David and Heirs of Aguas v. Calilung (G.R. No. 241036, Jan. 26, 2021)

EN BANC

[ G.R. No. 241036, January 26, 2021 ]

LUCILA DAVID AND THE HEIRS OF RENE F. AGUAS, NAMELY: PRINCESS LUREN D. AGUAS, DANICA LANE D. AGUAS, SEAN PATRICK D. AGUAS, SEAN MICHAEL D. AGUAS AND SAMANTHA* D. AGUAS, PETITIONERS, VS. CHERRY S. CALILUNG, RESPONDENT.

D E C I S I O N

DELOS SANTOS, J.:

This is a direct recourse to the Court, via a Petition for Review on Certiorari[1] under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, from the Orders dated November 24, 2017[2] and June 13, 2018[3] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Angeles City, Branch 60, in Civil Case No. R-ANG-17-03316-CY, dismissing for lack of jurisdiction the Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage of Rene F. Aguas (Rene) and Cherry S. Calilung (Cherry) filed by petitioners Lucila David (Lucila) and her children, namely: Princess Luren D. Aguas, Danica Lane D. Aguas, Sean Patrick D. Aguas, Sean Michael D. Aguas, and Samantha D. Aguas (collectively, the Aguas heirs).

The Facts


Lucila married Rene on November 24, 1981 in Mabalacat, Pampanga. They begot five children, the Aguas heirs.

On December 10, 2003, Rene filed a petition to declare his marriage with Lucila null and void on the ground of the latter's psychological incapacity.[4] In the said petition, Rene declared as conjugal properties a parcel of land located in Sunset Valley Estate, Angeles City, consisting of 500 square meters (sq m) and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 90811 in the names of Rene and Lucila,[5] and the merchandise inventory in Rene's pawnshop and ready-to-wear sales business.[6]

In a Decision[7] dated December 22, 2005 in Civil Case No. 11284, Rene and Lucila's marriage was judicially declared null and void on the ground of psychological incapacity (2005 Nullity Decision). The same Decision also ordered for the division of the conjugal properties consisting of the lot covered by TCT No. 90811 and the house standing thereon (Sunset Valley Estate), as well as for the support and delivery of presumptive legitimes of their common children. However, the 2005 Nullity Decision, as well as its certificate of finality was not registered with the Office of the Registry of Deeds of Angeles City, thus, no annotation of the said Decision on TCT No. 90811 was ever made. Also, actual partition of the Sunset Valley Estate had not been undertaken and the presumptive legitimes of the Aguas heirs were not delivered.

On October 7, 2006, Rene contracted a second marriage with Cherry.[8]

On November 17, 2015, Rene died intestate.

On May 24, 2017, Cherry filed a petition for the settlement of the intestate estate of Rene docketed as Special Proceeding Case No. R-ANG-17-01449-SP entitled, "In the Matter of the Petition for Letters of Administration and Settlement of Intestate Estate of Rene F. Aguas, Cherry Calilung-Aguas, Petitioner" (Settlement Proceeding). The Settlement Proceeding was raffled to RTC-Angeles City, Branch 56 (Branch 56).[9] On the other hand, the Aguas heirs filed a Comment/Opposition[10] dated October 2, 2017 in the Settlement Proceeding, alleging, among others, that they are the legitimate children of the late Rene with Lucila; that the marriage of Rene and Lucila was dissolved, but there was no liquidation or separation of the properties acquired during their marriage in accordance with Article 102 of the Family Code; that Article 52 of the Family Code requires that the judgment of absolute nullity of marriage, the partition and distribution of the properties of the spouses and the delivery of the children's presumptive legitimes shall be recorded in the appropriate civil registry and registries of properties; that the failure to comply with the requirements of Article 52 of the Family Code would have the effect of nullifying the subsequent marriage between Rene and Cherry pursuant to Article 53 of the same Code; and that when Rene married Cherry, the properties of Rene acquired during the previous marriage should not have been included in their property regime pursuant to Article 92 of the Family Code.[11]

On November 3, 2017, Lucila and the Aguas heirs (petitioners) filed with the RTC of Angeles City a petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage[12] of Rene and Cherry (RTC petition) on the ground that the said subsequent marriage was entered into without complying the provisions in Articles 52 and 53 of the Family Code on the partition and distribution of the properties of the previous marriage and the delivery of the presumptive legitimes.

The RTC petition was raffled to RTC-Angeles City, Branch 59 (Branch 59), the designated Family Court.

On November 10, 2017, Branch 59 issued an Order[13] (Transmittal Order) directing the transmittal of the case record to the Office of the Clerk of Court for re-raffle among courts of general jurisdiction. Branch 59 held that the RTC petition involves a collateral attack on the validity of marriage of Rene and Cherry which does not fall within the jurisdiction of a Family Court, to wit:

Considering that the instant Petition involves a collateral attack on the validity of marriage of [Cherry] and [Rene], it does not fall within the jurisdiction of a [F]amily [C]ourt.

As per deliberations of the Supreme Court Committee on Revision of Rules:

Only an aggrieved or injured spouse may file a petition for annulment of voidable marriages or declaration of nullity of void marriages. Such petition cannot be filed by compulsory heirs of the spouse or the State. The Committee is of the belief that they do not have a legal right to file the petition. Compulsory or intestate heirs have only inchoate rights prior to the death of their predecessor, and hence can only question the validity of the marriage of the spouses upon the death of the deceased spouse filed in the regular courts. On the other hand, the concern of the State is to preserve marriage and not to seek dissolution.

IN LIGHT OF THE FOREGOING, the Branch Clerk of Court is hereby directed to transmit the record of this case to the Office of the Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court of Angeles City for re-raffle among courts of general jurisdiction.[14] (Citations omitted; italics, emphasis and underscoring in the original)


In view of the Transmittal Order of Branch 59, the RTC petition was re-raffled to RTC-Angeles City, Branch 60 (Branch 60).

On November 24, 2017, Branch 60 issued the first assailed Order which dismissed the re-raffled RTC petition on the ground of lack of jurisdiction.

Branch 60 held that the RTC petition is hinged upon the issue of validity of marriage emanating from Articles 52 and 53 of the Family Code. Pursuant to Section 5 of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8369, otherwise known as the Family Courts Act of 1997, it is the Family Court which has jurisdiction over the case and not Branch 60 which is no longer a Family Court. In addition, citing A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC[15] and the ruling in Enrico v. Heirs of Spouses Medinaceli,[16] Branch 60 ruled that the petitioners have no cause of action to file the petition for declaration of nullity of marriage since it is the sole right of the husband or the wife to file the said petition involving marriages under the Family Code of the Philippines. Nonetheless, the compulsory or intestate heirs can still question the validity of the marriage of the spouses, not in a proceeding for declaration of nullity, but upon the death of a spouse in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased spouse filed in the regular courts. In the end, Branch 60 decreed as follows:

In view of the foregoing, the petition filed by the petitioners Lucila David and the Heirs of Rene Aguas namely: Princess Luren D. Aguas, Danica Lane D. Aguas, Sean Patrick D. Aguas, Sean Michael D. Aguas and Samantha Mari S. Aguas against Cherry Calilung, is hereby dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

SO ORDERED.[17]


On December 5, 2017, petitioners received both the Transmittal Order of Branch 59 and the first assailed Order of Branch 60.

Thereafter, petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration of the first assailed Order of Branch 60, praying, in the main, that the case be referred back to the Family Court instead of dismissing the same.

On June 13, 2018, Branch 60 issued the second assailed Order[18] denying the petitioners' motion for reconsideration. It explained that the Transmittal Order of Branch 59 has already become final after the petitioners failed to file a motion for reconsideration thereto and that to refer back the case to the said Family Court would effectively disregard the aforesaid Order of a co-equal branch which is already final and executory. Branch 60 also maintained its position that, according to the rules, only an aggrieved or injured spouse may file petitions for annulment of voidable marriages and declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage.

Aggrieved, petitioners seek direct recourse with the Court through the present Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court on pure questions of law.

The petitioners raised the following grounds to support their petition:

  1. THE ABRUPT DISMISSAL BY THE LOWER COURT (RTC BRANCH 60) OF THE PETITION FOR DECLARATION OF NULLITY [OF MARRIAGE] WITHOUT WAITING FOR THE PETITIONERS TO EXERCISE THEIR RIGHT TO FILE A MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION ON THE ORDER OF TRANSMITTAL ISSUED BY RTC BRANCH 59 TO HAVE ELAPSED IS UNPROCEDURAL.

  2. RTC BRANCH 60 ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE REFERRAL OF THE CASE BACK TO THE FAMILY COURT IS AN IMPOSITION UPON A CO-EQUAL BRANCH.

  3. THE LOWER COURT COMMITTED MANIFEST ERROR OF LAW AND ACTED IN A MANNER CONTRARY TO LAW AND ESTABLISHED JURISPRUDENCE IN DISMISSING THE PETITION FOR NULLITY ON THE GROUND OF LACK OF JURISDICTION.[19]


The Issues


The issues which confront the Court in the instant case may be summarized as follows:

  1. Whether it is Branch 59 or Branch 60 which has jurisdiction over the RTC petition for declaration of nullity of marriage;

  2. Whether or not Branch 60 erred in dismissing the RTC petition for nullity of marriage; and

  3. Whether or not the petitioners are the real parties-in-interest to file the subject RTC petition for nullity of marriage.


The Court's Ruling


The Court denies the petition.

The issues involved in the instant petition, being interrelated, are discussed jointly.

The petition for declaration of nullity
of marriage is under the jurisdiction
of the RTC branch designated as
Family Court pursuant to R.A. No.
8369 when there is one in the area.


It is a well-entrenched doctrine that the jurisdiction of a tribunal over the subject matter of an action is conferred by law[20] and that the same is determined by the statute in force at the time of the commencement of the action.[21]

Pertinent to the instant case is R.A. No. 8369, otherwise known as the Family Courts Act of 1997,[22] which took effect on November 23, 1997.[23] The said law, particularly Sections 3 and 5 thereof, created Family Courts and grant unto them exclusive jurisdiction over complaints for declaration of nullity of marriage, among others, to wit:

SEC. 3. Establishment of Family Courts. – There shall be established a Family Court in every province and city in the country. In case where the city is the capital of the province, the Family Court shall be established in the municipality which has the highest population.

x x x x

SEC. 5. Jurisdiction of Family Courts. – The Family Courts shall have exclusive original jurisdiction to hear and decide the following cases:

a) Criminal cases where one or more of the accused is below eighteen (18) years of age but not less than nine (9) years of age or where one or more of the victims is a minor at the time of the commission of the offense: Provided, That if the minor is found guilty, the court shall promulgate sentence and ascertain any civil liability which the accused may have incurred.

The sentence, however, shall be suspended without need of application pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 603, otherwise known as the "Child and Youth Welfare Code;"

b) Petitions for guardianship, custody of children, [habeas corpus] in relation to the latter;

c) Petitions for adoption of children and the revocation thereof;

d) Complaints for annulment of marriage, declaration of nullity of marriage and those relating to marital status and property relations of husband and wife or those living together under different status and agreements, and petitions for dissolution of conjugal partnership of gains;

e) Petitions for support and/or acknowledgment;

f) Summary judicial proceedings brought under the provisions of Executive Order No. 209, otherwise known as the "Family Code of the Philippines;"

g) Petitions for declaration of status of children as abandoned, dependent or neglected children, petitions for voluntary or involuntary commitment of children; the suspension, termination, or restoration of parental authority and other cases cognizable under Presidential Decree No. 603, Executive Order No. 56, (Series of 1986), and other related laws;

h) Petitions for the constitution of the family home;

i) Cases against minors cognizable under the Dangerous Drugs Act, as amended;

j) Violations of Republic Act No. 7610, otherwise known as the "Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act," as amended by Republic Act No. 7658; and

k) Cases of domestic violence against:

1)
Women – which are acts of [gender-based] violence that results, or are likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women; and other forms of physical abuse such as battering or threats and coercion which violate a woman's personhood, integrity and freedom movement; and
2)
Children – which include the commission of all forms of abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation, violence, and discrimination and all other conditions prejudicial to their development.


If an act constitutes a criminal offense, the accused or batterer shall be subject to criminal proceedings and the corresponding penalties.

