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G.R. No.

L-55960 November 24, 1988 The petition was opposed by Yao Kee, Sze Sook Wah, Sze Lai
Cho and Sy Yun Chen who alleged that: (a) Yao Kee is the lawful
YAO KEE, SZE SOOK WAH, SZE LAI CHO, and SY CHUN wife of Sy Kiat whom he married on January 19, 1931 in China;
YEN, petitioners, (b) the other oppositors are the legitimate children of the
vs. deceased with Yao Kee; and, (c) Sze Sook Wah is the eldest
AIDA SY-GONZALES, MANUEL SY, TERESITA SY-BERNABE, among them and is competent, willing and desirous to become
RODOLFO SY, and HONORABLE COURT OF the administratrix of the estate of Sy Kiat [Record on Appeal, pp.
APPEALS, respondents. 12-13; Rollo, p. 107.] After hearing, the probate court, finding
among others that:
Montesa, Albon, & Associates for petitioners.
(1) Sy Kiat was legally married to Yao Kee [CFI
De Lapa, Salonga, Fulgencio & De Lunas for respondents. decision, pp. 12-27; Rollo, pp. 49-64;]

(2) Sze Sook Wah, Sze Lai Cho and Sze Chun
Yen are the legitimate children of Yao Kee with Sy
CORTES, J.: Mat [CFI decision, pp. 28-31; Rollo. pp. 65-68;]
and,
Sy Kiat, a Chinese national. died on January 17, 1977 in
Caloocan City where he was then residing, leaving behind real (3) Aida Sy-Gonzales, Manuel Sy, Teresita Sy-
and personal properties here in the Philippines worth Bernabe and Rodolfo Sy are the acknowledged
P300,000.00 more or less. illegitimate offsprings of Sy Kiat with Asuncion
Gillego [CFI decision, pp. 27-28; Rollo, pp. 64-
Thereafter, Aida Sy-Gonzales, Manuel Sy, Teresita Sy-Bernabe 65.]
and Rodolfo Sy filed a petition for the grant of letters of
administration docketed as Special Proceedings Case No. C-699 held if favor of the oppositors (petitioners herein) and appointed
of the then Court of First Instance of Rizal Branch XXXIII, Sze Sook Wah as the administratrix of the intestate estate of the
Caloocan City. In said petition they alleged among others that (a) deceased [CFI decision, pp. 68-69; Rollo, pp. 105-106.]
they are the children of the deceased with Asuncion Gillego; (b) to
their knowledge Sy Mat died intestate; (c) they do not recognize On appeal the Court of Appeals rendered a decision modifying
Sy Kiat's marriage to Yao Kee nor the filiation of her children to that of the probate court, the dispositive portion of which reads:
him; and, (d) they nominate Aida Sy-Gonzales for appointment as
administratrix of the intestate estate of the deceased [Record on IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the decision of
Appeal, pp. 4-9; Rollo, p. 107.] the lower Court is hereby MODIFIED and SET
ASIDE and a new judgment rendered as follows:
(1) Declaring petitioners Aida Sy-Gonzales, Sy-Bernabe and Rodolfo Sy v. Court of Appeals, Yao Kee, Sze
Manuel Sy, Teresita Sy- Bernabe and Rodolfo Sy Sook Wah, Sze Lai Cho and Sy Chun Yen" questioning
acknowledged natural children of the deceased paragraphs (3) and (4) of the dispositive portion of the Court of
Sy Kiat with Asuncion Gillego, an unmarried Appeals' decision. The Supreme Court however resolved to deny
woman with whom he lived as husband and wife the petition and the motion for reconsideration. Thus on March 8,
without benefit of marriage for many years: 1982 entry of judgment was made in G.R. No. 56045. **

(2) Declaring oppositors Sze Sook Wah, Sze Lai The instant petition, on the other hand, questions paragraphs (1)
Chu and Sze Chun Yen, the acknowledged and (2) of the dispositive portion of the decision of the Court of
natural children of the deceased Sy Kiat with his Appeals. This petition was initially denied by the Supreme Court
Chinese wife Yao Kee, also known as Yui Yip, on June 22, 1981. Upon motion of the petitioners the Court in a
since the legality of the alleged marriage of Sy resolution dated September 16, 1981 reconsidered the denial and
Mat to Yao Kee in China had not been proven to decided to give due course to this petition. Herein petitioners
be valid to the laws of the Chinese People's assign the following as errors:
Republic of China (sic);
I. RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS
(3) Declaring the deed of sale executed by Sy Kiat SERIOUSLY ERRED IN DECLARING THE
on December 7, 1976 in favor of Tomas Sy MARRIAGE OF SY KIAT TO YAO YEE AS NOT
(Exhibit "G-1", English translation of Exhibit "G") HAVE (sic) BEEN PROVEN VALID IN
of the Avenue Tractor and Diesel Parts Supply to ACCORDANCE WITH LAWS OF THE PEOPLE'S
be valid and accordingly, said property should be REPUBLIC OF CHINA.
excluded from the estate of the deceased Sy Kiat;
and II. RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS
GRAVELY ERRED IN DECLARING AIDA SY-
(4) Affirming the appointment by the lower court of GONZALES, MANUEL SY, TERESITA SY-
Sze Sook Wah as judicial administratrix of the BERNABE AND RODOLFO SY AS NATURAL
estate of the deceased. [CA decision, pp. 11-12; CHILDREN OF SY KIAT WITH ASUNCION
Rollo, pp. 36- 37.] GILLEGO. [Petition, p. 2; Rollo, p. 6.]

