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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. L-58797. April 25, 1988.]

ANTONIO QUIRINO, as Special Administrator, Testate Estate of Natividad C. Raquiza, and Intestate Estate of Carmen M. Castellvi, Petitioner, v. HON. NATHANAEL M. GROSPE, in his capacity as Presiding Judge, Branch VI, Court of First Instance of Pampanga, Fifth Judicial District, and WILFREDO M. GOINGCO, Administrator, Testate Estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi, Respondents.


SYLLABUS


1. REMEDIAL LAW; SPECIAL PROCEEDINGS; SETTLEMENT OF ESTATE; FINAL ORDER OF PROBATE COURT, NOT SUBJECT OF REVIEW. — The propriety of the award is now beyond the jurisdiction of this Court to alter, the same having been approved by the Probate Court as early as 8 January 1962 at twelve percent (12%) of the gross value of the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi. The records of the case also show that this rate of attorney’s fees was fixed with the conformity of the heirs of Don Alfonso Castellvi. Periodic payments had also been made thereon, without objection from the heirs of Don Alfonso Castellvi, until the last payment ordered on 7 September 1981. This objection comes a bit too late.

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; ADVANCES OF THE INHERITANCE TO THE HEIRS, IRREGULAR. — The Court can not sanction the procedure of allowing this disbursement as an advance of the inheritance of the heirs of the decedent because this would, in the first place, be an irregular procedure, and, in the second place, it gratuitously assumes that the estate of the deceased will end up with a net residue in favor of the heirs of Don Juan Castellvi.

3. ID.; PROBATE COURT; WITHOUT JURISDICTION TO SETTLE ISSUE ON OWNERSHIP. — Neither this Court, at this stage, nor the respondent probate court that should adjudicate these conflicting postures which, in the final analysis, involve the ultimate question of whether Natividad (or her estate) remains the owner of what originally was bequeathed to her by Don Alfonso Castellvi in his will. A resolution of this question demands a full ventilation of respective positions requiring evidence, not merely allegations in pleadings, and this function pertains to a court, not of limited jurisdiction as the respondent probate court, but one with general jurisdiction.

4. ID.; SPECIAL PROCEEDINGS; SETTLEMENT OF ESTATE; CLAIM OF CREDITOR AGAINST AN HEIR, NOT PROPER THEREIN. — On 18 February 1986, Jesus T. David filed a motion for intervention with this Court, alleging that he was a creditor of Carmen M. Castellvi with a lien on her fees as administratrix of the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi and on her share in the estate as one of the heirs. The claims cannot be similarly entertained in Sp. Proc. No. 6824 but in the settlement proceedings of the estate, of Carmen M. Castellvi.


D E C I S I O N


PADILLA, J.:


A special civil action for certiorari to annul the Orders of the Court of First Instance of Pampanga, Branch VI, in Special Proceedings No. 6824, Testate Estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi. These Orders are respectively dated 7 September 2, 5, 15 and 20 October 1981.

The antecedents are as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

On 7 March 1940, Don Alfonso Castellvi, single, died in Algeciras, Spain. In his Last Will and Testament, he bequeathed two-thirds (2/3) of his estate to his legally adopted daughter, Natividad Castellvi who was then only fourteen (14) years old, and the other one-third (1/3) of his estate to his brother, Don Juan, who was made administrator of Don Alfonso’s estate. Don Juan was then already married to Carmen Mendoza Castellvi and the latter succeeded Don Juan, upon his death in 1949, as Administratrix of the testate estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi.

Don Alfonso’s last will was admitted to probate on 11 December 1940 in said Special Proceedings No. 6824 in the Court of First Instance of Pampanga (the subject case). 1

On 27 September 1949, during the pendency of Sp. Proc. No. 6824, and in which he was the Administrator, Don Juan Castellvi died testate, leaving an estate consisting of the one-third (1/3) portion of the estate of his brother, Don Alfonso Castellvi. On 9 April 1980, or a little over thirty (30) years after her husband’s death, and about six (6) months before her own death, Carmen M. Castellvi, filed a petition in Special Proceedings No. 2801-P, in the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Pasay City, Branch XXVIII, to probate the will of her late husband, Don Juan Castellvi.cralawnad

In his last will and testament, Don Juan Castellvi gave the usufruct of his entire estate (consisting, as aforestated, of his one-third (1/3) share in the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi) to his widow, Carmen M. Castellvi. Upon Carmen’s death on 25 October 1980, two (2) of her children, Carmen de Castellvi and Dolores Castellvi vda. de Gil, prayed the probate court to be substituted as petitioners, in their mother’s stead in Sp. Proc. No. 2801-P, but only to move for the dismissal of the petition on the same day. The probate court granted their request. 2

