed as LRC No. N-365.18 Luz, being one of the heirs of Feliciano Sr., opposed the application for registration. 19 Likewise, the Office
of the Solicitor General (OSG) opposed the application. The OSG alleged, among other things, that the applicant or his predecessors-in- interest had not
been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession of the subject land within the period required by law; and that the documents attached to
or alleged in the application do not constitute competent and sufficient evidence of a bona fide acquisition of the land or of an open, continuous,
exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation thereof in the concept of an owner.20
During the pendency of the case, Luz died. She was substituted by her spouse, Quinciano Victor, Sr., and her children, Lorna, Antonio, Quinciano Jr.,
and Susana, all surnamed Victor.
On November 3, 1989, respondents filed an action for recovery of possession and ownership with damages, docketed as Civil Case No. 3904, against
the petitioners and Paz Lachica.21 Respondents claimed that they are the true and lawful heirs of the Spouses Feliciano Sr. and Lorenza; that Paz
Lachica refused to deliver the property to its rightful owners despite repeated demands; that Paz Lachica appropriated the subject property to herself
and had the tax declaration transferred to her name; that Paz Lachica sold the property to the Spouses Coja; and that the Spouses Coja failed to deliver
the subject property to the rightful heirs despite repeated demands.22
Upon motion by the plaintiffs, LRC No. N-365 and Civil Case No. 3904 were consolidated.23
In their Answer, defendants therein alleged that Paz Lachica acquired the subject property before her marriage to Feliciano Sr. and that she had been in
actual and physical possession of the same for more than fifteen (15) years before she sold the property to the Spouses Coja; that they acquired the
property by purchasing it from Paz Lachica; that they are buyers in good faith and for value; and that the property in question was the paraphernal
property of Paz Lachica and, therefore, plaintiffs therein have no right and interest over the same.24
The parties failed to settle their respective differences and a joint trial ensued.
On March 11, 1992, the RTC rendered a decision 25 against the plaintiffs-oppositors and in favor of the defendants-applicants, the decretal portion of
which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, decision is hereby rendered in favor of the defendants-applicants, to wit:
1. Ordering the dismissal of the complaint in Civil Case No. 3904 with costs against the plaintiffs-oppositors;
2. Declaring the defendants-applicants spouses Charlito Coja and Annie Mesa, the absolute owner of the land subject of their application in L.R.C. No.
N-365;
3. Declaring the title of the applicants, spouses Charlito Coja and Annie Mesa and Sancho Mesa, over the property designated as Psu-05-005736
together with all the improvements thereon, CONFIRMED and REGISTERED pursuant to the provisions of P.D. 1529.
Once this decision becomes final and executory, let the corresponding decree of registration issue.
SO ORDERED.26
The RTC opined that since the land in question is registered in the name of Paz Lachica alone, it is assumed that it is not part of the conjugal partnership
properties of Feliciano Sr., and Lorenza, for if it was their conjugal property, it should have been registered in their names. As such, when the Spouses
Coja purchased the property from Paz Lachica, they were of the honest belief that the latter was the true and lawful owner. Likewise, on the basis of the
evidence adduced, the RTC held that defendants-applicants possess good title proper for registration and confirmation. 27
Aggrieved, plaintiffs-oppositors appealed from the decision to the CA, assigning the following errors:
[1] THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE DEFENDANTS-APPLICANTS, SPOUSES CHARLITO COJA AND ANNIE MESA

COJA ARE THE TRUE AND LAWFUL OWNERS OF THE LAND SUBJECT OF THEIR APPLICATION.
[2] THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONCLUDING THAT THE LAND IN QUESTION IS NOT THE CONJUGAL PARTNERSHIP PROPERTY
OF THE COUPLE, THE LATE SPOUSES FELICIANO AQUILLO AND LORENZA MANGARIN
[3] THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT DEFENDANTS-APPLICANTS POSSESS GOOD TITLE, PROPER FOR
REGISTRATION.28
On February 5, 2001, the CA rendered a Decision29 reversing and setting aside the decision of the RTC, the pertinent portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision dated March 11, 1992 is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and a new one entered, as follows:
1. The sale of the property by Paz Lachica to Spouses Charlito Coja and Annie Mesa Coja insofar as the shares of appellants is (sic) concerned is
NULLIFIED;
2. Appellees-applicants are ordered to deliver possession of the property originally covered by Tax Declaration No. 1151 to appellants, to the extent of
93.3333 square meters;
3. Appellee-applicants are ordered to pay appellants P300.00 per month as reasonable rent for the use of the property, from the date of filing of the
complaint and until possession thereof is restored to appellants;
