G.R. No. 2764. December 16, 1905

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5 Phil. 431

[ G.R. No. 2764. December 16, 1905 ]




The will of Margarita Sivila was duly proved and allowed in the
Court of First Instance of Ilocos Norte. Commissioners were appointed
by that court before whom the creditors of the said Margarita were
required to present their claims. The defendant Leandro Serrano
presented before these commissioners a claim for 41,404,30 pesos. The
commissioners disallowed the claim. He appealed from this disallowance
to the Court of First Instance of Ilocos Norte under the provisions of
section 773 of the Code of Civil Procedure. In that court he filed a
complaint, as required by section 776. The executors, Enrique Serrano
and Sehastiana Sivila, the plaintiffs in this action, filed an answer
to said complaint denying all the allegations therein. Up to this point
the proceedings were entirely regular and in strict conformity with the
provisions of the code. The executors, however, in addition to the
general denial contained in their answer, set up a counterclaim against
the claimant Leandro Serrano. In this counterclaim they alleged, among
other things, that the estate which they represented was the owner of
certain lands situated in Ilocos Sur, of which Leandro Serrano was in
possession, and as part of the relief they asked that the court
determine that the estate was such owner, and that it be given
possession of the property. To this counterclaim Leandro Serrano
demurred, on the ground, among others, that the court had no
jurisdiction thereof. The court sustained the demurrer. The decision is
in part as follows :

“De lo expuesto se ve que este Juzgado carece de
jurisdiccion para conocer de la reconvencion establecida por los
demandados, por cuanto la mayor parte de las fincas que se reivindican
en la misma, radican en el municipio de Cabuyao, Ilocos Sur, I. F.,
donde son a la vez vecinas las partes, no obstante de que por razon de
la reclamacion del demandante que trae su origen de la testamentaria de
la finada Sra. Margarita Sivila pendiente ante este citado Juzgado, es
competente el mismo; cuya reconvencion tiene intima relacion con la
indicada reclamacion del demandante por cuanto se dice que los frutos
que se reclaman por este sonde los mencionados terrenos; y por tanto al
inhibirse este aludido Juzgado del conocimiento de la expresada
reconvencion a favor del de Ilocos Sur, I. F., debe hacerse lo propio
de la demanda principal, porque de conocer separadamente de las dos
reclamaciones se dividira la continencia de la causa, lo que no debe
ser; no siendo procedentes los demas motivos de demurrer alegados.

“En su consecuencia se estima el primer fundainento del demurrer
propuesto, y en su virtud se inhibe este Juzgado del conocimiento de la
presente causa a favor del de Primera Instancia de Ilocos Sur, I. F.,
para conocer tanto de la demanda principal como de la reconvencion.”

Neither of the parties had asked for this relief, and neither
excepted to the order. Copies of the complaint, answer, and
counterclaim were filed in the Court of First Instance of Ilocos Sur;
the executors appeared therein and asked that a day be set for the
hearing of the case. Before that was done, however, they commenced in
this court this action of certiorari and prohibition. By the order of the 10th of July, 1905, we held that certiorari
would not lie, but ordered the defendants to answer the complaint so
far as it related to the prohibition. Leandro Serrano has appeared and
answered, and the case been submitted for decision.

Stated most favorably for the defendants the question is, Can the
parties by consent confer jurisdiction to try an appeal from the
decision of the said commissioners upon a Court of First Instance other
than the one which appointed the commissioners?

Section 602 of the Code of Civil Procedure is as follows:

The court, once taking, to retain jurisdiction.—When
a Court of First Instance in any province has first taken cognizance of
the settlement of the estate of a deceased person, as mentioned in the
preceding sections, such court shall have jurisdiction of the
disposition and settlement of such estate, to the exclusion of all
other courts.”

