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Jones v. Hortiguela

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  10/7/2014G.R. No. L-43701 Today is Tuesday, October 07, 2014 Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT ManilaEN BANC G.R. No. L-43701 March 6, 1937In re Instate of the deceased Marciana Escaño. ANGELITA JONES.,  petitioner-appellant-appellee, vs. FELIX HORTIGUELA, as administrator, widower and heir,  oppositor-appellant-appellee. Salvador E. Imperial for petitioner-appellant-appellee.Vicente L. Faelnar , Hipolito Alo and Ciriaco S. Salazar for oppositor-appellant-appellee. CONCEPCION, J.: This is an appeal taken from the order issued by the Court of First Instance of Cebu on March 14, 1935 , in theintestate proceedings of the deceased Marciana Escaño, denying thereby: (1) the motion to appoint a newadministrator and (2) to set aside the order of May 9, 1932, declaring the heirs of said deceased; (3) holding itunwarranted to declare that the properties of the intestate estate are paraphernal properties of said deceased, butreserving to the parties the right to discuss which of said properties are paraphernal and which are conjugal;(4)setting aside the order of January 10, 1933. granting to the administrator fees in the sum of P10,000, and that of June 26, 1933, approving the project of portion and the final account; and (5) ordering the presentation of another project of partition and final account. As Marciana Escaño had died intestate, her widower Felix Hortiguela was appointed judicial administrator of her entire estate, and in an order issued on May 9, 1932, Angelita Jones, her daughter by her first marriage, and FelixHortiguela, her widower by her second marriage, were declared her only heirs. In a motion filed with the conformityof the guardian of the heiress Angelita Jones, Felix Hortiguela, as administrator, prayed that his fees, as such, befixed at P10,000 which was granted by the court in its order of January 10, 1933. The administrator later presentedan inventory of the properties left by said deceased Marciana Escaño, a final account of his administration, and aproject of partition of the intestate estate wherein he adjudicated to himself a part of the estate in payment of hisshare of the conjugal properties and his usufructuary right, and the remaining part to Angelita Jones. The latter, whowas a minor, was represented in the proceedings by her guardian Paz Escaño de Corominas. The project of partition and final account were approved in an order of June 26, 1933, and the properties were turned over to therespective grantees by virtue thereof.On May 3, 1934, the heiress Angelita Jones, then married to Ernesto Lardizabal, filed a motion alleging that she wasthe only heir of her mother, the deceased Marciana Escaño; that there never was a valid marriage between her mother and Felix Hortiguela or that had such marriage been celebrated, it was null and void; and even granting thatit were valid, Felix Hortiguela was not entitled to a share in usufruct of one-third of the inheritance; that the petitioner was a minor and that during the hearing of the intestate proceedings she had not been assisted by counsel but wasrepresent by the same attorney of Felix Hortiguela; that during said proceedings there had been committed manyerrors and inaccuracies which impaired her rights and that the fees of P10,000 charged by the administrator werehighly unreasonable and unconscionable. She prayed: ( a ) for the reopening of the proceedings; ( b ) that her husband appointed special administrator without bond; ( c  ) that her mother's alleged marriage to Felix Hortiguela bedeclared null and void; ( d  ) that the partition of the properties made by administrator or Hortiguela be declared nulland void that petitioner be declared the only universal heir of her deceased mother; and ( e ) that in case there was avalid marriage between Felix Hortiguela and Marciana Escaño, Hortiguela be declared not entitled to the widower'susufruct; the errors in the administrator's account be corrected; the latter be granted a remuneration of only P4 aday, and new partition of the properties be made. After Hortiguela's answer had been filed and the evidence for both parties received, the court issued the order of March 14, 1935, the provisions of which are stated in the first paragraph of this decision. Both parties appealedtherefrom.The principal question upon the resolution of which depends that of the others, is whether or not Felix Hortiguela's  10/7/2014G.R. No. L-43701 alleged marriage to Marciana Escaño was celebrated.It is a fact that in December, 1914, Marciana Escaño married