I petitioned the court to appoint myself as a guardian of my father, who at his current age has a deteriorating medical and mental condition. A relative of ours opposed my petition and asserted that my father is still competent to manage his own affairs. I submitted documentary evidence but I was informed by a colleague that the court may take into account the demeanor of my father before making a decision. Kindly enlighten me regarding the matter.
The law that addresses your situation is Section 1, Rule 93 of the Rules of Court.
“Section 1. Who may petition for appointment of guardian for resident. — Any relative, friend or other person on behalf of a resident minor or incompetent who has no parent or lawful guardian, or the minor himself if fourteen years of age or over, may petition the court having jurisdiction for the appointment of a general guardian for the person or estate, or both, of such minor or incompetent. An officer of the Federal Administration of the United States in the Philippines may also file a petition in favor of a ward thereof, and the Director of Health, in favor of an insane person who should be hospitalized, or in favor of an isolated leper.
x x x.
Section 4. Opposition to petition. — Any interested person may, by filing a written opposition, contest the petition on the ground of majority of the alleged minor, competency of the alleged incompetent or the unsuitability of the person for whom letters are prayed, and may pray that the petition be dismissed, or that letters of guardianship issue to himself, or to any suitable person named in the opposition.”
Related to this is the case of Nilo Oropesa vs. Cirilo Oropesa (G.R. No. 184528, April 25, 2012), penned by Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, which explains appointment of guardians, viz:
“In an analogous guardianship case wherein the soundness of mind of the proposed ward was at issue, we had the occasion to rule that where the sanity of a person is at issue, expert opinion is not necessary [and that]the observations of the trial judge coupled with evidence establishing the person’s state of mental sanity will suffice.
Thus, it is significant that in its order dated November 14, 2006, that denied petitioners motion for reconsideration on the trial courts unfavorable September 27, 2006 ruling, the trial court highlighted the fatal role that petitioners own documentary evidence played in disproving its case and, also, the trial court made known its own observation of respondents physical and mental states, to wit:
The court noted the absence of any testimony of a medical expert whichstates that Gen. Cirilo O. Oropesa does not have the mental, emotional and physical capacity to manage his own affairs. On the contrary, oppositors’ evidence includes a neuropsychological screening report, which states that Gen. Oropesa, (1) performs on the average range in most of the domains that were tested; (2) is capable of mental calculations; and (3) can provide solutions to problem situations. The report concludes that Gen. Oropesa possesses intact cognitive functioning, except for mildly impaired abilities in memory, reasoning and orientation. It is the observation of the court that oppositor is still sharp, alert and able.” (Citation omitted; emphasis supplied.)
In your situation, while documentary evidence coming from an expert may prove the incompetence of your father; the court, however, is not prohibited to look into the physical demeanor of your father to determine whether he is still competent and able to manage his affairs. Hence, the court can look into your father’s demeanor and actuation before deciding. In fact, jurisprudence is clear on the matter that the observation of the judge of the party’s demeanor coupled with evidence will suffice to prove his competence.
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.