Republic of the Philippines
G.R. Nos. L-11483-11484             February 14, 1958
In the matter of the Testate Estate of the deceased Edward E. Christensen, ADOLFO CRUZ AZNAR, petitioner.
MARIA LUCY CHRISTENSEN DANEY and ADOLFO CRUZ AZNAR, petitioners-appellants,
MARIA HELEN CHRISTENSEN GARCIA and BERNARDA CAMPOREDONDO, oppositors-appellees.
BERNARDA CAMPOREDONDO, plaintiff-appellee,
ADOLFO CRUZ AZNAR, as Executor of the Deceased EDWARD E. CHRISTENSEN, defendant-appellant.
M. R. Sotelo for appellants.
Leopoldo M. abellera and Amado A. Munda for appellee Maria Heliuen Christensen Garcia.
Pedro P. Suarez and Oscar Breva for appellee Bernarda Camporedondo.
From the records of the above-entitled cases, it appears that as of 1913,Edward E. Christensen, an American citizen, was already residing in Davao and on the following year became the manager of Mindanao Estates located in the municipality of Padada of the same province. At a certain time, which the lower court placed at 1917, a group of laborers recruited from Argao, Cebu, arrived to work in the said plantation. Among the group was a young girl,Bernarda Camporendondo, who became an assistant to the cook. Thereafter, thegirl and Edward E. Christensen, who was also unmarried staring living together as husband and wife and although the records failed to establishthe exact date when such relationship commenced, the lower court found the same to have been continous for over 30 years until the death of Christensen occurecd on April 30, 1953. Out of said relations, 2 children, Lucy and Helen Christensen, were allegedly born.
G. R. NO. L-11484.
Upon the demise of the American, who had left a considerable amount of properties his will naming Adolfo Cruz Aznar as executor was duly presented for probate in court and became the subject of Special Proceedings No. 622 of the Court of First Instance of Davao. Said will contains, among others, the following provisions:
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3. I declare . . . that I have but one (1) child, named MARIA LUCY CHRISTENSEN (now Mrs. Bernard Daney), who was born in the Philippines about twenty-eight years ago, and who is now residing at No. 665 Rodger Young Village, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
4. I further declare that I have no living ascendants, andno descendantsexcept my above named daughter, MARIA LUCY CHRISTENSEN DANEY.
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7. I give, devise and bequeath unto MARIA LUCY CHRISTENSEN, now married toEduardo Garcia, about eighteen years of age and who, notwithstanding the factthat she was baptized Christensen, is not in any way related to me, nor hasshe been at any time adopted to me, and who, from all information I have now resides in Egipt, Digos, Davao, Philippines, the sum of THREEE THOUSAND SIXHUNDRED PESOS (P3,600) Philippine Currency, the same to be deposited in trustfor said Maria Lucy Christensen with the Davao Branch of the PhilippineNational Bank, and paid to her at the rate of One Hundred Pesos (P100), Philippine Currency per month until the the principal thereof as well as any interest which may have accrued thereon, is exhausted.
8. I give devise and bequeath unto BERNARDA CAMPORENDONDO, now residing inPadada, Davao, Philippines, the sum of One Thousand Pesos (P1,000), Philippine Currency.
xxx             xxx             xxx.
