SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 129507. September 29, 2000]

CHAN SUI BI, JOHNNY C. ONG, BOBBY C. ONG, PHILLIP C. ONG, HOMER C. ONG, DAVID C. ONG, HELEN C. ONG-MAYPA, AND GLENN C. ONG, as substituted widow and children of the late Jose C. Ong in his personal capacity, ROBSON ONG, and DAVID C. ONG, as Special Administrator of the Intestate Estates of Uy Hian and Ong Chuan, RTC-Iloilo Sp. Procs. Nos. 2647 and 2370*, petitioners, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, SOFIA DALIPE, ROLANDO D. ONG, SPOUSES LORENZO D. ONG AND VILMA TAN-ONG, SPOUSES EDDIE D. ONG AND LIZA TE-ONG, HENRY D. ONG, YELSON D. ONG, WILSON D. ONG, ASUNCION ONG-JARDIOLIN, MA. LOURDES ONG, LAS TRES ESTRELLAS TEXTILES CO., GOLDEN GATE REALTY CORPORATION, AND GOLDEN PORTALS INDUSTRIES, INC., respondents.

D E C I S I O N

QUISUMBING, J.:

For review is the Decision promulgated on December 19, 1996 by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 32242, affirming with modification the judgment of the Regional Trial Court in Iloilo City, Branch 28, in Civil Case No. 17530.

The facts as narrated by the Court of Appeals,[1] are supported by the records as follows:

Petitioner Chan Sui Bi is the widow of the late Jose C. Ong, one of two sons of Ong Chuan and Uy Hian whose settlement of estate is being contested. The others Johnny, Bobby, Phillip, Homer, David, Helen Ong-Maypa and Glenn are the children of Chan Sui Bi and Jose Ong. David Ong is the appointed Special Administrator of the intestate estate of Ong Chuan and Uy Hian. Co-petitioner Robson Uy is the other son of Ong Chuan and Uy Hian.

Private respondent Sofia Dalipe is Ong Chuan's common-law wife. The other respondents, Rolando, Lorenzo, Eddie, Henry, Yelson, Wilson, and Asuncion are their children. Las Tres Estrellas Company, Golden Gate Realty Corporation (GGRC), and Golden Portals Industries, Inc. (GPII) are among the corporations established by private respondents, which petitioners claim are part of the estate of Ong Chuan and Uy Hian.

Ong Chuan, also known as Ong See Lim, was a Chinese national who had settled in Iloilo City. He left his wife Uy Hian and his two sons, Jose and Robson, in Hongkong. He commuted between Hongkong and the Philippines. In Hongkong, Ong Chuan bought the Golden Gate Building and the land on which it was located at No. 18 Kimberly Street. Uy Hian resided in a portion of the building. Robson administered the building, and remitted Ong Chuan's share in the income from the building to the latter's account with the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank in Hongkong.

While in the Philippines, Ong Chuan lived with his common-law wife, Sofia. They had eight (8) children, namely: Rolando, Lorenzo, Henry, Yelson, Wilson, Asuncion, Sonia and Maria, all surnamed Ong.

In Iloilo, Ong Chuan put up Las Tres Estrellas (Ong Chuan & Co.), a textile merchandising business in partnership with his son Jose (Sy Dee), who had become a Filipino citizen. On February 6, 1964, Jose, sold all his shares in the partnership to his father and put up his own business.

Ong Chuan continued Las Tres Estrellas, which prospered. In 1977, when he retired at age 76, he filed gross receipts amounting to P1,609,345.93 with the Bureau of Internal Revenue. He and his partner Juan Tong also decided to sell their holdings in Hongkong. Ong Chuan executed a General Power of Attorney in favor of Rolando, one of his sons by Sofia, while Juan Tong similarly named as attorney-in-fact his son, Jose Tong. The sons were given instructions to sell the Hongkong properties owned by the fathers. On April 30, 1979, Rolando and Jose sold the land and the Golden Gate Building to Denkin Limited, for HK$11,500,000.00. Rolando and Juan received the check issued in the names of Ong Chuan and Juan Tong. They left the check with Solicitor Jerry Chung in Hongkong. Ong Chuan told his son that as soon as the former recovered from his heart ailment, he and Juan Tong would go to Hongkong to encash the check, settle obligations, and pay the commission of the solicitor. Ong Chuan and Juan Tong left Manila about a week after Rolando arrived in Hongkong. As of January 19, 1979, Ong Chuan had a bank balance of HK$351,426.00 reflected in his bank statement.

