A.M. No. 2026-CFI, 19 December 1981, 110 SCRA 388
In 1973, Marcelina Suroza supposedly executed a notarial will bequeathing her house and lot to a certain Marilyn Suroza. In 1974, Marcelina died. Marina Paje was named as the executrix in the said will and she petitioned before CFI Rizal that the will be admitted to probate. The presiding judge, Honrado admitted the will to probate and assigned Paje as the administratrix. Honrado also issued an ejectment order against the occupants of the house and lot subject of the will.
Nenita Suroza, daughter in law of Marcelina (her husband, son of Marcelina was confined in the Veteran’s Hospital), learned of the probate proceeding when she received the ejectment order (as she was residing in said house and lot).
Nenita opposed the probate proceeding. She alleged that the said notarial will is void because (a) the instituted heir therein Marilyn Suroza is actually Marilyn Sy and she is a stranger to Marcelina, (b) the only son of Marcelina, Agapito Suroza, is still alive and is the compulsory heir, (c) the notarial will is written in English a language not known to Marcelina because the latter was illiterate so much so that she merely thumbmarked the will, (d) the notary public who notarized will admitted that Marcelina never appeared before him and that he notarized the said will merely to accommodate the request of a lawyer friend but with the understanding that Marcelina should later appear before him but that never happened.
Honrado still continued with the probate despite the opposition until testamentary proceeding closed and the property transferred to Marilyn Sy. Nenita then filed this administrative case against Honrado on the ground of misconduct.
Whether or not Honrado is guilty of misconduct for admitting into probate a void will.
Yes. Despite the valid claim raised by Nenita, he still continued with the testamentary proceeding, which showed his wrongful intent. He may even be criminally liable for knowingly rendering an unjust judgment or interlocutory order or rendering a manifestly unjust judgment or interlocutory order by reason of inexcusable negligence or ignorance.
The will is written in English and was thumb marked by an obviously illiterate Marcelina. This could have readily been perceived by Honrado that that the will is void. In the opening paragraph of the will, it was stated that English was a language “understood and known” to the testatrix. But in its concluding paragraph, it was stated that the will was read to the testatrix “and translated into Filipino language.” That could only mean that the will was written in a language not known to the illiterate testatrix and, therefore, it is void because of the mandatory provision of Article 804 of the Civil Code that every will must be executed in a language or dialect known to the testator.
Had Honrado been careful and observant, he could have noted not only the anomaly as to the language of the will but also that there was something wrong in instituting to Marilyn Sy as sole heiress and giving nothing at all to Agapito who was still alive.
Honrado was fined by the Supreme Court.
*Case digest by Princess Dianne Kris Decierdo, LLB-IV, Andres Bonifacio College Law School, SY 2018-2019