Arthur W. Jones in the suburban catholic church of San Nicolas, Province of Cebu. On January 10, 1918, Jones secured a passport to go abroad and thereafter nothingwas ever heard of him. In October, 1919, proceedings were institute in the Court of First Instance of Maasin, Leyte,at the instance of Marciana Escaño, to have her husband judicially declared an absentee. On the 25th of saidmonth, the court issued an order declaring Arthur W. Jones an absentee from the Philippine Islands pursuant to theprovisions of article 186 of the Civil Code, with the proviso that said judicial declaration of absence would not takeeffect until six months after its publication in the official newspapers. Said order directed the publication thereof inthe Official Gazette and in the newspaper El Ideal . Pursuant thereto, said order was published in the OfficialGazette during the month of December, 1919, and January, February, March, April, May and June, 1920. On April23, 1921, the court issued another order for the taking effect of the declaration of absence, publication thereof having been made in the Official Gazette and in El Ideal. On May 6, 1927, Felix Hortiguela and Marciana Escañowere married before the justice of the peace of Malitbog, Leyte, and they signed the certificate of marriage.Now, Angelita Jones contends that the declaration of absence must be understood to have been made not in theorder of October 25, 1919, but in that of April 23, 1921, and that from the latter date to May 6, 1927, the date of thecelebration of the marriage, only 6 years and 14 days elapsed; and in accordance with section III, paragraph 2, of General Orders, No. 68, the marriage so contracted by Felix Hortiguela and Marciana Escaño is null and void. Thiscourt does not believe so. For the purposes of the civil marriage law, it is not necessary to have the former spouse judicially declared an absentee. The declaration of absence made in accordance with the provisions of the CivilCode has for its sole purpose to enable the taking of the necessary precautions for the administration of the estateof the absentee. For the celebration of civil marriage, however, the law only requires that the former spouse hasbeen absent for seven consecutive years at the time of the second marriage, that the spouse present does not knowhis or her former spouse to be living, that such former spouse is generally reputed to be dead and the spousepresent so believe at the time of the celebration of the marriage (section III, paragraph 2, General orders, No. 68).In accordance with the foregoing legal provision, the absence of Marciana Escaño's former husband should becounted from January 10, 1918, the date on which the last news concerning Arthur W. Jones was received, andfrom said date to May 6, 1927, more than nine years elapsed. Said marriage is, therefore, valid and lawful.For some unknown reason not attributable, of course, to the fault or negligence of Felix Hortiguela or MarcianaEscaño, the marriage contracted does not appear recorded in the marriage register of the municipality of Malitbog. Angelita Jones assigns as one of the errors of the court its having declared that failure to record said marriage doesnot affect the efficacy and validity thereof.On this point, the court a quo  very correctly stated as follows:Section VIII of General Orders, No. 68, as amended, provides that the person solemnizing the marriage musttransmit the marriage certificate to the municipal secretary, and failure to transmit such certificate shall befined not less than twenty-five and not more than fifty dollars; but does not provide that failure to transmit suchcertificate to the municipal secretary annuls the marriage. Interpreting this legal provision, the Supreme Court,in its decision of September 5, 1931 (Madridejo vs.  De Leon, 55 Phil., 1 ) said: The mere fact that the parish priest who married the plaintiff's natural father and mother, while thelatter was in articulo mortis  failed to send a copy of the marriage certificate to the municipal secretary,does not invalidate said marriage, since it does not appear that in the celebration thereof all requisitesfor its validity were not present, the forwarding of a copy of the marriage certificate not being one saidrequisites. In another case (U. S. vs.  