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A.M. No.

P-94-1054 March 11, 2003

EDWIN A. ACEBEDO, petitioner,


vs.
EDDIE P. ARQUERO, respondent.

CARPIO MORALES, J.:

By letter-complaint1 dated June 1, 1994, Edwin A. Acebedo charged Eddie P. Arquero, Process Server of
the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Brooke's Point, Palawan for immorality.

Complainant alleged that his wife, Dedje Irader Acebedo, a former stenographer of the MTC Brooke's
Point, and respondent unlawfully and scandalously cohabited as husband and wife at Bancudo Pulot,
Brooke's Point, Palawan as a result of which a girl, Desiree May Irader Arquero, was born to the two on
May 21, 1989. Attached to the letter-complaint was the girl's Baptismal Certificate2 reflecting the names of
respondent and Dedje Irader as her parents. Also attached to the letter-complaint was a copy of a
marriage contract 3 showing that complainant and Dedje Irader contracted marriage on July 10, 1979.

By Resolution of September 7, 1994, this Court required respondent to file an answer to the complaint. 4

By his Answer5 of October 6, 1994, respondent vehemently denied the charge of immorality, claiming that
it is "just a (sic) mere harassment and a product of complainant's hatred and extreme jealousy to (sic) his
wife."6 Attached to the answer were the September 27, 1987 affidavit of desistance7 executed by
complainant in favor of his wife with respect to an administrative complaint he had much earlier filed
against her, and complainant's sworn statement8 dated September 13, 1994 acknowledging paternity of a
child born out of wedlock, which documents, respondent claims, support his contention that the complaint
filed against him is but a malicious scheme concocted by complainant to harass him.

Additionally, respondent claimed that sometime in 1991, complainant likewise instituted a criminal
complaint against him for "adultery" which was, however, dismissed after preliminary investigation.

Finally, respondent claimed that complainant himself had been cohabiting with another woman.

By Resolution of February 6, 1995, this Court referred the case to then Executive Judge Filomeno A.
Vergara of the Regional Trial Court of Puerto Princesa, Palawan for investigation, report and
recommendation.9 Judge Vergara having retired during the pendency of the investigation, the case was
referred to Executive Judge Nelia Y. Fernandez who was, by Resolution of August 16, 2000, directed by
this Court to (1) verify the authenticity of the marriage certificate and baptismal certificate submitted by
complainant; (2) conduct an investigation as to the information contained in the said baptismal certificate
and the circumstances under which it was issued, and such other verifiable matters relevant to the
charge; and (3) submit her report and recommendation thereon.10

In her Investigation Report of February 12, 2001, Judge Fernandez recommends that the complaint be
dismissed for failure to adduce adequate evidence to show that respondent is guilty of the charge. 11 The
report focuses on the non-appearance of complainant and Dedje Irader Acebedo, thusly:

xxx xxx xxx

Having appeared that the complainant Edwin Acebedo and Dedjie Irader who per reliable
information cannot be notified for reason that subject persons are no longer residing in their given
address and their whereabouts is unknown as shown by the return of the subpoena dated
November 7, 2000, and the inadmissibility of the baptismal certificate alleging therein that the
father of Desiree Arquero is the respondent herein, and for the reason that the same had not
been testified to by Dedje Irader who is the informant of the entries contained therein, this Court
had not received adequate proof or relevant evidence to support a conclusion that respondent
herein could be held liable of the charge imputed against him, hence, he should be absolved from
any liability.

xxx xxx xxx12 (Quoted verbatim).


By Resolution of April 25, 2001, this Court referred the case to the Office of the Court Administrator
(OCA) for evaluation, report and recommendation.

By Memorandum of December 12, 2001, the OCA, disagreeing with the recommendation of the
Investigating Judge that the case should be dismissed, recommends that respondent be held guilty of
immorality and that he be suspended from office for a period of one (1) year without pay.13 Thus the OCA
ratiocinates:

. . . [R]espondent admitted the fact that for eight (8) to nine (9) months, he a single man
maintained relations with Dedje Irader Acebedo, wife of herein complainant, attended with
"sexual union" (TSN dated 23 November 2000, pp. 14-15). Based on his testimony, we observed
that respondent justified his having a relationship with Dedje I. Acebedo solely on the written
document purportedly a "Kasunduan" or agreement entered into by complainant and his wife,
consenting to and giving freedom to either of them to seek any partner and to live with him or her.
Being a court employee respondent should have known that said agreement was void despite it
having been notarized. Even granting that Dedjie I. Acebedo was separated from her husband
during their short lived relation, to hold on to said scandalous agreement and enter an immoral
relationship with a very much married woman and a co-court employee at that is highly improper.
It is contrary to the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards of Public Officials and Employees
which provides that public employees of which respondent is one, . . . "shall at all times (sic)
respect the rights of others, and shall refrain from doing acts contrary to law, good morals, good
customs, public policy, public order, public safety and public interest. Moreover, respondent
cannot seek refuge and "sling mud" at complainant for having executed an Affidavit dated
September 13, 1994, acknowledging that he bore a woman other than his wife, a child. It would
seem that respondent would want to apply the principle of in pari delicto in the instant case.
Respondent would have it appear that a married man with an extra-marital relation and an
illegitimate child is precluded from complaining if his wife enters into a relationship with another
man.

Second, the records show that an Affidavit of Desistance was executed by herein complainant.
However, a cursory reading of said document reveals that it favors only Dedje Irader Acebedo
and not herein respondent. Interestingly, the date of said affidavit is 2 September 1987.
Respondent had the temerity to claim it as evidence in his favor when the instant complaint was
only filed sometime in 1994.

Third, when respondent was asked by the investigating judge if he attended the baptism of the
daughter of Dedje Irader Acebedo, his former co-employee and ex-intimate friend, he answered,
"I did not. I'm not sure the child is mine". From his answer, we could infer that respondent did not
categorically rule out the possibility that said child might be her (sic) daughter, only that he is
doubtful of her paternity.

xxx xxx xxx14 (Emphasis supplied; underscoring in the original)

While the complainant appears to have lost interest in the prosecution of the present case, the same does
not ipso facto warrant its dismissal. Once administrative charges have been filed, this Court may not be
divested of its jurisdiction to investigate and ascertain the truth thereof. 15 For it has an interest in the
conduct of those in the service of the Judiciary and in improving the delivery of justice to the people, and
its efforts in the direction may not be derailed by the complainant's desistance from prosecuting the case
he initiated.16

On the merits of the case, the entry of respondent's name as father in the baptismal certificate of Desiree
May I. Arquero cannot be used to prove for her filiation and, therefore, cannot be availed of to imply that
respondent maintained illicit relations with Dedje Irader Acebedo. A canonical certificate is conclusive
proof only of the baptism administered, in conformity with the rites of the Catholic Church by the priest
who baptized the child, but it does not prove the veracity of the declarations and statements contained
therein which concern the relationship of the person baptized.17 It merely attests to the fact which gave
rise to its issue, and the date thereof, to wit, the fact of the administration of the sacrament on the date
stated, but not the truth of the statement therein as to the percentage of the child baptized.18

By respondent's own admission, however, he had an illicit relationship with complainant's wife:

Q: During the formal offer of the possible nature of your testimony before the Court by your
counsel, did the Court get it correct that there has been a short lived relation between you and
Dedgie Irader, am I correct in my impression?
A: During that time that I have heard she and her husband have parted ways already, I
joking informed her that she is now being separated, she is now single and is free to have some
commitment. So, I courted her and she accepted me, so we have a short lived relation and after
that we parted ways.

Q: For how long was this short lived relation you made mention a while ago?

A: May be (sic) about eight (8) to nine (9) months.

Q: When you said you have (sic) a short lived relationship from 8 to 9 months, you mean to
tell the Court that you have (sic) a sexual union with this woman?

A: Yes ma'am.19 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied).

Respondent justified his pursuing a relationship with complainant's wife with the spouses having priorly
entered into a settlement with respect to their marriage which was embodied in a "Kasunduan", the
pertinent portions of which are reproduced hereunder:

Kami, EDWIN AGUINALDO ACEBEDO at DEDJE IRADER ACEBEDO, may sapat na taong gulang,
mag-asawa, Pilipino, at kasalukuyang nakatira sa Poblacion, Broke's (sic) Point, Palawan, ay malayang
nagkasundo ng mga sumusunod:

1. Na, yayamang hindi kami magkasundo bilang mag-asawa, at magiging miserable lamang ang aming
mga buhay kung aming ipagpapatuloy pa ang aming pagsasama bilang mag-asawa, kami ay malayang
nagkasundo ngayon na maghiwalay na bilang mag-asawa, at ang bawat isa sa amin ay may kalayaan na
humanap na ng kaniyang makakasama sa buhay bilang asawa at hindi kami maghahabol sa isat isa sa
alin pa mang hukuman;

xxx xxx xxx20 (Italics supplied)

Respondent's justification fails. Being an employee of the judiciary, respondent ought to have known that
the Kasunduan had absolutely no force and effect on the validity of the marriage between complainant
and his wife. Article 1 of the Family Code provides that marriage is "an inviolable social institution whose
nature, consequences, and incidents are governed by law and not subject to stipulation." It is an
institution of public order or policy, governed by rules established by law which cannot be made
inoperative by the stipulation of the parties.21

Republic Act 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials
and Employees, enunciates the State's policy of promoting a high standard of ethics and utmost
responsibility in the public service.22

Although every office in the government service is a public trust, no position exacts a greater demand for
moral righteousness and uprightness from an individual than in the judiciary. 23 That is why this Court has
firmly laid down exacting standards morality and decency expected of those in the service of the
judiciary.24 Their conduct, not to mention behavior, is circumscribed with the heavy burden of
responsibility,25 characterized by, among other things, propriety and decorum so as to earn and keep the
public's respect and confidence in the judicial service.26 It must be free from any whiff of impropriety, not
only with respect to their duties in the judicial branch but also to their behaviour outside the court as
private individuals.27 There is no dichotomy of morality; court employees are also judged by their private
morals.28

Respondent's act of having illicit relations with complainant's wife is, within the purview of Section 46(5) of
Subtitle A, Title I, Book V of Executive Order No. 292, otherwise known as the Administrative Code of
1987, a disgraceful and immoral conduct.

Under Rule IV, Section 52A(15) of the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil
Service, an immoral conduct is classified as a grave offense which calls for a penalty of suspension for six
(6) months and one (1) day to one (1) year for the first offense, and dismissal is imposed for the second
offense.

Since the present charge of immorality against respondent constitutes his first offense, his suspension for
six (6) months and one (1) day is in order.

WHEREFORE, this Court finds respondent Eddie P. Arquero, Process Server of the Municipal Trial Court
of Brooke's Point, Palawan, GUILTY of immorality, for which he is hereby SUSPENDED for six (6)
months and one (1) day without pay with a STERN WARNING that commission of the same or similar
acts shall be dealt with severely.

Let a copy of this decision be filed in the personal record of respondent.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 174689 October 22, 2007

ROMMEL JACINTO DANTES SILVERIO, petitioner,


vs.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.

DECISION

CORONA, J.:

When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God; He created them male and female.
(Genesis 5:1-2)

Amihan gazed upon the bamboo reed planted by Bathala and she heard voices coming from
inside the bamboo. "Oh North Wind! North Wind! Please let us out!," the voices said. She pecked
the reed once, then twice. All of a sudden, the bamboo cracked and slit open. Out came two
human beings; one was a male and the other was a female. Amihan named the man "Malakas"
(Strong) and the woman "Maganda" (Beautiful). (The Legend of Malakas and Maganda)

When is a man a man and when is a woman a woman? In particular, does the law recognize the changes
made by a physician using scalpel, drugs and counseling with regard to a person’s sex? May a person
successfully petition for a change of name and sex appearing in the birth certificate to reflect the result of
a sex reassignment surgery?

On November 26, 2002, petitioner Rommel Jacinto Dantes Silverio filed a petition for the change of his
first name and sex in his birth certificate in the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 8. The petition,
docketed as SP Case No. 02-105207, impleaded the civil registrar of Manila as respondent.

Petitioner alleged in his petition that he was born in the City of Manila to the spouses Melecio Petines
Silverio and Anita Aquino Dantes on April 4, 1962. His name was registered as "Rommel Jacinto Dantes
Silverio" in his certificate of live birth (birth certificate). His sex was registered as "male."

He further alleged that he is a male transsexual, that is, "anatomically male but feels, thinks and acts as a
female" and that he had always identified himself with girls since childhood. 1 Feeling trapped in a man’s
body, he consulted several doctors in the United States. He underwent psychological examination,
hormone treatment and breast augmentation. His attempts to transform himself to a "woman" culminated
on January 27, 2001 when he underwent sex reassignment surgery2 in Bangkok, Thailand. He was
thereafter examined by Dr. Marcelino Reysio-Cruz, Jr., a plastic and reconstruction surgeon in the
Philippines, who issued a medical certificate attesting that he (petitioner) had in fact undergone the
procedure.

From then on, petitioner lived as a female and was in fact engaged to be married. He then sought to have
his name in his birth certificate changed from "Rommel Jacinto" to "Mely," and his sex from "male" to
"female."

An order setting the case for initial hearing was published in the People’s Journal Tonight, a newspaper of
general circulation in Metro Manila, for three consecutive weeks.3 Copies of the order were sent to the
Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and the civil registrar of Manila.

On the scheduled initial hearing, jurisdictional requirements were established. No opposition to the
petition was made.

During trial, petitioner testified for himself. He also presented Dr. Reysio-Cruz, Jr. and his American
fiancé, Richard P. Edel, as witnesses.
On June 4, 2003, the trial court rendered a decision4 in favor of petitioner. Its relevant portions read:

Petitioner filed the present petition not to evade any law or judgment or any infraction thereof or
for any unlawful motive but solely for the purpose of making his birth records compatible with his
present sex.

The sole issue here is whether or not petitioner is entitled to the relief asked for.

The [c]ourt rules in the affirmative.

Firstly, the [c]ourt is of the opinion that granting the petition would be more in consonance with
the principles of justice and equity. With his sexual [re-assignment], petitioner, who has always
felt, thought and acted like a woman, now possesses the physique of a female. Petitioner’s
misfortune to be trapped in a man’s body is not his own doing and should not be in any way taken
against him.

Likewise, the [c]ourt believes that no harm, injury [or] prejudice will be caused to anybody or the
community in granting the petition. On the contrary, granting the petition would bring the much-
awaited happiness on the part of the petitioner and her [fiancé] and the realization of their
dreams.

Finally, no evidence was presented to show any cause or ground to deny the present petition
despite due notice and publication thereof. Even the State, through the [OSG] has not seen fit to
interpose any [o]pposition.

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered GRANTING the petition and ordering the Civil
Registrar of Manila to change the entries appearing in the Certificate of Birth of [p]etitioner,
specifically for petitioner’s first name from "Rommel Jacinto" to MELY and petitioner’s gender
from "Male" to FEMALE. 5

On August 18, 2003, the Republic of the Philippines (Republic), thru the OSG, filed a petition for certiorari
in the Court of Appeals.6 It alleged that there is no law allowing the change of entries in the birth
certificate by reason of sex alteration.

On February 23, 2006, the Court of Appeals7 rendered a decision8 in favor of the Republic. It ruled that
the trial court’s decision lacked legal basis. There is no law allowing the change of either name or sex in
the certificate of birth on the ground of sex reassignment through surgery. Thus, the Court of Appeals
granted the Republic’s petition, set aside the decision of the trial court and ordered the dismissal of SP
Case No. 02-105207. Petitioner moved for reconsideration but it was denied.9 Hence, this petition.

Petitioner essentially claims that the change of his name and sex in his birth certificate is allowed under
Articles 407 to 413 of the Civil Code, Rules 103 and 108 of the Rules of Court and RA 9048. 10

The petition lacks merit.

A Person’s First Name Cannot Be Changed On the Ground of Sex Reassignment

Petitioner invoked his sex reassignment as the ground for his petition for change of name and sex. As
found by the trial court:

Petitioner filed the present petition not to evade any law or judgment or any infraction thereof or
for any unlawful motive but solely for the purpose of making his birth records compatible with his
present sex. (emphasis supplied)

Petitioner believes that after having acquired the physical features of a female, he became entitled to the
civil registry changes sought. We disagree.

The State has an interest in the names borne by individuals and entities for purposes of identification. 11 A
change of name is a privilege, not a right.12 Petitions for change of name are controlled by statutes.13 In
this connection, Article 376 of the Civil Code provides:

ART. 376. No person can change his name or surname without judicial authority.
This Civil Code provision was amended by RA 9048 (Clerical Error Law). In particular, Section 1 of RA
9048 provides:

SECTION 1. Authority to Correct Clerical or Typographical Error and Change of First Name or
Nickname. – No entry in a civil register shall be changed or corrected without a judicial order,
except for clerical or typographical errors and change of first name or nickname which can be
corrected or changed by the concerned city or municipal civil registrar or consul general in
accordance with the provisions of this Act and its implementing rules and regulations.

RA 9048 now governs the change of first name.14 It vests the power and authority to entertain petitions for
change of first name to the city or municipal civil registrar or consul general concerned. Under the law,
therefore, jurisdiction over applications for change of first name is now primarily lodged with the
aforementioned administrative officers. The intent and effect of the law is to exclude the change of first
name from the coverage of Rules 103 (Change of Name) and 108 (Cancellation or Correction of Entries
in the Civil Registry) of the Rules of Court, until and unless an administrative petition for change of name
is first filed and subsequently denied.15 It likewise lays down the corresponding venue,16 form17 and
procedure. In sum, the remedy and the proceedings regulating change of first name are primarily
administrative in nature, not judicial.

RA 9048 likewise provides the grounds for which change of first name may be allowed:

SECTION 4. Grounds for Change of First Name or Nickname. – The petition for change of first
name or nickname may be allowed in any of the following cases:

(1) The petitioner finds the first name or nickname to be ridiculous, tainted with dishonor or
extremely difficult to write or pronounce;

(2) The new first name or nickname has been habitually and continuously used by the petitioner
and he has been publicly known by that first name or nickname in the community; or

(3) The change will avoid confusion.

Petitioner’s basis in praying for the change of his first name was his sex reassignment. He intended to
make his first name compatible with the sex he thought he transformed himself into through surgery.
However, a change of name does not alter one’s legal capacity or civil status. 18 RA 9048 does not
sanction a change of first name on the ground of sex reassignment. Rather than avoiding confusion,
changing petitioner’s first name for his declared purpose may only create grave complications in the civil
registry and the public interest.

Before a person can legally change his given name, he must present proper or reasonable cause or any
compelling reason justifying such change.19 In addition, he must show that he will be prejudiced by the
use of his true and official name.20 In this case, he failed to show, or even allege, any prejudice that he
might suffer as a result of using his true and official name.

In sum, the petition in the trial court in so far as it prayed for the change of petitioner’s first name was not
within that court’s primary jurisdiction as the petition should have been filed with the local civil registrar
concerned, assuming it could be legally done. It was an improper remedy because the proper remedy
was administrative, that is, that provided under RA 9048. It was also filed in the wrong venue as the
proper venue was in the Office of the Civil Registrar of Manila where his birth certificate is kept. More
importantly, it had no merit since the use of his true and official name does not prejudice him at all. For all
these reasons, the Court of Appeals correctly dismissed petitioner’s petition in so far as the change of his
first name was concerned.

No Law Allows The Change of Entry In The Birth Certificate As To Sex On the Ground of Sex
Reassignment

The determination of a person’s sex appearing in his birth certificate is a legal issue and the court must
look to the statutes.21 In this connection, Article 412 of the Civil Code provides:

ART. 412. No entry in the civil register shall be changed or corrected without a judicial order.

Together with Article 376 of the Civil Code, this provision was amended by RA 9048 in so far as clerical or
typographical errors are involved. The correction or change of such matters can now be made through
administrative proceedings and without the need for a judicial order. In effect, RA 9048 removed from the
ambit of Rule 108 of the Rules of Court the correction of such errors. 22 Rule 108 now applies only to
substantial changes and corrections in entries in the civil register. 23

Section 2(c) of RA 9048 defines what a "clerical or typographical error" is:

SECTION 2. Definition of Terms. – As used in this Act, the following terms shall mean:

xxx xxx xxx

(3) "Clerical or typographical error" refers to a mistake committed in the performance of


clerical work in writing, copying, transcribing or typing an entry in the civil register that is
harmless and innocuous, such as misspelled name or misspelled place of birth or the
like, which is visible to the eyes or obvious to the understanding, and can be corrected or
changed only by reference to other existing record or records: Provided, however, That
no correction must involve the change of nationality, age, status or sex of the petitioner.
(emphasis supplied)

Under RA 9048, a correction in the civil registry involving the change of sex is not a mere clerical or
typographical error. It is a substantial change for which the applicable procedure is Rule 108 of the Rules
of Court.

The entries envisaged in Article 412 of the Civil Code and correctable under Rule 108 of the Rules of
Court are those provided in Articles 407 and 408 of the Civil Code:24

ART. 407. Acts, events and judicial decrees concerning the civil status of persons shall be
recorded in the civil register.

ART. 408. The following shall be entered in the civil register:

(1) Births; (2) marriages; (3) deaths; (4) legal separations; (5) annulments of marriage; (6)
judgments declaring marriages void from the beginning; (7) legitimations; (8) adoptions; (9)
acknowledgments of natural children; (10) naturalization; (11) loss, or (12) recovery of citizenship;
(13) civil interdiction; (14) judicial determination of filiation; (15) voluntary emancipation of a
minor; and (16) changes of name.

The acts, events or factual errors contemplated under Article 407 of the Civil Code include even those
that occur after birth.25 However, no reasonable interpretation of the provision can justify the conclusion
that it covers the correction on the ground of sex reassignment.

To correct simply means "to make or set aright; to remove the faults or error from" while to change means
"to replace something with something else of the same kind or with something that serves as a
substitute."26 The birth certificate of petitioner contained no error. All entries therein, including those
corresponding to his first name and sex, were all correct. No correction is necessary.

Article 407 of the Civil Code authorizes the entry in the civil registry of certain acts (such as legitimations,
acknowledgments of illegitimate children and naturalization), events (such as births, marriages,
naturalization and deaths) and judicial decrees (such as legal separations, annulments of marriage,
declarations of nullity of marriages, adoptions, naturalization, loss or recovery of citizenship, civil
interdiction, judicial determination of filiation and changes of name). These acts, events and judicial
decrees produce legal consequences that touch upon the legal capacity, status and nationality of a
person. Their effects are expressly sanctioned by the laws. In contrast, sex reassignment is not among
those acts or events mentioned in Article 407. Neither is it recognized nor even mentioned by any law,
expressly or impliedly.

"Status" refers to the circumstances affecting the legal situation (that is, the sum total of capacities and
incapacities) of a person in view of his age, nationality and his family membership. 27

The status of a person in law includes all his personal qualities and relations, more or less
permanent in nature, not ordinarily terminable at his own will, such as his being legitimate or
illegitimate, or his being married or not. The comprehensive term status… include such matters
as the beginning and end of legal personality, capacity to have rights in general, family relations,
and its various aspects, such as birth, legitimation, adoption, emancipation, marriage, divorce,
and sometimes even succession.28 (emphasis supplied)
A person’s sex is an essential factor in marriage and family relations. It is a part of a person’s legal
capacity and civil status. In this connection, Article 413 of the Civil Code provides:

ART. 413. All other matters pertaining to the registration of civil status shall be governed by
special laws.

But there is no such special law in the Philippines governing sex reassignment and its effects. This is fatal
to petitioner’s cause.

Moreover, Section 5 of Act 3753 (the Civil Register Law) provides:

SEC. 5. Registration and certification of births. – The declaration of the physician or midwife in
attendance at the birth or, in default thereof, the declaration of either parent of the newborn child,
shall be sufficient for the registration of a birth in the civil register. Such declaration shall be
exempt from documentary stamp tax and shall be sent to the local civil registrar not later than
thirty days after the birth, by the physician or midwife in attendance at the birth or by either parent
of the newborn child.

In such declaration, the person above mentioned shall certify to the following facts: (a) date and
hour of birth; (b) sex and nationality of infant; (c) names, citizenship and religion of parents or, in
case the father is not known, of the mother alone; (d) civil status of parents; (e) place where the
infant was born; and (f) such other data as may be required in the regulations to be issued.

xxx xxx xxx (emphasis supplied)

Under the Civil Register Law, a birth certificate is a historical record of the facts as they existed at the time
of birth.29 Thus, the sex of a person is determined at birth, visually done by the birth attendant (the
physician or midwife) by examining the genitals of the infant. Considering that there is no law legally
recognizing sex reassignment, the determination of a person’s sex made at the time of his or her birth, if
not attended by error,30 is immutable.31

When words are not defined in a statute they are to be given their common and ordinary meaning in the
absence of a contrary legislative intent. The words "sex," "male" and "female" as used in the Civil
Register Law and laws concerning the civil registry (and even all other laws) should therefore be
understood in their common and ordinary usage, there being no legislative intent to the contrary. In this
connection, sex is defined as "the sum of peculiarities of structure and function that distinguish a male
from a female"32 or "the distinction between male and female."33 Female is "the sex that produces ova or
bears young"34 and male is "the sex that has organs to produce spermatozoa for fertilizing ova." 35 Thus,
the words "male" and "female" in everyday understanding do not include persons who have undergone
sex reassignment. Furthermore, "words that are employed in a statute which had at the time a well-known
meaning are presumed to have been used in that sense unless the context compels to the
contrary."36 Since the statutory language of the Civil Register Law was enacted in the early 1900s and
remains unchanged, it cannot be argued that the term "sex" as used then is something alterable through
surgery or something that allows a post-operative male-to-female transsexual to be included in the
category "female."

For these reasons, while petitioner may have succeeded in altering his body and appearance through the
intervention of modern surgery, no law authorizes the change of entry as to sex in the civil registry for that
reason. Thus, there is no legal basis for his petition for the correction or change of the entries in his birth
certificate.

Neither May Entries in the Birth Certificate As to First Name or Sex Be Changed on the Ground of Equity

The trial court opined that its grant of the petition was in consonance with the principles of justice and
equity. It believed that allowing the petition would cause no harm, injury or prejudice to anyone. This is
wrong.

The changes sought by petitioner will have serious and wide-ranging legal and public policy
consequences. First, even the trial court itself found that the petition was but petitioner’s first step towards
his eventual marriage to his male fiancé. However, marriage, one of the most sacred social institutions, is
a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman.37 One of its essential requisites is
the legal capacity of the contracting parties who must be a male and a female.38 To grant the changes
sought by petitioner will substantially reconfigure and greatly alter the laws on marriage and family
relations. It will allow the union of a man with another man who has undergone sex reassignment (a male-
to-female post-operative transsexual). Second, there are various laws which apply particularly to women
such as the provisions of the Labor Code on employment of women,39 certain felonies under the Revised
Penal Code40 and the presumption of survivorship in case of calamities under Rule 131 of the Rules of
Court,41 among others. These laws underscore the public policy in relation to women which could be
substantially affected if petitioner’s petition were to be granted.

It is true that Article 9 of the Civil Code mandates that "[n]o judge or court shall decline to render judgment
by reason of the silence, obscurity or insufficiency of the law." However, it is not a license for courts to
engage in judicial legislation. The duty of the courts is to apply or interpret the law, not to make or amend
it.

In our system of government, it is for the legislature, should it choose to do so, to determine what
guidelines should govern the recognition of the effects of sex reassignment. The need for legislative
guidelines becomes particularly important in this case where the claims asserted are statute-based.

To reiterate, the statutes define who may file petitions for change of first name and for correction or
change of entries in the civil registry, where they may be filed, what grounds may be invoked, what proof
must be presented and what procedures shall be observed. If the legislature intends to confer on a
person who has undergone sex reassignment the privilege to change his name and sex to conform with
his reassigned sex, it has to enact legislation laying down the guidelines in turn governing the conferment
of that privilege.

It might be theoretically possible for this Court to write a protocol on when a person may be recognized as
having successfully changed his sex. However, this Court has no authority to fashion a law on that matter,
or on anything else. The Court cannot enact a law where no law exists. It can only apply or interpret the
written word of its co-equal branch of government, Congress.

Petitioner pleads that "[t]he unfortunates are also entitled to a life of happiness, contentment and [the]
realization of their dreams." No argument about that. The Court recognizes that there are people whose
preferences and orientation do not fit neatly into the commonly recognized parameters of social
convention and that, at least for them, life is indeed an ordeal. However, the remedies petitioner seeks
involve questions of public policy to be addressed solely by the legislature, not by the courts.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED.

Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 166676

Petitioner, Present:

- versus - Quisumbing, J., Chairperson,

JENNIFER B. CAGANDAHAN, Carpio Morales,

Respondent. Tinga,

VELASCO, JR., and

BRION, JJ.

Promulgated:

September 12, 2008

x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x
DECISION

QUISUMBING, J.:

This is a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court raising purely questions of law and seeking a
reversal of the Decision[1] dated January 12, 2005 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 33 of Siniloan,
Laguna, which granted the Petition for Correction of Entries in Birth Certificate filed by Jennifer B. Cagandahan
and ordered the following changes of entries in Cagandahan’s birth certificate: (1) the name "Jennifer
Cagandahan" changed to "Jeff Cagandahan" and (2) gender from "female" to "male."

The facts are as follows.

On December 11, 2003, respondent Jennifer Cagandahan filed a Petition for Correction of Entries in Birth
Certificate2 before the RTC, Branch 33 of Siniloan, Laguna.

In her petition, she alleged that she was born on January 13, 1981 and was registered as a female in the
Certificate of Live Birth but while growing up, she developed secondary male characteristics and was diagnosed
to have Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) which is a condition where persons thus afflicted possess both
male and female characteristics. She further alleged that she was diagnosed to have clitoral hyperthropy in her
early years and at age six, underwent an ultrasound where it was discovered that she has small ovaries. At age
thirteen, tests revealed that her ovarian structures had minimized, she has stopped growing and she has no breast
or menstrual development. She then alleged that for all interests and appearances as well as in mind and emotion,
she has become a male person. Thus, she prayed that her birth certificate be corrected such that her gender be
changed from female to male and her first name be changed from Jennifer to Jeff.

The petition was published in a newspaper of general circulation for three (3) consecutive weeks and was posted
in conspicuous places by the sheriff of the court. The Solicitor General entered his appearance and authorized the
Assistant Provincial Prosecutor to appear in his behalf.

To prove her claim, respondent testified and presented the testimony of Dr. Michael Sionzon of the Department
of Psychiatry, University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital. Dr. Sionzon issued a medical certificate
stating that respondent’s condition is known as CAH. He explained that genetically respondent is female but
because her body secretes male hormones, her female organs did not develop normally and she has two sex
organs – female and male. He testified that this condition is very rare, that respondent’s uterus is not fully
developed because of lack of female hormones, and that she has no monthly period. He further testified that
respondent’s condition is permanent and recommended the change of gender because respondent has made up
her mind, adjusted to her chosen role as male, and the gender change would be advantageous to her.

The RTC granted respondent’s petition in a Decision dated January 12, 2005 which reads:

The Court is convinced that petitioner has satisfactorily shown that he is entitled to the reliefs prayed [for].
Petitioner has adequately presented to the Court very clear and convincing proofs for the granting of his petition.
It was medically proven that petitioner’s body produces male hormones, and first his body as well as his action
and feelings are that of a male. He has chosen to be male. He is a normal person and wants to be acknowledged
and identified as a male.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Civil Register of Pakil, Laguna is hereby ordered to make the following
corrections in the birth [c]ertificate of Jennifer Cagandahan upon payment of the prescribed fees:

a) By changing the name from Jennifer Cagandahan to JEFF CAGANDAHAN; and

b) By changing the gender from female to MALE.

