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Property rules

No bombshell

After burying her father, Rily filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), a petition for letters of administration alleging, among others, that her father, Mar, died intestate leaving real properties located in Quezon City and Caloocan City, bank deposits and other personal properties, all with an estimated value of P3,000,000; that she is the sole legal heir entitled to inherit and succeed to the estate of her deceased father who did not leave any other descendant or other heir entitled to the estate as his wife, Ina, had predeceased him; and that she is entitled to be issued letters of administration.

In support of her claim, Rily presented her certificate of live birth signed and registered by the deceased himself with the local civil registrar of Manila.

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As the petition was sufficient in form and substance, the RTC gave due course to it and set the petition for hearing. The court thereafter issued the letter of special administration to Rily.

Ria, claiming to be the surviving youngest half-sister of Mar as he was her mother’s illegitimate son before her marriage to her father, participated in the case. A bombshell she dropped that brought Rily to tears.

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Ria opposed Rily’s designation as special administratrix of Mar’s estate on the ground that Rily is not the daughter of the deceased Mar; that the spouses Mar and Ina did not have any child; that Rily had not been legally adopted and no right arise from a falsified birth certificate.

Rily fought back. In her opposition to Ria’s motion to recall the order appointing her as special administratrix, she claimed that she has the right to be appointed as such since she is the legitimate child of the late Mar.

Rily argued that her filiation had been conclusively proven by her record of birth which was duly authenticated by the Civil Registrar General of the National Statistics Office (NSO), and only the late Mar or his wife had the right to impugn her legitimacy; that Ria had no right to oppose her appointment as special administratrix of Mar’s estate since the former is not the latter’s heir; that in her capacity as the special administratrix of Mar’s estate, she had filed several cases against Ria and her husband; and thus, Ria is not qualified to act as an administratrix because she has an interest antagonistic to the estate.

Ria, in her effort to put to rest the issue of the legitimate status of Rily, filed a motion to order DNA test. Rily opposed the same on the ground that the petitioner lacked the legal right or personality to request for a DNA test as she has no legal interest in the matter in litigation. The court nonetheless granted the motion.

Emboldened by the results of the DNA test, Ria harped on the fact that the DNA results showed that Rily is not Ina’s daughter. To further strengthen her claims, Ria further submitted Mar’s affidavit of self-adjudication for the extrajudicial settlement of the intestate estate of the late Ina wherein he stated that “being her surviving spouse, I am the sole legal heir entitled to succeed to and inherit the estate of the said deceased who did not leave any descendant, ascendant or any other heir entitled in her estate.”

Ria also argues that Rily had violated her duties as special administratrix as the latter failed to submit an inventory and to render an accounting thereof, hence there was a good reason for the RTC to remove her. Moreover, she failed to comply with the order to submit inventory and render accounting and to turn over possession to the new administrator; and that the appointment of Ria as the new special administratrix is in accordance with the rules.

Q: What is the rule in the appointment and removal of special administrators of the estate of the deceased?

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A: Settled is the rule that the selection or removal of special administrators is not governed by the rules regarding the selection or removal of regular administrators. Courts may appoint or remove special administrators based on grounds other than those enumerated in the rules, at their discretion. As long as the said discretion is exercised without grave abuse, higher courts will not interfere with it. This, however, is no authority for the judge to become partial, or to make his personal likes and dislikes prevail over, or his passions to rule, his judgment. The exercise of such discretion must be based on reason, equity, justice and legal principles.

Q: Does the RTC have basis to remove Rily as special administratrix of the estate of Mar on the basis of the DNA result showing that she is not maternally related to Ina, Mar’s wife?

A: No. At the outset, it is baffling that the DNA test was ordered to prove Rily’s paternity, but surprisingly, the test was conducted with the alleged siblings of Ina, which showed that respondent is not related to Ina.

While Rily was shown to be not blood related to Ina, however, the DNA result did not at all prove that she is not a daughter of Mar. Moreover, Section 5 of A.M. No. 06-11-5-SC, Rule on DNA evidence, provides that the grant of DNA testing application shall not be construed as an automatic admission into evidence of any component of the DNA evidence that may be obtained as a result thereof. Here, the DNA result was not offered in accordance with the Rules on Evidence. Therefore, the DNA test results is not a valid ground for the revocation of Rily’s appointment as special administratrix and her removal as such. Respondent’s removal was not grounded on reason, justice and legal principle.

The estate to be administered is that of decedent Mar, hence, it would be grave abuse of discretion on the part of the court to Rily on the ground that she is not related to Ina. The finding that she is not the daughter of Ina does not automatically mean that she is not the daughter of Mar as well, especially since in the two versions of her birth certificate, it was Mar who reported her birth and who signed the same as the father of the child.

Q: Does Mar’s affidavit of adjudication in 1994 for the extrajudicial settlement of the intestate estate of his late wife, Ina, stating among others, “that she did not leave any descendant,” prove that Rily is not his daughter at all?

A: No. Mariano’s execution of an affidavit of adjudication in 1994 for the extrajudicial settlement of the intestate estate of his late wife Ina stating among others, “that she did not leave any descendant,” would not also prove that respondent is not a daughter of Mar whose estate is under consideration. It does not follow that if Rily is not the child of Ina, she is therefore not the child of Mar.

Q: Did Rily violate her duties as the court appointed special administratrix?

A: No. Records show that Rily had submitted with the RTC an accounting of the funds that had come to her possession during the initial year of her administration. While she was directed by the RTC to submit an inventory of all the assets of the deceased that came into her possession and knowledge and for her to render an accounting thereof, such directive was only embodied in the RTC’s Order dated removing her as Special Administratrix which became the subject of appellate review.

(Source: Calma vs Turla, G.R. No. 221684, July 30, 2018)

Ma. Soledad Deriquito-Mawis, Dean, Lyceum of the Philippines University; Mawis Law Office; Incoming Member of the Board of Trustees of the Philippine Association of Law Schools

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