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Republic of the Philippines Supreme Court Manila

SECOND DIVISION BRIGIDO B. QUIAO, Petitioner, Present: CARPIO, J., Chairperson, BRION, PEREZ, SERENO, and REYES, JJ. G.R. No 176556

- versus -

RITA C. QUIAO, KITCHIE C. QUIAO, LOTIS C. QUIAO, PETCHIE C. Promulgated: QUIAO, represented by their mother July 4, 2012 RITA QUIAO, Respondents. x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x DECISION REYES, J.: The family is the basic and the most important institution of society. It is in the family where children are born and molded either to become useful citizens of the country or troublemakers in the community. Thus, we are saddened when parents have to separate and fight over properties, without regard to the message they send to their children. Notwithstanding this, we must not shirk from our obligation to rule on this case involving legal separation escalating to questions on dissolution and partition of properties.

The Case This case comes before us via Petition for Review on Certiorari[1] under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. The petitioner seeks that we vacate and set aside the Order[2] dated January 8, 2007 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 1, Butuan City. In lieu of the said order, we are asked to issue a Resolution defining the net profits subject of the forfeiture as a result of the decree of legal separation in accordance with the provision of Article 102(4) of the Family Code, or alternatively, in accordance with the provisions of Article 176 of the Civil Code. Antecedent Facts

On October 26, 2000, herein respondent Rita C. Quiao (Rita) filed a complaint for legal separation against herein petitioner Brigido B. Quiao (Brigido).[3] Subsequently, the RTC rendered a Decision[4] dated October 10, 2005, the dispositive portion of which provides: WHEREFORE, viewed from the foregoing considerations, judgment is hereby rendered declaring the legal separation of plaintiff Rita C. Quiao and defendant-respondent Brigido B. Quiao pursuant to Article 55. As such, the herein parties shall be entitled to live separately from each other, but the marriage bond shall not be severed. Except for Letecia C. Quiao who is of legal age, the three minor children, namely, Kitchie, Lotis and Petchie, all surnamed Quiao shall remain under the custody of the plaintiff who is the innocent spouse. Further, except for the personal and real properties already foreclosed by the RCBC, all the remaining properties, namely: 1. coffee mill in Balongagan, Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte; 2. coffee mill in Durian, Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte; 3. corn mill in Casiklan, Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte; 4. coffee mill in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur; 5. a parcel of land with an area of 1,200 square meters located in Tungao, Butuan City; 6. a parcel of agricultural land with an area of 5 hectares located in Manila de Bugabos, Butuan City; 7. a parcel of land with an area of 84 square meters located in Tungao, Butuan City; 8. Bashier Bon Factory located in Tungao, Butuan City; shall be divided equally between herein [respondents] and [petitioner] subject to the respective legitimes of the children and the payment of the unpaid conjugal liabilities of [P]45,740.00. [Petitioners] share, however, of the net profits earned by the conjugal partnership is forfeited in favor of the common children. He is further ordered to reimburse [respondents] the sum of [P]19,000.00 as attorney's fees and litigation expenses of [P]5,000.00[.] SO ORDERED.[5]

Neither party filed a motion for reconsideration and appeal within the period provided for under Section 17(a) and (b) of the Rule on Legal Separation.[6]

On December 12, 2005, the respondents filed a motion for execution[7] which the trial court granted in its Order dated December 16, 2005, the dispositive portion of which reads: Wherefore, finding the motion to be well taken, the same is hereby granted. Let a writ of execution be issued for the immediate enforcement of the Judgment. SO ORDERED.[8]

Subsequently, on February 10, 2006, the RTC issued a Writ of Execution[9] which reads as follows: NOW THEREFORE, that of the goods and chattels of the [petitioner] BRIGIDO B. QUIAO you cause to be made the sums stated in the afore-quoted DECISION [sic], together with your lawful fees in the service of this Writ, all in the Philippine Currency.

But if sufficient personal property cannot be found whereof to satisfy this execution and your lawful fees, then we command you that of the lands and buildings of the said [petitioner], you make the said sums in the manner required by law. You are enjoined to strictly observed Section 9, Rule 39, Rule [sic] of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. You are hereby ordered to make a return of the said proceedings immediately after the judgment has been satisfied in part or in full in consonance with Section 14, Rule 39 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended.[10]

On July 6, 2006, the writ was partially executed with the petitioner paying the respondents the amount of P46,870.00, representing the following payments: (a) P22,870.00 as petitioner's share of the payment of the conjugal share; (b) P19,000.00 as attorney's fees; and (c) P5,000.00 as litigation expenses.[11] On July 7, 2006, or after more than nine months from the promulgation of the Decision, the petitioner filed before the RTC a Motion for Clarification,[12] asking the RTC to define the term Net Profits Earned. To resolve the petitioner's Motion for Clarification, the RTC issued an Order[13] dated August 31, 2006, which held that the phrase NET PROFIT EARNED denotes the remainder of the properties of the parties after deducting the separate properties of each [of the] spouse and the debts.[14] The Order further held that after determining the remainder of the properties, it shall be forfeited in favor of the common children because the offending spouse does not have any right to any share of the net profits earned, pursuant to Articles 63, No.

(2) and 43, No. (2) of the Family Code.[15] The dispositive portion of the Order states: WHEREFORE, there is no blatant disparity when the sheriff intends to forfeit all the remaining properties after deducting the payments of the debts for only separate properties of the defendant-respondent shall be delivered to him which he has none. The Sheriff is herein directed to proceed with the execution of the Decision. IT IS SO ORDERED.[16]

Not satisfied with the trial court's Order, the petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration[17] on September 8, 2006. Consequently, the RTC issued another Order[18] dated November 8, 2006, holding that although the Decision dated October 10, 2005 has become final and executory, it may still consider the Motion for Clarification because the petitioner simply wanted to clarify the meaning of net profit earned.[19] Furthermore, the same Order held: ALL TOLD, the Court Order dated August 31, 2006 is hereby ordered set aside. NET PROFIT EARNED, which is subject of forfeiture in favor of [the] parties' common children, is ordered to be computed in accordance [with] par. 4 of Article 102 of the Family Code.[20]

On November 21, 2006, the respondents filed a Motion for Reconsideration,[21] praying for the correction and reversal of the Order dated November 8, 2006. Thereafter, on January 8, 2007,[22] the trial court had changed its ruling again and granted the respondents' Motion for Reconsideration whereby the Order dated November 8, 2006 was set aside to reinstate the Order dated August 31, 2006. Not satisfied with the trial court's Order, the petitioner filed on February 27, 2007 this instant Petition for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, raising the following: Issues I IS THE DISSOLUTION AND THE CONSEQUENT LIQUIDATION OF THE COMMON PROPERTIES OF THE HUSBAND AND WIFE BY VIRTUE OF THE DECREE OF LEGAL SEPARATION GOVERNED BY ARTICLE 125 (SIC) OF THE FAMILY CODE? II

WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE NET PROFITS EARNED BY THE CONJUGAL PARTNERSHIP FOR PURPOSES OF EFFECTING THE FORFEITURE AUTHORIZED UNDER ARTICLE 63 OF THE FAMILY CODE? III WHAT LAW GOVERNS THE PROPERTY RELATIONS BETWEEN THE HUSBAND AND WIFE WHO GOT MARRIED IN 1977? CAN THE FAMILY CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES BE GIVEN RETROACTIVE EFFECT FOR PURPOSES OF DETERMINING THE NET PROFITS SUBJECT OF FORFEITURE AS A RESULT OF THE DECREE OF LEGAL SEPARATION WITHOUT IMPAIRING VESTED RIGHTS ALREADY ACQUIRED UNDER THE CIVIL CODE? IV WHAT PROPERTIES SHALL BE INCLUDED IN THE FORFEITURE OF THE SHARE OF THE GUILTY SPOUSE IN THE NET CONJUGAL PARTNERSHIP AS A RESULT OF THE ISSUANCE OF THE DECREE OF LEGAL SEPARATION?[23]

Our Ruling While the petitioner has raised a number of issues on the applicability of certain laws, we are well-aware that the respondents have called our attention to the fact that the Decision dated October 10, 2005 has attained finality when the Motion for Clarification was filed.[24] Thus, we are constrained to resolve first the issue of the finality of the Decision dated October 10, 2005 and subsequently discuss the matters that we can clarify. The Decision dated October 10, 2005 has become final and executory at the time the Motion for Clarification was filed on July 7, 2006.

Section 3, Rule 41 of the Rules of Court provides: Section 3. Period of ordinary appeal. - The appeal shall be taken within fifteen (15) days from notice of the judgment or final order appealed from. Where a record on appeal is required, the appellant shall file a notice of appeal and a record on appeal within thirty (30) days from notice of the judgment or final order. The period of appeal shall be interrupted by a timely motion for new trial or reconsideration. No motion for extension of time to file a motion for new trial or reconsideration shall be allowed.

In Neypes v. Court of Appeals,[25] we clarified that to standardize the appeal periods provided in the Rules and to afford litigants fair opportunity to appeal their

cases, we held that it would be practical to allow a fresh period of 15 days within which to file the notice of appeal in the RTC, counted from receipt of the order dismissing a motion for a new trial or motion for reconsideration.[26] In Neypes, we explained that the "fresh period rule" shall also apply to Rule 40 governing appeals from the Municipal Trial Courts to the RTCs; Rule 42 on petitions for review from the RTCs to the Court of Appeals (CA); Rule 43 on appeals from quasi-judicial agencies to the CA and Rule 45 governing appeals by certiorari to the Supreme Court. We also said, The new rule aims to regiment or make the appeal period uniform, to be counted from receipt of the order denying the motion for new trial, motion for reconsideration (whether full or partial) or any final order or resolution.[27] In other words, a party litigant may file his notice of appeal within a fresh 15-day period from his receipt of the trial court's decision or final order denying his motion for new trial or motion for reconsideration. Failure to avail of the fresh 15-day period from the denial of the motion for reconsideration makes the decision or final order in question final and executory. In the case at bar, the trial court rendered its Decision on October 10, 2005. The petitioner neither filed a motion for reconsideration nor a notice of appeal. On December 16, 2005, or after 67 days had lapsed, the trial court issued an order granting the respondent's motion for execution; and on February 10, 2006, or after 123 days had lapsed, the trial court issued a writ of execution. Finally, when the writ had already been partially executed, the petitioner, on July 7, 2006 or after 270 days had lapsed, filed his Motion for Clarification on the definition of the net profits earned. From the foregoing, the petitioner had clearly slept on his right to question the RTCs Decision dated October 10, 2005. For 270 days, the petitioner never raised a single issue until the decision had already been partially executed. Thus at the time the petitioner filed his motion for clarification, the trial courts decision has become final and executory. A judgment becomes final and executory when the reglementary period to appeal lapses and no appeal is perfected within such period. Consequently, no court, not even this Court, can arrogate unto itself appellate jurisdiction to review a case or modify a judgment that became final.[28] The petitioner argues that the decision he is questioning is a void judgment. Being such, the petitioner's thesis is that it can still be disturbed even after 270 days had lapsed from the issuance of the decision to the filing of the motion for clarification. He said that a void judgment is no judgment at all. It never attains finality and cannot be a source of any right nor any obligation.[29] But what precisely is a void judgment in our jurisdiction? When does a judgment becomes void? A judgment is null and void when the court which rendered it had no power to grant the relief or no jurisdiction over the subject matter or over the parties or both.[30] In other words, a court, which does not have the power to decide a case or that has no jurisdiction over the subject matter or the parties, will issue a void judgment or a coram non judice.[31]

