Friday, July 13, 2012

Consuegra v GSIS G.R. No. L-28093 January 30, 1971

J. Zaldivar

Appeal on purely questions of law from the decision of the Court of First Instance of Surigao del Norte, dated March 7, 1967, in its Special Proceeding No. 1720.
The late Jose Consuegra was employed as a shop foreman in the province of Surigao del Norte. He contracted two marriages, the first with Rosario Diaz and the second, which was contracted in good faith while the first marriage was subsisting, with Basilia Berdin.
Consuegra died, while the proceeds of his GSIS life insurance were paid to petitioner Basilia Berdin and her children who were the beneficiaries named in the policy. They received Php 6,000.
Consuegra did not designate any beneficiary who would receive the retirement insurance benefits due to him. Respondent Rosario Diaz, the widow by the first marriage, filed a claim with the GSIS asking that the retirement insurance benefits be paid to her as the only legal heir of Consuegra, considering that the deceased did not designate any beneficiary with respect to his retirement insurance benefits.
Petitioner Berdin and her children, likewise, filed a similar claim with the GSIS, asserting that being the beneficiaries named in the life insurance policy of Consuegra, they are the only ones entitled to receive the retirement insurance benefits due the deceased Consuegra.
The GSIS ruled that the legal heirs of the late Jose Consuegra were Rosario Diaz, his widow by his first marriage who is entitled to one-half, or 8/16, of the retirement insurance benefits, on the one hand; and Basilia Berdin, his widow by the second marriage and their seven children, on the other hand, who are entitled to the remaining one-half, or 8/16.
Basilia Berdin didn’t agree. She filed a petition declaring her and her children to be the legal heirs and exclusive beneficiaries of the retirement insurance.
The trial court affirmed stating that: "when two women innocently and in good faith are legally united in holy matrimony to the same man, they and their children, born of said wedlock, will be regarded as legitimate children and each family be entitled to one half of the estate.”
Hence the present appeal by Basilia Berdin and her children.

Issue: To whom should this retirement insurance benefits of Jose Consuegra be paid, because he did not designate the beneficiary of his retirement insurance?

Held: No. Petition denied.

Berdin averred that because the deceased Jose Consuegra failed to designate the beneficiaries in his retirement insurance, the appellants who were the beneficiaries named in the life insurance should automatically be considered the beneficiaries to receive the retirement insurance benefits.
The GSIS offers two separate and distinct systems of benefits to its members — one is the life insurance and the other is the retirement insurance. These two distinct systems of benefits are paid out from two distinct and separate funds that are maintained by the GSIS.
In the case of the proceeds of a life insurance, the same are paid to whoever is named the beneficiary in the life insurance policy. As in the case of a life insurance provided for in the Insurance Act, the beneficiary in a life insurance under the GSIS may not necessarily be a heir of the insured. The insured in a life insurance may designate any person as beneficiary unless disqualified to be so under the provisions of the Civil Code. And in the absence of any beneficiary named in the life insurance policy, the proceeds of the insurance will go to the estate of the insured.
Retirement insurance is primarily intended for the benefit of the employee, to provide for his old age, or incapacity, after rendering service in the government for a required number of years. If the employee reaches the age of retirement, he gets the retirement benefits even to the exclusion of the beneficiary or beneficiaries named in his application for retirement insurance. The beneficiary of the retirement insurance can only claim the proceeds of the retirement insurance if the employee dies before retirement. If the employee failed or overlooked to state the beneficiary of his retirement insurance, the retirement benefits will accrue to his estate and will be given to his legal heirs in accordance with law, as in the case of a life insurance if no beneficiary is named in the insurance policy.
GSIS had correctly acted when it ruled that the proceeds should be divided equally between his first living wife and his second. The lower court has correctly applied the ruling of this Court in the case of Lao v Dee.
Gomez vs. Lipana- in construing the rights of two women who were married to the same man, held "that since the defendant's first marriage has not been dissolved or declared void the conjugal partnership established by that marriage has not ceased. Nor has the first wife lost or relinquished her status as putative heir of her husband under the new Civil Code, entitled to share in his estate upon his death should she survive him. Consequently, whether as conjugal partner in a still subsisting marriage or as such putative heir she has an interest in the husband's share in the property here in dispute....
With respect to the right of the second wife, although the second marriage can be presumed to be void ab initio as it was celebrated while the first marriage was still subsisting, still there is need for judicial declaration of such nullity. And inasmuch as the conjugal partnership formed by the second marriage was dissolved before judicial declaration of its nullity, "the only lust and equitable solution in this case would be to recognize the right of the second wife to her share of one-half in the property acquired by her and her husband and consider the other half as pertaining to the conjugal partnership of the first marriage."

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