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PROPERTY RULES

The rich illegitimate brother

Ton and Bea were once the model married couple. The laughter of their 10 children filled their family home. Their marital bliss was cut short when Ton succumbed to the temptation of the flesh. Out of his extra-marital affair with Ursa, Juanito was born.

Years later, Ton, his wife Bea, and his mistress Ursa crossed the great beyond.

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Meanwhile, Juanito married Espie. In consideration of the marriage, Juanito’s aunt executed a donation propter nuptias over a parcel of land covered by OCT P-20594 in favor of Juanito.  During their marriage, Juanito and Espie bought lands covered by  OCT P-19902 and TCT No. 41134. These lots were registered in Juanito’s name.

While blessed with economic wealth, Juanito and Espie were not favored with a child of their own. Driven by their desire to have one, they took a young lass, Modie, into their fold and so raised her as their own “daughter.”

Meanwhile, Juanito executed in favor of a certain Tanie a Deed of Sale Con Pacto de Retro (with a 10-year period of redemption) over a one-half portion of one of the two lots that were registered in his name.

Espie then became a widow. So broken was her heart that she soon joined her beloved Juanito.

A month after Espie’s death, Modie executed an Affidavit of Self-Adjudication claiming for herself the three parcels of land all still in the name of Juanito.

Following the registration of the document of adjudication with the Office of the Register of Deeds, the three titles were cancelled and new titles were issued in the name of Modie. Modie thereafter executed in favor of Tanie a Deed of Renunciation and Quitclaim over the unredeemed one-half portion of the land (now covered by TCT No. 184225) that was sold to the latter by Juan Manuel under a Deed of Sale Con Pacto de Retro.

The acts of Modie did not sit well with the 10 legitimate children Ton and Bea. The 10 legitimate children demanded Modie and Tanie to reconvey  the said properties to them because, to their mind, they are Juanito’s legal heirs over one-half of Juan’s intestate estate (while the other half would pertain to Juan’s surviving spouse) under the provision of the last paragraph of Article 994 of the Civil Code. On the other hand, Modie argues that Article 994 should be read in conjunction with Article 992.

Q: What is Article 994 of the Civil Code?

A: Article 994 provides that “(i)n default of the father or mother, an illegitimate child shall be succeeded by his or her surviving spouse, who shall be entitled to the entire estate.

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If the widow or widower should survive with brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, she or he shall inherit one-half of the estate, and the latter the other half.

Q: What is Article 992 of the Civil Code?

A: Article 992. An illegitimate child has no right to inherit ab intestato from the legitimate children and relatives of his father or mother; nor shall such children or relative inherit in the same manner from the illegitimate child.

Q: What is the principle of absolute separation between the legitimate family and the illegitimate family?

A: Article 992 enunciates what is so commonly referred to in the rules on succession as the “principle of absolute separation between the legitimate family and the illegitimate family.” The doctrine rejects succession ab intestato (when a deceased dies without a valid will) in the collateral line between legitimate relatives, on the one hand, and illegitimate relatives, on the other hand, although it does not totally disavow such succession in the direct line. Since the rule is predicated on the presumed will of the decedent, it has no application, however, on testamentary dispositions.

This “barrier” between the members of the legitimate and illegitimate family in intestacy is explained by a noted civilist, D. Jurado. His thesis:

“What is meant by the law when it speaks of brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, as legal or intestate heirs of an illegitimate child? It must be noted that under Article 992 of the Code, there is a barrier dividing members of the illegitimate family from members of the legitimate family. It is clear that by virtue of this barrier, the legitimate brothers and sisters as well as the children, whether legitimate or illegitimate, of such brothers and sisters, cannot inherit from the illegitimate child. Consequently, when the law speaks of “brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces” as legal heirs of an illegitimate child, it refers to illegitimate brothers and sisters as well as to the children, whether legitimate or illegitimate, of such brothers and sisters.”

Q: Who is a collateral heir?

A: A collateral heir is a successor to the property either by will or descent and distribution, who is not directly descended from the deceased, but comes from a parallel line of the deceased family, such as a brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew or cousin.

Q: What is the reason behind this principle the principle of absolute separation between the legitimate family and the illegitimate family also known as the iron curtain rule?

A: Article 992 of the New Civil Code prohibits absolutely a succession ab intestato between the illegitimate child and the legitimate children and relatives of the father or mother of said legitimate child. They may have a natural tie of blood, but this is not recognized by law for the purposes of Article 992.

Between the legitimate family and illegitimate family there is presumed to be an intervening antagonism and incompatibility.

The illegitimate child is disgracefully looked down upon by the legitimate family; the legitimate family is, in turn, hated by the illegitimate child; the latter considers the privileged condition of the former, and the resources of which it is thereby deprived; the former, in turn, sees in the illegitimate child nothing but product of sin, palpable evidence of a blemish broken in life; the law does no more than recognize this truth, by avoiding further grounds of resentment.

The rule in Article 992 has consistently been applied by the Supreme Court.

Thus, it has ruled that where the illegitimate child had half-brothers who were legitimate, the latter had no right to the former’s inheritance; that the legitimate collateral relatives of the mother cannot succeed from her illegitimate child; that a natural child cannot represent his natural father in the succession to the estate of the legitimate grandparent; that the natural daughter cannot succeed to the estate of her deceased uncle who is a legitimate brother of her natural father; and that an illegitimate child has no right to inherit ab intestato from the legitimate children and relatives of his father.

Indeed, the law on succession is animated by a uniform general intent, and thus no part should be rendered inoperative by, but must always be construed in relation to, any other part as to produce a harmonious whole.

Q: Given that the 10 legitimate children of Ton are not legal heirs of their illegitimate brother, Juanito, does it make Modie then the legal heir of the deceased?

A: No. Modie is not an intestate heir of Juanito. She is right. A ward (ampon), without the benefit of formal (judicial) adoption, is neither a compulsory nor a legal heir.

(Sources: Manuel vs. Hon. Ferrer, G.R. No. 117246 August 21, 1995; https://legal dictionary.thefreedictionary.com)

Ma. Soledad Deriquito-Mawis is Dean, College of Law at the Lyceum of the Philippines University; Chairperson, Philippine Association of Law Schools; and founder of Mawis Law Office

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