Saturday, June 27, 2009

Costitutional Law: Cabanas v Pilapil

58 SCRA 94, July 25, 1974
MELCHORA CABANAS, plaintiff-appellee,
vs.FRANCISCO PILAPIL, defendant-appellant.


Facts: Deceased Florentino Pilapil, the husband of Melchora Cabanas and the father of Millian Pilapil, left an insurance having his child as the beneficiary and authorized his brother, Francisco Pilapil, to act as trustee during his daughter’s minority. The lower court decided to give the mother of the child the right to act as trustee while her child is a minor citing the appropriate provisions in the Civil Code. The welfare of the child is the paramount consideration here, and the mother resides with the child so she is the rightful trustee. The judiciary pursuant to its role as an agency of the State parens patriae, called for the mother to take responsibility. The defendant appealed for the case. He claims the retention of the amount in question by invoking the terms of the insurance policy. He is the rightful trustee of the insurance policy.


Issue: Whether the mother or the uncle should be entitled to act as a trustee of a minor beneficiary of the proceeds of an insurance policy from her deceased father? Whether the trial court erred in its decision to give the right to the mother?


Ruling: The decision is affirmed with costs against the defendant-appellant. The provisions of Article 320 and 321 of the Civil Code became the basis of the decision. The former provides that “the father, or in his absence the mother, is the legal administrator of the property pertaining to the child under parental authority. If the property is worth more than two thousand pesos, the father or mother shall give a bond subject to the approval of the Court of First Instance." The latter provides that "The property which the unemancipated child has acquired or may acquire with his work or industry, or by any lucrative title, belongs to the child in ownership, and in usufruct to the father or mother under whom he is under parental authority and whose company he lives; ...

With the added circumstance that the child stays with the mother, not the uncle, without any evidence of lack of maternal care, the decision arrived at can stand the test of the strictest scrutiny. The appealed decision is supported by another cogent consideration. It is buttressed by its adherence to the concept that the judiciary, as an agency of the State acting as parens patriae, is called upon whenever a pending suit of litigation affects one who is a minor to accord priority to his best interest This prerogative of parens patriae is inherent in the supreme power of every State, whether that power is lodged in a royal person or in the legislature, and has no affinity to those arbitrary powers which are sometimes exerted by irresponsible monarchs to the great detriment of the people and the destruction of their liberties." What is more, there is this constitutional provision vitalizing this concept. It reads: "The State shall strengthen the family as a basic social institution." 10 If, as the Constitution so wisely dictates, it is the family as a unit that has to be strengthened, it does not admit of doubt that even if a stronger case were presented for the uncle, still deference to a constitutional mandate would have led the lower court to decide as it did.


The trust, insofar as it is in conflict with the above quoted provision of law, is pro tanto null and void. In order, however, to protect the rights of the minor, Millian Pilapil, the plaintiff should file an additional bond in the guardianship proceedings, Sp. Proc. No. 2418-R of this Court to raise her bond therein to the total amount of P5,000.00." 5

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