It is likewise ordered that petitioner’s school records, voter’s registry, baptismal certificate, and other pertinent
records are hereby amended to conform with the foregoing corrected data.

SO ORDERED.[3]

Thus, this petition by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) seeking a reversal of the abovementioned ruling.

The issues raised by petitioner are:

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GRANTING THE PETITION CONSIDERING THAT:


I.

THE REQUIREMENTS OF RULES 103 AND 108 OF THE RULES OF COURT HAVE NOT BEEN
COMPLIED WITH; AND,

II.

CORRECTION OF ENTRY UNDER RULE 108 DOES NOT ALLOW CHANGE OF "SEX" OR "GENDER"
IN THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE, WHILE RESPONDENT’S MEDICAL CONDITION, i.e., CONGENITAL
ADRENAL HYPERPLASIA DOES NOT MAKE HER A "MALE." 4

Simply stated, the issue is whether the trial court erred in ordering the correction of entries in the birth certificate
of respondent to change her sex or gender, from female to male, on the ground of her medical condition known
as CAH, and her name from "Jennifer" to "Jeff," under Rules 103 and 108 of the Rules of Court.

The OSG contends that the petition below is fatally defective for non-compliance with Rules 103 and 108 of the
Rules of Court because while the local civil registrar is an indispensable party in a petition for cancellation or
correction of entries under Section 3, Rule 108 of the Rules of Court, respondent’s petition before the court a
quo did not implead the local civil registrar.5 The OSG further contends respondent’s petition is fatally defective
since it failed to state that respondent is a bona fide resident of the province where the petition was filed for at
least three (3) years prior to the date of such filing as mandated under Section 2(b), Rule 103 of the Rules of
Court.6 The OSG argues that Rule 108 does not allow change of sex or gender in the birth certificate and
respondent’s claimed medical condition known as CAH does not make her a male. 7

On the other hand, respondent counters that although the Local Civil Registrar of Pakil, Laguna was not formally
named a party in the Petition for Correction of Birth Certificate, nonetheless the Local Civil Registrar was
furnished a copy of the Petition, the Order to publish on December 16, 2003 and all pleadings, orders or
processes in the course of the proceedings,8 respondent is actually a male person and hence his birth certificate
has to be corrected to reflect his true sex/gender,9 change of sex or gender is allowed under Rule 108,10 and
respondent substantially complied with the requirements of Rules 103 and 108 of the Rules of Court. 11

Rules 103 and 108 of the Rules of Court provide:

Rule 103

CHANGE OF NAME

Section 1. Venue. – A person desiring to change his name shall present the petition to the Regional Trial Court of
the province in which he resides, [or, in the City of Manila, to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court].

Sec. 2. Contents of petition. – A petition for change of name shall be signed and verified by the person desiring
his name changed, or some other person on his behalf, and shall set forth:

(a) That the petitioner has been a bona fide resident of the province where the petition is filed for at least three (3)
years prior to the date of such filing;

(b) The cause for which the change of the petitioner's name is sought;

(c) The name asked for.

Sec. 3. Order for hearing. – If the petition filed is sufficient in form and substance, the court, by an order reciting
the purpose of the petition, shall fix a date and place for the hearing thereof, and shall direct that a copy of the
order be published before the hearing at least once a week for three (3) successive weeks in some newspaper of
general circulation published in the province, as the court shall deem best. The date set for the hearing shall not
be within thirty (30) days prior to an election nor within four (4) months after the last publication of the notice.

Sec. 4. Hearing. – Any interested person may appear at the hearing and oppose the petition. The Solicitor General
or the proper provincial or city fiscal shall appear on behalf of the Government of the Republic.

Sec. 5. Judgment. – Upon satisfactory proof in open court on the date fixed in the order that such order has been
published as directed and that the allegations of the petition are true, the court shall, if proper and reasonable
cause appears for changing the name of the petitioner, adjudge that such name be changed in accordance with the
prayer of the petition.
Sec. 6. Service of judgment. – Judgments or orders rendered in connection with this rule shall be furnished the
civil registrar of the municipality or city where the court issuing the same is situated, who shall forthwith enter
the same in the civil register.

Rule 108

CANCELLATION OR CORRECTION OF ENTRIES

IN THE CIVIL REGISTRY

Section 1. Who may file petition. – Any person interested in any act, event, order or decree concerning the civil
status of persons which has been recorded in the civil register, may file a verified petition for the cancellation or
correction of any entry relating thereto, with the Regional Trial Court of the province where the corresponding
civil registry is located.

Sec. 2. Entries subject to cancellation or correction. – Upon good and valid grounds, the following entries in the
civil register may be cancelled or corrected: (a) births; (b) marriages; (c) deaths; (d) legal separations; (e)
judgments of annulments of marriage; (f) judgments declaring marriages void from the beginning; (g)
legitimations; (h) adoptions; (i) acknowledgments of natural children; (j) naturalization; (k) election, loss or
recovery of citizenship; (l) civil interdiction; (m) judicial determination of filiation; (n) voluntary emancipation
of a minor; and (o) changes of name.

Sec. 3. Parties. – When cancellation or correction of an entry in the civil register is sought, the civil registrar and
all persons who have or claim any interest which would be affected thereby shall be made parties to the
proceeding.

Sec. 4. Notice and publication. – Upon the filing of the petition, the court shall, by an order, fix the time and
place for the hearing of the same, and cause reasonable notice thereof to be given to the persons named in the
petition. The court shall also cause the order to be published once a week for three (3) consecutive weeks in a
newspaper of general circulation in the province.

Sec. 5. Opposition. – The civil registrar and any person having or claiming any interest under the entry whose
cancellation or correction is sought may, within fifteen (15) days from notice of the petition, or from the last date
of publication of such notice, file his opposition thereto.

Sec. 6. Expediting proceedings. – The court in which the proceedings is brought may make orders expediting the
proceedings, and may also grant preliminary injunction for the preservation of the rights of the parties pending
such proceedings.

Sec. 7. Order. – After hearing, the court may either dismiss the petition or issue an order granting the cancellation
or correction prayed for. In either case, a certified copy of the judgment shall be served upon the civil registrar
concerned who shall annotate the same in his record.

The OSG argues that the petition below is fatally defective for non-compliance with Rules 103 and 108 of the
Rules of Court because respondent’s petition did not implead the local civil registrar. Section 3, Rule 108
provides that the civil registrar and all persons who have or claim any interest which would be affected thereby
shall be made parties to the proceedings. Likewise, the local civil registrar is required to be made a party in a
proceeding for the correction of name in the civil registry. He is an indispensable party without whom no final
determination of the case can be had.[12] Unless all possible indispensable parties were duly notified of the
proceedings, the same shall be considered as falling much too short of the requirements of the rules. 13 The
corresponding petition should also implead as respondents the civil registrar and all other persons who may have
or may claim to have any interest that would be affected thereby. 14 Respondent, however, invokes Section
6,[15] Rule 1 of the Rules of Court which states that courts shall construe the Rules liberally to promote their
objectives of securing to the parties a just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of the matters brought before it.
We agree that there is substantial compliance with Rule 108 when respondent furnished a copy of the petition to
the local civil registrar.

The determination of a person’s sex appearing in his birth certificate is a legal issue and the court must look to
the statutes. In this connection, Article 412 of the Civil Code provides:

ART. 412. No entry in a civil register shall be changed or corrected without a judicial order.

Together with Article 376[16] of the Civil Code, this provision was amended by Republic Act No. 9048[17] in so
far as clerical or typographical errors are involved. The correction or change of such matters can now be made
through administrative proceedings and without the need for a judicial order. In effect, Rep. Act No. 9048
removed from the ambit of Rule 108 of the Rules of Court the correction of such errors. Rule 108 now applies
only to substantial changes and corrections in entries in the civil register. 18

Under Rep. Act No. 9048, a correction in the civil registry involving the change of sex is not a mere clerical or
typographical error. It is a substantial change for which the applicable procedure is Rule 108 of the Rules of
Court.19

The entries envisaged in Article 412 of the Civil Code and correctable under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court are
those provided in Articles 407 and 408 of the Civil Code:

ART. 407. Acts, events and judicial decrees concerning the civil status of persons shall be recorded in the civil
register.

ART. 408. The following shall be entered in the civil register:

(1) Births; (2) marriages; (3) deaths; (4) legal separations; (5) annulments of marriage; (6) judgments declaring
marriages void from the beginning; (7) legitimations; (8) adoptions; (9) acknowledgments of natural children;
(10) naturalization; (11) loss, or (12) recovery of citizenship; (13) civil interdiction; (14) judicial determination of
filiation; (15) voluntary emancipation of a minor; and (16) changes of name.

The acts, events or factual errors contemplated under Article 407 of the Civil Code include even those that occur
after birth.20

Respondent undisputedly has CAH. This condition causes the early or "inappropriate" appearance of male
characteristics. A person, like respondent, with this condition produces too much androgen, a male hormone. A
newborn who has XX chromosomes coupled with CAH usually has a (1) swollen clitoris with the urethral
opening at the base, an ambiguous genitalia often appearing more male than female; (2) normal internal
structures of the female reproductive tract such as the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes; as the child grows
older, some features start to appear male, such as deepening of the voice, facial hair, and failure to menstruate at
puberty. About 1 in 10,000 to 18,000 children are born with CAH.

CAH is one of many conditions[21] that involve intersex anatomy. During the twentieth century, medicine
adopted the term "intersexuality" to apply to human beings who cannot be classified as either male or
female.[22] The term is now of widespread use. According to Wikipedia, intersexuality "is the state of a living
thing of a gonochoristic species whose sex chromosomes, genitalia, and/or secondary sex characteristics are
determined to be neither exclusively male nor female. An organism with intersex may have biological
characteristics of both male and female sexes."

Intersex individuals are treated in different ways by different cultures. In most societies, intersex individuals have
been expected to conform to either a male or female gender role.[23] Since the rise of modern medical science in
Western societies, some intersex people with ambiguous external genitalia have had their genitalia surgically
modified to resemble either male or female genitals.[24] More commonly, an intersex individual is considered as
suffering from a "disorder" which is almost always recommended to be treated, whether by surgery and/or by
taking lifetime medication in order to mold the individual as neatly as possible into the category of either male or
female.

In deciding this case, we consider the compassionate calls for recognition of the various degrees of intersex as
variations which should not be subject to outright denial. "It has been suggested that there is some middle ground
between the sexes, a ‘no-man’s land’ for those individuals who are neither truly ‘male’ nor truly
‘female’."[25] The current state of Philippine statutes apparently compels that a person be classified either as a
male or as a female, but this Court is not controlled by mere appearances when nature itself fundamentally
negates such rigid classification.

In the instant case, if we determine respondent to be a female, then there is no basis for a change in the birth
certificate entry for gender. But if we determine, based on medical testimony and scientific development showing
the respondent to be other than female, then a change in the

subject’s birth certificate entry is in order.

Biologically, nature endowed respondent with a mixed (neither consistently and categorically female nor
consistently and categorically male) composition. Respondent has female (XX) chromosomes. However,
respondent’s body system naturally produces high levels of male hormones (androgen). As a result, respondent
has ambiguous genitalia and the phenotypic features of a male.
Ultimately, we are of the view that where the person is biologically or naturally intersex the determining factor in
his gender classification would be what the individual, like respondent, having reached the age of majority, with
good reason thinks of his/her sex. Respondent here thinks of himself as a male and considering that his body
produces high levels of male hormones (androgen) there is preponderant biological support for considering him
as being male. Sexual development in cases of intersex persons makes the gender classification at birth
inconclusive. It is at maturity that the gender of such persons, like respondent, is fixed.

Respondent here has simply let nature take its course and has not taken unnatural steps to arrest or interfere with
what he was born with. And accordingly, he has already ordered his life to that of a male. Respondent could have
undergone treatment and taken steps, like taking lifelong medication,[26] to force his body into the categorical
mold of a female but he did not. He chose not to do so. Nature has instead taken its due course in respondent’s
development to reveal more fully his male characteristics.

In the absence of a law on the matter, the Court will not dictate on respondent concerning a matter so innately
private as one’s sexuality and lifestyle preferences, much less on whether or not to undergo medical treatment to
reverse the male tendency due to CAH. The Court will not consider respondent as having erred in not choosing to
undergo treatment in order to become or remain as a female. Neither will the Court force respondent to undergo
treatment and to take medication in order to fit the mold of a female, as society commonly currently knows this
gender of the human species. Respondent is the one who has to live with his intersex anatomy. To him belongs
the human right to the pursuit of happiness and of health. Thus, to him should belong the primordial choice of
what courses of action to take along the path of his sexual development and maturation. In the absence of
evidence that respondent is an "incompetent"[27] and in the absence of evidence to show that classifying
respondent as a male will harm other members of society who are equally entitled to protection under the law, the
Court affirms as valid and justified the respondent’s position and his personal judgment of being a male.

In so ruling we do no more than give respect to (1) the diversity of nature; and (2) how an individual deals with
what nature has handed out. In other words, we respect respondent’s congenital condition and his mature
decision to be a male. Life is already difficult for the ordinary person. We cannot but respect how respondent
deals with his unordinary state and thus help make his life easier, considering the unique circumstances in this
case.

As for respondent’s change of name under Rule 103, this Court has held that a change of name is not a matter of
right but of judicial discretion, to be exercised in the light of the reasons adduced and the consequences that will
follow.[28] The trial court’s grant of respondent’s change of name from Jennifer to Jeff implies a change of a
feminine name to a masculine name. Considering the consequence that respondent’s change of name merely
recognizes his preferred gender, we find merit in respondent’s change of name. Such a change will conform with
the change of the entry in his birth certificate from female to male.

WHEREFORE, the Republic’s petition is DENIED. The Decision dated January 12, 2005 of the Regional Trial
Court, Branch 33 of Siniloan, Laguna, is AFFIRMED. No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 198780 October 16, 2013

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,


vs.
LIBERTY D. ALBIOS, Respondent.

DECISION

MENDOZA, J.:

This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules t of Court assailing the September 29,
2011 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA), in CA-G.R. CV No. 95414, which affirmed the April 25,
2008Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court, Imus, Cavite (RTC). declaring the marriage of Daniel Lee
Fringer (Fringer) and respondent Liberty Albios (A/bios) as void from the beginning.

The facts

On October 22, 2004, Fringer, an American citizen, and Albios were married before Judge Ofelia I. Calo
of the Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch59, Mandaluyong City (MeTC), as evidenced by a Certificate of
Marriage with Register No. 2004-1588.3
On December 6, 2006, Albios filed with the RTC a petition for declaration of nullity 4 of her marriage with
Fringer. She alleged that immediately after their marriage, they separated and never lived as husband
and wife because they never really had any intention of entering into a married state or complying with
any of their essential marital obligations. She described their marriage as one made in jest and, therefore,
null and void ab initio .

Summons was served on Fringer but he did not file his answer. On September 13, 2007, Albios filed a
motion to set case for pre-trial and to admit her pre-trial brief. The RTC ordered the Assistant Provincial
Prosecutor to conduct an investigation and determine the existence of a collusion. On October 2, 2007,
the Assistant Prosecutor complied and reported that she could not make a determination for failure of
both parties to appear at the scheduled investigation.

At the pre-trial, only Albios, her counsel and the prosecutor appeared. Fringer did not attend the hearing
despite being duly notified of the schedule. After the pre-trial, hearing on the merits ensued.

Ruling of the RTC

In its April 25, 2008 Decision,5 the RTC declared the marriage void ab initio, the dispositive portion of
which reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered declaring the marriage of Liberty
Albios and Daniel Lee Fringer as void from the very beginning. As a necessary consequence of this
pronouncement, petitioner shall cease using the surname of respondent as she never acquired any right
over it and so as to avoid a misimpression that she remains the wife of respondent.

xxxx

SO ORDERED.6

The RTC was of the view that the parties married each other for convenience only. Giving credence to the
testimony of Albios, it stated that she contracted Fringer to enter into a marriage to enable her to acquire
American citizenship; that in consideration thereof, she agreed to pay him the sum of $2,000.00; that after
the ceremony, the parties went their separate ways; that Fringer returned to the United States and never
again communicated with her; and that, in turn, she did not pay him the $2,000.00 because he never
processed her petition for citizenship. The RTC, thus, ruled that when marriage was entered into for a
purpose other than the establishment of a conjugal and family life, such was a farce and should not be
recognized from its inception.

Petitioner Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), filed a
motion for reconsideration. The RTC issued the Order, 7 dated February 5, 2009, denying the motion for
want of merit. It explained that the marriage was declared void because the parties failed to freely give
their consent to the marriage as they had no intention to be legally bound by it and used it only as a
means to acquire American citizenship in consideration of $2,000.00.

Not in conformity, the OSG filed an appeal before the CA.

Ruling of the CA

In its assailed decision, dated September 29, 2011, the CA affirmed the RTC ruling which found that the
essential requisite of consent was lacking. The CA stated that the parties clearly did not understand the
nature and consequence of getting married and that their case was similar to a marriage in jest. It further
explained that the parties never intended to enter into the marriage contract and never intended to live as
husband and wife or build a family. It concluded that their purpose was primarily for personal gain, that is,
for Albios to obtain foreign citizenship, and for Fringer, the consideration of $2,000.00.

Hence, this petition.

Assignment of Error

THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED ON A QUESTION OF LAWWHEN IT HELD THAT A MARRIAGE


CONTRACTED FOR THEPURPOSE OF OBTAINING FOREIGN CITIZENSHIP WAS DONEIN JEST,
HENCE, LACKING IN THE ESSENTIAL ELEMENT OFCONSENT.8

The OSG argues that albeit the intention was for Albios to acquire American citizenship and for Fringer to
be paid $2,000.00, both parties freely gave their consent to the marriage, as they knowingly and willingly
entered into that marriage and knew the benefits and consequences of being bound by it. According to
the OSG, consent should be distinguished from motive, the latter being inconsequential to the validity of
marriage.

The OSG also argues that the present case does not fall within the concept of a marriage in jest. The
parties here intentionally consented to enter into a real and valid marriage, for if it were otherwise, the
purpose of Albios to acquire American citizenship would be rendered futile.

On October 29, 2012, Albios filed her Comment9 to the petition, reiterating her stand that her marriage
was similar to a marriage by way of jest and, therefore, void from the beginning.

On March 22, 2013, the OSG filed its Reply10 reiterating its arguments in its petition for review on
certiorari.

Ruling of the Court

The resolution of this case hinges on this sole question of law: Is a marriage, contracted for the sole
purpose of acquiring American citizenship in consideration of $2,000.00, void ab initio on the ground of
lack of consent?

The Court resolves in the negative.

Before the Court delves into its ruling, It shall first examine the phenomenon of marriage fraud for the
purposes of immigration.

Marriage Fraud in Immigration

The institution of marriage carries with it concomitant benefits. This has led to the development of
marriage fraud for the sole purpose of availing of particular benefits. In the United States, marriages
where a couple marries only to achieve a particular purpose or acquire specific benefits, have been
referred to as "limited purpose" marriages.11 A common limited purpose marriage is one entered into
solely for the legitimization of a child.12 Another, which is the subject of the present case, is for
immigration purposes. Immigration law is usually concerned with the intention of the couple at the time of
their marriage,13 and it attempts to filter out those who use marriage solely to achieve immigration
status.14

In 1975, the seminal case of Bark v. Immigration and Naturalization Service,15 established the principal
test for determining the presence of marriage fraud in immigration cases. It ruled that a "marriage is a
sham if the bride and groom did not intend to establish a life together at the time they were married. "This
standard was modified with the passage of the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendment of 1986 (IMFA),
which now requires the couple to instead demonstrate that the marriage was not "entered into for the
purpose of evading the immigration laws of the United States." The focus, thus, shifted from determining
the intention to establish a life together, to determining the intention of evading immigration laws. 16 It must
be noted, however, that this standard is used purely for immigration purposes and, therefore, does not
purport to rule on the legal validity or existence of a marriage.

The question that then arises is whether a marriage declared as a sham or fraudulent for the limited
purpose of immigration is also legally void and in existent. The early cases on limited purpose marriages
in the United States made no definitive ruling. In 1946, the notable case of

United States v. Rubenstein17 was promulgated, wherein in order to allow an alien to stay in the country,
the parties had agreed to marry but not to live together and to obtain a divorce within six months. The
Court, through Judge Learned Hand, ruled that a marriage to convert temporary into permanent
permission to stay in the country was not a marriage, there being no consent, to wit:

x x x But, that aside, Spitz and Sandler were never married at all. Mutual consent is necessary to every
contract; and no matter what forms or ceremonies the parties may go through indicating the contrary, they
do not contract if they do not in fact assent, which may always be proved. x x x Marriage is no exception
to this rule: a marriage in jest is not a marriage at all. x x x It is quite true that a marriage without
subsequent consummation will be valid; but if the spouses agree to a marriage only for the sake of
representing it as such to the outside world and with the understanding that they will put an end to it as
soon as it has served its purpose to deceive, they have never really agreed to be married at all. They
must assent to enter into the relation as it is ordinarily understood, and it is not ordinarily understood as
merely a pretence, or cover, to deceive others.18
(Italics supplied)

On the other end of the spectrum is the 1969 case of Mpiliris v. Hellenic Lines, 19 which declared as valid a
marriage entered into solely for the husband to gain entry to the United States, stating that a valid
marriage could not be avoided "merely because the marriage was entered into for a limited
purpose."20 The 1980 immigration case of Matter of McKee,21 further recognized that a fraudulent or sham
marriage was intrinsically different from a non subsisting one.

Nullifying these limited purpose marriages for lack of consent has, therefore, been recognized as
problematic. The problem being that in order to obtain an immigration benefit, a legal marriage is first
necessary.22 At present, United States courts have generally denied annulments involving" limited
purpose" marriages where a couple married only to achieve a particular purpose, and have upheld such
marriages as valid.23

The Court now turns to the case at hand.

Respondent’s marriage not void

In declaring the respondent’s marriage void, the RTC ruled that when a marriage was entered into for a
purpose other than the establishment of a conjugal and family life, such was a farce and should not be
recognized from its inception. In its resolution denying the OSG’s motion for reconsideration, the RTC
went on to explain that the marriage was declared void because the parties failed to freely give their
consent to the marriage as they had no intention to be legally bound by it and used it only as a means for
the respondent to acquire American citizenship. Agreeing with the RTC, the CA ruled that the essential
requisite of consent was lacking. It held that the parties clearly did not understand the nature and
consequence of getting married. As in the Rubenstein case, the CA found the marriage to be similar to a
marriage in jest considering that the parties only entered into the marriage for the acquisition of American
citizenship in exchange of $2,000.00. They never intended to enter into a marriage contract and never
intended to live as husband and wife or build a family.

The CA’s assailed decision was, therefore, grounded on the parties’ supposed lack of consent. Under
Article 2 of the Family Code, consent is an essential requisite of marriage. Article 4 of the same Code
provides that the absence of any essential requisite shall render a marriage void ab initio.

Under said Article 2, for consent to be valid, it must be (1) freely given and (2) made in the presence of a
solemnizing officer. A "freely given" consent requires that the contracting parties willingly and deliberately
enter into the marriage. Consent must be real in the sense that it is not vitiated nor rendered defective by
any of the vices of consent under Articles45 and 46 of the Family Code, such as fraud, force, intimidation,
and undue influence.24 Consent must also be conscious or intelligent, in that the parties must be capable
of intelligently understanding the nature of, and both the beneficial or unfavorable consequences of their
act.25 Their understanding should not be affected by insanity, intoxication, drugs, or hypnotism. 26

Based on the above, consent was not lacking between Albios and Fringer. In fact, there was real consent
because it was not vitiated nor rendered defective by any vice of consent. Their consent was also
conscious and intelligent as they understood the nature and the beneficial and inconvenient
consequences of their marriage, as nothing impaired their ability to do so. That their consent was freely
given is best evidenced by their conscious purpose of acquiring American citizenship through marriage.
Such plainly demonstrates that they willingly and deliberately contracted the marriage. There was a clear
intention to enter into a real and valid marriage so as to fully comply with the requirements of an
application for citizenship. There was a full and complete understanding of the legal tie that would be
created between them, since it was that precise legal tie which was necessary to accomplish their goal.

In ruling that Albios’ marriage was void for lack of consent, the CA characterized such as akin to a
marriage by way of jest. A marriage in jest is a pretended marriage, legal in form but entered into as a
joke, with no real intention of entering into the actual marriage status, and with a clear understanding that
the parties would not be bound. The ceremony is not followed by any conduct indicating a purpose to
enter into such a relation.27 It is a pretended marriage not intended to be real and with no intention to
create any legal ties whatsoever, hence, the absence of any genuine consent. Marriages in jest are void
ab initio, not for vitiated, defective, or unintelligent consent, but for a complete absence of consent. There
is no genuine consent because the parties have absolutely no intention of being bound in any way or for
any purpose.

The respondent’s marriage is not at all analogous to a marriage in jest.1âwphi1 Albios and Fringer had an
undeniable intention to be bound in order to create the very bond necessary to allow the respondent to
acquire American citizenship. Only a genuine consent to be married would allow them to further their
objective, considering that only a valid marriage can properly support an application for citizenship. There
was, thus, an apparent intention to enter into the actual marriage status and to create a legal tie, albeit for
a limited purpose. Genuine consent was, therefore, clearly present.

The avowed purpose of marriage under Article 1 of the Family Code is for the couple to establish a
conjugal and family life. The possibility that the parties in a marriage might have no real intention to
establish a life together is, however, insufficient to nullify a marriage freely entered into in accordance with
law. The same Article 1 provides that the nature, consequences, and incidents of marriage are governed
by law and not subject to stipulation. A marriage may, thus, only be declared void or voidable under the
grounds provided by law. There is no law that declares a marriage void if it is entered into for purposes
other than what the Constitution or law declares, such as the acquisition of foreign citizenship. Therefore,
so long as all the essential and formal requisites prescribed by law are present, and it is not void or
voidable under the grounds provided by law, it shall be declared valid. 28

Motives for entering into a marriage are varied and complex. The State does not and cannot dictate on
the kind of life that a couple chooses to lead. Any attempt to regulate their lifestyle would go into the realm
of their right to privacy and would raise serious constitutional questions. 29 The right to marital privacy
allows married couples to structure their marriages in almost any way they see fit, to live together or live
apart, to have children or no children, to love one another or not, and so on. 30 Thus, marriages entered
into for other purposes, limited or otherwise, such as convenience, companionship, money, status, and
title, provided that they comply with all the legal requisites,31 are equally valid. Love, though the ideal
consideration in a marriage contract, is not the only valid cause for marriage. Other considerations, not
precluded by law, may validly support a marriage.

Although the Court views with disdain the respondent’s attempt to utilize marriage for dishonest purposes,
It cannot declare the marriage void. Hence, though the respondent’s marriage may be considered a sham
or fraudulent for the purposes of immigration, it is not void ab initio and continues to be valid and
subsisting.

Neither can their marriage be considered voidable on the ground of fraud under Article 45 (3) of the
Family Code. Only the circumstances listed under Article 46 of the same Code may constitute fraud,
namely, (1) non- disclosure of a previous conv1ctwn involving moral turpitude; (2) concealment by the
wife of a pregnancy by another man; (3) concealment of a sexually transmitted disease; and (4)
concealment of drug addiction, alcoholism, or homosexuality. No other misrepresentation or deceit shall
constitute fraud as a ground for an action to annul a marriage. Entering into a marriage for the sole
purpose of evading immigration laws does not qualify under any of the listed circumstances. Furthermore,
under Article 47 (3), the ground of fraud may only be brought by the injured or innocent party. In the
present case, there is no injured party because Albios and Fringer both conspired to enter into the sham
marriage.

Albios has indeed made a mockery of the sacred institution of marriage. Allowing her marriage with
Fringer to be declared void would only further trivialize this inviolable institution. The Court cannot declare
such a marriage void in the event the parties fail to qualify for immigration benefits, after they have availed
of its benefits, or simply have no further use for it. These unscrupulous individuals cannot be allowed to
use the courts as instruments in their fraudulent schemes. Albios already misused a judicial institution to
enter into a marriage of convenience; she should not be allowed to again abuse it to get herself out of an
inconvenient situation.

No less than our Constitution declares that marriage, as an in violable social institution, is the foundation
of the family and shall be protected by the State. 32 It must, therefore, be safeguarded from the whims and
caprices of the contracting parties. This Court cannot leave the impression that marriage may easily be
entered into when it suits the needs of the parties, and just as easily nullified when no longer needed.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The September 29, 2011 Decision of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. CV No. 95414 is ANNULLED, and Civil Case No. 1134-06 is DISMISSED for utter lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA


Associate Justice

A.M. No. MTJ-96-1088 July 19, 1996


RODOLFO G. NAVARRO, complainant,

vs.

JUDGE HERNANDO C. DOMAGTOY, respondent.

ROMERO, J.:p

The complainant in this administrative case is the Municipal Mayor of Dapa, Surigao del Norte, Rodolfo G.
Navarro. He has submitted evidence in relation to two specific acts committed by respondent Municipal
Circuit Trial Court Judge Hernando Domagtoy, which, he contends, exhibits gross misconduct as well as
inefficiency in office and ignorance of the law.

First, on September 27, 1994, respondent judge solemnized the wedding between Gaspar A. Tagadan
and Arlyn F. Borga, despite the knowledge that the groom is merely separated from his first wife.

Second, it is alleged that he performed a marriage ceremony between Floriano Dador Sumaylo and
Gemma G. del Rosario outside his court's jurisdiction on October 27, 1994. Respondent judge holds
office and has jurisdiction in the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Sta. Monica-Burgos, Surigao del Norte.
The wedding was solemnized at the respondent judge's residence in the municipality of Dapa, which does
not fall within his jurisdictional area of the municipalities of Sta. Monica and Burgos, located some 40 to
45 kilometers away from the municipality of Dapa, Surigao del Norte.

In his letter-comment to the office of the Court Administrator, respondent judge avers that the office and
name of the Municipal Mayor of Dapa have been used by someone else, who, as the mayor's "lackey," is
overly concerned with his actuations both as judge and as a private person. The same person had earlier
filed Administrative Matter No 94-980-MTC, which was dismissed for lack of merit on September 15,
1994, and Administrative Matter No. OCA-IPI-95-16, "Antonio Adapon v. Judge Hernando C. Domagtoy,"
which is still pending.

In relation to the charges against him, respondent judge seeks exculpation from his act of having
solemnized the marriage between Gaspar Tagadan, a married man separated from his wife, and Arlyn F.
Borga by stating that he merely relied on the Affidavit issued by the Municipal Trial Judge of Basey,
Samar, confirming the fact that Mr. Tagadan and his first wife have not seen each other for almost seven
years. 1 With respect to the second charge, he maintains that in solemnizing the marriage between
Sumaylo and del Rosario, he did not violate Article 7, paragraph 1 of the Family Code which states that:
"Marriage may be solemnized by: (1) Any incumbent member of the judiciary within the court's
jurisdiction;" and that article 8 thereof applies to the case in question.

The complaint was not referred, as is usual, for investigation, since the pleadings submitted were
considered sufficient for a resolution of the case. 2

Since the countercharges of sinister motives and fraud on the part of complainant have not been
sufficiently proven, they will not be dwelt upon. The acts complained of and respondent judge's answer
thereto will suffice and can be objectively assessed by themselves to prove the latter's malfeasance.