The questioned judgment does not fall within the purview of a void judgment. For sure, the trial court has jurisdiction over a case involving legal separation. Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8369 confers upon an RTC, designated as the Family Court of a city, the exclusive original jurisdiction to hear and decide, among others, complaints or petitions relating to marital status and property relations of the husband and wife or those living together.[32] The Rule on Legal Separation[33] provides that the petition [for legal separation] shall be filed in the Family Court of the province or city where the petitioner or the respondent has been residing for at least six months prior to the date of filing or in the case of a non-resident respondent, where he may be found in the Philippines, at the election of the petitioner.[34] In the instant case, herein respondent Rita is found to reside in Tungao, Butuan City for more than six months prior to the date of filing of the petition; thus, the RTC, clearly has jurisdiction over the respondent's petition below. Furthermore, the RTC also acquired jurisdiction over the persons of both parties, considering that summons and a copy of the complaint with its annexes were served upon the herein petitioner on December 14, 2000 and that the herein petitioner filed his Answer to the Complaint on January 9, 2001.[35] Thus, without doubt, the RTC, which has rendered the questioned judgment, has jurisdiction over the complaint and the persons of the parties. From the aforecited facts, the questioned October 10, 2005 judgment of the trial court is clearly not void ab initio, since it was rendered within the ambit of the court's jurisdiction. Being such, the same cannot anymore be disturbed, even if the modification is meant to correct what may be considered an erroneous conclusion of fact or law.[36] In fact, we have ruled that for [as] long as the public respondent acted with jurisdiction, any error committed by him or it in the exercise thereof will amount to nothing more than an error of judgment which may be reviewed or corrected only by appeal.[37] Granting without admitting that the RTC's judgment dated October 10, 2005 was erroneous, the petitioner's remedy should be an appeal filed within the reglementary period. Unfortunately, the petitioner failed to do this. He has already lost the chance to question the trial court's decision, which has become immutable and unalterable. What we can only do is to clarify the very question raised below and nothing more. For our convenience, the following matters cannot anymore be disturbed since the October 10, 2005 judgment has already become immutable and unalterable, to wit: (a) The finding that the petitioner is the offending spouse since he cohabited with a woman who is not his wife;[38] (b) The trial court's grant of the petition for legal separation of respondent Rita;[39] (c) The dissolution and liquidation of the conjugal partnership;[40] (d) The forfeiture of the petitioner's right to any share of the net profits earned by the conjugal partnership;[41]

(e) The award to the innocent spouse of the minor children's custody;[42] (f) The disqualification of the offending spouse from inheriting from the innocent spouse by intestate succession;[43] (g) The revocation of provisions in favor of the offending spouse made in the will of the innocent spouse;[44] (h) The holding that the property relation of the parties is conjugal partnership of gains and pursuant to Article 116 of the Family Code, all properties acquired during the marriage, whether acquired by one or both spouses, is presumed to be conjugal unless the contrary is proved;[45] (i) The finding that the spouses acquired their real and personal properties while they were living together;[46] (j) The list of properties which Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) foreclosed;[47] (k) The list of the remaining properties of the couple which must be dissolved and liquidated and the fact that respondent Rita was the one who took charge of the administration of these properties;[48] (l) The holding that the conjugal partnership shall be liable to matters included under Article 121 of the Family Code and the conjugal liabilities totaling P503,862.10 shall be charged to the income generated by these properties;[49] (m) The fact that the trial court had no way of knowing whether the petitioner had separate properties which can satisfy his share for the support of the family;[50] (n) The holding that the applicable law in this case is Article 129(7);[51] (o) The ruling that the remaining properties not subject to any encumbrance shall therefore be divided equally between the petitioner and the respondent without prejudice to the children's legitime;[52] (p) The holding that the petitioner's share of the net profits earned by the conjugal partnership is forfeited in favor of the common children;[53] and (q) The order to the petitioner to reimburse the respondents the sum of P19,000.00 as attorney's fees and litigation expenses of P5,000.00.[54] After discussing lengthily the immutability of the Decision dated October 10, 2005, we will discuss the following issues for the enlightenment of the parties and the public at large.

Article 129 of the Family Code applies to the present case since the parties' property relation is governed by the system of relative community or conjugal partnership of gains.

The petitioner claims that the court a quo is wrong when it applied Article 129 of the Family Code, instead of Article 102. He confusingly argues that Article 102 applies because there is no other provision under the Family Code which defines net profits earned subject of forfeiture as a result of legal separation. Offhand, the trial court's Decision dated October 10, 2005 held that Article 129(7) of the Family Code applies in this case. We agree with the trial court's holding. First, let us determine what governs the couple's property relation. From the record, we can deduce that the petitioner and the respondent tied the marital knot on January 6, 1977. Since at the time of the exchange of marital vows, the operative law was the Civil Code of the Philippines (R.A. No. 386) and since they did not agree on a marriage settlement, the property relations between the petitioner and the respondent is the system of relative community or conjugal partnership of gains.[55] Article 119 of the Civil Code provides: Art. 119. The future spouses may in the marriage settlements agree upon absolute or relative community of property, or upon complete separation of property, or upon any other regime. In the absence of marriage settlements, or when the same are void, the system of relative community or conjugal partnership of gains as established in this Code, shall govern the property relations between husband and wife.

Thus, from the foregoing facts and law, it is clear that what governs the property relations of the petitioner and of the respondent is conjugal partnership of gains. And under this property relation, the husband and the wife place in a common fund the fruits of their separate property and the income from their work or industry.[56] The husband and wife also own in common all the property of the conjugal partnership of gains.[57] Second, since at the time of the dissolution of the petitioner and the respondent's marriage the operative law is already the Family Code, the same applies in the instant case and the applicable law in so far as the liquidation of the conjugal partnership assets and liabilities is concerned is Article 129 of the Family Code in relation to Article 63(2) of the Family Code. The latter provision is applicable because according to Article 256 of the Family Code [t]his Code shall have retroactive effect insofar as it does not prejudice or impair vested or acquired rights in accordance with the Civil Code or other law.[58] Now, the petitioner asks: Was his vested right over half of the common properties of the conjugal partnership violated when the trial court forfeited them in favor of his children pursuant to Articles 63(2) and 129 of the Family Code?

We respond in the negative. Indeed, the petitioner claims that his vested rights have been impaired, arguing: As earlier adverted to, the petitioner acquired vested rights over half of the conjugal properties, the same being owned in common by the spouses. If the provisions of the Family Code are to be given retroactive application to the point of authorizing the forfeiture of the petitioner's share in the net remainder of the conjugal partnership properties, the same impairs his rights acquired prior to the effectivity of the Family Code.[59] In other words, the petitioner is saying that since the property relations between the spouses is governed by the regime of Conjugal Partnership of Gains under the Civil Code, the petitioner acquired vested rights over half of the properties of the Conjugal Partnership of Gains, pursuant to Article 143 of the Civil Code, which provides: All property of the conjugal partnership of gains is owned in common by the husband and wife.[60] Thus, since he is one of the owners of the properties covered by the conjugal partnership of gains, he has a vested right over half of the said properties, even after the promulgation of the Family Code; and he insisted that no provision under the Family Code may deprive him of this vested right by virtue of Article 256 of the Family Code which prohibits retroactive application of the Family Code when it will prejudice a person's vested right. However, the petitioner's claim of vested right is not one which is written on stone. In Go, Jr. v. Court of Appeals,[61] we define and explained vested right in the following manner: A vested right is one whose existence, effectivity and extent do not depend upon events foreign to the will of the holder, or to the exercise of which no obstacle exists, and which is immediate and perfect in itself and not dependent upon a contingency. The term vested right expresses the concept of present fixed interest which, in right reason and natural justice, should be protected against arbitrary State action, or an innately just and imperative right which enlightened free society, sensitive to inherent and irrefragable individual rights, cannot deny. To be vested, a right must have become a titlelegal or equitableto the present or future enjoyment of property.[62] (Citations omitted)

In our en banc Resolution dated October 18, 2005 for ABAKADA Guro Party List Officer Samson S. Alcantara, et al. v. The Hon. Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita,[63] we also explained: The concept of vested right is a consequence of the constitutional guaranty of due process that expresses a present fixed interest which in right reason and natural justice is protected against arbitrary state action; it includes not only legal or equitable title to the enforcement of a demand but also exemptions from new obligations created after the right has become vested. Rights are considered vested when the right to enjoyment is a present interest, absolute,

unconditional, and perfect or fixed and irrefutable.[64] underscoring supplied)

(Emphasis and

From the foregoing, it is clear that while one may not be deprived of his vested right, he may lose the same if there is due process and such deprivation is founded in law and jurisprudence. In the present case, the petitioner was accorded his right to due process. First, he was well-aware that the respondent prayed in her complaint that all of the conjugal properties be awarded to her.[65] In fact, in his Answer, the petitioner prayed that the trial court divide the community assets between the petitioner and the respondent as circumstances and evidence warrant after the accounting and inventory of all the community properties of the parties.[66] Second, when the Decision dated October 10, 2005 was promulgated, the petitioner never questioned the trial court's ruling forfeiting what the trial court termed as net profits, pursuant to Article 129(7) of the Family Code.[67] Thus, the petitioner cannot claim being deprived of his right to due process. Furthermore, we take note that the alleged deprivation of the petitioner's vested right is one founded, not only in the provisions of the Family Code, but in Article 176 of the Civil Code. This provision is like Articles 63 and 129 of the Family Code on the forfeiture of the guilty spouse's share in the conjugal partnership profits. The said provision says: Art. 176. In case of legal separation, the guilty spouse shall forfeit his or her share of the conjugal partnership profits, which shall be awarded to the children of both, and the children of the guilty spouse had by a prior marriage. However, if the conjugal partnership property came mostly or entirely from the work or industry, or from the wages and salaries, or from the fruits of the separate property of the guilty spouse, this forfeiture shall not apply. In case there are no children, the innocent spouse shall be entitled to all the net profits.

From the foregoing, the petitioner's claim of a vested right has no basis considering that even under Article 176 of the Civil Code, his share of the conjugal partnership profits may be forfeited if he is the guilty party in a legal separation case. Thus, after trial and after the petitioner was given the chance to present his evidence, the petitioner's vested right claim may in fact be set aside under the Civil Code since the trial court found him the guilty party. More, in Abalos v. Dr. Macatangay, Jr.,[68] we reiterated our long-standing ruling that: [P]rior to the liquidation of the conjugal partnership, the interest of each spouse in the conjugal assets is inchoate, a mere expectancy, which constitutes neither a legal nor an equitable estate, and does not ripen into title until it appears that there are

assets in the community as a result of the liquidation and settlement. The interest of each spouse is limited to the net remainder or remanente liquido (haber ganancial) resulting from the liquidation of the affairs of the partnership after its dissolution. Thus, the right of the husband or wife to one-half of the conjugal assets does not vest until the dissolution and liquidation of the conjugal partnership, or after dissolution of the marriage, when it is finally determined that, after settlement of conjugal obligations, there are net assets left which can be divided between the spouses or their respective heirs.[69] (Citations omitted)

Finally, as earlier discussed, the trial court has already decided in its Decision dated October 10, 2005 that the applicable law in this case is Article 129(7) of the Family Code.[70] The petitioner did not file a motion for reconsideration nor a notice of appeal. Thus, the petitioner is now precluded from questioning the trial court's decision since it has become final and executory. The doctrine of immutability and unalterability of a final judgment prevents us from disturbing the Decision dated October 10, 2005 because final and executory decisions can no longer be reviewed nor reversed by this Court.[71] From the above discussions, Article 129 of the Family Code clearly applies to the present case since the parties' property relation is governed by the system of relative community or conjugal partnership of gains and since the trial court's Decision has attained finality and immutability. The net profits of the conjugal partnership of gains are all the fruits of the separate properties of the spouses and the products of their labor and industry. The petitioner inquires from us the meaning of net profits earned by the conjugal partnership for purposes of effecting the forfeiture authorized under Article 63 of the Family Code. He insists that since there is no other provision under the Family Code, which defines net profits earned subject of forfeiture as a result of legal separation, then Article 102 of the Family Code applies. What does Article 102 of the Family Code say? Is the computation of net profits earned in the conjugal partnership of gains the same with the computation of net profits earned in the absolute community? Now, we clarify. First and foremost, we must distinguish between the applicable law as to the property relations between the parties and the applicable law as to the definition of net profits. As earlier discussed, Article 129 of the Family Code applies as to the property relations of the parties. In other words, the computation and the succession of events will follow the provisions under Article 129 of the said Code. Moreover, as to the definition of net profits, we cannot but refer to Article 102(4) of the Family Code, since it expressly provides that for purposes of computing the net profits subject to forfeiture under Article 43, No. (2) and Article