12. I hereby give, devise and bequeath, unto my well-beloved daughter, the said MARIA Lucy CHRISTENSEN DANEY (Mrs. Bernard Daney), now residing as aforesaid at No. 665 Rodger Young Village Los Angeles, California, U.S.A., all the income from the rest, remainder, and residue of my property and estate, real, personal and/or mixed, of whatsoever kind or character, andwheresover situated; of which I may be possessed at any death and which mayhave come to me from any source whatsoever, during her lifetime,Provided, honvever, that should the said MARIA LUCY CHRISTENSEN DANEY at any time prior to her decease having living issue, then, and in that event, the life interest herein given shall terminate, and if so terminated, then I give, devise, and bequeath to my said daughter, the said MARIA LUCY CHRISTENSEN DANEY, the rest remainder and residue of my property, with the same force and effectas if I had originally so given, devised and bequeathedit to her; and provided, further, that should be said Maria Lucy ChristensenDaney die without living issue then, and in that event, I give, devise and bequeath all the rest, remainder and residue of my property, one-half (1/2) to my well-beloved sister, Mrs. CARRIE LOIUSE C. BORTON, now residing at No. 2124 Twentieth Street, Bakersfield, California, U.S.A. and one-half (1/2) to the children of my deceased brother, JOSEPH C. CRISTENSEN, . . .
13. I hereby nominate and appoint Mr Adolfo Cruz Aznar, of Davao City, Philippines, my executor, and the executor of this, my last will and testament.
Oppositions to the probate of this will were separately filed by Maria Helen Christensen Garcia and Bernarda Camporendondo, the first contending that thewill lacked the formalities required by law; that granting that he had, thedispositions made therein were illegal because although she and Lucy Christensen were both children had by the deceased with Bernarda Camporendondo, yet she was given only a meager sum of P3,600 out of an estate valued at $485,000 while Lucy would get the rest of the properties;and that the petitioner Adolfo Cruz Aznar was not qualified to be appointed as administrator of the estate because he had an interest adverse to thatof the estate. It was therefore prayed by his oppositor that the application for probate be denied and the will disallowed; that the proceeding be declared intestate and that another disinterested person be appointed as administrator.
Bernarda Camporedondo, on the other hand, claimed ownership over one-halfof the entire estate in virtue of her relationship with the deceased, it being alleged that she and the testator having lived together as husband andwife continuously for a period of over 30 years, the properties acquired during such cohabitation should be governed by the rules on co-ownership. This opposition was dismissed by the probate court on the ground that shehad no right to intervene in said proceeding, for as such common-law wife she had no successional right that might be affected by the probate of thewill, and likewise, she could not be allowed to establish her title and co-ownership over the properties therein for such questions must be ventilated in a court of general jurisdiction. In view of this ruling of the Court and in order to attain the purpose sought by her overruled opposition Bernarda Camporedondo had to institute, as she did institute Civil Case No. 1076 of the Court of First Instance of Davao (G.R. No. L-11483) which we will consider and discuss hereinafter.
In the meantime, Adolfo Cruz Aznar was appointed special adminsitrator of the estate after filing a bond for P5,000 pending the appointment of a regular one, and letters of special administrition were correspondingly issued to him on May 21, 1953.
The records further show that subsequent to her original opposition. Helen Christensen Garcia filed a supplemental opposition and motion to declare her an acknowledged natural child of Edward E. Christensen, alleging that shewas conceived during the time when her mother Bernarda Camporendondo was living with the deceased as his common-law wife; that she had been in continous possession of the status of a natural child of the deceased; thatahe had in her favor evidence and/or proof that Edward Christensen was her father; and that she and Lucy had the same civil status as children of the decedent and Bernarda Camporedondo. This motion was opposed jointly by the executor and Maria Lucy Christensen Daney asserting that before, during and after the conception and birth of Helen Christensen Garcia, her mother was generally known to be carrying relations with 3 different men; that during the lifetime of the decedent and even years before his death, Edward Christensen verbally as well as in writing disavowed relationship with said oppositor; that oppositor appropriated and used the surname Christensen illegally and without permission from the deceased. Thus they prayed the Court that the will be allowed; that Maria Helen Christensen Garcia be declared not in any way related to the deceased; and that the motion of said oppositor be denied.
