G.R. No. L-14003, 5 August 1960, 109:10
When Fortunata S. Vda de Yance died on September 9, 1957 at Quezon City, Francisco Azaola filed a petition for the probate of the former’s holographic will, whereby Maria Milagros Azaola was made the sole heir as against the nephew of the deceased Cesario Singson. Francisco witnessed that one month before the death of the testator, the same was handed to him and his wife.
The opposition to the probate was on the ground that (1) the execution of the will was procured by undue and improper pressure and influence on the part of the petitioner and his wife, and (2) that the testatrix did not seriously intend the instrument to be her last will, and that the same was actually written either on the 5th or 6th day of August 1957and not on November 20, 1956 as appears on the will.
The probate was denied on the ground that under Article 811 of the Civil Code, the proponent must present three witnesses who could declare that the will and the signature are in the writing of the testatrix,the probate being contested; and because the lone witness presented “did not prove sufficiently that the body of the will was written in the handwriting of the testatrix.” Petitioner appealed, urging: first, that he was not bound to produce more than one witness because the will’s authenticity was not questioned; and second, that Article 811 does not mandatorily require the production of three witnesses to identify the handwriting and signature of a holographic will, even if its authenticity should be denied by the adverse party.
W/N Article 811 of the Civil Code is mandatory or permissive.
Article 811 is merely permissive and not mandatory. Since the authenticity of the will was not contested, petitioner was not required to produce more than one witness; but even if the genuineness of the holographic will were contested, Article 811 can not be interpreted to require the compulsory presentation of three witnesses to identify the handwriting of the testator, under penalty of having the probate denied. Since no witness may have been present at the execution of a holographic will, none being required by law (Art. 810, new Civil Code), it becomes obvious that the existence of witness possessing the requisite qualifications is a matter beyond the control of the proponent. For it is not merely a question of finding and producing any three witnesses; they must be witnesses “who know the handwriting and signature of the testator” and who can declare (truthfully, of course, even if the law does not so express) “that the will and the signature are in the handwriting of the testator”. There may be no available witness of the testator’s hand; or even if so familiarized, the witnesses may be unwilling to give a positive opinion. Compliance with the rule of paragraph 1 of Article 811 may thus become an impossibility.
This is the reason why the 2nd paragraph of Article 811 allows the court to resort to expert evidence. The law foresees the possibility that no qualified witness may be found (or what amounts to the same thing, that no competent witness may be willing to testify to the authenticity of the will), and provides for resort to expert evidence to supply the deficiency.
What the law deems essential is that the court should be convinced of the will’s authenticity. Where the prescribed number of witnesses is produced and the court is convinced by their testimony that the will is genuine, it may consider it unnecessary to call for expert evidence. On the other hand, if no competent witness is available, or none of those produced is convincing, the Court may still, and in fact it should, resort to handwriting experts. The duty of the Court, in fine, is to exhaust all available lines of inquiry, for the state is as much interested as the proponent that the true intention of the testator be carried into effect.
*Case digest by Carolyn Kaye A. Tulang, LLB-IV, Andres Bonifacio College Law School, SY 2018-2019