The certified true copy of the marriage contract between Gaspar Tagadan and Arlyn Borga states that
Tagadan's civil status is "separated." Despite this declaration, the wedding ceremony was solemnized by
respondent judge. He presented in evidence a joint affidavit by Maurecio A. Labado, Sr. and Eugenio
Bullecer, subscribed and sworn to before Judge Demosthenes C. Duquilla, Municipal Trial Judge of
Basey, Samar. 3 The affidavit was not issued by the latter judge, as claimed by respondent judge, but
merely acknowledged before him. In their affidavit, the affiants stated that they knew Gaspar Tagadan to
have been civilly married to Ida D. Peñaranda in September 1983; that after thirteen years of cohabitation
and having borne five children, Ida Peñaranda left the conjugal dwelling in Valencia, Bukidnon and that
she has not returned nor been heard of for almost seven years, thereby giving rise to the presumption
that she is already dead.

In effect, Judge Domagtoy maintains that the aforementioned joint affidavit is sufficient proof of Ida
Peñaranda's presumptive death, and ample reason for him to proceed with the marriage ceremony. We
do not agree.

Article 41 of the Family Code expressly provides:


A marriage contracted by any person during the subsistence of a previous marriage shall
be null and void, unless before the celebration of the subsequent marriage, the prior
spouse had been absent for four consecutive years and the spouse present had a well-
founded belief that the absent spouse was already dead. In case of disappearance where
there is danger of death under the circumstances set forth in the provisions of Articles
391 of the Civil Code, an absence of only two years shall be sufficient.

For the purpose of contracting the subsequent marriage under the preceding paragraph,
the spouse present must institute a summary proceeding as provided in this Code for the
declaration of presumptive death of the absentee, without prejudice to the effect of
reappearance of the absent spouse. (Emphasis added.)

There is nothing ambiguous or difficult to comprehend in this provision. In fact, the law is clear and
simple. Even if the spouse present has a well-founded belief that the absent spouse was already dead, a
summary proceeding for the declaration of presumptive death is necessary in order to contract a
subsequent marriage, a mandatory requirement which has been precisely incorporated into the Family
Code to discourage subsequent marriages where it is not proven that the previous marriage has been
dissolved or a missing spouse is factually or presumptively dead, in accordance with pertinent provisions
of law.

In the case at bar, Gaspar Tagadan did not institute a summary proceeding for the declaration of his first
wife's presumptive death. Absent this judicial declaration, he remains married to Ida Peñaranda. Whether
wittingly or unwittingly, it was manifest error on the part of respondent judge to have accepted the joint
affidavit submitted by the groom. Such neglect or ignorance of the law has resulted in a bigamous, and
therefore void, marriage. Under Article 35 of the Family Code, " The following marriage shall be void from
the beginning: (4) Those bigamous . . . marriages not falling under Article 41."

The second issue involves the solemnization of a marriage ceremony outside the court's jurisdiction,
covered by Articles 7 and 8 of the Family Code, thus:

Art. 7. Marriage may be solemnized by :

(1) Any incumbent member of the judiciary within the court's jurisdiction;

xxx xxx xxx (Emphasis supplied.)

Art. 8. The marriage shall be solemnized publicly in the chambers the judge or in open
court, in the church, chapel or temple, or in the office of the consul-general, consul or
vice-consul, as the case may be, and not elsewhere, except in cases of marriages
contracted on the point of death or in remote places in accordance with Article 29 of this
Code, or where both parties request the solemnizing officer in writing in which case the
marriage may be solemnized at a house or place designated by them in a sworn
statement to that effect.

Respondent judge points to Article 8 and its exceptions as the justification for his having solemnized the
marriage between Floriano Sumaylo and Gemma del Rosario outside of his court's jurisdiction. As the
aforequoted provision states, a marriage can be held outside of the judge's chambers or courtroom only
in the following instances: (1) at the point of death, (2) in remote places in accordance with Article 29 or
(3) upon request of both parties in writing in a sworn statement to this effect. There is no pretense that
either Sumaylo or del Rosario was at the point of death or in the remote place. Moreover, the written
request presented addressed to the respondent judge was made by only one party, Gemma del
Rosario. 4

More importantly, the elementary principle underlying this provision is the authority of the solemnizing
judge. Under Article 3, one of the formal requisites of marriage is the "authority of the solemnizing officer."
Under Article 7, marriage may be solemnized by, among others, "any incumbent member of the
judiciary within the court's jurisdiction." Article 8, which is a directory provision, refers only to the venue of
the marriage ceremony and does not alter or qualify the authority of the solemnizing officer as provided in
the preceding provision. Non-compliance herewith will not invalidate the marriage.

A priest who is commissioned and allowed by his local ordinary to marry the faithful, is authorized to do so
only within the area of the diocese or place allowed by his Bishop. An appellate court Justice or a Justice
of this Court has jurisdiction over the entire Philippines to solemnize marriages, regardless of the venue,
as long as the requisites of the law are complied with. However, judges who are appointed to specific
jurisdictions, may officiate in weddings only within said areas and not beyond. Where a judge solemnizes
a marriage outside his court's jurisdiction, there is a resultant irregularity in the formal requisite laid down
in Article 3, which while it may not affect the validity of the marriage, may subject the officiating official to
administrative liability. 5

Inasmuch as respondent judge's jurisdiction covers the municipalities of Sta. Monica and Burgos, he was
not clothed with authority to solemnize a marriage in the municipality of Dapa, Surigao del Norte. By citing
Article 8 and the exceptions therein as grounds for the exercise of his misplaced authority, respondent
judge again demonstrated a lack of understanding of the basic principles of civil law.

Accordingly, the Court finds respondent to have acted in gross ignorance of the law. The legal principles
applicable in the cases brought to our attention are elementary and uncomplicated, prompting us to
conclude that respondent's failure to apply them is due to a lack of comprehension of the law.

The judiciary should be composed of persons who, if not experts, are at least, proficient in the law they
are sworn to apply, more than the ordinary laymen. They should be skilled and competent in
understanding and applying the law. It is imperative that they be conversant with basic legal principles like
the ones involved in instant case. 6 It is not too much to expect them to know and apply the law
intelligently. 7 Otherwise, the system of justice rests on a shaky foundation indeed, compounded by the
errors committed by those not learned in the law. While magistrates may at times make mistakes in
judgment, for which they are not penalized, the respondent judge exhibited ignorance of elementary
provisions of law, in an area which has greatly prejudiced the status of married persons.

The marriage between Gaspar Tagadan and Arlyn Borga is considered bigamous and void, there being a
subsisting marriage between Gaspar Tagadan and Ida Peñaranda.

The Office of the Court Administrator recommends, in its Memorandum to the Court, a six-month
suspension and a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts will be dealt with more
severely. Considering that one of the marriages in question resulted in a bigamous union and therefore
void, and the other lacked the necessary authority of respondent judge, the Court adopts said
recommendation. Respondent is advised to be more circumspect in applying the law and to cultivate a
deeper understanding of the law.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, respondent Judge Hernando C. Domagtoy is hereby SUSPENDED for a
period of six (6) months and given a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar acts will
be dealt with more severely.

A.M. No. MTJ-02-1390 April 11, 2002


(Formerly IPI No. 01-1049-MTJ)

MERCEDITA MATA ARAÑES, petitioner,


vs.
JUDGE SALVADOR M. OCCIANO, respondent.

PUNO, J.:

Petitioner Mercedita Mata Arañes charges respondent judge with Gross Ignorance of the Law via a sworn
Letter-Complaint dated 23 May 2001. Respondent is the Presiding Judge of the Municipal Trial Court of
Balatan, Camarines Sur. Petitioner alleges that on 17 February 2000, respondent judge solemnized her
marriage to her late groom Dominador B. Orobia without the requisite marriage license and at Nabua,
Camarines Sur which is outside his territorial jurisdiction.

They lived together as husband and wife on the strength of this marriage until her husband passed away.
However, since the marriage was a nullity, petitioner's right to inherit the "vast properties" left by Orobia
was not recognized. She was likewise deprived of receiving the pensions of Orobia, a retired Commodore
of the Philippine Navy.1âwphi1.nêt

Petitioner prays that sanctions be imposed against respondent judge for his illegal acts and unethical
misrepresentations which allegedly caused her so much hardships, embarrassment and sufferings.
On 28 May 2001, the case was referred by the Office of the Chief Justice to then Acting Court
Administrator Zenaida N. Elepaño for appropriate action. On 8 June 2001, the Office of the Court
Administrator required respondent judge to comment.

In his Comment dated 5 July 2001, respondent judge averred that he was requested by a certain Juan
Arroyo on 15 February 2000 to solemnize the marriage of the parties on 17 February 2000. Having been
assured that all the documents to the marriage were complete, he agreed to solemnize the marriage in
his sala at the Municipal Trial Court of Balatan, Camarines Sur. However, on 17 February 2000, Arroyo
informed him that Orobia had a difficulty walking and could not stand the rigors of travelling to Balatan
which is located almost 25 kilometers from his residence in Nabua. Arroyo then requested if respondent
judge could solemnize the marriage in Nabua, to which request he acceded.

Respondent judge further avers that before he started the ceremony, he carefully examined the
documents submitted to him by petitioner. When he discovered that the parties did not possess the
requisite marriage license, he refused to solemnize the marriage and suggested its resetting to another
date. However, due to the earnest pleas of the parties, the influx of visitors, and the delivery of provisions
for the occasion, he proceeded to solemnize the marriage out of human compassion. He also feared that
if he reset the wedding, it might aggravate the physical condition of Orobia who just suffered from a
stroke. After the solemnization, he reiterated the necessity for the marriage license and admonished the
parties that their failure to give it would render the marriage void. Petitioner and Orobia assured
respondent judge that they would give the license to him in the afternoon of that same day. When they
failed to comply, respondent judge followed it up with Arroyo but the latter only gave him the same
reassurance that the marriage license would be delivered to his sala at the Municipal Trial Court of
Balatan, Camarines Sur.

Respondent judge vigorously denies that he told the contracting parties that their marriage is valid despite
the absence of a marriage license. He attributes the hardships and embarrassment suffered by the
petitioner as due to her own fault and negligence.

On 12 September 2001, petitioner filed her Affidavit of Desistance dated 28 August 2001 with the Office
of the Court Administrator. She attested that respondent judge initially refused to solemnize her marriage
due to the want of a duly issued marriage license and that it was because of her prodding and
reassurances that he eventually solemnized the same. She confessed that she filed this administrative
case out of rage. However, after reading the Comment filed by respondent judge, she realized her own
shortcomings and is now bothered by her conscience.

Reviewing the records of the case, it appears that petitioner and Orobia filed their Application for Marriage
License on 5 January 2000. It was stamped in this Application that the marriage license shall be issued
on 17 January 2000. However, neither petitioner nor Orobia claimed it.

It also appears that the Office of the Civil Registrar General issued a Certification that it has no record of
such marriage that allegedly took place on 17 February 2000. Likewise, the Office of the Local Civil
Registrar of Nabua, Camarines Sur issued another Certification dated 7 May 2001 that it cannot issue a
true copy of the Marriage Contract of the parties since it has no record of their marriage.

On 8 May 2001, petitioner sought the assistance of respondent judge so the latter could communicate
with the Office of the Local Civil Registrar of Nabua, Camarines Sur for the issuance of her marriage
license. Respondent judge wrote the Local Civil Registrar of Nabua, Camarines Sur. In a letter dated 9
May 2001, a Clerk of said office, Grace T. Escobal, informed respondent judge that their office cannot
issue the marriage license due to the failure of Orobia to submit the Death Certificate of his previous
spouse.

The Office of the Court Administrator, in its Report and Recommendation dated 15 November 2000,
found the respondent judge guilty of solemnizing a marriage without a duly issued marriage license and
for doing so outside his territorial jurisdiction. A fine of P5,000.00 was recommended to be imposed on
respondent judge.

We agree.

Under the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, or B.P. 129, the authority of the regional trial court judges
and judges of inferior courts to solemnize marriages is confined to their territorial jurisdiction as defined by
the Supreme Court.1âwphi1.nêt

The case at bar is not without precedent. In Navarro vs. Domagtoy,1 respondent judge held office and
had jurisdiction in the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Sta. Monica-Burgos, Surigao del Norte. However, he
solemnized a wedding at his residence in the municipality of Dapa, Surigao del Norte which did not fall
within the jurisdictional area of the municipalities of Sta. Monica and Burgos. We held that:

"A priest who is commissioned and allowed by his local ordinance to marry the faithful is
authorized to do so only within the area or diocese or place allowed by his Bishop. An appellate
court Justice or a Justice of this Court has jurisdiction over the entire Philippines to solemnize
marriages, regardless of the venue, as long as the requisites of the law are complied
with. However, judges who are appointed to specific jurisdictions, may officiate in
weddings only within said areas and not beyond. Where a judge solemnizes a marriage
outside his court's jurisdiction, there is a resultant irregularity in the formal requisite laid
down in Article 3, which while it may not affect the validity of the marriage, may subject
the officiating official to administrative liability."2 (Emphasis supplied.)

In said case, we suspended respondent judge for six (6) months on the ground that his act of solemnizing
a marriage outside his jurisdiction constitutes gross ignorance of the law. We further held that:

"The judiciary should be composed of persons who, if not experts, are at least, proficient in the
law they are sworn to apply, more than the ordinary laymen. They should be skilled and
competent in understanding and applying the law. It is imperative that they be conversant with
basic legal principles like the ones involved in the instant case. x x x While magistrates may at
times make mistakes in judgment, for which they are not penalized, the respondent judge
exhibited ignorance of elementary provisions of law, in an area which has greatly prejudiced the
status of married persons."3

In the case at bar, the territorial jurisdiction of respondent judge is limited to the municipality of Balatan,
Camarines Sur. His act of solemnizing the marriage of petitioner and Orobia in Nabua, Camarines Sur
therefore is contrary to law and subjects him to administrative liability. His act may not amount to gross
ignorance of the law for he allegedly solemnized the marriage out of human compassion but nonetheless,
he cannot avoid liability for violating the law on marriage.

Respondent judge should also be faulted for solemnizing a marriage without the requisite marriage
license. In People vs. Lara,4 we held that a marriage which preceded the issuance of the marriage
license is void, and that the subsequent issuance of such license cannot render valid or even add an iota
of validity to the marriage. Except in cases provided by law, it is the marriage license that gives the
solemnizing officer the authority to solemnize a marriage. Respondent judge did not possess such
authority when he solemnized the marriage of petitioner. In this respect, respondent judge acted in gross
ignorance of the law.1âwphi1.nêt

Respondent judge cannot be exculpated despite the Affidavit of Desistance filed by petitioner. This Court
has consistently held in a catena of cases that the withdrawal of the complaint does not necessarily have
the legal effect of exonerating respondent from disciplinary action. Otherwise, the prompt and fair
administration of justice, as well as the discipline of court personnel, would be undermined. 5 Disciplinary
actions of this nature do not involve purely private or personal matters. They can not be made to depend
upon the will of every complainant who may, for one reason or another, condone a detestable act. We
cannot be bound by the unilateral act of a complainant in a matter which involves the Court's
constitutional power to discipline judges. Otherwise, that power may be put to naught, undermine the trust
character of a public office and impair the integrity and dignity of this Court as a disciplining authority. 6

WHEREFORE, respondent Judge Salvador M. Occiano, Presiding Judge of the Municipal Trial Court of
Balatan, Camarines Sur, is fined P5,000.00 pesos with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same
or similar offense in the future will be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., Kapunan, and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.

G.R. No. 167746 August 28, 2007


RESTITUTO M. ALCANTARA, Petitioner,
vs.
ROSITA A. ALCANTARA and HON. COURT OF APPEALS, Respondents.

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by petitioner Restituto Alcantara assailing the
Decision1 of the Court of Appeals dated 30 September 2004 in CA-G.R. CV No. 66724 denying
petitioner’s appeal and affirming the decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati City, Branch
143, in Civil Case No. 97-1325 dated 14 February 2000, dismissing his petition for annulment of marriage.

The antecedent facts are:

A petition for annulment of marriage3 was filed by petitioner against respondent Rosita A. Alcantara
alleging that on 8 December 1982 he and respondent, without securing the required marriage license,
went to the Manila City Hall for the purpose of looking for a person who could arrange a marriage for
them. They met a person who, for a fee, arranged their wedding before a certain Rev. Aquilino Navarro, a
Minister of the Gospel of the CDCC BR Chapel.4 They got married on the same day, 8 December 1982.
Petitioner and respondent went through another marriage ceremony at the San Jose de Manuguit Church
in Tondo, Manila, on 26 March 1983. The marriage was likewise celebrated without the parties securing a
marriage license. The alleged marriage license, procured in Carmona, Cavite, appearing on the marriage
contract, is a sham, as neither party was a resident of Carmona, and they never went to Carmona to
apply for a license with the local civil registrar of the said place. On 14 October 1985, respondent gave
birth to their child Rose Ann Alcantara. In 1988, they parted ways and lived separate lives. Petitioner
prayed that after due hearing, judgment be issued declaring their marriage void and ordering the Civil
Registrar to cancel the corresponding marriage contract5 and its entry on file.6

Answering petitioner’s petition for annulment of marriage, respondent asserts the validity of their marriage
and maintains that there was a marriage license issued as evidenced by a certification from the Office of
the Civil Registry of Carmona, Cavite. Contrary to petitioner’s representation, respondent gave birth to
their first child named Rose Ann Alcantara on 14 October 1985 and to another daughter named Rachel
Ann Alcantara on 27 October 1992.7 Petitioner has a mistress with whom he has three
children.8 Petitioner only filed the annulment of their marriage to evade prosecution for
concubinage.9 Respondent, in fact, has filed a case for concubinage against petitioner before the
Metropolitan Trial Court of Mandaluyong City, Branch 60.10 Respondent prays that the petition for
annulment of marriage be denied for lack of merit.

On 14 February 2000, the RTC of Makati City, Branch 143, rendered its Decision disposing as follows:

The foregoing considered, judgment is rendered as follows:

1. The Petition is dismissed for lack of merit;

2. Petitioner is ordered to pay respondent the sum of twenty thousand pesos (₱20,000.00) per
month as support for their two (2) children on the first five (5) days of each month; and

3. To pay the costs.11

As earlier stated, the Court of Appeals rendered its Decision dismissing the petitioner’s appeal. His
Motion for Reconsideration was likewise denied in a resolution of the Court of Appeals dated 6 April
2005.12

The Court of Appeals held that the marriage license of the parties is presumed to be regularly issued and
petitioner had not presented any evidence to overcome the presumption. Moreover, the parties’ marriage
contract being a public document is a prima facie proof of the questioned marriage under Section 44,
Rule 130 of the Rules of Court.13

In his Petition before this Court, petitioner raises the following issues for resolution:

a. The Honorable Court of Appeals committed a reversible error when it ruled that the Petition for
Annulment has no legal and factual basis despite the evidence on record that there was no
marriage license at the precise moment of the solemnization of the marriage.
b. The Honorable Court of Appeals committed a reversible error when it gave weight to the
Marriage License No. 7054133 despite the fact that the same was not identified and offered as
evidence during the trial, and was not the Marriage license number appearing on the face of the
marriage contract.

c. The Honorable Court of Appeals committed a reversible error when it failed to apply the ruling
laid down by this Honorable Court in the case of Sy vs. Court of Appeals. (G.R. No. 127263, 12
April 2000 [330 SCRA 550]).

d. The Honorable Court of Appeals committed a reversible error when it failed to relax the
observance of procedural rules to protect and promote the substantial rights of the party
litigants.14

We deny the petition.

Petitioner submits that at the precise time that his marriage with the respondent was celebrated, there
was no marriage license because he and respondent just went to the Manila City Hall and dealt with a
"fixer" who arranged everything for them.15 The wedding took place at the stairs in Manila City Hall and
not in CDCC BR Chapel where Rev. Aquilino Navarro who solemnized the marriage belongs. 16 He and
respondent did not go to Carmona, Cavite, to apply for a marriage license. Assuming a marriage license
from Carmona, Cavite, was issued to them, neither he nor the respondent was a resident of the place.
The certification of the Municipal Civil Registrar of Carmona, Cavite, cannot be given weight because the
certification states that "Marriage License number 7054133 was issued in favor of Mr. Restituto Alcantara
and Miss Rosita Almario"17 but their marriage contract bears the number 7054033 for their marriage
license number.

The marriage involved herein having been solemnized on 8 December 1982, or prior to the effectivity of
the Family Code, the applicable law to determine its validity is the Civil Code which was the law in effect
at the time of its celebration.

A valid marriage license is a requisite of marriage under Article 53 of the Civil Code, the absence of which
renders the marriage void ab initio pursuant to Article 80(3)18 in relation to Article 58 of the same Code.19

Article 53 of the Civil Code20 which was the law applicable at the time of the marriage of the parties
states:

Art. 53. No marriage shall be solemnized unless all these requisites are complied with:

(1) Legal capacity of the contracting parties;

(2) Their consent, freely given;

(3) Authority of the person performing the marriage; and

(4) A marriage license, except in a marriage of exceptional character.

The requirement and issuance of a marriage license is the State’s demonstration of its involvement and
participation in every marriage, in the maintenance of which the general public is interested. 21

Petitioner cannot insist on the absence of a marriage license to impugn the validity of his marriage. The
cases where the court considered the absence of a marriage license as a ground for considering the
marriage void are clear-cut.

In Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals,22 the Local Civil Registrar issued a certification of due
search and inability to find a record or entry to the effect that Marriage License No. 3196182 was issued
to the parties. The Court held that the certification of "due search and inability to find" a record or entry as
to the purported marriage license, issued by the Civil Registrar of Pasig, enjoys probative value, he being
the officer charged under the law to keep a record of all data relative to the issuance of a marriage
license. Based on said certification, the Court held that there is absence of a marriage license that would
render the marriage void ab initio.

In Cariño v. Cariño,23 the Court considered the marriage of therein petitioner Susan Nicdao and the
deceased Santiago S. Carino as void ab initio. The records reveal that the marriage contract of petitioner
and the deceased bears no marriage license number and, as certified by the Local Civil Registrar of San
Juan, Metro Manila, their office has no record of such marriage license. The court held that the
certification issued by the local civil registrar is adequate to prove the non-issuance of the marriage
license. Their marriage having been solemnized without the necessary marriage license and not being
one of the marriages exempt from the marriage license requirement, the marriage of the petitioner and
the deceased is undoubtedly void ab initio.

In Sy v. Court of Appeals,24 the marriage license was issued on 17 September 1974, almost one year
after the ceremony took place on 15 November 1973. The Court held that the ineluctable conclusion is
that the marriage was indeed contracted without a marriage license.

In all these cases, there was clearly an absence of a marriage license which rendered the marriage void.

Clearly, from these cases, it can be deduced that to be considered void on the ground of absence of a
marriage license, the law requires that the absence of such marriage license must be apparent on the
marriage contract, or at the very least, supported by a certification from the local civil registrar that no
such marriage license was issued to the parties. In this case, the marriage contract between the petitioner
and respondent reflects a marriage license number. A certification to this effect was also issued by the
local civil registrar of Carmona, Cavite.25 The certification moreover is precise in that it specifically
identified the parties to whom the marriage license was issued, namely Restituto Alcantara and Rosita
Almario, further validating the fact that a license was in fact issued to the parties herein.

The certification of Municipal Civil Registrar Macrino L. Diaz of Carmona, Cavite, reads:

This is to certify that as per the registry Records of Marriage filed in this office, Marriage License No.
7054133 was issued in favor of Mr. Restituto Alcantara and Miss Rosita Almario on December 8, 1982.

This Certification is being issued upon the request of Mrs. Rosita A. Alcantara for whatever legal purpose
or intents it may serve.26

This certification enjoys the presumption that official duty has been regularly performed and the issuance
of the marriage license was done in the regular conduct of official business. 27 The presumption of
regularity of official acts may be rebutted by affirmative evidence of irregularity or failure to perform a duty.
However, the presumption prevails until it is overcome by no less than clear and convincing evidence to
the contrary. Thus, unless the presumption is rebutted, it becomes conclusive. Every reasonable
intendment will be made in support of the presumption and, in case of doubt as to an officer’s act being
lawful or unlawful, construction should be in favor of its lawfulness.28 Significantly, apart from these,
petitioner, by counsel, admitted that a marriage license was, indeed, issued in Carmona, Cavite.29

Petitioner, in a faint attempt to demolish the probative value of the marriage license, claims that neither he
nor respondent is a resident of Carmona, Cavite. Even then, we still hold that there is no sufficient basis
to annul petitioner and respondent’s marriage. Issuance of a marriage license in a city or municipality, not
the residence of either of the contracting parties, and issuance of a marriage license despite the absence
of publication or prior to the completion of the 10-day period for publication are considered mere
irregularities that do not affect the validity of the marriage.30 An irregularity in any of the formal requisites
of marriage does not affect its validity but the party or parties responsible for the irregularity are civilly,
criminally and administratively liable.31

Again, petitioner harps on the discrepancy between the marriage license number in the certification of the
Municipal Civil Registrar, which states that the marriage license issued to the parties is No. 7054133,
while the marriage contract states that the marriage license number of the parties is number 7054033.
Once more, this argument fails to sway us. It is not impossible to assume that the same is a mere a
typographical error, as a closer scrutiny of the marriage contract reveals the overlapping of the numbers 0
and 1, such that the marriage license may read either as 7054133 or 7054033. It therefore does not
detract from our conclusion regarding the existence and issuance of said marriage license to the parties.

Under the principle that he who comes to court must come with clean hands, 32 petitioner cannot pretend
that he was not responsible or a party to the marriage celebration which he now insists took place without
the requisite marriage license. Petitioner admitted that the civil marriage took place because he "initiated
it."33 Petitioner is an educated person. He is a mechanical engineer by profession. He knowingly and
voluntarily went to the Manila City Hall and likewise, knowingly and voluntarily, went through a marriage
ceremony. He cannot benefit from his action and be allowed to extricate himself from the marriage bond
at his mere say-so when the situation is no longer palatable to his taste or suited to his lifestyle. We
cannot countenance such effrontery. His attempt to make a mockery of the institution of marriage betrays
his bad faith.34

Petitioner and respondent went through a marriage ceremony twice in a span of less than one year
utilizing the same marriage license. There is no claim that he went through the second wedding ceremony
in church under duress or with a gun to his head. Everything was executed without nary a whimper on the
part of the petitioner.lavvphi1

In fact, for the second wedding of petitioner and respondent, they presented to the San Jose de Manuguit
Church the marriage contract executed during the previous wedding ceremony before the Manila City
Hall. This is confirmed in petitioner’s testimony as follows—

WITNESS

As I remember your honor, they asked us to get the necessary document prior to the wedding.

COURT

What particular document did the church asked you to produce? I am referring to the San Jose de
Manuguit church.

WITNESS

I don’t remember your honor.

COURT

Were you asked by the church to present a Marriage License?

WITNESS

I think they asked us for documents and I said we have already a Marriage Contract and I don’t know if it
is good enough for the marriage and they accepted it your honor.

COURT

In other words, you represented to the San Jose de Manuguit church that you have with you already a
Marriage Contract?

WITNESS

Yes your honor.

COURT

That is why the San Jose de Manuguit church copied the same marriage License in the Marriage Contract
issued which Marriage License is Number 7054033.

WITNESS

Yes your honor.35

The logical conclusion is that petitioner was amenable and a willing participant to all that took place at that
time. Obviously, the church ceremony was confirmatory of their civil marriage, thereby cleansing whatever
irregularity or defect attended the civil wedding.36

Likewise, the issue raised by petitioner -- that they appeared before a "fixer" who arranged everything for
them and who facilitated the ceremony before a certain Rev. Aquilino Navarro, a Minister of the Gospel of
the CDCC Br Chapel -- will not strengthen his posture. The authority of the officer or clergyman shown to
have performed a marriage ceremony will be presumed in the absence of any showing to the
contrary.37 Moreover, the solemnizing officer is not duty-bound to investigate whether or not a marriage
license has been duly and regularly issued by the local civil registrar. All the solemnizing officer needs to
know is that the license has been issued by the competent official, and it may be presumed from the
issuance of the license that said official has fulfilled the duty to ascertain whether the contracting parties
had fulfilled the requirements of law.38

Semper praesumitur pro matrimonio. The presumption is always in favor of the validity of the
marriage.39 Every intendment of the law or fact leans toward the validity of the marriage bonds. The
Courts look upon this presumption with great favor. It is not to be lightly repelled; on the contrary, the
presumption is of great weight.

Wherefore, premises considered, the instant Petition is Denied for lack of merit. The decision of the Court
of Appeals dated 30 September 2004 affirming the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 143 of
Makati City, dated 14 February 2000, are AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

G.R. No. 183896 January 30, 2013

SYED AZHAR ABBAS, Petitioner,


vs.
GLORIA GOO ABBAS, Respondent.

DECISION

VELASCO, JR., J.:

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, questioning
the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) dated March 11, 2008 in CA-G.R. CV No. 86760, which
reversed the Decision2 in Civil Case No. 03-0382-CFM dated October 5, 2005 of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC), Branch 109, Pasay City, and the CA Resolution dated July 24, 2008, denying petitioner's Motion
for Reconsideration of the CA Decision.

The present case stems from a petition filed by petitioner Syed Azhar Abbas (Syed) for the declaration of
nullity of his marriage to Gloria Goo-Abbas (Gloria) with the RTC of Pasay City, docketed as Civil Case
No. 03-0382-CFM, and raffled to RTC Branch 109. Syed alleged the absence of a marriage license, as
provided for in Article 4, Chapter I, Title 1 of Executive Order No. 269, otherwise known as the Family
Code of the Philippines, as a ground for the annulment of his marriage to Gloria.

In the Marriage Contract3 of Gloria and Syed, it is stated that Marriage License No. 9969967, issued at
Carmona, Cavite on January 8, 1993, was presented to the solemnizing officer. It is this information that
is crucial to the resolution of this case.

At the trial court, Syed, a Pakistani citizen, testified that he met Gloria, a Filipino citizen, in Taiwan in
1991, and they were married on August 9, 1992 at the Taipei Mosque in Taiwan.4 He arrived in the
Philippines in December of 1992. On January 9, 1993, at around 5 o’clock in the afternoon, he was at his
mother-in-law’s residence, located at 2676 F. Muñoz St., Malate, Manila, when his mother-in-law arrived
with two men. He testified that he was told that he was going to undergo some ceremony, one of the
requirements for his stay in the Philippines, but was not told of the nature of said ceremony. During the
ceremony he and Gloria signed a document. He claimed that he did not know that the ceremony was a
marriage until Gloria told him later. He further testified that he did not go to Carmona, Cavite to apply for a
marriage license, and that he had never resided in that area. In July of 2003, he went to the Office of the
Civil Registrar of Carmona, Cavite, to check on their marriage license, and was asked to show a copy of
their marriage contract wherein the marriage license number could be found.5 The Municipal Civil
Registrar, Leodivinia C. Encarnacion, issued a certification on July 11, 2003 to the effect that the marriage
license number appearing in the marriage contract he submitted, Marriage License No. 9969967, was the
number of another marriage license issued to a certain Arlindo Getalado and Myra Mabilangan. 6 Said
certification reads as follows:

11 July 2003

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:


This is to certify as per Registry Records of Marriage License filed in this office, Marriage License No.
9969967 was issued in favor of MR. ARLINDO GETALADO and MISS MYRA MABILANGAN on January
19, 1993.

No Marriage License appear [sic] to have been issued to MR. SYED AZHAR ABBAS and MISS GLORIA
F. GOO on January 8, 1993.