De Vera, 28 Phil., 105), the court said: Certificate issued pursuant the provisions of section 20 of the Municipal Code by municipal secretaries,marriages recorded in their respective registers, are not the only ones that can attest and prove such facts tosuch an extent that other proofs established by law may not be presented or admitted at trial, when throughthe omission or fault either of the municipal secretary himself or of the person who solemnized the marriage, itwas not duly entered or recorded in the municipal register. Furthermore, Marciana Escaño believed Arthur W. Jones to be dead when she contracted her second marriage. Her daughter Angelita Jones herself was of the same belief, since she lived with her mother after the latter had marriedHortiguela, treated Hortiguela as her true stepfather, and lived and traveled with him together with her mother. Shecertainly would not have behaved so if she had not believed her father to be dead. Still furthermore, according tosection 334, No. 24, of the Code of Civil Procedure, a person not heard from in seven years is presumed to bedead.Inasmuch as Felix Hortiguela was lawfully married to Marciana Escaño and was divorced from her at the time of her death there is no doubt that he is entitled to inherit in usufruct, not only in testate but also in intestate succession, as  10/7/2014G.R. No. L-43701 in the present case (6 and 7 Manresa, pages 497-499 and 134-141, respectively).Therefor, there is no reason to annul the order of May 9, 1932, declaring that the heirs of the deceased were her widower and her daughter Angelita Jones. Neither is there any reason to annul the order of June 26, 1933,approving the partition of the properties of the intestate estate.The inaccuracies and error attributed to the administrator Felix Hortiguela in Angelita Jones' motion and allegedtherein as one of the grounds for asking for the reopening of any assignment of error. It should, therefore, beconsidered that the petitioner has desisted from her intention relative to this alleged ground for the nullity of theproceedings. As to the administrator's fees, the evidence shows that of the P10,000 granted by the court to Hortiguela as his ownsum of P8,000 for the latter's professional services in this as well as in other cases affecting the estate of hisdeceased wife. Taking into consideration the nature of and the amount involved in this and in the other caseswherein Attorney Faelnar has rendered his services this court is of the opinion that the sum of P8,000 paid by theadministrator is a reasonable and moderate compensation. Angelita Jones' objection to the effect that she had noreason to contribute to the payment of Faelnar's fees is untenable, considering the fact that said attorney'sprofessional services were rendered for the benefit of the administration of the estate of the deceased Escaño prior to the controversy provoked by said heiress. As to the remainder of P2,000, said administrator is entitled to collectthe sum of P4 for every day employed by him as such, and considering the importance of the inheritance in questionand the time elapsed since the inception of the administration proceedings this court is of the opinion that the sum of P2,000 is an adequate compensation for said administrator's services.Lastly, had the court jurisdiction to set aside, as it did, the order of January 10, 1933, approving the administrator'sfees and the order of June 26, 1933, approving the partition and the final account? Had the court jurisdiction to order the presentation of another project of partition and final account? These are the questions raised by Felix Hortiguelaand this court is of the opinion that said orders having therefrom, the court has lost jurisdiction that no appeal wasever taken therefrom, the court has lost jurisdiction over the case and it could not resume it under section 113 of theCode of Civil Procedure or under section 598 thereof because the above-cited section refer to grounds other thanthose upon which Angelita Jones' motion of May 3, 1934, is based.For all the foregoing consideration this court reverses the appealed order of March 14, 1935, in so far as it set asidethe order of January 10, 1933, relative to the administrator's fees and the order of June 26, 1933, approving the finalaccount and the project of portion, and in so far as said order of March 14, 1935, required the presentation of a newproject of partition; denied the appointment of Angelita Jones husband as administrator; affirms the order of May 9,1932, relative to declaration of heirs; and holds it unwarranted to make a finding as to whether or not the propertiesof this intestate estate are paraphernal properties of the deceased Marciana Escaño reserving to the parties theright to discuss which are paraphernal and which are conjugal properties. So ordered.  Avanceña, C.J., Villa-Real, Abad Santos, Diaz and Laurel, JJ., concur. The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation
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