On 12 December 1980, or soon after they had obtained the dismissal of Sp. Proc. No. 2801-P, (the petition for the probate of their father’s will) a petition for intestacy of Carmen M. Castellvi was filed, again by her daughters Carmen de Castellvi and Dolores C. vda. de Gil, this time, in Special Proceedings No. 31452, Court of First Instance of Rizal, Quezon City, Branch XX. 3

On 30 April 1981, the last-mentioned petition (Sp. Proc. No. 31452) was dismissed, without prejudice, for lack of interest on the part of the petitioners. On 12 October 1981, however, Antonio Quirino, a creditor, petitioned the court to set the case (Sp. Proc. No. 31452) for hearing, stating his interest and willingness to advance the publication expenses. On 14 October 1981, the court set aside the Order of dismissal and appointed Antonio Quirino, as Special Administrator, with a directive to proceed to Pampanga to determine the estate of Carmen M. Castellvi in the pending proceedings for settlement of Don Alfonso Castellvi’s estate.

Meanwhile, on 19 March 1981, and still, during the pendency of Sp. Proc. No. 6824 in the Court of First Instance of Pampanga, the other instituted heir of Don Alfonso Castellvi, namely, Natividad Castellvi (who had earlier married Antonio Raquiza, Sr.) died testate, leaving as estate her inherited two thirds (2/3) share in the testate estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi. On 11 May 1981, a petition for the approval of her will was filed in the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Pasig, Branch XX, docketed as Sp. Proc. No. 9496. The Notice of Hearing was duly published and served on all parties concerned and at the scheduled date of hearing on 25 September 1981, Petitioner, Antonio Quirino, was appointed Special Administrator in lieu of the Executor named in the will, Judge (now Justice) Leonor Ines Luciano, who declined the office. Petitioner Antonio Quirino took her place. 4

The entire estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi consists of two (2) parcels of land situated in Floridablanca, Pampanga under TCT Nos. 13631-R and 13632-R, respectively, of the Registry of Deeds of Pampanga. The land covered by TCT No. 13631-R was later expropriated by the Philippine Government and is now largely occupied by the Basa Air Base. 5 As of 10 July 1959, the expropriated value of the land under TCT No. 13631-R was placed at three million seven hundred ninety-six thousand nine hundred forty-five pesos (P3,796,945.00) plus interest at six per cent (6%) per annum from 10 July 1959. The government has not yet fully paid the expropriation price of the land. The other parcel of land (TCT No. 13632-R) containing twenty-four (24) hectares was not expropriated and is unappraised. 6

Notice to creditors in Sp. Proc. No. 6824 was duly published in the newspaper La Vanguardia" consecutively on 17 and 24 June and on 1 July 1941. Thereafter, the probate court assumed jurisdiction over the settlement of the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi. Nobody then ever guessed that almost half a century would pass and the estate proceedings would still be subsisting.

Within six (6) months following the last publication of notice to creditors, the following claims were received:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Alejandro Lopez 9 January 1941 P1,190.10

Melquiades C. Valencia 17 January 1941 14.00

Irene Cordero 22 August 1941 1,409.22

Ma. Nieves Toledo 3 December 1941 2,605.09

4,500.00

Juan Castellvi 8,404.00

343.12

940.01

—————

T o t a l P19,405.54 7

The claim of Ma. Nieves Toledo was approved for payment on 27 April 1943 but actually paid only on 20 December 1957. The claims of Alejandro Lopez, Melquiades Valencia and Irene Cordero were ordered dismissed by the court only on 5 October 1981 (after forty (40) years) for failure to prosecute. 8 The record fails to disclose the disposition of Juan Castellvi’s claim, as creditor.chanrobles law library : red

Petitioner Antonio Quirino, Special Administrator of the Testate Estate of Natividad Castellvi Raquiza (instituted heiress to two-thirds (2/3) of the testate estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi) now contends that, after having disposed of the only valid claim against the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi, namely, that of Ma. Nieves Toledo, the probate court should have proceeded with the settlement and distribution of the estate of the instituted heirs, in accordance with the dispositions of the Will of the testator Don Alfonso, as the extent and value of his estate had already been determined. However, the probate court did not do this but, instead, entertained controversial and purely money claims, not against the estate but against the instituted heirs, of the estate, which have dissipated the value of the estate. Petitioner assails specifically in this petition the following Orders of the court in Sp. Proc. No. 6824:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. Order dated 7 September 1981, directing respondent Wilfredo M. Goingco, as Administrator of the Testate Estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi, to withdraw from its funds on deposit the sum of P200,000.00 to pay the heirs of Atty. Cuadrajento Mendoza, in settlement of attorney’s fees fixed at twelve percent (12%) of the gross value of the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi; 9

