G.R. No. L-5585. September 15, 1954

95 Phil. 775

[ G.R. No. L-5585. September 15, 1954 ]




The present case here on appeal has its origin in Special
Proceedings No. 12126 in the Court of First Instance of Manila,
initiated by Roman Ozaeta, for the probate of the will said to have
been left by Carlos Palanca Tanguinlay who died on September 2, 1950,
in the City of Manila. The due execution and probate of said will was
decided by the trial court which decision is now on appeal. The present
case does not involve the validity of the will above-mentioned but
poses the question of who, if any of the two women (Maria Cuartero and
Rosa Gonzales), was validly married to Carlos Palanca and therefore is
now his widow with her corresponding right to a part of the estate of
the deceased. Said question was provoked and this case was initiated
because of an innocent motion filed with the probate court by the
Philippine Trust Company, appointed as special administrator of the
estate, asking that a Buick sedan car presumably a part of the estate
of Palanca, and being kept by Rosa Gonzales, be delivered to said
special administrator for purposes of administration. Rosa declined to
give the car up saying that having been married to Palanca in 1945, as
his widow, she had a right to keep the sedan. Maria Cuartero entered
the scene and claimed that Rosa could not have validly been married to
Palanca in 1945 for the reason that she (Maria Cuartero) had married
him in 1929, and therefore, any marriage entered into by Rosa with
Palanca thereafter must be bigamous and void; consequently, she (Maria)
was the true widow and as such had a better claim to the car, but since
she had no immediate use for it she wanted to have it kept by the
special administrator. As if to complicate matters, the children of
Palanca by his marriage in 1894 joined the fray and claimed that their
father died a widower, having married none of the two women. Thus, this
questions—whether or not Palanca died a widower, and if not, who of the
two women is his legal widow, was put in issue, tried and after
voluminous evidence, oral and documentary, decided by the trial court
separately and independently of the probate of the will. That important
question was found to come up eventually anyway, in connection with the
distribution of the estate and so it was just as well that it was
raised and decided as it was, instead of later.

For a better understanding of the present appeal, the following
facts which are not disputed, at least not seriously, may be briefly
stated. Carlos Palanca Tanguinlay, born in China of Chinese parents,
came to the Philippines in 1884 and continuously resided here up to his
death in 1950. In 1894 he married Cesarea Cano who died in 1907,
leaving three children by him, named Marciana, Angel, and Sebastian.
Palanca met Rosa Gonzales sometime in 1908 and thereafter cohabited
with and had eight children by her. In 1923 Palanca met Maria Cuartera,
a Spanish woman who had just arrived in the Philippines with her
widowed mother. Not long after their meeting, they had and maintained
illicit relations from which were born six children. On the basis of
the evidence it was duly established to the satisfaction of the trial
court and to our own that on April 12, 1945, Palanca and Rosa Gonzales
were married in Manila before Judge Mamerto Roxas, with Mr. Ozaeta and
Segundo L. Gonzales as sponsors. On this point, not only Judge Roxas
who solemnized their marriage but also the two sponsors testified as to
the due performance of the ceremony of marriage and a copy of the
marriage contract was presented. It is therefore clear that if there
was no valid, subsisting marriage before April 12, 1945, or
specifically, if the alleged marriage between Maria and Palanca in 1929
is not duly proven, then the marriage of Rosa Gonzales to Palanca is
valid and she may now be considered his widow.

The theory of Maria about her marriage to Palanca is that since 1923
she maintained amorous relations with Palanca and had three children by
him up to 1928; that the reason why they were not married up to then
was because Palanca wanted to see his three children by his first wife
married first; that in the morning of December 26, 1929, she and
Palanca together with Rafael Gotauco and Ventura de del Rio, in an
automobile went to the town of Bigaa, Bulacan, where they were married
in the municipal building by Justice of the Peace Romualdo Aranda in
the presence of Rafael Gotauco (now deceased) and Ventura Goitia; that
three copies of the marriage contract were made, one given to her,
another to Pancrasio Atienza of the office of the Local Civil Register,
and one copy kept by the Justice of the Peace; that the copy kept by
Maria was lost together with her jewelry on the occasion of a robbery
in her house in 1940 and the two other copies in the files of the Civil
Registrar and Justice of the Peace were lost or destroyed during the
war; and that Exhibit “1-motion” presented in her behalf in a
certificate of the entry in Book 2 of the Register of Marriage kept in
the office of the local Civil Registrar of Bigaa showing the marriage
between Maria and Palanca on December 26, 1929.