If any question involving any of the above matters should arise as an incident in any case pending in the regular courts, said incident shall be determined in that court. (Emphasis supplied)


Equally important to note is Section 17 (Transitory Provisions) of R.A. No. 8369, which provides:

SEC. 17. Transitory Provisions. – Pending the establishment of such Family Courts, the Supreme Court shall designate from among the branches of the Regional Trial Court at least one Family Court in each of the cities of Manila, Quezon, Pasay, Caloocan, Makati, Pasig, Mandaluyong, Muntinlupa, Laoag, Baguio, Santiago, Dagupan, Olongapo, Cabanatuan, San Jose, Angeles, Cavite, Batangas, Lucena, Naga, Iriga, Legazpi, Roxas, Iloilo, Bacolod, Dumaguete, Tacloban, Cebu, Mandaue, Tagbilaran, Surigao, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, General Santos, Oroquieta, Ozamis, Dipolog, Zamboanga, Pagadian, Iligan, and in such other places as the Supreme Court may deem necessary.

Additional cases other than those provided in Sec. 5 may be assigned to the Family Courts when their dockets permit: Provided, That such additional cases shall not be heard on the same day family cases are heard.

In areas where there are no Family Courts, the cases referred to in Section 5 of this Act shall be adjudicated by the Regional Trial Court. (Emphasis supplied)


As can be observed in the Transitory Provisions, the law mandated the Court to designate from among the branches of the RTC, in the cities mentioned therein, at least one Family Court "pending the establishment of Family Courts." It may also be underscored that under the second paragraph of the Transitory Provisions, the RTC branches to be designated by the Court are referred to as Family Courts, and by that, it means that they exercise exclusive jurisdiction over family cases enumerated in Section 5 of R.A. No. 8369 (family cases). Accordingly, though temporary in nature, these specific branches exercise exclusive jurisdiction over complaints for declaration of nullity of marriage, among other family cases, to the exclusion of other RTC branches and courts.

It might not be amiss to stress that the Congress was unquestionably authorized to confer jurisdiction over family cases to RTC branches to be designated by the Court as Family Courts pending the establishment of the regular Family Courts, independent and distinct from the RTCs. This is pursuant to the Congress' constitutionally-established power "to define, prescribe, and apportion the jurisdiction of various courts" under Article VIII, Section 2[24] of the 1987 Constitution subject only to the limitations that: first, the Congress cannot diminish the jurisdiction of the Court enumerated in Section 5, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution;[25] and second, the Congress cannot increase the appellate jurisdiction of the Court without its advice and concurrence.[26]

A distinction must be made, though, between areas with designated Family Courts and those where there are none. As provided in the third paragraph of Transitory Provisions, R.A. No. 8369 grants exclusive jurisdiction over family cases to the RTC in general in areas where there are no Family Courts.

Branch 59 was designated as Family
Court to exercise exclusive
jurisdiction over family cases.


In an En Banc Resolution in A.M. No. 99-11-07-SC dated February 1, 2000 (Re: Designation of Certain Branches of the RTC as Family Courts), the Court designated specific RTC branches as Family Courts to try and hear family cases to the exclusion of other courts or tribunals. Among these RTC branches is Branch 60 of RTC-Angeles City. Thus:

The Court Resolved to APPROVE the draft resolution designating certain branches of the Regional Trial Court as Family Courts, to wit:

DESIGNATION OF CERTAIN BRANCHES OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURTS AS FAMILY COURTS

To implement the provisions of Section 17 of Republic Act No. 8369, otherwise known as the Family Courts Act of 1997," and in the interest of the expeditious, effective and efficient administration of justice, and subject to the guidelines herein set forth, the following branches of the Regional Trial Courts are hereby designated as Family Courts which shall exclusively try and decide the cases subject of Section 5 of said Act:
x x x x

THIRD JUDICIAL REGION

x x x x

Angeles City
(31) Br. 60, Judge Ofelia T. Pinto


On September 10, 2008, however, the Court issued a Resolution in A.M. No. 08-8-460-RTC revoking the designation of Branch 60 as special court for family court cases and designated Branch 59 as special court to try and decide family court cases in lieu of Branch 60, to wit:

A.M. No. 08-8-460-RTC (Re: Partial Report on the Judicial Audit of Pending Cases and Special Audit of Family Court Cases in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 60, Angeles City). - The Court resolves:

(1) To NOTE the aforesaid partial report;

(2) To REVOKE the designation of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 60, Angeles City, Pampanga presided over by Judge Ofelia Tuazon Pinto as special court for family court cases, effective immediately from receipt of notice;

x x x x

(4) To PREVENTIVELY SUSPEND Judge Ofelia Tuazon Pinto, Regional Trial Court, Branch 60, Angeles City, and Officer-In-Charge Raquel L.D. Clarin, the same court, from office effective immediately from receipt of notice;

(5) To DESIGNATE the Regional Trial Court, Branch 59, Angeles City, presided over by Executive Judge Angelita T. Paras-Quiambao, as special court to try and decide family court cases in lieu of Branch 60, same court[.]


Accordingly, when the Court designated Branch 59 in lieu of Branch 60 as special Family Court, no other meaning can be had, but that Branch 59 replaces Branch 60 as a designated Family Court in implementation of the Transitory Provisions of R.A. No. 8369, which shall exercise exclusive jurisdiction over family cases.

Branch 59 has jurisdiction over the
subject matter of the RTC petition.


Jurisdiction is defined as the power and authority of the courts to hear, try, and decide cases. What determines the jurisdiction of the court is the nature of the action pleaded as appearing from the allegations in the complaint. The averments and the character of the relief sought are the ones to be consulted.[27] Once vested by the allegations in the complaint, jurisdiction also remains vested, irrespective of whether or not the plaintiff is entitled to recover upon all or some of the claims asserted therein.[28]

In the instant case, the RTC petition was captioned as Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage under Article 53 in relation to Article 52 of the Family Code of the Philippines. More importantly, in their allegations, the petitioners mainly and directly sought for the declaration of nullity of marriage of Rene and Cherry, to wit:

  1. Lucila and [Rene] entered into a marital union on November 24, 1981 in Mabacat, Pampanga.

    x x x x

  2. Out of their marital union, Lucila and Rene begotten five children – Princess, Danica, Patrick, Michael and Samantha x x x.

  3. On [December 10, 2003], Rene filed a Petition for Nullity of Marriage against Lucila before the [RTC], Branch 60 of Angeles City x x x. In the said Petition for Nullity, therein Petitioner Rene declared conjugal properties as follows:

    That the parties have amassed between them a parcel of land located at Sunset [Valley] Estate, Angeles City consisting of five hundred square meters, more or less. This is aside from the assets in business consisting mainly of merchandise inventory in [Rene's] pawnshop and RTW sales business.

    x x x x

  4. The subject property is covered by [TCT] No. 045-90811 x x x and was indeed registered in the names of Spouses Rene F. Aguas and Lucila Aguas.

  5. Without receiving any notice from the Court regarding the Petition for Nullity, Lucila learned sometime in the year 2007 that a Decision dated [December 22, 2005] has already been rendered by the RTC granting the said [Petition for Nullity] filed by Rene. x x x

    x x x x

  6. The Decision above-mentioned, as well as its Certificate of Finality, was not registered with the Office of Registry of Deeds of Angeles City where the subject property is located. Thus, no annotation of said Decision on the title covering the subject property has ever been made.

    x x x x

  7. On [October 7, 2006], Rene and Cherry entered into a marital union without the partition and liquidation of the subject property, and proper delivery of the prospective legitimes of Princess, Danica, Michael, Patrick and Samantha, who are children of the first marriage.

    x x x x

  8. On [November 17, 2015], Rene died intestate.

    x x x x

  9. Due to the failure of Rene and Cherry to comply with the express provision of the law, the subsequent marriage contracted by the deceased Rene with Cherry is null and void pursuant to Article 53 in relation to Article 52 of the Family Code[.][29]


As can be observed from the allegations in the RTC petition, the same was precisely filed to annul or nullify the marriage of Rene and Cherry. Otherwise stated, the petition is filed in a direct proceeding impugning the validity of a marriage of the aforesaid spouses. Obviously, the subject petition is a complaint for declaration of nullity of marriage referred to in Section 5(d)[30] of R.A. No. 8369, which, pursuant to Section 17 of R.A. No. 8369 in relation to A.M. No. 99-11-07-SC and A.M. No. 08-08-460-RTC, falls under the jurisdiction of Branch 59.

Branch 59 improperly ordered for
the re-raffle of the RTC petition to
the regular courts.


Branch 59 ruled in its Transmittal Order that it has no jurisdiction over the RTC petition because the same was not filed by an aggrieved or injured spouse, who are the only parties who can file a petition for declaration of nullity of void marriages pursuant to A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC. It added that the petition was filed by the heirs of Rene which constitutes a collateral attack on the validity of his marriage with Cherry.

The above reasoning is misplaced.

If, on its face, the RTC petition was not filed by real party-in-interest, as Branch 59 wanted to point out, the proper ground for dismissal should be failure to state a cause of action and not lack of jurisdiction. One having no material interest to protect cannot invoke the jurisdiction of the court as plaintiff in an action. When the plaintiff is not the real party-in-interest, the case is dismissible on the ground of lack of cause of action[31] or of failure to state a cause of action, as the case may be.[32] Otherwise stated, Branch 59 certainly has jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action filed by the petitioners, but it could dismiss the same for failure to state a cause of action, though only upon proper motion by the party.[33]

Moreover, there is no collateral attack on the validity of marriage of Rene and Cherry to speak of in this case. A collateral attack is defined as an attack, made as an incident in another action, whose purpose is to obtain a different relief.[34] Accordingly, there is a collateral attack on the validity of marriage when, as an incident in a pending action not precisely brought to nullify the marriage, an attack is made impugning the validity of marriage to obtain a different affirmative relief or by way of defense, even though there is no final judgment yet in a direct proceeding declaring the marriage annulled or nullified. That is not the case here. Petitioners did not assail the validity of marriage of Rene and Cherry as an incident to an action to obtain a relief other than the declaration of nullity of marriage. The RTC petition was precisely filed by the petitioners to nullify the marriage of Rene and Cherry, hence, a direct action impugning the validity of marriage.

The foregoing considered, it was improper for Branch 59 to order for the re-raffle of the RTC petition to the other branches of Angeles RTC. Nonetheless, the erroneous Transmittal Order of Branch 59 is binding upon the petitioners as the same has long attained finality, there being no motion for reconsideration, appeal, or certiorari petition filed.

Branch 60 properly dismissed the
RTC petition on the ground of lack
of jurisdiction.


As explained in the preceding discussions, jurisdiction over complaints for declaration of nullity of marriage and other family cases fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of Family Courts when there is one in the area. Considering that Branch 59, a designated Family Court, exists in Angeles City, Branch 60, therefore, does not have jurisdiction over the subject RTC petition. Accordingly, without jurisdiction over the subject matter, Branch 60 has no other recourse, but to dismiss the RTC petition. It is worthy to note that when a court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter, the only power it has is to dismiss the action, as any act it performs without jurisdiction is null and void, and without any binding legal effects.[35] Consequently, Branch 60 cannot order the transfer of the RTC petition to Branch 59 as it lacks authority to act on the re-raffled RTC petition nor on the motion for reconsideration filed by petitioners subsequent to the dismissal thereof. On this score, the Court affirms the dismissal order of Branch 60.

The petitioners are allowed to file
anew a petition for declaration of
nullity of marriage without violating
rules on res judicata. The same,
however, is not warranted in the
present case.


In the ordinary course of law and procedure, the petitioners' sensible action to pursue their case is to file anew a complaint for declaration of nullity of marriage before a designated Family Court, without violating the rules on res judicata.

