Remedial Law, Special Proceedings

Republic v. Judge Villarama, Jr. G.R. No. 117733 September 5, 1997 Probate Proceedings, Jurisdiction of the Probate Court


Petitioner Republic of the Philippines filed an action for  the Probate of the Will of Ferdinand E. Marcos  claiming that during his exile, the late President Marcos executed his last will and testament in Hawaii, USA, with his wife Imelda Marcos and son Ferdinand R. Marcos II as executors. Petitioner prayed that the letters of administration be issued in favor of petitioner’s nominee, claiming the need to protect the interest of the Philippine government in assessing and collecting the taxes due the estate. 

Petitioner sent a Notice of Commencement of Probate Proceedings in Philippine Court to the U.S. District Court of Hawaii, where a class action was previously filed against former President Marcos seeking recovery for damages for human rights violations he allegedly committed during his authoritarian rule.

The probate court, per public respondent Judge Villarama, granted the motion and appointed Commissioner Vinzons-Chato as Special Administrator of the estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos. Citing Section 1 of Rule 73 of the Rules of Court, the order also declared that upon the filing of the petition for probate of the will, the probate court acquired jurisdiction over the estate to the exclusion of all other courts.

On 24 October 1994, petitioner filed in the probate court a Petition for the Issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Injunction with Urgent Ex-Parte Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order. It alleged that in the class action, the U.S. District Court of Hawaii issued a Reference Order appointing special masters for the purpose of obtaining depositions in the Philippines on the claim of torture, summary execution, or disappearance; and the extent of damages sustained, prescribing the procedure, including the availment of local court reporters and interpreters as might be required. 

Petitioner asserted that the Reference Order impinged on the exclusive jurisdiction of the probate court and disregarded the claim of the Philippine government against the Marcos estate. 

It also contended that the claim against the estate should be filed before the probate court and that the Philippine government should be accorded first preference in the priority list of the estate’s creditors.


Whether the issuance and implementation of the Reference Order of the Hawaii court violated the sovereignty of the Philippines and impinged on the exclusive jurisdiction of the probate court.


Section 1 of Rule 73 refers to courts in the Philippines and simply means that once a special proceeding for the settlement of the estate of a decedent is filed in one of such courts, that court has exclusive jurisdiction over said estate and no other special proceedings involving the same subject matter may be filed before any other court. 

Since foreign courts are not contemplated in Section 1, in no way then can it be validly maintained that the District Court of Hawaii has encroached upon, or “impinged on,” the jurisdiction of the probate court by the issuance of the Reference Order. 

The Reference Order cannot be construed as concerning or affecting the Marcos estate within the exclusive jurisdiction of the probate court. 

Neither is there merit to the claim that the issuance and implementation of the Reference Order violated the sovereignty of the Philippines.

In fact, it did not oppose the action; on the contrary, it urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District to allow the trial of the human rights litigation against the former strongman. 

Petitioner even exhorted the human rights victims to pursue the justice which has eluded them for many years 

The petition was DISMISSED.

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