Respondent Francisco Provido filed a petition for the probate of the Last Will and Testament of the late Soledad Provido Elevencionado, alleging that he was the heir of the decedent and the executor of her will. The RTC rendered its Decision, allowing the probate of the will of the decedent and directing the issuance of letters testamentary to respondent.
More than four months later, herein petitioners filed a motion for the reopening of the probate proceedings.
The RTC issued an Order denying petitioners’ motion for being unmeritorious.
Petitioners thereafter filed a petition with an application for preliminary injunction with the CA, seeking the annulment of the RTC’s Decision and Order. They claimed that they learnt of the probate proceedings only in July of 2001. They argued that the RTC Decision should be annulled and set aside on the ground of extrinsic fraud and lack of jurisdiction on the part of the RTC due to non-payment of the correct docket fees, defective publication, and lack of notice to the other heirs.
The CA dismissed the petition.
Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration was denied by the CA for lack of merit.
Hence, this recourse.
Whether or not the CA committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction when it dismissed their petition for the alleged failure to show that they have not availed of or resorted to the remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief from judgment or other remedies.
The petition is devoid of merit.
Section 37 of the Rules of Court allows an aggrieved party to file a motion for new trial on the ground of fraud, accident, mistake, or excusable negligence. The same Rule permits the filing of a motion for reconsideration on the grounds of excessive award of damages, insufficiency of evidence to justify the decision or final order, or that the decision or final order is contrary to law.
Meanwhile, a petition for relief from judgment under Rule 38 is resorted to when a judgment or final order is entered, or any other proceeding is thereafter taken, against a party in any court through fraud, accident, mistake, or excusable negligence.
However, petitioners in this case are mistaken in asserting that they are not or have not become parties to the probate proceedings.
In a petition for allowance of a will, notice of the time and place for proving the will must be published for three consecutive weeks, in a newspaper of general circulation in the province, as well as furnished to the designated or other known heirs, legatees, and devisees of the testator.
Thus, it has been held that a proceeding for the probate of a will is one in rem, such that with the corresponding publication of the petition the court’s jurisdiction extends to all persons interested in said will or in the settlement of the estate of the decedent.
Publication is notice to the whole world that the proceeding has for its object to bar indefinitely all who might be minded to make an objection of any sort against the right sought to be established. It is the publication of such notice that brings in the whole world as a party in the case and vests the court with jurisdiction to hear and decide it. Thus, even though petitioners were not mentioned in the petition for probate, they eventually became parties thereto as a consequence of the publication of the notice of hearing.
As parties to the probate proceedings, petitioners could have validly availed of the remedies of motion for new trial or reconsideration and petition for relief from judgment. In fact, petitioners filed a motion to reopen, which is essentially a motion for new trial, with petitioners praying for the reopening of the case and the setting of further proceedings. However, the motion was denied for having been filed out of time, long after the Decision became final and executory.
Conceding that petitioners became aware of the Decision after it had become final, they could have still filed a petition for relief from judgment after the denial of their motion to reopen.
For failure to make use without sufficient justification of the said remedies available to them, petitioners could no longer resort to a petition for annulment of judgment; otherwise, they would benefit from their own inaction or negligence.