Meantime, Sofia and her children also engaged in various businesses in Iloilo: farming, real estate, retail merchandising, and textile manufacturing. Sometime in 1960, about 21 years before the death of Ong Chuan, Sofia started farming a 10-hectare farmland in Alimodian, Iloilo, from which she derived an annual income of P5,000.00 to P10,000.00. Rolando worked for his father with a monthly salary. In April 1968, Sofia, with P30,000.00 of her own money and a P120,000.00 loan from the Pacific Banking Corporation purchased a parcel of land with a two-storey four-door commercial building located in Aldeguer St., Iloilo City, using the lot and building as collateral. On April 26, 1968, on the basis of a Deed of Absolute Sale between Jose Marquez and Sofia, TCT No. 23149 of the Registry of Deeds of Iloilo City was issued in the name of Sofia, who was referred to in said title as 'single'. Sofia leased portions of the building, and put up two registered businesses in the premises, the Perma Press Enterprises and the Sofillems Fabrics and Knitwear. Subsequently, Sofia and her children acquired real estates in Manduriao, Alimodian and Iloilo City. Rolando with his brother Eddie set up Octagon Gift Shop also in Iloilo City; and together with his sister Asuncion, the Casa Rey and Linea Italiana Dress Shop. They inherited seven parcels of land from Sonia, one of the siblings who died intestate. Rolando and Sofia also put up Las Tres Estrellas Textiles Co. (also known as Rolando D. Ong & Co.).

On December 2, 1978, Uy Hian died in Hongkong. Her sons, Jose and Robson, claiming to be the legitimate children of Ong Chuan and Uy Hian, filed a petition with the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City for the settlement of the intestate estate of Uy Hian, docketed as Special Proceedings No. 2647. Jose and Robson alleged that they are the legitimate heirs of the couple and that Uy Hian had an interest of 50% in the following real and personal properties: a parcel of land valued at P376,000.00 located in Aldeguer St., Iloilo City; a building worth P167,172.84 on said lot; a parcel of land valued at P215,672.00 in Las Tres Estrellana, JM Basa St., Iloilo City; assets of Golden Gate Realty Corp. (GGRC) Iloilo City valued at P1,000,000.00; a savings deposit of HK$524,000.00 (P752,464.00) with Shanghai Banking Corp. Kowloon Branch; and HK$5,750,000.00 (P8,275,000.00) cash c/o Ong Chuan, in Iloilo City.

On November 19, 1979, Ong Chuan filed an Opposition to the petition alleging that Jose and Robson were not the legitimate sons of Uy Hian and that the two had no interest whatsoever in the estate of Uy Hian.

About four months earlier, on June 29, 1979, when S.P. NO. 2647 was still pending, Rolando, Eddie and Jose Juan Tong, Luisa Tan, Feliza Cheng and Lucio Juantong as incorporators, established the GOLDEN GATE REALTY CORPORATION (GGRC). Rolando was Treasurer while Jose Juan Tong was President and Chairman of the Board of Directors. On July 17, 1979, GGRC bought the parcels of land described in TCT Nos. 53007, 53008 and 53011 from Frolu Locsin and Dennis Locsin.

On December 13, 1979, Jose Juan Tong, Lucio Juan Tong, Lily Juan Tong, Victoria Siady, with Sofia Dalipe, Rolando Ong, Eddie Ong and Henry Ong incorporated GOLDEN GATE PORTALS, INDUSTRIES, INC. (GGPII). Rolando was Chairman of the Board of Directors. GGPII secured loans from Allied Banking Corporation and used said loans for the purchase of four parcels of land, in Iloilo City.

Per records of the Assessor's Office, GGRC also owned 5 parcels of land, all in Iloilo City. Lorenzo owned 3 pieces of property also in Iloilo City. Rolando, Eddie and Sofia had lands in Alimodian.

On June 24, 1981, during the pendency of the case for the settlement of the estate of Uy Hian, Ong Chuan died. Rolando and his siblings were substituted as oppositors in S.P. No. 2647.

On October 13, 1981, Jose and Robson filed a petition in the RTC for the settlement of the intestate estate of Ong Chuan docketed as S.P. No. 2370. Rolando and his siblings filed their opposition thereto. The two (2) estate proceedings, S.P. No 2647 and S.P. No. 2370 were heard jointly. On November 22, 1985, the Court promulgated its Decision appointing Jose Ong administrator of the estate of Uy Hian and Ong Chuan and requiring said Jose Ong to file an administrator's bond of P10,000.00.[2] The intestate court found that Jose and Robson were children of the deceased Uy Hian and Ong Chuan, and that the oppositors were the children of Ong Chuan and his common-law wife, Sofia Dalipe.[3]

The decision was appealed and docketed as CA-G.R. Nos. 10526 and 10527-CV. During the pendency of said appeal, GGRI sold over a hectare of land covered by TCT No. 71948 to the Iloilo Central Commercial High School Alumni Association, Inc. (ICCHSAAI). A new title, TCT No. 72352 was issued in lieu of TCT No. 71948.[4] On April 20, 1987, petitioners filed Civil Case No. 17530, for the declaration of nullity of the aforementioned sale and the reconveyance of the land and all the fruits thereof to the estates of Uy Hian and Ong Chuan. Petitioners also asked for moral damages, attorney's fees and costs of litigation.

