G.R. No. 208912, December 07, 2021.
In 1999, Migued died intestate leaving personal and real properties. In his first marriage with Amadea, he was survived by (1) Abdulah C. Aquino (Abdulah) and Rodolfo C. (Rodolfo) Aquino, his sons with Amadea; (2) the heirs of Wilfredo C. Aquino, his son with Amadea who also died earlier; (3) predeceased son with Amadea, Arturo C. Aquino (Arturo) and (4) Enerie B. Aquino, his second wife;
Angela moved that she be included in the distribution and partition of Miguel’s estate. She alleged that she was Arturo’s only child. According to Angela, Arturo died before she was born. Her parents were planning to marry before Arturo died. (illegitimate grandchild). Angela claimed that her grandfather, Miguel, took care of her mother’s expenses during her pregnancy. Moreover, Angela lived with her mother and the Aquino family at their ancestral home. Since her birth, her father’s relatives had continuously recognized her as Arturo’s natural child. In support of this, Angela presented her baptismal certificate stating that she was Arturo’s daughter. Rodolfo opposed Angela’s Motion, claiming that Arturo never legally recognized Angela as his natural child in his lifetime.
The RTC considered and declared Angela an acknowledged natural child or legitimated child of Arturo C. Aquino, for purposes of determining her share in the estate of her grandfather, Miguel T. Aquino, in the representation of her father Arturo, and pending the distribution of the residual estate.
Rodolfo argued that Angela was already barred from claiming her nonmarital filiation to Arturo, since she was born after his death. Since she is a nonmarital child, she was “barred to inherit from the legitimate family of her [or his] putative father under the iron bar rule in Article 992 of the New Civil Code.” Meanwhile, Abdulah appealed the trial court’s A Orders before the Court of Appealsclaiming that Angela failed to prove her filiation and, in any case, Angela could not inherit from Miguel ab intestato.
The Court of Appeals rendered a Decision in favor of Abdulah. It held that Angela failed to prove her filiation in accordance with Articles 172 and 175 of the Family Code. Moreover, she failed to present birth records showing Arturo’s paternity or any document signed by Arturo admitting her filiation. Since Arturo died before she was born, Angela cannot also establish open and continuous possession of her status as Arturo’s child, under Article 172(3) of the Family Code. Thus, Miguel’s or the Aquino clan’s overt acts cannot translate to legal recognition of her status as Arturo’s child.
1. Whether or not Amadea Angela K. Aquino (the alleged nonmarital child of Arturo C. Aquino, who was a marital child of Miguel T. Aquino) can inherit from her grandfather’s estate;
2. Whether or not Amadea Angela K. Aquino was able to prove her affiliation.
1. YES. In this case, the court adopt a construction of Article 992 that makes children, regardless of the circumstances of their births, qualified to inherit from their direct ascendants—such as their grandparent—by their right of representation. Both marital and nonmarital children, whether born from a marital or nonmarital child, are blood relatives of their parents and other ascendants. Nonmarital children are removed from their parents and ascendants in the same degree as marital children. Nomnarital children of marital children are also removed from their parents and ascendants in the same degree as nomnarital children of nonmarital children.
This interpretation likewise makes Article 992 more consistent with the changes introduced by the Family Code on obligations of support among and between the direct line of blood relatives. Article 195 of the Family Code provides that xx “ Parents and their illegitimate children and the legitimate and illegitimate children of the latter;” Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that the rules on support (under the Family Code) and succession (under the Civil Code) should be reciprocal. Grandchildren, regardless of their status and the status of their parents, should be able to inherit from their grandparents by right of representation in the same way that the grandchildren, also regardless of their status, are called upon by law to support their grandparents, if necessary. In the case of support, the grandchildren could not even shy away from the obligation because support is considered to be “the most sacred and important of all the obligations.
The language of Article 982 does not make any distinctions or qualifications as to the birth status of the “grandchildren and other descendants” granted the right of representation. Applying Article 982 in situations where the grandchild’s right to inherit from their grandparent is in issue is more in accord with our State policy of protecting children’s best interests and our responsibility of complying with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
2. The case is remanded to the court of origin for reception of evidence. Resolving several factual matters raised in the parties’ pleadings and during the oral arguments requires receiving additional evidence, which this Court is not equipped to do. Documents may need to be presented and authenticated; witnesses’ testimonies received and examined; and DNA testing ordered and conducted, to determine the truth or falsity of the allegations raised by the parties before this Court.
Angela was born on October 9, 1978, before the Family Code was created and when the Civil Code provisions on proving filiation applies. Angela, who was not yet born when the Family Code took effect, has the right to prove that she was her father’s daughter under Article 285 of the Civil Code within four years from attaining the age of majority. Under Article 402 of the Civil Code, the age of majority is 21 years old. Angela attained majority on October 9, 1999. She had until October 9, 2003 to assert her right to prove her filiation with Arturo. Thus, when she moved to be included in the distribution and partition of Miguel’s estate on July 17, 2003, she was not yet barred from claiming her filiation.
However, there is no provision in the Civil Code that guides a child, who was born after their father’s death, in proving filiation with him. Article 283 of the Civil Code provides for the compulsory recognition of natural children, one ground for which is “continuous possession of status of a child of the alleged father by direct acts of the latter or of his family[.]”
Angela certainly qualifies as a natural child as defined in the Civil Code, there being no contest that her putative parents were unmarried, yet had no impediment to marry each other at the time of her birth. But as been held by this Court, the enjoyment or possession of the status of a natural child is only a ground for obligatory recognition by the alleged father, and not by itself a sufficiently operative acknowledgment. Compulsory recognition involves the father’s express recognition of his paternity, which is impossible in this case. A person may possess, uninterrupted, the status of a “natural child,” but this Court has held that only those “natural children” legally acknowledged according to the requirements of the Civil Code are entitled to inherit:
- In Pactor v. Pestaño, a nonmarital child was permitted to participate in the settlement of the intestate estate of his father despite the lack of formal recognition during his father’s lifetime. This Court noted that the nonmarital child, due to the father’s acts and the widow’s as well, had been in continuous possession of the status of a child of his father.
- Moreover, DNA testing is a valid means of determining paternity and filiation. Under the Rule on DNA Evidence, among the purposes of DNA testing is to determine whether two or more distinct biological samples originate from related persons, known as kinship analysis. The Rule on DNA Evidence permits the use of any biological sample, including bones, in DNA testing.
- In the absence of viable biological samples of the putative father, DNA testing may be used as corroborative evidence of two or more persons’ exclusion or inclusion in the same genetic lineage, subject to scientific analysis of the likelihood of relatedness of those persons based on the results of the tests. This is in keeping with the liberalization of the rule on investigation of the paternity and filiation of children, in the paramount consideration of the child’s welfare and best interest of the child.
ART. 992. An illegitimate child has no right to inherit ab intestato from the legitimate children and relatives of his father or mother; nor shall such children or relatives inherit in the same manner from the illegitimate child.”
The prohibition in Article 992 is so restrictive that this Court has characterized it as an “iron curtain” separating marital and nonmarital relatives. The word “relatives” is a general term and when used in a statute it embraces not only collateral relatives but also all the kindred of the person spoken of, unless the context indicates that it was used in a more restrictive or limited sense .
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