This certification is being issued to Mr. Syed Azhar Abbas for whatever legal purpose or intents it may
serve.7

On cross-examination, Syed testified that Gloria had filed bigamy cases against him in 2001 and 2002,
and that he had gone to the Municipal Civil Registrar of Carmona, Cavite to get certification on whether or
not there was a marriage license on advice of his counsel.8

Petitioner also presented Norberto Bagsic (Bagsic), an employee of the Municipal Civil Registrar of
Carmona, Cavite. Bagsic appeared under a letter of authority from the Municipal Civil Registrar of
Carmona, Cavite, and brought documents pertaining to Marriage License No. 9969967, which was issued
to Arlindo Getalado and Myra Mabilangan on January 20, 1993.9

Bagsic testified that their office issues serial numbers for marriage licenses and that the numbers are
issued chronologically.10 He testified that the certification dated July 11, 2003, was issued and signed by
Leodivina Encarnacion, Registrar of the Municipality of Carmona, Cavite, certifying that Marriage License
No. 9969967 was issued for Arlindo Getalado and Myra Mabilangan on January 19, 1993, and that their
office had not issued any other license of the same serial number, namely 9969967, to any other
person.11

For her part, Gloria testified on her own behalf, and presented Reverend Mario Dauz, Atty. Lorenzo
Sanchez, Felicitas Goo and May Ann Ceriola.

Reverend Mario Dauz (Rev. Dauz) testified that he was a minister of the Gospel and a barangay captain,
and that he is authorized to solemnize marriages within the Philippines. 12 He testified that he solemnized
the marriage of Syed Azhar Abbas and Gloria Goo at the residence of the bride on January 9, 1993. 13 He
stated that the witnesses were Atty. Lorenzo Sanchez (Atty. Sanchez) and Mary Ann Ceriola. 14 He
testified that he had been solemnizing marriages since 1982, and that he is familiar with the
requirements.15 Rev. Dauz further testified that Atty. Sanchez gave him the marriage license the day
before the actual wedding, and that the marriage contract was prepared by his secretary.16 After the
solemnization of the marriage, it was registered with the Local Civil Registrar of Manila, and Rev. Dauz
submitted the marriage contract and copy of the marriage license with that office. 17

Atty. Sanchez testified that he was asked to be the sponsor of the wedding of Syed Abbas and Gloria
Goo by the mother of the bride, Felicitas Goo.18 He testified that he requested a certain Qualin to secure
the marriage license for the couple, and that this Qualin secured the license and gave the same to him on
January 8, 1993.19 He further testified that he did not know where the marriage license was
obtained.20 He attended the wedding ceremony on January 9, 1993, signed the marriage contract as
sponsor, and witnessed the signing of the marriage contract by the couple, the solemnizing officer and the
other witness, Mary Ann Ceriola.21

Felicitas Goo testified that Gloria Goo is her daughter and Syed Azhar Abbas is her son-in-law, and that
she was present at the wedding ceremony held on January 9, 1993 at her house. 22 She testified that she
sought the help of Atty. Sanchez at the Manila City Hall in securing the marriage license, and that a week
before the marriage was to take place, a male person went to their house with the application for marriage
license.23 Three days later, the same person went back to their house, showed her the marriage license
before returning it to Atty. Sanchez who then gave it to Rev. Dauz, the solemnizing officer. 24 She further
testified that she did not read all of the contents of the marriage license, and that she was told that the
marriage license was obtained from Carmona.25 She also testified that a bigamy case had been filed by
Gloria against Syed at the Regional Trial Court of Manila, evidenced by an information for Bigamy dated
January 10, 2003, pending before Branch 47 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila. 26

As to Mary Ann Ceriola’s testimony, the counsels for both parties stipulated that: (a) she is one of the
sponsors at the wedding of Gloria Goo and Syed Abbas on January 9, 1993; (b) she was seen in the
wedding photos and she could identify all the persons depicted in said photos; and (c) her testimony
corroborates that of Felicitas Goo and Atty. Sanchez.

The respondent, Gloria, testified that Syed is her husband, and presented the marriage contract bearing
their signatures as proof.27 She and her mother sought the help of Atty. Sanchez in securing a marriage
license, and asked him to be one of the sponsors. A certain Qualin went to their house and said that he
will get the marriage license for them, and after several days returned with an application for marriage
license for them to sign, which she and Syed did. After Qualin returned with the marriage license, they
gave the license to Atty. Sanchez who gave it to Rev. Dauz, the solemnizing officer. Gloria testified that
she and Syed were married on January 9, 1993 at their residence.28

Gloria further testified that she has a daughter with Syed, born on June 15, 1993. 29

Gloria also testified that she filed a bigamy case against Syed, who had married a certain Maria Corazon
Buenaventura during the existence of the previous marriage, and that the case was docketed as Criminal
Case No. 02A-03408, with the RTC of Manila.30

Gloria stated that she and Syed had already been married on August 9, 1992 in Taiwan, but that she did
not know if said marriage had been celebrated under Muslim rites, because the one who celebrated their
marriage was Chinese, and those around them at the time were Chinese.31

The Ruling of the RTC

In its October 5, 2005 Decision, the Pasay City RTC held that no valid marriage license was issued by the
Municipal Civil Registrar of Carmona, Cavite in favor of Gloria and Syed, as Marriage License No.
9969967 had been issued to Arlindo Getalado and Myra Mabilangan, and the Municipal Civil Registrar of
Carmona, Cavite had certified that no marriage license had been issued for Gloria and Syed. 32 It also took
into account the fact that neither party was a resident of Carmona, Cavite, the place where Marriage
License No. 9969967 was issued, in violation of Article 9 of the Family Code. 33 As the marriage was not
one of those exempt from the license requirement, and that the lack of a valid marriage license is an
absence of a formal requisite, the marriage of Gloria and Syed on January 9, 1993 was void ab initio.

The dispositive portion of the Decision reads as follows:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the petitioner, and against the respondent
declaring as follows:

1. The marriage on January 9, 1993 between petitioner Syed Azhar Abbas and respondent Gloria
Goo-Abbas is hereby annulled;

2. Terminating the community of property relations between the petitioner and the respondent
even if no property was acquired during their cohabitation by reason of the nullity of the marriage
of the parties.

3. The Local Civil Registrar of Manila and the Civil Registrar General, National Statistics Office,
are hereby ordered to cancel from their respective civil registries the marriage contracted by
petitioner Syed Azhar Abbas and respondent Gloria Goo-Abbas on January 9, 1993 in Manila.

SO ORDERED.34

Gloria filed a Motion for Reconsideration dated November 7, 2005, but the RTC denied the same,
prompting her to appeal the questioned decision to the Court of Appeals.

The Ruling of the CA

In her appeal to the CA, Gloria submitted the following assignment of errors:

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN DECLARING THE MARRIAGE BETWEEN THE PETITIONER
AND RESPONDENT AS NULL AND VOID DUE TO THE ABSENCE OF A MARRIAGE LICENSE
DESPITE EVIDENCE CLEARLY SHOWING THAT THERE WAS ONE.

II

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT CONSIDERING, AS A REQUISITE OF A VALID


MARRIAGE, THE OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE SHOWING THAT A MARRIAGE CEREMONY
TOOK PLACE WITH THE APPEARANCE OF THE CONTRACTING PARTIES BEFORE THE
SOLEMNIZING OFFICER AND THEIR PERSONAL DECLARATION THAT THEY TOOK EACH
OTHER AS HUSBAND AND WIFE IN THE PRESENCE OF NOT LESS THAN TWO
WITNESSES OF LEGAL AGE.

III

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT RULING ON THE ISSUE OF ESTOPPEL BY LACHES
ON THE PART OF THE PETITIONER, AN ISSUE TIMELY RAISED IN THE COURT BELOW.35

The CA gave credence to Gloria’s arguments, and granted her appeal. It held that the certification of the
Municipal Civil Registrar failed to categorically state that a diligent search for the marriage license of
Gloria and Syed was conducted, and thus held that said certification could not be accorded probative
value.36 The CA ruled that there was sufficient testimonial and documentary evidence that Gloria and
Syed had been validly married and that there was compliance with all the requisites laid down by law.37

It gave weight to the fact that Syed had admitted to having signed the marriage contract. The CA also
considered that the parties had comported themselves as husband and wife, and that Syed only instituted
his petition after Gloria had filed a case against him for bigamy.38

The dispositive portion of the CA Decision reads as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is GRANTED. The Decision dated 05 October 2005 and
Order dated 27 January 2006 of the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City, Branch 109, in Civil Case No. 03-
0382-CFM are REVERSED and SET ASIDE and the Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage is
DISMISSED. The marriage between Shed [sic] Azhar Abbas and Gloria Goo Abbas contracted on 09
January 1993 remains valid and subsisting. No costs.

SO ORDERED.39

Syed then filed a Motion for Reconsideration dated April 1, 200840 but the same was denied by the CA in
a Resolution dated July 24, 2008.41

Hence, this petition.

Grounds in Support of Petition

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED SERIOUS ERROR OF LAW IN CITING


REPUBLIC VS. COURT OF APPEALS AS THE SAME IS DIAMETRICALLY INCONSISTENT
AND CONTRARY TO THE COURT’S OWN FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS IN THIS CASE.

II

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN REVERSING AND SETTING


ASIDE, WITHOUT ANY FACTUAL AND LEGAL BASIS, THE DECISION OF THE REGIONAL
TRIAL COURT GRANTING THE PETITION FOR DECLARATION OF NULLITY OF
MARRIAGE.42

The Ruling of this Court

The petition is meritorious.

As the marriage of Gloria and Syed was solemnized on January 9, 1993, Executive Order No. 209, or the
Family Code of the Philippines, is the applicable law. The pertinent provisions that would apply to this
particular case are Articles 3, 4 and 35(3), which read as follows:

Art. 3. The formal requisites of marriage are:

(1) Authority of the solemnizing officer;

(2) A valid marriage license except in the cases provided for in Chapter 2 of this Title; and
(3) A marriage ceremony which takes place with the appearance of the contracting parties before
the solemnizing officer and their personal declaration that they take each other as husband and
wife in the presence of not less than two witnesses of legal age.

Art. 4. The absence of any of the essential or formal requisites shall render the marriage void ab initio,
except as stated in Article 35(2).

A defect in any of the essential requisites shall render the marriage voidable as provided in Article 45.

An irregularity in the formal requisites shall not affect the validity of the marriage but the party or parties
responsible for the irregularity shall be civilly, criminally and administratively liable.

Art. 35. The following marriages shall be void from the beginning:

xxxx

(3) Those solemnized without a license, except those covered by the preceding Chapter.

There is no issue with the essential requisites under Art. 2 of the Family Code, nor with the formal
requisites of the authority of the solemnizing officer and the conduct of the marriage ceremony. Nor is the
marriage one that is exempt from the requirement of a valid marriage license under Chapter 2, Title I of
the Family Code. The resolution of this case, thus, hinges on whether or not a valid marriage license had
been issued for the couple. The RTC held that no valid marriage license had been issued. The CA held
that there was a valid marriage license.

We find the RTC to be correct in this instance.

Respondent Gloria failed to present the actual marriage license, or a copy thereof, and relied on the
marriage contract as well as the testimonies of her witnesses to prove the existence of said license. To
prove that no such license was issued, Syed turned to the office of the Municipal Civil Registrar of
Carmona, Cavite which had allegedly issued said license. It was there that he requested certification that
no such license was issued. In the case of Republic v. Court of Appeals 43 such certification was allowed,
as permitted by Sec. 29, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court, which reads:

SEC. 28. Proof of lack of record. – A written statement signed by an officer having the custody of an
official record or by his deputy that after diligent search, no record or entry of a specified tenor is found to
exist in the records of his office, accompanied by a certificate as above provided, is admissible as
evidence that the records of his office contain no such record or entry.

In the case of Republic, in allowing the certification of the Civil Registrar of Pasig to prove the non-
issuance of a marriage license, the Court held:

The above Rule authorized the custodian of the documents to certify that despite diligent search, a
particular document does not exist in his office or that a particular entry of a specified tenor was not to be
found in a register. As custodians of public documents, civil registrars are public officers charged with the
duty, inter alia, of maintaining a register book where they are required to enter all applications for
marriage licenses, including the names of the applicants, the date the marriage license was issued and
such other relevant data.44

The Court held in that case that the certification issued by the civil registrar enjoyed probative value, as
his duty was to maintain records of data relative to the issuance of a marriage license.

The Municipal Civil Registrar of Carmona, Cavite, where the marriage license of Gloria and Syed was
allegedly issued, issued a certification to the effect that no such marriage license for Gloria and Syed was
issued, and that the serial number of the marriage license pertained to another couple, Arlindo Getalado
and Myra Mabilangan. A certified machine copy of Marriage License No. 9969967 was presented, which
was issued in Carmona, Cavite, and indeed, the names of Gloria and Syed do not appear in the
document.

In reversing the RTC, the CA focused on the wording of the certification, stating that it did not comply with
Section 28, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court.

The CA deduced that from the absence of the words "despite diligent search" in the certification, and
since the certification used stated that no marriage license appears to have been issued, no diligent
search had been conducted and thus the certification could not be given probative value.
To justify that deduction, the CA cited the case of Republic v. Court of Appeals.45 It is worth noting that in
that particular case, the Court, in sustaining the finding of the lower court that a marriage license was
lacking, relied on the Certification issued by the Civil Registrar of Pasig, which merely stated that the
alleged marriage license could not be located as the same did not appear in their records. Nowhere in the
Certification was it categorically stated that the officer involved conducted a diligent search, nor is a
categorical declaration absolutely necessary for Sec. 28, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court to apply.

Under Sec. 3(m), Rule 131 of the Rules of Court, it is a disputable presumption that an official duty has
been regularly performed, absent contradiction or other evidence to the contrary. We held, "The
presumption of regularity of official acts may be rebutted by affirmative evidence of irregularity or failure to
perform a duty."46 No such affirmative evidence was shown that the Municipal Civil Registrar was lax in
performing her duty of checking the records of their office, thus the presumption must stand. In fact, proof
does exist of a diligent search having been conducted, as Marriage License No. 996967 was indeed
located and submitted to the court. The fact that the names in said license do not correspond to those of
Gloria and Syed does not overturn the presumption that the registrar conducted a diligent search of the
records of her office.

It is telling that Gloria failed to present their marriage license or a copy thereof to the court. She failed to
explain why the marriage license was secured in Carmona, Cavite, a location where, admittedly, neither
party resided. She took no pains to apply for the license, so she is not the best witness to testify to the
validity and existence of said license. Neither could the other witnesses she presented prove the
existence of the marriage license, as none of them applied for the license in Carmona, Cavite. Her
mother, Felicitas Goo, could not even testify as to the contents of the license, having admitted to not
reading all of its contents. Atty. Sanchez, one of the sponsors, whom Gloria and Felicitas Goo
approached for assistance in securing the license, admitted not knowing where the license came from.
The task of applying for the license was delegated to a certain Qualin, who could have testified as to how
the license was secured and thus impeached the certification of the Municipal Civil Registrar as well as
the testimony of her representative. As Gloria failed to present this Qualin, the certification of the
Municipal Civil Registrar still enjoys probative value.

It is also noted that the solemnizing officer testified that the marriage contract and a copy of the marriage
license were submitted to the Local Civil Registrar of Manila. Thus, a copy of the marriage license could
have simply been secured from that office and submitted to the court. However, Gloria inexplicably failed
to do so, further weakening her claim that there was a valid marriage license issued for her and Syed.

In the case of Cariño v. Cariño,47 following the case of Republic,48 it was held that the certification of the
Local Civil Registrar that their office had no record of a marriage license was adequate to prove the non-
issuance of said license. The case of Cariño further held that the presumed validity of the marriage of the
parties had been overcome, and that it became the burden of the party alleging a valid marriage to prove
that the marriage was valid, and that the required marriage license had been secured.49 Gloria has failed
to discharge that burden, and the only conclusion that can be reached is that no valid marriage license
was issued. It cannot be said that there was a simple irregularity in the marriage license that would not
affect the validity of the marriage, as no license was presented by the respondent. No marriage license
was proven to have been issued to Gloria and Syed, based on the certification of the Municipal Civil
Registrar of Carmona, Cavite and Gloria’s failure to produce a copy of the alleged marriage license.

To bolster its ruling, the CA cited other evidence to support its conclusion that Gloria and Syed were
validly married. To quote the CA:

Moreover, the record is replete with evidence, testimonial and documentary, that appellant and appellee
have been validly married and there was compliance with all the requisites laid down by law. Both parties
are legally capacitated to marry. A certificate of legal capacity was even issued by the Embassy of
Pakistan in favor of appellee. The parties herein gave their consent freely. Appellee admitted that the
signature above his name in the marriage contract was his. Several pictures were presented showing
appellant and appellee, before the solemnizing officer, the witnesses and other members of appellant’s
family, taken during the marriage ceremony, as well as in the restaurant where the lunch was held after
the marriage ceremony. Most telling of all is Exhibit "5-C" which shows appellee signing the Marriage
Contract.

xxxx

The parties have comported themselves as husband and wife and has [sic] one offspring, Aliea Fatima
Goo Abbas, who was born on 15 June 1993. It took appellee more than ten (10) years before he filed on
01 August 2003 his Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage under Article 4 of the Family Code. We
take serious note that said Petition appears to have been instituted by him only after an Information for
Bigamy (Exhibit "1") dated 10 January 2003 was filed against him for contracting a second or subsequent
marriage with one Ma. Corazon (Maryam) T. Buenaventura. We are not ready to reward (appellee) by
declaring the nullity of his marriage and give him his freedom and in the process allow him to profit from
his own deceit and perfidy.50

All the evidence cited by the CA to show that a wedding ceremony was conducted and a marriage
contract was signed does not operate to cure the absence of a valid marriage license. Article 4 of the
Family Code is clear when it says, "The absence of any of the essential or formal requisites shall render
the marriage void ab initio, except as stated in Article 35(2)." Article 35(3) of the Family Code also
provides that a marriage solemnized without a license is void from the beginning, except those exempt
from the license requirement under Articles 27 to 34, Chapter 2, Title I of the same Code. 51 Again, this
marriage cannot be characterized as among the exemptions, and thus, having been solemnized without a
marriage license, is void ab initio.1âwphi1

As to the motive of Syed in seeking to annul his marriage to Gloria, it may well be that his motives are
less than pure, that he seeks to evade a bigamy suit. Be that as it may, the same does not make up for
the failure of the respondent to prove that they had a valid marriage license, given the weight of evidence
presented by petitioner. The lack of a valid marriage license cannot be attributed to him, as it was Gloria
who took steps to procure the same. The law must be applied. As the marriage license, a formal requisite,
is clearly absent, the marriage of Gloria and Syed is void ab initio.

WHEREFORE, in light of the foregoing, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The assailed Decision dated
March 11, 2008 and Resolution dated July 24, 2008 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 86760 are
hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 109, Pasay City
dated October 5, 2005 in Civil Case No. 03-0382-CFM annulling the marriage of petitioner with
respondent on January 9, 1993 is hereby REINSTATED.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

G.R. No. 167684 July 31, 2006

JAIME O.SEVILLA, petitioner,


vs.
CARMELITA N. CARDENAS, respondent.

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

This Petition for Review on Certiorari seeks the reversal of the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-
G.R. CV No. 74416 dated 20 December 2004 which set aside the Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Makati City, in Civil Case No. 94-1285 dated 25 January 2002.

In a Complaint3 dated 28 March 1994 filed by Jaime O. Sevilla before the RTC, he claimed that on 19
May 1969, through machinations, duress and intimidation employed upon him by Carmelita N. Cardenas
and the latter's father, retired Colonel Jose Cardenas of the Armed forces of the Philippines, he and
Carmelita went to the City Hall of Manila and they were introduced to a certain Reverend Cirilo D.
Gonzales, a supposed Minister of the Gospel. On the said date, the father of Carmelita caused him and
Carmelita to sign a marriage contract before the said Minister of the Gospel. According to Jaime, he never
applied for a marriage license for his supposed marriage to Carmelita and never did they obtain any
marriage license from any Civil Registry, consequently, no marriage license was presented to the
solemnizing officer.

For her part, Carmelita refuted these allegations of Jaime, and claims that she and Jaime were married
civilly on 19 May 1969,4 and in a church ceremony thereafter on 31 May 19695 at the Most Holy
Redeemer Parish in Quezon City. Both marriages were registered with the local civil registry of Manila
and the National Statistics Office. He is estopped from invoking the lack of marriage license after having
been married to her for 25 years.

The trial court made the following findings:

In support of his complaint, plaintiff [Jaime] testified that on May 19, 1969, he and defendant
[Carmelita] appeared before a certain Rev. Cirilo D. Gonzales, a Minister of the Gospel, at the city
hall in Manila where they executed a Marriage Contract (Exh. "A") in civil rites. A certain
Godofredo Occena who, plaintiff alleged, was an aide of defendant's father accompanied them,
and who, together with another person, stood as witness to the civil wedding. That although
marriage license no. 2770792 allegedly issued in San Juan, Rizal on May 19, 1969 was indicated
in the marriage contract, the same was fictitious for he never applied for any marriage license,
(Ibid., p. 11). Upon verifications made by him through his lawyer, Atty. Jose M. Abola, with the
Civil Registry of San Juan, a Certification dated March 11, 1994 (Exh. "E") was issued by Rafael
D. Aliscad, Jr., Local Civil Registrar of San Juan, that "no marriage license no. 2770792 was ever
issued by said office." On May 31, 1969, he and defendant were again wed, this time in church
rites, before Monsignor Juan Velasco at the Most Holy Redeemer Parish Church in Brixton Hills,
Quezon City, where they executed another marriage contract (Exh. "F") with the same marriage
license no. 2770792 used and indicated. Preparations and expenses for the church wedding and
reception were jointly shared by his and defendant's parents. After the church wedding, he and
defendant resided in his house at Brixton Hills until their first son, Jose Gabriel, was born in
March 1970. As his parents continued to support him financially, he and defendant lived in Spain
for some time, for his medical studies. Eventually, their marital relationship turned bad because it
became difficult for him to be married he being a medical student at that time. They started living
apart in 1976, but they underwent family counseling before they eventually separated in 1978. It
was during this time when defendant's second son was born whose paternity plaintiff questioned.
Plaintiff obtained a divorce decree against defendant in the United States in 1981 and later
secured a judicial separation of their conjugal partnership in 1983.

Atty. Jose M. Abola, then counsel for the plaintiff, himself manifested that when his service was
engaged by plaintiff, and after the latter narrated to him the circumstances of his marriage, he
made inquiries with the Office of Civil Registry of San Juan where the supposed marriage license
was obtained and with the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer Parish where the religious
wedding ceremony was celebrated. His request letters dated March 3, 1994 (Exh. "J"), March 7,
1994 (Exh. "L"), March 9, 1994 (Exh. "M") and March 11, 1994 (Exh. "K") were all sent to and
received by the Civil Registrar of San Juan, who in reply thereto, issued Certifications dated
March 4, 1994 (Exh. "I"), and March 11, 1994 (Exh. "E") and September 20, 1994 (Exh. "C"), that
"no marriage license no. 2770792 was ever issued by that office." Upon his inquiry, the Holy
Redeemer Parish Church issued him a certified copy of the marriage contract of plaintiff and
defendant (Exh. "F") and a Certificate of Marriage dated April 11, 1994 (Exh. "G"), wherein it
noted that it was a "purely religious ceremony, having been civilly married on May 19, 1969 at the
City Hall, Manila, under Marriage License No. 2770792 issued at San Juan, Rizal on May 19,
1969."

Perlita Mercader, Registration Officer III of the Local Registry of San Juan, identified the
Certificates dated March 4, 1994, March 11, 1994 and September 20, 1994 issued by Rafael
Aliscad, Jr., the Local Civil Registrar, and testified that their office failed to locate the book
wherein marriage license no. 2770792 may have been registered (TSN, 8-6-96, p. 5).

Defendant Carmelita Cardenas testified that she and plaintiff had a steady romantic relationship
after they met and were introduced to each other in October 1968. A model, she was compelled
by her family to join the Mutya ng Pilipinas beauty pageant when plaintiff who was afraid to lose
her, asked her to run away with him to Baguio. Because she loved plaintiff, she turned back on
her family and decided to follow plaintiff in Baguio. When they came back to Manila, she and
plaintiff proceeded to the latter's home in Brixton Hills where plaintiff's mother, Mrs. Sevilla, told
her not to worry. Her parents were hostile when they learned of the elopement, but Mrs. Sevilla
convinced them that she will take care of everything, and promised to support plaintiff and
defendant. As plaintiff was still fearful he may lose her, he asked her to marry him in civil rites,
without the knowledge of her family, more so her father (TSN, 5-28-98, p. 4) on May 19, 1969,
before a minister and where she was made to sign documents. After the civil wedding, they had
lunch and later each went home separately. On May 31, 1969, they had the church wedding,
which the Sevilla family alone prepared and arranged, since defendant's mother just came from
hospital. Her family did not participate in the wedding preparations. Defendant further stated that
there was no sexual consummation during their honeymoon and that it was after two months
when they finally had sex. She learned from Dr. Escudero, plaintiff's physician and one of their
wedding sponsors that plaintiff was undergoing psychiatric therapy since age 12 (TSN, 11-2-98,
p. 15) for some traumatic problem compounded by his drug habit. She found out plaintiff has
unusual sexual behavior by his obsession over her knees of which he would take endless
pictures of. Moreover, plaintiff preferred to have sex with her in between the knees which she
called "intrafemural sex," while real sex between them was far and between like 8 months, hence,
abnormal. During their marriage, plaintiff exhibited weird sexual behavior which defendant
attributed to plaintiff's drug addiction (TSN, 11-5-98, pp. 5-8). A compulsive liar, plaintiff has a bad
temper who breaks things when he had tantrums. Plaintiff took drugs like amphetamines,
benzedrine and the like, "speed" drugs that kept him from sleep and then would take barbiturates
or downers, like "mogadon." Defendant tried very hard to keep plaintiff away from drugs but failed
as it has become a habit to him. They had no fixed home since they often moved and partly lived
in Spain for about four and a half years, and during all those times, her mother-in-law would send
some financial support on and off, while defendant worked as an English teacher. Plaintiff, who
was supposed to be studying, did nothing. Their marriage became unbearable, as plaintiff
physically and verbally abused her, and this led to a break up in their marriage. Later, she learned
that plaintiff married one Angela Garcia in 1991 in the United States.

Jose Cardenas, father of defendant, testified that he was not aware of the civil wedding of his
daughter with the plaintiff; that his daughter and grandson came to stay with him after they
returned home from Spain and have lived with him and his wife ever since. His grandsons
practically grew up under his care and guidance, and he has supported his daughter's expenses
for medicines and hospital confinements (Exhs. "9" and "10").

Victoria Cardenas Navarro, defendant's sister, testified and corroborated that it was plaintiff's
family that attended to all the preparations and arrangements for the church wedding of her sister
with plaintiff, and that she didn't know that the couple wed in civil rites some time prior to the
church wedding. She also stated that she and her parents were still civil with the plaintiff inspite of
the marital differences between plaintiff and defendant.

As adverse witness for the defendant, plaintiff testified that because of irreconcilable differences
with defendant and in order for them to live their own lives, they agreed to divorce each other;
that when he applied for and obtained a divorce decree in the United States on June 14, 1983
(Exh. "13"), it was with the knowledge and consent of defendant who in fact authorized a certain
Atty. Quisumbing to represent her (TSN, 12-7-2000, p. 21). During his adverse testimony, plaintiff
identified a recent certification dated July 25, 2000 (Exh. "EE") issued by the Local Civil Registrar
of San Juan, that the marriage license no. 2770792, the same marriage license appearing in the
marriage contract (Exh. "A"), is inexistent, thus appears to be fictitious. 6

In its Decision dated 25 January 2002, declaring the nullity of the marriage of the parties, the trial court
made the following justifications:

Thus, being one of the essential requisites for the validity of the marriage, the lack or absence of
a license renders the marriage void ab initio. It was shown under the various certifications (Exhs.
"I", "E", and "C") earlier issued by the office of the Local Civil Registrar of the Municipality of San
Juan, and the more recent one issued on July 25, 2000 (Exh. "EE") that no marriage license no.
2770792 was ever issued by that office, hence, the marriage license no. 2770792 appearing on
the marriage contracts executed on May 19, 1969 (Exh. "A") and on May 31, 1969 (Exh. "F") was
fictitious. Such a certification enjoys probative value under the rules on evidence, particularly
Section 28, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court, x x x.

xxxx

WHEREFORE, the Court hereby declares the civil marriage between Jaime O. Sevilla and
Carmelita N. Cardenas solemnized by Rev. Cirilo D. Gonzales at the Manila City Hall on May 19,
1969 as well as their contract of marriage solemnized under religious rites by Rev. Juan B.
Velasco at the Holy Redeemer Parish on May 31, 1969, NULL and VOID for lack of the requisite
marriage license. Let the marriage contract of the parties under Registry No. 601 (e-69) of the
registry book of the Local Civil Registry of Manila be cancelled.
Let copies of this Decision be duly recorded in the proper civil and property registries in
accordance with Article 52 of the Family Code. Likewise, let a copy hereof be forwarded the
Office of the Solicitor General for its record and information.7

Carmelita filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals. In a Decision dated 20 December 2004, the Court of
Appeals disagreed with the trial court and held:

In People v. De Guzman (G.R. No. 106025, February 9, 1994), the Supreme Court explained
that: "The presumption of regularity of official acts may be rebutted by affirmative evidence of
irregularity or failure to perform a duty. The presumption, however, prevails until it is
overcome by no less than clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. Thus, unless the
presumption is rebutted, it becomes conclusive."

In this case, We note that a certain Perlita Mercader of the local civil registry of San Juan
testified that they "failed to locate the book wherein marriage license no. 2770792 is
registered," for the reason that "the employee handling is already retired." With said
testimony We cannot therefore just presume that the marriage license specified in the parties'
marriage contract was not issued for in the end the failure of the office of the local civil registrar of
San Juan to produce a copy of the marriage license was attributable not to the fact that no such
marriage license was issued but rather, because it "failed to locate the book wherein marriage
license no. 2770792 is registered." Simply put, if the pertinent book were available for scrutiny,
there is a strong possibility that it would have contained an entry on marriage license no.
2720792.

xxxx

Indeed, this Court is not prepared to annul the parties' marriage on the basis of a mere perception
of plaintiff that his union with defendant is defective with respect to an essential requisite of a
marriage contract, a perception that ultimately was not substantiated with facts on record. 8

Jaime filed a Motion for Reconsideration dated 6 January 2005 which the Court of Appeals denied in a
Resolution dated 6 April 2005.

This denial gave rise to the present Petition filed by Jaime.

He raises the following issues for Resolution.

1. Whether or not a valid marriage license was issued in accordance with law to the parties herein
prior to the celebration of the marriages in question;

2. Whether or not the Court of Appeals correctly applied and relied on the presumption of
regularity of officials acts, particularly the issuance of a marriage license, arising solely from the
contents of the marriage contracts in question which show on their face that a marriage license
was purportedly issued by the Local Civil Registry of San Juan, Metro Manila, and

3. Whether or not respondent could validly invoke/rely upon the presumption of validity of a
marriage arising from the admitted "fact of marriage."9

At the core of this controversy is the determination of whether or not the certifications from the Local Civil
Registrar of San Juan stating that no Marriage License No. 2770792 as appearing in the marriage
contract of the parties was issued, are sufficient to declare their marriage as null and void ab initio.

We agree with the Court of Appeals and rule in the negative.

Pertinent provisions of the Civil Code which was the law in force at the time of the marriage of the parties
are Articles 53,10 5811 and 80.12

Based on the foregoing provisions, a marriage license is an essential requisite for the validity of marriage.
The marriage between Carmelita and Jaime is of no exception.

At first glance, this case can very well be easily dismissed as one involving a marriage that is null and
void on the ground of absence of a marriage license based on the certifications issued by the Local Civil
Registar of San Juan. As ruled by this Court in the case of Cariño v. Cariño13:
[A]s certified by the Local Civil Registrar of San Juan, Metro Manila, their office has no record of
such marriage license. In Republic v. Court of Appeals, the Court held that such a certification is
adequate to prove the non-issuance of a marriage license. Absent any circumstance of suspicion,
as in the present case, the certification issued by the local civil registrar enjoys probative value,
he being the officer charged under the law to keep a record of all date relative to the issuance of
a marriage license.