2. Order dated 2 October 1981, authorizing respondent Administrator Goingco to withdraw from the estate’s funds on deposit the sum of P250,000.00 and pay the same to the Estate of Exequiel Floro and the Manila Underwriters Insurance Co., for services rendered by the late Exequiel Floro to Administratrix Carmen M. Castellvi to improve the value of the estate of Don Alfonso; 10

3. Order dated 5 October 1981, granting, among others, the Motion of Atty. Juan F. Gomez, counsel for the heirs of Don Juan Castellvi, for the court to fix his attorney’s fees at twelve percent (12%) of the one-third (1/3) share of Don Juan Castellvi in the estate of Don Alfonso, plus the sum of P30,000.00 representing "transportation and representation expenses; 11

4. Order dated 15 October 1981, granting the Motion of Antonio V Raquiza Sr. to be paid P250,000.00 as attorney’s fees for services rendered as one of the lawyers for his deceased wife, Natividad Castellvi-Raquiza; 12

5. Order dated 20 October 1981, authorizing implementation of the above Order (15 October 1981), upon the offer of movant to file a bond of P250,000.00. 13

According to petitioner, claims for services allegedly rendered to the Administratrix, Carmen M. Castellvi, should have been charged to her 12% fees as Administratrix, and not directly against the estate. He also contends that, upon the demise of Don Juan Castellvi and Natividad Castellvi-Raquiza, and the receipt of notice of petitions for probate of their respective wills in other courts, the respondent probate court should have refrained (but did not) from issuing orders for the release and disbursement of funds from their respective undistributed shares in the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi, and that the claimants could reiterate their respective claims before the appropriate probate courts.

In his Comment to the petition, the respondent Administrator of the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi alleges that long before the respondent Judge presided over the probate court with jurisdiction over Sp. Proc. No. 6824, the same probate court presided over by other judges had already fixed the fees of Carmen M. Castellvi, as Administratrix, and the fees of Messrs. Cuadrajento Mendoza and Exequiel Floro, with the conformity of the instituted heirs and he noted assignments and dispositions made by the instituted heirs over their share, right and participation in the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi as contained in orders issued many years before.

We will now take up these questioned Orders one by one.

1. ORDER OF 7 SEPTEMBER 1981:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

ATTORNEY’S FEES OF CUADRAJENTO MENDOZA

In Special Proceedings No. 6824, Attorney Cuadrajento Mendoza originally filed a motion asking the probate court to fix his attorney’s fees at twenty per cent (20%) of the gross value of the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi. This was opposed by the heirs of Don Alfonso Castellvi who, however, through their authorized representatives, withdrew their opposition when the fees were reduced by Attorney Mendoza to twelve per cent (12%) of the gross value of the Estate. Thus, on 8 January 1962, the probate court noted the Manifestations and Motions recognizing Atty. Mendoza’s fees. 14 Periodic payments had been made to Atty. Cuadrajento Mendoza, and, later, to his heirs, as shown in several orders the last of which is the questioned Order of 7 September 1981. 15

2. ORDER OF 2 OCTOBER 1981: CLAIMS OF EXEQUIEL

FLORO

On 29 May 1961, and again, on 27 August 1964, Exequiel Floro filed petitions to fix his fees for services rendered to the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi. This was initially opposed by the heirs of Don Alfonso; however, by 1965, all oppositions were dropped. No appeal was taken from the Orders recognizing Floro’s claim/s. 16

3. ORDER OF 5 OCTOBER 1981: ATTORNEY’S FEES OF JUAN F. GOMEZ

On 29 July 1981, Atty. Juan F. Gomez filed his claim for attorney’s fees for services allegedly rendered to the heirs of Don Juan Castellvi, at twelve percent (12%) of their one-third (1/3) share in the estate of Don Alfonso, plus P30,000.00 for transportation and representation expenses, with the acquiescence of said heirs. This is recognized by the probate court in its 5 October 1981 Order, which expressly acknowledges that the claim is chargeable not against the estate but against the share of the heirs of Don Juan Castellvi in the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi. 17 The sum of P30,000.00 for transportation and representation expenses was subsequently released 18 despite the temporary restraining order issued by this Court in 18 November 1981.