After due hearing, the lower court in a decision dated February 28, 1953, found that oppositor Maria Helen Cristensen had been in continous possession of the status of a natural child of the deceased Edward Christensen notwithstanding the fact that she was disowned by him in his will, for such action must have been brought about by the latter's disaproval of said oppositor's marriage to a man he did not like. But taking into considerationthat such possession of the status of a natural child did not itself constitute acknowledgment but may only be availed of to compel acknowledgment, the lower Court directed Maria Lucy Christensen Daney toacknowledge the oppositor as a natural child of Edward E. Christensen. Thewill was, however, allowed the letters testamentary consequently issued toAdolfo Cruz Aznar, the executor named therein. From the portion of the decision requiring Lucy Christensen to acknowledge Helen as a natural child of the testator, the former and the executor interposed an appeal to the Court of Appeals (CA-G. R. No. 13421-R), but the appellate tribunal elevatedthe same to Us on the ground that the case involves an estate the value of which far exceeds P50,000.00 and thus falls within the exclusive appellate jurisdiction of this Court pursuant to Section 17 (5), Republic Act No. 296.
The principal issue in this litigation is whether the lower court erred in finding that the oppositor Maria Helen Christensen Garcia had been in continous possession of the status of a natural child of the deceased EdwardE. Christensen and in directing Maria Lucy Christensen Daney, recognizeddaughter and instituted heirs of the decedent, to acknowledge the former assuch natural child.
Maria Lucy Christensen was born on April 25, 1922, and Maria Helen Christensen on July 2, 1934, of the same mother, Bernarda Camporedondo, during the period when the latter was publicly known to have been living as common-law wife of Edward E. Chrisiensen. From the facts of the case there can be no question as to Lucy's parentage, but controversy arose when Edward Christensen, in making his last will and testament, disavowed such paternity to Helen and gave her only a legacy of P3,600. ln the course of the proceeding for the probate of the will (Exh, A), Helen introduced documentary and testimonial evidence to support her claim that she, Lucy,was a natural child of the deceased and, therefore, entitled to the hereditaryshare corresponding to such descendant. Several witness testified in herfavor, including the mother Bernarda Camporendondo, her former teachers andother residents of the community, tending to prove that she was known in the locality as a child of the testator and was introduced by the latter to the circle of his friends and acquaintances as his daughter. Family portraits, greeting cards and letters were likewise presented to bolster herassertion that she had always been treated by the deceased and by Lucy herself as a member of the family.
Lucy Christensen and Adolfo Cruz Aznar, as executor, tried to repudiate herclaim by introducing evidence to prove that on or about the period when shewas conceived and born, her mother was carrying an affair with another man,Zosimo Silva, a former laborer in her Paligue plantation. Silva executed an affidavit and even took the witness stand to testify to this effect. Appellants also strived to show that the defendant's solicitations for Helen's welfare and the help extended to her merely sprang out generosity and hammered on the fact that on several occasions, the deceased disclaimed any relationship with her (Exh. O-Daney, Exh. Q-Daney, Exh. Z-Daney, Exh. 8-Helen).