From said decision both parties moved for partial reconsideration, I. Petitioners argue that the marriage of Sy Kiat to Yao Kee in
which was however denied by respondent court. They thus accordance with Chinese law and custom was conclusively
interposed their respective appeals to this Court. proven. To buttress this argument they rely on the following
testimonial and documentary evidence.
Private respondents filed a petition with this Court docketed as
G.R. No. 56045 entitled "Aida Sy-Gonzales, Manuel Sy, Teresita
First, the testimony of Yao Kee summarized by the trial court as wedding date to Sy Kiat was set on January 19,
follows: 1931; that during the wedding the bridegroom
brings with him a couch (sic) where the bride
Yao Kee testified that she was married to Sy Kiat would ride and on that same day, the parents of
on January 19, 1931 in Fookien, China; that she the bride would give the dowry for her daughter
does not have a marriage certificate because the and then the document would be signed by the
practice during that time was for elders to agree parties but there is no solemnizing officer as is
upon the betrothal of their children, and in her known in the Philippines; that during the wedding
case, her elder brother was the one who day, the document is signed only by the parents of
contracted or entered into [an] agreement with the the bridegroom as well as by the parents of the
parents of her husband; that the agreement was bride; that the parties themselves do not sign the
that she and Sy Mat would be married, the document; that the bride would then be placed in
wedding date was set, and invitations were sent a carriage where she would be brought to the
out; that the said agreement was complied with; town of the bridegroom and before departure the
that she has five children with Sy Kiat, but two of bride would be covered with a sort of a veil; that
them died; that those who are alive are Sze Sook upon reaching the town of the bridegroom, the
Wah, Sze Lai Cho, and Sze Chun Yen, the eldest bridegroom takes away the veil; that during her
being Sze Sook Wah who is already 38 years old; wedding to Sy Kiat (according to said Chinese
that Sze Sook Wah was born on November 7, custom), there were many persons present; that
1939; that she and her husband, Sy Mat, have after Sy Kiat opened the door of the carriage, two
been living in FooKien, China before he went to old ladies helped her go down the carriage and
the Philippines on several occasions; that the brought her inside the house of Sy Mat; that
practice during the time of her marriage was a during her wedding, Sy Chick, the eldest brother
written document [is exchanged] just between the of Sy Kiat, signed the document with her mother;
parents of the bride and the parents of the groom, that as to the whereabouts of that document, she
or any elder for that matter; that in China, the and Sy Mat were married for 46 years already
custom is that there is a go- between, a sort of and the document was left in China and she
marriage broker who is known to both parties who doubt if that document can still be found now; that
would talk to the parents of the bride-to-be; that if it was left in the possession of Sy Kiat's family;
the parents of the bride-to-be agree to have the that right now, she does not know the
groom-to-be their son in-law, then they agree on a whereabouts of that document because of the
date as an engagement day; that on engagement lapse of many years and because they left it in a
day, the parents of the groom would bring some certain place and it was already eaten by the
pieces of jewelry to the parents of the bride-to-be, termites; that after her wedding with Sy Kiat, they
and then one month after that, a date would be lived immediately together as husband and wife,
set for the wedding, which in her case, the and from then on, they lived together; that Sy Kiat
went to the Philippines sometime in March or April And lastly, the certification issued in Manila on October 28, 1977
in the same year they were married; that she went by the Embassy of the People's Republic of China to the effect
to the Philippines in 1970, and then came back to that "according to the information available at the Embassy Mr.
China; that again she went back to the Philippines Sy Kiat a Chinese national and Mrs. Yao Kee alias Yui Yip also
and lived with Sy Mat as husband and wife; that Chinese were married on January 19, 1931 in Fukien, the
she begot her children with Sy Kiat during the People's Republic of China" [Exhibit "5".]
several trips by Sy Kiat made back to China. [CFI
decision, pp. 13-15; Rollo, pp. 50-52.] These evidence may very well prove the fact of marriage between
Yao Kee and Sy Kiat. However, the same do not suffice to
Second, the testimony of Gan Ching, a younger brother of Yao establish the validity of said marriage in accordance with Chinese
Kee who stated that he was among the many people who law or custom.
attended the wedding of his sister with Sy Kiat and that no
marriage certificate is issued by the Chinese government, a Custom is defined as "a rule of conduct formed by repetition of
document signed by the parents or elders of the parties being acts, uniformly observed (practiced) as a social rule, legally
sufficient [CFI decision, pp. 15-16; Rollo, pp. binding and obligatory" [In the Matter of the Petition for Authority
52-53.] to Continue Use of the Firm Name "Ozaeta, Romulo, de Leon,
Mabanta and Reyes", July 30, 1979, SCRA 3, 12 citing JBL
Third, the statements made by Asuncion Gillego when she Reyes & RC Puno, Outline of Phil. Civil Law, Fourth Ed., Vol. 1,
testified before the trial court to the effect that (a) Sy Mat was p. 7.] The law requires that "a custom must be proved as a fact,
married to Yao Kee according to Chinese custom; and, (b) Sy according to the rules of evidence" [Article 12, Civil Code.] On
Kiat's admission to her that he has a Chinese wife whom he this score the Court had occasion to state that "a local custom as
married according to Chinese custom [CFI decision, p. 17; Rollo, a source of right can not be considered by a court of justice
p. 54.] unless such custom is properly established by competent
evidence like any other fact" [Patriarca v. Orate, 7 Phil. 390, 395
Fourth, Sy Kiat's Master Card of Registered Alien issued in (1907).] The same evidence, if not one of a higher degree, should
Caloocan City on October 3, 1972 where the following entries are be required of a foreign custom.
found: "Marital statusMarried"; "If married give name of
spousesYao Kee"; "Address-China; "Date of marriage1931"; The law on foreign marriages is provided by Article 71 of the Civil
and "Place of marriageChina" [Exhibit "SS-1".] Code which states that:

