Vda de Bengson vs PNB (GR No. L-17066 December 28, 1961)

In The Matter of Guardianship of Carmen Padilla Vda de Bengson vs Philippine National Bank
GR No. L-17066 December 28, 1961

Facts: As the mother of a veteran who died in World War II, Carmen Padilla Vda. de Bengson became entitled to certain accrued insurance benefits which amounted to P10,738 as of July 1, 1957, and to a monthly death compensation for the rest of her life, all extended by the United States Veterans Administration. Upon inquiry which showed that the beneficiary was incompetent, the Veterans Administration filed Special Proceeding No. 586 in the Court of First Instance of La Union, where in due course, an order was entered on August 8, 1957, adjudging Carmen Vda. de Bengzon to be an incompetent and appointing the Philippine National Bank (PNB) as guardian of her estate comprising the monies due from the said Veterans Administration. Letters of guardianship were issued in favor of the Philippine National Bank. On March 5, 1960, alleging that she had regained her competence, her ward, by counsel, filed a petition asking for an order terminating the guardianship, and for delivery to her of the residuary estate.

Issue: Whether or not PNB can be removed as guardian.

Held: No. The grounds for which a guardian may be removed are found in Section 2, Rule 98 of the Rules.

When a guardian becomes insane or otherwise incapable of discharging his trust or unsuitable therefor, or has wasted or mismanaged the estate, or failed for thirty days after it is due to render an account or make a return, the court may, upon reasonable notice to the guardian, remove him, and compel him to surrender the estate of the ward to the person found to be lawfully entitled thereto….

Since the Rules enumerate the grounds for removal of a guardian, a guardian cannot be legally removed from office except for the causes therein mentioned (Alemany vs. Moreno, 5 Phil. 172; Moran, Comments on the Rules of Court, Vol. II, 1957 Ed. p. 515). This is also the American law (39 C.J.S., p. 657). Accordingly, conflict of interest (Ribaya vs. Ribaya, 74 Phil. 254; Gabriel vs. Sotelo, 74 Phil. 25) has been held sufficient ground for removal, premised on the logic that antagonistic interests would render a guardian unsuitable for the trust. To the extent that a court uses its discretion in appraising whether a person is insuitable or incapable of discharging his trust, that much it can be said that removal is discretionary. But the discretion must be exercised within the law, and when the latter has laid down the grounds for removal of a guardian, discretion is limited to inquiring as to the existence of any of those grounds.

No pretense is made in this case, and nothing in the record would indicate, that there was any legal ground upon which the removal of the Philippine National Bank as guardian was founded. Neither in Francisco Bengzon’s manifestation nor in the orders of the lower court is it made to appear that the Philippine National Bank had become incapable of discharging its trust or was unsuitable therefor, or that it had committed anything which the Rules includes as grounds for removal. On the contrary, it appears incontestable that all throughout, the Philippine National Bank has discharged its trust satisfactorily. The it has received commissions allowed by law for its services is no ground to remove it, especially since the Bank’s commission averages no more than P100.00 a year and is offset by interest on the ward’s deposit and the sum that the son would probably have to disburse in bond premiums. Neither is it sufficient to base removal on the unsubstantiated opinion that it would be more beneficial to the interests of the ward and more convenient for the administration of the estate. A guardian should not be removed except for the most cogent reasons (39 C.J.S. 65); otherwise, the removal is unwarranted and illegal.

As to the alleged inconvenience of the guardian of the incompetent’s person having to come to Manila to obtain money for the ward’s sustenance, the same can be obviated by merely requiring the appellant Bank to keep part of the moneys in the San Fernando (La Union) branch, without altering the guardianship.

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