Testate Estate of Amos G. Bellis vs. Edward A. Bellis

G.R. No. L-23678, June 6, 1967


Amos G. Bellis was a citizen and resident of Texas at the time of his death. He executed a will in the Philippines, that a portion of his distributable asset amounting should be divided, in the following order and manner: 

  1. $240,000.00 to his first wife, Mary E. Mallen; 
  2. P120,000.00 to his three illegitimate children, Amos Bellis, Jr., Maria Cristina Bellis, Miriam Palma Bellis, or P40,000.00 each and
  3. The remainder shall go to his seven surviving children by his first and second wife.

Maria Cristina and Miriam filed their oppositions to the partition on the ground that they were deprived of their legitimes as illegitimate children and, therefore, compulsory heirs of the deceased..

The lower court, under Art. 16 of the Civil Code, applied the national law of the decedent, which in this case is Texas law, which did not provide for legitimes.

Appellants contend that :

  1. Art. 17(3), of the Civil Code stating that – “ Prohibitive laws concerning persons, their acts or property, and those which have for their object public order, public policy and good customs shall not be rendered ineffective by laws or judgments promulgated, or by determinations or conventions agreed upon in a foreign country.”,  prevails as the exception to Art. 16, par. 2 of the Civil Code. 
  2. The decedent executed two wills — one to govern his Texas estate and the other his Philippine estate — arguing from this that he intended Philippine law to govern his Philippine estate.


(1) Whether Art. 17, paragraph three, of the Civil Code, prevails as the exception to Art. 16, par. 2 of the Civil Code. 

(2) Whether the will executed in the Philippines shall be governed by the Philippine law.


(1) NO. Congress deleted the phrase, “notwithstanding the provisions of this and the next preceding article” when they incorporated Art. 11 of the old Civil Code as Art. 17 of the new Civil Code, while reproducing without substantial change the second paragraph of Art. 10 of the old Civil Code as Art. 16 in the new. It must have been their purpose to make the second paragraph of Art. 16 a specific provision in itself which must be applied in testate and intestate succession. As further indication of this legislative intent, Congress added a new provision, under Art. 1039, which decrees that the capacity to succeed is to be governed by the national law of the decedent.

It is therefore evident that whatever public policy or good customs may be involved in our System of legitimes, Congress has not intended to extend the same to the succession of foreign nationals. For it has specifically chosen to leave, inter alia, the amount of successional rights, to the decedent’s national law. Specific provisions must prevail over general ones.

(2) NO. Assuming that such was the decedent’s intention in executing a separate Philippine will, it would not alter the law, for as this Court ruled in Miciano v. Brimo, a provision in a foreigner’s will to the effect that his properties shall be distributed in accordance with Philippine law and not with his national law, is illegal and void, for his national law cannot be ignored in regard to those matters that Article 10 — now Article 16 — of the Civil Code states said national law should govern.

The parties admit that the decedent, Amos G. Bellis, was a citizen of the State of Texas, U.S.A., and that under the laws of Texas, there are no forced heirs or legitimes. Accordingly, since the intrinsic validity of the provision of the will and the amount of successional rights are to be determined under Texas law, the Philippine law on legitimes cannot be applied to the testacy of Amos G. Bellis.