Fifth, Sy Kiat's Alien Certificate of Registration issued in Manila Art. 71. All marriages performed outside the
on January 12, 1968 where the following entries are likewise Philippines in accordance with the laws in force in
found: "Civil statusMarried"; and, 'If married, state name and the country where they were performed and valid
address of spouseYao Kee Chingkang, China" [Exhibit "4".] there as such, shall also be valid in this country,
except bigamous, Polygamous, or incestuous
marriages, as determined by Philippine law. foreign service of the Philippines stationed in the
(Emphasis supplied.) *** foreign country in which the record is kept and
authenticated by the seal of his office.
Construing this provision of law the Court has held that to
establish a valid foreign marriage two things must be proven, The Court has interpreted section 25 to include competent
namely: (1) the existence of the foreign law as a question of fact; evidence like the testimony of a witness to prove the existence of
and (2) the alleged foreign marriage by convincing evidence a written foreign law [Collector of Internal Revenue v. Fisher 110
[Adong v. Cheong Seng Gee, 43 Phil. 43, 49 (1922).] Phil. 686, 700-701 (1961) citing Willamette Iron and Steel Works
v. Muzzal, 61 Phil. 471 (1935).]
In proving a foreign law the procedure is provided in the Rules of
Court. With respect to an unwritten foreign law, Rule 130 section In the case at bar petitioners did not present any competent
45 states that: evidence relative to the law and custom of China on marriage.
The testimonies of Yao and Gan Ching cannot be considered as
SEC. 45. Unwritten law.The oral testimony of proof of China's law or custom on marriage not only because they
witnesses, skilled therein, is admissible as are
evidence of the unwritten law of a foreign country, self-serving evidence, but more importantly, there is no showing
as are also printed and published books of reports that they are competent to testify on the subject matter. For failure
of decisions of the courts of the foreign country, if to prove the foreign law or custom, and consequently, the validity
proved to be commonly admitted in such courts. of the marriage in accordance with said law or custom, the
marriage between Yao Kee and Sy Kiat cannot be recognized in
Proof of a written foreign law, on the other hand, is provided for this jurisdiction.
under Rule 132 section 25, thus:
Petitioners contend that contrary to the Court of Appeals' ruling
SEC. 25. Proof of public or official record.An they are not duty bound to prove the Chinese law on marriage as
official record or an entry therein, when admissible judicial notice thereof had been taken by this Court in the case
for any purpose, may be evidenced by an official of Sy Joc Lieng v. Sy Quia [16 Phil. 137 (1910).]
publication thereof or by a copy attested by the
officer having the legal custody of the record, or This contention is erroneous. Well-established in this jurisdiction
by his deputy, and accompanied, if the record is is the principle that Philippine courts cannot take judicial notice of
not kept in the Philippines, with a certificate that foreign laws. They must be alleged and proved as any other fact
such officer has the custody. If the office in which [Yam Ka Lim v. Collector of Customs, 30 Phil. 46, 48 (1915);
the record is kept is in a foreign country, the Fluemer v. Hix, 54 Phil. 610 (1930).]
certificate may be made by a secretary of
embassy or legation, consul general, consul, vice Moreover a reading of said case would show that the party
consul, or consular agent or by any officer in the alleging the foreign marriage presented a witness, one Li Ung
Bieng, to prove that matrimonial letters mutually exchanged by II. The second issue raised by petitioners concerns the status of
the contracting parties constitute the essential requisite for a private respondents.
marriage to be considered duly solemnized in China. Based on
his testimony, which as found by the Court is uniformly Respondent court found the following evidence of petitioners'
corroborated by authors on the subject of Chinese marriage, what filiation:
was left to be decided was the issue of whether or not the fact of
marriage in accordance with Chinese law was duly proven [Sy (1) Sy Kiat's Master Card of Registered Alien
Joc Lieng v. Sy Quia, supra., at p. 160.] where the following are entered: "Children if any:
give number of childrenFour"; and, "NameAll
Further, even assuming for the sake of argument that the Court living in China" [Exhibit "SS-1";]
has indeed taken judicial notice of the law of China on marriage in
the aforecited case, petitioners however have not shown any (2) the testimony of their mother Yao Kee who
proof that the Chinese law or custom obtaining at the time the Sy stated that she had five children with Sy Kiat, only
Joc Lieng marriage was celebrated in 1847 was still the law when three of whom are alive namely, Sze Sook Wah,
the alleged marriage of Sy Kiat to Yao Kee took place in 1931 or Sze Lai Chu and Sze Chin Yan [TSN, December
eighty-four (84) years later. 12, 1977, pp. 9-11;] and,

