CASE DIGEST: Ching vs. Rodriguez

G.R. No. 192828

RAMON S. CHING AND PO WING PROPERTIES, INC., Petitioners, v. HON. JANSEN R. RODRIGUEZ, in his capacity as Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 6, JOSEPH CHENG, JAIME CHENG, MERCEDES IGNE AND LUCINA SANTOS, substituted by her son, EDUARDO S. BALAJADIA, Respondents.



The respondents filed a Complaint against the petitioners and Stroghold Insurance Company, Global Business Bank, Inc. (formerly PhilBank), Elena Tiu Del Pilar, Asia Atlantic Resources Ventures, Inc., Registers of Deeds of Manila and Malabon, and all persons claiming rights or titles from Ramon Ching (Ramon).

The Complaint was captioned as one for "Disinheritance, Declaration of Nullity of Agreement and Waiver, Affidavit of Extra-Judicial Settlement, Deed of Absolute Sale, Transfer Certificates of Title with Prayer for [the] Issuance of [a] Temporary Restraining Order and [a] Writ of Preliminary Injunction." In the complaint, the respondents alleged that (1) they are the heirs of Antonio Ching and that Ramon misrepresented himself as Antonios son when he was, in fact, adopted and his birth certificated merely simulated; (2) Antonio was killed with Ramon as the prime suspect and prior to the conclusion of the investigations, Ramon made an inventory of the formers estate and illegally transferred to his name the titles to Antonios properties; (3) Ramon sweet-talked respondent Mercedes into surrendering to him a Certificate of Time Deposit of P4,000,000.00 in the name of Antonio and the TCTs of two condo units registered under Ramons name; (4) Ramon illegally transferred to his own name through a forged document 40,000 shares in Po Wing Corporation; (5) Ramon executed an Affidavit of Extra-Judicial Settlement of Estate adjudicating solely to himself Antonio's entire estate to the prejudice of the respondents; and (6) Ramon sold Antonio's two parcels of land in Navotas to co-defendant Asia Atlantic Business Ventures, Inc. Another parcel of land, which was part of Antonio's estate, was sold by Ramon to co-defendant Elena Tiu Del Pilar at an unreasonably low price.

The respondents thus prayed for the (1) issuance of a TRO to restrain Ramon or his representatives from disposing or selling any property that belongs to the estate of Antonio; (2) that Ramon be declared as disqualified from inheriting from Antonio Ching; and (3) declaring null the unauthorized transfers made by Ramon.

The RTC denied the petitioners Motion to Dismiss and subsequent Motion for Reconsideration.


I. Whether or not the RTC should have granted the Motion to Dismiss with regard to the issues which could only be resolved in a special proceeding and not in an ordinary civil action


No reversible errors were committed by the RTC and the CA when they both ruled that the denial of the petitioners' second motion to dismiss was proper.

An action for reconveyance and annulment of title with damages is a civil action, whereas matters relating to settlement of the estate of a deceased person such as advancement of property made by the decedent, partake of the nature of a special proceeding, which concomitantly requires the application of specific rules as provided for in the Rules of Court.

Under Article 916 of the NCC, disinheritance can be effected only through a will wherein the legal cause therefor shall be specified. This Court agrees with the RTC and the CA that while the respondents in their Complaint and Amended Complaint sought the disinheritance of Ramon, no will or any instrument supposedly effecting the disposition of Antonio's estate was ever mentioned. Hence, despite the prayer for Ramon's disinheritance, the case filed does not partake of the nature of a special proceeding and does not call for the probate court's exercise of its limited jurisdiction.

Even without the necessity of being declared as heirs of Antonio, the respondents have the standing to seek for the nullification of the instruments in the light of their claims that there was no consideration for their execution, and that Ramon exercised undue influence and committed fraud against them. Consequently, the respondents then claimed that the Affidavit of Extra-Judicial Settlement of Antonios estate executed by Ramon, and the TCTs issued upon the authority of the said affidavit, are null and void as well. Ramon's averment that a resolution of the issues raised shall first require a declaration of the respondents' status as heirs is a mere defense which is not determinative of which court shall properly exercise jurisdiction.

In sum, this Court agrees with the CA that the nullification of the documents subject of the civil case could be achieved in an ordinary civil action, which in this specific case was instituted to protect the respondents from the supposedly fraudulent acts of Ramon. In the event that the RTC will find grounds to grant the reliefs prayed for by the respondents, the only consequence will be the reversion of the properties subject of the dispute to the estate of Antonio. The civil case was not instituted to conclusively resolve the issues relating to the administration, liquidation and distribution of Antonio's estate, hence, not the proper subject of a special proceeding for the settlement of the estate of a deceased person under Rules 73-91 of the Rules of Court.

The respondents' resort to an ordinary civil action before the RTC may not be strategically sound, because a settlement proceeding should thereafter still follow, if their intent is to recover from Ramon the properties alleged to have been illegally transferred in his name. Be that as it may, the RTC, in the exercise of its general jurisdiction, cannot be restrained from taking cognizance of respondents' Complaint and Amended Complaint as the issues raised and the prayers indicated therein are matters which need not be threshed out in a special proceeding.