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GABRIEL v CA 212 SCRA 413

9 months after Domingo Gabriel died, Roberto Gabriel filed with the RTC Manila, Branch XI, a
petition for letters of administration. He alleges to be the son of the decedent, a college graduate,
engaged in business, and is fully capable of administering the estate of the late Domingo Gabriel.
Private respondent mentioned 8 of herein petitioners as the other next of kin and heirs.
Court set the hearing of the petition; on which date all persons interested may show cause, if any, why
the petition should not be granted. The court further directed the publication of the order in "Mabuhay," a
newspaper of general circulation, once a week for three (3) consecutive weeks.
No opposition having been filed despite such publication of the notice of hearing, private respondent was
allowed to present his evidence ex parte. Thereafter, the probate court issued an order, APPOINTING
Roberto as administrator on a bond of 30K.

Subsequently, a notice to creditors for the filing of claims against the estate of the decedent was
published in the "Metropolitan News." As a consequence, Aida Valencia, mother of private
respondent, filed a "Motion to File Claim of (sic) the Intestate Estate of Domingo P. Gabriel" alleging
that the decision in a civil case between her and the deceased remained unsatisfied and that she
thereby had an interest in said estate.
Roberto filed an "Inventory and Appraisal" placing the value of the properties left by the decedent at
P18.9M which was set for hearing by the probate court.
Petitioners opposed, asserting that the administration letters be issued to Nilda Gabriel instead, as
the legitimate daughter of the deceased, or any of the other oppositors herein petitioners.
Probate court denied the opposition of petitioners on the ground that they had not shown any
circumstance sufficient to overturn the order. MR likewise denied. Hence, certiorari with CA, which was
still dismissed.
Petitioners primarily aver that under Section 6, Rule 78 of the Rules of Court, it is the surviving
spouse who is first in the order of preference for the appointment of an administrator. Petitioner
Felicitas Jose-Gabriel is the widow and legal surviving spouse of the deceased Domingo Gabriel and
should, therefore, be preferred over private respondent who is one of the illegitimate children of the
decedent by claimant. Aida Valencia. Secondly, they claim that assuming that the widow is
incompetent, the next of kin must be appointed. Hence Nilda. Thirdly, it is contended that the nonobservance or violation per se of the order of preference already constitutes a grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction.

ISSUE: Whether CA erred in the appointment of private respondent as admin.


HELD: NO
In the case at bar, there is no compelling reason sufficient to disqualify Felicitas Jose-Gabriel from
appointment as administratrix of the decedent's estate. Moreover, just as the order of preference is
not absolute and may be disregarded for valid cause 18 despite the mandatory tenor in the opening
sentence of Rule 78 for its observance, so may the 30-day period be likewise waived under the
permissive tone in paragraph (b) of said rule which merely provides that said letters, as an alternative,
"may be granted to one or more of the principal creditors."

On the other hand, we feel that we should not nullify the appointment of private respondent as
administrator. The determination of a person's suitability for the office of judicial administrator rests,
to a great extent, in the sound judgment of the court exercising the power of appointment and said
judgment is not to be interfered with on appeal unless the said court is clearly in
error. 19 Administrators have such a right and corresponding interest in the execution of their trust as
would entitle them to protection from removal without just cause.

Petitioners argue that appointment of GABRIEL, the surviving spouse, should be


nullified because she failed to observe the 30 day period
1) The order of preference under R78 is not absolute and may be disregarded for
valid cause,
2) Neglect/failure to apply for letters of administration within 30 days from the
decedents death is not sufficient to exclude the widow from the administration of
the estate of her husband. There must be a very strong case to justify the
exclusion of the widow from the administration