Petitioners moreover cite the case of U.S. v. Memoracion [34 Phil. (3) an affidavit executed on March 22,1961 by Sy
633 (1916)] as being applicable to the instant case. They aver Kiat for presentation to the Local Civil Registrar of
that the judicial pronouncement in the Memoracion case, that the Manila to support Sze Sook Wah's application for
testimony of one of the contracting parties is competent evidence a marriage license, wherein Sy Kiat expressly
to show the fact of marriage, holds true in this case. stated that she is his daughter [Exhibit "3".]

The Memoracion case however is not applicable to the case at Likewise on the record is the testimony of Asuncion Gillego that
bar as said case did not concern a foreign marriage and the issue Sy Kiat told her he has three daughters with his Chinese wife, two
posed was whether or not the oral testimony of a spouse is of whomSook Wah and Sze Kai Choshe knows, and one
competent evidence to prove the fact of marriage in a complaint adopted son [TSN, December 6,1977, pp. 87-88.]
for adultery.
However, as petitioners failed to establish the marriage of Yao
Accordingly, in the absence of proof of the Chinese law on Kee with Sy Mat according to the laws of China, they cannot be
marriage, it should be presumed that it is the same as accorded the status of legitimate children but only that of
ours *** [Wong Woo Yiu v. Vivo, G.R. No. L-21076, March 31, 1965, 13 SCRA 552, 555.] acknowledged natural children. Petitioners are natural children, it
Since Yao Kee admitted in her testimony that there was no solemnizing officer as is known
here in the Philippines [See Article 56, Civil Code] when her alleged marriage to Sy Mat was
appearing that at the time of their conception Yao Kee and Sy
celebrated [CFI decision, p. 14; Rollo, p. 51], it therefore follows that her marriage to Sy Kiat were not disqualified by any impediment to marry one
Kiat, even if true, cannot be recognized in this jurisdiction [Wong Woo Yiu v. Vivo, supra., another [See Art. 269, Civil Code.] And they are acknowledged
pp. 555-556.]
children of the deceased because of Sy Kiat's recognition of Sze equipments ..., shall be divided
Sook Wah [Exhibit "3"] and its extension to Sze Lai Cho and Sy into two equal shares between,
Chun Yen who are her sisters of the full blood [See Art. 271, Civil and distributed to, Sy Kiat who
Code.] shall own
one-half of the total and the other
Private respondents on the other hand are also the deceased's half to Asuncion Gillego who shall
acknowledged natural children with Asuncion Gillego, a Filipina transfer the same to their children,
with whom he lived for twenty-five (25) years without the benefit namely, Aida Sy, Manuel Sy,
of marriage. They have in their favor their father's Teresita Sy, and Rodolfo Sy.
acknowledgment, evidenced by a compromise agreement
entered into by and between their parents and approved by the (b) the business name and
Court of First Instance on February 12, 1974 wherein Sy Kiat not premises ... shall be retained by
only acknowleged them as his children by Asuncion Gillego but Sy Kiat. However, it shall be his
likewise made provisions for their support and future inheritance, obligation to give to
thus: the aforenamed children an
amount of One Thousand Pesos
xxx xxx xxx ( Pl,000.00 ) monthly out of the
rental of the two doors of the same
2. The parties also acknowledge that they are building now occupied by Everett
common-law husband and wife and that out of Construction.
such relationship, which they have likewise
decided to definitely and finally terminate effective xxx xxx xxx
immediately, they begot five children, namely:
Aida Sy, born on May 30, 1950; Manuel Sy, born (5) With respect to the acquisition, during the
on July 1, 1953; Teresita Sy, born on January 28, existence of the
1955; Ricardo Sy now deceased, born on common-law husband-and-wife relationship
December 14, 1956; and Rodolfo Sy, born on between the parties, of the real estates and
May 7, 1958. properties registered and/or appearing in the
name of Asuncion Gillego ... , the parties mutually
3. With respect to the AVENUE TRACTOR AND agree and covenant that the said real estates and
DIESEL PARTS SUPPLY ... , the parties mutually properties shall be transferred in equal shares to
agree and covenant that their children, namely, Aida Sy, Manuel Sy,
Teresita Sy, and Rodolfo Sy, but to be
(a) The stocks and merchandize administered by Asuncion Gillego during her
and the furniture and lifetime ... [Exhibit "D".] (Emphasis supplied.)
xxx xxx xxx (4) Proceedings brought under the provisions of
title six and title seven, chapters one to three of
This compromise agreement constitutes a statement before a the civil code;
court of record by which a child may be voluntarily acknowledged
[See Art. 278, Civil Code.] xxx xxx xxx

