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Nenita de Vera SUROZA, complainant, vs. Judge Reynaldo P. HONRADO and Evangeline YUIPCO, respondents. A.M. No.

2026-CFI, December 19, 1981


FACTS: Mauro Suroza, a corporal in the 45 Infantry of the US Army (Philippine Scouts) married Marcelina Salvador but they were childless. However, they reared a boy named Agapito who used the surname Suroza and who considred them as parents as shown in his marriage contract with Nenita de Vera. When Mauro died, Marcelina, as a veterans widow, became a pens ioner of the Federal Government. Agapito and Nenita begot a child named Lilia and afterwards, Agapito also became a soldier. However, he was disabled and his wife was appointed as his guardian when he was declared an incompetent. In connection to this, a woman named Arsenia de la Cruz (apparently a girlfriend of Agapito) wanted also to be his guardian however the court confirmed Nenitas appointment as guardian of Agapito. The spouses Antonio Sy and Hermogena Talan begot a child named Marilyn Sy, who was delivered to Marcelina Salvador Suroza who brought her up as a supposed daughter of Agapito and as her granddaughter. Marilyn used the surname Suroza and stayed with Marcelina but was not legally adopted by Agapito. Marcelina, being a veterans widow accumulated some cash in two banks. She executed a notarial will which is in English and was thumbmarked by her for she was illiterate. In that will, Marcelina bequeathed all her estate to Marilyn. After her death, Marina Paje (alleged to be a laundrywoman of Marcelina and the executrix in her will) filed a petition for probate of Marcelinas alleged will. As there was no opposition, Judge Honrado appointed Marina as administratix and subsequently, issued two order directing the two banks to allow Marina to withdraw from the savings of Marcelina and Marilyn Suroza and requiring the custodian of the passbooks to deliver them to Marina. Upon motion of Marina, Judge Honrado issued another order instructing the sheriff to eject the occupants of the testatrix house amo ng whom was Nenita and to place Marina in possession thereof. Nenita was then alerted to the existence of the testamentary proceeding hence, she and other occupants filed a motion to set aside the order ejecting them, alleging that the decedents son Agapi to was the sole heir of the deceased; that he has a daughter named Lilia; that Nenita was Agapitos guardian; and that Marilyn was not Agapitos daughter nor the decedents granddaughter. Later, they questioned the probate courts jurisdiction to issue the ejectment order. In spite of such fact, Judge Honrado issued on order probating Marcelinas supposed will wherein Marilyn was the instituted heiress. Nenita filed in the testate case an omnibus petition to set aside proceedings, admit opposition with counter petition for administration and preliminary injunction reiterating that Marilyn was a stranger to Marcelina; that the will was not duly executed and attested; and that the thumbmarks of the testatrix were procured by fraud or trick. Further, that the institution of Marilyn as heir is void because of the preterition of Agapito and that Marina was not qualified to act as executrix. Not contented with her motions, Nenita filed an opposition to the probate of the will and a counter-petition which was however, dismissed. Instead of appealing, Nenita filed a case to annul the probate proceedings which was also dismissed. Hence, this complaint. ISSUE: Whether or not a disciplinary action should be taken against respondent judge for having admitted a will, which on its face is void. RULING: Disciplinary action should be taken against respondent judge for his improper disposition of the testate case which might have resulted in a miscarriage of justice because the decedents legal heirs and not the instituted heiress in the void will should have inherited the decedents estate. Inefficiency implies negligence, incompetence, ignorance and carelessness. A judge would be inexcusably negligent if he
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failed in the performance of his duties that diligence, prudence and circumspection which the law requires in the rendition of any public service. In this case, respondent judge, on perusing the will and noting that it was written in English and was thumbmarked by an obviously illiterate testatrix, could have readily perceived that the will is void.