Such being the case, the presumed validity of the marriage of petitioner and the deceased has
been sufficiently overcome. It then became the burden of petitioner to prove that their marriage is
valid and that they secured the required marriage license. Although she was declared in default
before the trial court, petitioner could have squarely met the issue and explained the absence of a
marriage license in her pleadings before the Court of Appeals and this Court. But petitioner
conveniently avoided the issue and chose to refrain from pursuing an argument that will put her
case in jeopardy. Hence, the presumed validity of their marriage cannot stand.

It is beyond cavil, therefore, that the marriage between petitioner Susan Nicdao and the
deceased, having been solemnized without the necessary marriage license, and not being one of
the marriages exempt from the marriage license requirement, is undoubtedly void ab initio.

The foregoing Decision giving probative value to the certifications issued by the Local Civil Registrar
should be read in line with the decision in the earlier case of Republic v. Court of Appeals,14 where it was
held that:

The above Rule authorized the custodian of documents to certify that despite diligent search,
a particular document does not exist in his office or that a particular entry of a specified
tenor was not to be found in a register. As custodians of public documents, civil registrars are
public officers charged with the duty, inter alia, of maintaining a register book where they are
required to enter all applications for marriage licenses, including the names of the applicants, the
date the marriage license was issued and such other relevant data. (Emphasis supplied.)

Thus, the certification to be issued by the Local Civil Registrar must categorically state that the document
does not exist in his office or the particular entry could not be found in the register despite diligent search.
Such certification shall be sufficient proof of lack or absence of record as stated in Section 28, Rule 132 of
the Rules of Court:

SEC. 28. Proof of lack of record. – a written statement signed by an officer having the custody of
an official record or by his deputy that after diligent search, no record or entry of a specified tenor
is found to exist in the records of his office, accompanied by a certificate as above provided, is
admissible as evidence that the records of his office contain no such record or entry.

We shall now proceed to scrutinize whether the certifications by the Local Civil Registrar of San Juan in
connection with Marriage License No. 2770792 complied with the foregoing requirements and deserved
to be accorded probative value.

The first Certification15 issued by the Local Civil Registrar of San Juan, Metro Manila, was dated 11 March
1994. It reads:

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

No Marriage License Number 2770792 were (sic) ever issued by this Office. With regards (sic) to
Marriage License Number 2880792,16 we exert all effort but we cannot find the said number.

Hope and understand our loaded work cannot give you our full force locating the above problem.

San Juan, Metro Manila

March 11, 1994

(SGD)RAFAEL D. ALISCAD, JR.


Local Civil Registrar

The second certification17 was dated 20 September 1994 and provides:

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:


This is to certify that no marriage license Number 2770792 were ever issued by this Office with
regards to Marriage License Number 2880792, we exert all effort but we cannot find the said
number.

Hope and understand our loaded work cannot give you our full force locating the above problem.

San Juan, Metro Manila

September 20, 1994

(SGD)RAFAEL D. ALISCAD, JR.


Local Civil Registrar

The third Certification,18 issued on 25 July 2000, states:

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

This is to certify that according to the records of this office, no Marriage License Application was
filed and no Marriage License No. 2770792 allegedly dated May 19, 1969 was issued by this
Office to MR. JAIME O. SEVILLA and MS. CARMELITA CARDENAS-SEVILLA.

This is to further certify that the said application and license do not exist in our Local Civil Registry
Index and, therefore, appear to be fictitious.

This certification is being issued upon the request of the interested party for whatever legal intent
it may serve.

San Juan, Metro Manila

July 25, 2000

(SGD)RAFAEL D. ALISCAD, JR.


Local Civil Registrar

Note that the first two certifications bear the statement that "hope and understand our loaded work cannot
give you our full force locating the above problem." It could be easily implied from the said statement that
the Office of the Local Civil Registrar could not exert its best efforts to locate and determine the existence
of Marriage License No. 2770792 due to its "loaded work." Likewise, both certifications failed to state with
absolute certainty whether or not such license was issued.

This implication is confirmed in the testimony of the representative from the Office of the Local Civil
Registrar of San Juan, Ms. Perlita Mercader, who stated that they cannot locate the logbook due to the
fact that the person in charge of the said logbook had already retired. Further, the testimony of the said
person was not presented in evidence. It does not appear on record that the former custodian of the
logbook was deceased or missing, or that his testimony could not be secured. This belies the claim that
all efforts to locate the logbook or prove the material contents therein, had been exerted.

As testified to by Perlita Mercader:

Q Under the subpoena duces tecum, you were required to bring to this Court among other things
the register of application of/or (sic) for marriage licenses received by the Office of the :Local Civil
Registrar of San Juan, Province of Rizal, from January 19, 1969 to May 1969. Did you bring with
you those records?

A I brought may 19, 1969, sir.

Q Is that the book requested of you under no. 3 of the request for subpoena?

A Meron pang January. I forgot, January . . .

Q Did you bring that with you?


A No, sir.

Q Why not?

A I cannot locate the book. This is the only book.

Q Will you please state if this is the register of marriage of marriage applications that your office
maintains as required by the manual of the office of the Local Civil Registrar?

COURT

May I see that book and the portion marked by the witness.

xxxx

COURT

Why don't you ask her direct question whether marriage license 2880792 is the number
issued by their office while with respect to license no. 2770792 the office of the Local Civil
Registrar of San Juan is very definite about it it was never issued. Then ask him how
about no. 2880792 if the same was ever issued by their office. Did you ask this 2887092,
but you could not find the record? But for the moment you cannot locate the books?
Which is which now, was this issued or not?

A The employee handling it is already retired, sir.19

Given the documentary and testimonial evidence to the effect that utmost efforts were not exerted to
locate the logbook where Marriage License No. 2770792 may have been entered, the presumption of
regularity of performance of official function by the Local Civil Registrar in issuing the certifications, is
effectively rebutted.

According to Section 3(m),20 Rule 131 of the Rules of Court, the presumption that official duty has been
regularly performed is among the disputable presumptions.

In one case, it was held:

A disputable presumption has been defined as a species of evidence that may be accepted and
acted on where there is no other evidence to uphold the contention for which it stands, or one
which may be overcome by other evidence. One such disputable/rebuttable presumption is that
an official act or duty has been regularly performed. x x x.21

The presumption of regularity of official acts may be rebutted by affirmative evidence of irregularity or
failure to perform a duty.22

The presumption of regularity of performance of official duty is disputable and can be overcome by other
evidence as in the case at bar where the presumption has been effectively defeated by the tenor of the
first and second certifications.

Moreover, the absence of the logbook is not conclusive proof of non-issuance of Marriage License No.
2770792. It can also mean, as we believed true in the case at bar, that the logbook just cannot be found.
In the absence of showing of diligent efforts to search for the said logbook, we cannot easily accept that
absence of the same also means non-existence or falsity of entries therein.

Finally, the rule is settled that every intendment of the law or fact leans toward the validity of the marriage,
the indissolubility of the marriage bonds.23 The courts look upon this presumption with great favor. It is not
to be lightly repelled; on the contrary, the presumption is of great weight.24

The Court is mindful of the policy of the 1987 Constitution to protect and strengthen the family as the
basic autonomous social institution and marriage as the foundation of the family. Thus, any doubt should
be resolved in favor of the validity of the marriage.25

The parties have comported themselves as husband and wife and lived together for several years
producing two offsprings,26 now adults themselves. It took Jaime several years before he filed the petition
for declaration of nullity. Admittedly, he married another individual sometime in 1991. 27 We are not ready
to reward petitioner by declaring the nullity of his marriage and give him his freedom and in the process
allow him to profit from his own deceit and perfidy.28

Our Constitution is committed to the policy of strengthening the family as a basic social institution. Our
family law is based on the policy that marriage is not a mere contract, but a social institution in which the
State is vitally interested. The State can find no stronger anchor than on good, solid and happy families.
The break-up of families weakens our social and moral fabric; hence, their preservation is not the concern
of the family members alone.29

"The basis of human society throughout the civilized world is x x x marriage. Marriage in this jurisdiction is
not only a civil contract, but it is a new relation, an institution in the maintenance of which the public is
deeply interested. Consequently, every intendment of the law leans toward legalizing matrimony. Persons
dwelling together in apparent matrimony are presumed, in the absence of any counterpresumption or
evidence special to the case, to be in fact married. The reason is that such is the common order of
society, and if the parties were not what they thus hold themselves out as being, they would be living in
the constant violation of decency and of law. A presumption established by our Code of Civil Procedure is
`that a man and a woman deporting themselves as husband and wife have entered into a lawful contract
of marriage.' Semper praesumitur pro matrimonio – Always presume marriage."30

This jurisprudential attitude towards marriage is based on the prima facie presumption that a man and a
woman deporting themselves as husband and wife have entered into a lawful contract of marriage. 31

By our failure to come to the succor of Jaime, we are not trifling with his emotion or deepest sentiments.
As we have said in Carating-Siayngco v. Siayngco,32 regrettably, there are situations like this one, where
neither law nor society can provide the specific answers to every individual problem.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant Petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of
Appeals dated 20 December 2004 and the Resolution dated 6 April 2005 are AFFIRMED. Costs against
the petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

A.M. No. MTJ-00-1329 March 8, 2001


(Formerly A.M. No. OCA IPI No. 99-706-MTJ)

HERMINIA BORJA-MANZANO, petitioner,


vs.
JUDGE ROQUE R. SANCHEZ, MTC, Infanta, Pangasinan, respondent.

RESOLUTION

DAVIDE, JR., C.J.:

The solemnization of a marriage between two contracting parties who were both bound by a prior existing
marriage is the bone of contention of the instant complaint against respondent Judge Roque R. Sanchez,
Municipal Trial Court, Infanta, Pangasinan. For this act, complainant Herminia Borja-Manzano charges
respondent Judge with gross ignorance of the law in a sworn Complaint-Affidavit filed with the Office of
the Court Administrator on 12 May 1999.

Complainant avers that she was the lawful wife of the late David Manzano, having been married to him on
21 May 1966 in San Gabriel Archangel Parish, Araneta Avenue, Caloocan City.1 Four children were born
out of that marriage.2 On 22 March 1993, however, her husband contracted another marriage with one
Luzviminda Payao before respondent Judge.3 When respondent Judge solemnized said marriage, he
knew or ought to know that the same was void and bigamous, as the marriage contract clearly stated that
both contracting parties were "separated."

Respondent Judge, on the other hand, claims in his Comment that when he officiated the marriage
between Manzano and Payao he did not know that Manzano was legally married. What he knew was that
the two had been living together as husband and wife for seven years already without the benefit of
marriage, as manifested in their joint affidavit.4 According to him, had he known that the late Manzano
was married, he would have advised the latter not to marry again; otherwise, he (Manzano) could be
charged with bigamy. He then prayed that the complaint be dismissed for lack of merit and for being
designed merely to harass him.

After an evaluation of the Complaint and the Comment, the Court Administrator recommended that
respondent Judge be found guilty of gross ignorance of the law and be ordered to pay a fine of P2,000,
with a warning that a repetition of the same or similar act would be dealt with more severely.

On 25 October 2000, this Court required the parties to manifest whether they were willing to submit the
case for resolution on the basis of the pleadings thus filed. Complainant answered in the affirmative.

For his part, respondent Judge filed a Manifestation reiterating his plea for the dismissal of the complaint
and setting aside his earlier Comment. He therein invites the attention of the Court to two separate
affidavits5 of the late Manzano and of Payao, which were allegedly unearthed by a member of his staff
upon his instruction. In those affidavits, both David Manzano and Luzviminda Payao expressly stated that
they were married to Herminia Borja and Domingo Relos, respectively; and that since their respective
marriages had been marked by constant quarrels, they had both left their families and had never
cohabited or communicated with their spouses anymore. Respondent Judge alleges that on the basis of
those affidavits, he agreed to solemnize the marriage in question in accordance with Article 34 of the
Family Code.

We find merit in the complaint.

Article 34 of the Family Code provides:

No license shall be necessary for the marriage of a man and a woman who have lived together as
husband and wife for at least five years and without any legal impediment to marry each other.
The contracting parties shall state the foregoing facts in an affidavit before any person authorized
by law to administer oaths. The solemnizing officer shall also state under oath that he ascertained
the qualifications of the contracting parties and found no legal impediment to the marriage.

For this provision on legal ratification of marital cohabitation to apply, the following requisites must concur:

1. The man and woman must have been living together as husband and wife for at least five
years before the marriage;

2. The parties must have no legal impediment to marry each other;

3. The fact of absence of legal impediment between the parties must be present at the time of
marriage;

4. The parties must execute an affidavit stating that they have lived together for at least five years
[and are without legal impediment to marry each other]; and

5. The solemnizing officer must execute a sworn statement that he had ascertained the
qualifications of the parties and that he had found no legal impediment to their marriage. 6

Not all of these requirements are present in the case at bar. It is significant to note that in their separate
affidavits executed on 22 March 1993 and sworn to before respondent Judge himself, David Manzano
and Luzviminda Payao expressly stated the fact of their prior existing marriage. Also, in their marriage
contract, it was indicated that both were "separated."

Respondent Judge knew or ought to know that a subsisting previous marriage is a diriment impediment,
which would make the subsequent marriage null and void.7 In fact, in his Comment, he stated that had he
known that the late Manzano was married he would have discouraged him from contracting another
marriage. And respondent Judge cannot deny knowledge of Manzano’s and Payao’s subsisting previous
marriage, as the same was clearly stated in their separate affidavits which were subscribed and sworn to
before him.

The fact that Manzano and Payao had been living apart from their respective spouses for a long time
already is immaterial. Article 63(1) of the Family Code allows spouses who have obtained a decree of
legal separation to live separately from each other, but in such a case the marriage bonds are not
severed. Elsewise stated, legal separation does not dissolve the marriage tie, much less authorize the
parties to remarry. This holds true all the more when the separation is merely de facto, as in the case at
bar.

Neither can respondent Judge take refuge on the Joint Affidavit of David Manzano and Luzviminda Payao
stating that they had been cohabiting as husband and wife for seven years. Just like separation, free and
voluntary cohabitation with another person for at least five years does not severe the tie of a subsisting
previous marriage. Marital cohabitation for a long period of time between two individuals who are legally
capacitated to marry each other is merely a ground for exemption from marriage license. It could not
serve as a justification for respondent Judge to solemnize a subsequent marriage vitiated by the
impediment of a prior existing marriage.

Clearly, respondent Judge demonstrated gross ignorance of the law when he solemnized a void and
bigamous marriage. The maxim "ignorance of the law excuses no one" has special application to
judges,8 who, under Rule 1.01 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, should be the embodiment of
competence, integrity, and independence. It is highly imperative that judges be conversant with the law
and basic legal principles.9 And when the law transgressed is simple and elementary, the failure to know
it constitutes gross ignorance of the law.10

ACCORDINGLY, the recommendation of the Court Administrator is hereby ADOPTED, with the
MODIFICATION that the amount of fine to be imposed upon respondent Judge Roque Sanchez is
increased to P20,000.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, Kapunan, Pardo, and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.

G.R. No. 133778 March 14, 2000

ENGRACE NIÑAL for Herself and as Guardian ad Litem of the minors BABYLINE NIÑAL, INGRID
NIÑAL, ARCHIE NIÑAL & PEPITO NIÑAL, JR., petitioners,
vs.
NORMA BAYADOG, respondent.

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

May the heirs of a deceased person file a petition for the declaration of nullity of his marriage after his
death?

Pepito Niñal was married to Teodulfa Bellones on September 26, 1974. Out of their marriage were born
herein petitioners. Teodulfa was shot by Pepito resulting in her death on April 24, 1985. One year and 8
months thereafter or on December 11, 1986, Pepito and respondent Norma Badayog got married without
any marriage license. In lieu thereof, Pepito and Norma executed an affidavit dated December 11, 1986
stating that they had lived together as husband and wife for at least five years and were thus exempt from
securing a marriage license. On February 19, 1997, Pepito died in a car accident. After their father's
death, petitioners filed a petition for declaration of nullity of the marriage of Pepito to Norma alleging that
the said marriage was void for lack of a marriage license. The case was filed under the assumption that
the validity or invalidity of the second marriage would affect petitioner's successional rights. Norma filed a
motion to dismiss on the ground that petitioners have no cause of action since they are not among the
persons who could file an action for "annulment of marriage" under Article 47 of the Family Code.

Judge Ferdinand J. Marcos of the Regional Trial Court of Toledo City, Cebu, Branch 59, dismissed the
petition after finding that the Family Code is "rather silent, obscure, insufficient" to resolve the following
issues:

(1) Whether or not plaintiffs have a cause of action against defendant in asking for the declaration
of the nullity of marriage of their deceased father, Pepito G. Niñal, with her specially so when at
the time of the filing of this instant suit, their father Pepito G. Niñal is already dead;
(2) Whether or not the second marriage of plaintiffs' deceased father with defendant is null and
void ab initio;

(3) Whether or not plaintiffs are estopped from assailing the validity of the second marriage after it
was dissolved due to their father's death. 1

Thus, the lower court ruled that petitioners should have filed the action to declare null and void their
father's marriage to respondent before his death, applying by analogy Article 47 of the Family Code which
enumerates the time and the persons who could initiate an action for annulment of marriage. 2 Hence, this
petition for review with this Court grounded on a pure question of law.

This petition was originally dismissed for non-compliance with Section 11, Rule 13 of the 1997 Rules of
Civil Procedure, and because "the verification failed to state the basis of petitioner's averment that the
allegations in the petition are "true and correct"." It was thus treated as an unsigned pleading which
produces no legal effect under Section 3, Rule 7, of the 1997 Rules. 3 However, upon motion of
petitioners, this Court reconsidered the dismissal and reinstated the petition for review. 4

The two marriages involved herein having been solemnized prior to the effectivity of the Family Code
(FC), the applicable law to determine their validity is the Civil Code which was the law in effect at the time
of their celebration. 5 A valid marriage license is a requisite of marriage under Article 53 of the Civil
Code, 6 the absence of which renders the marriage void ab initio pursuant to Article 80(3) 7 in relation to
Article 58. 8 The requirement and issuance of marriage license is the State's demonstration of its
involvement and participation in every marriage, in the maintenance of which the general public is
interested. 9 This interest proceeds from the constitutional mandate that the State recognizes the sanctity
of family life and of affording protection to the family as a basic "autonomous social
institution." 10 Specifically, the Constitution considers marriage as an "inviolable social institution," and is
the foundation of family life which shall be protected by the State. 11 This is why the Family Code
considers marriage as "a special contract of permanent union" 12 and case law considers it "not just an
adventure but a lifetime commitment." 13

However, there are several instances recognized by the Civil Code wherein a marriage license is
dispensed with, one of which is that provided in Article 76, 14 referring to the marriage of a man and a
woman who have lived together and exclusively with each other as husband and wife for a continuous
and unbroken period of at least five years before the marriage. The rationale why no license is required in
such case is to avoid exposing the parties to humiliation, shame and embarrassment concomitant with the
scandalous cohabitation of persons outside a valid marriage due to the publication of every applicant's
name for a marriage license. The publicity attending the marriage license may discourage such persons
from legitimizing their status. 15 To preserve peace in the family, avoid the peeping and suspicious eye of
public exposure and contain the source of gossip arising from the publication of their names, the law
deemed it wise to preserve their privacy and exempt them from that requirement.

There is no dispute that the marriage of petitioners' father to respondent Norma was celebrated without
any marriage license. In lieu thereof, they executed an affidavit stating that "they have attained the age of
majority, and, being unmarried, have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years, and that
we now desire to marry each other." 16 The only issue that needs to be resolved pertains to what nature of
cohabitation is contemplated under Article 76 of the Civil Code to warrant the counting of the five year
period in order to exempt the future spouses from securing a marriage license. Should it be a cohabitation
wherein both parties are capacitated to marry each other during the entire five-year continuous period or
should it be a cohabitation wherein both parties have lived together and exclusively with each other as
husband and wife during the entire five-year continuous period regardless of whether there is a legal
impediment to their being lawfully married, which impediment may have either disappeared or intervened
sometime during the cohabitation period?

Working on the assumption that Pepito and Norma have lived together as husband and wife for five years
without the benefit of marriage, that five-year period should be computed on the basis of a cohabitation as
"husband and wife" where the only missing factor is the special contract of marriage to validate the union.
In other words, the five-year common-law cohabitation period, which is counted back from the date of
celebration of marriage, should be a period of legal union had it not been for the absence of the marriage.
This 5-year period should be the years immediately before the day of the marriage and it should be a
period of cohabitation characterized by exclusivity — meaning no third party was involved at anytime
within the 5 years and continuity — that is unbroken. Otherwise, if that continuous 5-year cohabitation is
computed without any distinction as to whether the parties were capacitated to marry each other during
the entire five years, then the law would be sanctioning immorality and encouraging parties to have
common law relationships and placing them on the same footing with those who lived faithfully with their
spouse. Marriage being a special relationship must be respected as such and its requirements must be
strictly observed. The presumption that a man and a woman deporting themselves as husband and wife is
based on the approximation of the requirements of the law. The parties should not be afforded any
excuse to not comply with every single requirement and later use the same missing element as a pre-
conceived escape ground to nullify their marriage. There should be no exemption from securing a
marriage license unless the circumstances clearly fall within the ambit of the exception. It should be noted
that a license is required in order to notify the public that two persons are about to be united in matrimony
and that anyone who is aware or has knowledge of any impediment to the union of the two shall make it
known to the local civil registrar. 17 The Civil Code provides:

Art. 63: . . . This notice shall request all persons having knowledge of any impediment to the
marriage to advice the local civil registrar thereof. . . .

Art. 64: Upon being advised of any alleged impediment to the marriage, the local civil registrar
shall forthwith make an investigation, examining persons under oath. . . .

This is reiterated in the Family Code thus:

Art. 17 provides in part: . . . This notice shall request all persons having knowledge of any
impediment to the marriage to advise the local civil registrar thereof. . . .

Art. 18 reads in part: . . . In case of any impediment known to the local civil registrar or brought to
his attention, he shall note down the particulars thereof and his findings thereon in the application
for a marriage license. . . .

This is the same reason why our civil laws, past or present, absolutely prohibited the concurrence of
multiple marriages by the same person during the same period. Thus, any marriage subsequently
contracted during the lifetime of the first spouse shall be illegal and void, 18 subject only to the exception in
cases of absence or where the prior marriage was dissolved or annulled. The Revised Penal Code
complements the civil law in that the contracting of two or more marriages and the having of extramarital
affairs are considered felonies, i.e., bigamy and concubinage and adultery. 19 The law sanctions
monogamy.

In this case, at the time of Pepito and respondent's marriage, it cannot be said that they have lived with
each other as husband and wife for at least five years prior to their wedding day. From the time Pepito's
first marriage was dissolved to the time of his marriage with respondent, only about twenty months had
elapsed. Even assuming that Pepito and his first wife had separated in fact, and thereafter both Pepito
and respondent had started living with each other that has already lasted for five years, the fact remains
that their five-year period cohabitation was not the cohabitation contemplated by law. It should be in the
nature of a perfect union that is valid under the law but rendered imperfect only by the absence of the
marriage contract. Pepito had a subsisting marriage at the time when he started cohabiting with
respondent. It is immaterial that when they lived with each other, Pepito had already been separated in
fact from his lawful spouse. The subsistence of the marriage even where there was actual severance of
the filial companionship between the spouses cannot make any cohabitation by either spouse with any
third party as being one as "husband and wife".

Having determined that the second marriage involved in this case is not covered by the exception to the
requirement of a marriage license, it is void ab initio because of the absence of such element.

The next issue to be resolved is: do petitioners have the personality to file a petition to declare their
father's marriage void after his death?

Contrary to respondent judge's ruling, Article 47 of the Family Code 20 cannot be applied even by analogy
to petitions for declaration of nullity of marriage. The second ground for annulment of marriage relied
upon by the trial court, which allows "the sane spouse" to file an annulment suit "at anytime before the
death of either party" is inapplicable. Article 47 pertains to the grounds, periods and persons who can file
an annulment suit, not a suit for declaration of nullity of marriage. The Code is silent as to who can file a
petition to declare the nullity of a marriage. Voidable and void marriages are not identical. A marriage that
is annulable is valid until otherwise declared by the court; whereas a marriage that is void ab initio is
considered as having never to have taken place 21 and cannot be the source of rights. The first can be
generally ratified or confirmed by free cohabitation or prescription while the other can never be ratified. A
voidable marriage cannot be assailed collaterally except in a direct proceeding while a void marriage can
be attacked collaterally. Consequently, void marriages can be questioned even after the death of either
party but voidable marriages can be assailed only during the lifetime of the parties and not after death of
either, in which case the parties and their offspring will be left as if the marriage had been perfectly
valid. 22 That is why the action or defense for nullity is imprescriptible, unlike voidable marriages where the
action prescribes. Only the parties to a voidable marriage can assail it but any proper interested party
may attack a void marriage. Void marriages have no legal effects except those declared by law
concerning the properties of the alleged spouses, regarding co-ownership or ownership through actual
joint contribution, 23 and its effect on the children born to such void marriages as provided in Article 50 in
relation to Article 43 and 44 as well as Article 51, 53 and 54 of the Family Code. On the contrary, the
property regime governing voidable marriages is generally conjugal partnership and the children
conceived before its annulment are legitimate.

Contrary to the trial court's ruling, the death of petitioner's father extinguished the alleged marital bond
between him and respondent. The conclusion is erroneous and proceeds from a wrong premise that there
was a marriage bond that was dissolved between the two. It should be noted that their marriage was void
hence it is deemed as if it never existed at all and the death of either extinguished nothing.

Jurisprudence under the Civil Code states that no judicial decree is necessary in order to establish the
nullity of a marriage. 24 "A void marriage does not require a judicial decree to restore the parties to their
original rights or to make the marriage void but though no sentence of avoidance be absolutely
necessary, yet as well for the sake of good order of society as for the peace of mind of all concerned, it is
expedient that the nullity of the marriage should be ascertained and declared by the decree of a court of
competent jurisdiction." 25 "Under ordinary circumstances, the effect of a void marriage, so far as concerns
the conferring of legal rights upon the parties, is as though no marriage had ever taken place. And
therefore, being good for no legal purpose, its invalidity can be maintained in any proceeding in which the
fact of marriage may be material, either direct or collateral, in any civil court between any parties at any
time, whether before or after the death of either or both the husband and the wife, and upon mere proof of
the facts rendering such marriage void, it will be disregarded or treated as non-existent by the courts." It is
not like a voidable marriage which cannot be collaterally attacked except in direct proceeding instituted
during the lifetime of the parties so that on the death of either, the marriage cannot be impeached, and is
made good ab initio. 26 But Article 40 of the Family Code expressly provides that there must be a judicial
declaration of the nullity of a previous marriage, though void, before a party can enter into a second
marriage 27 and such absolute nullity can be based only on a final judgment to that effect. 28 For the same
reason, the law makes either the action or defense for the declaration of absolute nullity of marriage
imprescriptible. 29 Corollarily, if the death of either party would extinguish the cause of action or the
ground for defense, then the same cannot be considered imprescriptible.

However, other than for purposes of remarriage, no judicial action is necessary to declare a marriage an
absolute nullity.1âwphi1 For other purposes, such as but not limited to determination of heirship,
legitimacy or illegitimacy of a child, settlement of estate, dissolution of property regime, or a criminal case
for that matter, the court may pass upon the validity of marriage even in a suit not directly instituted to
question the same so long as it is essential to the determination of the case. This is without prejudice to
any issue that may arise in the case. When such need arises, a final judgment of declaration of nullity is
necessary even if the purpose is other than to remarry. The clause "on the basis of a final judgment
declaring such previous marriage void" in Article 40 of the Family Code connotes that such final judgment
need not be obtained only for purpose of remarriage.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Order of the Regional Trial Court, Toledo City,
Cebu, Branch 59, dismissing Civil Case No. T-639, is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The said case is
ordered REINSTATED.1âwphi1.nêt

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno and Kapunan, JJ., concur.


Pardo, J., on official business abroad.

A.M. No. MTJ-07-1691 April 2, 2013


(Formerly A.M. No. 07-7-04-SC)

OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR, Petitioner,


vs.
JUDGE ANATALIO S. NECESSARIO, Branch 2; JUDGE GIL R. ACOSTA, Branch 3; JUDGE
ROSABELLA M. TORMIS, Branch 4; and JUDGE EDGEMELO C. ROSALES, Branch 8; all of MTCC-
Cebu ·City; CELESTE P. RETUYA, Clerk III, MTCC Branch 6, Cebu City; CORAZON P. RETUYA,
Court Stenographer, MTCC, Branch 6, Cebu City; RHONA F. RODRIGUEZ, Administrative Officer I,
Office of the Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court (RTC) Cebu City; EMMA D. VALENCIA, Court
Stenographer III, RTC, Branch 18, Cebu City; MARILOU CABANEZ, Court Stenographer, MTCC,
Branch 4, Cebu City; DESIDERIO S. ARANAS, Process Server, MTCC, Branch 3, Cebu City;
REBECCA ALESNA, Court Interpreter, MTCC, Branch 1, Cebu City; and HELEN MONGGAYA,
Court Stenographer, MTCC, Branch 4, Cebu City. Respondents.