4. ORDERS OF 15 AND 20 OCTOBER 1981: ATTORNEY’S FEES OF ANTONIO V. RAQUIZA

Atty. Raquiza claims these fees (P250,000.00) for his services in, among others, getting back properties of his wife, Natividad, who, he alleges, had disposed of these properties to third parties in a manner which even compelled him to have her judicially declared an incompetent. Petitioner Quirino questions the propriety of this award of P250,000.00 which has already been released, 19 despite the temporary restraining order issued by this Court on 18 November 1981.

We now rule on the above-mentioned orders, as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. RE: ORDER OF 7 SEPTEMBER 1981: ATTORNEY’S FEES OF CUADRAJENTO MENDOZA

The propriety of the award is now beyond the jurisdiction of this Court to alter, the same having been approved by the Probate Court as early as 8 January 1962 at twelve percent (12%) of the gross value of the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi. The records of the case also show that this rate of attorney’s fees was fixed with the conformity of the heirs of Don Alfonso Castellvi. Periodic payments had also been made thereon, without objection from the heirs of Don Alfonso Castellvi, until the last payment ordered on 7 September 1981. This objection comes a bit too late.chanrobles virtualawlibrary chanrobles.com:chanrobles.com.ph

2. RE: ORDER OF 2 OCTOBER 1981: CLAIMS OF EXEQUIEL FLORO

These claims have also been settled under circumstances similar to those relating to claim number one.

3. RE: ORDER OF 5 OCTOBER 1981: ATTORNEY’S FEES OF JUAN F. GOMEZ

This claim of twelve percent (12%) attorney’s fees, asserted for the first time on 29 July 1981, is expressly recognized as chargeable to the heirs of Don Juan Castellvi, thus, Atty. Juan F. Gomez’ claim is not properly cognizable in Sp. Proc. No. 6824 which is for the settlement of the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi. The amount of P30,000.00 erroneously disbursed to Atty. Gomez as representation and transportation expenses in connection with services rendered to the heirs of Don Juan Castellvi. The Court can not sanction the procedure of allowing this disbursement as an advance of the inheritance of the heirs of Don Juan Castellvi, which entails eventually deducting the amount (P30,000.00) from the final share of the heirs of Don Juan Castellvi in the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi, because this would, in the first place, be an irregular procedure, and, in the second place, it gratuitously assumes that the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi will end up with a net residue in favor of the heirs of Don Juan Castellvi.

4. RE: ORDERS OF 15 AND 20 OCTOBER 1981: ATTORNEY’S FEES OF ANTONIO V. RAQUIZA

This claim (P250,000.00-legal fees) should be settled in the estate of Natividad Castellvi-Raquiza as it is admittedly for services rendered to her in transactions involving her share in the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi. Thus, the claim cannot properly be recognized and settled in the estate of Don Alfonso (Sp. Proc. No. 6824) and the P250,000.00 earlier but erroneously released in Sp. Proc. No. 6824 should also be returned to the Testate Estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi.

The Court has carefully examined this particular claim and is aware of the conflicting postures of the petitioner Antonio Quirino as Special Administrator of the Testate Estate of Natividad Castellvi-Raquiza (Sp. Proc. No. 9496, RTC of Rizal, Pasig, Branch XX) and the claimants Antonio V. Raquiza and his children by Natividad Castellvi-Raquiza.

Petitioner Quirino claims that the deceased Natividad retains her entitlement to the two-thirds (2/3) of the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi by virtue of her institution as heiress, by will, to said inheritance. The Raquizas contend that she (Natividad) had assigned and conveyed all her share, rights and interest in the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi, to her children by Antonio V. Raquiza. This is in turn contested by Quirino’s assertion that Natividad had disinherited her husband and all her said children under a holographic will duly probated.

The Court is of the considered opinion and so holds that it is neither this Court, at this stage, nor the respondent probate court that should adjudicate these conflicting postures which, in the final analysis, involve the ultimate question of whether Natividad (or her estate) remains the owner of what originally was bequeathed to her by Don Alfonso Castellvi in his will. A resolution of this question demands a full ventilation of respective positions requiring evidence, not merely allegations in pleadings, and this function pertains to a court, not of limited jurisdiction as the respondent probate court, but one with general jurisdiction.

But, whether or not Natividad’s original 2/3 share in the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi still belongs to her estate or has been assigned and conveyed completely to her children by Antonio Raquiza, will not alter the conclusion that the claim in issue, which is P250,000.00 for services rendered either to Natividad as heir of Don Alfonso or to her children as her assignees, is not a proper claim against the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi.