There is res judicata where the following four essential conditions concur, viz.: (1) there must be a final judgment or order; (2) the court rendering it must have jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; (3) it must be a judgment or order on the merits; and (4) there must be, between the two cases, identity of parties, subject matter and causes of action.[36]

Anent the third element, a judgment may be considered as one rendered on the merits when it determines the rights and liabilities of the parties based on the disclosed facts, irrespective of formal, technical or dilatory objections; or when the judgment is rendered after a determination of which party is right, as distinguished from a judgment rendered upon some preliminary or formal or merely technical point. It is not required that a trial, actual hearing, or argument on the facts of the case ensued, for as long as the parties had the full legal opportunity to be heard on their respective claims and contentions.[37]

In this case, the Orders of Branch 59 and Branch 60 do not constitute res judicata as the same are not rendered on the merits of the RTC petition. It did not contain legal declaration of the parties' rights and liabilities nor was there a determination on whether or not the petitioners were right in asking for the nullity of Rene and Cherry's marriage. In other words, the final order did not resolve substantial issues. Moreover, in certain cases, the Court has disregarded res judicata in the broader interest of justice, as well as when the circumstances of the case justify the relaxation of the said rule and declared that a party is not barred from filing a subsequent case of similar nature.[38]

The foregoing notwithstanding, the Court is of the opinion that to simply uphold the dismissal orders of Branch 60 and let the petitioners to file anew a complaint for nullity of marriage before the designated Family Court would not serve any compelling purpose, is impractical, and counterproductive to the cause of justice. With both parties having extensively discussed in their pleadings filed before the trial court and before the Court their respective positions on the issue on whether the petitioners have legal standing to file the RTC petition, the Court finds it imperative to properly evaluate the arguments of the parties and decide on that particular issue. To rule otherwise would only invite redundancy of bringing the same purely legal issue to the Court as the parties would just file the needed pleadings and raise the aforesaid issue in the trial court, and then elevate the same to the Court via a Rule 45 petition. This would not be conducive to the speedy administration of justice, and it becomes unnecessary where the Court is in a position to resolve the issue based on the records before it.[39] Apropos thereto, it is well-settled that the Court can take cognizance of and immediately resolve cases either when the parties deserve speedy, but legally warranted relief, or when remanding the cases would be counterproductive to the cause of justice.[40] Likewise, it is an accepted precept of procedural law that the Court may resolve the dispute in a single proceeding, instead of remanding the case to the lower court for further proceedings if, based on the records, pleadings, and other evidence, the matter can readily be ruled upon.[41]

Hence, the Court will now rule on the issue of whether or not the petitioners are the real parties-in-interest to file subject petition for nullity of marriage.

The petitioners are not the real party-
in-interest to file the RTC petition.


The Court issued A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC which took effect on March 15, 2003, in order to govern direct actions for declaration of nullity or annulment of marriage. As ruled in Enrico, Section 2(a) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC makes it the sole right of the husband or the wife to file a petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage, to wit:

SEC. 2. Petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages. –

(a) Who may file. – A petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be filed solely by the husband or the wife.[42] (Underscoring in the original)


In explaining why A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC only allows the spouses to file the petition to the exclusion of compulsory or intestate heirs, the Court held:

The Rationale of the Rules on Annulment of Voidable Marriages and Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages, Legal Separation and Provisional Orders explicates on Section 2(a) in the following manner, viz.:

1. Only an aggrieved or injured spouse may file petitions for annulment of voidable marriages and declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages. Such petitions cannot be filed by the compulsory or intestate heirs of the spouses or by the State. [Section 2; Section 3, paragraph a]

Only an aggrieved or injured spouse may file a petition for annulment of voidable marriages or declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages. Such petition cannot be filed by compulsory or intestate heirs of the spouses or by the State. The Committee is of the belief that they do not have a legal right to file the petition. Compulsory or intestate heirs have only inchoate rights prior to the death of their predecessor, and hence can only question the validity of the marriage of the spouses upon the death of a spouse in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased spouse filed in the regular courts. On the other hand, the concern of the State is to preserve marriage and not to seek its dissolution.[43] (Emphasis and underscoring in the original)


Like in Enrico, the Aguas heirs are the children of the deceased spouse whose marriage is sought to be annulled. And as ruled in the aforecited case, they have no legal personality to file the petition for declaration of nullity of marriage of their father with Cherry. They can only question the validity of the marriage of the said spouses in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of their deceased father filed in the regular courts.

Lucila, on the other hand, is not the wife in the marriage that she and her children sought to annul. Be it noted that she is not a spouse of Rene, their marriage having been declared null and void from the very beginning on the ground of psychological incapacity in the 2005 Nullity Decision.[44] Accordingly, Lucila, could not be the aggrieved or injured spouse referred to by A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC who has the legal standing to file the complaint for nullity of marriage of the spouses Rene and Cherry.

The Court is aware that in Juliano-Llave v. Republic,[45] it was held that A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC, which limits to only the husband or the wife the filing of a petition for nullity, does not shut out the prior spouse from filing a suit if the ground is a bigamous subsequent marriage, thus:

Note that the Rationale makes it clear that Section 2(a) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC refers to the "aggrieved or injured spouse." If Estrellita's interpretation is employed, the prior spouse is unjustly precluded from filing an action. Surely, this is not what the Rule contemplated.

The subsequent spouse may only be expected to take action if he or she had only discovered during the connubial period that the marriage was bigamous, and especially if the conjugal bliss had already vanished. Should parties in a subsequent marriage benefit from the bigamous marriage, it would not be expected that they would file an action to declare the marriage void and thus, in such circumstance, the "injured spouse" who should be given a legal remedy is the one in a subsisting previous marriage. The latter is clearly the aggrieved party as the bigamous marriage not only threatens the financial and the property ownership aspect of the prior marriage but most of all, it causes an emotional burden to the prior spouse. The subsequent marriage will always be a reminder of the infidelity of the spouse and the disregard of the prior marriage which sanctity is protected by the Constitution.[46]


In this case, however, the RTC petition was not anchored on the ground of bigamy, but on non-compliance with the provisions in Articles 52 and 53 of the Family Code on the partition and distribution of the properties of the previous marriage and delivery of the presumptive legitimes. It is also noteworthy that Rene and Cherry's marriage is not bigamous. Rene and Lucila's marriage was already declared null and void, hence, there is no existing marriage to speak of so as to constitute Rene and Cherry's marriage to be bigamous. As such, Lucila could not be considered as an injured spouse in a bigamous marriage that entitles her to file a petition for nullity of the subsequent marriage.

Niñal v. Bayadog is not applicable in
this case.


The petitioners insist on the application of Niñal v. Bayadog[47] where the Court allowed the children by a previous marriage to file a direct action to declare a subsequent marriage void after the death of their father. The Court cannot agree with the petitioners. The ruling in Niñal is not applicable in the instant case as it involves a marriage under the Civil Code while the instant case, like in Enrico, concerns a marriage celebrated during the effectivity of the Family Code and of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC. Thus, as held in Enrico:

While it is true that Niñal in no uncertain terms allowed therein petitioners to file a petition for the declaration of nullity of their father's marriage to therein respondent after the death of their father, we cannot, however, apply its ruling for the reason that the impugned marriage therein was solemnized prior to the effectivity of the Family Code. The Court in Niñal recognized that the applicable law to determine the validity of the two marriages involved therein is the Civil Code, which was the law in effect at the time of their celebration. What we have before us belongs to a different milieu, i.e., the marriage sought to be declared void was entered into during the effectivity of the Family Code. As can be gleaned from the facts, petitioner's marriage to Eulogio was celebrated in 2004.[48] (Citation omitted)


As it stands now, Section 2, paragraph (a) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC explicitly provides the limitation that a petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be filed solely by the husband or wife. Such limitation demarcates a line to distinguish between marriages covered by the Family Code and those solemnized under the regime of the Civil Code. Specifically, A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC extends only to marriages covered by the Family Code, which took effect on August 3, 1988, but, being a procedural rule that is prospective in application, it is confined only to proceedings commenced after March 15, 2003.[49] Considering that the marriage between Rene and Cherry was contracted on October 7, 2006 and that the RTC petition was filed on November 3, 2017, A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC is absolutely applicable to the petitioners.

Aguas heirs can collaterally attack
the validity of Rene and Cherry's
marriage in the proceedings for the
settlement of the estate of Rene.

Lucila can file a separate civil action
for partition against the administrator
of Rene's estate.


It is necessary to stress, as insightfully pointed out and discussed by Justice Caguioa in his Concurring Opinion, that upon the finality of the 2005 Nullity Decision, Rene, Lucila, or the Aguas heirs could have already moved for its execution by motion within five years from the entry of the 2005 Nullity Decision in accordance with Section 6,[50] Rule 39 of the Rules of Court. Thereafter, said parties had 10 years from entry of the 2005 Nullity Decision to file an independent action for its revival pursuant to Article 1152[51] of the Civil Code.[52] With that, partition and delivery of the corresponding portion of the subject property to the respective parties could have been had, as well as the delivery of the presumptive legitimes of the Aguas heirs.

As it happened, however, neither Rene nor petitioners herein moved for the execution of the 2005 Nullity Decision. Also, neither Rene nor petitioners attempted to execute the 2005 Nullity Decision by instituting an independent action for its revival. Hence, the subject property remained under the state of co-ownership among Rene, Lucila and the Aguas heirs. Moreover, Rene's death supervened the enforcement of the 2005 Nullity Decision and the partition of the Sunset Valley Estate. Thus, succession set in and triggered the application of the Civil Code provisions governing succession and the procedural rules governing the settlement of deceased persons. Consequently, the Aguas heirs' right to the delivery of their presumptive legitimes had been superseded by their statutory right to succeed Rene as compulsory heirs.[53]

Now, the Aguas heirs filed the RTC petition under the assumption that the validity or invalidity of Rene and Cherry's marriage would affect their successional rights and share in Rene's estate, which allegedly included the entire subject property. As earlier explained, however, they do not have the legal standing to file the RTC petition.

Nevertheless, all is not lost for them.

As explained in Enrico, while A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC declares that a petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be filed solely by the husband or the wife, it does not mean that the compulsory or intestate heirs are already without any recourse under the law. They can still protect their successional right, for, as stated in the Rationale of the Rules on Annulment of Voidable Marriages and Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages, Legal Separation and Provisional Orders (Rationale of the Rules), compulsory or intestate heirs can still question the validity of the marriage of the spouses, not in a proceeding for declaration of nullity, but upon the death of a spouse in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased spouse filed in the regular courts.

The Court notes that there is a pending intestate proceedings of the estate of Rene, SP Case No. R-ANG-17-01449-SP entitled, "In the Matter of the Petition for Letters of Administration and Settlement of Intestate Estate of Rene F. Aguas, Cherry Calilung-Aguas, Petitioner." The Aguas heirs can certainly amply protect their successional rights by collaterally raising the issue on the validity of Rene and Cherry's marriage in the aforesaid proceedings which they did when they filed a Comment/Opposition to the Petition in SP Case No. R-ANG-17-01449-SP[54] together with Lucila and raised the argument that Rene's marriage with Cherry is null and void.

In fact, as correctly pointed out by Justice Caguioa in his Concurring Opinion, the Aguas heirs' successional rights and share in Rene's estate should be properly determined in the Settlement Proceeding, which was already pending with Branch 56 upon the filing of the RTC petition, to the exclusion of all other courts of concurrent jurisdiction. This is pursuant to Section 1, Rule 73 of the Rules of Court in relation to the principle of priority or the rule of exclusive concurrent jurisdiction.

The rule is that the court which first takes cognizance of an action over which it has jurisdiction and power to afford complete relief has the exclusive right to dispose of the controversy without interference from other courts of concurrent jurisdiction in which similar actions are subsequently instituted between the same parties seeking similar remedies and involving the same questions.[55] Such rule is referred to as the principle of priority or the rule of exclusive concurrent jurisdiction. Although comity is sometimes a motive for the courts to abide by the priority principle, it is a legal duty of a court to abide by such principle to reduce the possibility of the conflicting exercise of concurrent jurisdiction, especially to reduce the possibility that a case involving the same subject matter and the same parties is simultaneously acted on in more than one court.[56]

Section 1, Rule 73 of the Rules of Court states:

SEC. 1. Where estate of deceased persons settled. — If the decedent is an inhabitant of the Philippines at the time of his death, whether a citizen or an alien, his will shall be proved, or letters of administration granted, and his estate settled, in the Court of First Instance in the province in which he resides at the time of his death, and if he is an inhabitant of a foreign country, the Court of First Instance of any province in which he had estate. The court first taking cognizance of the settlement of the estate of a decedent, shall exercise jurisdiction to the exclusion of all other courts. The jurisdiction assumed by a court, so far as it depends on the place of residence of the decedent, or of the location of his estate, shall not be contested in a suit or proceeding, except in an appeal from that court, in the original case, or when the want of jurisdiction appears on the record. (Emphasis supplied)


As stated, Section 1, Rule 73 grants to the court first taking cognizance of the settlement of the decedent's estate the exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide all matters relating to the settlement and liquidation of the decedent's estate to the exclusion of all other courts of concurrent jurisdiction. The main function of settlement of estate proceedings is to settle and liquidate the estates of deceased persons. Integral to this process is the determination of the assets that form part of the decedent's estate, the heirs who shall participate in said estate, and the amount or proportion of these heirs' respective shares therein. Certainly, Branch 56, which is handling the Settlement Proceeding, has primary and exclusive subject matter jurisdiction over the Aguas heirs' successional rights and share in Rene's estate where they can collaterally attack the validity of Rene and Cherry's marriage.

Relatedly, it may not be amiss to stress that the Aguas heirs may collaterally attack the validity of Rene and Cherry's marriage in the Settlement Proceeding since the same is for purposes of succession and not of remarriage.