Petitioners further argue that the questions on the validity of Sy and the ruling in the case of Bartolome v. Bartolome [G.R. No. L-
Mat's marriage to Yao Kee and the paternity and filiation of the 23661, 21 SCRA 1324] reiterated in Divinagracia v. Rovira [G.R.
parties should have been ventilated in the Juvenile and Domestic No. L-42615, 72 SCRA 307.]
Relations Court.
With the enactment of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, otherwise
Specifically, petitioners rely on the following provision of Republic known as the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, the Juvenile
Act No. 5502, entitled "An Act Revising Rep. Act No. 3278, and Domestic Relations Courts were abolished. Their functions
otherwise known as the Charter of the City of Caloocan', with and jurisdiction are now vested with the Regional Trial Courts
regard to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court: [See Section 19 (7), B.P. Blg. 129 and Divinagracia v. Belosillo,
G.R. No. L-47407, August 12, 1986, 143 SCRA 356, 360] hence it
SEC. 91-A. Creation and Jurisdiction of the Court. is no longer necessary to pass upon the issue of jurisdiction
raised by petitioners.

xxx xxx xxx Moreover, even without the exactment of Batas Pambansa Blg.
129 we find in Rep. Act No. 5502 sec. 91-A last paragraph that:
The provisions of the Judiciary Act to the contrary
notwithstanding, the court shall have exclusive xxx xxx xxx
original jurisdiction to hear and decide the
following cases: If any question involving any of the above matters
should arise as an incident in any case pending in
xxx xxx xxx the ordinary court, said incident shall be
determined in the main case.
(2) Cases involving custody, guardianship,
adoption, revocation of adoption, paternity and xxx xxx xxx
acknowledgment;
As held in the case of Divinagracia v. Rovira [G.R. No. L42615.
(3) Annulment of marriages, relief from marital August 10, 1976, 72 SCRA 307]:
obligations, legal separation of spouses, and
actions for support; xxx xxx xxx
It is true that under the aforequoted section 1 of SHERIFF JOHNSON TAN, JR., Deputy Sheriff of Branch 20,
Republic Act No. 4834 **** a case involving Regional Trial Court, Cagayan de Oro City, and the Private
paternity and acknowledgment may be ventilated as Respondents, the petitioners in Sp. Proc. No. 88-55, for
an incident in the intestate or testate proceeding "Habeas Corpus", namely: CRISANTA VARGAS-SANCHEZ,
(See Baluyot vs. Ines Luciano, L-42215, July 13, SANTOS and NARCISA VARGAS-BENTULAN, respondents.
1976). But that legal provision presupposes that
such an administration proceeding is pending or G.R. No. 86470 May 17, 1990.
existing and has not been terminated. [at pp. 313-
314.] (Emphasis supplied.)
TOMAS EUGENIO, petitioner-appellant,
vs.
xxx xxx xxx
HON. ALEJANDRO M. VELEZ, Presiding Judge, Regional
Trial Court, Branch 20, Cagayan de Oro City, CRISANTA
The reason for ths rule is not only "to obviate the rendition of VARGAS-SANCHEZ, FELIX VARGAS, ERNESTO VARGAS,
conflicting rulings on the same issue by the Court of First NATIVIDAD VARGAS-CAGAPE, NENITA VARGAS-CADENAS,
Instance and the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court" [Vda. LUDIVINA VARGAS-DE LOS SANTOS and NARCISA
de Baluyut v. Luciano, G.R. No. L-42215, July 13, 1976, 72 SCRA VARGAS-BENTULAN,respondents-appellees.
52, 63] but more importantly to prevent multiplicity of suits.
Accordingly, this Court finds no reversible error committed by
Maximo G. Rodriguez for petitioner.
respondent court.
Erasmo B. Damasing and Oliver Asis Improso for respondents.
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is hereby
AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.
PADILLA, J.:
Fernan, C.J., Gutierrez, Jr., Feliciano and Bidin, JJ., concur.
On 5 October 1988, petitioner came to this Court with a petition
