Benigno Manuel, et al. v. Hon. Nicodemo T. Ferrer, et al., G.R. No. 117246, August 21, 1995


The property involved in this petition for review on certiorari is the inheritance left by an illegitimate child who died intestate without any surviving descendant or ascendant.

Petitioners are the legitimate children of spouses Antonio Manuel and Beatriz Guiling. During his marriage with Beatriz, Antonio had an extra-marital affair with one Ursula Bautista. From this relationship, Juan Manual was born. Several years passed before Antonio Manual, his wife Beatriz, and his mistress Ursula passed away.

Juan Manuel married Esperanza Gamba. In  consideration of the marriage, Laurenciana Manuel made a donation propter nuptias in favor of Juan Manuel. Juan Manuel later bought two other parcels of land. The couple were not blessed with a child of their own so they took in private respondent, Modesta Manual-Baltazar, and raised her as their own “daughter.”

On June 3, 1980, Juan Manuel executed in favor of Estanislao Manuel a Deed of Sale con Pacto de Retro with a 10-year period of redemption over ½ portion of his land. On February 21, 1980, Juan Manuel died intestate. Two years later, his wife Esperanza also passed away.

On March 5, 1992, Modesta executed an Affidavit of Self-Adjudication, claiming for herself the three parcels of land belonging to Juan Manuel. Thus, the titles in the name of Juan Manuel were cancelled and new titles were issued in the name of Modesta. On October 19, 1992, Modesta executed in favor of her co-respondent, Estanislao Manuel, a Deed of Renunciation and Quitclaim over the unredeemed ½ portion of the land that was sold to him by Juan Manuel in 1980.

For these acts, petitioners initiated a complaint before the RTC of Lingayen, Pangasinan, seeking the declaration of nullity of the aforesaid instruments. There being no material dispute on the facts, the case was submitted to the court a quo for summary judgment.

The trial court dismissed the complaint, holding that petitioners, not being heirs ab intestate of their illegitimate brother Juan Manual, were not the real parties-in-interest to institute the suit. The trial court likewise awarded moral and exemplary damages, attorney’s fees and litigation expenses in favor of Modesta. Petitioners’ motion for reconsideration was denied. Hence, this petition.




Article 994 of the Civil Code provides:

“ARTICLE 994. In 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.

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.”

On the other hand, Article 992 reads:

“ARTICLE 992. An illegitimate child has no right to inherit ab intestate 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.”

Article 992, a basic postulate, 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 intestate in the collateral line between legitimate relatives, on the one hand, and illegitimate relatives, on 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. 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 Art. 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.”

The Court, too, has had occasions to explain this “iron curtain,” firstly, in the early case of Grey v. Fabie and, then, in the relatively recent cases of Diaz v. Intermediate Appellate Court and De la Puerta v. Court of Appeals. In Diaz, we have said:

“Article 992 of the New Civil Code . . . prohibits absolutely a succession ab intestate 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 the 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 denied; the former, in turn, sees in the illegitimate child nothing but the product of sin, palpable evidence of a blemish broken in life; the law does not more than recognize this truth, by avoiding further grounds of resentment.”

The rule in Article 992 has consistently been applied by the Court in several other cases. 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 intestate 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 in operative by, but must always be construed in relation to, any other part as to produce a harmonious whole.

The order of preference and concurrence in intestacy is graphically presented as follows:

Order of PreferenceOrder of Concurrence
Legitimate Children and DescendantsLegitimate Children and Descendants, Illegitimate Children and Descendants, and Surviving Spouse
Legitimate Parents and AscendantsLegitimate Parents and Ascendants, Illegitimate Children and Descendants, and Surviving Spouse
Illegitimate Children and Descendants (in the absence of ICDs and LPAs, the Illegitimate Parents)Illegitimate Children and Descendants and Surviving Spouse
Surviving SpouseSurviving Spouse and Illegitimate Parents
Brothers and Sisters / Nephews and NiecesBrothers and Sisters / Nephews and Nieces and Surviving Spouse
Other Collateral Relatives (within the fifth civil degree)Alone

Modesta candidly admitted that she herself is not an intestate heir of Juan Manual. She is right. A ward (ampon), without the benefit of formal (judicial) adoption, is neither a compulsory nor legal heir.

We must hold, nevertheless, that the complaint of petitioners seeking the nullity of the Affidavit of Self-Adjudication executed by Modesta, the three (3) TCTs issued to her favor, as well as the Deed of Renunciation and Quitclaim in favor of Estanislao Manuel, was properly dismissed by the trial court. Petitioners, not being the real “parties-in-interest” in the case, had neither the standing nor the cause of action to initiate the complaint.

The Court, however, sees no sufficient reason to sustain the award of moral and exemplary damages, attorney’s fees and litigation expenses. An adverse result of a suit in law does not mean that its advocacy is necessarily so wrongful as to justify an assessment of damages against the actor.

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