63, No. (2), Article 102(4) applies. In this provision, net profits shall be the increase in value between the market value of the community property at the time of the celebration of the marriage and the market value at the time of its dissolution.[72] Thus, without any iota of doubt, Article 102(4) applies to both the dissolution of the absolute community regime under Article 102 of the Family Code, and to the dissolution of the conjugal partnership regime under Article 129 of the Family Code. Where lies the difference? As earlier shown, the difference lies in the processes used under the dissolution of the absolute community regime under Article 102 of the Family Code, and in the processes used under the dissolution of the conjugal partnership regime under Article 129 of the Family Code. Let us now discuss the difference in the processes between the absolute community regime and the conjugal partnership regime. On Absolute Community Regime: When a couple enters into a regime of absolute community, the husband and the wife becomes joint owners of all the properties of the marriage. Whatever property each spouse brings into the marriage, and those acquired during the marriage (except those excluded under Article 92 of the Family Code) form the common mass of the couple's properties. And when the couple's marriage or community is dissolved, that common mass is divided between the spouses, or their respective heirs, equally or in the proportion the parties have established, irrespective of the value each one may have originally owned.[73] Under Article 102 of the Family Code, upon dissolution of marriage, an inventory is prepared, listing separately all the properties of the absolute community and the exclusive properties of each; then the debts and obligations of the absolute community are paid out of the absolute community's assets and if the community's properties are insufficient, the separate properties of each of the couple will be solidarily liable for the unpaid balance. Whatever is left of the separate properties will be delivered to each of them. The net remainder of the absolute community is its net assets, which shall be divided between the husband and the wife; and for purposes of computing the net profits subject to forfeiture, said profits shall be the increase in value between the market value of the community property at the time of the celebration of the marriage and the market value at the time of its dissolution.[74] Applying Article 102 of the Family Code, the net profits requires that we first find the market value of the properties at the time of the community's dissolution. From the totality of the market value of all the properties, we subtract the debts and obligations of the absolute community and this result to the net assets or net remainder of the properties of the absolute community, from which we deduct the market value of the properties at the time of marriage, which then results to the net profits.[75] Granting without admitting that Article 102 applies to the instant case, let us see what will happen if we apply Article 102:

(a) According to the trial court's finding of facts, both husband and wife have no separate properties, thus, the remaining properties in the list above are all part of the absolute community. And its market value at the time of the dissolution of the absolute community constitutes the market value at dissolution. (b) Thus, when the petitioner and the respondent finally were legally separated, all the properties which remained will be liable for the debts and obligations of the community. Such debts and obligations will be subtracted from the market value at dissolution. (c) What remains after the debts and obligations have been paid from the total assets of the absolute community constitutes the net remainder or net asset. And from such net asset/remainder of the petitioner and respondent's remaining properties, the market value at the time of marriage will be subtracted and the resulting totality constitutes the net profits. (d) Since both husband and wife have no separate properties, and nothing would be returned to each of them, what will be divided equally between them is simply the net profits. However, in the Decision dated October 10, 2005, the trial court forfeited the half-share of the petitioner in favor of his children. Thus, if we use Article 102 in the instant case (which should not be the case), nothing is left to the petitioner since both parties entered into their marriage without bringing with them any property. On Conjugal Partnership Regime: Before we go into our disquisition on the Conjugal Partnership Regime, we make it clear that Article 102(4) of the Family Code applies in the instant case for purposes only of defining net profit. As earlier explained, the definition of net profits in Article 102(4) of the Family Code applies to both the absolute community regime and conjugal partnership regime as provided for under Article 63, No. (2) of the Family Code, relative to the provisions on Legal Separation. Now, when a couple enters into a regime of conjugal partnership of gains under Article 142 of the Civil Code, the husband and the wife place in common fund the fruits of their separate property and income from their work or industry, and divide equally, upon the dissolution of the marriage or of the partnership, the net gains or benefits obtained indiscriminately by either spouse during the marriage.[76] From the foregoing provision, each of the couple has his and her own property and debts. The law does not intend to effect a mixture or merger of those debts or properties between the spouses. Rather, it establishes a complete separation of capitals.[77] Considering that the couple's marriage has been dissolved under the Family Code, Article 129 of the same Code applies in the liquidation of the couple's properties in the event that the conjugal partnership of gains is dissolved, to wit:

Art. 129. Upon the dissolution of the conjugal partnership regime, the following procedure shall apply: (1) An inventory shall be prepared, listing separately all the properties of the conjugal partnership and the exclusive properties of each spouse. (2) Amounts advanced by the conjugal partnership in payment of personal debts and obligations of either spouse shall be credited to the conjugal partnership as an asset thereof. (3) Each spouse shall be reimbursed for the use of his or her exclusive funds in the acquisition of property or for the value of his or her exclusive property, the ownership of which has been vested by law in the conjugal partnership. (4) The debts and obligations of the conjugal partnership shall be paid out of the conjugal assets. In case of insufficiency of said assets, the spouses shall be solidarily liable for the unpaid balance with their separate properties, in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (2) of Article 121. (5) Whatever remains of the exclusive properties of the spouses shall thereafter be delivered to each of them.

(6) Unless the owner had been indemnified from whatever source, the loss or deterioration of movables used for the benefit of the family, belonging to either spouse, even due to fortuitous event, shall be paid to said spouse from the conjugal funds, if any. (7) The net remainder of the conjugal partnership properties shall constitute the profits, which shall be divided equally between husband and wife, unless a different proportion or division was agreed upon in the marriage settlements or unless there has been a voluntary waiver or forfeiture of such share as provided in this Code. (8) The presumptive legitimes of the common children shall be delivered upon the partition in accordance with Article 51. (9) In the partition of the properties, the conjugal dwelling and the lot on which it is situated shall, unless otherwise agreed upon by the
parties, be adjudicated to the spouse with whom the majority of the common children choose to remain. Children below the age of seven years are deemed to have chosen the mother, unless the court has decided otherwise. In case there is no such majority, the court shall decide, taking into consideration the best interests of said children.

In the normal course of events, the following are the steps in the liquidation of the properties of the spouses:

(a) An inventory of all the actual properties shall be made, separately listing the couple's conjugal properties and their separate properties.[78] In the instant case, the trial court found that the couple has no separate properties when they married.[79] Rather, the trial court identified the following conjugal properties, to wit:
1. coffee mill in Balongagan, Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte; 2. coffee mill in Durian, Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte; 3. corn mill in Casiklan, Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte; 4. coffee mill in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur; 5. a parcel of land with an area of 1,200 square meters located in Tungao, Butuan City; 6. a parcel of agricultural land with an area of 5 hectares located in Manila de Bugabos, Butuan City; 7. a parcel of land with an area of 84 square meters located in Tungao, Butuan City; 8. Bashier Bon Factory located in Tungao, Butuan City.[80]

(b) Ordinarily, the benefit received by a spouse from the conjugal partnership during the marriage is returned in equal amount to the assets of the conjugal partnership;[81] and if the community is enriched at the expense of the separate properties of either spouse, a restitution of the value of such properties to their respective owners shall be made.[82] (c) Subsequently, the couple's conjugal partnership shall pay the debts of the conjugal partnership; while the debts and obligation of each of the spouses shall be paid from their respective separate properties. But if the conjugal partnership is not sufficient to pay all its debts and obligations, the spouses with their separate properties shall be solidarily liable.[83] (d) Now, what remains of the separate or exclusive properties of the husband and of the wife shall be

returned to each of them.[84] In the instant case, since it was already established by the trial court that the spouses have no separate properties,[85] there is nothing to return to any of them. The listed properties above are considered part of the conjugal partnership. Thus, ordinarily, what remains in the above-listed properties should be divided equally between the spouses and/or their respective heirs.[86] However, since the trial court found the petitioner the guilty party, his share from the net profits of the conjugal partnership is forfeited in favor of the common children, pursuant to Article 63(2) of the Family Code. Again, lest we be confused, like in the absolute community regime, nothing will be returned to the guilty party in the conjugal partnership regime, because there is no separate property which may be accounted for in the guilty party's favor. In the discussions above, we have seen that in both instances, the petitioner is not entitled to any property at all. Thus, we cannot but uphold the Decision dated October 10, 2005 of the trial court. However, we must clarify, as we already did above, the Order dated January 8, 2007. WHEREFORE, the Decision dated October 10, 2005 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 1 of Butuan City is AFFIRMED. Acting on the Motion for Clarification dated July 7, 2006 in the Regional Trial Court, the Order dated January 8, 2007 of the Regional Trial Court is hereby CLARIFIED in accordance with the above discussions. SO ORDERED.

BIENVENIDO L. REYES

Associate Justice WE CONCUR:

ANTONIO T. CARPIO Senior Associate Justice Chairperson, Second Division

ARTURO D. BRION Associate Justice

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ Associate Justice

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO Associate Justice

C E R T I F I C A T I O N
I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO Senior Associate Justice (Per Section 12, R.A. 296 The Judiciary Act of 1948, as amended)

[1] [2]

Rollo, pp. 7-35.

Penned by Judge Eduardo S. Casals; id. at 115-

122.
[3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

Id. at 36. Id. at 36-57. Id. at 56-57. A.M. No. 02-11-11-SC. Rollo, p. 185. Id. at 59. Id. at 58-59.

[10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28]

Id. Id. Id. Id. Id. Id. Id. Id. Id. Id. Id. Id. Id. Id. Id. 506 Id. Id.

No. 151215, April 5, 2010, 617 SCRA 258. [29] Rollo, p. 166. [30] See Moreno, Federico Dictionary, 3rd ed., 1988, p. 998.
[31]

PCI Leasing and Finance, Inc., v.


B.,

at 59. at 60. at 61-69. at 70-76. at 75. at 74-75. at 75-76. at 77-86. at 87-91. at 90. at 91. at 92-97. at 115-122. at 18. at 143-146. Phil. 613, 629 (2005). at 626. at 627.

Milan, G.R. Law

Philippine

(1975).
[32] [33] [34] [35] [36]

People v. Judge Navarro, 159 Phil. 863, 874

Sps. Edillo v. Sps. Dulpina, G.R. No. 188360, January 21, 2010, 610 SCRA 590, 601-602. [37] Lim v. Judge Vianzon, 529 Phil. 472, 483-484 (2006); See also Herrera v. Barretto and Joaquin, 25 Phil. 245, 256 (1913), citing Miller v. Rowan, 251 Ill., 344. [38] Rollo, pp. 50-51. [39] Id. at 51. [40] Id. [41] Id. at 51-52. [42] Id. at 52 and 56. [43] Id. at 52. [44] Id. [45] Id. [46] Id. [47] Id. at 52-53. [48] Id. at 53. [49] Id. at 53-54. [50] Id. at 55. [51] Id. [52] Id. at 56. [53] Id. at 57. [54] Id. [55] CIVIL CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Art. 119. [56] Id. at Art. 142. [57] Id. at Art. 143. [58] FAMILY CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Art. 256. [59] Rollo, p. 29. [60] CIVIL CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Art. 143. [61] G.R. No. 172027, July 29, 2010, 626 SCRA 180, 201. [62] Id. at 199. [63] The Court consolidated the following cases:

R.A. No. 8369, Section 5(d). A.M. No. 02-11-11-SC. Id. at Section 2(c). Rollo, p. 38.

ABAKADA Guro Party List Officer Samson S. Alcantara, et al. v. The Hon. Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita, G.R. No. 168056; Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr., et al. v. Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita, et al., G.R. No. 168207; Association of Pilipinas Shell Dealers, Inc., et al. v. Cesar V. Purisima, et al., G.R.

No. 168461; Francis Joseph G. Escudero v. Cesar V. Purisima, et al, G.R. No. 168463; and Bataan Governor Enrique T. Garcia, Jr. v. Hon. Eduardo R. Ermita, et al., G.R. No. 168730. [64] Id. [65] Rollo, p. 37. [66] Id. at 39. [67] Id. at 55-57. [68] 482 Phil. 877-894 (2004). [69] Id. at 890-891. [70] Rollo, p. 55.
[71]

Malayan Employees Association-FFW v. Malayan Insurance Co., Inc., G.R. No. 181357, February 2, 2010, 611 SCRA 392, 399; Catmon Sales Int'l. Corp. v. Atty. Yngson, Jr., G.R.