During the hearing counsel for Rosa Gonzales and petitioner Ozaeta
introduced evidence to the effect that according to the result of the
investigation conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)
the marriage registry in the office of the Local Civil Registrar of
Bigaa had been tampered with and falsified and that the certificate
(Exhibit 1-Motion) presented by Maria was based on said falsification
or tampering and consequently, cannot have any probative value.
Thereafter, the trial court in an order dated November 28, 1952, found
and held that although Palanca and Maria may have gone to Bigaa on
December 26, 1929, and even if they had gone through the process and
steps for marriage, the same was simulated and so declared said
marriage null and void; at the same time it declared legal and valid
the marriage of Rosa Gonzales to Palanca, and incidentally allowed Rosa
to keep the Buick sedan car upon her filing a bond.

Maria appealed from that order; so did the three children of the
first marriage because they claim that none of the two marriage claimed
by Maria and Rosa was valid. Rosa and petitioner Ozaeta also appealed
from the holding of the trial court that there was a simulated
marriage, insisting that there had been no marriage at all, simulated
or otherwise.

At first blush, one might be perplexed by the intervention of
petitioner-appellant Ozaeta in this case, and the interest by him
taken, to the extent of his appealing from the order of November 28,
1951. In justice to him and to explain said intervention and interest,
we are reproducing his manifestation made in court:

“MR. ROMAN OZAETA: The reason why my attorneys have
participated in these proceedings regarding this incident as to the
validity of the marriage of the deceased with the witness is this, Your
Honor. I am named executor in the will and I have the right to assume
that in due time the will will be admitted to probate and that in the
event I be confirmed as executor it would be my duty as such to defend
the integrity of that will, and since in that will the deceased has
named Rosa Gonzales as his lawful wife, any attempt to dispute that
should be opposed by me as executor named. That is the reason why my
attorneys appeared here and because after this incident I would have no
more opportunity to defend that portion of the will naming Rosa
Gonzales as the lawful wife of the deceased. (pp. 177-178, t.s.n.,
session of November 13, 1950).

We agree with the trial court that the alleged marriage of Maria to
Palanca in Bigaa, Bulacan, has not been duly established. The trial
court held that at most it was a simulated marriage. We might go
further and say that there was no marriage at all, simulated or
otherwise. There are a number of reasons for our holding. We shall
mention a few. It is a fact that for this supposed or intended marriage
in Bigaa the parties thereto, Maria and Palanca, did not secure the
corresponding marriage license. Without such marriage license it was
not likely that the Justice of the Peace, a judicial officer who knew
or was supposed to know the law, would perform the marriage ceremony
and marry the two, knowing and realizing the penal provisions of the
marriage law then applicable to any official authorized to perform
marriage, doing so without the corresponding marriage license, a
penalty of imprisonment for not less than three months nor more than
two years, or by a fine of not less than three hundred pesos nor more
than two thousand pesos or both; this, not excluding the possibility
and danger of dismissal from office. Moreover, in his monthly report
for that month of December 1929, the Justice of the peace did not enter
or make appear such alleged marriage said to have been performed by him
on the 26th of the same month. To us, this is significant. Furthermore,
if there had been such marriage there would have also been the payment
to him by the parties of the corresponding marriage fee and he failed
to render account for said amount, which might have meant liability for

Pancrasio Atienza then of the Local Registrar’s Office claims that
the copy of the marriage contract given to him, he in turn gave to a
clerk, one Melecio Geronimo, in his office for entry in the marriage
register. But according to the evidence the name of this clerk does not
appear in the payroll of the municipality corresponding to that year.
The certificate (Exhibit 1-motion) was taken from Book 2 of the
Register of Marriages of Bigaa and yet, it is the theory of Maria that
the marriage was originally entered in Book 3 but that the contents of
said Book 3 including the entry of her marriage on December 26, 1929,
were copied in Book 2. It is now impossible to verify this claim
because Book 3 has mysteriously disappeared from the office of the
Local Civil Registrar. It is difficult to explain and understand
Maria’s theory. Book 3 of the marriage registry should come and
actually came after Book 2, and yet its contents supposedly all now
appear in Book 2. The not convincing explanation is that Book 3 being
old and its pages partly torn and over-used, its contents were
transcribed on the unused pages of Book 2. This was done without the
authority of the Local Civil Registrar. Add to this the fact of the
mysterious disappearance of Book 3, and the whole thing becomes highly
suspicious. That is why the NBI intervened, made its investigation,
found evidence of tampering and falsification, filed the corresponding
charge against three persons for falsification, and another against one
of the three for infidelity in the custody of public documents for the
loss of Book 3, and according to the petition for new trial filed on
behalf of Rosa Gonzales, all three were convicted in both cases, in the
Court of First Instance of Bulacan.