for certiorari and prohibition with application for restraining order
and/or injunction (docketed as G.R. No. 85140) seeking to enjoin
respondent Judge from proceeding with the Habeas Corpus case
G.R. No. 85140 May 17, 1990 (Sp. Proc. No. 88- 55, RTC, Branch 20, Cagayan de Oro
City), * the respondent Sheriff from enforcing and implementing
TOMAS EUGENIO, SR., petitioner, the writ and orders of the respondent Judge dated 28, 29, and 30
vs. September 1988, and to declare said writ and orders as null and
HON. ALEJANDRO M. VELEZ, Presiding Judge, Regional void. In a resolution issued on 11 October 1988, this Court
Trial Court, Branch 20, Cagayan de Oro City, DEPUTY
required comment from the respondents on the petition but Petitioner also alleged that Vitaliana died of heart failure due to
denied the application for a temporary restraining order. toxemia of pregnancy in his residence on 28 August 1988. As her
common law husband, petitioner claimed legal custody of her
The records disclose the following: body. These reasons were incorporated in an explanation filed
before the respondent court. Two (2) orders dated 29 and 30
Unaware of the death on 28 August 1988 of (Vitaliana Vargas September 1988 were then issued by respondent court, directing
Vitaliana for brevity), her full blood brothers and sisters, herein delivery of the deceased's body to a funeral parlor in Cagayan de
private respondents (Vargases', for brevity) filed on 27 September Oro City and its autopsy.
1988, a petition for habeas corpus before the RTC of Misamis
Oriental (Branch 20, Cagayan de Oro City) alleging that Vitaliana Petitioner (as respondent in the habeas corpus proceedings) filed
was forcibly taken from her residence sometime in 1987 and an urgent motion to dismiss the petition therein, claiming lack of
confined by herein petitioner in his palacial residence in Jasaan, jurisdiction of the court over the nature of the action under sec.
Misamis Oriental. Despite her desire to escape, Vitaliana was 1(b) of Rule 16 in relation to sec. 2, Rule 72 of the Rules of
allegedly deprived of her liberty without any legal authority. At the Court. 1 A special proceeding for habeas corpus, petitioner argued, is
time the petition was filed, it was alleged that Vitaliana was 25 not applicable to a dead person but extends only to all cases of
years of age, single, and living with petitioner Tomas Eugenio. illegal confinement or detention of a live person.

The respondent court in an order dated 28 September 1988 Before resolving the motion to dismiss, private respondents (as
issued the writ of habeas corpus, but the writ was returned petitioners below) were granted leave to amend their
unsatisfied. Petitioner refused to surrender the body of Vitaliana petition. 2 Claiming to have knowledge of the death of Vitaliana only
(who had died on 28 August 1988) to the respondent sheriff, on 28 September 1988 (or after the filing of thehabeas
reasoning that a corpse cannot be the subject of habeas corpus petition), private respondents (Vargases') alleged that
corpus proceedings; besides, according to petitioner, he had petitioner Tomas Eugenia who is not in any way related to Vitaliana
already obtained a burial permit from the Undersecretary of the was wrongfully interfering with their (Vargases') duty to bury her.
Invoking Arts. 305 and 308 of the Civil Code, 3 the Vargases
Department of Health, authorizing the burial at the palace
contended that, as the next of kin in the Philippines, they are the
quadrangle of the Philippine Benevolent Christian Missionary, Inc.
legal custodians of the dead body of their sister Vitaliana. An
(PBCM), a registered religious sect, of which he (petitioner) is the
exchange of pleadings followed. The motion to dismiss was finally
Supreme President and Founder.
submitted for resolution on 21 October 1988.