Going over the evidence adduced during the trial, it appears indubitable that on or about the period when Helen was born, Bernarda Camporendondo had established residence at her plantation at Paligue, Davao, and that although Edward Christensen stayed in Davao City to manage his merchandising business, he spent the weekends with the former and their child Lucy in the Christensenplantation. Even granting that Zosimo Silva at his stage fitted himself intothe picture, it cannot be denied that Helen's mother and the deceased weregenerally and publicly known to be living together as husband and wife. Thismust have been the reason why Christensen from Helen's birth in 1934 providedfor her maintenance; shouldered the expenses for her education to the extentthat she was even enrolled as an intern in an exclusive college for girls inManila; tolerated or allowed her carrying the surname "Christensen", and ineffect gaver her the attention and care that a father would only do to this offspring. We should take note that nothing appears on record to show thatChristensen ever entertained any doubt or disputed Helen's paternity. Hisrepudations of her relationship with him came about only after he andBernarda Comperodondo parted ways in March, 1950, and apparently after Helentook sides with her mother. Furthermore, it seems that despite that decedent's desire that she continue her studies, Helen ignored the same andgot married to a man for Christensen held no high esteem. We may state at hisjuncture that while it is true that herein appellants introduced witnesses todisprove oppositor'r claim, the lower Court that had the opportunity to observe the conduct of the witnesses while testifying and could better gaugetheir credibility and impartiality in the case, arrived at the conclusion that Maria Helen Christensen had established that she had been in continouspossessions of the status of a natural child of the deceased. Considering the preponderant evidence on record, We see no reason to reverse said ruling.The testator' lastacts cannot be made the criterion in determining whether oppositor was his child or not, for human frailty and parental arrogance maydraw a person to adopt unnatural or harsh measures against an erring child orone who displeases just so the weight of his authority could be felt. In theconsideration of a claim that one is a natural child, the attitude or directacts of the person against whom such action is directed or that of his family before the controversy arose or during his lifetime if he predeceases the claimant, and not a single opportunity or an isolated occasions but as a whole, must be taken into account. The possession of such status is one of the cases that gives rise to the right, in favor of the child, of coumpulsaryrecognition. (Art. 283, Civil Code).
The lower Court, however, after making its finding directed Maria Lucy Christensen Daney, an heir of the decedent, to recognize oppositor as a natural child of the deceased. This seems improper. The Civil Code for 2 kinds of acknowledgement of a natural child: voluntary and compulsory. In the first instance, which may be effected in the record of birth, a will, a statement before a court of record or in an authentic writing (Art. 278,Civil Code), court intervention is very nil and not altogether wanting, whereas in the second, judicial pronouncement is essential, and while it is true that the effect of a voluntary and a compulsory acknowledgment onthe right of the child so recognized is the same, to maintain the view of thelower Court would eliminate the distinction between voluntary acts and those brought about by judicial dicta. And if We consider that in the case, where, the presumed parent dies ahead of the child and action for compulsory recogniton is brought against the heirs of the deceased, as in the instant case, the situation would take absurd turn, for the heirs would be compelled to recognize such child as a natural child of the deceased without a properprovision of the law, for as it now stands, the Civil Code only requires a declaration by the court of the child's status as a natural child of the parent who, if living, would be compelled to recognize his offspring as such.Therefore, We hold that in cases of compulsory recognition, as in the case at bar, it would be sufficient that a competent court, after taking into account all the evidence on record, would declare that under any of the circumstances specified by Article 283 of the Civil Code, a child has acquired the status of a natural child of the presumptive parent and as such is entitled to all rights granted it by law, for such declaration is by itself already a judicial recognition of the paternity of the parent concerned which is her against whom the action is directed, are bound to respect.
G.R. No. L-11483
Coming now to Civil Case No. 1076 of the Court of First Instance of Davao, Bernarda Camporendondo claimed in her complaint 1/2 of the properties of thedeceased as co-owner thereof in virtue of her relations with the deceased. She alleged as basis for action that she and the deceased Edward E. Christensen had lived and cohabitated as husband and wife, continously and openly for a period for more than 30 years; that within said period, plaintiff and the deceased acquired real and personal properties through their common effort and industry; and that in virtue of such relationship, she was a co-owner of said properties. As the executor refused to account forand deliver the share allegedly belonging to her despite her repeated demands, she prayed the court that said executor be ordered to submit an inventory and render an accounting of the entire estate of the deceased;to divide the same into 2 equal parts and declare that one of them lawfully belonged to plaintiff; and for such other reliefs as may be deemed just and equitable in the premises. In his answer, the executor denied the avermentsof the complaint, contending that the decedent was the sole owner of the properties left by him as they were acquired through his own efforts; thatplaintiff had never been a co-owner of any property acquired or possessed by the late Edward christensen during his lifetime; that the personal relationship between plaintiff and the deceased was purely clandestinebecause the former habitually lived in her plantation at Paligue, Davao, from the time she acquired the same in 1928; that she also maintained relations with 2 other men; and that the claim of plaintiff would violate the provisions of Article 2253 of the Civil Code as the vested rights of the compulsory heirs of the deceased would be impaired. Defendant thus prayed for the dismissal of the complaint and as counterclaim demanded the sum ofP70.000.00 representing actual, moral and exemplary damages.