In Domingo v. Court of Appeals,[57] the Court already clarified that a collateral attack against a void marriage may be permitted for purposes other than remarriage. Same ruling was made in De Castro v. Assidao-De Castro,[58] where collateral attack was allowed by a spouse to a void marriage in an action for support.

In De Castro, petitioner Reinel Anthony De Castro and respondent Annabelle Assidao-De Castro got married in 1995 without a marriage license, but with affidavit stating that they had been living together as husband and wife for at least five years. On June 4, 1998, Annabelle filed a complaint for support against Reinel alleging that the latter has reneged on his responsibility/obligation to financially support her as his wife and Reinna Tricia as his child. Reinel Anthony denied that he is married to Annabelle, claiming that their marriage is void ab initio since the marriage was facilitated by a fake affidavit and that they never lived together as husband and wife. The trial court ruled that the marriage between Reinel Anthony and Annabelle is not valid because it was solemnized without a marriage license. However, it declared petitioner as the natural father of the child, and, thus, obliged to give her support. On appeal, the CA ruled that since the case is an action for support, it was improper for the trial court to declare the marriage of Reinel Anthony and Annabelle as null and void in the very same case. When the case was elevated to the Court, it ruled that a void marriage can be the subject of a collateral attack in a suit not directly instituted to question the validity of said marriage. Thus:

Anent the first issue, the Court holds that the trial court had jurisdiction to determine the validity of the marriage between petitioner and respondent. The validity of a void marriage may be collaterally attacked. Thus, in Niñal v. Bayadog, we held:

However, other than for purposes of remarriage, no judicial action is necessary to declare a marriage an absolute nullity. For other purposes, such as but not limited to determination of heirship, legitimacy or illegitimacy of a child, settlement of estate, dissolution of property regime, or a criminal case for that matter, the court may pass upon the validity of marriage even in a suit not directly instituted to question the same so long as it is essential to the determination of the case. This is without prejudice to any issue that may arise in the case. When such need arises, a final judgment of declaration of nullity is necessary even if the purpose is other than to remarry. The clause "on the basis of a final judgment declaring such previous marriage void" in Article 40 of the Family Code connotes that such final judgment need not be obtained only for purpose of remarriage.

Likewise, in Nicdao Cariño v. Yee Cariño, the Court ruled that it is clothed with sufficient authority to pass upon the validity of two marriages despite the main case being a claim for death benefits. Reiterating Niñal, we held that the Court may pass upon the validity of a marriage even in a suit not directly instituted to question the validity of said marriage, so long as it is essential to the determination of the case. However, evidence must be adduced, testimonial or documentary, to prove the existence of grounds rendering such a marriage an absolute nullity.[59] (Citations omitted; emphases supplied)


Moreover, that the Aguas heirs may collaterally attack the validity of Rene and Cherry's marriage in the Settlement Proceeding is very clear from the Rationale of the Rules, which states:

Only an aggrieved or injured spouse may file a petition for annulment of voidable marriages or declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages. Such petition cannot be filed by compulsory or intestate heirs of the spouses or by the State. The Committee is of the belief that they do not have a legal right to file the petition. Compulsory or intestate heirs have only inchoate rights prior to the death of their predecessor, and hence can only question the validity of the marriage of the spouses upon the death of a spouse in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased spouse filed in the regular courts. On the other hand, the concern of the State is to preserve marriage and not to seek its dissolution.[60] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)


As appropriately observed by Justice Caguioa, the Rationale of the Rules draws a distinction between a "petition for annulment of voidable marriages or declaration of absolute nullity" on the one hand, and an action assailing the validity of a predecessor's marriage for the purpose of determining successional rights, on the other. The former is a direct action assailing the validity of marriage that is governed by A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC and pertains exclusively to the aggrieved or injured spouse. The latter pertains to a collateral attack against the validity of a predecessor's marriage brought in a proceeding for the settlement of the latter's estate in accordance with the. procedure set forth in the Rules of Court.

With regard to Lucila, it is interesting to note that Enrico and the Rationale of the Rules only mentioned compulsory or intestate heirs as the ones who could collaterally assail the validity of a marriage in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased spouse filed in the regular courts in order to protect their successional rights. This would mean then that the said remedy or recourse under the law is not available to Lucila since she is not an heir of Rene, her marriage with the deceased having been declared null and void from the very beginning on the ground of psychological incapacity in the 2005 Nullity Decision. Lucila is, therefore, considered as a stranger in the estate proceedings with no right to succeed as an heir of Rene, thus, she has no standing to participate in the Settlement Proceeding.

Concomitantly, Lucila's claim cannot be filed in the Settlement Proceeding. It is well-settled that a probate or intestate court cannot adjudicate or determine title to properties claimed to be a part of the estate and which are claimed to belong to outside parties. This is clearly elucidated in the case of Agtarap v. Agtarap.[61] Thus:

The general rule is that the jurisdiction of the trial court, either as a probate or an intestate court, relates only to matters having to do with the probate of the will and/or settlement of the estate of deceased persons, but does not extend to the determination of questions of ownership that arise during the proceedings. The patent rationale for this rule is that such court merely exercises special and limited jurisdiction. As held in several cases, a probate court or one in charge of estate proceedings, whether testate or intestate, cannot adjudicate or determine title to properties claimed to be a part of the estate and which are claimed to belong to outside parties, not by virtue of any right of inheritance from the deceased but by title adverse to that of the deceased and his estate. All that the said court could do as regards said properties is to determine whether or not they should be included in the inventory of properties to be administered by the administrator. If there is no dispute, there poses no problem, but if there is, then the parties, the administrator, and the opposing parties have to resort to an ordinary action before a court exercising general jurisdiction for a final determination of the conflicting claims of title. (Emphases supplied)


It must be noted, though, that the above rule is subject to exceptions, as likewise explained in Agtarap, to wit:

[T]his general rule is subject to exceptions as justified by expediency and convenience.

First, the probate [or intestate] court may provisionally pass upon in an intestate or a testate proceeding the question of inclusion in, or exclusion from, the inventory of a piece of property without prejudice to the final determination of ownership in a separate action. Second, if the interested parties are all heirs to the estate, or the question is one of collation or advancement, or the parties consent to the assumption of jurisdiction by the probate court and the rights of third parties are not impaired, then the probate court is competent to resolve issues on ownership. Verily, its jurisdiction extends to matters incidental or collateral to the settlement and distribution of the estate, such as the determination of the status of each heir and whether the property in the inventory is conjugal or exclusive property of the deceased spouse.[62] (Emphasis supplied)


Of the exceptions referred to above, the Court notes that the intestate court in the Settlement Proceeding may provisionally pass upon the question of inclusion in, or exclusion from, the inventory of the subject properties in this case. The same, however, would not give Lucila full and complete relief as the said inclusion or exclusion is still subject to the final determination of ownership in a separate action. How would Lucila amply and finally protect then her right and interest over Sunset Valley Estate or recover her share in the aforesaid co-owned property?

The Court holds that Lucila, being a stranger to the Settlement Proceeding, should file a separate civil action for partition before the regular courts against the administrator of Rene's estate. This course of action is not only consistent with the aforesaid jurisprudential pronouncements, but is likewise in accord with Section 1, Rule 87 of the Rules of Court, which provides that an action to recover real property or an interest therein from the estate may be commenced against administrator, to wit:

SEC. 1. Actions which may and. which may not be brought against executor or administrator. — No action upon a claim for the recovery of money or debt or interest thereon shall be commenced against the executor or administrator; but to recover real or personal property, or an interest therein, from the estate, or to enforce a lien thereon, and actions to recover damages for an injury to person or property, real or personal, may be commenced against him.


WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Petition is DENIED. The Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage in Civil Case No. R-ANG-17-03316-CV filed before the Regional Trial Court of Angeles City, Branch 59, and re-raffled to Branch 60 of the same station, is ORDERED DISMISSED without prejudice to petitioners Princess Luren D. Aguas, Danica Lane D. Aguas, Sean Patrick D. Aguas, Sean Michael D. Aguas, and Samantha D. Aguas in challenging the validity of the marriage of Cherry S. Calilung to the late Rene F. Aguas in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the latter and to petitioner Lucila David in filing a separate action for partition of the Sunset Valley Estate against the administrator of Rene's estate.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.


Peralta, C.J., Perlas-Bernabe, Gesmundo, Hernando, Carandang, Inting, Zalameda, Lopez, Gaerlan, and Rosario, JJ., concur.
Leonen, J., on official business.
Caguioa, J., see concurring opinion
Lazaro-Javier, J., please see separate opinion.


NOTICE OF JUDGMENT


Sirs/Mesdames:

Please take notice that on January 26, 2021 a Decision copy attached herewith, was rendered by the Supreme Court in the above-entitled case, the original of which was received by this Office on June 1, 2021 at 10:55 a.m.

Very truly yours,

(SGD.) EDGAR O. ARICHETA
Clerk of Court


* Also referred to as "Samantha Mari" in some parts of the rollo.

[1] Rollo, pp. 17-33.

[2] Id. at 34-36.

[3] Id. at 37-39.

[4] Id. at 91.

[5] Id. at 103-108.

[6] Id. at 93.

[7] Id. at 95-102.

[8] Id. at 110.

[9] Respondent's Comment to the Petition, id. at 245.

[10] Id. at 52-59.

[11] See Aguas heirs' Comment/Opposition to the petition for the settlement of the intestate estate of Rene, id. at 52-53.

[12] Id. at 70-75.

[13] Id. at 113.

[14] Id.

[15] Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages, dated March 4, 2003.

[16] 560 Phil. 673 (2007).

[17] Rollo, p. 36.

[18] Supra note 3.

[19] Rollo, p. 142.

[20] Municipality of Pateros v. Court of Appeals, 607 Phil. 104, 116 (2009).

[21] Taglay v. Judge Daray, 693 Phil. 45, 54 (2012).

[22] Approved on October 28, 1997.

[23] People v. Clores, Jr., 475 Phil. 99, 112 (2004).

[24] CONSTITUTION, Art. VIII, Sec. 2, provides:
SEC. 2. The Congress shall have the power to define, prescribe, and apportion the jurisdiction of various courts but may not deprive the Supreme Court of its jurisdiction over cases enumerated in Section 5 hereof.
No law shall be passed reorganizing the Judiciary when it undermines the security of tenure of its Members.

[25] Id. at Sec. 5, provides:

SEC. 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers:

(1)
Exercise original jurisdiction over cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and over petitions for certiorari, prohibition, mandamusquo warranto, and habeas corpus.
(2)
Review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm on appeal or certiorari, as the law or the Rules of Court may provide, final judgments and orders of lower courts in:
(a) All cases in which the constitutionality or validity of any treaty, international or executive agreement, law, presidential decree, proclamation, order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation is in question, (b) All cases involving the legality of any tax, impost, assessment, or toll, or any penalty imposed in relation thereto, (c) All cases in which the jurisdiction of any lower court is in issue, (d) All criminal cases in which the penalty imposed is reclusion perpetua or higher, (e) All cases in which only an error or question of law is involved.
(3)
Assign temporarily judges of lower courts to other stations as public interest may require. Such temporary assignment shall not exceed six months without the consent of the judge concerned.
(4)
Order a change of venue or place of trial to avoid a miscarriage of justice.
(5)
Promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, the admission to the practice of law, the Integrated Bar, and legal assistance to the underprivileged. Such rules shall provide a simplified and inexpensive procedure for the speedy disposition of cases, shall be uniform for all courts of the same grade, and shall not diminish, increase, or modify substantive rights. Rules of procedure of special courts and quasi-judicial bodies shall remain effective unless disapproved by the Supreme Court.
(6)
Appoint all officials and employees of the Judiciary in accordance with the Civil Service Law.

[26] Id. at Art. VI, Sec. 30, provides:
SEC. 30. No law shall be passed increasing the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court as provided in this Constitution without its advice and concurrence.

[27] Anama v. Citibanks N.A., 822 Phil. 630, 639 (2017).

[28] Ku v. RCBC Securities, Inc., G.R. No. 219491, October 17, 2018.

[29] Supra note 12, at 71-73.

[30] SEC. 5. Jurisdiction of Family Courts. – The Family Courts shall have exclusive original jurisdiction to hear and decide the following cases:
x x x x
d) Complaints for annulment of marriage, declaration of nullity of marriage and those relating to marital status and property relations of husband and wife or those living together under different status and agreements, and petitions for dissolution of conjugal partnership of gains[.]

[31] Goco v. Court of Appeals, 631 Phil. 394, 403 (2010).

