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- versus ISABEL COJUANGCO-SUNTAY, Respondent.
G.R. No. 183053, June 16, 2010

NATURE OF THE CASE: Petition for Review on Certiorari.

FACTS: On June 4, 1990, the decedent, Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay (Cristina),
married to Dr. Federico Suntay (Federico), died intestate. In 1979, their only son,
Emilio Aguinaldo Suntay (Emilio I), predeceased both Cristina and Federico. At the
time of her death, Cristina was survived by her husband, Federico, and several
grandchildren, including herein petitioner Emilio A.M. Suntay III (Emilio III) and
respondent Isabel Cojuangco-Suntay.
During his lifetime, Emilio I was married to Isabel Cojuangco, and they begot three
children, namely: herein respondent, Isabel; Margarita; and Emilio II, all surnamed
Cojuangco-Suntay. Emilios marriage to Isabel Cojuangco was subsequently
annulled. Thereafter, Emilio I had two children out of wedlock, Emilio III and Nenita
Suntay Taedo (Nenita), by two different women.
Despite the illegitimate status of Emilio III, he was reared ever since he was nine
months old by the spouses Federico and Cristina and was an acknowledged natural
child of Emilio I. Nenita is an acknowledged natural child of Emilio I and was likewise
brought up by the spouses Federico and Cristina.
As previously adverted to, the marriage between Emilio I and Isabel was
annulled. Consequently, respondent Isabel and her siblings Margarita and Emilio II,
lived with their mother on Balete Drive, Quezon City, separately from their father
and paternal grandparents.
Parenthetically, after the death of Emilio I, Federico filed a petition for visitation
rights over his grandchildren: respondent Isabel, Margarita, and Emilio II. Although
the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in Quezon City granted the petition it was
altogether stopped because of a manifestation filed by respondent Isabel,
articulating her sentiments on the unwanted visits of her grandparents.
Significantly, Federico, after the death of his spouse, Cristina, or on September 27,
1993, adopted their illegitimate grandchildren, Emilio III and Nenita. [7]
On October 26, 1995, respondent Isabel Cojuangco Suntay filed a petition for the
issuance of letters of administration in her favor, she alleged among others that the
decedent left an estate of real and personal properties, with a probable gross value
of P29,000,000.00; she also enumerated the heirs in her petition.

Disavowing the allegations in the petition of his grandchild, Isabel, Federico filed his
opposition on December 21, 1995, alleging, among others, that:
Being the surviving spouse of Cristina, he is capable of administering her estate and
he should be the one appointed as its administrator; that as part owner of the mass
of conjugal properties left by Cristina, he must be accorded legal preference in the
administration thereof; that Isabel and her family had been alienated from their
grandparents for more than thirty (30) years; that the enumeration of heirs in the
petition was incomplete as it did not mention the other children of his son, namely:
Emilio III and Nenita S. Taedo;
Meanwhile, after a failed attempt by the parties to settle the proceedings amicably,
Federico filed a Manifestation dated March 13, 1999, nominating his adopted son,
Emilio III, as administrator of the decedents estate on his behalf, in the event he
would be adjudged as the one with a better right to the letters of administration.
In the course of the proceedings, or on November 13, 2000, Federico died.
The RTC ruled in favor of Emilio III, appointing the latter as the administrator of the
estate of the decedent Cristina.
On appeal, the CA reversed the RTCs order, revoked the letters of administration in
favor of Emilio III and appointed Isabel Cojuangco Suntay as the administratrix of
the intestate estate of Cristina Suntay. As between the legitimate offspring (Isabel)
and illegitimate offspring (Emilio III) of decedents son, Emilio I, Isabel is preferred,
being the next of kin
Hence, Emilio III filed this instant petition.
ISSUES: 1.) What is the basis for the rules on intestate succession?
2.) What is the Iron curtain bar rule? Is it applicable to the instant case, thus barring
Emilio III from becoming the administrator of the estate of the decendent.
1.) The underlying philosophy of our law on intestate succession is to give
preference to the wishes and presumed will of the decedent, absent a valid and
effective will.
Manresa explains the basis for the rules on intestate succession:
The law of intestacy is founded on the presumed will of the deceased. Love, it is
said, first descends, then ascends, and, finally, spreads sideways. Thus, the law first
calls the descendants, then the ascendants, and finally the collaterals, always
preferring those closer in degree to those of remoter degrees, on the assumption
that the deceased would have done so had he manifested his last will. Lastly, in
default of anyone called to succession or bound to the decedent by ties of blood or

affection, it is in accordance with his presumed will that his property be given to
charitable or educational institutions, and thus contribute to the welfare of
Indeed, the factual antecedents of this case accurately reflect the basis of intestate
succession, i.e., love first descends, for the decedent, Cristina, did not distinguish
between her legitimate and illegitimate grandchildren. Neither did her husband,
Federico, who, in fact, legally raised the status of Emilio III from an illegitimate
grandchild to that of a legitimate child. The peculiar circumstances of this case,
painstakingly pointed out by counsel for petitioner, overthrow the legal presumption
in Article 992 of the Civil Code that there exist animosity and antagonism between
legitimate and illegitimate descendants of a deceased.
2.) Under the iron curtain bar rule, 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.
No, the rule is not applicable in the instant case. The basis for Article 992 of the Civil
Code, referred to as the iron curtain bar rule, is quite the opposite scenario in the
facts obtaining herein for the actual relationship between Federico and Cristina, on
one hand, and Emilio III, on the other, was akin to the normal relationship of
legitimate relatives. The reasons are, 1st. Emilio III was reared from infancy by the
decedent, Cristina, and her husband, Federico, who both acknowledged him as their
grandchild; 2nd. Federico claimed half of the properties included in the estate of the
decedent, Cristina, as forming part of their conjugal partnership of gains during the
subsistence of their marriage; 3rd. Cristinas properties forming part of her estate are
still commingled with that of her husband, Federico, because her share in the
conjugal partnership, albeit terminated upon her death, remains undetermined and
unliquidated; and 4th .Emilio III is a legally adopted child of Federico, entitled to
share in the distribution of the latters estate as a direct heir, one degree from
Federico, not simply representing his deceased illegitimate father, Emilio I.
In all, considering the conflicting claims of the putative heirs, and the unliquidated
conjugal partnership of Cristina and Federico which forms part of their respective
estates, The Court was impelled to move in only one direction, i.e., joint
administration of the subject estate.
Jurisprudence has long held that the selection of an administrator lies in the sound
discretion of the trial court.[ In the main, the attendant facts and circumstances of
this case necessitate, at the least, a joint administration by both Isabel and Emilio III
of their grandmothers, Cristinas, estate.
RULING: WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 74949 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Letters of
Administration over the estate of decedent Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay shall issue to
both petitioner Emilio A.M. Suntay III and respondent Isabel Cojuangco-Suntay upon

payment by each of a bond to be set by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 78,
Malolos, Bulacan, in Special Proceeding Case No. 117-M-95. The Regional Trial Court,
Branch 78, Malolos, Bulacan is likewise directed to make a determination and to
declare the heirs of decedent Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay according to the actual
factual milieu as proven by the parties, and all other persons with legal interest in
the subject estate. It is further directed to settle the estate of decedent Cristina
Aguinaldo-Suntay with dispatch. No costs.