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514 SCRA 294 Civil Law Family Code Retroactive Effect of Article 26

of the Family Code

During his lifetime, Felicisimo San Luis (Rodolfo San Luiss dad) contracted
three marriages. His first marriage was with Virginia Sulit on March 17,
1942 out of which were born six children. On August 11, 1963, Virginia
predeceased Felicisimo.

Five years later, on May 1, 1968, Felicisimo married Merry Lee Corwin,
with whom he had a son, Tobias. However, on October 15, 1971, Merry
Lee, an American citizen, filed a Complaint for Divorce before the Family
Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii, which issued a Decree Granting
Absolute Divorce and Awarding Child Custody on December 14, 1973. On
June 20, 1974, Felicisimo married Felicidad San Luis, then surnamed
Sagalongos. He had no children with Felicidad but lived with her for 18
years from the time of their marriage up to his death on December 18,
1992. Upon death of his dad, Rodolfo sought the dissolution of their
Felicisimos conjugal partnership assets and the settlement of Felicisimos
estate. On December 17, 1993, Felicidad filed a petition for letters of
administration before the Regional Trial Court of Makati City. Rodolfo
claimed that Felicidad has no legal personality to file the petition because
she was only a mistress of Felicisimo since the latter, at the time of his
death, was still legally married to Merry Lee. Felicidad presented the
decree of absolute divorce issued by the Family Court of the First Circuit,
State of Hawaii to prove that the marriage of Felicisimo to Merry Lee had
already been dissolved. Thus, she claimed that Felicisimo had the legal
capacity to marry her by virtue of paragraph 2 Article 26 of the Family
Code.

Rodolfo asserted that paragraph 2, Article 26 of the Family Code cannot


be given retroactive effect to validate Felicidads bigamous marriage with
Felicisimo because this would impair vested rights in derogation of Article
256.

ISSUE: Whether or not Felicidad may file for letters of administration over
Felicisimos estate.

HELD: The divorce decree allegedly obtained by Merry Lee which


absolutely allowed Felicisimo to remarry, would have vested Felicidad with
the legal personality to file the present petition as Felicisimos surviving
spouse. However, the records show that there is insufficient evidence to
prove the validity of the divorce obtained by Merry Lee as well as the
marriage of Felicidad and Felicisimo under the laws of the U.S.A. In Garcia
v. Recio, the Court laid down the specific guidelines for pleading and
proving foreign law and divorce judgments. It held that presentation solely
of the divorce decree is insufficient and that proof of its authenticity and
due execution must be presented. Under Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132,
a writing or document may be proven as a public or official record of a
foreign country by either (1) an official publication or (2) a copy thereof
attested by the officer having legal custody of the document. If the record
is not kept in the Philippines, such copy must be (a) accompanied by a
certificate issued by the proper diplomatic or consular officer in the
Philippine foreign service stationed in the foreign country in which the
record is kept and (b) authenticated by the seal of his office.

With regard to Felicidads marriage to Felicisimo allegedly solemnized in


California, U.S.A., she submitted photocopies of the Marriage Certificate
and the annotated text of the Family Law Act of California which
purportedly show that their marriage was done in accordance with the
said law. As stated in Garcia, however, the Court cannot take judicial
notice of foreign laws as they must be alleged and proved.

The case should be remanded to the trial court for further reception of
evidence on the divorce decree obtained by Merry Lee and the marriage
of respondent and Felicisimo.