[32] See Pacaña-Contreras v. Rovila Water Supply, Inc., 722 Phil. 460, 477-478 (2013), on the difference between dismissal on the ground of failure to state cause of action and lack of cause of action.

[33] RULES OF COURT, Rule 9, Sec. 1, provides for only four instances when the court may motu proprio dismiss the claim, namely: (a) lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter; (b) litis pendentia; (c) res judicata; and (d) prescription of action.

[34] Pacasum, Sr. v. Atty. Zamoranos, 807 Phil. 783, 790 (2017).

[35] Bilag v. Ay-Ay, 809 Phil. 236, 243 (2017).

[36] Cebu State College of Science and Technology v. Misterio, 760 Phil. 672, 684 (2015).

[37] Aledro-Ruña v. Lead Export and Agro-Development Corporation, G.R. No. 225896, July 23, 2018.

[38] Id.

[39] Medline Management. Inc. v. Roslinda, 645 Phil. 34, 50 (2010).

[40] Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation v. F. Franco Transport, Inc., G.R. No. 191202, November 21, 2018.

[41] Medline Management, Inc. v. Roslinda, supra.

[42] Enrico v. Heirs of Spouses Medinaceli, supra note 16, at 682.

[43] Id. at 682-683, citing Rationale of the Rules on Annulment of Voidable Marriages and Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages, Legal Separation and Provisional Orders.

[44] See Comment to the Petition, rollo, p. 250; see also the 2005 Nullity Decision, supra note 7.

[45] 662 Phil. 203 (2011).

[46] Id. at 223-224.

[47] 384 Phil. 661 (2000).

[48] Enrico v. Heirs of Spouses Medinaceli, supra note 16, at 681.

[49] See Ablaza v. Republic, 642 Phil. 183, 190-191 (2010).

[50] RULES OF COURT, Rule 39, Sec. 6:
SEC. 6. Execution by motion or by independent action. – A final and executory judgment or order may be executed on motion within five (5) years from the date of its entry. After the lapse of such time, and before it is barred by the statute of limitations, a judgment may be enforced by action. The revived judgment may also be enforced by motion within five (5) years from the date of its entry and thereafter by action before it is barred by the statute of limitations.

[51] CIVIL Code, Art. 1144. The following actions must be brought within ten years from the time the right of action accrues:
(1) Upon a written contract;
(2) Upon an obligation created by law; [and]
(3) Upon a judgment.
x x x x
ART. 1152. The period for prescription of actions to demand the fulfillment of obligation declared by a judgment commences from the time the judgment became final.

[52] See Diaz, Jr. v. Valenciano, Jr., 822 Phil. 291, 311 (2017).

[53] See Concurring Opinion, Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa.

[54] Supra note 11.

[55] Unduran v. Aberasturi, 808 Phil. 795, 813 (2017).

[56] Id. at 814.

[57] 297 Phil. 642 (1993), cited and discussed by Justice Caguioa in his Concurring Opinion.

[58] 568 Phil. 724 (2008).

[59] De Castro v. Assidao-De Castro, id. at 731-732.

[60] Enrico v. Heirs of Spouses Medinaceli, supra note 16, at 683, citing the Rationale of the Rules.

[61] 666 Phil. 452, 468-469 (2011).

[62] Id. at 469; see also Pacioles, Jr. v. Chuatoco-Ching, 503 Phil. 707, 715 (2005).



CONCURRING OPINION


CAGUIOA, J.:

The ponencia affirms the dismissal of Civil Case No. R-ANG-17- 03316-CV (RTC Petition) on the ground of lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In so ruling, it characterizes the RTC Petition as one falling within the exclusive jurisdiction of Branch 59 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Angeles City, the duly designated Family Court of said station.

I concur.

I submit this Concurring Opinion only to highlight the remedies which may be availed of by the petitioners herein to enforce the partition of property and delivery of presumptive legitimes ordered in the Petition for Nullity of Marriage filed by Rene F. Aguas (Rene) against petitioner Lucila David (Lucila).

For context, a brief restatement of the relevant facts is in order.

Lucila married Rene on November 24, 1981 in Mabalacat, Pampanga. They begot five children namely, petitioners Princess Luren D. Aguas (Princess), Danica Lane D. Aguas (Danica), Sean Patrick D. Aguas (Patrick), Sean Michael D. Aguas (Michael) and Samantha D. Aguas (Samantha) (collectively, the Aguas heirs).[1]

On December 10, 2003, Rene filed a petition to declare his marriage with Lucila null and void on the ground of the latter's psychological incapacity. Rene declared as conjugal property a 500-square meter parcel of land in Sunset Valley, Angeles City covered by TCT No. 045-90811 issued in the name of Rene and Lucila.[2]

On December 22, 2005, Rene and Lucila's marriage was declared null and void. Hence, the handling court ordered the division of the lot covered by TCT No. 045-90811 and the house thereon (Sunset Valley Estate), as well as the delivery of the presumptive legitimes of their common children.[3] Despite this, the presumptive legitimes of the Aguas heirs were not delivered. As well, the partition of the Sunset Valley Estate had not been undertaken.[4]

On October 7, 2006, Rene contracted a second marriage with respondent Cherry Calilung (Cherry).[5]

On November 17, 2015, Rene died intestate.[6]

On May 24, 2017, Cherry filed Special Proceeding Case No. R-Ang 17-01449-SP entitled "In the Matter of the Petition for Letters of Administration and Settlement of Intestate Estate of Rene F. Aguas, Cherry Calilung-Aguas, Petitioner" (Settlement Proceeding). The Settlement Proceeding was raffled to RTC Branch 56.[7]

Lucila and the Aguas heirs (collectively, Petitioners) actively participated in the Settlement Proceeding. In their Comment/Opposition, they alleged:

1. The [Aguas heirs] are the legitimate children of the late [Rene] with [Lucila]. The marriage of [Rene] and [Lucila] was dissolved by virtue of the Decision of [RTC] Branch 60, dated [December 22, 2005] x x x.

2. Although the marriage was dissolved, there was no liquidation or separation of the properties acquired during their marriage in accordance with Article 102 of the Family Code.

3. Thus, when [Rene] married [Cherry] on [October 7, 2006], the properties of [Rene] acquired during the previous marriage should not [have been] included in their property regime pursuant to Article 92 of the Family Code x x x

x x x x

4. Furthermore, Article 52 of the Family Code explicitly provides:
Art. 52. The judgment of annulment or of absolute nullity of the marriage, the partition and distribution of the properties of the spouses and the delivery of the children's presumptive legitimes shall be recorded in the appropriate civil registry and registries of property; otherwise, the same shall not affect third persons.

5. Failure to comply with the requirements of Article 52 will have the effect of nullifying a subsequent marriage pursuant to Article 53 of the same Code, to wit:
Art. 53. Either of the former spouses may marry again after compliance with the requirements of the immediately preceding Article; otherwise, the subsequent marriage shall be null and void.[8] (Emphasis supplied)


On November 3, 2017, or after the Settlement Proceeding was filed, Petitioners filed the RTC Petition,[9] where they prayed that the marriage between Rene and Cherry be declared null and void pursuant to Article 53 in relation to Article 52 of the Family Code.[10] The RTC Petition was originally raffled to RTC Branch 59.

In its Order dated November 10, 2017 (Transmittal Order), Branch 59 directed the transmittal of the case records to the Office of the Clerk of Court for purposes of re-raffling. The relevant portions of the Transmittal Order read:

Considering that the instant [RTC] Petition involves a collateral attack on the validity of marriage of [Cherry] and [Rene], it does not fall within the jurisdiction of a family court.

x x x x

IN LIGHT OF THE FOREGOING, the Branch Clerk of Court is hereby directed to transmit the record of this case to the Office of the Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court of Angeles City for re-raffle among the courts of general jurisdiction.[11] (Emphasis supplied; italics omitted)


Pursuant to the Transmittal Order, the RTC Petition was re-raffled to RTC Branch 60. Days later, or on November 24, 2017, Branch 60 issued the assailed Order[12] (First assailed Order) dismissing the RTC Petition on the ground of "lack of jurisdiction," thus:

It is apparent from the face of the petition that the same is hinged upon the issue of validity of marriage emanating from Articles 52 and 53 of the Family Code. Pursuant to Section 5 of Republic Act 8369 otherwise known as the Family Courts Act of 1997[,] it is the Family Court who has jurisdiction over this case.

Considering that this court is no longer a Family Court, this court has no jurisdiction over the case.

It is noteworthy to discuss the case of Lolita D. Enrico v. Heirs of Sps. Eulogio B. Medinaceli and Trinidad Catli-Medinaceli represented by Vilma M. Articulo, where the [Court] opined that A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC covers marriages under the Family Code of the Philippines, and is prospective in its application. The [Court] emphasized that:

There is no ambiguity in the Rule. Absolute sententil expositore non indiget. When the language of the law is clear, no explanation of it is required. Section 2(a) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC, makes it the sole right of the husband or the wife to file a petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage.

The Rationale of the Rules on Annulment of Voidable Marriages and Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages, Legal Separation and Provisional Orders explicates on Section 2(a) in the following manner, viz:

1. Only an aggrieved or injured spouse may file petitions for annulment of voidable marriages and declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages. Such petitions cannot be filed by the compulsory or intestate heirs of the spouses or by the State. [Section 2; Section 3, paragraph a]

Only an aggrieved or injured spouse may file a petition for annulment of voidable marriages or declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages. Such petition cannot be filed by compulsory or intestate heirs of the spouses or by the State. The Committee is of the belief that they do not have a legal right to file the petition. Compulsory or intestate heirs have only inchoate rights prior to the death of their predecessor, and hence can only question the validity of the marriage of the spouses upon the death of a spouse in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased spouse filed in the regular courts. On the other hand, the concern of the State is to preserve marriage and not to seek its dissolution.

Respondents clearly have no cause of action before the court a quo. Nonetheless, all is not lost for respondents. While A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC declares that a petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be filed solely by the husband or the wife, it does not mean that the compulsory or intestate heirs are already without any recourse under the law. They can still protect their successional right, for, as stated in the Rationale of the Rules on Annulment of Voidable Marriages and Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages, Legal Separation and Provisional Orders, compulsory or intestate heirs can still question the validity of the marriage of the spouses, not in a proceeding for declaration of nullity, but upon the death of a spouse in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased spouse filed in the regular courts. x x x

In view of the foregoing, the petition filed by [Petitioners] is hereby dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.[13] (Additional emphasis and underscoring supplied)


However, the Transmittal Order of Branch 59 and the First assailed Order of Branch 60 were only received by Petitioners on December 5, 2017.

Petitioners thus filed a motion for reconsideration praying that the RTC Petition be referred back to Branch 59, the latter being the designated Family Court of Angeles City. Said motion was denied by Branch 60 in its assailed Order[14] dated June 13, 2018 (Second assailed Order), noting, among others, that "there is already a pending intestate proceedings in [Branch 56] x x x."[15]

Aggrieved, Petitioners seek recourse with the Court through this Petition filed under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Court (the Rules).

The ponencia upholds the assailed Orders of Branch 60 and finds the dismissal of the RTC Petition proper. According to the ponencia, the subject matter of the RTC Petition falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of Branch 59, the designated Family Court of Angeles City.[16]

This finding rests on Section 5(d) of Republic Act No. 8369,[17] otherwise referred to as the Family Courts Act of 1997. Section 5(d) states:

Section 5. Jurisdiction of Family Courts. — The Family Courts shall have exclusive original jurisdiction to hear and decide the following cases:

x x x x

d) Complaints for annulment of marriage, declaration of nullity of marriage and those relating to marital status and property relations of husband and wife or those living together under different status and agreements, and petitions for dissolution of conjugal partnership of gains[.]


As stated at the outset, I agree.

Jurisdiction over the subject matter of a case is conferred by law and determined by the allegations in the complaint, as well as by the character of the reliefs sought.[18]

Here, the relevant allegations in the RTC Petition state:

4. Lucila and [Rene] entered into a marital union on [November 24, 1981] in Mabalacat, Pampanga.

x x x x

5. Out of their marital union, Lucila and Rene begotten five children – Princess, Danica, Patrick, Michael and Samantha x x x.

6. On [December 10, 2003], Rene filed a Petition for Nullity of Marriage against Lucila before the [RTC], Branch 60 of Angeles City x x x. In the said Petition for Nullity, therein Petitioner Rene declared conjugal properties as follows:

x x x x

14[.] That the parties have amassed between them a parcel of land located at Sunset [Valley] Estate, Angeles City consisting of five hundred square meters, more or less. This is aside from the assets in business consisting mainly of merchandise inventory in [Rene's] pawnshop and RTW sales business.

