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Succession – Nationality of the Decedent – Legitime
Amos Bellis was a citizen of the State of Texas, and of the United States. By his first wife whom he divorced he had five legitimate children (Edward Bellis et al), by his second wife, who survived him, he had three legitimate children. He, however, also had three illegitimate children in the Philippines (Maria Cristina Bellis et al). Before he died, he executed a will here in the Philippines which disposed of his Philippine properties (Bellis actually executed another will disposing his US properties. In said will, he still gave nothing to his illegitimate children). His illegitimate children were not given anything. Amos Bellis died in 1958 and at the time of his death, he was a resident and a domicile of Texas, USA. The executor of the will then caused the admission of the will to probate. The illegitimate children opposed the will on the ground that they have been deprived of their legitimes to which they should be entitled, if Philippine law were to be applied. Maria Cristina et al invoked Par. 3, Art. 17 of the New Civil Code which provides that Philippines Laws on property relations should not be rendered ineffective by foreign laws and/or agreements.
ISSUE: Whether or not the national law of the deceased should determine the successional rights of the illegitimate children.
HELD: Yes. The Supreme Court held that the said children, Maria Kristina et al, are not entitled to any legitime. Under the Texas Law, being the national law of the deceased and which is the law applicable, there are no legitimes. The SC did not give credence to the argument of Maria Cristina et al. Par. 3, Art. 17 of the New Civil Code is not an exception to the Nationality Principle (par. 2, Article 16 of the Civil Code). Rather, it is the other way around. This is highlighted by the fact that Art. 1039 of the same law clearly states that capacity to succeed is governed by the law of the nation of the decedent. Thus, the intent of the lawmakers is clear.
The SC also took time to discuss the renvoi Doctrine though not invoked by Maria Cristina et al: It is not disputed that the decedent was both a national of Texas and a domicile thereof at the time of his death. So that even assuming Texas has a conflict of law rule providing that the domiciliary system (law of the domicile) should govern, the same would not result in a reference back (renvoi) to Philippine law, but would still refer to Texas law. Nonetheless, if Texas has a conflicts rule adopting the situs theory (lex rei sitae) calling for the application of the law of the place where the properties are situated, renvoi would arise, since the properties here involved are found in the Philippines. In the absence, however, of proof as to the conflict of law rule of Texas, it should not be presumed different from ours.