*PERLAS-BERNABE

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

This Court has long held that "[the] administration of justice is circumscribed with a heavy burden of
responsibility. It requires that everyone involved in its dispensation ― from the presiding judge to the
lowliest clerk ― live up to the strictest standards of competence, honesty, and integrity in the public
service."1

THE CASE

This is an administrative case that stemmed from the 6 July 2007 Memorandum of the Office of the Court
Administrator (OCA).2 The judicial audit team created by the OCA reported alleged irregularities in the
solemnization of marriages in several branches of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) and
Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Cebu City.3 Certain package fees were offered to interested parties by
"fixers" or "facilitators" for instant marriages.4

THE FACTS

On 3 July 2007, Atty. Rullyn Garcia, Region 7 Judicial Supervisor, proceeded to Cebu City and headed
the audit team created by OCA in investigating Branches 2, 3, 4, and 8 of the MTCC in Cebu City. 5 A
female and male lawyer of the audit team went undercover as a couple looking to get married. They went
to the Palace of Justice and were directed by the guard on duty to go to Branch 4 and look for a certain
"Meloy". The male lawyer feared that he would be recognized by other court personnel, specifically the
Clerk of Court of Branch 4 who was a former law school classmate. The two lawyers then agreed that
only the female lawyer would go inside and inquire about the marriage application process. Inside Branch
4, a woman named Helen approached and assisted the female lawyer. When the female lawyer asked if
the marriage process could be rushed, Helen assured the lawyer that the marriage could be solemnized
the next day, but the marriage certificate would only be dated the day the marriage license becomes
available. Helen also guaranteed the regularity of the process for a fee of three thousand pesos (₱3,000)
only.6

In its 10 July 2007 Resolution, this Court treated the Memorandum dated 6 July 2007 of the judicial audit
team as a formal administrative complaint and directed Judge Anatalio S. Necessario, Judge Gil R.
Acosta, Judge Rosabella M. Tormis, and Judge Edgemelo C. Rosales to submit their respective
comments.7 The Court also suspended the judges pending resolution of the cases against them.8

On 24 August 2007, the OCA through Senior Deputy Court Administrator Zenaida N. Elepaño submitted
its Memorandum dated 29 August 20079 and Supplemental Report.10 Six hundred forty-three (643)
marriage certificates were examined by the judicial audit team.11 The team reported that out of the 643
marriage certificates examined, 280 marriages were solemnized under Article 3412 of the Family
Code.13 The logbooks of the MTCC Branches indicate a higher number of solemnized marriages than the
number of marriage certificates in the courts’ custody.14 There is also an unusual number of marriage
licenses obtained from the local civil registrars of the towns of Barili and Liloan, Cebu. 15 There were even
marriages solemnized at 9 a.m. with marriage licenses obtained on the same day. 16 The town of Barili,
Cebu is more than sixty (60) kilometers away from Cebu City and entails a travel time of almost two (2)
hours.17 Liloan, Cebu, on the other hand, is more than ten (10) kilometers away from Cebu City. 18

The judicial audit team, after tape-recording interviews with other court and government personnel, also
reported the following:

1) Celeste P. Retuya admitted that she assisted couples who wanted to get married by checking whether
their documents were complete and referred them to Judges Tormis, Necessario, and Rosales
afterwards;19

2) Corazon P. Retuya referred couples who wanted to get married to Judge Necessario. There were also
"assistants" who would go over the couples’ documents before these couples would be referred to Judge
Necessario. Retuya also narrated several anomalies involving foreign nationals and their acquisition of
marriage licenses from the local civil registrar of Barili, Cebu despite the fact that parties were not
residents of Barili. Those anomalous marriages were solemnized by Judge Tormis; 20
3) Rhona F. Rodriguez assisted couples and referred them to any of the available judges. She admitted
that after the payment of the solemnization fee of three hundred pesos (₱300), a different amount, as
agreed upon by the parties and the judge, was paid to the latter. 21 She admitted that she accepted four
thousand pesos (₱4,000) for facilitating the irregular marriage of Moreil Baranggan Sebial and Maricel
Albater although she gave the payment to a certain "Mang Boy"; 22

4) Emma D. Valencia admitted that she assisted couples seeking to get married and that most of the
marriage licenses were obtained from the local civil registrar of Barili and Liloan, Cebu because the
registrars in those towns were not strict about couples’ attendance in the family planning seminar. She
also admitted that couples gave her food while the judge received five hundred pesos (₱500) if the
marriage was solemnized inside the chambers. Foreigners were said to have given twice the said
amount. The judge accepted one thousand five hundred pesos (₱1,500) for gasoline expenses if the
marriage was celebrated outside the chambers;23

5) Marilou Cabañez admitted that she assisted couples and referred them to Judges Tormis, Necessario,
or Rosales. However, she denied receiving any amount from these couples. She told the audit team that
during the 8th, 18th, and 28th of the month, seven (7) to eight (8) couples would go directly to Judge
Rosabella M. Tormis for a fifteen-minute marriage solemnization;24

6) Desiderio S. Aranas admitted that he started assisting couples in 2003. He told the investigating team
that Judge Gil Acosta would talk to couples wishing to get married without a license. He would produce a
joint affidavit of cohabitation form on which he or the clerk of court would type the entries. The judge
would then receive an envelope containing money from the couple. Aranas also confirmed the existence
of "open-dated" marriage certificates;25

7) Antonio Flores, Branch 9 Process Server of RTC Cebu City, told the investigating team that couples
looked for Judge Geraldine Faith A. Econg, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 9, Cebu City,
"para menos ang bayad."26 The excess of three hundred pesos (₱300) that couples paid to Judge Econg
as solemnization fee went to a certain "sinking fund" of Branch 9;27

8) Rebecca L. Alesna admitted that she usually referred couples to Judges Necessario or Tormis.
Couples who wanted to get married under Article 34 of the Family Code were advised to buy a pro-forma
affidavit of joint cohabitation for ten pesos (₱10);28

9) Arvin Oca, Branch 1 Process Server of the MTCC of Cebu City, admitted that he referred couples to
Branch 2, Clerk of Court, Harrish Co. Oca declared that on 28 June 2007, he accompanied a couple to
the chambers of Judge Necessario.29 He informed the judge that the couple only had birth
certificates.30 The respondent judge then inquired about their ages and asked them if they had been
previously married then proceeded to solemnize the marriage;31 and

10) Filomena C. Lopez, local civil registrar of Barili, Cebu, declared that she does not scrutinize marriage
applications.32 Couples who are non-Barili residents are able to obtain marriage licenses from her Barili
office because these couples have relatives residing in Barili, Cebu. 33 She also added that while couples
still need to submit a certificate of attendance in the family planning seminar, they may attend it before or
after the filing of the application for marriage license.34

Affidavits of private persons were also attached to the records. Jacqui Lou Baguio-Manera was a resident
of Panagdait, Mabolo, Cebu and on 21 May 2007, she and her then fiancé wanted to set a marriage
date.35 Her younger sister who was married in a civil wedding last year gave her the number of a certain
"Meloy". After talking to Meloy on the phone, the wedding was scheduled at 2 p.m. on 23 May 2007 and
the couple were asked to bring their birth certificates. No marriage license was required from them. Meloy
asked for a fee of one thousand five hundred pesos (₱1,500). According to Baguio-Manera, their
marriage certificate was marked as "No marriage license was necessary, the marriage being solemnized
under Art. 34 of Executive Order No. 209". Their marriage was solemnized that day by Judge Rosabella
M. Tormis. Baguio-Manera claimed that they did not understand what that statement meant at that time.
However, in her affidavit, she declared that the situation premised under Article 34 did not apply to her
and her fiancé.

Mary Anne Flores-Patoc was a resident of Barrio Luz, Cebu City. In her 5 July 2007 affidavit, she
recounted how she and her boyfriend went to the Provincial Capitol to get married in February 2006.
While logging in at the entrance, they were offered assistance by the guards for a fee of one thousand
five hundred pesos (₱1,500). The guard also offered to become "Ninong" or a witness to the wedding.
The couple became suspicious and did not push through with the civil wedding at that time.

On 27 November 2007, the Court En Banc issued a resolution: a) requiring Judges Anatalio S.
Necessario, Gil R. Acosta, Rosabella M. Tormis, and Edgemelo C. Rosales of the MTCC, Branches 2, 3,
4, and 8, respectively, of Cebu City, to comment on the findings of the 14 August 2007 Supplemental
Report of the OCA, within fifteen (15) days from notice; b) directing the Process Servicing Unit to furnish
the judges with a copy of the Supplemental Report; c) requiring the court personnel listed below to show
cause within fifteen (15) days from notice why no disciplinary action should be taken against them for their
alleged grave misconduct and dishonesty and impleading them in this administrative matter:

1) Celeste P. Retuya, Clerk III, MTCC, Branch 6, Cebu City;

2) Corazon P. Retuya, Court Stenographer, MTCC, Branch 6, Cebu City;

3) Rhona F. Rodriguez, Administrative Officer I, Office of the Clerk of Court, RTC, Cebu City;

4) Emma D. Valencia, Court Stenographer III, RTC, Branch 18, Cebu City;

5) Marilou Cabañez, Court Stenographer, MTCC, Branch 4, Cebu City;

6) Desiderio S. Aranas, Process Server, MTCC, Branch 3, Cebu City;

7) Rebecca Alesna, Court Interpreter, MTCC, Branch 1, Cebu City;

8) Helen Mongaya,Court Stenographer, MTCC, Branch 4, Cebu City.

The Court in the same resolution also: a) ordered the referral to the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for
the Visayas for appropriate action on the administrative matter involving the violation of the law on
marriage by Ms. Filomena C. Lopez, Local Civil Registrar of Barili, Cebu, and one Ms. Veronica S.
Longakit, former Local Civil Registrar of Liloan, Cebu; b) directed the Process Serving Unit to furnish the
Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas with a copy of the Supplemental Report of the OCA;
and c) required Judge Geraldine Faith A. Econg, RTC, Branch 9, Cebu City, to comment within fifteen
(15) days from notice on the statement of staff member Antonio Flores saying that Branch 9’s court
personnel received an amount in excess of the ₱300 solemnization fee paid by couples whose marriages
were solemnized by her. This amount goes to the court’s "sinking fund".36

In their Comments and/or Answers to the Memorandum dated 5 July 2007 of the OCA and its
Supplemental Report,37 the respondent judges argued the following:

Judge Anatalio S. Necessario relies on the presumption of regularity regarding the documents presented
to him by contracting parties.38 He claims that marriages he solemnized under Article 34 of the Family
Code had the required affidavit of cohabitation. He claims that pro forma affidavits of cohabitation have
been used by other judges even before he became a judge.39 He avers that he ascertains the ages of the
parties, their relationship, and the existence of an impediment to marry.40 He also asks the parties
searching questions and clarifies whether they understood the contents of the affidavit and the legal
consequences of its execution.41 The judge also denies knowledge of the payment of solemnization fees
in batches.42 In addition, he argues that it was a process server who was in-charge of recording marriages
on the logbook, keeping the marriage certificates, and reporting the total number of marriages monthly.43

Judge Gil R. Acosta argues that the law only requires a marriage license and that he is not required to
inquire whether the license was obtained from a location where one of the parties is an actual
resident.44 The judge believes that it is not his duty to verify the signature on the marriage license to
determine its authenticity because he relies on the presumption of regularity of public documents. 45 The
judge also outlines his own procedure in solemnizing marriages which involves: first, the determination
whether the solemnization fee was paid; second, the presentation of the affidavit of cohabitation and birth
certificates to ascertain identity and age of the parties; third, if one of the parties is a foreigner, the judge
asks for a certificate of legal capacity to marry, passport picture, date of arrival, and divorce papers when
the party is divorced; fourth, he then asks the parties and their witnesses questions regarding cohabitation
and interviews the children of the parties, if any.46

Judge Rosabella M. Tormis denies the charges brought by the OCA. She calls the actions of the judicial
audit team during the investigation an "entrapment".47 She also claims that there is nothing wrong with
solemnizing marriages on the date of the issuance of the marriage license and with the fact that the
issued marriage license was obtained from a place where neither of the parties resided. 48 As to the pro
forma affidavits of cohabitation, she argues that she cannot be faulted for accepting it as genuine as she
and the other judges are not handwriting experts.49 The affidavits also enjoy the presumption of
regularity.50 Judge Tormis also discredits the affidavit of Baguio-Manera as hearsay.51 The respondent
said that when Baguio-Manera and her husband were confronted with the affidavit they executed, they
affirmed the veracity of the statements, particularly the fact that they have been living together for five
years.52 The judge also attributes the irregularity in the number of marriages solemnized in her sala to the
filing clerks.53

Judge Edgemelo C. Rosales denies violating the law on marriage.54 He maintains that it is the local civil
registrar who evaluates the documents submitted by the parties, and he presumes the regularity of the
license issued.55 It is only when there is no marriage license given that he ascertains the qualifications of
the parties and the lack of legal impediment to marry. 56 As to the affidavits of cohabitation, the judge
believes there is nothing wrong with the fact that these are pro forma. He states that marriage certificates
are required with the marriage license attached or the affidavit of cohabitation only and the other
documents fall under the responsibility of the local civil registrar. He surmises that if the marriage
certificate did not come with the marriage license or affidavit of cohabitation, the missing document might
have been inadvertently detached, and it can be checked with the proper local civil registrar. As to the
payment of the docket fee, he contends that it should be paid after the solemnization of the marriage and
not before because judges will be pre-empted from ascertaining the qualifications of the couple. Besides,
the task of collecting the fee belongs to the Clerk of Court.57 The judge also argues that solemnization of
marriage is not a judicial duty.58

On 12 November 2007, Judges Tormis and Rosales filed a Memorandum of Law with Plea for Early
Resolution, Lifting of Suspension and Dismissal of Case.59 This Court in a Resolution dated 11 December
2007 lifted the suspension of the respondent judges but prohibited them from solemnizing marriages until
further ordered.60

On 7 December 2007, Judges Tormis and Rosales filed a Motion for Early Resolution with Waiver of
Formal and/or Further Investigation and Motion to Dismiss.61 In a Resolution dated 15 January 2008, the
Court noted the motion and granted the prayer of Judges Tormis and Rosales for the payment of their
unpaid salaries, allowances and all other economic benefits from 9 July 2007. 62

THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE OCA

In its Memorandum dated 15 June 2010,63 the OCA recommended the dismissal of the respondent judges
and some court employees, and the suspension or admonition of others. The OCA summarized the
liabilities of the respondents, to wit:

JUDGE ANATALIO S. NECESSARIO is guilty of gross inefficiency or neglect of duty for solemnizing
marriages with questionable documents and wherein one of the contracting parties is a foreigner who
submitted a mere affidavit of his capacity to marry in lieu of the required certificate from his embassy. He
is also guilty of gross ignorance of the law for solemnizing marriages under Article 34 of the Family Code
wherein one or both of the contracting parties were minors during the cohabitation.

xxx

JUDGE GIL R. ACOSTA is guilty of gross inefficiency or neglect of duty for failure to make sure that the
solemnization fee has been paid. He is also guilty of gross ignorance of the law for solemnizing marriages
under Article 34 of the Family Code wherein one or both of the contracting parties were minors during the
cohabitation.

JUDGE EDGEMELO C. ROSALES is guilty of gross inefficiency or neglect of duty for solemnizing
marriages with questionable documents, for failure to make sure that the solemnization fee has been paid
and for solemnizing marriages wherein one of the contracting parties is a foreigner who submitted a mere
affidavit of his capacity to marry in lieu of the required certificate from his embassy. He is also guilty of
gross ignorance of the law for solemnizing a marriage without the requisite marriage license.

JUDGE ROSEBELLA M. TORMIS is guilty of gross inefficiency or neglect of duty for solemnizing
marriages with questionable documents, for failure to make sure that the solemnization fee has been
paid, for solemnizing marriages wherein one of the contracting parties is a foreigner who submitted a
mere affidavit of his capacity to marry in lieu of the required certificate from the embassy and for
solemnizing a marriage with an expired license.

xxx

HELEN MONGGAYA is guilty of grave misconduct for violating Section 2, Canon I of the Code of Conduct
for Court Personnel that prohibits court personnel from soliciting or accepting any gift, favor or benefit
based on any or explicit or implicit understanding that such gift, favor or benefit shall influence their official
actions and for giving false information for the purpose of perpetrating an irregular marriage.
RHONA RODRIGUEZ is guilty of gross misconduct for violating Section 2, Canon I of the Code of
Conduct for Court Personnel and for inducing Maricel Albater to falsify the application for marriage license
by instructing her to indicate her residence as Barili, Cebu.

DESIDERIO ARANAS and REBECCA ALESNA are guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the
service for providing couples who are to be married under Article 34 of the Family Code with the required
affidavit of cohabitation.

CELESTE RETUYA, EMMA VALENCIA and REBECCA ALESNA are guilty of violating Section 2(b),
Canon III of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel which prohibits court personnel from receiving tips
or other remuneration for assisting or attending to parties engaged in transactions or involved in actions
or proceedings with the Judiciary.64

The OCA, however, recommended the DISMISSAL of the complaints against Judge Geraldine Faith A.
Econg, Corazon P. Retuya, and Marilou Cabañez, for lack of merit.

THE ISSUE

The issue now before this Court is whether the judges and personnel of the MTCC and RTC in Cebu City
are guilty of gross ignorance of the law, gross neglect of duty or gross inefficiency and gross misconduct,
and in turn, warrant the most severe penalty of dismissal from service.

THE COURT’S RULING

The findings in the 2010 Memorandum of the Office of the Court Administrator are supported by the
evidence on record and applicable law and jurisprudence.

This Court has long held that court officials and employees are placed with a heavy burden and
responsibility of keeping the faith of the public.65 In Obañana, Jr. v. Ricafort, we said that:

Any impression of impropriety, misdeed or negligence in the performance of official functions must be
avoided. This Court shall not countenance any conduct, act or omission on the part of all those involved in
the administration of justice which would violate the norm of public accountability and diminish the faith of
the people in the Judiciary.66

The OCA described accurately the Palace of Justice in Cebu City as a hub of swift marriages. The
respondent judges and court personnel disregarded laws and procedure to the prejudice of the parties
and the proper administration of justice.

The OCA found that Judges Anatalio S. Necessario, Gil R. Acosta, Rosabella M. Tormis, and Edgemelo
C. Rosales are all guilty of gross inefficiency or neglect of duty when they solemnized marriages without
following the proper procedure laid down by law, particularly the Family Code of the Philippines and
existing jurisprudence. The OCA listed down aspects of the solemnization process which were
disregarded by the judges. The Court will now discuss the individual liabilities of the respondent judges
and court personnel vis-à-vis the evidence presented by the OCA against them.

Liability of Judge Anatalio S. Necessario

The OCA reported that Judge Necessario solemnized a total of one thousand one hundred twenty-three
(1,123) marriages from 2005 to 2007.67 However, only one hundred eighty-four (184) marriage certificates
were actually examined by the judicial audit team.68 Out of the 184 marriages, only seventy-nine (79)
were solemnized with a marriage license while one hundred five (105) were solemnized under Article 34
of the Family Code. Out of the 79 marriages with license, forty-seven (47) of these licenses were issued
by the Local Civil Registrar of Liloan, Cebu. This translates to 42.93% of the marriages he solemnized
with marriage license coming from Liloan for over a period of years.69 There were also twenty-two (22)
marriages solemnized by the judge with incomplete documents such missing as marriage license,
certificate of legal capacity to marry, and the joint affidavit of cohabitation. 70

Judge Necessario solemnized nine (9) marriages that had questionable supporting documents such as
marriage licenses.71 The OCA found that the place of residence of the contracting parties appearing in the
supporting documents differ from the place where they obtained their marriage license. 72 The documents
invited suspicion because of erasures and superimpositions in the entries of residence. 73 Likewise, in lieu
of the required certificate of legal capacity to marry, a mere affidavit was submitted by the
parties.74 Variations in the signatures of the contracting parties were also apparent in the documents. 75
The respondent judge solemnized forty-three (43) marriages under Article 34 of the Family Code. These
marriages appeared dubious since the joint affidavit of cohabitation of the parties show minority of one or
both of them during cohabitation.76 For example, he solemnized on 14 May 2004 the marriage of 22-year-
old Harol D. Amorin and 19-year-old Dinalyn S. Paraiso who are residents of Lapu-Lapu City.77

There are also sixteen (16) marriage licenses with attached official receipts of the solemnization fee but
the corresponding marriage certificates cannot be found.78 The presence of the receipts implies that these
marriages were solemnized.

Liability of Judge Gil R. Acosta

Judge Acosta solemnized a total of eighty-seven (87) marriages from 2003 to 2007.79 However, the
logbook showed that he solemnized two hundred seventy-two (272) marriages while the monthly reports
of cases showed that he solemnized five hundred twelve (512) marriages over the same period. Out of
the 87 marriages, he solemnized seventy-five (75) under

Article 34 of the Family Code.80 This is equivalent to 86.21% of the marriages solemnized under Article 34
in a four-year period.81

There were forty-one (41) marriage certificates signed by Judge Tormis or Judge Necessario as
solemnizing officers found in his custody. 82 There were also ten (10) marriages under Article 34 of the
Family Code where one or both of the contracting parties were minors during cohabitation.83 To illustrate,
respondent judge solemnized on 4 May 2004 the marriage of Julieto W. Baga, 22 years old, and Esterlita
P. Anlangit, 18 years old.84

There were seventeen (17) marriages under Article 34 where neither of the contracting parties were
residents of Cebu City.85 The judge solemnized three (3) marriages without the foreign party’s required
certificate of legal capacity to marry.86 Lastly, there was no proof of payment of the solemnization fee in
almost all of the marriages the judge officiated.87

Liability of Judge Rosabella M. Tormis

Judge Tormis solemnized a total of one hundred eighty-one (181) marriages from 2003 to 2007 based on
the marriage certificates actually examined.88 However, the monthly report of cases showed that she
solemnized three hundred five (305) marriages instead for the years 2004 to 2007. 89 The OCA report also
noted that it was only in July 2007 that her court started to use a logbook to keep track of marriages. 90

Respondent judge solemnized thirty-seven (37) marriages with incomplete or missing documents such as
the marriage license, certificate of legal capacity to marry, and the joint affidavit of cohabitation. 91 In
several instances, only affidavits were submitted by the foreign parties in lieu of the certificate of legal
capacity to marry.92

Judge Tormis solemnized thirteen (13) marriages despite the questionable character of the validity of the
required documents particularly the marriage license.93 The judicial audit team found numerous erasures
and superimpositions on entries with regard to the parties’ place of residence. 94

In one instance, the judge solemnized the marriage of Rex Randy E. Cujardo and Anselma B. Laranio on
28 December 2006 despite the marriage license containing a rubberstamp mark saying, "THIS LICENSE
EXPIRES ON" and a handwritten note saying "12/28/06" under it.95

The judge solemnized a total of forty-seven (47) marriages under Article 34 of the Family Code wherein
the marriage requirements’ authenticity was doubtful due to the circumstances of the cohabitation of the
parties and the given address of the parties.96 These irregularities were evident in the case of 22-year-old
John Rey R. Tibalan and Ana Liza Secuya who were married on 25 May 2007. The residential address of
the couple in the marriage certificate is "Sitio Bamboo, Buhisan, Cebu City." However, there was an
application for marriage license attached to the marriage certificate showing that Secuya’s address is "F.
Lopez Comp. Morga St., Cebu City."97

Liability of Judge Edgemelo C. Rosales

Judge Rosales solemnized a total of one hundred twenty-one (121) marriages from 2006 to 2007 based
on the marriage certificates examined by the judicial audit team.98 However, only three (3) marriages were
reported for the same period.99 Out of the 121 marriages the judge solemnized, fifty-two (52) or 42.98%
fall under Article 34 of the Family Code.100 Thirty-eight
(38) marriage licenses out of the sixty-six (66) obtained or 57.57% were from the local civil registrar of
Barili, Cebu.101 Nineteen (19) or 28.79% were from the local civil registrar of Liloan, Cebu. 102 Nine (9) or
13.64% were from other local civil registrars.103

There were marriage documents found in his court such as marriage licenses, applications for marriage
license, certificates of legal capacity to contract marriage, affidavits in lieu of certificate of legal capacity to
contract marriage, joint affidavits of cohabitation, and other documents referring to the solemnization of
one hundred thirty-two (132) marriages, with no corresponding marriage certificates. 104 He solemnized
two marriages of Buddy Gayland Weaver, an American citizen, to two different persons within nine (9)
months.105 No copy of the required certificate of legal capacity to contract marriage or the divorce decree
was presented.106

The judge solemnized thirty-seven (37) marriages without or with incomplete supporting documents such
as the certificate of legal capacity to marry and the joint affidavit of cohabitation. 107 He solemnized nine
(9) marriages under questionable circumstances such as the submission of an affidavit or affirmation of
freedom to marry in lieu of the certificate of legal capacity to marry, the discrepancies in the residence of
the contracting parties as appearing in the marriage documents, and the solemnization of the marriage on
the same day the marriage license was issued.108

Judge Rosales also solemnized forty-three (43) marriages with no proof that the solemnization fee of
₱300 was paid.109 On the other hand, there were twenty-six (26) marriages whose solemnization fees
were paid late.110

To summarize, the liabilities of the judges are the following:

First, Judges Necessario, Tormis and Rosales solemnized marriages even if the requirements submitted
by the couples were incomplete and of questionable character. Most of these documents showed visible
signs of tampering, erasures, corrections or superimpositions of entries related to the parties’ place of
residence.111 These included indistinguishable features such as the font, font size, and ink of the
computer-printed entries in the marriage certificate and marriage license.112 These actions of the
respondent judges constitute gross inefficiency. In Vega v. Asdala, 113the Court held that inefficiency
implies negligence, incompetence, ignorance, and carelessness.

Second, the judges were also found guilty of neglect of duty regarding the payment of solemnization fees.
The Court, in Rodrigo-Ebron v. Adolfo,114 defined neglect of duty as the failure to give one’s attention to a
task expected of him and it is gross when, from the gravity of the offense or the frequency of instances,
the offense is so serious in its character as to endanger or threaten public welfare. The marriage
documents examined by the audit team show that corresponding official receipts for the solemnization fee
were missing115 or payment by batches was made for marriages performed on different dates. 116 The
OCA emphasizes that the payment of the solemnization fee starts off the whole marriage application
process and even puts a "stamp of regularity" on the process.

Third, Judges Necessario, Tormis, and Rosales also solemnized marriages where a contracting party is a
foreigner who did not submit a certificate of legal capacity to marry from his or her embassy. What the
foreigners submitted were mere affidavits stating their capacity to marry. The irregularity in the certificates
of legal capacity that are required under Article 21 of the Family Code117 displayed the gross neglect of
duty of the judges. They should have been diligent in scrutinizing the documents required for the marriage
license issuance. Any irregularities would have been prevented in the qualifications of parties to contract
marriage.118

Fourth, Judges Necessario, Acosta, and Tormis are likewise guilty of gross ignorance of the law under
Article 34 of the Family Code119 with respect to the marriages they solemnized where legal impediments
existed during cohabitation such as the minority status of one party. 120 The audit team cites in their
Supplemental Report that there were parties whose ages ranged from eighteen (18) to twenty-two (22)
years old who were married by mere submission of a pro forma joint affidavit of cohabitation. 121 These
affidavits were notarized by the solemnizing judge himself or herself.122

Finally, positive testimonies were also given regarding the solemnization of marriages of some couples
where no marriage license was previously issued. The contracting parties were made to fill up the
application for a license on the same day the marriage was solemnized.123

The Court does not accept the arguments of the respondent judges that the ascertainment of the validity
of the marriage license is beyond the scope of the duty of a solemnizing officer especially when there are
glaring pieces of evidence that point to the contrary. As correctly observed by the OCA, the presumption
of regularity accorded to a marriage license disappears the moment the marriage documents do not
appear regular on its face.
In People v. Jansen,124 this Court held that:

…the solemnizing officer is not duty-bound to investigate whether or not a marriage license has been duly
and regularly issued by the local civil registrar. All the solemnizing officer needs to know is that the license
has been issued by the competent official, and it may be presumed from the issuance of the license that
said official has fulfilled the duty to ascertain whether the contracting parties had fulfilled the requirements
of law.

However, this Court also said in Sevilla v. Cardenas,125 that "the presumption of regularity of official acts
may be rebutted by affirmative evidence of irregularity or failure to perform a duty." The visible
superimpositions on the marriage licenses should have alerted the solemnizing judges to the irregularity
of the issuance.

It follows also that although Article 21 of the Family Code requires the submission of the certificate from
the embassy of the foreign party to the local registrar for acquiring a marriage license, the judges should
have been more diligent in reviewing the parties’ documents and qualifications. As noted by the OCA, the
absence of the required certificates coupled with the presence of mere affidavits should have aroused
suspicion as to the regularity of the marriage license issuance.

The judges’ gross ignorance of the law is also evident when they solemnized marriages under Article 34
of the Family Code without the required qualifications and with the existence of legal impediments such
as minority of a party. Marriages of exceptional character such as those made under Article 34 are,
doubtless, the exceptions to the rule on the indispensability of the formal requisite of a marriage
license.126 Under the rules of statutory construction, exceptions as a general rule should be strictly but
reasonably construed.127 The affidavits of cohabitation should not be issued and accepted pro forma
particularly in view of the settled rulings of the Court on this matter. The five-year period of cohabitation
should be one of a perfect union valid under the law but rendered imperfect only by the absence of the
marriage contract.128 The parties should have been capacitated to marry each other during the entire
period and not only at the time of the marriage.129

To elaborate further on the gravity of the acts and omissions of the respondents, the Family Code
provides the requisites for a valid marriage:

Art. 3. The formal requisites of marriage are:

(1) Authority of the solemnizing officer;

(2) A valid marriage license except in the cases provided for in Chapter 2 of this Title; and

(3) A marriage ceremony which takes place with the appearance of the contracting parties before the
solemnizing officer and their personal declaration that they take each other as husband and wife in the
presence of not less than two witnesses of legal age. (53a, 55a)

Art. 4. The absence of any of the essential or formal requisites shall render the marriage void ab initio,
except as stated in Article 35 (2). A defect in any of the essential requisites shall not affect the validity of
the marriage but the party or parties responsible for the irregularity shall be civilly, criminally and
administratively liable. (n)

The absence of a marriage license will clearly render a marriage void ab initio. 130 The actions of the
judges have raised a very alarming issue regarding the validity of the marriages they solemnized since
they did not follow the proper procedure or check the required documents and qualifications. In Aranes v.
Judge Salvador Occiano,131 the Court said that a marriage solemnized without a marriage license is void
and the subsequent issuance of the license cannot render valid or add even an iota of validity to the
marriage. It is the marriage license that gives the solemnizing officer the authority to solemnize a
marriage and the act of solemnizing the marriage without a license constitutes gross ignorance of the law.

As held by this Court in Navarro v. Domagtoy:

The judiciary should be composed of persons who, if not experts are at least proficient in the law they are
sworn to apply, more than the ordinary layman. They should be skilled and competent in understanding
and applying the law. It is imperative that they be conversant with basic legal principles like the ones
involved in the instant case. It is not too much to expect them to know and apply the law intelligently. 132

It is important to note that the audit team found out that Judge Rosabella M. Tormis ordered Celerina
Plaza, a personal employee of the judge, to wait for couples outside the Hall of Justice and offer
services.133 Crisanto Dela Cerna also stated in his affidavit that Judge Tormis instructed him to get all
marriage certificates and bring them to her house when she found out about the judicial audit. 134 In the
language of the OCA, Judge Tormis considered the solemnization of marriages not as a duty but as a
business.135 The respondent judge was suspended for six (6) months in A.M. No. MTJ-071-962 for
repeatedly disregarding the directives of this Court to furnish the complainant a copy of her comment. She
was also fined the amount of five thousand pesos (₱5,000) in A.M. Nos. 04-7-373-RTC and 04-7-374
RTC.136 She was reprimanded twice in A.M. No. MTJ-05-1609 and in A.M. No. MTJ-001337.137 Finally, in
the very recent case of Office of the Court Administrator v. Hon. Rosabella M. Tormis and Mr. Reynaldo
S. Teves, A.M. No. MTJ-12-1817, promulgated last 12 March 2013, Judge Tormis was found guilty of
gross inefficiency, violation of Supreme Court rules, directives and circulars and gross ignorance of the
law by this Court. She was dismissed from service, with forfeiture of all benefits and privileges, except
accrued leave credits, if any, with prejudice to reemployment in any branch or instrumentality of the
government, including government-owned or controlled corporations.

The respondent judges violated Canons 2138 and 6139 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics which exact
competence, integrity and probity in the performance of their duties. This Court previously said that
"Ignorance of the law is a mark of incompetence, and where the law involved is elementary, ignorance
thereof is considered as an indication of lack of integrity." 140 In connection with this, the administration of
justice is considered a sacred task and upon assumption to office, a judge ceases to be an ordinary
mortal. He or she becomes the visible representation of the law and more importantly of justice.141

The actuations of these judges are not only condemnable, it is outright shameful.

Liability of Other Court Personnel

The Court agrees with the recommendations of the OCA on the liability of the following employees:

Helen Mongaya, Court Interpreter of Judge Rosabella M. Tormis, MTCC, Branch 4, Cebu City, is guilty of
grave misconduct when she informed the female lawyer of the judicial audit team that she can facilitate
the marriage and the requirements on the same day of the lawyer’s visit.142

What Monggaya was proposing was an open-dated marriage in exchange for a fee of ₱3,000. Section 2,
Canon I of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel prohibits court personnel from soliciting or accepting
gifts, favor or benefit based on any explicit or implicit understanding that such gift, favor or benefit shall
influence their official actions.

Mongaya’s claim that she was merely relating to the lady lawyer what she knew from other offices as the
usual practice143 is inexcusable. As found by the OCA in its Memorandum, "Monggaya deliberately gave
false information for the purpose of perpetrating an illegal scheme. This, in itself, constitutes grave
misconduct."144 Sec. 52, Rule IV of the Uniform Rules on

Administrative Cases in the Civil Service defines grave misconduct as "a grave offense that carries the
extreme penalty of dismissal from the service even on a first offense.