In the absence of a restraining order from this Court, proceedings


continued before the respondent court; the body was placed in a
coffin, transferred to the Greenhills Memorial Homes in Cagayan
de Oro City, viewed by the presiding Judge of respondent court,
and examined by a duly authorized government pathologist. 4
Denying the motion to dismiss filed by petitioner, the court a (5) In all actions involving the
quo held in an order, 5 dated 17 November 1988, that: contract of marriage and marital
relations;
It should be noted from the original petition, to the
first amended petition, up to the second amended (6) In all cases not within the
petition that the ultimate facts show that if the exclusive jurisdiction of any court,
person of Vitaliana Vargas turns out to be dead tribunal, person or body exercising
then this Court is being prayed to declare the judicial or quasi-judicial functions:
petitioners as the persons entitled to the custody,
interment and/or burial of the body of said xxx xxx xxx
deceased. The Court, considering the
circumstance that Vitaliana Vargas was already it so provides that the Regional Trial Court has
dead on August 28, 1988 but only revealed to the exclusive original jurisdiction to try this case. The
Court on September 29, 1988 by respondent's authority to try the issue of custody and burial of a
counsel, did not lose jurisdiction over the nature dead person is within the lawful jurisdiction of this
and subject matter of this case because it may Court because of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 and
entertain this case thru the allegations in the body because of the allegations of the pleadings in this
of the petition on the determination as to who is case, which are enumerated in Sec. 19, pars. 1, 5
entitled to the custody of the dead body of the late and 6 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129.
Vitaliana Vargas as well as the burial or interment
thereof, for the reason that under the provisions of Thereafter, the court a quo proceeded as in or civil cases and, in
Sec. 19 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, which reads due course, rendered a decision on 17 January 1989, 6 resolving
as follows: the main issue of whether or not said court acquired jurisdiction over
the case by treating it as an action for custody of a dead body,
Sec. 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases. Regional without the petitioners having to file a separate civil action for such
Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive original relief, and without the Court first dismissing the original petition
jurisdiction: for habeas corpus.

(1) In all civil actions in which the Citing Sections 19 and 20 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 (the
subject of the litigation is Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1981), 7 Sections 5 and 6 of Rule
incapable of pecuniary estimation; 135 of the Rules of Court 8 Articles 305 and 308 in relation to Article
294 of the Civil Code and Section 1104 of the Revised Administrative
xxx xxx xxx Code, 9 the decision stated:

. . . . By a mere reading of the petition the court


observed that the allegations in the original
petition as well as in the two amended petitions Between the two (2) consolidated petitions, the following issues
show that Vitaliana Vargas has been restrained of are raised:
her liberty and if she were dead then relief was
prayed for the custody and burial of said dead 1. propriety of a habeas corpus proceeding under
person. The amendments to the petition were but Rule 102 of the Rules of Court to recover custody
elaborations but the ultimate facts remained the of the dead body of a 25 year old female, single,
same, hence, this court strongly finds that this whose nearest surviving claimants are full blood
court has ample jurisdiction to entertain and sit on brothers and sisters and a common law husband.
this case as an action for custody and burial of the
dead body because the body of the petition 2. jurisdiction of the RTC over such proceedings
controls and is binding and since this case was and/or its authority to treat the action as one for
raffled to this court to the exclusion of all other custody/possession/authority to bury the
courts, it is the primary duty of this court to decide deceased/recovery of the dead.
and dispose of this case. . . . . 10
3. interpretation of par. 1, Art. 294
Satisfied with its jurisdiction, the respondent court then proceeded of the Civil Code (Art. 199 of the
to the matter of rightful custody over the dead body, (for purposes new Family Code) which states:
of burial thereof). The order of preference to give support under
Art. 294 was used as the basis of the award. Since there was no Art. 294. The claim for support,
surviving spouse, ascendants or descendants, the brothers and when proper and two or more
sisters were preferred over petitioner who was merely a common persons are obliged to give it, shall
law spouse, the latter being himself legally married to another be made in the following order:
woman. 11
(1) From the spouse;
On 23 January 1989, a new petition for review with application for
a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction was xxx xxx xxx
filed with this Court (G.R. No. 86470). Raised therein were pure
questions of law, basically Identical to those raised in the earlier
Section 19, Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 provides for the exclusive
petition (G.R. No. 85140); hence, the consolidation of both
original jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts over civil cases.
cases.12 On 7 February 1989, petitioner filed an urgent motion for the
Under Sec. 2, Rule 102 of the Rules of Court, the writ of habeas
issuance of an injunction to maintain status quo pending appeal,
corpus may be granted by a Court of First Instance (now
which this Court denied in a resolution dated 23 February 1989
Regional Trial Court). It is an elementary rule of procedure that
stating that "Tomas Eugenio has so far failed to sufficiently establish
a clear legal right to the custody of the dead body of Vitaliana
what controls is not the caption of the complaint or petition; but
Vargas, which now needs a decent burial." The petitions were then the allegations therein determine the nature of the action, and
submitted for decision without further pleadings. even without the prayer for a specific remedy, proper relief may
nevertheless be granted by the court if the facts alleged in the continue an illicit relation that morals and law
complaint and the evidence introduced so warrant. 13 repudiate.

