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13. PASCUAL v.

DELA CRUZ

FACTS:
1. 2 Jan 1960: Catalina Dela Cruz, 89, died, single and without any surviving
ascendants or descendants.
2. Andres Pascual filed a petition for the probate of her will. Pascual was named
executor and heir therein.
3. Respondents, nieces and nephews of Catalina, opposed, alleging that Catalina
was mentally incapable of disposing her properties by will at time of execution;
that such was procured through undue influence, etc; and that her signature was
procured through fraud.
4. Probate court admitted the will. Respondents appealed directly to SC (properties
involved were valued at over 300k)
5. Respondents: the testimonies of the witnesses and the Notary Public were
inconsistent and contradictory; that the will was not signed by all the witnesses in
the presence of one another. (TC: the instrument was signed in 1954, while the
testimony was given in 1962 – 8 years difference; not unreasonable for witness
to forget some details. What is important is that there be unanimity and certainty
in their testimony re: the signatures of the testatrix, the witnesses, and the notary
public, and the fact that they were all present at time of signing).
ISSUE: WN the inconsistencies and contradictions in the testimonies would prohibit the
will from being probated? NO

HELD:
1. Where a will is contested, the subscribing with are generally regarded as the best
qualified to testify on its due execution. However, it is similarly recognized that for
the testimony of such witnesses to be entitled to full credit, it must be reasonable
and unbiased, and not overcome by competent evidence, direct or circumstantial,
for it must be remembered that the law does not simply require the presence of
three instrumental witnesses; it demands that the witnesses be credible
2. The Court agreed with the TC that the inconsistencies (weather condition at the
time the will was executed; the sequence of the signing by the witnesses; and the
length of time it took to complete the act) were not important details that could
have been affected by the lapse of time and the treachery of human
memory.
3. Inconsistencies, by themselves, would not alter the probative value of their
testimonies on the due execution of the will.
4. (Estate of Javellana v. Javellana) For the purpose of determining the due
execution of a will, it is not necessary that the instrumental witnesses should
give an accurate and detailed account of the proceeding, such as recalling
the order of the signing of the document by the said witnesses. It is
sufficient that they have seen or at least were so situated at the moment
that they could have seen each other sign, had they wanted to do so.
5. Catalina, at the time, was suffering from rheumatism (had to wear thick socks
and soft shoes), and it would not have been improbable that she had Pascual
secure witnesses. The main detail considered by the Court is the one that must
have stuck in their minds - that they did witness the signing of the will. That they
did so is attested by their signatures and those of the deceased testatrix, which
are nowhere impugned; nor is there any claim by appellants that the latter was
incapable of reading and understanding the will that she signed. In fact, the
evidence is that she did read it before signing. The authorities are to the effect
that friendly relations of the witnesses with the testator or the beneficiaries do not
affect the credibility of the former.
6. Respondent’s main contention: Tape recording (taken without their knowledge)
between the witnesses (Jiongco and Cruz) wherein one of them said that when
he signed the will, the other signatures were already there, and that the other
witnesses were not present then.
7. TC, as adopted by the SC:
a. Jiongco denied that the voice in the recording was his, and no proof was
given to show that Jiongco was indeed the one in the recording.
Apparently, there were similarities in Jiongco’s voice during trial and in the
recording, but the Court gave credence to the testimony made by him
under oath as he was subjected to cross-examination.
b. The recording said that he signed the will only on 1958/1959, but in the
Notarial Registry, the will was recorded on 1954.
8. SC stated that it was not the first time it admitted probate of a will despite
inconsistencies in the testimonies, for as long as it is satisfied that the will was
executed and attested to in the manner prescribed by law.
9. (As to fraud) the Court noted that Pascual was not a stranger in the life of
Catalina. It was also found that he had also been named sole heir to the
properties of the sisters of Catalina. Further, respondents presented no proof to
prove that such fraud was present in this case. Their main contention lied upon
the statement by Pascual that Catalina “did not like to sign anything unless I
knew it”.
10. (As to the selection of the witnesses) Pascual selected Dr. Sanchez, and not the
relatives of Catalina, as it would have meant the disclosure of the terms of her
will to those interested in her succession but who were not favored by her,
thereby exposing her to unpleasant importunity and recriminations that an aged
person would naturally seek to avoid.
11. Respondents: (American jurisprudence) assumption of undue influence if
beneficiary participates in drafting and execution of will.
12. SC: Not applicable in this case. Pascual was a lawyer, and in the normal course
of events, a lawyer would follow the instructions of the testatrix. Further, a
member of the bar in good standing may not be convicted of unprofessional
conduct or of having conspired to falsify a statement, except upon clear proof.