It is the desire of [Rene] that title to the aforementioned real property be transferred entirely to their common children while the commercial assets be retained under his administration, given that he still provides for their subsistence and education;

x x x x

7. The subject property is covered by [TCT] No. 045-90811 x x x and was indeed registered in the names of Spouses Rene F. Aguas and Lucila D. Aguas.

8. Without receiving any notice from the Court regarding the Petition for Nullity, Lucila learned sometime in the year 2007 that a Decision dated [December 22, 2005] has already been rendered by the RTC granting the said Petition [for Nullity] filed by Rene. The dispositive portion of the said Decision is herein reproduced as follows:
"WHEREFORE, the petition is granted and the marriage between petitioner Rene F. Aguas and respondent Lucila D. Aguas solemnized on November 24, 1981 is hereby declared null and void.

Their conjugal property consisting of a house and lot located at Sunset Valley Estate, Angeles City is ordered divided between them providing for the support and the delivery of the [presumptive] legitime to their children. Thereafter, the conjugal partnership of gains is ordered dissolved.

x x x"

x x x x

9. The Decision above-mentioned, as well as its Certificate of Finality, was not registered with the Office of Registry of Deeds of Angeles City where the subject property is located. Thus, no annotation of said Decision on the Title covering the subject property has ever been made.

x x x x

10. On [October 7, 2006], Rene and Cherry entered into a marital union without the partition and liquidation of the subject property, and proper delivery of the prospective legitimes of Princess, Danica, Michael, Patrick and Samantha, who are children [from] the first marriage.

x x x x

11. On [November 17, 2015], Rene died intestate.

12. Due to the failure of Rene and Cherry to comply with the express provision of the law, the subsequent marriage contracted by the deceased Rene with Cherry is null and void pursuant to Article 53 in relation to Article 52 of the Family Code x x x[.][19] (Italics and underscoring omitted)


Based on these allegations, Petitioners prayed for the issuance of a judgment: (i) declaring the marriage between Rene and Cherry null and void; and (ii) ordering the Local Civil Registrar of Angeles City to annotate the fact of nullity on Rene and Cherry's Certificate of Marriage and transmit the same to the. Philippine Statistics Authority for proper registration.[20]

As astutely observed by the ponencia, the RTC Petition is a direct action for declaration of nullity of marriage falling under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Family Court, which, in this case, is Branch 59. Thus, Branch 60 correctly dismissed the RTC Petition on the ground of lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that Branch 60 possessed subject matter jurisdiction over the RTC Petition, the latter would have still been subject to dismissal based on A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC which sets forth the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages.

Section 2 of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC limits the parties who may file a direct action for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages, thus:

SEC. 2. Petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages. –

(a) Who may file. – A petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages may be filed solely by the husband or the wife.


Clearly, Lucila and the Aguas heirs lack the legal standing to file the RTC Petition.

Nevertheless, the dismissal of the RTC Petition does not bar the resolution of the issues raised therein in the Settlement Proceeding involving Rene's estate as far as the successional rights of the Aguas heirs and Cherry, if any, are concerned, and in a separate action for partition with respect to Lucila's decreed share in the Sunset Valley Estate.

I expound.

Rene and Lucila's marriage was declared null and void through the December 22, 2005 Decision[21] (2005 Nullity Decision), the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, the petition is granted and the marriage between petitioner Rene F. Aguas and respondent Lucila D. Aguas solemnized on November 24, 1981 is hereby declared null and void.

Their conjugal property consisting of a house and lot located at Sunset Valley Estate, Angeles City is ordered divided between them providing for the support and delivery of the [presumptive] legitime (sic) to their children. Thereafter, the conjugal partnership of gains is ordered dissolved.

After the finality of this Decision, let a Decree of Declaration of Nullity of Marriage be issued in this case.

SO ORDERED.[22]


Before delving into the remedies available to Lucila and the Aguas heirs, I find it necessary to stress, for purposes of clarity, that the 2005 Nullity Decision erred in characterizing the Sunset Valley Estate as conjugal property.

To recall, Rene and Lucila's marriage had been declared null and void on the basis of Article 36 of the Family Code. Their union thus falls under the scope of Article 147 of the same statute, which reads:

ART. 147. When a man and a woman who are capacitated to marry each other, live exclusively with each other as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage or under a void marriage, their wages and salaries shall be owned by them in equal shares and the property acquired by both of them through their work or industry shall be governed by the rules on co-ownership.

In the absence of proof to the contrary, properties acquired while they lived together shall be presumed to have been obtained by their joint efforts, work or industry, and shall be owned by them in equal shares. For purposes of this Article, a party who did not participate in the acquisition by the other party of any property shall be deemed to have contributed jointly in the acquisition thereof if the former's efforts consisted in the care and maintenance of the family and of the household.

Neither party can encumber or dispose by acts inter vivos of his or her share in the property acquired during cohabitation and owned in common, without the consent of the other, until after the termination of their cohabitation.

When only one of the parties to a void marriage is in good faith, the share of the party in bad faith in the co-ownership shall be forfeited in favor of their common children. In case of default of or waiver by any or all of the common children or their descendants, each vacant share shall belong to the respective surviving descendants. In the absence of descendants, such share shall belong to the innocent party. In all cases, the forfeiture shall take place upon termination of the cohabitation. (Emphasis supplied)


Pursuant to Article 147 of the Family Code, properties acquired by the parties during their cohabitation are placed in a special co-ownership.

Here, Article 147 applies even if Rene and Lucila were married before the Family Code took effect. Such retroactive application had been settled by the Court in Paterno v. Paterno,[23] thus:

There is no quarrel that the marriage of the petitioner and the respondent had long been declared an absolute nullity by reason of their psychological incapacity to perform their marital obligations to each other. The property relations of parties to a void marriage is governed either by Article 147 or 148 of the Family Code. Since the petitioner and the respondent suffer no legal impediment and exclusively lived with each other under a void marriage, their property relation is one of co-ownership under Article 147 of the Family Code. The said provision finds application in this case even if the parties were married before the Family Code took effect by express provision of the Family Code on its retroactive effect for as long as it does not prejudice or impair vested or acquired rights in accordance with the Civil Code or other laws. Here, no vested rights will be impaired in the application of the said provision given that Article 147 of the Family Code is actually just a remake of Article 144 of the 1950 Civil Code.[24] (Emphasis supplied)


Lest there be any confusion, it must be clarified that the Sunset Valley Estate is not conjugal property, but rather, co-owned property, as the property relations of Rene and Lucila are "governed by the rules on co-ownership."[25]

That said, the remedies to enforce the liquidation, partition, and delivery of the presumptive legitimes of the common children are the same, whether the subject properties are community property,[26] conjugal property,[27] or co-owned property.[28]

Execution of the 2005 Nullity Decision

The 2005 Nullity Decision lapsed into finality on January 6, 2006 in the absence of an appeal.[29] As a result, the declaration of the Sunset Valley Estate as the sole property owned in common by Rene and Lucila and the sole source of the Aguas heirs' presumptive legitimes had become final and executory.

Upon finality of the 2005 Nullity Decision, Rene, Lucila, or the Aguas heirs could have already moved for its execution, either by motion or independent action, in accordance with Section 6, Rule 39 of the Rules:

SEC. 6. Execution by motion or by independent action. — A final and executory judgment or order may be executed on motion within five (5) years from the date of its entry. After the lapse of such time, and before it is barred by the statute of limitations, a judgment may be enforced by action. The revived judgment may also be enforced by motion within five (5) years from the date of its entry and thereafter by action before it is barred by the statute of limitations.


Section 6, Rule 39 should be read in conjunction with Articles 1144 and 1152 of the Civil Code which state:

ART. 1144. The following actions must be brought within ten years from the time the right of action accrues:

(1) Upon a written contract;

(2) Upon an obligation created by law;

(3) Upon a judgment.

x x x x

ART. 1152. The period for prescription of actions to demand the fulfillment of obligation declared by a judgment commences from the time the judgment became final. (Emphasis supplied)


Based on the foregoing provisions, Rene, Lucila, and the Aguas heirs had five (5) years from the entry of the 2005 Nullity Decision to move for its execution before the issuing court. Thereafter, said parties had ten (10) years from entry of the 2005 Nullity Decision to file an independent action for its revival.[30]

To be sure, Rene, Lucila, and the Aguas heirs' right to move for the execution of the 2005 Nullity Decision is not inchoate. It vested upon finality of the 2005 Nullity Decision. Nevertheless, it should be stressed that even as the final 2005 Nullity Decision ordered the "division" of the Sunset Valley Estate between Rene and Lucila and the delivery of the Aguas heirs' presumptive legitimes, it did not separate, identify, and assign the specific portions to which they are entitled. Thus, the execution of the 2005 Nullity Decision would have merely triggered partition, or the process of "separation, division and assignment of a thing held in common among those to whom it may belong."[31]

Partition is effected when the titles of acquisition or ownership corresponding to specific portions of the co-owned property are delivered to the parties to whom such portions are adjudicated.[32] In cases where the title covers one specific portion of the co-owned property which have been assigned to two or more parties, a separate duplicate certificate may be issued to each of them under Section 41 of Presidential Decree No. 1529.

Accordingly, partition would have been effected by the delivery to Rene and Lucila of titles corresponding to their specific assigned portions in the Sunset Valley Estate. With respect to the Aguas heirs, partition would have been effected either by delivery of individual titles in their favor covering their respective specific assigned portions in the Sunset Valley Estate, or the delivery of a single title naming them as pro-indiviso co-owners of the specific portion of the Sunset Valley Estate corresponding to their presumptive legitimes.

However, as things happened, neither Rene nor Petitioners herein moved for the execution of the 2005 Nullity Decision. As well, neither Rene nor Petitioners attempted to execute the 2005 Nullity Decision by instituting an independent action for its revival. Because of this, the partition of the Sunset Valley Estate and the delivery of the presumptive legitimes of the Aguas heirs did not proceed. Without said partition, the Sunset Valley Estate remained under a co-ownership among Rene, Lucila, and the Aguas heirs, in the following proportions:

Parties
Net Share in Sunset Valley Estate
Basis
Rene
One-fourth[33]
Article 147 of the Family Code, in relation to Article 888 of the Civil Code[34]
Lucila
One-fourth[35]
Article 147 of the Family Code, in relation to Article 888 of the Civil Code
Princess, Danica, Patrick, Michael and Samantha
One-tenth[36] each (collectively, one-half of the entire Sunset Valley Estate)
Article 888 of the Civil Code

Succession set in upon Rene's death

Here, Rene's death supervened the enforcement of the 2005 Nullity Decision and the partition of the Sunset Valley Estate. Thus, succession set in and triggered the application of the Civil Code provisions governing succession and the procedural rules governing the settlement of estate of deceased persons.

I.
The successional rights of the Aguas heirs must be determined in the Settlement Proceeding pending with Branch 56


The Aguas heirs' right to the delivery of their presumptive legitimes had been superseded by their statutory right to succeed Rene as compulsory heirs. In turn, their successional rights and their respective shares in Rene's estate must be determined in the proceeding for the settlement of the latter's estate, which as stated, is already pending with Branch 56.

Reference to Section 1, Rule 73 of the Rules is proper:

SECTION 1. Where estate of deceased persons settled. — If the decedent is an inhabitant of the Philippines at the time of his death, whether a citizen or an alien, his will shall be proved, or letters of administration granted, and his estate settled, in the Court of First Instance in the province in which he resides at the time of his death, and if he is an inhabitant of a foreign country, the Court of First Instance of any province in which he had estate. The court first taking cognizance of the settlement of the estate of a decedent, shall exercise jurisdiction to the exclusion of all other courts. The jurisdiction assumed by a court, so far as it depends on the place of residence of the decedent, or of the location of his estate, shall not be contested in a suit or proceeding, except in an appeal from that court, in the original case, or when the want of jurisdiction appears on the record. (Emphasis supplied)


Section 1, Rule 73 of the Rules can be traced back to Sections 599 to 603 of Act No. 190,[37] otherwise referred to as the Code of Procedure in Civil Actions and Special Proceedings:

SECTION 599. Jurisdiction. — Courts of First Instance shall have jurisdiction in all matters relating to the settlement of estates and probate of wills of deceased persons, the appointment and removal of guardians and trustees, and the powers, duties, and rights of guardians and wards, trustees and cestuis que trust. This jurisdiction shall be called probate jurisdiction.