In Villaceran v. Rosete, this Court held that:

Court personnel, from the lowliest employee, are involved in the dispensation of justice; parties seeking
redress from the courts for grievances look upon court personnel, irrespective of rank or position, as part
of the Judiciary. In performing their duties and responsibilities, these court personnel serve as sentinels of
justice and any act of impropriety on their part immeasurably affects the honor and dignity of the Judiciary
and the people’s trust and confidence in this institution. Therefore, they are expected to act and behave in
a manner that should uphold the honor and dignity of the Judiciary, if only to maintain the people's
confidence in the Judiciary.145

Mongaya acted improperly and in a manner opposite of what is expected of court personnel. Her actions
placed doubts on the integrity of the courts.

Rhona Rodriguez, Administrative Officer I of the Office of the Clerk of Court of the MTCC, Cebu City, is
guilty of gross misconduct. She assisted the couple, Moreil Sebial and Maricel Albater, and demanded
and accepted ₱4,000 from them.146 The act was a violation of Section 2, Canon I of the Code of Conduct
for Court Personnel. As found by the OCA and adopted by this Court, Rodriguez induced Albater to falsify
the application for marriage license by instructing her to indicate her residence as Barili, Cebu. 147 The
claim that she gave the amount to a certain Borces who was allegedly the real facilitator belies her
participation in facilitating the marriage. According to the OCA, when the couple went back for their
marriage certificate, they approached Rodriguez and not Borces. 148 When Borces told Rodriguez that the
marriage certificate had been misplaced, it was Rodriguez who instructed Sebial to fill up another
marriage certificate.149

This Court has held that improper solicitations prohibited by Section 2, Canon I of the Code of Conduct for
Court Personnel, merits a grave penalty.150 Such penalty can be dismissal from service.

Desiderio Aranas, Branch 3 Process Server, MTCC, Cebu City and Rebecca Alesna are guilty of conduct
prejudicial to the best of interest of the service. Aranas provided couples who were to be married under
Article 34 of the Family Code with the required affidavit of cohabitation. 151 On the other hand, Alesna
refers such couples to Aranas to acquire the said affidavit which according to Alesna costs ₱10. As aptly
put by the OCA, even if the amount involved in the transaction is minimal, the act of soliciting money still
gives the public the wrong impression that court personnel are making money out of judicial
transactions.152

The Court said in Roque v. Grimaldo153 that acts of court personnel outside their official functions
constitute conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service because these acts violate what is
prescribed for court personnel. The purpose of this is to maintain the integrity of the Court and free court
personnel from suspicion of any misconduct.

Celeste P. Retuya, Clerk III of Branch 6 of the MTCC, Cebu City, Emma Valencia, Stenographer III of
Branch 18, RTC, Cebu City, and Rebecca Alesna, Court Interpreter of Branch 1, MTCC, Cebu City,
admitted to the audit team that they received food from couples they assisted. 154 This is in violation of
Section 2(b), Canon III of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel which prohibits court personnel from
receiving tips or other remuneration for assisting or attending to parties engaged in transactions or
involved in actions or proceedings with the Judiciary. As recommended by the OCA, they are admonished
considering that this is their first offense and the tips were of minimal value. In Reyes-Domingo v.
Morales, this Court held that commission of an administrative offense for the first time is an extenuating
circumstance.155

The Court finds that there is insufficient evidence against Corazon P. Retuya. The OCA reports that
Corazon Retuya admitted initially that she received ₱5,000 from spouses Ichiro Kamiaya and Mary Grace
Gabiana to secure necessary documents.156 The information was volunteered by Corazon Retuya with no
supporting sworn statement from the couple. However, she denies this fact later on in her
Comment.157 Finding the earlier statement of Corazon Retuya as unclear and lacking support from
evidence, the Court adopts the findings of the OCA and decides to give her the benefit of the doubt.

The Court also finds insufficient evidence to support the claims against Marilou Cabañez. Cabañez was
only implicated in this case through the sworn statement of Jacqui Lou Baguio-Manera who attested that
they paid a certain "Meloy" ₱1,200 for the wedding under Article 34 of the Family through the assistance
of Cabañez.158 Cabañez denies that she was the one who assisted the couple and explained that it may
have been Celerina Plaza, the personal assistant of Judge Rosabella M. Tormis. Baguio-Manera got the
nickname "Meloy" not from Cabañez herself but from Baguio-Manera’s younger sister.159 When Baguio-
Manera met the said "Meloy" at the Hall of Justice, she did not obtain confirmation that the said "Meloy" is
Cabañez. The Court adopts the findings of the OCA that there is lack of positive identification of Cabañez
and finds merit in her denial.160

The Court accepts the recommendation of the OCA as to the dismissal of the case against Judge
Geraldine Faith A. Econg. The judge was only implicated through the statement of Process Server
Antonio Flores about an "alleged sinking fund". No evidence was presented as to the collection of an
excess of the solemnization fee. Neither was it proven that Judge Econg or her staff had knowledge of
such fund.

WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondents:

1. Judge Anatalio S. Necessario, Presiding Judge, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 2, Cebu City,
GUILTY of gross inefficiency or neglect of duty and of gross ignorance of the law and that he be
DISMISSED FROM THE SERVICE with forfeiture of his retirement benefits, except leave credits, if any,
and that he be disqualified from reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including government-
owned or -controlled corporation;

2. Judge Gil R. Acosta, Presiding Judge, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 3, Cebu City, GUILTY of
gross inefficiency or neglect of duty and of gross ignorance of the law and that he be DISMISSED FROM
THE SERVICE with forfeiture of his retirement benefits, except leave credits, if any, and that he be
disqualified from reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including government-owned or -
controlled corporation;
3. Judge Rosabella M. Tormis, Presiding Judge, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 4, Cebu City,
GUILTY of gross inefficiency or neglect of duty and of gross ignorance of the law and that she would have
been DISMISSED FROM THE SERVICE with forfeiture of her retirement benefits, except leave credits, if
any, and disqualified from reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including government-owned
or -controlled corporation, had she not been previously dismissed from service in A.M. No. MTJ-12-1817
(Formerly A.M. No. 09-2-30-MTCC);

4. Judge Edgemelo C. Rosales, Presiding Judge, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 8, Cebu City,
GUILTY of gross inefficiency or neglect of duty and of gross ignorance of the law and that he be
DISMISSED FROM THE SERVICE with forfeiture of his retirement benefits, except leave credits, if any,
and that he be disqualified from reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including government-
owned or -controlled corporation;

5. Helen Mongaya, Court Interpreter, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 4, Cebu City, GUILTY of
violating Section 2, Canon I of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel and that she be DISMISSED
FROM THE SERVICE with forfeiture of her retirement benefits, except leave credits, if any, and that she
be disqualified from reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including government-owned or -
controlled corporation;

6. Rhona F. Rodriguez, Administrative Officer I, Office of the Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court, Cebu
City, GUILTY of gross misconduct for Section 2, Canon I of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel and
for inducing Maricel Albater to falsify the application for marriage and that she be DISMISSED FROM
THE SERVICE with forfeiture of her retirement benefits, except leave credits, if any, and that she be
disqualified from reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including government-owned or -
controlled corporation;

7. Desiderio S. Aranas, Process Server, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 3, Cebu City, GUILTY of
conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and that he be SUSPENDED without pay for a
period of six (6) months with a warning that a similar offense shall be dealt with more severely;

8. Rebecca Alesna, Court Interpreter, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 1, Cebu City, GUILTY of
conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and of violating Section 2(b), Canon III of the Code
of Conduct for Court Personnel and that she be SUSPENDED without pay for a period of six (6) months
with a warning that a similar offense shall be dealt with more severely;

9. Celeste Retuya, Clerk III, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 6, Cebu City, and Emma Valencia,
Stenographer III, Regional Trial Court, Branch 18, Cebu City, GUILTY of conduct prejudicial to the best
interest of the service and of violating Section 2(b), Canon III of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel
and that they be ADMONISHED with a warning that a similar offense shall be dealt with more severely;

The complaints against Judge Geraldine Faith A. Econg, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 9,
Cebu City; Corazon P. Retuya, Court Stenographer, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 6, Cebu City;
and Marilou Cabañez, Court Stenographer, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, are DISMISSED for lack of
merit.

The case against Judge Rosabella M. Tormis, including the sworn statements of Celerina Plaza and
Crisanto dela Cerna, should be REFERRED to the Office of the Bar Confidant for the purpose of initiating
disbarment proceedings against the judge.

The Honorable Mayors of Barili, Cebu and Liloan, Cebu, are to be furnished copies of the Supplemental
Report dated 14 August 2007 and are ADVISED to conduct an investigation with respect to the
statements of Filomena C. Lopez, Civil Registrar of Barili, Cebu, and Bonita I. Pilones, Civil Registrar of
Liloan, Cebu, regarding the processing of marriage licenses and to take the necessary action as the
findings of the investigation may warrant.

Let a copy of this Decision be included in the respondents’ files that are with the Office of the Bar
Confidant and distributed to all courts and to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 175581 March 28, 2008

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,


vs.
JOSE A. DAYOT, Respondent.

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

G.R. No. 179474

FELISA TECSON-DAYOT, Petitioner,


vs.
JOSE A. DAYOT, Respondent.

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

Before us are two consolidated petitions. G.R. No. 175581 and G.R. No. 179474 are Petitions for Review
under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court filed by the Republic of the Philippines and Felisa Tecson-Dayot
(Felisa), respectively, both challenging the Amended Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals, dated 7
November 2006, in CA-G.R. CV No. 68759, which declared the marriage between Jose Dayot (Jose) and
Felisa void ab initio.

The records disclose that on 24 November 1986, Jose and Felisa were married at the Pasay City Hall.
The marriage was solemnized by Rev. Tomas V. Atienza.2 In lieu of a marriage license, Jose and Felisa
executed a sworn affidavit,3 also dated 24 November 1986, attesting that both of them had attained the
age of maturity, and that being unmarried, they had lived together as husband and wife for at least five
years.

On 7 July 1993, Jose filed a Complaint4 for Annulment and/or Declaration of Nullity of Marriage with the
Regional Trial Court (RTC), Biñan, Laguna, Branch 25. He contended that his marriage with Felisa was a
sham, as no marriage ceremony was celebrated between the parties; that he did not execute the sworn
affidavit stating that he and Felisa had lived as husband and wife for at least five years; and that his
consent to the marriage was secured through fraud.

In his Complaint, Jose gave his version of the events which led to his filing of the same. According to
Jose, he was introduced to Felisa in 1986. Immediately thereafter, he came to live as a boarder in Felisa’s
house, the latter being his landlady. Some three weeks later, Felisa requested him to accompany her to
the Pasay City Hall, ostensibly so she could claim a package sent to her by her brother from Saudi
Arabia. At the Pasay City Hall, upon a pre-arranged signal from Felisa, a man bearing three folded pieces
of paper approached them. They were told that Jose needed to sign the papers so that the package could
be released to Felisa. He initially refused to do so. However, Felisa cajoled him, and told him that his
refusal could get both of them killed by her brother who had learned about their relationship. Reluctantly,
he signed the pieces of paper, and gave them to the man who immediately left. It was in February 1987
when he discovered that he had contracted marriage with Felisa. He alleged that he saw a piece of paper
lying on top of the table at the sala of Felisa’s house. When he perused the same, he discovered that it
was a copy of his marriage contract with Felisa. When he confronted Felisa, the latter feigned ignorance.

In opposing the Complaint, Felisa denied Jose’s allegations and defended the validity of their marriage.
She declared that they had maintained their relationship as man and wife absent the legality of marriage
in the early part of 1980, but that she had deferred contracting marriage with him on account of their age
difference.5 In her pre-trial brief, Felisa expounded that while her marriage to Jose was subsisting, the
latter contracted marriage with a certain Rufina Pascual (Rufina) on 31 August 1990. On 3 June 1993,
Felisa filed an action for bigamy against Jose. Subsequently, she filed an administrative complaint against
Jose with the Office of the Ombudsman, since Jose and Rufina were both employees of the National
Statistics and Coordinating Board.6 The Ombudsman found Jose administratively liable for disgraceful
and immoral conduct, and meted out to him the penalty of suspension from service for one year without
emolument.7

On 26 July 2000, the RTC rendered a Decision8 dismissing the Complaint. It disposed:
WHEREFORE, after a careful evaluation and analysis of the evidence presented by both parties, this
Court finds and so holds that the [C]omplaint does not deserve a favorable consideration. Accordingly, the
above-entitled case is hereby ordered DISMISSED with costs against [Jose].9

The RTC ruled that from the testimonies and evidence presented, the marriage celebrated between Jose
and Felisa on 24 November 1986 was valid. It dismissed Jose’s version of the story as implausible, and
rationalized that:

Any person in his right frame of mind would easily suspect any attempt to make him or her sign a blank
sheet of paper. [Jose] could have already detected that something was amiss, unusual, as they were at
Pasay City Hall to get a package for [Felisa] but it [was] he who was made to sign the pieces of paper for
the release of the said package. Another indirect suggestion that could have put him on guard was the
fact that, by his own admission, [Felisa] told him that her brother would kill them if he will not sign the
papers. And yet it took him, more or less, three months to "discover" that the pieces of paper that he
signed was [sic] purportedly the marriage contract. [Jose] does not seem to be that ignorant, as perceived
by this Court, to be "taken in for a ride" by [Felisa.]

[Jose’s] claim that he did not consent to the marriage was belied by the fact that he acknowledged Felisa
Tecson as his wife when he wrote [Felisa’s] name in the duly notarized statement of assets and liabilities
he filled up on May 12, 1988, one year after he discovered the marriage contract he is now claiming to be
sham and false. [Jose], again, in his company I.D., wrote the name of [Felisa] as the person to be
contacted in case of emergency. This Court does not believe that the only reason why her name was
written in his company I.D. was because he was residing there then. This is just but a lame excuse
because if he really considers her not his lawfully wedded wife, he would have written instead the name of
his sister.

When [Jose’s] sister was put into the witness stand, under oath, she testified that she signed her name
voluntarily as a witness to the marriage in the marriage certificate (T.S.N., page 25, November 29, 1996)
and she further testified that the signature appearing over the name of Jose Dayot was the signature of
his [sic] brother that he voluntarily affixed in the marriage contract (page 26 of T.S.N. taken on November
29, 1996), and when she was asked by the Honorable Court if indeed she believed that Felisa Tecson
was really chosen by her brother she answered yes. The testimony of his sister all the more belied his
claim that his consent was procured through fraud.10

Moreover, on the matter of fraud, the RTC ruled that Jose’s action had prescribed. It cited Article 87 11 of
the New Civil Code which requires that the action for annulment of marriage must be commenced by the
injured party within four years after the discovery of the fraud. Thus:

That granting even for the sake of argument that his consent was obtained by [Felisa] through fraud,
trickery and machinations, he could have filed an annulment or declaration of nullity of marriage at the
earliest possible opportunity, the time when he discovered the alleged sham and false marriage contract.
[Jose] did not take any action to void the marriage at the earliest instance. x x x. 12

Undeterred, Jose filed an appeal from the foregoing RTC Decision to the Court of Appeals. In a Decision
dated 11 August 2005, the Court of Appeals found the appeal to be without merit. The dispositive portion
of the appellate court’s Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, the Decision appealed from is AFFIRMED.13

The Court of Appeals applied the Civil Code to the marriage between Jose and Felisa as it was
solemnized prior to the effectivity of the Family Code. The appellate court observed that the
circumstances constituting fraud as a ground for annulment of marriage under Article 86 14 of the Civil
Code did not exist in the marriage between the parties. Further, it ruled that the action for annulment of
marriage on the ground of fraud was filed beyond the prescriptive period provided by law. The Court of
Appeals struck down Jose’s appeal in the following manner:

Nonetheless, even if we consider that fraud or intimidation was employed on Jose in giving his consent to
the marriage, the action for the annulment thereof had already prescribed. Article 87 (4) and (5) of the
Civil Code provides that the action for annulment of marriage on the ground that the consent of a party
was obtained by fraud, force or intimidation must be commenced by said party within four (4) years after
the discovery of the fraud and within four (4) years from the time the force or intimidation ceased.
Inasmuch as the fraud was allegedly discovered by Jose in February, 1987 then he had only until
February, 1991 within which to file an action for annulment of marriage. However, it was only on July 7,
1993 that Jose filed the complaint for annulment of his marriage to Felisa.15
Likewise, the Court of Appeals did not accept Jose’s assertion that his marriage to Felisa was void ab
initio for lack of a marriage license. It ruled that the marriage was solemnized under Article 7616 of the
Civil Code as one of exceptional character, with the parties executing an affidavit of marriage between
man and woman who have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years. The Court of
Appeals concluded that the falsity in the affidavit to the effect that Jose and Felisa had lived together as
husband and wife for the period required by Article 76 did not affect the validity of the marriage, seeing
that the solemnizing officer was misled by the statements contained therein. In this manner, the Court of
Appeals gave credence to the good-faith reliance of the solemnizing officer over the falsity of the affidavit.
The appellate court further noted that on the dorsal side of said affidavit of marriage, Rev. Tomas V.
Atienza, the solemnizing officer, stated that he took steps to ascertain the ages and other qualifications of
the contracting parties and found no legal impediment to their marriage. Finally, the Court of Appeals
dismissed Jose’s argument that neither he nor Felisa was a member of the sect to which Rev. Tomas V.
Atienza belonged. According to the Court of Appeals, Article 56 17 of the Civil Code did not require that
either one of the contracting parties to the marriage must belong to the solemnizing officer’s church or
religious sect. The prescription was established only in Article 718 of the Family Code which does not
govern the parties’ marriage.

Differing with the ruling of the Court of Appeals, Jose filed a Motion for Reconsideration
thereof.1avvphi1 His central opposition was that the requisites for the proper application of the exemption
from a marriage license under Article 76 of the Civil Code were not fully attendant in the case at bar. In
particular, Jose cited the legal condition that the man and the woman must have been living together as
husband and wife for at least five years before the marriage. Essentially, he maintained that the affidavit
of marital cohabitation executed by him and Felisa was false.

The Court of Appeals granted Jose’s Motion for Reconsideration and reversed itself. Accordingly, it
rendered an Amended Decision, dated 7 November 2006, the fallo of which reads:

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated August 11, 2005 is RECALLED and SET ASIDE and another one
entered declaring the marriage between Jose A. Dayot and Felisa C. Tecson void ab initio.

Furnish a copy of this Amended Decision to the Local Civil Registrar of Pasay City. 19

In its Amended Decision, the Court of Appeals relied on the ruling of this Court in Niñal v. Bayadog, 20 and
reasoned that:

In Niñal v. Bayadog, where the contracting parties to a marriage solemnized without a marriage license
on the basis of their affidavit that they had attained the age of majority, that being unmarried, they had
lived together for at least five (5) years and that they desired to marry each other, the Supreme Court
ruled as follows:

"x x x In other words, the five-year common-law cohabitation period, which is counted back from the date
of celebration of marriage, should be a period of legal union had it not been for the absence of the
marriage. This 5-year period should be the years immediately before the day of the marriage and it should
be a period of cohabitation characterized by exclusivity – meaning no third party was involved at any time
within the 5 years and continuity – that is unbroken. Otherwise, if that continuous 5-year cohabitation is
computed without any distinction as to whether the parties were capacitated to marry each other during
the entire five years, then the law would be sanctioning immorality and encouraging parties to have
common law relationships and placing them on the same footing with those who lived faithfully with their
spouse. Marriage being a special relationship must be respected as such and its requirements must be
strictly observed. The presumption that a man and a woman deporting themselves as husband and wife is
based on the approximation of the requirements of the law. The parties should not be afforded any
excuse to not comply with every single requirement and later use the same missing element as a pre-
conceived escape ground to nullify their marriage. There should be no exemption from securing a
marriage license unless the circumstances clearly fall within the ambit of the exception. It should be noted
that a license is required in order to notify the public that two persons are about to be united in matrimony
and that anyone who is aware or has knowledge of any impediment to the union of the two shall make it
known to the local civil registrar.

Article 80(3) of the Civil Code provides that a marriage solemnized without a marriage license, save
marriages of exceptional character, shall be void from the beginning. Inasmuch as the marriage between
Jose and Felisa is not covered by the exception to the requirement of a marriage license, it is, therefore,
void ab initio because of the absence of a marriage license.21

Felisa sought reconsideration of the Amended Decision, but to no avail. The appellate court rendered a
Resolution22 dated 10 May 2007, denying Felisa’s motion.
Meanwhile, the Republic of the Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), filed a
Petition for Review before this Court in G.R. No. 175581, praying that the Court of Appeals’ Amended
Decision dated 7 November 2006 be reversed and set aside for lack of merit, and that the marriage
between Jose and Felisa be declared valid and subsisting. Felisa filed a separate Petition for Review,
docketed as G.R. No. 179474, similarly assailing the appellate court’s Amended Decision. On 1 August
2007, this Court resolved to consolidate the two Petitions in the interest of uniformity of the Court rulings
in similar cases brought before it for resolution.23

The Republic of the Philippines propounds the following arguments for the allowance of its Petition, to wit:

RESPONDENT FAILED TO OVERTHROW THE PRESUMPTION OF THE VALIDITY OF HIS


MARRIAGE TO FELISA.

II

RESPONDENT DID NOT COME TO THE COURT WITH CLEAN HANDS AND SHOULD NOT
BE ALLOWED TO PROFIT FROM HIS OWN FRAUDULENT CONDUCT.

III

RESPONDENT IS ESTOPPED FROM ASSAILING THE LEGALITY OF HIS MARRIAGE FOR


LACK OF MARRIAGE LICEN[S]E.24

Correlative to the above, Felisa submits that the Court of Appeals misapplied Niñal.25 She differentiates
the case at bar from Niñal by reasoning that one of the parties therein had an existing prior marriage, a
circumstance which does not obtain in her cohabitation with Jose. Finally, Felisa adduces that Jose only
sought the annulment of their marriage after a criminal case for bigamy and an administrative case had
been filed against him in order to avoid liability. Felisa surmises that the declaration of nullity of their
marriage would exonerate Jose from any liability.

For our resolution is the validity of the marriage between Jose and Felisa. To reach a considered ruling on
the issue, we shall jointly tackle the related arguments vented by petitioners Republic of the Philippines
and Felisa.

The Republic of the Philippines asserts that several circumstances give rise to the presumption that a
valid marriage exists between Jose and Felisa. For her part, Felisa echoes the claim that any doubt
should be resolved in favor of the validity of the marriage by citing this Court’s ruling in Hernandez v.
Court of Appeals.26 To buttress its assertion, the Republic points to the affidavit executed by Jose and
Felisa, dated 24 November 1986, attesting that they have lived together as husband and wife for at least
five years, which they used in lieu of a marriage license. It is the Republic’s position that the falsity of the
statements in the affidavit does not affect the validity of the marriage, as the essential and formal
requisites were complied with; and the solemnizing officer was not required to investigate as to whether
the said affidavit was legally obtained. The Republic opines that as a marriage under a license is not
invalidated by the fact that the license was wrongfully obtained, so must a marriage not be invalidated by
the fact that the parties incorporated a fabricated statement in their affidavit that they cohabited as
husband and wife for at least five years. In addition, the Republic posits that the parties’ marriage contract
states that their marriage was solemnized under Article 76 of the Civil Code. It also bears the signature of
the parties and their witnesses, and must be considered a primary evidence of marriage. To further fortify
its Petition, the Republic adduces the following documents: (1) Jose’s notarized Statement of Assets and
Liabilities, dated 12 May 1988 wherein he wrote Felisa’s name as his wife; (2) Certification dated 25 July
1993 issued by the Barangay Chairman 192, Zone ZZ, District 24 of Pasay City, attesting that Jose and
Felisa had lived together as husband and wife in said barangay; and (3) Jose’s company ID card, dated 2
May 1988, indicating Felisa’s name as his wife.

The first assignment of error compels this Court to rule on the issue of the effect of a false affidavit under
Article 76 of the Civil Code. A survey of the prevailing rules is in order.

It is beyond dispute that the marriage of Jose and Felisa was celebrated on 24 November 1986, prior to
the effectivity of the Family Code. Accordingly, the Civil Code governs their union. Article 53 of the Civil
Code spells out the essential requisites of marriage as a contract:

ART. 53. No marriage shall be solemnized unless all these requisites are complied with:
(1) Legal capacity of the contracting parties;

(2) Their consent, freely given;

(3) Authority of the person performing the marriage; and

(4) A marriage license, except in a marriage of exceptional character. (Emphasis ours.)

Article 5827 makes explicit that no marriage shall be solemnized without a license first being issued by the
local civil registrar of the municipality where either contracting party habitually resides, save marriages of
an exceptional character authorized by the Civil Code, but not those under Article 75.28 Article 80(3)29 of
the Civil Code makes it clear that a marriage performed without the corresponding marriage license is
void, this being nothing more than the legitimate consequence flowing from the fact that the license is the
essence of the marriage contract.30 This is in stark contrast to the old Marriage Law,31 whereby the
absence of a marriage license did not make the marriage void. The rationale for the compulsory character
of a marriage license under the Civil Code is that it is the authority granted by the State to the contracting
parties, after the proper government official has inquired into their capacity to contract marriage.32

Under the Civil Code, marriages of exceptional character are covered by Chapter 2, Title III, comprising
Articles 72 to 79. To wit, these marriages are: (1) marriages in articulo mortis or at the point of death
during peace or war, (2) marriages in remote places, (2) consular marriages, 33 (3) ratification of marital
cohabitation, (4) religious ratification of a civil marriage, (5) Mohammedan or pagan marriages, and (6)
mixed marriages.34

The instant case pertains to a ratification of marital cohabitation under Article 76 of the Civil Code, which
provides:

ART. 76. No marriage license shall be necessary when a man and a woman who have attained the age of
majority and who, being unmarried, have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years, desire
to marry each other. The contracting parties shall state the foregoing facts in an affidavit before any
person authorized by law to administer oaths. The official, priest or minister who solemnized the marriage
shall also state in an affidavit that he took steps to ascertain the ages and other qualifications of the
contracting parties and that he found no legal impediment to the marriage.

The reason for the law,35 as espoused by the Code Commission, is that the publicity attending a marriage
license may discourage such persons who have lived in a state of cohabitation from legalizing their
status.36

It is not contested herein that the marriage of Jose and Felisa was performed without a marriage license.
In lieu thereof, they executed an affidavit declaring that "they have attained the age of maturity; that being
unmarried, they have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years; and that because of this
union, they desire to marry each other."37 One of the central issues in the Petition at bar is thus: whether
the falsity of an affidavit of marital cohabitation, where the parties have in truth fallen short of the minimum
five-year requirement, effectively renders the marriage void ab initio for lack of a marriage license.

We answer in the affirmative.

Marriages of exceptional character are, doubtless, the exceptions to the rule on the indispensability of the
formal requisite of a marriage license. Under the rules of statutory construction, exceptions, as a general
rule, should be strictly38 but reasonably construed.39 They extend only so far as their language fairly
warrants, and all doubts should be resolved in favor of the general provisions rather than the
exception.40 Where a general rule is established by statute with exceptions, the court will not curtail the
former or add to the latter by implication.41 For the exception in Article 76 to apply, it is a sine qua non
thereto that the man and the woman must have attained the age of majority, and that, being unmarried,
they have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years.

A strict but reasonable construction of Article 76 leaves us with no other expediency but to read the law
as it is plainly written. The exception of a marriage license under Article 76 applies only to those who have
lived together as husband and wife for at least five years and desire to marry each other. The Civil Code,
in no ambiguous terms, places a minimum period requirement of five years of cohabitation. No other
reading of the law can be had, since the language of Article 76 is precise. The minimum requisite of five
years of cohabitation is an indispensability carved in the language of the law. For a marriage celebrated
under Article 76 to be valid, this material fact cannot be dispensed with. It is embodied in the law not as a
directory requirement, but as one that partakes of a mandatory character. It is worthy to mention that
Article 76 also prescribes that the contracting parties shall state the requisite facts 42 in an affidavit before
any person authorized by law to administer oaths; and that the official, priest or minister who solemnized
the marriage shall also state in an affidavit that he took steps to ascertain the ages and other
qualifications of the contracting parties and that he found no legal impediment to the marriage.

It is indubitably established that Jose and Felisa have not lived together for five years at the time they
executed their sworn affidavit and contracted marriage. The Republic admitted that Jose and Felisa
started living together only in June 1986, or barely five months before the celebration of their
marriage.43 The Court of Appeals also noted Felisa’s testimony that Jose was introduced to her by her
neighbor, Teresita Perwel, sometime in February or March 1986 after the EDSA Revolution. 44 The
appellate court also cited Felisa’s own testimony that it was only in June 1986 when Jose commenced to
live in her house.45

Moreover, it is noteworthy that the question as to whether they satisfied the minimum five-year requisite is
factual in nature. A question of fact arises when there is a need to decide on the truth or falsehood of the
alleged facts.46 Under Rule 45, factual findings are ordinarily not subject to this Court’s review. 47 It is
already well-settled that:

The general rule is that the findings of facts of the Court of Appeals are binding on this Court. A
recognized exception to this rule is when the Court of Appeals and the trial court, or in this case the
administrative body, make contradictory findings. However, the exception does not apply in every
instance that the Court of Appeals and the trial court or administrative body disagree. The factual findings
of the Court of Appeals remain conclusive on this Court if such findings are supported by the record or
based on substantial evidence.48

Therefore, the falsity of the affidavit dated 24 November 1986, executed by Jose and Felisa to exempt
them from the requirement of a marriage license, is beyond question.

We cannot accept the insistence of the Republic that the falsity of the statements in the parties’ affidavit
will not affect the validity of marriage, since all the essential and formal requisites were complied with. The
argument deserves scant merit. Patently, it cannot be denied that the marriage between Jose and Felisa
was celebrated without the formal requisite of a marriage license. Neither did Jose and Felisa meet the
explicit legal requirement in Article 76, that they should have lived together as husband and wife for at
least five years, so as to be excepted from the requirement of a marriage license.

Anent petitioners’ reliance on the presumption of marriage, this Court holds that the same finds no
applicability to the case at bar. Essentially, when we speak of a presumption of marriage, it is with
reference to the prima facie presumption that a man and a woman deporting themselves as husband and
wife have entered into a lawful contract of marriage.49 Restated more explicitly, persons dwelling together
in apparent matrimony are presumed, in the absence of any counter-presumption or evidence special to
the case, to be in fact married.50 The present case does not involve an apparent marriage to which the
presumption still needs to be applied. There is no question that Jose and Felisa actually entered into a
contract of marriage on 24 November 1986, hence, compelling Jose to institute a Complaint for
Annulment and/or Declaration of Nullity of Marriage, which spawned the instant consolidated Petitions.

In the same vein, the declaration of the Civil Code51 that every intendment of law or fact leans towards the
validity of marriage will not salvage the parties’ marriage, and extricate them from the effect of a violation
of the law. The marriage of Jose and Felisa was entered into without the requisite marriage license or
compliance with the stringent requirements of a marriage under exceptional circumstance. The
solemnization of a marriage without prior license is a clear violation of the law and would lead or could be
used, at least, for the perpetration of fraud against innocent and unwary parties, which was one of the
evils that the law sought to prevent by making a prior license a prerequisite for a valid marriage. 52 The
protection of marriage as a sacred institution requires not just the defense of a true and genuine union but
the exposure of an invalid one as well.53 To permit a false affidavit to take the place of a marriage license
is to allow an abject circumvention of the law. If this Court is to protect the fabric of the institution of
marriage, we must be wary of deceptive schemes that violate the legal measures set forth in our laws.