No. 179761, January 15, 2010, 610 SCRA 236, 245. [72] FAMILY CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Art. 102(4). [73] Id. at Art. 91; See also Tolentino, Arturo, M., COMMENTARIES AND JURISPRUDENCE ON THE CIVIL CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES: VOLUME ONE WITH THE FAMILY CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES, 379 (1990). [74] FAMILY CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Art. 102. [75] Tolentino, Arturo, M., COMMENTARIES AND JURISPRUDENCE ON THE CIVIL CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES: VOLUME ONE WITH THE FAMILY CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES, 401-402 (1990). [76] CIVIL CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Art. 142. [77] Tolentino, Arturo, M., COMMENTARIES AND JURISPRUDENCE ON THE CIVIL CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES: VOLUME ONE, 365 (1974). [78] Tolentino, Arturo, M., COMMENTARIES AND JURISPRUDENCE ON THE CIVIL CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES: VOLUME ONE WITH THE FAMILY CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES, 472 (1990). [79] Rollo, p. 55. [80] Id. at 56-57. [81] FAMILY CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Art. 129(2). [82] Id. at Art. 129(3). [83] Id. at Art. 129(4). [84] Id. at Art. 129(5). [85] Rollo, p. 55. [86] FAMILY CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Art. 129(7).
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Republic of the Philippines


Supreme Court
Manila FIRST DIVISION
VALERIO E. KALAW, Petitioner, G.R. No. 166357

Present: CORONA, C.J., Chairperson, LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, BERSAMIN, DEL CASTILLO, and PEREZ, JJ. Promulgated: September 19, 2011

- versus -

MA. ELENA FERNANDEZ, Respondent.

x-------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION
DEL CASTILLO, J.: A finding of psychological incapacity must be supported by well-established facts. It is the plaintiffs burden to convince the court of the existence of these facts. Before the Court is a Petition for Review[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) May 27, 2004 Decision[2] and December 15, 2004 Resolution[3] in CA-G.R. CV No. 64240, which reversed the trial courts declaration of nullity of the herein parties marriage. The fallo of the assailed Decision reads:

WHEREFOREthe appeal is GRANTED, and the assailed Decision is SET ASIDE and VACATED while the petition for declaration of nullity of marriage is hereby DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.[4]

Factual Antecedents

Petitioner Valerio E. Kalaw (Tyrone) and respondent Ma. Elena Fernandez (Malyn) met in 1973. They maintained a relationship and eventually married in Hong Kong on November 4, 1976. They had four children, Valerio (Rio), Maria Eva (Ria), Ramon Miguel (Miggy or Mickey), and Jaime Teodoro (Jay).

Shortly after the birth of their youngest son, Tyrone had an extramarital affair with Jocelyn Quejano (Jocelyn), who gave birth to a son in March 1983.[5]

In May 1985, Malyn left the conjugal home (the house of her Kalaw in-laws) and her four children with Tyrone.[6] Meanwhile, Tyrone started living with Jocelyn, who bore him three more children.[7]

In 1990, Tyrone went to the United States (US) with Jocelyn and their children. He left his four children from his marriage with Malyn in a rented house in Valle Verde with only a househelp and a driver.[8] The househelp would just call Malyn to take care of the children whenever any of them got sick. Also, in accordance with their custody agreement, the children stayed with Malyn on weekends.[9] In 1994, the two elder children, Rio and Ria, asked for Malyns permission to go to Japan for a one-week vacation. Malyn acceded only to learn later that Tyrone brought the children to the US.[10] After just one year, Ria returned to the Philippines and chose to live with Malyn. Meanwhile, Tyrone and Jocelyns family returned to the Philippines and resumed physical custody of the two younger children, Miggy and Jay. According to Malyn, from that time on, the children refused to go to her house on weekends because of alleged weekend plans with their father.[11]

Complaint for declaration of nullity of marriage

On July 6, 1994, nine years since the de facto separation from his wife, Tyrone filed a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage based on Article 36 of the Family Code.[12] He alleged that Malyn was psychologically incapacitated to perform and comply with the essential marital obligations at the time of the celebration of their marriage. He further claimed that her psychological incapacity was manifested by her immaturity and irresponsibility towards Tyrone and their children during their cohabitation, as shown by Malyns following acts:

1. she left the children without proper care and attention as she played mahjong all day and all night; 2. she left the house to party with male friends and returned in the early hours of the following day; and 3. she committed adultery on June 9, 1985, which act Tyrone discovered in flagrante delicto.[13]

During trial,[14] Tyrone narrated the circumstances of Malyns alleged infidelity. According to him, on June 9, 1985, he and his brother-in-law, Ronald Fernandez (Malyns brother), proceeded to Hyatt Hotel and learned that Malyn was occupying a room with a certain Benjie Guevarra (Benjie). When he proceeded to the said room, he saw Benjie and Malyn inside.[15] At rebuttal, Tyrone elaborated that Benjie was wearing only a towel around his waist, while Malyn was lying in bed in her underwear. After an exchange of words, he agreed not to charge Malyn with adultery when the latter agreed to relinquish all her marital and parental rights.[16] They put their agreement in writing before Atty. Jose Palarca.

Tyrone presented a psychologist, Dr. Cristina Gates (Dr. Gates), and a Catholic canon law expert, Fr. Gerard Healy, S.J. (Fr. Healy), to testify on Malyns psychological incapacity. Dr. Gates explained on the stand that the factual allegations regarding Malyns behavior her sexual infidelity, habitual mahjong playing, and her frequent nights-out with friends may reflect a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).[17] NPD is present when a person is obsessed to meet her wants and needs in utter disregard of her

significant others.[18] Malyns NPD is manifest in her utter neglect of her duties as a mother.[19] Dr. Gates reported that Malyns personality disorder may have been evident even prior to her marriage because it is rooted in her family background and upbringing, which the psychologist gathered to be materially deprived and without a proper maternal role model.[20]

Dr. Gates based her diagnosis on the facts revealed by her interviews with Tyrone, Trinidad Kalaw (Tyrones sister-in-law), and the son Miggy. She also read the transcript of Tyrones court testimony.[21] Fr. Healy corroborated Dr. Gates assessment. He concluded that Malyn was psychologically incapacitated to perform her marital duties.[22] He explained that her psychological incapacity is rooted in her role as the breadwinner of her family. This role allegedly inflated Malyns ego to the point that her needs became priority, while her kids and husbands needs became secondary. Malyn is so self-absorbed that she is incapable of prioritizing her familys needs.

Fr. Healy clarified that playing mahjong and spending time with friends are not disorders by themselves. They only constitute psychological incapacity whenever inordinate amounts of time are spent on these activities to the detriment of ones familial duties.[23] Fr. Healy characterized Malyns psychological incapacity as grave and incurable.[24]

He based his opinion on his interview with Tyrone, the trial transcripts, as well as the report of Dr. Natividad Dayan (Dr. Dayan), Malyns expert witness.[25] He clarified that he did not verify the truthfulness of the factual allegations regarding Malyns habits because he believed it is the courts duty to do so.[26] Instead, he formed his opinion on the assumption that the factual allegations are indeed true. Malyns version

Malyn denied being psychologically incapacitated.[27] While she admitted playing mahjong, she denied playing as frequently as Tyrone alleged. She maintained that she did so only two to three times a week and always between 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. only.[28] And in those instances, she always had Tyrones permission and would often bring the children and their respective yayas with her.[29] She maintained that she did not neglect her duties as mother and wife.

Malyn admitted leaving the conjugal home in May 1985. She, however, explained that she did so only to escape her physically abusive husband.[30] On the day she left, Tyrone, who preferred to keep Malyn a housewife, was upset that Malyn was preparing to go to work. He called up the security guards and instructed them not to let Malyn out of the house. Tyrone then placed cigarette ashes on Malyns head and proceeded to lock the bedroom doors. Fearing another beating, Malyn rushed out of their bedroom and into her mother-in-laws room. She blurted that Tyrone would beat her up again so her mother-in-law gave her P300 to leave the house.[31] She never returned to their conjugal home. Malyn explained that she applied for work, against Tyrones wishes, because she wanted to be self-sufficient. Her resolve came from her discovery that Tyrone had a son by Jocelyn and had secretly gone to the US with Jocelyn.[32]

Malyn denied the allegation of adultery. She maintained that Benjie only booked a room at the Hyatt Hotel for her because she was so drunk after partying with friends. She admitted finding her brother Ronald and Tyrone at the door of the Hyatt Hotel room, but maintained being fully clothed at that time.[33] Malyn insisted that she wrote the letter relinquishing all her spousal and parental rights under duress.[34]

After the Hyatt Hotel incident, Malyn only saw her children by surreptitiously visiting them in school. She later obtained partial custody of the children as an incident to the legal separation action filed by Tyrone against her (which action was subsequently dismissed for lack of interest).

As an affirmative defense, Malyn maintained that it was Tyrone who was suffering from psychological incapacity, as manifested by his drug dependence, habitual drinking, womanizing, and physical violence.[35] Malyn presented Dr. Dayan a clinical psychologist, as her expert witness.

Dr. Dayan interviewed Tyrone, Malyn, Miggy/Mickey, Jay, and Ria for her psychological evaluation of the spouses. The factual narrations culled from these interviews reveal that Tyrone found Malyn a lousy mother because of her mahjong habit,[36] while Malyn was fed up with Tyrones sexual infidelity, drug habit, and physical abuse.[37] Dr. Dayan determined that both Tyrone and Malyn were behaviorally immature. They encountered problems because of their personality differences, which ultimately led to the demise of their marriage. Her diagnostic impressions are summarized below:
The marriage of Tyrone and Malyn was a mistake from the very beginning. Both of them were not truly ready for marriage even after two years of living together and having a child. When Malyn first met Tyrone who showered her with gifts, flowers, and affection she resisted his overtures. She made it clear that she could take him or leave him. But the minute she started to care, she became a different person clingy and immature, doubting his love, constantly demanding reassurance that she was the most important person in his life. She became relationship-dependent. It appears that her style then was when she begins to care for a man, she puts all her energy into him and loses focus on herself. This imbalance between thinking and feeling was overwhelming to Tyrone who admitted that the thought of commitment scared him. Tyrone admitted that when he was in his younger years, he was often out seeking other women. His interest in them was not necessarily for sex, just for fun dancing, drinking, or simply flirting. Both of them seem behaviorally immature. For some time, Malyn adapted to her husband who was a moody man with short temper and unresolved issues with parents and siblings. He was a distancer, concerned more about his work and friends tha[n] he was about spending time with his family. Because of Malyns and Tyrones backgrounds (both came from families with high conflicts) they experienced turmoil and chaos in their marriage. The conflicts they had struggled to avoid suddenly galloped out of control Their individual personalities broke through, precipitating the demise of their marriage.[38]

Dr. Dayan likewise wrote in her psychological evaluation report that Malyn exhibited significant, but not severe, dependency, narcissism, and

compulsiveness.[39]

On the stand, the psychologist elaborated that while Malyn had relationship problems with Tyrone, she appeared to have a good relationship with her kids.[40] As for Tyrone, he has commitment issues which prevent him from committing himself to his

duties as a husband. He is unable to remain faithful to Malyn and is psychologically incapacitated to perform this duty.[41] Childrens version

The children all stated that both their parents took care of them, provided for their needs, and loved them. Rio testified that they would accompany their mother to White Plains on days that she played mahjong with her friends. None of them reported being neglected or feeling abandoned.

The two elder kids remembered the fights between their parents but it was only Ria who admitted actually witnessing physical abuse inflicted on her mother.[42] The two elder kids also recalled that, after the separation, their mother would visit them only in school.[43]

The children recalled living in Valle Verde with only the househelp and driver during the time that their dad was abroad.[44] While they did not live with their mother while they were housed in Valle Verde, the kids were in agreement that their mother took care of them on weekends and would see to their needs. They had a common recollection that the househelp would call their mother to come and take care of them in Valle Verde whenever any of them was sick.[45] Other witnesses Dr. Cornelio Banaag, Tyrones attending psychiatrist at the Manila Sanitarium, testified that, for the duration of Tyrones confinement, the couple appeared happy and the wife was commendable for the support she gave to her spouse.[46] He likewise testified that Tyrone tested negative for drugs and was not a drug dependent.[47] Malyns brother, Ronald Fernandez, confirmed Tyrones allegation that they found Malyn with Benjie in the Hyatt hotel room. Contrary to Tyrones version, he testified that neither he nor Tyrone entered the room, but stayed in the hallway. He likewise did not recall seeing Benjie or Malyn half-naked.[48]

Tyrone then presented Mario Calma (Mario), who was allegedly part of Malyns group of friends. He stated on the stand that they would go on nights-out as a group and Malyn would meet with a male musician-friend afterwards.[49]

Social worker

The trial court ordered the court social worker, Jocelyn V. Arre (Arre), to conduct a social case study on the parties as well as the minor children. Arre interviewed the parties Tyrone and Malyn; the minor children Miggy/Mickey and Jay; Tyrones live-in partner, Jocelyn;[50] and Tyrone and Malyns only daughter, Ria. While both parents are financially stable and have positive relationships with their children, she recommended that the custody of the minor children be awarded to Malyn. Based on the interviews of family members themselves, Malyn was shown to be more available to the children and to exercise better supervision and care. The social worker commended the fact that even after Malyn left the conjugal home in 1985, she made efforts to visit her children clandestinely in their respective schools. And while she was only granted weekend custody of the children, it appeared that she made efforts to personally attend to their needs and to devote time with them.[51] On the contrary, Tyrone, who had custody of the children since the couples de facto separation, simply left the children for several years with only a maid and a driver to care for them while he lived with his second family abroad.[52] The social worker found that Tyrone tended to prioritize his second family to the detriment of his children with Malyn. Given this history during the formative years of the children, the social worker did not find Tyrone a reliable parent to whom custody of adolescents may be awarded.