SECTION 600. Where Resident's Estate Settled. — If an inhabitant of the Philippine Islands dies, whether a citizen or alien, his will shall be proved, or letters of administration granted, and his estate settled, in the Court of First Instance in the province in which he resided at the time of his death.

SECTION 601. Where Nonresident's Estate Settled. — If a person resided out of the Philippine Islands at the time of his death, his will shall be allowed and recorded, and letters testamentary or of administration shall be granted in the Court of First Instance of any province in which he had estate.

SECTION 602. The Court Once Taking, To Retain Jurisdiction. — When a Court of First Instance in any province has first taken cognizance of the settlement of the estate of a deceased person, as mentioned in the preceding sections, such court shall have jurisdiction of the disposition and settlement of such estate, to the exclusion of all other courts.

SECTION 603. Jurisdiction, When May Be Contested. — The jurisdiction assumed by a Court of First Instance, for the settlement of an estate, so far as it depends on the place of residence of a person, or of the location of his estate, shall not be contested in a suit or proceeding, except in an appeal from that court, in the original case, or when the want of jurisdiction appears on the record. (Emphasis supplied)


These provisions were later consolidated and adopted as Section 1, Rule 75 of the 1940 Rules of Court and carried over verbatim to the 1964 Rules of Court, and again, to the present Rules.

In Macias v. Uy Kim,[38] the Court discussed the functions of the settlement court and the rationale behind the well-established rule on the exercise of the settlement court's jurisdiction:

Under Section 1 of Rule 73, [of the 1964 Rules of Court], "the court first taking cognizance of the settlement of the estates of the deceased, shall exercise jurisdiction to the exclusion of all other courts." Pursuant to this provision, therefore all questions concerning the settlement of the estate of the deceased Rosina Marguerite Wolfson should be filed before Branch VIII of the Manila Court of First Instance, then presided over by former Judge, now Justice of the Court of Appeals, Manuel Barcelona, where Special Proceedings No. 63866 for the settlement of the testate estate of the deceased Rosina Marguerite Wolfson was filed and is still pending.

This Court stated the rationale of said Section 1 of Rule 73, thus:

"x x x The reason for this provision of the law is obvious. The settlement of the estate of a deceased person in court constitutes but one proceeding. For the successful administration of that estate it is necessary that there should be but one responsible entity, one court, which should have exclusive control of every part of such administration. To entrust it to two or more courts, each independent of the other, would result in confusion and delay.

x x x x

"The provision of Section 602 [now Section 1, Rule 73 of the present Rules], giving one court exclusive jurisdiction of the settlement of the estate of a deceased person was not inserted in the law for the benefit of the parties litigant, but in the public interest for the better administration of justice. For that reason the parties have no control over it."

"On the other hand, and for such effects as may be proper, it should be stated herein that any challenge to the validity of a will, any objection to the authentication thereof, and every demand or claim which any heir, legatee, or party in interest in a testate or intestate succession may make, must be acted upon and decided within the same special proceedings, not in a separate action, and the same judge having jurisdiction in the administration of the estate shall take cognizance of the question raised, inasmuch as when the day comes he will be called upon to make distribution and adjudication of the property to the interested parties, x x x."

This was reiterated in Maningat vs. Castillo, thus:

"x x x The main function of a probate court is to settle and liquidate the estates of deceased persons either summarily or through the process of administration. (See Rules 74 to 91, inclusive, Rules of Court.) In order to settle the estate of a deceased person it is one of the functions of the probate court to determine who the heirs are that will receive the net assets of the estate and the amount or proportion of their respective shares. x x x"

x x x x

Even in other cases, it is also a general principle that the branch of the court of first instance that first acquired jurisdiction over the case retains such jurisdiction to the exclusion of all other branches of the same court of first instance or judicial district and all other coordinate courts, x x x[39] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)


Section 1, Rule 73 thus grants to the court first taking cognizance of the settlement of the decedent's estate the exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide all matters relating to the settlement and liquidation of the decedent's estate to the exclusion of all other courts of concurrent jurisdiction. Hence, in Cuenco v. Court of Appeals,[40] the Court observed:

A fair reading of the Rule – since it deals with venue and comity between courts of equal and co-ordinate jurisdiction – indicates that the court with whom the petition is first filed, must also first take cognizance of the settlement of the estate in order to exercise jurisdiction over it to the exclusion of all other courts.

Conversely, such court, may upon learning that a petition for probate of the decedent's last will has been presented in another court where the decedent obviously had his conjugal domicile and resided with his surviving widow and their minor children, and that the allegation of the intestate petition before it stating that the decedent died intestate may be actually false, may decline to take cognizance of the petition and hold the petition before it in abeyance, and instead defer to the second court which has before it the petition for probate of the decedent's alleged last will.[41] (Italics in the original)


As stated, the main function of a probate court is to settle and liquidate the estates of deceased persons.[42] Integral to this process is the determination of the assets that form part of the decedent's estate, the heirs who shall participate in said estate, and the amount or proportion of these heirs' respective shares therein.[43]

Here, the settlement of Rene's estate involves two phases.

The first phase involves the partition of the Sunset Valley Estate for the purpose of determining the portion thereof which should be included in the inventory of assets forming part of Rene's estate.

To recall, the Sunset Valley Estate is co-owned property acquired during the union of Rene and Lucila. Under Article 147 of the Family Code, Rene owned one-half of the Sunset Valley Estate during his lifetime. One-half of Rene's share is reserved for the Aguas heirs' presumptive legitimes. Accordingly, following partition, only one-fourth of the Sunset Valley Estate shall be included in the inventory of assets forming part of Rene's estate.

The second phase involves the determination of Rene's net share in the assets acquired during his marriage with Cherry. During this phase, Branch 56, as settlement court, must pass upon the validity of Rene and Cherry's marriage collaterally, insofar as it is necessary to determine the property regime governing their marriage, and ultimately, Rene's net share in the assets acquired during their union. Thereafter, Rene's estate, consisting of his one-fourth share in the Sunset Valley Estate derived from his union with Lucila, his net share in the assets derived from his union with Cherry, and all other assets exclusively acquired by or pertaining to him, shall be distributed among his heirs in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Code, with the Aguas heirs' presumptive legitimes and other gratuitous dispositions by Rene during his lifetime being brought to collation pursuant to the third paragraph of Article 51[44] of the Family Code and Article 908[45] of the Civil Code, respectively.

At this point, it may not be amiss to stress that in the 1993 case of Domingo v. Court of Appeals[46] (Domingo), the Court already clarified that a collateral attack against a void marriage may be permitted for purposes other than remarriage.

In Domingo, respondent Delia Soledad Domingo (Delia) filed a petition for "Declaration of Nullity of Marriage and Separation of Property" against her husband Roberto Domingo (Roberto). Delia married Roberto in 1976. Nearly a decade after, Delia discovered that Roberto was previously married to a certain Emerlina dela Paz (Emerlina). Delia only came to know of such fact when Emerlina sued her and Roberto for bigamy. Roberto filed a Motion to Dismiss on the ground that Delia's petition stated no cause of action since the marriage between him and Delia is bigamous, and thus, void ab initio.

The lower court denied Roberto's Motion to Dismiss, stressing that while Delia and Roberto's marriage can be presumed void ab initio, a judicial declaration to this effect is still necessary. The Court of Appeals affirmed, prompting Roberto to elevate the case to the Court. The Court granted the petition, citing the deliberations of the Civil Code and Family Law Revision Committees, thus:

The Family Law Revision Committee and the Civil Code Revision Committee which drafted what is now the Family Code of the Philippines took the position that parties to a marriage should not be allowed to assume that their marriage is void even if such be the fact but must first secure a judicial declaration of the nullity of their marriage before they can be allowed to marry again. This is borne out by the following minutes of the 152nd Joint Meeting of the Civil Code and Family Law Committees where the present Article 40, then Art. 39, was discussed.

"B. Article 39. —

The absolute nullity of a marriage may be invoked only on the basis of a final judgment declaring the marriage void, except as provided in Article 41.

[Justice Eduardo P. Caguioa (Justice Caguioa)] remarked that the above provision should include not only void but also voidable marriages. He then suggested that the above provision be modified as follows:

The validity of a marriage may be invoked only...

Justice Reyes (J.B.L. Reyes), however, proposed that they say:

The validity or invalidity of a marriage may be invoked only...

On the other hand, Justice Puno suggested that they say:

The invalidity of a marriage may be invoked only...

Justice Caguioa explained that his idea is that one cannot determine for himself whether or not his marriage is valid and that a court action is needed. Justice Puno accordingly proposed that the provision be modified to read:

The invalidity of a marriage may be invoked only on the basis of a final judgment annulling the marriage or declaring the marriage void, except as provided in Article 41.

Justice Caguioa remarked that in annulment, there is no question. Justice Puno, however, pointed out that, even if it is a judgment of annulment, they still have to produce the judgment.

Justice Caguioa suggested that they say:

The invalidity of a marriage may be invoked only on the basis of a final judgment declaring the marriage invalid, except as provided in Article 41.

x x x x

Prof. Baviera remarked that the original idea in the provision is to require first a judicial declaration of a void marriage and not annullable marriages, with which the other members concurred. Judge Diy added that annullable marriages are presumed valid until a direct action is filed to annul it, which the other members affirmed. Justice Puno remarked that if this is so, then the phrase 'absolute nullity' can stand since it might result in confusion if they change the phrase to 'invalidity' if what they are referring to in the provision is the declaration that the marriage is void.

Prof. Bautista commented that they will be doing away with collateral defense as well as collateral attack. Justice Caguioa explained that the idea in the provision is that there should be a final judgment declaring the marriage void and a party should not declare for himself whether or not the marriage is void, which the other members affirmed. Justice Caguioa added that they are, therefore, trying to avoid a collateral attack on that point. Prof. Bautista stated that there are actions which are brought on the assumption that the marriage is valid. He then asked: Are they depriving one of the right to raise the defense that he has no liability because the basis of the liability is void? Prof. Bautista added that they cannot say that there will be no judgment on the validity or invalidity of the marriage because it will be taken up in the same proceeding. It will not be a unilateral declaration that it is a void marriage. Justice Caguioa saw the point of Prof. Bautista and suggested that they limit the provision to remarriage. He then proposed that Article 39 be reworded as follows:

The absolute nullity of a marriage for purposes of remarriage may be invoked only on the basis of final judgment...

Justice Puno suggested that the above be modified as follows:

The absolute nullity of a previous marriage may be invoked for purposes of establishing the validity of a subsequent marriage only on the basis of a final judgment declaring such previous marriage void, except as provided in Article 41.

Justice Puno later modified the above as follows:

For the purpose of establishing the validity of a subsequent marriage, the absolute nullity of a previous marriage may only be invoked on the basis of a final judgment declaring such nullity, except as provided in Article 41.

Justice Caguioa commented that the above provision is too broad and will not solve the objection of Prof. Bautista. He proposed that they say:

For the purpose of entering into a subsequent marriage, the absolute nullity of a previous marriage may only be invoked on the basis of a final judgment declaring such nullity, except as provided in Article 41.

Justice Caguioa explained that the idea in the above provision is that if one enters into a subsequent marriage without obtaining a final judgment declaring the nullity of a previous marriage, said subsequent marriage is void ab initio.

After further deliberation, Justice Puno suggested that they go back to the original wording of the provision as follows:

The absolute nullity of a previous marriage may be invoked for purposes of remarriage only on the basis of a final judgment declaring such previous marriage void, except as provided in Article 41.[47] (Emphasis and italics supplied)


It is worthy to note that the Court laid down its ruling in Domingo through Associate Justice Flerida Ruth Romero, who was a member of the Family Code and Civil Code Revision Committees.