4. The application for registration of title by Charlito and Annie Coja in L.R.C. No. N-365 is denied; and
5. Costs against appellees.
SO ORDERED.30
The CA concluded that the property formerly covered by Tax Declaration No. 1151, with an area of 120 square meters, is the conjugal property of
Feliciano Sr. and Lorenza having been acquired during their marriage. Under the law, upon the death of Lorenza, one-half of said property, or 60 square
meters, was transmitted to her heirs, namely Feliciano Sr., Feliciano Jr., and Luz, at 20 square meters each, while the remaining one-half pertained to
Feliciano Sr. alone as his share in the conjugal property. Upon the death of Feliciano Sr., his rights over the property, consisting of his inheritance from
his wife and his share in the conjugal partnership, or a total of 80 square meters, were transmitted to his heirs, Feliciano Jr., Luz, and his widow, Paz
Lachica. Thus, Paz Lachica is entitled to only 26.6666 square meters and the heirs of Feliciano Jr. and Luz are entitled to the remaining 93.3333 square
meters of the subject property. Therefore, Paz Lachica had no authority to sell their portions of the property.
Applicants-appellees therein filed a motion for reconsideration but it was denied in the Resolution 31 dated November 5, 2001.
Hence, this petition, assigning the following errors:
[1] THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN REVERSING AND SETTING ASIDE THE DECISION OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT,
BRANCH 46, AT MASBATE NOW MASBATE CITY (ANNEX "H") AS THE SAME IS IN ACCORDANCE WITH LAW AND JURISPRUDENCE; AND
[2] THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN DENYING THE APPLICATION FOR LAND REGISTRATION OF TITLE OF THE
PETITIONERS OVER THEIR RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL LAND SITUATED AT POBLACION, MANDAON, MASBATE WHICH SHOULD BE
CONFIRMED AND REGISTERED PURSUANT TO LAND REGISTRATION LAW IN RELATION TO PD NO. 1529.
Petitioners argue that respondents failed to establish their case on the basis of the evidence they presented during the trial. Respondents only presented
Tax Declaration No. 1151 which had never been updated since 1945 up to Feliciano Sr.s death. In addition, his alleged successors-in-interest have not
caused the revision of the said tax declaration nor paid the taxes to the government up to the present and hence the same cannot be considered proof
of ownership. Since Feliciano Sr. is not the owner of the property in question, the same cannot be inherited by the respondents. Moreover, no survey of
the property had been made in the name of Feliciano Sr.32
Petitioners add that the subject property was the paraphernal property of Paz Lachica since she purchased the property before she married Feliciano Sr.
Finally, petitioners maintain that they are purchasers in good faith and for value since the subject property was covered by a tax declaration in Paz
Lachicas name when they bought it from her.33
The petition lacks merit.
The property subject matter of the contract of sale between the Spouses Coja and Paz Lachica, is a 336-square meter parcel of land covered by Tax
Declaration No. 2038.34 This includes the property bought by Paz Lachica from the heirs of Juan Rivas, some other parcels of land, and the 120-square
meter lot purchased by Feliciano Sr. and Lorenza during their marriage.
Article 160 of the Civil Code provides:
Article 160. All property of the marriage is presumed to belong to the conjugal partnership, unless it be proved that it pertains exclusively to the husband
or to the wife.
All properties acquired during the marriage are thus disputably presumed to belong to the conjugal partnership. As a condition for the operation of above
article, in favor of the conjugal partnership, the party who invokes the presumption must first prove that the property was acquired during the marriage. 35
The CA declared that the 120-square meter lot belonged to the conjugal partnership of Feliciano Sr. and Lorenza because the spouses acquired it during
the subsistence of their marriage and the property was in fact declared for taxation purposes during the said period. Thus, the statutory presumption set
forth in Article 160 of the Civil Code became operative. Having been acquired during the marital union of Feliciano Sr. and Lorenza, the subject 120square meter portion of the property sold by Paz Lachica to the Spouses Coja is presumed to be the conjugal property of Feliciano Sr. and Lorenza.