Let us now look into the acts and conduct of Maria Cuartero herself
as regards her alleged marriage to Palanca in 1929. Although according
to her, in 1940 she lost her copy of the marriage contract she never
took the trouble to secure another copy of that important document,
although meanwhile she filed several suits against Palanca for the
support of her children, court actions where that document would have
been very important, if not decisive. Although according to her she was
abandoned by Palanca since 1942 she never made any attempt to invoke
and take advantage of her alleged rights as his wife, for support, or
still, to prosecute him for concubinage for cohabiting with Rosa and
after April 12, 1945, for bigamy for having married Rosa. Again, in
1941, Maria Cuartero and Palanca according to her being both aliens,
went to the Bureau of Immigration in connection with their Alien
Certificate Registration. The Certificate of Registration issued to
both of them stated that Palanca was a widower and Maria was single,
and according to the explanation of Amador Buenaseda, formerly of said
Bureau of Immigration, the data appearing in both certificates of Alien
Registration were based on information furnished by them under oath.

In 1943 Maria in her capacity as legal guardian of her children had
by Palanca brought an action against him in Manila for support and in
that case she declared under oath that she was single. In that case the
trial court issued an order finding that said children of Maria by
Palanca were acknowledged natural children of Palanca. Maria did not
object to said finding of the trial court, neither did she appeal from
said order. In the contract executed by Maria with her lawyers, Sotto
& Sotto, covering attorney’s fees she made it appear therein that
she was single.

As late as 1945, with her knowledge her son-in-law Benigno del Rio
brought an action against Palanca for the recovery of a sum of money
said to have been advanced by Benigno to Maria for the support of the
acknowledged natural children of Palanca. Paragraph 2 of said complaint
specifically alleged that said children were the acknowledged natural
children of Palanca. Maria evidently acquiesced in, admitted, and
agreed to said statement. Testifying in said case, Maria declared under
oath that she was single. During the years 1942-46, Maria wrote several
letters to Palanca. In none of said letters did she make mention of her
alleged marriage to Palanca; on the contrary, in one of said letters,
Exhibit Q-motion dated November 8, 1944, she bitterly complained
against his conduct thus—

“Comprendo el que no me contestaras a mi, a quien
has abandonado como un trasto inutil despues de haberme robado la
juventud con promesas que no has complido”.

And, in her letter of March 4, 1946, Exhibit O-Motion, that is,
after Palanca had married Rosa Gonzales, Maria said the following:

“Ahora que me vas caida, en vez de tener buen
corazon y levantarme para que viva como antes en paz siquiera con mis
hijos, aunque sin marido, porque tu te casaste y ya no ten go derecho
hacia ti.”

What about Palanca’s acts and behaviour after his alleged marriage
to Maria in 1929? After that year and before he married Rosa Gonzales
in 1945, Palanca in various public documents referring to titles and
evidences of ownership of various properties described himself as a
widower. In his Income Tax Return signed by him under oath, he also
described himself as a widower; but after his marriage to Rosa in 1945,
Palanca described himself as married. When Palanca applied for
naturalization in 1941, and in his testimony in support of said
petition, he said he was a widower. The court proceedings on his
naturalization case were resumed after the war and after his marriage
to Rosa, evidence of said marriage was submitted in court, with the
result that on appeal this fact of marriage to Rosa was included in the
findings of the Supreme Court in its decision on the citizenship case
of Palanca.

Finally on May 19, 1945, when Palanca executed his will he made the
solemn declaration in said document that since 1923 and for some years
thereafter he maintained amorous relations with Maria Cuartero and had
by her six natural children whom, according to him, he had liberally
fed and supported. He said nothing about having married Maria; on the
contrary, he declared that for grave reasons he regarded her unworthy
of being the guardian of the persons and property of his children by
her and so appointed Felisa Joson de Fernandez and the Philippine
National Bank as guardians of their persona, and property respectively.
On the other hand, in the same will he spoke of his marriage to Rosa
Gonzales and the eight children he had by her, which children according
to him were legitimated by reason of their subsequent marriage. Said
declaration in the will may not be taken lightly, as a statement of
little significance. When he made said statement he was about 76 years
old and must have felt that he had not many years left to live.
Concerning the value and weight of statements made in a will, this
court held in the case of Cui vs. Guepangco, 22 Phil. 216:

“In this instrument, as is seen, the deceased Tan
Tungco states what he evidently believed to be his true relationship
with all of the parties to this action. It was a deliberate statement;
it was made after due consideration of all the facts in the case and
after due deliberation as to the effect which such statements would
have upon the rights of the parties in reference to whom it was made,
and with the view that it would probably be the last word of his life
upon that subject. He knew that if that document contained a lie he
would go to his grave with his last act a falsehood and its fruit

All in all, we are convinced and so find and hold that Palanca and
Maria Cuartero were never married, and that there was not even a
simulated marriage; that on April 12, 1945, Palanca was a widower and
so was in a position to marry as in fact he validly married Rosa
Gonzales. With this slight modification, the order appealed from is
affirmed with costs.

Paras, C.J., Pablo, Bengzon, Padilla, Reyes, A., Bautista Angelo, Concepcion, and Reyes, J.B.L., JJ., concur.

Date created: July 26, 2017


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