It is thus clear that in cases where the validity of marriage is collaterally attacked for purposes of succession, A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC shall not apply. This is confirmed no less by the Rationale of the Rules on Annulment of Voidable Marriages and Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages, Legal Separation and Provisional Orders (Rationale of the Rules), which states:

Only an aggrieved or injured spouse may file a petition for annulment of voidable marriages or declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages. Such petition cannot be filed by compulsory or intestate heirs of the spouses or by the State. The Committee is of the belief that they do not have a legal right to file the petition. Compulsory or intestate heirs have only inchoate rights prior to the death of their predecessor, and hence can only question the validity of the marriage of the spouses upon the death of a spouse in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased spouse filed in the regular courts. On the other hand, the concern of the State is to preserve marriage and not to seek its dissolution. x x x[48] (Emphasis supplied)


The Rationale of the Rules draws a distinction between a "petition for annulment of voidable marriages or declaration of absolute nullity" on one hand, and an action assailing the validity of a predecessor's marriage for the purpose of determining successional rights, on the other. The former is a direct action assailing the validity of marriage that is governed by A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC and pertains exclusively to the aggrieved or injured spouse. The latter pertains to a collateral attack against the validity of a predecessor's marriage brought in a proceeding for the settlement of the latter's estate in accordance with the procedure set forth in the Rules.
II.
Lucila may recover her share in the Sunset Valley Estate through a separate action for partition

As a stranger to Rene's estate, Lucila does not have standing to participate in the Settlement Proceeding as heir. Nevertheless, Lucila's right to recover her share as co-owner of the Sunset Valley Estate subsists. Lucila may thus recover said share by filing a separate action for partition of the Sunset Valley Estate against the administrator of Rene's estate consistent with Section 1, Rule 87 of the Rules:

SECTION 1. Actions which may and which may not be brought against executor or administrator. — No action upon a claim for the recovery of money or debt or interest thereon shall be commenced against the executor or administrator; but actions to recover real or personal property, or an interest therein, from the estate, or to enforce a lien thereon, and actions to recover damages for an injury to person or property, real or personal, may be commenced against him. (Emphasis supplied)


The filing of separate action under Section 1, Rule 87 is necessitated by the limited scope of the trial court's jurisdiction in estate settlement proceedings. The Court's ruling in Pacioles, Jr. v. Chuatoco-Ching[49] is instructive:

The general rule is that the jurisdiction of the trial court either as an intestate or a probate court relates only to matters having to do with the settlement of the estate and probate of will of deceased persons but does not extend to the determination of questions of ownership that arise during the proceedings. The patent rationale for this rule is that such court exercises special and limited jurisdiction.

A well-recognized deviation to the rule is the principle that an intestate or a probate court may hear and pass upon questions of ownership when its purpose is to determine whether or not a property should be included in the inventory. In such situations the adjudication is merely incidental and provisional. Thus, in Pastor, Jr. vs. Court of Appeals, we held:

"x x x As a rule, the question of ownership is an extraneous matter which the probate court cannot resolve with finality. Thus, for the purpose of determining whether a certain property should or should not be included in the inventory of estate properties, the probate court may pass upon the title thereto, but such determination is provisional, not conclusive, and is subject to the final decision in a separate action to resolve title."[50] (Emphasis supplied; italics omitted)


It must be stressed, however, that Lucila only owns one-half of the Sunset Valley Estate. In turn, one-half of Lucila's share in the Sunset Valley Estate is reserved for the Aguas' heirs' presumptive legitimes. This leaves Lucila with the right to recover one-fourth of the entire Sunset Valley Estate through a separate action for partition.

Based on these premises, I vote to DENY the Petition, and affirm the dismissal of Civil Case No. R-ANG-17-03316-CV.


* Also appears as "Samantha Mari" and "Samantha Marie" in some parts of the rollo.

[1] Rollo, p. 21.

[2] Id.

[3] Id. at 21-22.

[4] Id. at 22.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Respondent's Comment, id. at 245.

[8] Petitioners' Comment/Opposition to the Petition, id. at 52-53.

[9] Rollo, pp. 70-75.

[10] Id. at 73.

[11] As quoted in the Petition, id. at 23.

[12] Rollo, pp. 34-36.

[13] Id. at 35-36.

[14] Id. at 37-39.

[15] Id. at 38.

[16] As explained by the ponencia, RTC Branch 60 was initially designated as the Family Court of Angeles City through A.M. No. 99-11-07-SC. However, this designation was revoked on September 10, 2008 through A.M. No. 08-8-460 RTC which designated Branch 59 as "special court to try and decide family court cases in lieu of Branch 60 x x x." Ponencia, p. 10.

[17] AN ACT ESTABLISHING FAMILY COURTS, GRANTING THEM EXCLUSIVE ORIGINAL JURISDICTION OVER CHILD AND FAMILY CASES, AMENDING BATAS PAMBANSA BILANG 129, AS AMENDED, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE JUDICIARY REORGANIZATION ACT OF 1980, APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFOR AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES, October 28, 1997.

[18] See Cabling v. Dangcalan, G.R. No. 187696, June 15, 2016, 793 SCRA 331, 341 [First Division, per C.J. Sereno].

[19] Rollo, pp. 71-73.

[20] Id. at 73.

[21] Id. at 95-102.

[22] Id. at 102.

[23] G.R. No. 213687, January 8, 2020 [First Division, per J. J.C. Reyes, Jr.].

[24] Id. at 11.

[25] FAMILY CODE, Art. 147.

[26] In case of unions governed by the system of absolute community

[27] In case of unions governed by the system of conjugal partnership.

[28] In case of unions governed by the rules on co-ownership under Article 147 or limited co-ownership under Article 148.

[29] While Lucila was served with summons by publication, she claims to have only learned of the 2005 Nullity Decision sometime in 2007. See Petition, rollo, p. 21.

[30] See Diaz, Jr. v. Valenciano, Jr., G.R. No. 209376, December 6, 2017, 848 SCRA 85, 102-103 [Second Division, per J. Peralta].

[31] CIVIL CODE, Art. 1079.

[32] See id., Art. 1089.

[33] One-half share (pursuant to Article 147) less presumptive legitimes (pursuant to Article 888).

[34] CIVIL CODE, Art. 888 states:
ART. 888. The legitime of legitimate children and descendants consists of one-half of the hereditary estate of the father and of the mother.
The latter may freely dispose of the remaining half, subject to the rights of illegitimate children and of the surviving spouse as hereinafter provided.

[35] One-half share (pursuant to Article 147) less presumptive legitimes (pursuant to Article 888).

[36] Representing the sum of 1/20 from Rene's share and 1/20 from Lucila's share in the Sunset Valley Estate.

[37] AN ACT PROVIDING A CODE OF PROCEDURE IN CIVIL ACTIONS AND SPECIAL PROCEEDINGS IN THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, August 7, 1901.

[38] 150-A Phil. 603 (1972) [Second Division, per J. Makasiar].

[39] Id. at 611-612.

[40] 153 Phil. 115 (1973) [En Banc, per J. Teehankee].

[41] Id. at 128.

[42] Macias v. Kim, supra note 38, at 612, citing Maniñgat v. Castillo, 75 Phil. 532, 535 (1945).

[43] See id.

[44] ART. 51. In said partition, the value of the presumptive legitimes of all common children, computed as of the date of the final judgment of the trial court, shall be delivered in cash, property or sound securities, unless the parties, by mutual agreement judicially approved, had already provided for such matters.
The children or their guardian, or the trustee of their property, may ask for the enforcement of the judgment.
The delivery of the presumptive legitimes herein prescribed shall in no way prejudice the ultimate successional rights of the children accruing upon the death of either or both of the parents; but the value of the properties already received under the decree of annulment or absolute nullity shall be considered as advances on their legitime.

[45] ART. 908. To determine the legitime, the value of the property left at the death of the testator shall be considered, deducting all debts and charges, which shall not include those imposed in the will.
To the net value of the hereditary estate, shall be added the value of all donations by the testator that are subject to collation, at the time he made them.

[46] 297 Phil. 642 (1993) [Third Division, per J. Romero].

[47] Id. at 649-652.

[48] Rationale of the Rules on Annulment of Voidable Marriages and Declaration of Absolute Nidlity of Void Marriages, Legal Separation and Provisional Orders as cited in Enrico v. Heirs of Spouses Medinaceli, 560 Phil. 673, 683 (2007) [Third Division, per J. Chico-Nazario].

[49] 503 Phil. 707 (2005) [Third Division, per J. Sandoval-Gutierrez].

[50] Id. at 715-716.



SEPARATE OPINION


LAZARO-JAVIER, J.:

I concur in the result. I agree for the most part in the reasons given by the learned Justice Edgardo L. Delos Santos. It is my respectful submission though that the ponencia's pronouncement that "Aguas heirs can collaterally attack the validity of Rene and Cherry's marriage in the proceedings for the settlement of the estate of Rene," does not bear the weight of ratio decidendi.

I find this portion of the ponencia to be a legal advice and an obiter dictum. To be sure, each of us is not prohibited from inserting obiter in our respective ponencia – indeed at times obiter is important for stylistic effect and overall impact of which I am guilty at times or even many a time. As well, the Court is unfettered to extend gratuitously legal advice that we deem to be guidance to the bench and bar. Besides, it is often necessary to point out the obvious because the obvious often gets lost midstream of a communicative act.

Nonetheless, I would like to impress upon the parties here this caution. In saying that the "Aguas heirs can collaterally attack the validity of Rene and Cherry's marriage in the proceedings for the settlement of the estate of Rene," what we mean is that procedurally this is allowed but it does not mean the challenge will succeed with certainty. I am constrained to add this caution because what is not said may actually say a lot either subtextually or metatextually.

Further, petitioners' basis for claiming the nullity of the marriage of Rene Aguas and Cherry Calilung is Article 53 of the Family Code which states:

ARTICLE 53. Either of the former spouses may marry again after complying with the requirements of the immediately preceding Article; otherwise, the subsequent marriage shall be null and void.


Out of abundance of caution, may I stress that this provision may not be as free-standing as it reads. It must be correlated with Articles 43, 44 and 50 of the Family Code and our ruling in Diño v. Diño.[1] I am not going to aver anything more since the issue might become a live one when or if it happens.

Additionally, may I refer to Rodriguez v. Rodriguez[2] to enlighten further on petitioners' options at the trial court going forward.

The ponencia held that Lucila David is a stranger to the estate of her former spouse since their marriage had been declared void ab initio. The ponencia explained:

With regard to Lucila, it is interesting to note that Enrico and the Rationale of the Rules only mentioned compulsory or intestate heirs as the ones who could collaterally assail the validity of a marriage in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased spouse filed in the regular courts in order protect their successional rights. This would mean then that said remedy or recourse under the law is not available to Lucila since she is not an heir of Rene, her marriage with the deceased having been declared null and void from the very beginning on ground of psychological incapacity in the 2005 Nullity Decision. Lucila is, therefore, considered as a stranger in the estate proceedings with no right to succeed as heir of Rene, thus, she has no standing to participate in the Settlement Proceeding.

Concomitantly, Lucila's claim cannot be filed in the Settlement Proceeding. It is well settled that a probate or intestate court cannot adjudicate or determine title to properties claimed to be a part of the estate and which are claimed to belong to outside parties. This is clearly elucidated in the case of Agtarap v. Agtarap (Agtarap)....


The ponencia stated the general rule.

However, as it appears that Lucila and her co-petitioners have no adverse interests at least for now, there is no legal obstacle for all of them to submit the settlement of Lucila's proprietary interests to the intestate court. Of course, respondent Cherry Calilung Aguas would be among the parties in the intestate proceedings to respond not only to the status of her marriage with the deceased but also as to her share if any in his estate. In this regard, for the sake of judicial economy and avoiding multiplicity of suits, and in practical terms, of saving the estate from depletion due to legal expenses, it behoves to remind petitioners and respondent that:

Equally important is the rule that the determination of whether or not a particular matter should be resolved by the Court of First Instance in the exercise of its general jurisdiction or of its limited jurisdiction as a special court (probate, land registration, etc.) is in reality not a jurisdictional question. It is in essence a procedural question involving a mode of practice "which may be waived."

Such waiver introduces the exception to the general rule that while the probate court exercises limited jurisdiction, it may settle questions relating to ownership when the claimant and all other parties having legal interest in the property consent, expressly or impliedly, to the submission of the question to the probate court for adjudgment.

Such, waiver was evident from the fact that the respondents sought for affirmative relief before the court a quo as they claimed ownership over the funds in the joint account of their father to the exclusion of his co-depositor.

In this case, the Court notes that the parties submitted to the jurisdiction of the intestate court in settling the issue of the ownership of the joint account. While respondents filed a Motion to Dismiss, which hypotheticaliy admitted all the allegations in Anita's petition, the same likewise sought affirmative relief from the intestate court. Said affirmative relief is embodied in respondents' claim of ownership over the funds in said joint account to the exclusion of Anita, when in fact said funds in the joint account was neither mentioned nor included in the inventory of the intestate estate of the late Reynaldo. Therefore, respondents impliedly agreed to submit the issue cf ownership before the trial court, acting as an intestate court, when they raised an affirmative relief before it. To reiterate, the exercise of the trial court of its limited jurisdiction is not jurisdictional, but procedural; hence, waivable.


For the same reasons, and also for the repose of the deceased, I also endorse to the parties the beauty, clarity and serenity that compromise and alternative dispute resolution would bring.


[1] 655 Phil. 1755 (2011).

[2] 824 Phil. 1061 (2018).

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