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court[53]

After summarizing the evidence presented by both parties, the trial court concluded that both parties are psychologically incapacitated to perform the essential marital obligations under the Family Code. The courts Decision is encapsulated in this paragraph:

From the evidence, it appears that parties are both suffering from psychological incapacity to perform their essential marital obligations under Article 36 of the Family Code. The parties entered into a marriage without as much as understanding what it entails. They failed to commit themselves to its essential obligations: the conjugal act, the community of life and love, the rendering of mutual help, the procreation and education of their children to become responsible individuals. Parties psychological incapacity is grave, and serious such that both are incapable of carrying out the ordinary duties required in marriage. The incapacity has been clinically established and was found to be pervasive, grave and incurable.[54]

The trial court then declared the parties marriage void ab initio pursuant to Article 36 of the Family Code.[55]

Ruling of the Court of Appeals[56] Malyn appealed the trial courts Decision to the CA. The CA reversed the trial courts ruling because it is not supported by the facts on record. Both parties allegations and incriminations against each other do not support a finding of psychological incapacity. The parties faults tend only to picture their immaturity and irresponsibility in performing their marital and familial obligations. At most, there may be sufficient grounds for a legal separation.[57] Moreover, the psychological report submitted by petitioners expert witness, Dr. Gates, does not explain how the diagnosis of NPD came to be drawn from the sources. It failed to satisfy the legal and jurisprudential requirements for the declaration of nullity of marriage.[58]

Tyrone filed a motion for reconsideration[59] but the same was denied on December 15, 2004.[60] Petitioners arguments

Petitioner Tyrone argues that the CA erred in disregarding the factual findings of the trial court, which is the court that is in the best position to appreciate the evidence. He opines that he has presented preponderant evidence to prove that respondent is psychologically incapacitated to perform her essential marital obligations, to wit:

a) the expert witnesses, Dr. Gates and Fr. Healy, proved on the stand that respondents egocentric attitude, immaturity, self-obsession and self-centeredness were manifestations of respondents NPD;[61]

b) these expert witnesses proved that respondents NPD is grave and incurable and prevents her from performing her essential martial obligations;[62] and c) that respondents NPD existed at the time of the celebration of the marriage because it is rooted in her upbringing, family background, and socialite lifestyle prior to her marriage.[63]

Petitioner stresses that even respondent insisted that their marriage is void because of psychological incapacity, albeit on petitioners part.[64] Respondents arguments

Respondent maintains that Tyrone failed to discharge his burden of proving her alleged psychological incapacity.[65] She argues that the testimonies of her children and the findings of the court social worker to the effect that she was a good, loving, and attentive mother are sufficient to rebut Tyrones allegation that she was negligent and irresponsible.[66] She assails Dr. Gatess report as one-sided and lacking in depth. Dr. Gates did not interview her, their common children, or even Jocelyn. Moreover, her report failed to state that Malyns alleged psychological incapacity was grave and incurable.[67] Fr. Healys testimony, on the other hand, was based only on Tyrones version of the facts.[68] Malyn reiterates the appellate courts ruling that the trial court Decision is intrinsically defective for failing to support its conclusion of psychological incapacity with factual findings.

Almost four years after filing her memorandum, respondent apparently had a change of heart and filed a Manifestation with Motion for Leave to Withdraw Comment and Memorandum.[69] She manifested that she was no longer disputing the possibility that their marriage may really be void on the basis of Tyrones psychological incapacity.

She then asked the Court to dispose of the case with justice.[70] Her manifestation and motion were noted by the Court in its January 20, 2010 Resolution.[71]

Issue

Whether petitioner has sufficiently proved that respondent suffers from psychological incapacity

Our Ruling

The petition has no merit. The CA committed no reversible error in setting aside the trial courts Decision for lack of legal and factual basis.

A petition for declaration of nullity of marriage is governed by Article 36 of the Family Code which provides:
ART. 36. A marriage contracted by any party who, at the time of the celebration, was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations of marriage, shall likewise be void even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after its solemnization.

Psychological incapacity is the downright incapacity or inability to take cognizance of and to assume the basic marital obligations.[72] The burden of proving psychological incapacity is on the plaintiff.[73] The plaintiff must prove that the incapacitated party, based on his or her actions or behavior, suffers a serious psychological disorder that completely disables him or her from understanding and discharging the essential obligations of the marital state. The psychological problem must be grave, must have existed at the time of marriage, and must be incurable.[74]

In the case at bar, petitioner failed to prove that his wife (respondent) suffers from psychological incapacity. He presented the testimonies of two supposed expert witnesses who concluded that respondent is psychologically incapacitated, but the conclusions of these witnesses were premised on the alleged acts or behavior of respondent which had not been sufficiently proven. Petitioners experts heavily relied on petitioners allegations of respondents constant mahjong sessions, visits to the beauty parlor, going out with friends, adultery, and neglect of their children. Petitioners experts opined that

respondents alleged habits, when performed constantly to the detriment of quality and quantity of time devoted to her duties as mother and wife, constitute a psychological incapacity in the form of NPD. But petitioners allegations, which served as the bases or underlying premises of the conclusions of his experts, were not actually proven. In fact, respondent presented contrary evidence refuting these allegations of the petitioner.

For instance, petitioner alleged that respondent constantly played mahjong and neglected their children as a result. Respondent admittedly played mahjong, but it was not proven that she engaged in mahjong so frequently that she neglected her duties as a mother and a wife. Respondent refuted petitioners allegations that she played four to five times a week. She maintained it was only two to three times a week and always with the permission of her husband and without abandoning her children at home. The children corroborated this, saying that they were with their mother when she played mahjong in their relatives home. Petitioner did not present any proof, other than his own testimony, that the mahjong sessions were so frequent that respondent neglected her family. While he intimated that two of his sons repeated the second grade, he was not able to link this episode to respondents mahjong-playing. The least that could have been done was to prove the frequency of respondents mahjong-playing during the years when these two children were in second grade. This was not done. Thus, while there is no dispute that respondent played mahjong, its alleged debilitating frequency and adverse effect on the children were not proven. Also unproven was petitioners claim about respondents alleged constant visits to the beauty parlor, going out with friends, and obsessive need for attention from other men. No proof whatsoever was presented to prove her visits to beauty salons or her frequent partying with friends. Petitioner presented Mario (an alleged companion of respondent during these nights-out) in order to prove that respondent had affairs with other men, but Mario only testified that respondent appeared to be dating other men. Even assuming arguendo that petitioner was able to prove that respondent had an extramarital affair with another man, that one instance of sexual infidelity cannot, by itself, be equated with obsessive need for attention from other men. Sexual infidelity per

se is a ground for legal separation, but it does not necessarily constitute psychological incapacity.

Given the insufficiency of evidence that respondent actually engaged in the behaviors described as constitutive of NPD, there is no basis for concluding that she was indeed psychologically incapacitated. Indeed, the totality of the evidence points to the opposite conclusion. A fair assessment of the facts would show that respondent was not totally remiss and incapable of appreciating and performing her marital and parental duties. Not once did the children state that they were neglected by their mother. On the contrary, they narrated that she took care of them, was around when they were sick, and cooked the food they like. It appears that respondent made real efforts to see and take care of her children despite her estrangement from their father. There was no testimony whatsoever that shows abandonment and neglect of familial duties. While petitioner cites the fact that his two sons, Rio and Miggy, both failed the second elementary level despite having tutors, there is nothing to link their academic shortcomings to Malyns actions.

After poring over the records of the case, the Court finds no factual basis for the conclusion of psychological incapacity. There is no error in the CAs reversal of the trial courts ruling that there was psychological incapacity. The trial courts Decision merely summarized the allegations, testimonies, and evidence of the respective parties, but it did not actually assess the veracity of these allegations, the credibility of the witnesses, and the weight of the evidence. The trial court did not make factual findings which can serve as bases for its legal conclusion of psychological incapacity.

What transpired between the parties is acrimony and, perhaps, infidelity, which may have constrained them from dedicating the best of themselves to each other and to their children. There may be grounds for legal separation, but certainly not psychological incapacity that voids a marriage.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DENIED. The Court of Appeals May 27, 2004 Decision and its December 15, 2004 Resolution in CA-G.R. CV No. 64240 are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. L-10699 October 18, 1957 WILLIAM H. BROWN, Plaintiff-Appellant, vs. JUANITA YAMBAO, Defendant-Appellee. REYES, J.B.L., J.: chanrobles virtual law library On July 14, 1955, William H. Brown filed suit in the Court of First Instance of Manila to obtain legal separation from his lawful wife Juanita Yambao. He alleged under oath that while interned by the Japanese invaders, from 1942 to 1945, at the University of Sto. Tomas internment camp, his wife engaged in adulterous relations with one Carlos Field of whom she begot a baby girl that Brown learned of his wifes misconduct only in 1945, upon his release from internment; that thereafter the spouse lived separately and later executed a document (Annex A ) liquidating their conjugal partnership and assigning certain properties to the erring wife as her share. The complaint prayed for confirmation of the liquidation agreement; for custody of the children issued of the marriage; that the defendant be declared disqualified to succeed the plaintiff; and

for their remedy as might be just and equitable.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library Upon petition of the plaintiff, the court subsequently declared the wife in default, for failure to answer in due time, despite service of summons; and directed the City Fiscal or his representatives toinvestigate, in accordance with Article 101 of the Civil Code, whether or not a collusion exists between the parties and to report to this Court the result of his investigation within fifteen (15) days from receipt of copy of this order. The City Fiscal or his representative is also directed to intervene in the case in behalf of the State. (Rec. App. p. 9). As ordered, Assistant City Fiscal Rafael Jose appeared at the trial, and cross-examined plaintiff Brown. His questions (strenuously objected to by Brown's counsel) elicited the fact that after liberation, Brown had lived maritally with another woman and had begotten children by her. Thereafter, the court rendered judgment denying the legal separation asked, on the ground that, while the wife's adultery was established, Brown had incurred in a misconduct of similar nature that barred his right of action under Article 100 of the new Civil Code, providing: ART. 100. The legal separation may be claimed only by the innocent spouse, provided there has been no condonation or of consent to the adultery or concubinage. Where both spouses are offenders, a legal separation cannot be claimed by either of them. Collusion between the parties to obtain legal separation shall cause the dismissal of the petition. that there had been consent and connivance, and because Brown's action had prescribed under Article 102 of the same Code: ART. 102 An action for legal separation cannot be filed except within one year from and after the date on which the plaintiff became cognizant of the cause and within five years from and after date when such cause occurred. since the evidence showed that the learned of his wife's infidelity in 1945 but only filed action in 1945.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library Brown appeared to this Court, assigning the following errors: The court erred in permitting the Assistant Fiscal Rafel Jose of Manila to act as counsel for the defendant, who defaulted.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library The court erred in declaring that there was condonation of or consent to the adultery.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library The court erred in dismissing the plaintiff's complaint. Appellant Brown argues that in cross-examining him with regard to his marital relation with Lilia Deito, who was not his wife, the Assistant Fiscal acted as consel for the defaulting wife, "when the power of the prosecuting officer is limited to finding out whether or not there is collusion, and if there is no collusion, which is the fact in the case at bar, to intervene for the state which is not the fact in the instant case, the truth of the matter being that he intervened for Juanita Yambao, the defendant-appellee, who is private citizen and who is far from being the state.".chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library The argument is untenable. Collusion in matrimonial cases being "the act of married persons in procuring a divorce by mutual consent, whether by preconcerted commission by one of a matrimonial offense, or by failure, in pursuance of agreement to defend divorce proceedings" (Cyclopedia Law Dictionary; Nelson, Divorce and Separation, Section 500), it was legitimate for the Fiscal to bring to light any circumstances that could give rise to the inference that the wife's default was calculated, or agreed upon, to enable appellant to obtain the decree of legal separation that he sought without regard to the legal merits of his case. One such circumstance is obviously the fact of Brown's cohabitation with a woman other than his wife, since it bars him from claiming legal separation by express provision of Article 100 of the new Civil Code. Wherefore, such evidence of such misconduct, were proper subject of inquiry as they may justifiably be considered circumstantial evidence of collusion between the spouses.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library The policy of Article 101 of the new Civil Code, calling for the intervention of the state attorneys in case of uncontested proceedings for legal separation (and of annulment of marriages, under Article 88), is to emphasize that marriage is more than a mere contract; that it is a social institution in which the state is vitally interested, so that its continuation or interruption cannot be

