G.R. No. 124862, 22 December 1998
Fe D. Quita and Arturo T. Padlan, both Filipinos, were married in the Philippines on 18 May 1941. They were not however blessed with children. Somewhere along the way their relationship soured. Eventually Fe sued Arturo for divorce in San Francisco, California, U.S.A. On 23 July 1954 she obtained a final judgment of divorce. Three (3) weeks thereafter she married a certain Felix Tupaz in the same locality but their relationship also ended in a divorce. Still in the U.S.A., she married for the third time, to a certain Wernimont.
On 16 April 1972 Arturo died. He left no will. On 31 August 1972 Lino Javier Inciong filed a petition with the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City for issuance of letters of administration concerning the estate of Arturo in favor of the Philippine Trust Company. Respondent Blandina Dandan (also referred to as Blandina Padlan), claiming to be the surviving spouse of Arturo Padlan, and Claro, Alexis, Ricardo, Emmanuel, Zenaida and Yolanda, all surnamed Padlan, named in the petition as surviving children of Arturo Padlan, opposed the petition. The RTC expressed that the marriage between Antonio and petitioner subsisted until the death of Arturo in 1972, that the marriage existed between private respondent and Arturo was clearly void since it was celebrated during the existence of his previous marriage to petitioner. The Court of Appeals remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.
Who between the petitioner and private respondent is the proper heir of the decedent?
If there is a controversy before the court as to who are the lawful heirs of the deceased person or as to the distributive shares to which each person is entitled under the law, the controversy shall be heard and decided as in ordinary cases. No dispute exists either as to the right of the six (6) Padlan children to inherit from the decedent because there are proofs that they have been duly acknowledged by him and petitioner herself even recognizes them as heirs of Arturo Padlan; nor as to their respective hereditary shares. Arturo was a Filipino and as such remained legally married to her in spite of the divorce they obtained. The implication is that petitioner was no longer a Filipino citizen at the time of her divorce from Arturo. This should have prompted the trial court to conduct a hearing to establish her citizenship. The purpose of a hearing is to ascertain the truth of the matters in issue with the aid of documentary and testimonial evidence as well as the arguments of the parties either supporting or opposing the evidence.
The trial court did not grant private respondent’s prayer for a hearing but proceeded to resolve her motion with the finding that both petitioner and Arturo were “Filipino citizens and were married in the Philippines.” It maintained that their divorce obtained in 1954 in San Francisco, California, U.S.A., was not valid in Philippine jurisdiction. The question to be determined by the trial court should be limited only to the right of petitioner to inherit from Arturo as his surviving spouse. Private respondent’s claim to heirship was already resolved by the trial court. She and Arturo were married on 22 April 1947 while the prior marriage of petitioner and Arturo was subsisting thereby resulting in a bigamous marriage considered void from the beginning under Arts. 80 and 83 of the Civil Code. Consequently, she is not a surviving spouse that can inherit from him as this status presupposes a legitimate relationship.
The petition is DENIED. The decision of respondent Court of Appeals ordering the remand of the case to the court of origin for further proceedings and declaring null and void its decision holding petitioner Fe D. Quita and Ruperto T. Padlan as intestate heirs is AFFIRMED. The Court however emphasizes that the reception of evidence by the trial court should be limited to the hereditary rights of petitioner as the surviving spouse of Arturo Padlan.
* Case digest by Paula Bianca B. Eguia, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018