Due hearing was conducted thereon and after the parties ad submitted theirrespective memoranda, the lower Court on August 25, 1954, rendered judgmentfinding that the deceased Edward Christensen and Bernarda Camporendondo,not otherwise suffering from any impediment to contract marriage, lived together as husband and wife without marital ties continously for over 30years until the former's death in 1953; that out of such relations 2 childrenwere born; and that the properties in controversy were acquired by either orboth of them through their work or industry. Relying on Section 144 of theCivil Code which said court considered to have created another mode ofacquiring ownership, plaintiff was held to be entitled to one-half of saidproperties as co-owner thereof in view of her relationship with the deceasedand ordered the executor to account for and deliver the same by her. Fromthis decision, defendant Aznar, as Executor of the will, perfected an appealto the Court of Appeals, but as the property involved in the litigation exceeds P50,000.00 said tribunal elevated the case to Us for consideration.
It is not controverted that at the time of his death, Edward Christensen was the owner of certain properties, including shares of stock in the plantation bearing his name and a general merchandising store in Davao City. It is also undeniable that the deceased and appellee, both capacitated to enter into the married state, maintained relations as husband and wife, continuously and publicly for a considerable number of years which the lower Court declared to be until the death of Christensen in 1953. While as a general rule appellate courts do not usually disturb the lower court's findings of fact, unless said finding is not supported by or totally devoid of or inconsistent with the evidence on record, such finding must ofnecessity be modified to confrom with the evidence if the reviewing tribunalwere to arrive at the proper and just solution of the controversy. In theinstant case, the court a quo overlooked or failed to consider the testimonies of both Lucy and Helen Christensen to the effect that the deceased and their mother Bernarda Camporendondo had some sort of quarrel or misunderstanding and parted ways as of March, 1950, a fact which appelleewas not able to overcome. Taking into account the circumstances of this caseas found by the trial court, with the modification that the cohabitation should appear as continuous from the early 20's until March, 1950, the question left for our determination is whether Bernarda Camporedondo, byreason of such relationship, may be considered as a co-owner of the properties acquired by the deceased during said period and thus entitledto one-half thereof after the latter's death.
Presumably taking judicial notice of the existence in our society of a certain kind of relationship brought about by couples living together as husbands and wives without the benefit of marriage, acquiring and bringingproperties unto said union, and probably realizing that while same may not beacceptable from the moral point of view they are as much entitled to theprotection of the laws as any other property owners, the lawmakersincorporated Article 144 in Republic Act No. 386 (Civil Code of the Philippines) to govern their property relations. Said article read as follows:
ART. 114. When a man and a woman live together as husband and wife, but they are not married, or their marriage is void from the beginning, the property acquired by either or both of them through their work or industry or their wages and salaries shall be governed by the rules of co-ownership.
It must be noted that such form of co-ownership requires that the man and the woman thus living together must not in any way be incapacitated to contract marriage and that the properties realized during their cohabitation be acquired through the work, industry, employment or occupation of both or either of them. And the same thing may be said of whose marriages are by provision of law declared void ab intio. While it is true that these requisites are fully met and satisfied in the case at bar, We must remember that the deceased and herein appellee were already estranged as of March, 1950. There being no provision of law governing the cessation of such informal civil partnership, if ever existed, same may be considered terminated upon their separation or desistance to continue said relations.The Spanish Civil Code which was then enforce contains to counterpart of Article 144 and as the records in the instant case failed to show show thata subsequent reconciliation ever took place and considering that Republic ActNo. 386 which recognizeed such form of co-ownership went into operation onlyon August 30, 1950, evidently, this later enactment cannot be invoked as basis for appellee's claim.
