Benitez-Badua v. Court of Appeals

G.R. No. 105625, 24 January 1994

FACTS:

Spouses Vicente Benitez and Isabel Chipongian were owners of various properties located in Laguna. Isabel died in 1982 while his husband died in 1989. Vicente’s sister and nephew filed a complaint for the issuance of letters of administration of Vicente’s estate in favor of the nephew, herein private respondent. The petitioner, Marissa Benitez-Badua, was raised and cared by the deceased spouses since childhood, though not related to them by blood, nor legally adopted. The latter to prove that she is the only legitimate child of the spouses submitted documents such as her certificate of live birth where the spouses name were reflected as her parents. She even testified that said spouses continuously treated her as their legitimate daughter. On the other hand, the relatives of Vicente declared that said spouses were unable to physically procreate hence the petitioner cannot be the biological child. Trial court decided in favor of the petitioner as the legitimate daughter and sole heir of the spouses.

ISSUE:

WON petitioner’s certificate of live birth will suffice to establish her legitimacy.

RULING:

The Court dismissed the case for lack of merit. The mere registration of a child in his or her birth certificate as the child of the supposed parents is not a valid adoption. It does not confer upon the child the status of an adopted child and her legal rights. Such act amounts to simulation of the child’s birth or falsification of his or her birth certificate, which is a public document.

It is worthy to note that Vicente and brother of the deceased wife executed a Deed of Extra-Judicial Settlement of the Estate of the latter. In the notarized document, they stated that they were the sole heirs of the deceased because “she died without descendants and ascendants”. In executing such deed, Vicente effectively repudiated the Certificate of Live Birth of the petitioner where it appeared that he was the petitioner’s father.

Thus, under Article 166, it is the husband who can impugn the legitimacy of said child by proving: (1) it was physically impossible for him to have sexual intercourse, with his wife within the first 120 days of the 300 days which immediately preceded the birth of the child; (2) that for biological or other scientific reasons, the child could not have been his child; (3) that in case of children conceived through artificial insemination, the written authorization or ratification by either parent was obtained through mistake, fraud, violence, intimidation or undue influence. Articles 170 and 171 reinforce this reading as they speak of the prescriptive period within which the husband or any of his heirs should file the action impugning the legitimacy of said child. Doubtless then, the appellate court did not err when it refused to apply these articles to the case at bench. For the case at bench is not one where the heirs of the late Vicente are contending that petitioner is not his child by Isabel. Rather, their clear submission is that petitioner was not born to Vicente and Isabel.

As between the paternity by the husband and the paternity by the paramour, all the circumstances being equal, the law is inclined to follow the former. Thus, the child is given the benefit of legitimacy.

* Case digest by Lady Rubyge A. Denura, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018

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