made depend upon the parties themselves (Civil Code, Article 52; Adong vs, Cheong Gee, 43 Phil, 43; Ramirez vs. Gmur 42 Phil. 855; Goitia vs. Campos, 35 Phil. 252). It is consonant with this policy that the injury by the Fiscal should be allowed to focus upon any relevant matter that may indicate whether the proceedings for separation or annulment are fully justified or not.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library The court below also found, and correctly held that the appellant's action was already barred, because Brown did not petition for legal separation proceedings until ten years after he learned of his wife's adultery, which was upon his release from internment in 1945. Under Article 102 of the new Civil Code, action for legal separation can not be filed except within one (1) year from and after the plaintiff became cognizant of the cause and within five years from and after the date when such cause occurred. Appellant's brief does not even contest the correctness of such findings and conclusion.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library It is true that the wife has not interposed prescription as a defense. Nevertheless, the courts can take cognizance thereof, because actions seeking a decree of legal separation, or annulment of marriage, involve public interest and it is the policy of our law that no such decree be issued if any legal obstacles thereto appear upon the record.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library Hence, there being at least two well established statutory grounds for denying the remedy sought (commission of similar offense by petitioner and prescription of the action), it becomes unnecesary to delve further into the case and ascertain if Brown's inaction for ten years also evidences condonation or connivance on his part. Even if it did not, his situation would not be improved. It is thus needless to discuss the second assignment of error.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library The third assignment of error being a mere consequence of the others must necessarily fail with them.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library The decision appealed from is affirmed, with costs against appellant. So ordered.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library Bengzon, Paras, C.J., Padilla, Montemayor, Reyes, A., Bautista Angelo, Labrador, Concepcion, Endencia and Felix, JJ.,
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FIRST DIVISION
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,

G.R. No. 154380


Present: Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Carpio, and Azcuna, JJ.

- versus -

CIPRIANO ORBECIDO III, Respondent. x

Promulgated: October 5, 2005 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

QUISUMBING, J.:

DECISION

Given a valid marriage between two Filipino citizens, where one party is later naturalized as a foreign citizen and obtains a valid divorce decree capacitating him or her to remarry, can the Filipino spouse likewise remarry under Philippine law?

Before us is a case of first impression that behooves the Court to make a definite ruling on this apparently novel question, presented as a pure question of law. In this petition for review, the Solicitor General assails the Decision[1] dated May 15, 2002, of the Regional Trial Court of Molave, Zamboanga del Sur, Branch 23 and its Resolution[2] dated July 4, 2002 denying the motion for reconsideration. The court a quo had declared that herein respondent Cipriano Orbecido III is capacitated to remarry. The fallo of the impugned Decision reads: WHEREFORE, by virtue of the provision of the second paragraph of Art. 26 of the Family Code and by reason of the divorce decree obtained against him by his American wife, the petitioner is given the capacity to remarry under the Philippine Law. IT IS SO ORDERED.[3] The factual antecedents, as narrated by the trial court, are as follows. On May 24, 1981, Cipriano Orbecido III married Lady Myros M. Villanueva at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Lam-an, Ozamis City. Their marriage was blessed with a son and a daughter, Kristoffer Simbortriz V. Orbecido and Lady Kimberly V. Orbecido. In 1986, Ciprianos wife left for the United States bringing along their son Kristoffer. A few years later, Cipriano discovered that his wife had been naturalized as an American citizen. Sometime in 2000, Cipriano learned from his son that his wife had obtained a divorce decree and then married a certain Innocent Stanley. She, Stanley and her child by him currently live at 5566 A. Walnut Grove Avenue, San Gabriel, California. Cipriano thereafter filed with the trial court a petition for authority to remarry invoking Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code. No opposition was filed. Finding merit in the petition, the court granted the same. The Republic, herein petitioner, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), sought reconsideration but it was denied. In this petition, the OSG raises a pure question of law: WHETHER OR NOT RESPONDENT CAN REMARRY UNDER ARTICLE 26 OF THE FAMILY CODE[4] The OSG contends that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code is not applicable to the instant case because it only applies to a valid mixed marriage; that is, a marriage celebrated between a Filipino citizen and an alien. The proper remedy, according to the OSG, is to file a petition for annulment or for legal separation.[5] Furthermore, the OSG argues there is no law that governs respondents situation. The OSG posits that this is a matter of legislation and not of judicial determination.[6] For his part, respondent admits that Article 26 is not directly applicable to his case but insists that when his naturalized alien wife obtained a divorce decree which capacitated her to remarry, he is likewise capacitated by operation of law pursuant to Section 12, Article II of the Constitution.[7] At the outset, we note that the petition for authority to remarry filed before the trial court actually constituted a petition for declaratory relief. In this connection, Section 1, Rule 63 of the Rules of Court provides: RULE 63 DECLARATORY RELIEF AND SIMILAR REMEDIES

Section 1. Who may file petitionAny person interested under a deed, will, contract or other written instrument, or whose rights are affected by a statute, executive order or regulation, ordinance, or other governmental regulation may, before breach or violation thereof, bring an action in the appropriate Regional Trial Court to determine any question of construction or validity arising, and for a declaration of his rights or duties, thereunder. . . . The requisites of a petition for declaratory relief are: (1) there must be a justiciable controversy; (2) the controversy must be between persons whose interests are adverse; (3) that the party seeking the relief has a legal interest in the controversy; and (4) that the issue is ripe for judicial determination.[8] This case concerns the applicability of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 to a marriage between two Filipino citizens where one later acquired alien citizenship, obtained a divorce decree, and remarried while in the U.S.A. The interests of the parties are also adverse, as petitioner representing the State asserts its duty to protect the institution of marriage while respondent, a private citizen, insists on a declaration of his capacity to remarry. Respondent, praying for relief, has legal interest in the controversy. The issue raised is also ripe for judicial determination inasmuch as when respondent remarries, litigation ensues and puts into question the validity of his second marriage. Coming now to the substantive issue, does Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code apply to the case of respondent? Necessarily, we must dwell on how this provision had come about in the first place, and what was the intent of the legislators in its enactment? Brief Historical Background On July 6, 1987, then President Corazon Aquino signed into law Executive Order No. 209, otherwise known as the Family Code, which took effect on August 3, 1988. Article 26 thereof states: All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35, 37, and 38. On July 17, 1987, shortly after the signing of the original Family Code, Executive Order No. 227 was likewise signed into law, amending Articles 26, 36, and 39 of the Family Code. A second paragraph was added to Article 26. As so amended, it now provides: ART. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35(1), (4), (5) and (6), 36, 37 and 38.

Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law. (Emphasis supplied)
On its face, the foregoing provision does not appear to govern the situation presented by the case at hand. It seems to apply only to cases where at the time of the celebration of the marriage, the parties are a Filipino citizen and a foreigner. The instant case is one where at the time the marriage was solemnized, the parties were two Filipino citizens, but later on, the wife was naturalized as an American citizen and subsequently obtained a divorce granting her capacity to

remarry, and indeed she remarried an American citizen while residing in the U.S.A. Noteworthy, in the Report of the Public Hearings[9] on the Family Code, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) registered the following objections to Paragraph 2 of Article 26: 1. The rule is discriminatory. It discriminates

against those whose spouses are Filipinos who divorce them abroad. These spouses who are divorced will not be able to remarry, while the spouses of foreigners who validly divorce them abroad can.

2. This is the beginning of the recognition of the validity of divorce even for Filipino citizens. For those whose foreign spouses validly divorce them abroad will also be considered to be validly divorced here and can re-marry. We propose that this be deleted and made into law only after more widespread consultation. (Emphasis supplied.) Legislative Intent Records of the proceedings of the Family Code deliberations showed that the intent of Paragraph 2 of Article 26, according to Judge Alicia Sempio-Diy, a member of the Civil Code Revision Committee, is to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce, is no longer married to the Filipino spouse. Interestingly, Paragraph 2 of Article 26 traces its origin to the 1985 case of Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr.[10] The Van Dorn case involved a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner. The Court held therein that a divorce decree validly obtained by the alien spouse is valid in the Philippines, and consequently, the Filipino spouse is capacitated to remarry under Philippine law. Does the same principle apply to a case where at the time of the celebration of the marriage, the parties were Filipino citizens, but later on, one of them obtains a foreign citizenship by naturalization? The jurisprudential answer lies latent in the 1998 case of Quita v. Court of Appeals.[11] In Quita, the parties were, as in this case, Filipino citizens when they got married. The wife became a naturalized American citizen in 1954 and obtained a divorce in the same year. The Court therein hinted, by way of obiter dictum, that a Filipino divorced by his naturalized foreign spouse is no longer married under Philippine law and can thus remarry. Thus, taking into consideration the legislative intent and applying the rule of reason, we hold that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 should be interpreted to include cases involving parties who, at the time of the celebration of the marriage were Filipino citizens, but later on, one of them becomes naturalized as a foreign citizen and obtains a divorce decree. The Filipino spouse should likewise be allowed to remarry as if the other party were a foreigner at the time of the solemnization of the marriage. To rule otherwise would be to sanction absurdity and injustice. Where the interpretation of a statute according to its exact and literal import would lead to mischievous results or contravene the clear purpose of the legislature, it should be construed according to its spirit and reason, disregarding as far as necessary the letter of the law. A statute may therefore be extended to cases not within the literal meaning of its terms, so long as they come within its spirit or intent.[12] If we are to give meaning to the legislative intent to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce is no longer married to the Filipino spouse, then the instant case must be deemed as coming within the contemplation of Paragraph 2 of Article 26.

In view of the foregoing, we state the twin elements for the application of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 as follows: 1. There is a valid marriage that has been celebrated between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner; and 2. A valid divorce is obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry. The reckoning point is not the citizenship of the parties at the time of the celebration of the marriage, but their citizenship at the time a valid divorce is obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating the latter to remarry. In this case, when Ciprianos wife was naturalized as an American citizen, there was still a valid marriage that has been celebrated between her and Cipriano. As fate would have it, the naturalized alien wife subsequently obtained a valid divorce capacitating her to remarry. Clearly, the twin requisites for the application of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 are both present in this case. Thus Cipriano, the divorced Filipino spouse, should be allowed to remarry. We are also unable to sustain the OSGs theory that the proper remedy of the Filipino spouse is to file either a petition for annulment or a petition for legal separation. Annulment would be a long and tedious process, and in this particular case, not even feasible, considering that the marriage of the parties appears to have all the badges of validity. On the other hand, legal separation would not be a sufficient remedy for it would not sever the marriage tie; hence, the legally separated Filipino spouse would still remain married to the naturalized alien spouse. However, we note that the records are bereft of competent evidence duly submitted by respondent concerning the divorce decree and the naturalization of respondents wife. It is settled rule that one who alleges a fact has the burden of proving it and mere allegation is not evidence.[13] Accordingly, for his plea to prosper, respondent herein must prove his allegation that his wife was naturalized as an American citizen. Likewise, before a foreign divorce decree can be recognized by our own courts, the party pleading it must prove the divorce as a fact and demonstrate its conformity to the foreign law allowing it.[14] Such foreign law must also be proved as our courts cannot take judicial notice of foreign laws. Like any other fact, such laws must be alleged and proved.[15] Furthermore, respondent must also show that the divorce decree allows his former wife to remarry as specifically required in Article 26. Otherwise, there would be no evidence sufficient to declare that he is capacitated to enter into another marriage. Nevertheless, we are unanimous in our holding that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code (E.O. No. 209, as amended by E.O. No. 227), should be interpreted to allow a Filipino citizen, who has been divorced by a spouse who had acquired foreign citizenship and remarried, also to remarry. However, considering that in the present petition there is no sufficient evidence submitted and on record, we are unable to declare, based on respondents bare allegations that his wife, who was naturalized as an American citizen, had obtained a divorce decree and had remarried an American, that respondent is now capacitated to remarry. Such declaration could only be made properly upon respondents submission of the aforecited evidence in his favor. ACCORDINGLY, the petition by the Republic of the Philippines is GRANTED. The assailed Decision dated May 15, 2002, and Resolution dated July 4, 2002, of the Regional Trial Court of Molave, Zamboanga del Sur, Branch 23, are hereby SET ASIDE. No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Associate Justice WE CONCUR:

HILARIO G. DAVIDE, JR. Chief Justice Chairman

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO Associate Associate Justice

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA Associate Justice

CERTIFICATION Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

HILARIO G. DAVIDE, JR. Chief Justice

Rollo, pp. 20-22. Id. at 27-29. Id. at 21-22. Id. at 105. Id. at 106-110. Id. at 110. Sec. 12. The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government. [8] Office of the Ombudsman v. Ibay, G.R. No. 137538, 3 September 2001, 364 SCRA 281, 286, citing Galarosa v. Valencia, G.R. No. 109455, 11 November 1993, 227 SCRA 729, 737. [9] Held on January 27 and 28, 1988 and February 3, 1988. [10] No. L-68470, 8 October 1985, 139 SCRA 139. [11] G.R. No. 124862, 22 December 1998, 300 SCRA 406.
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

Lopez & Sons, Inc. v. Court of Tax Appeals, No. L-9274, 1 February 1957, 100 Phil. 850, 855. [13] Cortes v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 121772, 13 January 2003, 395 SCRA 33, 38. [14] Garcia v. Recio, G.R. No. 138322, 2 October 2001, 366 SCRA 437, 447. [15] Id. at 451.
[12]

FIRST DIVISION
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,

G.R. No. 154380


Present: Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Carpio, and Azcuna, JJ.

