BERNARDINA P. BARTOLOME, Petitioner,
SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM and SCANMAR MARITIME SERVICES, INC., Respondents.
G.R. No. 192531 November 12, 2014
PONENTE: Velasco, Jr.
TOPIC: Civil status of adopted upon death of adopter, biological parent of adoptee as beneficiary
John Colcol was employed as electrician by Scanmar Maritime Services, Inc. He was enrolled under the government’s Employees’ Compensation Program (ECP). He died due to an accident while on board the vessel. John was, at the time of his death, childless and unmarried. Thus, petitioner Bernardina P. Bartolome, John’s biological mother and, allegedly, sole remaining beneficiary, filed a claim for death benefits.
SSS denied the claim on the ground that Bernardina was no longer considered as the parent of John since the latter was legally adopted by Cornelio Colcol. As such, it is Cornelio who qualifies as John’s primary beneficiary, not petitioner.
According to the records, Cornelio died during John’s minority.
- Whether or not the death of the adopter during the adoptee’s minority results to the restoration of the parental authority to the biological parents of the latter.
- Whether or not Bernardina is considered as a legal beneficiary of John.
FIRST ISSUE: Yes.
The Court ruled that John’s minority at the time of his adopter’s death is a significant factor in the case at bar. Under such circumstance, parental authority should be deemed to have reverted in favor of the biological parents. Otherwise, taking into account Our consistent ruling that adoption is a personal relationship and that there are no collateral relatives by virtue of adoption, who was then left to care for the minor adopted child if the adopter passed away?
The Court also applied by analogy, insofar as the restoration of custody is concerned, the provisions of law on rescission of adoption wherein if said petition is granted, the parental authority of the adoptee’s biological parents shall be restored if the adoptee is still a minor or incapacitated.
The manner herein of terminating the adopter’s parental authority, unlike the grounds for rescission, justifies the retention of vested rights and obligations between the adopter and the adoptee, while the consequent restoration of parental authority in favor of the biological parents, simultaneously, ensures that the adoptee, who is still a minor, is not left to fend for himself at such a tender age.
From the foregoing, it is apparent that the biological parents retain their rights of succession tothe estate of their child who was the subject of adoption. While the benefits arising from the death of an SSS covered employee do not form part of the estate of the adopted child, the pertinent provision on legal or intestate succession at least reveals the policy on the rights of the biological parents and those by adoption vis-à-vis the right to receive benefits from the adopted. In the same way that certain rights still attach by virtue of the blood relation, so too should certain obligations, which, the Court ruled, include the exercise of parental authority, in the event of the untimely passing of their minor offspring’s adoptive parent.
SECOND ISSUE: Yes.
The Court held that Cornelio’s adoption of John, without more, does not deprive petitioner of the right to receive the benefits stemming from John’s death as a dependent parent given Cornelio’s untimely demise during John’s minority. Since the parent by adoption already died, then the death benefits under the Employees’ Compensation Program shall accrue solely to herein petitioner, John’s sole remaining beneficiary.