Remedial Law

Cristina Reillo vs Galicano San Jose

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G.R. No. 166393 – 607 Phil. 446 – Remedial Law – Special Proceedings – Settlement of Estate – Rule 74; Summary Settlement of Estate; Fraudulent Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement

Remedial Law – Civil Procedure – Rule 6; Counterclaim – Compulsory vs Permissive Counterclaim

Quiterio San Jose and Antonina Espiritu Santo are husband and wife. Both died intestate in 1970 and 1976 respectively. They have five children: Virginia, Virgilio, Galicano, Victoria, and Catalina.

In 1998, Virginia with the help of her husband (Zosimo Fernando, Sr.) and her children (Cristina Reillo et al) executed a Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate where they made it appear that Virginia was the only heir of the spouses Quiterio and Antonina. They adjudicated among themselves the estate and then later sold it to Ma. Teresa Piñon.

Later, the other siblings found out about what Virginia did and so in October 1999, they filed  a complaint in RTC-Rizal for the annulment of the deed of extrajudicial settlement as well as the subsequent deed of sale.

In their answer, Reillo et al (children of the now deceased Virginia) admitted that their grandparents (Quiterio and Antonina) indeed had five children and that their mom isn’t the only heir. However, they alleged that what their mom adjudicated to herself is her inheritance; that other than the parcel of land their mom adjudicated to herself, their grandparents have 12 other parcels of land which are under the possession of Galicano et al; that as such, they are filing a “compulsory” counterclaim for the partition of the other 12 parcels of land.

Galicano et al then filed a motion for the court to render judgment on the pleadings. The trial court granted the motion. The RTC ruled that the admission of Reillo et al that there are 4 other heirs is proof that the extrajudicial settlement is void because the other heirs were excluded. The RTC also ruled that Reillo et al’s counterclaim is not compulsory but rather it is a permissive counterclaim. As such, Reillo et al should have paid docket fees therefor but they failed to do so hence their counterclaim is dismissed. The RTC then ordered the heirs to partition the estate according to the laws of intestate succession. On appeal, the Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed the decision of the RTC.

Reillo et al appealed the decision of the CA on the ground that the judgment on the pleading is void; that it is the RTC’s fault why they failed to pay the docket fees for its failure to direct them; and that the order for partition is void because it does not come with an order of publication pursuant to Rule 74 of the Rules of Court.

ISSUE: Whether or not the order for partition issued by the trial court is void because there was no corresponding order for publication pursuant to the provisions of Rule 74 of the Rules of Court.

HELD: No. The applicable rule is Rule 69 of the Rules of Court. Since the extrajudicial settlement is void, the property is reverted back to its previous state which is: that it is part of the estate of Quiterio and Antonina. As such, the estate is deemed undivided among the heirs. And every action to end an indivision among heirs is deemed an action for partition. Therefore Rule 69 applies and under this rule, there is no need to publish the partition in a newspaper of general circulation.

Anent the issue of the judgment on the pleadings, the same is valid because Reillo et al failed to raise an issue when they already admitted that there are other heirs which were excluded in the deed of extrajudicial settlement. Their allegation that the parcel of land adjudicated by their mother is her inheritance is not tenable because the same was not indicated in the deed of extrajudicial settlement. In fact, what was stated was that she was  the sole heir.

Anent the issue of the counterclaim, Reillo et al’s counterclaim is permissive in nature and not a compulsory one because their claim is not “necessarily connected with the transaction or occurrence constituting the subject matter of the opposing party’s claim.” Their counterclaim consists of a claim that there are 12 other parcels of land owned by Quiterio and Antonina. Such allegation is already entirely different from the action (annulment of document) brought by Galicano et al., hence it is permissive and it can even be brought in a separate proceeding. As a permissive pleading, it requires the payment of docket fees and the RTC cannot be faulted for not directing Reillo et al to do so. The payment is incumbent upon Reillo et al and the obligation cannot be shifted to the RTC.

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