On August 19, 1987, the trial court issued an order dismissing the Civil Case No. 17530 as against ICCHSAAI and the latter's counterclaims. Rolando filed a motion for a preliminary hearing and for the dismissal of Civil Case No. 17530 on the ground of litis pendentia. The motion was denied.

Private respondent Rolando filed a Petition for Certiorari before this court which was also dismissed.

On October 5, 1988, Jose died. The court ordered substitution by his wife, Chan Sui Bi Ong, and their children.

On February 19, 1991, the court dismissed the Civil Case 17530 and ordered herein petitioners to pay respondents P100,000.00 for attorney's fees and P50,000.00 as actual expenses.

Said decision was appealed. The Court of Appeals rendered its decision, disposing:

IN THE LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the assailed Decision is AFFIRMED with the modification that the award of P50,000.00 by way of actual expenses is deleted. With costs against Appellants.

SO ORDERED.[5]

The appellate court declared that: (1) The trial court did not err in not resolving the issue of filiation of Jose and Robson as legitimate children of Uy Hian and Ong Chuan,[6] conformably with Sec. 1, Rule 90 of the Rules of Court;[7] (2) Appellants had the burden of proving, with the requisite quantum of evidence, that Rolando withdrew the money of Ong Chuan from Hongkong Shanghai Bank in accordance with Section 1, Rule 131, of the Revised Rules on Evidence;[8] (3) Petitioners did not show that Ong Chuan's health deteriorated from December 7, 1978 to April 30, 1979 making him unable him to travel to Hongkong to encash the check from the sale of the Hongkong properties and wrap up his business; (4) The numerous properties and businesses of private respondents were not acquired with Ong Chuan's money, thus these properties are not part of the estate of Ong Chuan; and (5) Contrary to petitioners assertion, Sofia and her children were not dummies of Ong Chuan so the latter could circumvent Republic Act No. 1180, (Otherwise known as the Retail Trade Law) and Commonwealth Act No. 108 (Otherwise known as the Anti-Dummy Law), which disallowed Ong Chuan, as an alien to engage in the retail business and buy land in the Philippines.

Hence, this instant petition, claiming that the Court of Appeals erred:

I . . . IN HOLDING THAT THE TRIAL COURT DID NOT ERR IN NOT RESOLVING THE ISSUE OF THE FILIATION OF THE DECEASED JOSE ONG AND PETITIONER ROBSON ONG AS LEGITIMATE CHILDREN OF THE DECEASED SPOUSES UY HIAN AND ONG CHUAN.

II . . . IN AFFIRMING THE FINDING OF THE TRIAL COURT THAT ROLANDO ONG DID NOT GET THE BANK DEPOSIT OF ONG CHUAN AND HIS SHARE OF THE SALE OF THE PROPERTY IN HONGKONG, CONTRARY TO LOGIC AND REASON/THE FINDING OF THE ESTATES COURT.

III . . . IN NOT APPLYING THE LEGAL PRESUMPTION IN THE ANTI-DUMMY LAW TO THE REAL PROPERTIES ACQUIRED BY ONG CHUAN IN THE PHILIPPINES AND TO HIS RETAIL BUSINESSES PLACED IN THE NAMES OF THE RESPONDENTS.

IV . . . IN DEPRIVING THE PETITIONERS OF THEIR JUST SHARES IN THE FUNDS OF THE TWO ESTATES WHICH WERE FUNNELED INTO CORPORATIONS AND ENTITIES ORGANIZED BY THE RESPONDENTS;

V . . . IN NOT GIVING JUSTICE TO THE PETITIONERS.[9]

At the outset, we note that the issues raised before this Court are the very same issues raised before the Court of Appeals. The issue of whether or not Ong Chuan withdrew his deposit from the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank and Hongkong, and the issue of whether or not Sofia and her children used the money of the deceased for their own business acquisitions are factual matters. Factual matters cannot be inquired into by this Court in an appeal by certiorari. The Court can no longer be tasked to go over the proofs presented by the parties and analyze, assess, and weigh them to ascertain if the trial court and appellate court were correct in according them superior credit in this or that piece of evidence of one party or the other.[10]