The presumption may be rebutted only with strong, clear, categorical and convincing evidence. There must be strict proof of the exclusive ownership of
one of the spouses, and the burden of proof rests upon the party asserting it.36
Petitioners insist that the property subject of the sale was exclusively owned by Paz Lachica having been purchased prior to her marriage with Feliciano
Sr. The argument is not supported by evidence. While it may be correct to argue that the 216-square meter portion of the 336-square meter subject of
the sale was exclusively owned by Paz Lachica, the same cannot be sustained as to the 120-square meter portion originally covered by Tax Declaration
No. 1151. Paz Lachica claims ownership over the property in question on the basis only of a tax declaration issued in her name. But that is Tax
Declaration No. 3514 which was belatedly issued in the name of Paz Lachica to include the 120-square meter lot originally covered by Tax Declaration
No. 1151. Revision was done upon Paz Lachicas request after the death of Feliciano Sr. The revision of the tax declaration or the issuance of a new one
in her name, did not operate and transfer title of the subject property to her. The property remained as one that formed part of the conjugal property of
Feliciano Sr. and Lorenza.
Upon the death of Lorenza, the conjugal partnership was terminated. As a result, one half of the property was automatically reserved in favor of the
surviving spouse, Feliciano Sr. as his share in the conjugal partnership. The other half, which is the share of Lorenza, was transmitted to Lorenzas heirs,
Feliciano Jr., Luz, and her husband Feliciano Sr., who is entitled to the same share as that of a legitimate child. 37

The Court agrees in toto with the CAs conclusion:


x x x. Under Article 996 of the Civil Code, upon the death of Lorenza Mangarin, one-half of said property, or 60 square meters, is transmitted to her heirs,
namely: Feliciano Aquillo, Sr., Feliciano Aquillo, Jr., and Luz Aquillo, at 20 square meters each, while the remaining one-half is transmitted to Feliciano
Aquillo, Sr. Upon the death of Feliciano Aquillo, Sr., his rights over the property, consisting of the 20 square meter-inheritance from his late wife and his
60 square meter-share in the conjugal partnership, or a total of 80 square meters were transmitted to his heirs, namely: Feliciano Aquillo, Jr., Luz Aquillo,
and his widow, Paz Lachica. The surviving spouse is entitled to the same share as that of the legitimate children, to the portion of one-third each or
26.6666 square meters each x x x. Thus, as a result of the death of Feliciano Aquillo, Sr., a regime of co-ownership exists among Feliciano, Jr., Luz
Aquillo, and Paz Lachica, with respect to the undivided 80 square meters of the property covered by Tax Declaration No. 1151.
The 120 square meters less the hereditary share of Paz Lachica which is 26.6666 square meters, or the 93.3333 square meters of the property covered
by Tax Declaration No. 1151, belong to the appellants, being the heirs of the late Feliciano Aquillo, Jr. and Luz Aquillo. x x x. 38
Considering that Paz Lachica owns only 26.6666 square meters of the 120-square meter property and the remaining 93.3333-square meter portion
thereof is owned by the respondents, the former could only validly sell the portion which rightfully belonged to her. However, considering that Paz
Lachica, the predecessor-in-interest of the Spouses Coja, was a co-owner of the subject 120-square meter property; and considering further that
partition of the property is wanting, this Court is precluded from directing the Spouses Coja to return specific portions of the property to respondents.
Noteworthy is the pronouncement on this issue in De Guia v. Court of Appeals39 citing Hermogena G. Engreso with Spouse Jose Engreso v. Nestoria de
la Cruz and Herminio de la Cruz:40
It is a basic principle in civil law that before a property owned in common is actually partitioned, all that the co-owner has is an ideal or abstract quota or
proportionate share in the entire property. A co-owner has no right to demand a concrete, specific or determinate part of the thing owned in common
because until division is effected his right over the thing is represented only by an ideal portion.
As such, the only effect of an action brought by a co-owner against a co-owner will be to obtain recognition of the co-ownership; the defendant cannot be
excluded from a specific portion of the property because as a co-owner he has a right to possess and the plaintiff cannot recover any material or
determinate part of the property. x x x.
A co-owner may file an action for recovery of possession against a co-owner who takes exclusive possession of the entire co-owned property. However,
the only effect of such action is a recognition of the co-ownership. The courts cannot proceed with the actual partitioning of the co-owned property. 41 In
fine, judicial or extrajudicial partition is necessary to effect physical division of the subject 120-square meter property.
WHEREFORE, the petition is PARTIALLY GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated February 5, 2001 in CA-G.R. CV No. 37583 is
AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that the portion ordering petitioners to deliver possession to respondents of the property originally covered by Tax
Declaration No. 1151 to the extent of 93.3333 square meters is DELETED. In lieu thereof, the co-ownership between the parties over the subject 120square meter property is recognized, to the extent of undivided shares of 93.3333 square meters for respondents and 26.6666 square meters for
petitioners.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.