When the petition for habeas corpus was filed before the court a xxx xxx xxx
quo, it was not certain whether Vitaliana was dead or alive.
While habeas corpus is a writ of right, it will not issue as a matter The minor's welfare being the paramount
of course or as a mere perfimetory operation on the filing of the consideration, the court below should not allow
petition. Judicial discretion is exercised in its issuance, and such the technicality, that Teofilo Macazo was not
facts must be made to appear to the judge to whom the petition is originally made a party, to stand in the way of its
presented as, in his judgment, prima facie entitle the petitioner to giving the child full protection. Even in a habeas
the writ. 14 While the court may refuse to grant the writ if the petition corpus proceeding the court had power to award
is insufficient in form and substance, the writ should issue if the temporary custody to the petitioner herein, or
petition complies with the legal requirements and its averments make some other suitable person, after summoning and
a prima facie case for relief. However, a judge who is asked to issue hearing all parties concerned. What matters is
a writ of habeas corpus need not be very critical in looking into the that the immoral situation disclosed by the records
petition for very clear grounds for the exercise of this jurisdiction. The be not allowed to continue. 17
latter's power to make full inquiry into the cause of commitment or
detention will enable him to correct any errors or defects in the
After the fact of Vitaliana's death was made known to the
petition. 15
petitioners in the habeas corpus proceedings,amendment of the
petition for habeas corpus, not dismissal, was proper to avoid
In Macazo and Nunez vs. Nunez, 16 the Court frowned upon the
multiplicity of suits. Amendments to pleadings are generally
dismissal of a habeas corpus petition filed by a brother to obtain
favored and should be liberally allowed in furtherance of justice in
custody of a minor sister, stating:
order that every case may so far as possible be determined on its
real facts and in order to expedite the trial of cases or prevent
All these circumstances notwithstanding, we circuity of action and unnecessary expense, unless there are
believe that the case should not have been circumstances such as inexcusable delay or the taking of the
dismissed. The court below should not have adverse party by surprise or the like, which justify a refusal of
overlooked that by dismissing the petition, it was permission to amend. 18 As correctly alleged by respondents, the
virtually sanctioning the continuance of an writ of habeas corpus as a remedy became moot and academic due
adulterous and scandalous relation between the to the death of the person allegedly restrained of liberty, but the issue
minor and her married employer, respondent of custody remained, which the court a quo had to resolve.
Benildo Nunez against all principles of law and
morality. It is no excuse that the minor has Petitioner claims he is the spouse contemplated under Art. 294 of
expressed preference for remaining with said the Civil Code, the term spouse used therein not being preceded
respondent, because the minor may not chose to by any qualification; hence, in the absence of such qualification,
he is the rightful custodian of Vitaliana's body. Vitaliana's brothers
and sisters contend otherwise. Indeed, Philippine Law does not Custody of the dead body of Vitaliana was correctly awarded to
recognize common law marriages. A man and woman not legally her surviving brothers and sisters (the Vargases). Section 1103 of
married who cohabit for many years as husband and wife, who the Revised Administrative Code provides:
represent themselves to the public as husband and wife, and who
are reputed to be husband and wife in the community where they Sec. 1103. Persons charged with duty of burial.
live may be considered legally mauled in common law The immediate duty of burying the body of a
jurisdictions but not in the Philippines. 19 deceased person, regardless of the ultimate
liability for the expense thereof, shall devolve
While it is true that our laws do not just brush aside the fact that upon the persons hereinbelow specified:
such relationships are present in our society, and that they
produce a community of properties and interests which is xxx xxx xxx
governed by law, 20 authority exists in case law to the effect that
such form of co-ownership requires that the man and woman living (b) If the deceased was an
together must not in any way be incapacitated to contract unmarried man or woman, or a
marriage. 21 In any case, herein petitioner has a subsisting marriage child, and left any kin, the duty of
with another woman, a legal impediment which disqualified him from burial shall devolve upon the
even legally marrying Vitaliana. In Santero vs. CFI of Cavite, 22 ,the
nearest of kin of the deceased, if
Court, thru Mr. Justice Paras, interpreting Art. 188 of the Civil Code
they be adults and within the
(Support of Surviving Spouse and Children During Liquidation of
Philippines and in possession of
Inventoried Property) stated: "Be it noted however that with respect
sufficient means to defray the
to 'spouse', the same must be the legitimate 'spouse' (not common-
law spouses)." necessary expenses.

There is a view that under Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code, WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is AFFIRMED. Both
the term "spouse" embraces common law relation for purposes of petitions are hereby DISMISSED. No Costs.
exemption from criminal liability in cases of theft, swindling and
malicious mischief committed or caused mutually by spouses. SO ORDERED.
The Penal Code article, it is said, makes no distinction between a
couple whose cohabitation is sanctioned by a sacrament or legal Fernan, C.J., Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz,
tie and another who are husband and wife de facto. 23 But this view Paras, Feliciano, Bidin, Sarmiento, Cortes, Medialdea and
cannot even apply to the facts of the case at bar. We hold that the Regalado, JJ., concur.
provisions of the Civil Code, unless expressly providing to the
contrary as in Article 144, when referring to a "spouse" contemplate Gancayco and Grino-Aquino, JJ., are on leave.
a lawfully wedded spouse. Petitioner vis-a-vis Vitaliana was not a
lawfully-wedded spouse to her; in fact, he was not legally capacitated
to marry her in her lifetime.