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MARIA ELENA RODRIGUEZ PEDROSA v.

CA and other
private respondents1
March 5, 2001| Quisumbing, J. | Nominal Damages
Commensurate to Injury Suffered
Digester: Aspi, Maria Margarita
SUMMARY: Maria Elena was adopted by spouses Miguel and
Rosalina. Miguel died intestate. Maria Elena and Rosalina entered
into an extrajudicial settlement of Miguels estate. The
Rodriguezes filed an action to annul the adoption of Maria Elena.
The validity of the adoption was upheld. The Rodriguezes entered
into an extrajudicial settlement with respondent Rosalina for the
partition of the estate of Miguel and of another sister, Pilar. Maria
Elena sent her daughter, Loreto Jocelyn, to claim their share of the
properties from the Rodriguezes. The latter refused saying that
Maria Elena and Loreto were not heirs since they were not their
blood relatives. The Court held that the Deed of Extrajudicial
Settlement and Partition executed by the Rodriguezes is invalid.
Maria Elena is entitled to nominal damages.
DOCTRINE: The amount to be awarded as nominal damages
should at least be commensurate to the injury sustained by the
petitioner considering the concept and purpose of said damages.
FACTS:
Spouses Miguel Rodriguez and Rosalina J. de Rodriguez
initiated proceedings before the CFI of Ozamiz City for the
legal adoption of petitioner, Maria Elena Rodriguez Pedrosa.
CFI granted the petition and declared petitioner Pedrosa the
adopted child of Miguel and Rosalina.
Miguel died intestate. Petitioner and Rosalina entered into an
extrajudicial settlement of Miguels estate, adjudicating
between themselves in equal proportion the estate of Miguel.
Private respondents filed an action to annul the adoption of
petitioner before the CFI of Ozamiz City, with petitioner and
respondent Rosalina as defendants.
CFI denied the petition and upheld the validity of the adoption.
Private respondents appealed said decision to the CA.

1 Private Respondents: JOSE, CARMEN, MERCEDES & RAMON, all surnamed


RODRIGUEZ, ROSALINA RODRIGUEZ, CHAN LUNG FAI, MATEO TAN TE, TE ENG
SUY, LORETA TE, VICTORIO S. DETALIA, JEROME DEIPARINE, PETRONILO S.
DETALIA, HUBERT CHIU YULO, PATERIO N. LAO, LORENSITA M. PADILLA,
IMMACULATE CONCEPCION COLLEGE AND LILIAN EXPRESS, INC. and TIO
TUAN

While said appeal was pending, the Rodriguezes entered into


an extrajudicial settlement with respondent Rosalina for the
partition of the estate of Miguel and of another sister, Pilar.
Rosalina acted as the representative of the heirs of Miguel
Rodriguez. Pilar had no heirs except his brothers and sisters.
The Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement and Partition covered
fourteen parcels of land. These properties were divided among
Jose, Carmen, Mercedes, Ramon and the heirs of Miguel,
represented solely by Rosalina.
Armed with the Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement and Partition,
respondents Rodriguezes were able to secure new Transfer
Certificates of Title (TCTs) and were able to transfer some
parcels to the other respondents herein.
The parties in the appeal which sought to annul the adoption of
petitioner Pedrosa filed a joint Motion to Dismiss. The CA
dismissed the appeal but upheld the validity of the adoption of
petitioner.
Petitioner sent her daughter, Loreto Jocelyn, to claim their
share of the properties from the Rodriguezes. The latter
refused saying that Maria Elena and Loreto were not heirs
since they were not their blood relatives.
Petitioner filed a complaint to annul the 1983 partition.
RTC: Dismissed the complaint. Petitioner appealed to the CA.
CA affirmed the decision of the RTC.

RULING: Petition granted. The Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement


and Partition executed by private respondents on March 11, 1983
is declared invalid. The amount of P100,000.00 is hereby awarded
to petitioner as damages to be paid by private respondents, who
are also ordered to pay the costs.
[Related to topic]
Whether petitioner is entitled to an award of damages YES,
petitioner is entitled to NOMINAL DAMAGES.
Maria Elena asks for the award of damages. No receipts,
agreements or any other documentary evidence was presented
to justify such claim for damages. Actual damages, to be
recoverable, must be proved with a reasonable degree of
certainty. Courts cannot simply rely on speculation, conjecture
or guesswork in determining the fact and amount of damages.
The same is true for moral damages. These cannot be awarded
in the absence of any factual basis. The unsubstantiated
testimony of Loreto Jocelyn Pedrosa is hearsay and has no

probative value. It is settled in jurisprudence that damages


may not be awarded on the basis of hearsay evidence.
Nonetheless, the failure of the petitioner to substantiate her
claims for damages does not mean that she will be totally
deprived of any damages. Under the law, nominal damages are
awarded, so that a plaintiffs right, which has been invaded or
violated by defendants may be vindicated and recognized.
Considering that (1) technically, petitioner sustained injury but
which, unfortunately, was not adequately and properly proved,
(2) petitioner was unlawfully deprived of her legal participation
in the partition of the estate of Miguel, her adoptive father, (3)
respondents had transferred portions of the properties
involved to third parties, and (4) this case has dragged on for
more than a decade, we find it reasonable to grant in
petitioners favor nominal damages in recognition of the
existence of a technical injury. The amount to be awarded as
such damages should at least be commensurate to the
injury sustained by the petitioner considering the
concept and purpose of said damages.
The grant of P100,000.00 to petitioner as damages is proper in
view of the technical injury she has suffered.

Whether the complaint for annulment of the Deed of


Extrajudicial Settlement and Partition had already
prescribed NO.
Section 4, Rule 74 provides for a two year prescriptive period
(1) to persons who have participated or taken part or had
notice of the extrajudicial partition, and in addition (2) when
the provisions of Section I19 of Rule 74 have been strictly
complied with, i.e., that all the persons or heirs of the decedent
have taken part in the extrajudicial settlement or are
represented by themselves or through guardians.
Petitioner, as the records confirm, did not participate in the
extrajudicial partition. Patently then, the twoyear prescriptive
period is not applicable in her case. The applicable prescriptive
period here is 4 years.
The complaint of the petitioner was filed three years and ten
months after the questioned extrajudicial settlement was

executed. We hold that her action against the respondents on


the basis of fraud has not yet prescribed.
Whether the Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement and
Partition is valid NO.
Section 1 of Rule 74 of the Rules of Court is the applicable rule
on publication of extrajudicial settlement. It states: x x x but no
extrajudicial settlement shall be binding upon any person who
has not participated therein or had no notice thereof.
The rule contemplates a notice which must be sent out or
issued before the Deed of Settlement and/or Partition is agreed
upon, i.e., a notice calling all interested parties to participate
in the said deed of extrajudicial settlement and partition, not
after, which was when publication was done in the instant case.
Following Rule 74 and the ruling in Beltran vs. Ayson, since
Maria Elena did not participate in the said partition, the
settlement is not binding on her.
Whether the petitioner is entitled to recover the lots which
had already been transferred to the respondent buyers
THIS IS NOT THE PROPER FORUM TO DECIDE THE ISSUE.
Given the circumstances in this case, we are constrained to
hold that this is not the proper forum to decide this issue. The
properties sought to be recovered by the petitioner are now all
registered under the name of third parties. Well settled is the
doctrine that a Torrens Title cannot be collaterally attacked.
The validity of the title can only be raised in an action
expressly instituted for such purpose.