In determining the question poised by this action We may look upon the jurisprudence then obtaining on the matter. As early as 1925, this Court already declared that where a man and a woman, not suffering from any impediment to contract marriage, live together as husband and wife, an informal civil partnership exists and made the pronouncement that each of them has an intereat in the properties acquired during said union and is entitled to participate therein if said properties were the product oftheir JOINT efforts (Marata vs. Dionio G.R. No. 24449, Dec. 31, 1925). In another case, this Court similarly held that although there is no technical marital partnership between person living maritally without being lawfully married, nevertheless there is between them an informalcivil partnership, and the parties would be entitled to an equal interest where the property is acquired through their JOINT efforts (Lesaca vs. FelixVda. de Lesaca, 91 Phil., 135).
Appellee, claiming that the properties in controversy were the product of their joint industry apparently in her desire to tread on the doctrine laiddown in the aforementioned cases, would lead Us to believe that her help wassolicited or she took a hand in the management of and/or acquisition of thesame. But such assertion appears incredible if We consider that she wasobserved by the trial Court as an illiterate woman who cannot even remembersimple things as the date when she arrived at the Mindanao Estate, when shecommenced relationship with the deceased, not even her approximate age orthat of her children. And considering that aside from her own declaration, which We find to be highly improbable, there appears no evidence to proveher alleged contribution or participation in the acquisition of the properties involved therein, and that in view of the holding of this Courtthat for a claim to one-half of such property to be allowed it must be provedthat the same was acquired through their joint efforts and labor (Flores vs.Rehabilitation Finance Corporation, * 50 Off. Gaz. 1029), We have no recoursebut reverse the holding of the lower Court and deny the claim of BernardaCampredondo. We may further state that even granting, for the sake ofargument, that this case falls under the provisions of Article 144 of theCivil Code, same would be applicable only as far as properties acquiredafter the effectivity of Republic Act 386 are concerned and to no other, forsuch law cannot be given retroactive effect to govern those already possessedbefore August 30, 1950. It may be argued, however, that being a newly created right, the provisions of Section 144 should be made to retroact if only toenforce such right. Article 2252 of the same Code is explicit in thisrespect when it states:
SEC. 2252. Changes made and new provisions and rules laid down by this Code which may prejudice or impair vested or acquired rights in accordance with the old legislation, shall have ro retroactive effect.
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As it cannot be denied that the rights and legitimes of the compulsory heirsof the deceased Edward Christensen would be impaired or diminished if the claim of herein appellee would succeed, the answer to such argument wouldbe simply obvious.
With regard to appellant Aznar's contention that the lower Court erred in admitting the testimony of appellee Bernarda Camporedondo dealing with facts that transpired before the death of Edward Christensen on the ground that it is prohibited by Section 26-(c), Rule 123 of the Rules of Court. We deem it unnecessary to delve on the same because even admitting that the court a quo committed the error assigned, yet it will not affect anymore the outcome of the case in view of the conclusion We have already arrived at on the main issue.
On the strength of the foregoing considerations, We affirm the decision of the lower Court in case G.R. No. L-11484, with the modification that MariaLucy Christensen Daney need not be compelled to acknowledge her sister Maria Helen Christensen Garcia as a natural child of her father Edward E. Christensen, the declaration of the Court in this respect being sufficient to enable her to all the rights inherent to such status.
The decision appealed from in case G.R. No. L-11483 is hereby reversed and another one rendered, dismissing plaintiff's complaint.
Costs are taxed against appellants in G.R. No. L-11484 and against appellee Bernarda Camporedondo in G.R. No. L-11483. It is so ordered.
Bengzon, Paras, C.J., Padilla, Reyes, A., Bautista Angelo, Concepcion, Reyes, J.B.L., and Endencia, JJ., concur.
* 94 Phil., 451
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