- versus -

CIPRIANO ORBECIDO III, Respondent.

Promulgated: October 5, 2005 x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

QUISUMBING, J.:

DECISION

Given a valid marriage between two Filipino citizens, where one party is later naturalized as a foreign citizen and obtains a valid divorce decree capacitating him or her to remarry, can the Filipino spouse likewise remarry under Philippine law? Before us is a case of first impression that behooves the Court to make a definite ruling on this apparently novel question, presented as a pure question of law. In this petition for review, the Solicitor General assails the Decision[1] dated May 15, 2002, of the Regional Trial Court of Molave, Zamboanga del Sur, Branch 23 and its Resolution[2] dated July 4, 2002 denying the motion for reconsideration. The court a quo had declared that herein respondent Cipriano Orbecido III is capacitated to remarry. The fallo of the impugned Decision reads: WHEREFORE, by virtue of the provision of the second paragraph of Art. 26 of the Family Code and by reason of the divorce decree obtained against him by his American wife, the petitioner is given the capacity to remarry under the Philippine Law. IT IS SO ORDERED.[3]

The factual antecedents, as narrated by the trial court, are as follows. On May 24, 1981, Cipriano Orbecido III married Lady Myros M. Villanueva at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Lam-an, Ozamis City. Their marriage was blessed with a son and a daughter, Kristoffer Simbortriz V. Orbecido and Lady Kimberly V. Orbecido. In 1986, Ciprianos wife left for the United States bringing along their son Kristoffer. A few years later, Cipriano discovered that his wife had been naturalized as an American citizen. Sometime in 2000, Cipriano learned from his son that his wife had obtained a divorce decree and then married a certain Innocent Stanley. She, Stanley and her child by him currently live at 5566 A. Walnut Grove Avenue, San Gabriel, California. Cipriano thereafter filed with the trial court a petition for authority to remarry invoking Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code. No opposition was filed. Finding merit in the petition, the court granted the same. The Republic, herein petitioner, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), sought reconsideration but it was denied. In this petition, the OSG raises a pure question of law: WHETHER OR NOT RESPONDENT CAN REMARRY UNDER ARTICLE 26 OF THE FAMILY CODE[4] The OSG contends that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code is not applicable to the instant case because it only applies to a valid mixed marriage; that is, a marriage celebrated between a Filipino citizen and an alien. The proper remedy, according to the OSG, is to file a petition for annulment or for legal separation.[5] Furthermore, the OSG argues there is no law that governs respondents situation. The OSG posits that this is a matter of legislation and not of judicial determination.[6] For his part, respondent admits that Article 26 is not directly applicable to his case but insists that when his naturalized alien wife obtained a divorce decree which capacitated her to remarry, he is likewise capacitated by operation of law pursuant to Section 12, Article II of the Constitution.[7] At the outset, we note that the petition for authority to remarry filed before the trial court actually constituted a petition for declaratory relief. In this connection, Section 1, Rule 63 of the Rules of Court provides: RULE 63 DECLARATORY RELIEF AND SIMILAR REMEDIES Section 1. Who may file petitionAny person interested under a deed, will, contract or other written instrument, or whose rights are affected by a statute, executive order or regulation, ordinance, or other governmental regulation may, before breach or violation thereof, bring an action in the appropriate Regional Trial Court to determine any question of construction or validity arising, and for a declaration of his rights or duties, thereunder. . . . The requisites of a petition for declaratory relief are: (1) there must be a justiciable controversy; (2) the controversy must be between persons whose interests are adverse; (3) that the party seeking the relief has a legal interest in the controversy; and (4) that the issue is ripe for judicial determination.[8] This case concerns the applicability of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 to a marriage between two Filipino citizens where one later acquired alien citizenship, obtained a divorce decree, and

remarried while in the U.S.A. The interests of the parties are also adverse, as petitioner representing the State asserts its duty to protect the institution of marriage while respondent, a private citizen, insists on a declaration of his capacity to remarry. Respondent, praying for relief, has legal interest in the controversy. The issue raised is also ripe for judicial determination inasmuch as when respondent remarries, litigation ensues and puts into question the validity of his second marriage. Coming now to the substantive issue, does Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code apply to the case of respondent? Necessarily, we must dwell on how this provision had come about in the first place, and what was the intent of the legislators in its enactment? Brief Historical Background On July 6, 1987, then President Corazon Aquino signed into law Executive Order No. 209, otherwise known as the Family Code, which took effect on August 3, 1988. Article 26 thereof states: All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35, 37, and 38. On July 17, 1987, shortly after the signing of the original Family Code, Executive Order No. 227 was likewise signed into law, amending Articles 26, 36, and 39 of the Family Code. A second paragraph was added to Article 26. As so amended, it now provides: ART. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35(1), (4), (5) and (6), 36, 37 and 38.

Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law. (Emphasis supplied)

On its face, the foregoing provision does not appear to govern the situation presented by the case at hand. It seems to apply only to cases where at the time of the celebration of the marriage, the parties are a Filipino citizen and a foreigner. The instant case is one where at the time the marriage was solemnized, the parties were two Filipino citizens, but later on, the wife was naturalized as an American citizen and subsequently obtained a divorce granting her capacity to remarry, and indeed she remarried an American citizen while residing in the U.S.A. Noteworthy, in the Report of the Public Hearings[9] on the Family Code, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) registered the following objections to Paragraph 2 of Article 26: 1. The rule is discriminatory. It discriminates

against those whose spouses are Filipinos who divorce them abroad. These spouses who are divorced will not be able to remarry, while the spouses of foreigners who validly divorce them abroad can.

2. This is the beginning of the recognition of the validity of divorce even for Filipino citizens. For those whose foreign spouses validly divorce them abroad will also be considered to be validly divorced here and can re-marry. We propose that this be deleted and made into law only after more widespread consultation. (Emphasis supplied.) Legislative Intent

Records of the proceedings of the Family Code deliberations showed that the intent of Paragraph 2 of Article 26, according to Judge Alicia Sempio-Diy, a member of the Civil Code Revision Committee, is to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce, is no longer married to the Filipino spouse. Interestingly, Paragraph 2 of Article 26 traces its origin to the 1985 case of Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr.[10] The Van Dorn case involved a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner. The Court held therein that a divorce decree validly obtained by the alien spouse is valid in the Philippines, and consequently, the Filipino spouse is capacitated to remarry under Philippine law. Does the same principle apply to a case where at the time of the celebration of the marriage, the parties were Filipino citizens, but later on, one of them obtains a foreign citizenship by naturalization? The jurisprudential answer lies latent in the 1998 case of Quita v. Court of Appeals.[11] In Quita, the parties were, as in this case, Filipino citizens when they got married. The wife became a naturalized American citizen in 1954 and obtained a divorce in the same year. The Court therein hinted, by way of obiter dictum, that a Filipino divorced by his naturalized foreign spouse is no longer married under Philippine law and can thus remarry. Thus, taking into consideration the legislative intent and applying the rule of reason, we hold that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 should be interpreted to include cases involving parties who, at the time of the celebration of the marriage were Filipino citizens, but later on, one of them becomes naturalized as a foreign citizen and obtains a divorce decree. The Filipino spouse should likewise be allowed to remarry as if the other party were a foreigner at the time of the solemnization of the marriage. To rule otherwise would be to sanction absurdity and injustice. Where the interpretation of a statute according to its exact and literal import would lead to mischievous results or contravene the clear purpose of the legislature, it should be construed according to its spirit and reason, disregarding as far as necessary the letter of the law. A statute may therefore be extended to cases not within the literal meaning of its terms, so long as they come within its spirit or intent.[12] If we are to give meaning to the legislative intent to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce is no longer married to the Filipino spouse, then the instant case must be deemed as coming within the contemplation of Paragraph 2 of Article 26. In view of the foregoing, we state the twin elements for the application of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 as follows: 1. There is a valid marriage that has been celebrated between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner; and 2. A valid divorce is obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry. The reckoning point is not the citizenship of the parties at the time of the celebration of the marriage, but their citizenship at the time a valid divorce is obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating the latter to remarry. In this case, when Ciprianos wife was naturalized as an American citizen, there was still a valid marriage that has been celebrated between her and Cipriano. As fate would have it, the naturalized alien wife subsequently obtained a valid divorce capacitating her to remarry. Clearly, the twin requisites for the application of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 are both present in this case. Thus Cipriano, the divorced Filipino spouse, should be allowed to remarry.

We are also unable to sustain the OSGs theory that the proper remedy of the Filipino spouse is to file either a petition for annulment or a petition for legal separation. Annulment would be a long and tedious process, and in this particular case, not even feasible, considering that the marriage of the parties appears to have all the badges of validity. On the other hand, legal separation would not be a sufficient remedy for it would not sever the marriage tie; hence, the legally separated Filipino spouse would still remain married to the naturalized alien spouse. However, we note that the records are bereft of competent evidence duly submitted by respondent concerning the divorce decree and the naturalization of respondents wife. It is settled rule that one who alleges a fact has the burden of proving it and mere allegation is not evidence.[13] Accordingly, for his plea to prosper, respondent herein must prove his allegation that his wife was naturalized as an American citizen. Likewise, before a foreign divorce decree can be recognized by our own courts, the party pleading it must prove the divorce as a fact and demonstrate its conformity to the foreign law allowing it.[14] Such foreign law must also be proved as our courts cannot take judicial notice of foreign laws. Like any other fact, such laws must be alleged and proved.[15] Furthermore, respondent must also show that the divorce decree allows his former wife to remarry as specifically required in Article 26. Otherwise, there would be no evidence sufficient to declare that he is capacitated to enter into another marriage. Nevertheless, we are unanimous in our holding that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code (E.O. No. 209, as amended by E.O. No. 227), should be interpreted to allow a Filipino citizen, who has been divorced by a spouse who had acquired foreign citizenship and remarried, also to remarry. However, considering that in the present petition there is no sufficient evidence submitted and on record, we are unable to declare, based on respondents bare allegations that his wife, who was naturalized as an American citizen, had obtained a divorce decree and had remarried an American, that respondent is now capacitated to remarry. Such declaration could only be made properly upon respondents submission of the aforecited evidence in his favor. ACCORDINGLY, the petition by the Republic of the Philippines is GRANTED. The assailed Decision dated May 15, 2002, and Resolution dated July 4, 2002, of the Regional Trial Court of Molave, Zamboanga del Sur, Branch 23, are hereby SET ASIDE. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED.

