G.R. No. 182894, 22 April 2014
Atty. Adriano Adriano (Atty. Adriano), a partner in the Pelaez Adriano and Gregorio Law Office, married respondent Rosario Adriano (Rosario) on November 15, 1955. The couple had two (2) sons, three (3) daughters, and one (1) adopted daughter, Leah Antonette.
The marriage of Atty. Adriano and Rosario, however, turned sour and they were eventually separated-in-fact. Years later, Atty. Adriano courted Valino, one of his clients, until they decided to live together as husband and wife. Despite such arrangement, he continued to provide financial support to Rosario and their children (respondents).
In 1992, Atty. Adriano died of acute emphysema. At that time, Rosario was in the United States spending Christmas with her children. As none of the family members was around, Valino took it upon herself to shoulder the funeral and burial expenses for Atty. Adriano. When Rosario learned about the death of her husband, she immediately called Valino and requested that she delay the interment for a few days but her request was not heeded. The remains of Atty. Adriano were then interred at the mausoleum of the family of Valino at the Manila Memorial Park. Respondents were not able to attend the interment.
Claiming that they were deprived of the chance to view the remains of Atty. Adriano before he was buried and that his burial at the Manila Memorial Park was contrary to his wishes, respondents commenced suit against Valino praying that they be indemnified for actual, moral and exemplary damages and attorney’s fees and that the remains of Atty. Adriano be exhumed and transferred to the family plot at the Holy Cross Memorial Cemetery in Novaliches, Quezon City.
In her defense, Valino countered that Rosario and Atty. Adriano had been separated for more than twenty (20) years before he courted her. Valino claimed that throughout the time they were together, he had introduced her to his friends and associates as his wife. Although they were living together, Valino admitted that he never forgot his obligation to support the respondents. She contended that, unlike Rosario, she took good care of Atty. Adriano and paid for all his medical expenses when he got seriously ill. She also claimed that despite knowing that Atty. Adriano was in a coma and dying, Rosario still left for the United States. According to Valino, it was Atty. Adrianos last wish that his remains be interred in the Valino family mausoleum at the Manila Memorial Park.
Valino further claimed that she had suffered damages as result of the suit brought by respondents. Thus, she prayed that she be awarded moral and exemplary damages and attorney’s fees.
The RTC dismissed the complaint of respondents for lack of merit. On appeal, the CA reversed and set aside the RTC decision and directed Valino to have the remains of Atty. Adriano exhumed at the expense of respondents. It likewise directed respondents, at their expense, to transfer, transport and inter the remains of the decedent in the family plot at the Holy Cross Memorial Park in Novaliches, Quezon City.
Who between Rosario and Valino is entitled to the remains of Atty. Adriano.
CIVIL LAW: article 305 in relation to article 1996
Article 305 of the Civil Code, in relation to what is now Article 1996 of the Family Code, specifies the persons who have the right and duty to make funeral arrangements for the deceased. Thus:
Art. 305. The duty and the right to make arrangements for the funeral of a relative shall be in accordance with the order established for support, under Article 294. In case of descendants of the same degree, or of brothers and sisters, the oldest shall be preferred. In case of ascendants, the paternal shall have a better right.
Art. 199. Whenever two or more persons are obliged to give support, the liability shall devolve upon the following persons in the order herein provided:
(1) The spouse;
(2) The descendants in the nearest degree;
(3) The ascendants in the nearest degree; and
(4) The brothers and sisters.
Further, Article 308 of the Civil Code provides:
Art. 308. No human remains shall be retained, interred, disposed of or exhumed without the consent of the persons mentioned in Articles 294 and 305.
In this connection, Section 1103 of the Revised Administrative Code provides:
Section 1103. Persons charged with the duty of burial. The immediate duty of burying the body of a deceased person, regardless of the ultimate liability for the expense thereof, shall devolve upon the persons herein below specified:
(a) If the deceased was a married man or woman, the duty of the burial shall devolve upon the surviving spouse if he or she possesses sufficient means to pay the necessary expenses;
CIVIL LAW: common law relationships
From the aforecited provisions, it is undeniable that the law simply confines the right and duty to make funeral arrangements to the members of the family to the exclusion of ones common law partner. In Tomas Eugenio, Sr. v. Velez, a petition for habeas corpus was filed by the brothers and sisters of the late Vitaliana Vargas against her lover, Tomas Eugenio, Sr., alleging that the latter forcibly took her and confined her in his residence. It appearing that she already died of heart failure due to toxemia of pregnancy, Tomas Eugenio, Sr. sought the dismissal of the petition for lack of jurisdiction and claimed the right to bury the deceased, as the common-law husband.
In its decision, the Court resolved that the trial court continued to have jurisdiction over the case notwithstanding the death of Vitaliana Vargas. As to the claim of Tomas Eugenio, Sr. that he should be considered a spouse having the right and duty to make funeral arrangements for his common-law wife, the Court ruled:
x xx Indeed, Philippine Law does not recognize common law marriages. A man and woman not legally married who cohabit for many years as husband and wife, who represent themselves to the public as husband and wife, and who are reputed to be husband and wife in the community where they live may be considered legally married in common law jurisdictions but not in the Philippines.
While it is true that our laws do not just brush aside the fact that such relationships are present in our society, and that they produce a community of properties and interests which is governed by law, authority exists in case law to the effect that such form of co-ownership requires that the man and woman living together must not in any way be incapacitated to contract marriage.
In any case, herein petitioner has a subsisting marriage with another woman, a legal impediment which disqualified him from even legally marrying Vitaliana.
There is a view that under Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code, the term “spouse” embraces common law relation for purposes of exemption from criminal liability in cases of theft, swindling and malicious mischief committed or caused mutually by spouses. The Penal Code article, it is said, makes no distinction between a couple whose cohabitation is sanctioned by a sacrament or legal tie and another who are husband and wife de facto. But this view cannot even apply to the facts of the case at bar. We hold that the provisions of the Civil Code, unless expressly providing to the contrary as in Article 144, when referring to a “spouse” contemplate a lawfully wedded spouse. Petitioner vis-a-visVitaliana was not a lawfully-wedded spouse to her; in fact, he was not legally capacitated to marry her in her lifetime.
As applied to this case, it is clear that the law gives the right and duty to make funeral arrangements to Rosario, she being the surviving legal wife of Atty. Adriano. The fact that she was living separately from her husband and was in the United States when he died has no controlling significance.
To say that Rosario had, in effect, waived or renounced, expressly or impliedly, her right and duty to make arrangements for the funeral of her deceased husband is baseless. The right and duty to make funeral arrangements, like any other right, will not be considered as having been waived or renounced, except upon clear and satisfactory proof of conduct indicative of a free and voluntary intent to that end.
Valino insists that the expressed wishes of the deceased should nevertheless prevail pursuant to Article 307 of the Civil Code. Valinos own testimony that it was Atty. Adrianos wish to be buried in their family plot is being relied upon heavily. It should be noted, however, that other than Valinos claim that Atty. Adriano wished to be buried at the Manila Memorial Park, no other evidence was presented to corroborate such claim. Considering that Rosario equally claims that Atty. Adriano wished to be buried in the Adriano family plot in Novaliches, it becomes apparent that the supposed burial wish of Atty. Adriano was unclear and indefinite.
Considering this ambiguity as to the true wishes of the deceased, it is the law that supplies the presumption as to his intent. No presumption can be said to have been created in Valinos favor, solely on account of a long-time relationship with Atty. Adriano.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED.
* Case digest by Mary Jade L. Capin, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018