Just as in the claim for attorney’s fees of Atty. Juan F. Gomez for services rendered to the heirs of Don Juan Castellvi, the Court can not sanction a procedure whereby this amount of P250,000.00 shall be considered as an advance against the share of either Natividad Castellvi-Raquiza or her children-assignees in the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi, because this would be an irregular procedure and it gratuitously assumes that there will be a net residue of Don Alfonso’s estate in favor of either Natividad Castellvi-Raquiza or her children by Antonio V. Raquiza.chanrobles lawlibrary : rednad

5. RE: CLAIMS OF JESUS T. DAVID

On 18 February 1986, Jesus T. David filed a motion for intervention with this Court, alleging that he was a creditor of Carmen M. Castellvi with a lien on her fees as administratrix of the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi and on her share in the estate as one of the heirs. 20 The claims cannot be similarly entertained in Sp. Proc. No. 6824 but in the settlement proceedings of the estate, of Carmen M. Castellvi.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED insofar as the respondent court’s orders dated 7 September 1981 and 2 October 1981 are concerned. Said orders are AFFIRMED, being orders implementing earlier orders which have long become final and executed with the conformity of the heirs of the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi. However, petition is GRANTED insofar as the orders of the respondent court, dated 5, 15 and 20 October 1981, respectively are concerned. Said last three (3) orders are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Attorneys Juan F. Gomez and Antonio V. Raquiza are hereby ordered to return to the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi, the respective amounts of P30,000.00 and P250,000.00 they have received from said estate. The temporary restraining order issued by the Court on 18 November 1981 is made permanent insofar as said last three (3) orders are concerned. It is LIFTED as to orders dated 7 September and 2 October 1981.

The Court hereby orders the final settlement, termination and closure of this unduly delayed estate proceedings, Sp. Proc. No. 6824. Testate Estate of the late Don Alfonso de Castellvi" where the shares of Natividad Castellvi-Raquiza and Juan Castellvi have only to be finally determined, quantified and distributed to said instituted heirs or their respective estates. No further claims at this stage shall be allowed or entertained much less paid, against the share of instituted heirs in the estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi.

Respondent Judge, or his successor, is hereby ordered to submit to this Court a report within two (2) months from receipt or notice of this Decision, as to the specific and concrete steps taken by him for the final settlement, termination and closure of the testate estate of Don Alfonso Castellvi and distribution of its net estate, if any, to the instituted heirs or their respective estates. The current Administrator is likewise ordered within the same period of two (2) months to submit to this Court the total current value of the remaining assets of the estate, including receivables, and its liabilities, including tax liabilities to the government, as well as the final disposition of the net estate in accordance with the last will and testament of Don Alfonso Castellvi.

SO ORDERED.

Yap (C.J.), Paras and Sarmiento, JJ., concur.

Melencio-Herrera, J., see parts of dissent.

Separate Opinions


MELENCIO-HERRERA, J., dissenting:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

In so far as the fees for services rendered by Atty. Raquiza are concerned, rather than order the return of the amount of this point, and considering (1) that one basic estate is involved — that of Don Alfonso Castellvi; (2) that Atty. Raquiza’s wife, Natividad, is a testate heir of Don Alfonso; (3) it is alleged that Natividad has assigned all her share to her children by Atty. Raquiza (which is disputed); and (4) that the fees had already been paid, it would create the least disturbance of rights if disposition of the amount that Atty. Raquiza has received should be made only after the estate of Don Alfonso has been finally settled and the rights of the heirs conclusively determined. But as decreed, no further claims should be entertained nor paid from now on until final settlement of the estate.

For the adjudication of the conflicting postures of the parties and to expedite estate proceedings, now considerably delayed, all concerned could agree that the Probate Court, which is already fully cognizant with the case, and acting as a Court of general jurisdiction, continue to retain jurisdiction over the same.chanrobles.com : virtual law library

Endnotes:



1. Rollo at 3.

2. Id at 8 and 9.

3. Id at 9 and 10.

4. Id at 11.

5. See "Republic v. vda. de Castellvi," 26 SCRA 336 (1974).

6. Rollo at 4.

7. Id at 23.

8. Id at 5.

9. Id at 4.

10. Id.

11. Id at 12.

12. Id.

13. Id.

14. Rollo at 80.

15. Id.

16. Id at 159.

17. Id at 190.

18. Administrator’s Report and Accounting dated 2 June 1987, p. 4, Id at 499-502.

19. Id, p. 3, Rollo at 501.

20. Rollo at 370.

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