Applied to this case that section says that the Court of First
Instance of Ilocos Norte shall have jurisdiction of the administration
and settlement of the estate of Margarita Sivila, to the exclusion of
the Court’of First Instance of Ilocos Sur. The words “disposition and settlement of such estate”
used in this section are not doubtful. They refer to and include
everything necessary to be done in the matter of the estate from the
time the will was proved until the final decree was made. The reason
for this provision of the law is obvious. The settlement of the estate
of a deceased person in court constitutes but one proceeding. For the
successful administration of that estate it is necessary that there
should be but one responsible entity, one court, which should have
exclusive control of every part of such administration. To entrust it
to two or more courts, each independent of the other, would result in
confusion and delay. If the contention of the defendant should be
sustained the administration of this estate might, by the consent of
the persons who happened at the time to be interested in some
particular questions raised therein, be divided up among several
different courts of the Islands. That contention leads to the
conclusion that by consent of the parties the appeal from the order of
the commissioners in this case could have been taken to the Court of
First Instance of Pangasinan; that by such consent the court of another
province could have appointed the commissioners; the court of another
province hear and decide an application to remove the executors; the
court of another province appoint a special administrator; the court of
another province order the executor to render an account under section
672 of the Code of Civil Procedure; the court of another province
determine the value of the services of the executor under section 680;
the court of another province order a sale of real estate for the
purpose of paying debts; the court of another province extend the time
for the settlement of the estate under section 743, and the court of
another province make a final decree in the proceeding under section

If jurisdiction to do any one of these things can be conferred upon
another court by the consent of the parties, we do not see why
jurisdiction to do all of them could not be conferred in that manner.
The delay that would be caused in the settlement of an estate under
such circumstances is very apparent. The court of IIocos Norte would
have no authority to compel any one of these other courts to proceed.
It could take no action concerning the final settlement of the estate
until the other courts had taken action in the matters pending before
them. It was for the purpose of avoiding this and other evils that the
Commission declared in section 602 that the court which took original
jurisdiction of the estate should continue to exercise it to the
exclusion of all others. It intended to prevent the division of what is
one case, into several distinct and separate parts, and the assignment
of those parts to the different Courts of First Instance throughout the

This is made more apparent by the provisions of section 377 of the
Code of Civil Procedure. That section relates to actions brought
against executors or administrators. Such actions are separate and
distinct from the one special proceeding for the settlement of the
estate, and yet the section provides that even these actions must be
brought in the court where the special proceeding is pending. It
further expressly provides that the failure of the defendant to object
to the bringing of the action in another place shall not be a waiver of
the defense of want of jurisdiction. This indicates that jurisdiction
could not by consent be conferred upon another court to try such an

The provision of section 602, giving one court exclusive
jurisdiction of the settlement of the estate of a deceased person, was
not inserted in the law for the benefit of the parties litigant, but in
the public interest for the better administration of justice. For that
reason the parties have no control over it.

The practical results of a contrary holding are well illustrated in
this case. After the appeal had been transferred to IIocos Sur that
court made an order directing the court of IIocos Norte to transfer to
that of IIocos Sur all the papers connected with the estate of
Margarita Sivila, and that they should remain in Ilocos Sur until the
appeal and counterclaim in question were finally determined. This order
would effectually stop all further proceedings in the administration of
the estate in Ilocos Norte until the determination of this case in
Ilocos Sur. Other persons interested in other questions arising in the
estate could take no action until this particular branch of it had been
disposed of in Ilocos Sur.

The fact that the same person happens to be the judge of both courts
is not important. They are separate and independent tribunals.

The law authorizing a judge to decide a case outside of his province has nothing to do with the question.

Final judgment should be entered in this case perpetually
prohibiting the Court of First Instance of Ilocos Sur from trying or
deciding the appeal taken by Leandro Serrano from the order of the
commissioners appointed in the estate of Margarita Sivila, without
prejudice to an action for the recovery of the lands which are the
object of the counterclaim before a competent court. The plaintiffs are
entitled to recover costs against the defendant Leandro Serrano. So

Arellano, C. J., Mapa, Johnson, and Carson, JJ., concur.

Date created: April 28, 2014


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