Nevertheless the Court notes that the majority of the pieces of real estate and other acquisitions of Sofia and her children were made even before the death of Uy Hian and Ong Chuan. As early as the 1960's Sofia had started her farm and purchased real estate through bank loans and on installment basis. These facts bear strongly against the allegation that Sofia and her children used the estate of Ong Chuan and Uy Hian to further their own businesses. The appellate court observed that the financing of the business acquisitions of Sofia were from her own funds and from bank loans which benefited her and her children, not her Chinese common-law husband. If the evidence on record shows that a Filipino citizen purchased or acquired real estate with the use of his or her own money or funds or that he or she did so not for the benefit of an alien but for his or her own benefit, then the Filipino is not a dummy in fact and in law.

But even if Ong Chuan gave Sofia money, we agree with the Court of Appeals when it cited People vs. Aurelia Altea et. al.,[11] that if an alien gave or donated his money to a citizen of the Philippines so that the latter could invest it in the purchase of private agricultural lands, or purchased private agricultural lands for a citizen of the Philippines, such acts, provided they are done in good faith, do not violate our laws.[12] What was prohibited by the anti-dummy law and the retail trade law then prevailing were the acquisition by an alien for himself of private lands in the Philippines, and the conduct of retail trade by the alien, respectively.

Thus, the remaining issue for our consideration is whether the trial court erred in refusing to resolve the question of filiation of Jose and Robson as legitimate children of Uy Hian and Ong Chuan. We recall that the issue of filiation was already passed upon in Special Proceeding Nos. 2647 and 2370,[13] involving the settlement of the estates of Uy Hian and Ong Chuan. The issue of filiation is now mooted by the decision in the aforementioned cases. Since the intestate court had ascertained in the settlement proceedings who the lawful heirs are, there is no need for a separate, independent action to resolve claims of legitimate children of the deceased. The court first taking cognizance of such proceeding acquires exclusive jurisdiction to resolve all questions concerning the settlement of the estate to the exclusion of all other courts or branches of the same court.[14] As early as 1905, we said that while the estate is being settled in the Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) in a special proceeding, no ordinary action can be maintained in that court, or in any other court, by persons claiming to be heirs, for the purpose of having the rights of the plaintiffs in the estate determined.[15]

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated December 19, 1996, affirming the decision with modification of the Regional Trial Court, in Iloilo City, Branch 28, in Civil Case No. 17530 and the Resolution dated May 14, 1997 are AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioners.

SO ORDERED.

Bellosillo, (Chairman), Mendoza, Buena, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.



* * Special Proceeding No. 2730 in Original Records.*



[1] Rollo, pp. 55-89.

[2] Records, p. 17.

[3] Id. at 18-19.

[4] Id. at 46-48.

[5] Rollo, p. 88.

[6] Rollo, pp. 68-69.

[7] Section 1. When order for distribution of residue made.- When the debts, funeral charges, and expenses of administration, the allowance to the widow, and inheritance tax, if any, chargeable to the estate in accordance with law, have been paid, the court, on the application of the executor or administrator, or of a person interested in the estate, and after hearing upon notice, shall assign the residue of the estate to the persons entitled to the same, naming them and the proportions, or parts, to which each is entitled, and such persons may demand and recover their respective shares from the executor or administrator, or any other person having the same in his possession. If there is a controversy before the court as to who are the lawful heirs of the deceased person or as to the distributive shares to which each person is entitled under the law, the controversy shall be heard and decided as in ordinary cases.

No distribution shall be allowed until the payment of the obligations above mentioned has been made or provided for, unless the distributees, or any of them, give a bond, in a sum to be fixed by the court, conditioned for the payment of said obligations within such time as the court directs.

[8] Sec. 1. Burden of proof.- Burden of proof is the duty of a party to present evidence on the facts in issue necessary to establish his claim or defense by the amount of evidence required by law.

[9] Rollo, pp. 28, 29, 35, 39 and 48.

[10] Alicbusan vs. Court of Appeals, 269 SCRA 336, 341 (1997).

[11] 53 O. G. No. 5, p. 1464.

[12] Id. at 1472-1473.

[13] Rollo, p. 64.

[14] Regalado, Florenz, D. Justice, Remedial Law Compendium, Vol. II. 1995. p. 9. Citing Macias vs. Uy Kim, 45 SCRA 251, 260 (1972); Intestate Estate of Rosina Marguerite Wolfson, 45 SCRA 381, 388 (1972); Sandoval vs. Santiago, 83 Phil 784, 786 (1949).

[15] Pimentel vs. Palanca, 5 Phil 436, 440 (1905).