A primer on guardianship proceedings
(First of two parts)
“I oversaw the sale of some of her assets to finance that. And yes, I pay myself, too, because caring, Sir, is my job. It’s my profession. This is what I do.”
“All day, every day, I care. I care for those who are in need of protection. Protection from apathy. Protection from their own pride. And quite often, protection from their own children.”
In the movie, “I Care a Lot,” Marla Grayson, whom the actress Rosamund Pike portrayed, made a living as a court-appointed guardian for elderly wards in the United States. She sold off her wards’ assets and properties, pocketing, however, the proceeds, and connived with a doctor and employees of an assisted living facility to sedate and keep them oblivious from the outside world.
This was how Marla successfully justified before the court a sale she had concluded for one of her wards, much to the chagrin of that ward’s devoted son. Thankfully, the system Marla has thrived in is a far cry from guardianship proceedings in the Philippines.
To be sure, the Supreme Court has consistently upheld guardianship as a trust relation of the most sacred character where the guardian acts for his ward whom the law regards as incapable of managing his own affairs. It is designed to further the ward’s well-being by preserving his property and rendering any assistance he may personally require.
Pursuant to the Rules of Court, wards that may be placed under guardianship are either minors or incompetent persons.
The latter include: (a) persons suffering from the penalty of civil interdiction; (b) hospitalized lepers; (c) prodigals; (d) deaf and dumb who are unable to read and write; (e) those who are of unsound mind, even though they had lucid intervals; and (f) persons not being of unsound mind, but by reason of age, disease, weak mind and other similar causes, cannot without outside aid, take care of themselves and manage their property, becoming thereby an easy prey for deceit and exploitation.
Relatedly, in one case, the Supreme Court held that a finding that a person is incompetent should be anchored on clear, positive, and definite evidence. Proof of the supposed ward’s incompetence, which has purely consisted of testimonies, and does not include any expert medical testimony, as in that case, is insufficient.
Proceedings for the appointment of a guardian are commenced by the filing of the appropriate petition.
This may be filed by any of the following persons: (a) any relative, friend, or other person on behalf of a minor residing in the Philippines or incompetent who has no parent or lawful guardian; (b) the minor himself if he was 14 years of age or over; (c) an officer of the Federal Administration of the United States in the Philippines, in favor of a ward thereof; or (d) the Director of Health, in favor of an insane person who should be hospitalized, or in favor of an isolated leper.
Once the petition is filed, the court shall set the hearing thereon, and accordingly notify the relevant persons, including the minor if above 14 years of age or incompetent himself, and may direct other such general or special notice to be given.
Any interested person may contest the petition by filing a written opposition, after which, and upon being satisfied that from the evidence presented, the prospective ward is a minor or an incompetent person, the court shall appoint a suitable guardian of his person or estate, or both.
But, if the prospective ward did not reside in the Philippines, but the properties comprising his estate were located therein, any of his relatives or friends, or any other person having an actual or expected interest in the estate, may file the petition before the appropriate court.
If after notice given to such person and in such manner as the court deems proper, and hearing, the court is satisfied that the prospective nonresident ward is a minor or an incompetent person, it shall likewise appoint a guardian for his estate.
Meanwhile, when the prospective ward is a minor who owns properties worth more than P2,000, either of his parents shall be considered the guardian of said properties, and shall accordingly file the same petition. For good reasons, however, the court may appoint another suitable person.
(To be continued)
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.