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Associate Justice WE CONCUR:

HILARIO G. DAVIDE, JR. Chief Justice Chairman

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Justice

Associate Associate Justice

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA Associate Justice

CERTIFICATION Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

HILARIO G. DAVIDE, JR. Chief Justice

Rollo, pp. 20-22. Id. at 27-29. Id. at 21-22. Id. at 105. Id. at 106-110. Id. at 110. Sec. 12. The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government. [8] Office of the Ombudsman v. Ibay, G.R. No. 137538, 3 September 2001, 364 SCRA 281, 286, citing Galarosa v. Valencia, G.R. No. 109455, 11 November 1993, 227 SCRA 729, 737. [9] Held on January 27 and 28, 1988 and February 3, 1988. [10] No. L-68470, 8 October 1985, 139 SCRA 139. [11] G.R. No. 124862, 22 December 1998, 300 SCRA 406. [12] Lopez & Sons, Inc. v. Court of Tax Appeals, No. L-9274, 1 February 1957, 100 Phil. 850, 855. [13] Cortes v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 121772, 13 January 2003, 395 SCRA 33, 38. [14] Garcia v. Recio, G.R. No. 138322, 2 October 2001, 366 SCRA 437, 447. [15] Id. at 451.
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

FIRST DIVISION
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,

G.R. No. 154380


Present: Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Carpio, and Azcuna, JJ.

- versus -

CIPRIANO ORBECIDO III, Respondent.

Promulgated: October 5, 2005 x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

QUISUMBING, J.:

DECISION

Given a valid marriage between two Filipino citizens, where one party is later naturalized as a foreign citizen and obtains a valid divorce decree capacitating him or her to remarry, can the Filipino spouse likewise remarry under Philippine law? Before us is a case of first impression that behooves the Court to make a definite ruling on this apparently novel question, presented as a pure question of law. In this petition for review, the Solicitor General assails the Decision[1] dated May 15, 2002, of the Regional Trial Court of Molave, Zamboanga del Sur, Branch 23 and its Resolution[2] dated July 4, 2002 denying the motion for reconsideration. The court a quo had declared that herein respondent Cipriano Orbecido III is capacitated to remarry. The fallo of the impugned Decision reads: WHEREFORE, by virtue of the provision of the second paragraph of Art. 26 of the Family Code and by reason of the divorce decree obtained against him by his American wife, the petitioner is given the capacity to remarry under the Philippine Law. IT IS SO ORDERED.[3] The factual antecedents, as narrated by the trial court, are as follows. On May 24, 1981, Cipriano Orbecido III married Lady Myros M. Villanueva at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Lam-an, Ozamis City. Their marriage was blessed with a son and a daughter, Kristoffer Simbortriz V. Orbecido and Lady Kimberly V. Orbecido. In 1986, Ciprianos wife left for the United States bringing along their son Kristoffer. A few years later, Cipriano discovered that his wife had been naturalized as an American citizen. Sometime in 2000, Cipriano learned from his son that his wife had obtained a divorce decree and then married a certain Innocent Stanley. She, Stanley and her child by him currently live at 5566 A. Walnut Grove Avenue, San Gabriel, California. Cipriano thereafter filed with the trial court a petition for authority to remarry invoking Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code. No opposition was filed. Finding

merit in the petition, the court granted the same. The Republic, herein petitioner, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), sought reconsideration but it was denied. In this petition, the OSG raises a pure question of law: WHETHER OR NOT RESPONDENT CAN REMARRY UNDER ARTICLE 26 OF THE FAMILY CODE[4] The OSG contends that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code is not applicable to the instant case because it only applies to a valid mixed marriage; that is, a marriage celebrated between a Filipino citizen and an alien. The proper remedy, according to the OSG, is to file a petition for annulment or for legal separation.[5] Furthermore, the OSG argues there is no law that governs respondents situation. The OSG posits that this is a matter of legislation and not of judicial determination.[6] For his part, respondent admits that Article 26 is not directly applicable to his case but insists that when his naturalized alien wife obtained a divorce decree which capacitated her to remarry, he is likewise capacitated by operation of law pursuant to Section 12, Article II of the Constitution.[7] At the outset, we note that the petition for authority to remarry filed before the trial court actually constituted a petition for declaratory relief. In this connection, Section 1, Rule 63 of the Rules of Court provides: RULE 63 DECLARATORY RELIEF AND SIMILAR REMEDIES Section 1. Who may file petitionAny person interested under a deed, will, contract or other written instrument, or whose rights are affected by a statute, executive order or regulation, ordinance, or other governmental regulation may, before breach or violation thereof, bring an action in the appropriate Regional Trial Court to determine any question of construction or validity arising, and for a declaration of his rights or duties, thereunder. . . . The requisites of a petition for declaratory relief are: (1) there must be a justiciable controversy; (2) the controversy must be between persons whose interests are adverse; (3) that the party seeking the relief has a legal interest in the controversy; and (4) that the issue is ripe for judicial determination.[8] This case concerns the applicability of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 to a marriage between two Filipino citizens where one later acquired alien citizenship, obtained a divorce decree, and remarried while in the U.S.A. The interests of the parties are also adverse, as petitioner representing the State asserts its duty to protect the institution of marriage while respondent, a private citizen, insists on a declaration of his capacity to remarry. Respondent, praying for relief, has legal interest in the controversy. The issue raised is also ripe for judicial determination inasmuch as when respondent remarries, litigation ensues and puts into question the validity of his second marriage. Coming now to the substantive issue, does Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code apply to the case of respondent? Necessarily, we must dwell on how this provision had come about in the first place, and what was the intent of the legislators in its enactment? Brief Historical Background On July 6, 1987, then President Corazon Aquino signed into law Executive Order No. 209, otherwise known as the Family

Code, which took effect on August 3, 1988. Article 26 thereof states: All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35, 37, and 38. On July 17, 1987, shortly after the signing of the original Family Code, Executive Order No. 227 was likewise signed into law, amending Articles 26, 36, and 39 of the Family Code. A second paragraph was added to Article 26. As so amended, it now provides: ART. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35(1), (4), (5) and (6), 36, 37 and 38.

Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law. (Emphasis supplied)

On its face, the foregoing provision does not appear to govern the situation presented by the case at hand. It seems to apply only to cases where at the time of the celebration of the marriage, the parties are a Filipino citizen and a foreigner. The instant case is one where at the time the marriage was solemnized, the parties were two Filipino citizens, but later on, the wife was naturalized as an American citizen and subsequently obtained a divorce granting her capacity to remarry, and indeed she remarried an American citizen while residing in the U.S.A. Noteworthy, in the Report of the Public Hearings[9] on the Family Code, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) registered the following objections to Paragraph 2 of Article 26: 1. The rule is discriminatory. It discriminates

against those whose spouses are Filipinos who divorce them abroad. These spouses who are divorced will not be able to remarry, while the spouses of foreigners who validly divorce them abroad can.

2. This is the beginning of the recognition of the validity of divorce even for Filipino citizens. For those whose foreign spouses validly divorce them abroad will also be considered to be validly divorced here and can re-marry. We propose that this be deleted and made into law only after more widespread consultation. (Emphasis supplied.) Legislative Intent Records of the proceedings of the Family Code deliberations showed that the intent of Paragraph 2 of Article 26, according to Judge Alicia Sempio-Diy, a member of the Civil Code Revision Committee, is to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce, is no longer married to the Filipino spouse. Interestingly, Paragraph 2 of Article 26 traces its origin to the 1985 case of Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr.[10] The Van Dorn case involved a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner. The Court held therein that a divorce decree validly obtained by the alien spouse is valid in the Philippines, and consequently, the Filipino spouse is capacitated to remarry under Philippine law. Does the same principle apply to a case where at the time of the celebration of the marriage, the parties were Filipino citizens, but later on, one of them obtains a foreign citizenship by naturalization?

Quita v. Court of Appeals.[11] In Quita, the parties were, as in


this case, Filipino citizens when they got married. The wife became a naturalized American citizen in 1954 and obtained a divorce in the same year. The Court therein hinted, by way of obiter dictum, that a Filipino divorced by his naturalized foreign spouse is no longer married under Philippine law and can thus remarry. Thus, taking into consideration the legislative intent and applying the rule of reason, we hold that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 should be interpreted to include cases involving parties who, at the time of the celebration of the marriage were Filipino citizens, but later on, one of them becomes naturalized as a foreign citizen and obtains a divorce decree. The Filipino spouse should likewise be allowed to remarry as if the other party were a foreigner at the time of the solemnization of the marriage. To rule otherwise would be to sanction absurdity and injustice. Where the interpretation of a statute according to its exact and literal import would lead to mischievous results or contravene the clear purpose of the legislature, it should be construed according to its spirit and reason, disregarding as far as necessary the letter of the law. A statute may therefore be extended to cases not within the literal meaning of its terms, so long as they come within its spirit or intent.[12] If we are to give meaning to the legislative intent to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce is no longer married to the Filipino spouse, then the instant case must be deemed as coming within the contemplation of Paragraph 2 of Article 26. In view of the foregoing, we state the twin elements for the application of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 as follows: 1. There is a valid marriage that has been celebrated between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner; and 2. A valid divorce is obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry. The reckoning point is not the citizenship of the parties at the time of the celebration of the marriage, but their citizenship at the time a valid divorce is obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating the latter to remarry. In this case, when Ciprianos wife was naturalized as an American citizen, there was still a valid marriage that has been celebrated between her and Cipriano. As fate would have it, the naturalized alien wife subsequently obtained a valid divorce capacitating her to remarry. Clearly, the twin requisites for the application of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 are both present in this case. Thus Cipriano, the divorced Filipino spouse, should be allowed to remarry. We are also unable to sustain the OSGs theory that the proper remedy of the Filipino spouse is to file either a petition for annulment or a petition for legal separation. Annulment would be a long and tedious process, and in this particular case, not even feasible, considering that the marriage of the parties appears to have all the badges of validity. On the other hand, legal separation would not be a sufficient remedy for it would not sever the marriage tie; hence, the legally separated Filipino spouse would still remain married to the naturalized alien spouse. However, we note that the records are bereft of competent evidence duly submitted by respondent concerning the divorce decree and the naturalization of respondents wife. It is settled rule that one who alleges a fact has the burden of proving it and mere allegation is not evidence.[13] Accordingly, for his plea to prosper, respondent herein must prove his allegation that his wife was naturalized

The jurisprudential answer lies latent in the 1998 case of

as an American citizen. Likewise, before a foreign divorce decree can be recognized by our own courts, the party pleading it must prove the divorce as a fact and demonstrate its conformity to the foreign law allowing it.[14] Such foreign law must also be proved as our courts cannot take judicial notice of foreign laws. Like any other fact, such laws must be alleged and proved.[15] Furthermore, respondent must also show that the divorce decree allows his former wife to remarry as specifically required in Article 26. Otherwise, there would be no evidence sufficient to declare that he is capacitated to enter into another marriage. Nevertheless, we are unanimous in our holding that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code (E.O. No. 209, as amended by E.O. No. 227), should be interpreted to allow a Filipino citizen, who has been divorced by a spouse who had acquired foreign citizenship and remarried, also to remarry. However, considering that in the present petition there is no sufficient evidence submitted and on record, we are unable to declare, based on respondents bare allegations that his wife, who was naturalized as an American citizen, had obtained a divorce decree and had remarried an American, that respondent is now capacitated to remarry. Such declaration could only be made properly upon respondents submission of the aforecited evidence in his favor. ACCORDINGLY, the petition by the Republic of the Philippines is GRANTED. The assailed Decision dated May 15, 2002, and Resolution dated July 4, 2002, of the Regional Trial Court of Molave, Zamboanga del Sur, Branch 23, are hereby SET ASIDE. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED.

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Associate Justice WE CONCUR:

HILARIO G. DAVIDE, JR. Chief Justice Chairman

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO Associate Associate Justice

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA Associate Justice

CERTIFICATION Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

HILARIO G. DAVIDE, JR. Chief Justice

Rollo, pp. 20-22. Id. at 27-29. Id. at 21-22. Id. at 105. Id. at 106-110. Id. at 110. Sec. 12. The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government. [8] Office of the Ombudsman v. Ibay, G.R. No. 137538, 3 September 2001, 364 SCRA 281, 286, citing Galarosa v. Valencia, G.R. No. 109455, 11 November 1993, 227 SCRA 729, 737. [9] Held on January 27 and 28, 1988 and February 3, 1988. [10] No. L-68470, 8 October 1985, 139 SCRA 139. [11] G.R. No. 124862, 22 December 1998, 300 SCRA 406. [12] Lopez & Sons, Inc. v. Court of Tax Appeals, No. L-9274, 1 February 1957, 100 Phil. 850, 855. [13] Cortes v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 121772, 13 January 2003, 395 SCRA 33, 38. [14] Garcia v. Recio, G.R. No. 138322, 2 October 2001, 366 SCRA 437, 447. [15] Id. at 451.
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]
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