Remedial Law, Special Proceedings

SHEKER v.. SHEKER G.R. No. 157912 December 13, 2007 Subject Matter of Special Proceedings; Applicability of General Rules

FACTS:

The RTC admitted to probate the holographic will of Alice O. Sheker and thereafter issued an order for all the creditors to file their respective claims against the estate. In compliance therewith, petitioner filed a contingent claim for agent’s commission due him amounting to approximately ₱206,250.00 in the event of the sale of certain parcels of land belonging to the estate, and the amount of ₱275,000.00, as reimbursement for expenses incurred and/or to be incurred by petitioner in the course of negotiating the sale of said realties.

The executrix of the Estate of Alice O. Sheker (respondent) moved for the dismissal of said money claim against the estate on the grounds that 

(1) the requisite docket fee, as prescribed in Section 7(a), Rule 141 of the Rules of Court, had not been paid; 

(2) petitioner failed to attach a certification against non-forum shopping; and 

(3) petitioner failed to attach a written explanation why the money claim was not filed and served personally.

The RTC issued the assailed Order dismissing without prejudice the money claim based on the grounds advanced by respondent. 

Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration was denied.

Hence, the instant petition contending that the RTC erred in strictly applying to a probate proceeding the rules requiring a certification of non-forum shopping, a written explanation for non-personal filing, and the payment of docket fees upon filing of the claim. He insists that Section 2, Rule 72 of the Rules of Court provides that rules in ordinary actions are applicable to special proceedings only in a suppletory manner.

ISSUE:

  1. Whether or not the Rules in ordinary civil actions shall be applied strictly in special proceedings.
  1. Whether or not the RTC erred in dismissing petitioner’s contingent money claim against respondent estate for failure of petitioner to attach to his motion a certification against non-forum shopping.

RULING:

1.

The petition is imbued with merit.

However, it must be emphasized that petitioner’s contention that rules in ordinary actions are only supplementary to rules in special proceedings is not entirely correct.

Section 2, Rule 72, Part II of the same Rules of Court provides:

Sec. 2. Applicability of rules of Civil Actions. – In the absence of special provisions, the rules provided for in ordinary actions shall be, as far as practicable, applicable in special proceedings.

Stated differently, special provisions under Part II of the Rules of Court govern special proceedings; but in the absence of special provisions, the rules provided for in Part I of the Rules governing ordinary civil actions shall be applicable to special proceedings, as far as practicable.

The word “practicable” is defined as: possible to practice or perform; capable of being put into practice, done or accomplished. 

This means that in the absence of special provisions, rules in ordinary actions may be applied in special proceedings as much as possible and where doing so would not pose an obstacle to said proceedings. Nowhere in the Rules of Court does it categorically say that rules in ordinary actions are inapplicable or merely suppletory to special proceedings. 

Provisions of the Rules of Court requiring a certification of non-forum shopping for complaints and initiatory pleadings, a written explanation for non-personal service and filing, and the payment of filing fees for money claims against an estate would not in any way obstruct probate proceedings, thus, they are applicable to special proceedings such as the settlement of the estate of a deceased person as in the present case.

2. 

The Court rules in the affirmative.

The certification of non-forum shopping is required only for complaints and other initiatory pleadings. The RTC erred in ruling that a contingent money claim against the estate of a decedent is an initiatory pleading. In the present case, the whole probate proceeding was initiated upon the filing of the petition for allowance of the decedent’s will. 

Such being the case, a money claim against an estate is more akin to a motion for creditors’ claims to be recognized and taken into consideration in the proper disposition of the properties of the estate.

A money claim is only an incidental matter in the main action for the settlement of the decedent’s estate; more so if the claim is contingent since the claimant cannot even institute a separate action for a mere contingent claim. Hence, herein petitioner’s contingent money claim, not being an initiatory pleading, does not require a certification against non-forum shopping.

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