Similarly, we are not impressed by the ratiocination of the Republic that as a marriage under a license is
not invalidated by the fact that the license was wrongfully obtained, so must a marriage not be invalidated
by a fabricated statement that the parties have cohabited for at least five years as required by law. The
contrast is flagrant. The former is with reference to an irregularity of the marriage license, and not to the
absence of one. Here, there is no marriage license at all. Furthermore, the falsity of the allegation in the
sworn affidavit relating to the period of Jose and Felisa’s cohabitation, which would have qualified their
marriage as an exception to the requirement for a marriage license, cannot be a mere irregularity, for it
refers to a quintessential fact that the law precisely required to be deposed and attested to by the parties
under oath. If the essential matter in the sworn affidavit is a lie, then it is but a mere scrap of paper,
without force and effect. Hence, it is as if there was no affidavit at all.
In its second assignment of error, the Republic puts forth the argument that based on equity, Jose should
be denied relief because he perpetrated the fabrication, and cannot thereby profit from his wrongdoing.
This is a misplaced invocation. It must be stated that equity finds no room for application where there is a
law.54 There is a law on the ratification of marital cohabitation, which is set in precise terms under Article
76 of the Civil Code. Nonetheless, the authorities are consistent that the declaration of nullity of the
parties’ marriage is without prejudice to their criminal liability.55

The Republic further avers in its third assignment of error that Jose is deemed estopped from assailing
the legality of his marriage for lack of a marriage license. It is claimed that Jose and Felisa had lived
together from 1986 to 1990, notwithstanding Jose’s subsequent marriage to Rufina Pascual on 31 August
1990, and that it took Jose seven years before he sought the declaration of nullity; hence, estoppel had
set in.

This is erroneous. An action for nullity of marriage is imprescriptible.56 Jose and Felisa’s marriage was
celebrated sans a marriage license. No other conclusion can be reached except that it is void ab initio. In
this case, the right to impugn a void marriage does not prescribe, and may be raised any time.

Lastly, to settle all doubts, jurisprudence has laid down the rule that the five-year common-law
cohabitation period under Article 76 means a five-year period computed back from the date of celebration
of marriage, and refers to a period of legal union had it not been for the absence of a marriage. 57 It covers
the years immediately preceding the day of the marriage, characterized by exclusivity - meaning no third
party was involved at any time within the five years - and continuity that is unbroken.58

WHEREFORE, the Petitions are DENIED. The Amended Decision of the Court of Appeals, dated 7
November 2006 in CA-G.R. CV No. 68759, declaring the marriage of Jose Dayot to Felisa Tecson-Dayot
void ab initio, is AFFIRMED, without prejudice to their criminal liability, if any. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR

G.R. No. 160172 February 13, 2008

REINEL ANTHONY B. DE CASTRO, petitioner,


vs.
ANNABELLE ASSIDAO-DE CASTRO, respondent.

DECISION

TINGA, J.:

This is a petition for review of the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-GR CV. No. 69166,2 declaring
that (1) Reianna Tricia A. De Castro is the legitimate child of the petitioner; and (2) that the marriage
between petitioner and respondent is valid until properly nullified by a competent court in a proceeding
instituted for that purpose.

The facts of the case, as culled from the records, follow.

Petitioner and respondent met and became sweethearts in 1991. They planned to get married, thus they
applied for a marriage license with the Office of the Civil Registrar of Pasig City in September 1994. They
had their first sexual relation sometime in October 1994, and had regularly engaged in sex thereafter.
When the couple went back to the Office of the Civil Registrar, the marriage license had already expired.
Thus, in order to push through with the plan, in lieu of a marriage license, they executed an affidavit dated
13 March 1995 stating that they had been living together as husband and wife for at least five years. The
couple got married on the same date, with Judge Jose C. Bernabe, presiding judge of the Metropolitan
Trial Court of Pasig City, administering the civil rites. Nevertheless, after the ceremony, petitioner and
respondent went back to their respective homes and did not live together as husband and wife.
On 13 November 1995, respondent gave birth to a child named Reinna Tricia A. De Castro. Since the
child’s birth, respondent has been the one supporting her out of her income as a government dentist and
from her private practice.

On 4 June 1998, respondent filed a complaint for support against petitioner before the Regional Trial
Court of Pasig City (trial court.3 In her complaint, respondent alleged that she is married to petitioner and
that the latter has "reneged on his responsibility/obligation to financially support her "as his wife and
Reinna Tricia as his child."4

Petitioner denied that he is married to respondent, claiming that their marriage is void ab initio since the
marriage was facilitated by a fake affidavit; and that he was merely prevailed upon by respondent to sign
the marriage contract to save her from embarrassment and possible administrative prosecution due to her
pregnant state; and that he was not able to get parental advice from his parents before he got married. He
also averred that they never lived together as husband and wife and that he has never seen nor
acknowledged the child.

In its Decision dated 16 October 2000,5 the trial court ruled that the marriage between petitioner and
respondent is not valid because it was solemnized without a marriage license. However, it declared
petitioner as the natural father of the child, and thus obliged to give her support. Petitioner elevated the
case to the Court of Appeals, arguing that the lower court committed grave abuse of discretion when, on
the basis of mere belief and conjecture, it ordered him to provide support to the child when the latter is
not, and could not have been, his own child.

The Court of Appeals denied the appeal. Prompted by the rule that a marriage is presumed to be
subsisting until a judicial declaration of nullity has been made, the appellate court declared that the child
was born during the subsistence and validity of the parties’ marriage. In addition, the Court of Appeals
frowned upon petitioner’s refusal to undergo DNA testing to prove the paternity and filiation, as well as his
refusal to state with certainty the last time he had carnal knowledge with respondent, saying that
petitioner’s "forgetfulness should not be used as a vehicle to relieve him of his obligation and reward him
of his being irresponsible."6 Moreover, the Court of Appeals noted the affidavit dated 7 April 1998
executed by petitioner, wherein he voluntarily admitted that he is the legitimate father of the child.

The appellate court also ruled that since this case is an action for support, it was improper for the trial
court to declare the marriage of petitioner and respondent as null and void in the very same case. There
was no participation of the State, through the prosecuting attorney or fiscal, to see to it that there is no
collusion between the parties, as required by the Family Code in actions for declaration of nullity of a
marriage. The burden of proof to show that the marriage is void rests upon petitioner, but it is a matter
that can be raised in an action for declaration of nullity, and not in the instant proceedings. The
proceedings before the trial court should have been limited to the obligation of petitioner to support the
child and his wife on the basis of the marriage apparently and voluntarily entered into by petitioner and
respondent.7 The dispositive portion of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision dated 16 October 2000, of the Regional Trial
Court of Pasig City, National Capital Judicial Region, Brach 70, in JDRC No. 4626,
is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATIONS (1) declaring Reianna Tricia A. De Castro, as the
legitimate child of the appellant and the appellee and (2) declaring the marriage on 13 March
1995 between the appellant and the appellee valid until properly annulled by a competent court in
a proceeding instituted for that purpose. Costs against the appellant. 8

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, but the motion was denied by the Court of Appeals. 9 Hence
this petition.

Before us, petitioner contends that the trial court properly annulled his marriage with respondent because
as shown by the evidence and admissions of the parties, the marriage was celebrated without a marriage
license. He stresses that the affidavit they executed, in lieu of a marriage license, contained a false
narration of facts, the truth being that he and respondent never lived together as husband and wife. The
false affidavit should never be allowed or admitted as a substitute to fill the absence of a marriage
license.10 Petitioner additionally argues that there was no need for the appearance of a prosecuting
attorney in this case because it is only an ordinary action for support and not an action for annulment or
declaration of absolute nullity of marriage. In any case, petitioner argues that the trial court had
jurisdiction to determine the invalidity of their marriage since it was validly invoked as an affirmative
defense in the instant action for support. Citing several authorities,11 petitioner claims that a void marriage
can be the subject of a collateral attack. Thus, there is no necessity to institute another independent
proceeding for the declaration of nullity of the marriage between the parties. The refiling of another case
for declaration of nullity where the same evidence and parties would be presented would entail enormous
expenses and anxieties, would be time-consuming for the parties, and would increase the burden of the
courts.12 Finally, petitioner claims that in view of the nullity of his marriage with respondent and his
vigorous denial of the child’s paternity and filiation, the Court of Appeals gravely erred in declaring the
child as his legitimate child.

In a resolution dated 16 February 2004, the Court required respondent and the Office of the Solicitor
General (OSG) to file their respective comments on the petition.13

In her Comment,14 respondent claims that the instant petition is a mere dilatory tactic to thwart the finality
of the decision of the Court of Appeals. Echoing the findings and rulings of the appellate court, she argues
that the legitimacy of their marriage cannot be attacked collaterally, but can only be repudiated or
contested in a direct suit specifically brought for that purpose. With regard to the filiation of her child, she
pointed out that compared to her candid and straightforward testimony, petitioner was uncertain, if not
evasive in answering questions about their sexual encounters. Moreover, she adds that despite the
challenge from her and from the trial court, petitioner strongly objected to being subjected to DNA testing
to prove paternity and filiation.15

For its part, the OSG avers that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that it was improper for the trial
court to declare null and void the marriage of petitioner and respondent in the action for support. Citing
the case of Niñal v. Bayadog,16 it states that courts may pass upon the validity of a marriage in an action
for support, since the right to support from petitioner hinges on the existence of a valid marriage.
Moreover, the evidence presented during the proceedings in the trial court showed that the marriage
between petitioner and respondent was solemnized without a marriage license, and that their affidavit (of
a man and woman who have lived together and exclusively with each other as husband and wife for at
least five years) was false. Thus, it concludes the trial court correctly held that the marriage between
petitioner and respondent is not valid.17 In addition, the OSG agrees with the findings of the trial court that
the child is an illegitimate child of petitioner and thus entitled to support. 18

Two key issues are presented before us. First, whether the trial court had the jurisdiction to determine the
validity of the marriage between petitioner and respondent in an action for support and second, whether
the child is the daughter of petitioner.

Anent the first issue, the Court holds that the trial court had jurisdiction to determine the validity of the
marriage between petitioner and respondent. The validity of a void marriage may be collaterally
attacked.19 Thus, in Niñal v. Bayadog, we held:

However, other than for purposes of remarriage, no judicial action is necessary to declare a
marriage an absolute nullity. For other purposes, such as but not limited to determination of
heirship, legitimacy or illegitimacy of a child, settlement of estate, dissolution of property regime,
or a criminal case for that matter, the court may pass upon the validity of marriage even in a suit
not directly instituted to question the same so long as it is essential to the determination of the
case. This is without prejudice to any issue that may arise in the case. When such need arises, a
final judgment of declaration of nullity is necessary even if the purpose is other than to remarry.
The clause "on the basis of a final judgment declaring such previous marriage void" in Article 40
of the Family Code connotes that such final judgment need not be obtained only for purpose of
remarriage.20

Likewise, in Nicdao Cariño v. Yee Cariño,21 the Court ruled that it is clothed with sufficient authority to
pass upon the validity of two marriages despite the main case being a claim for death benefits.
Reiterating Niñal, we held that the Court may pass upon the validity of a marriage even in a suit not
directly instituted to question the validity of said marriage, so long as it is essential to the determination of
the case. However, evidence must be adduced, testimonial or documentary, to prove the existence of
grounds rendering such a marriage an absolute nullity.22

Under the Family Code, the absence of any of the essential or formal requisites shall render the marriage
void ab initio, whereas a defect in any of the essential requisites shall render the marriage voidable.23 In
the instant case, it is clear from the evidence presented that petitioner and respondent did not have a
marriage license when they contracted their marriage. Instead, they presented an affidavit stating that
they had been living together for more than five years. 24 However, respondent herself in effect admitted
the falsity of the affidavit when she was asked during cross-examination, thus—

ATTY. CARPIO:

Q But despite of (sic) the fact that you have not been living together as husband and wife for
the last five years on or before March 13, 1995, you signed the Affidavit, is that correct?

A Yes, sir.25
The falsity of the affidavit cannot be considered as a mere irregularity in the formal requisites of marriage.
The law dispenses with the marriage license requirement for a man and a woman who have lived
together and exclusively with each other as husband and wife for a continuous and unbroken period of at
least five years before the marriage. The aim of this provision is to avoid exposing the parties to
humiliation, shame and embarrassment concomitant with the scandalous cohabitation of persons outside
a valid marriage due to the publication of every applicant’s name for a marriage license. 26 In the instant
case, there was no "scandalous cohabitation" to protect; in fact, there was no cohabitation at all. The false
affidavit which petitioner and respondent executed so they could push through with the marriage has no
value whatsoever; it is a mere scrap of paper. They were not exempt from the marriage license
requirement. Their failure to obtain and present a marriage license renders their marriage void ab initio.

Anent the second issue, we find that the child is petitioner’s illegitimate daughter, and therefore entitled to
support.

Illegitimate children may establish their illegitimate filiation in the same way and on the same evidence as
legitimate children.27 Thus, one can prove illegitimate filiation through the record of birth appearing in the
civil register or a final judgment, an admission of legitimate filiation in a public document or a private
handwritten instrument and signed by the parent concerned, or the open and continuous possession of
the status of a legitimate child, or any other means allowed by the Rules of Court and special laws. 28

The Certificate of Live Birth29 of the child lists petitioner as the father. In addition, petitioner, in an affidavit
waiving additional tax exemption in favor of respondent, admitted that he is the father of the child, thus
stating:

1. I am the legitimate father of REIANNA TRICIA A. DE CASTRO who was born on November 3,
1995 at Better Living, Parañaque, Metro Manila;30

We are likewise inclined to agree with the following findings of the trial court:

That Reinna Tricia is the child of the respondent with the petitioner is supported not only by the
testimony of the latter, but also by respondent’s own admission in the course of his testimony
wherein he conceded that petitioner was his former girlfriend. While they were sweethearts, he
used to visit petitioner at the latter’s house or clinic. At times, they would go to a motel to have
sex. As a result of their sexual dalliances, petitioner became pregnant which ultimately led to their
marriage, though invalid, as earlier ruled. While respondent claims that he was merely forced to
undergo the marriage ceremony, the pictures taken of the occasion reveal otherwise (Exhs. "B,"
"B-1," to "B-3," "C," "C-1" and "C-2," "D," "D-1" and "D-2," "E," "E-1" and "E-2," "F," "F-1" and "F-
2," "G," "G-1" and "G-2" and "H," "H-1" to "H-3"). In one of the pictures (Exhs. "D," "D-1" and "D-
2"), defendant is seen putting the wedding ring on petitioner’s finger and in another picture (Exhs.
"E," "E-1" and "E-2") respondent is seen in the act of kissing the petitioner. 31

WHEREFORE, the petition is granted in part. The assailed Decision and Resolution of the Court of
Appeals in CA-GR CV No. 69166 are SET ASIDE and the decision of the Regional Trial Court Branch 70
of Pasig City in JDRC No. 4626 dated 16 October 2000 is hereby REINSTATED.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 200233 JULY 15, 2015

LEONILA G. SANTIAGO, Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLEOF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

SERENO, CJ:

We resolve the Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by petitioner Leonila G. Santiago from the Decision
and Resolution of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 33566.1 The CA affirmed the Decision
and Order of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Criminal Case No. 7232 2 convicting her of bigamy.
THE FACTS

Four months after the solemnization of their marriage on 29 July 1997, 3 Leonila G. Santiago and Nicanor
F. Santos faced an Information 4 for bigamy. Petitioner pleaded "not guilty," while her putative husband
escaped the criminal suit. 5

The prosecution adduced evidence that Santos, who had been married to Estela Galang since 2 June
1974, 6 asked petitioner to marry him. Petitioner, who 'was a 43-year-old widow then, married Santos on
29 July 1997 despite the advice of her brother-in-law and parents-in-law that if she wanted to remarry,
she should choose someone who was "without responsibility." 7

Petitioner asserted her affirmative defense that she could not be included as an accused in the crime of
bigamy, because she had been under the belief that Santos was still single when they got married. She
also averred that for there to be a conviction for bigamy, his second marriage to her should be proven
valid by the prosecution; but in this case, she argued that their marriage was void due to the lack of a
marriage license.

Eleven years after the inception of this criminal case, the first wife, Estela Galang, testified for the
prosecution.1âwphi1 She alleged that she had met petitioner as early as March and April 1997, on which
occasions the former introduced herself as the legal wife of Santos. Petitioner denied this allegation and
averred that she met Galang only in August and September 1997, or after she had already married
Santos.

THE RTC RULING

The RTC appreciated the undisputed fact that petitioner married Santos during the subsistence of his
marriage to Galang. Based on the more credible account of Galang that she had already introduced
herself as the legal wife of Santos in March and April 1997, the trial court rejected the affirmative defense
of petitioner that she had not known of the first marriage. It also held that it was incredible for a learned
person like petitioner to be easily duped by a person like Santos. 8

The RTC declared that as indicated in the Certificate of Marriage, "her marriage was celebrated without a
need for a marriage license in accordance with Article 34 of the Family Code, which is an admission that
she cohabited with Santos long before the celebration of their marriage." 9Thus, the trial court convicted
petitioner as follows: 10

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the court finds the accused Leonila G. Santiago GUILTY beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime of Bigamy, defined and penalized under Article 349 of the Revised Penal
Code and imposes against her the indeterminate penalty of six ( 6) months and one (1) day of Prision
Correctional as minimum to six ( 6) years and one (1) day of Prision Mayor as maximum.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

Petitioner moved for reconsideration. She contended that her marriage to Santos was void ab initio for
having been celebrated without complying with Article 34 of the Family Code, which provides an
exemption from the requirement of a marriage license if the parties have actually lived together as
husband and wife for at least five years prior to the celebration of their marriage. In her case, petitioner
asserted that she and Santos had not lived together as husband and wife for five years prior to their
marriage. Hence, she argued that the absence of a marriage license effectively rendered their marriage
null and void, justifying her acquittal from bigamy.

The RTC refused to reverse her conviction and held thus: 11

Accused Santiago submits that it is her marriage to her co-accused that is null and void as it was
celebrated without a valid marriage license x x x. In advancing that theory, accused wants this court to
pass judgment on the validity of her marriage to accused Santos, something this court cannot do. The
best support to her argument would have been the submission of a judicial decree of annulment of their
marriage. Absent such proof, this court cannot declare their marriage null and void in these proceedings.

THE CA RULING
On appeal before the CA, petitioner claimed that her conviction was not based on proof beyond
reasonable doubt. She attacked the credibility of Galang and insisted that the former had not known of the
previous marriage of Santos.

Similar to the RTC, the CA gave more weight to the prosecution witnesses' narration. It likewise
disbelieved the testimony of Santos. Anent the lack of a marriage license, the appellate court simply
stated that the claim was a vain attempt to put the validity of her marriage to Santos in question.
Consequently, the CA affirmed her conviction for bigamy. 12

THE ISSUES

Before this Court, petitioner reiterates that she cannot be a co-accused in the instant case, because she
was not aware of Santos's previous marriage. But in the main, she argues that for there to be a conviction
for bigamy, a valid second marriage must be proven by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt.

Citing People v. De Lara, 13 she contends that her marriage to Santos is void because of the absence of a
marriage license. She elaborates that their marriage does not fall under any of those marriages exempt
from a marriage license, because they have not previously lived together exclusively as husband and wife
for at least five years. She alleges that it is extant in the records that she married Santos in 1997, or only
four years since she met him in 1993. Without completing the five-year requirement, she posits that their
marriage without a license is void.

In the Comment 14 filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), respondent advances the argument
that the instant Rule 45 petition should be denied for raising factual issues as regards her husband's
subsequent marriage. As regards petitioner's denial of any knowledge of Santos' s first marriage,
respondent reiterates that credible testimonial evidence supports the conclusion of the courts a quo that
petitioner knew about the subsisting marriage.

The crime of bigamy under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code provides:

The penalty of prision mayor shall be imposed upon any person who shall contract a second or
subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been legally dissolved, or before the absent spouse
has been declared presumptively dead by means of a judgment rendered in the proper proceedings.

In Montanez v. Cipriano, 15 this Court enumerated the elements of bigamy as follows:

The elements of the crime of bigamy are: (a) the offender has been legally married; (b) the marriage has
not been legally dissolved x x x; (c) that he contracts a second or subsequent marriage; and (d) the
second or subsequent marriage has all the essential requisites for validity. The felony is consummated on
the celebration of the second marriage or subsequent marriage. It is essential in the prosecution for
bigamy that the alleged second marriage, having all the essential requirements, would be valid were it not
for the subsistence of the first marriage. (Emphasis supplied)

For the second spouse to be indicted as a co-accused in the crime, People v. Nepomuceno,
Jr. 16 instructs that she should have had knowledge of the previous subsisting marriage. People v.
Archilla 17 likewise states that the knowledge of the second wife of the fact of her spouse's existing prior
marriage constitutes an indispensable cooperation in the commission of bigamy, which makes her
responsible as an accomplice.

THE RULING OF THE COURT

The penalty for bigamy and petitioner's knowledge of Santos's first marriage

The crime of bigamy does not necessary entail the joint liability of two persons who marry each other
while the previous marriage of one of them is valid and subsisting. As explained in Nepomuceno: 18

In the crime of bigamy, both the first and second spouses may be the offended parties depending on the
circumstances, as when the second spouse married the accused without being aware of his previous
marriage. Only if the second spouse had knowledge of the previous undissolved marriage of the accused
could she be included in the information as a co-accused. (Emphasis supplied)

Therefore, the lower courts correctly ascertained petitioner's knowledge of Santos's marriage to Galang.
Both courts consistently found that she knew of the first marriage as shown by the totality of the following
circumstances: 19 (1) when Santos was courting and visiting petitioner in the house of her in-laws, they
openly showed their disapproval of him; (2) it was incredible for a learned person like petitioner to not
know of his true civil status; and (3) Galang, who was the more credible witness compared with petitioner
who had various inconsistent testimonies, straightforwardly testified that she had already told petitioner on
two occasions that the former was the legal wife of Santos.

After a careful review of the records, we see no reason to reverse or modify the factual findings of the R
TC, less so in the present case in which its findings were affirmed by the CA. Indeed, the trial court's
assessment of the credibility of witnesses deserves great respect, since it had the important opportunity
to observe firsthand the expression and demeanor of the witnesses during the trial. 20

Given that petitioner knew of the first marriage, this Court concurs with the ruling that she was validly
charged with bigamy. However, we disagree with the lower courts' imposition of the principal penalty on
her. To recall, the RTC, which the CA affirmed, meted out to her the penalty within the range of prision
correctional as minimum to prision mayor as maximum.

Her punishment as a principal to the crime is wrong. Archilla 21 holds that the second spouse, if indicted in
the crime of bigamy, is liable only as an accomplice. In referring to Viada, Justice Luis B. Reyes, an
eminent authority in criminal law, writes that "a person, whether man or woman, who knowingly consents
or agrees to be married to another already bound in lawful wedlock is guilty as an accomplice in the crime
of bigamy." 22 Therefore, her conviction should only be that for an accomplice to the crime.

Under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, the penalty for a principal in the crime of
bigamy is prision mayor, which has a duration of six years and one day to twelve years. Since the criminal
participation of petitioner is that of an accomplice, the sentence imposable on her is the penalty next
lower in degree, 23 prision correctional, which has a duration of six months and one day to six years.
There being neither aggravating nor mitigating circumstance, this penalty shall be imposed in its medium
period consisting of two years, four months and one day to four years and two months of imprisonment.
Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, 24 petitioner shall be entitled to a minimum term, to be taken
from the penalty next lower in degree, arresto mayor, which has a duration of one month and one day to
six months imprisonment.

The criminal liability of petitioner resulting from her marriage to Santos

Jurisprudence clearly requires that for the accused to be convicted of bigamy, the second or subsequent
marriage must have all the essential requisites for validity. 25 If the accused wants to raise the nullity of
the marriage, he or she can do it as a matter of defense during the presentation of evidence in the trial
proper of the criminal case. 26 In this case, petitioner has consistently27 questioned below the validity of
her marriage to Santos on the ground that marriages celebrated without the essential requisite of a
marriage license are void ab initio. 28

Unfortunately, the lower courts merely brushed aside the issue. The RTC stated that it could not pass
judgment on the validity of the marriage.1âwphi1 The CA held that the attempt of petitioner to attack her
union with Santos was in vain.

On the basis that the lower courts have manifestly overlooked certain issues and facts, 29 and given that
an appeal in a criminal case throws the whole case open for review, 30 this Court now resolves to correct
the error of the courts a quo.

After a perusal of the records, it is clear that the marriage between petitioner and Santos took place
without a marriage license. The absence of this requirement is purportedly explained in their Certificate of
Marriage, which reveals that their union was celebrated under Article 34 of the Family Code. The
provision reads as follows:

No license shall be necessary for the marriage of a man and a woman who have lived together as
husband and wife for at least five years and without any legal impediment to marry each other. The
contracting parties shall state the foregoing facts in an affidavit before any person authorized by law to
administer oaths. The solemnizing officer shall also state under oath that he ascertained the qualifications
of the contracting parties are found no legal impediment to the marriage.31

Here, respondent did not dispute that petitioner knew Santos in more or less in February 1996 32 and that
after six months of courtship,33 she married him on 29 July 1997. Without any objection from the
prosecution, petitioner testified that Santos had frequently visited her in Castellano, Nueva Ecija, prior to
their marriage. However, he never cohabited with her, as she was residing in the house of her in-
laws,34 and her children from her previous marriage disliked him.35 On cross examination, respondent did
not question the claim of petitioner that sometime in 1993, she first met Santos as an agent who sold her
piglets.36
All told, the evidence on record shows that petitioner and Santos had only known each other for only less
than four years. Thus, it follows that the two of them could not have cohabited for at least five years prior
to their marriage.

Santiago and Santos, however, reflected the exact opposite of this demonstrable fact. Although the
records do not show that they submitted an affidavit of cohabitation as required by Article 34 of the Family
Code, it appears that the two of them lied before the solemnizing officer and misrepresented that they had
actually cohabited for at least five years before they married each other. Unfortunately, subsequent to this
lie was the issuance of the Certificate of Marriage, 37 in which the solemnizing officer stated under oath
that no marriage license was necessary, because the marriage was solemnized under Article 34 of the
Family Code.

The legal effects in a criminal case of a deliberate act to put a flaw in the marriage

The Certificate of Marriage, signed by Santos and Santiago, contained the misrepresentation perpetrated
by them that they were eligible to contract marriage without a license. We thus face an anomalous
situation wherein petitioner seeks to be acquitted of bigamy based on her illegal actions of (1) marrying
Santos without a marriage license despite knowing that they had not satisfied the cohabitation
requirement under the law; and (2) falsely making claims in no less than her marriage contract.

We chastise this deceptive scheme that hides what is basically a bigamous and illicit marriage in an effort
to escape criminal prosecution. Our penal laws on marriage, such as bigamy, punish an individual's
deliberate disregard of the permanent and sacrosanct character of this special bond between
spouses.38 In Tenebro v. Court of Appeals,39 we had the occasion to emphasize that the State's penal
laws on bigamy should not be rendered nugatory by allowing individuals "to deliberately ensure that each
marital contract be flawed in some manner, and to thus escape the consequences of contracting multiple
marriages, while beguiling throngs of hapless women with the promise of futurity and commitment."

Thus, in the case at bar, we cannot countenance petitioner's illegal acts of feigning a marriage and, in the
same breath, adjudge her innocent of the crime. For us, to do so would only make a mockery of the
sanctity of marriage. 40

Furthermore, it is a basic concept of justice that no court will "lend its aid to x x x one who has consciously
and voluntarily become a party to an illegal act upon which the cause of action is founded." 41 If the cause
of action appears to arise ex turpi causa or that which involves a transgression of positive law, parties
shall be left unassisted by the courts. 42 As a result, litigants shall be denied relief on the ground that their
conduct has been inequitable, unfair and dishonest or fraudulent, or deceitful as to the controversy in
issue. 43

Here, the cause of action of petitioner, meaning her affirmative defense in this criminal case of bigamy, is
that her marriage with Santos was void for having been secured without a marriage license. But as
elucidated earlier, they themselves perpetrated a false Certificate of Marriage by misrepresenting that
they were exempted from the license requirement based on their fabricated claim that they had already
cohabited as husband and wife for at least five years prior their marriage. In violation of our law against
illegal marriages,44 petitioner married Santos while knowing full well that they had not yet complied with
the five-year cohabitation requirement under Article 34 of the Family Code. Consequently, it will be the
height of absurdity for this Court to allow petitioner to use her illegal act to escape criminal conviction.

The applicability of People v. De Lara

Petitioner cites De Lara as the relevant jurisprudence involving an acquittal for bigamy on the ground that
the second marriage lacked the requisite marriage license. In that case, the Court found that when
Domingo de Lara married his second wife, Josefa Rosales, on 18 August 1951, the local Civil Registrar
had yet to issue their marriage license on 19 August 1951. Thus, since the marriage was celebrated one
day before the issuance of the marriage license, the Court acquitted him of bigamy.

Noticeably, Domingo de Lara did not cause the falsification of public documents in order to contract a
second marriage. In contrast, petitioner and Santos fraudulently secured a Certificate of Marriage, and
petitioner later used this blatantly illicit act as basis for seeking her exculpation. Therefore, unlike our
treatment of the accused in De Lara, this Court cannot regard petitioner herein as innocent of the crime.

No less than the present Constitution provides that "marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the
foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State." 45 It must be safeguarded from the whims
and caprices of the contracting parties. 46 in keeping therefore with this fundamental policy, this Court
affirms the conviction of petitioner for bigamy
WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by petitioner Leonila G. Santiago is DENIED.
The Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 33566 is AFFIRMED with
MODIFICATION. As modified, petitioner Leonila G. Santiago is hereby found guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of the crime of bigamy as an accomplice. She is sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of
six months of arresto mayor as minimum to four years of prision correctional as maximum plus accessory
penalties provided by law.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 182438 July 2, 2014

RENE RONULO, Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

BRION, J.:

Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari1 filed by petitioner Fr. Rene Ronulo challenging the
April 3, 2008 decision2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR. No. 31028 which affirmed the
decision of the Regional Trial Court, (RTC) Branch 18, Batac, Ilocos Norte.

The Factual Antecedents

The presented evidence showed that3 Joey Umadac and Claire Bingayen were scheduled to marry each
other on March 29, 2003 at the Sta. Rosa Catholic Parish Church of San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte. However,
on the day of the wedding, the supposed officiating priest, Fr. Mario Ragaza, refused to solemnize the
marriage upon learning that the couple failed to secure a marriage license. As a recourse, Joey, who was
then dressed in barong tagalong,and Claire, clad in a wedding gown, together with their parents,
sponsors and guests, proceeded to the Independent Church of Filipino Christians, also known as the
Aglipayan Church. They requested the petitioner, an Aglipayan priest, to perform a ceremony to which the
latter agreed despite having been informed by the couple that they had no marriage certificate.

The petitioner prepared his choir and scheduled a mass for the couple on the same date. He conducted
the ceremony in the presence of the groom, the bride, their parents, the principal and secondary sponsors
and the rest of their invited guests.4

An information for violation of Article 352 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), as amended, was filed
against the petitioner before the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Batac, Ilocos Norte for allegedly
performing an illegal marriage ceremony.5

The petitioner entered the plea of "not guilty" to the crime charged on arraignment.

The prosecution’s witnesses, Joseph and Mary Anne Yere, testified on the incidents of the ceremony.
Joseph was the veil sponsor while Mary Anne was the cord sponsor in the wedding. Mary Anne testified
that she saw the bride walk down the aisle. She also saw the couple exchange their wedding rings, kiss
each other, and sign a document.6 She heard the petitioner instructing the principal sponsors to sign the
marriage contract. Thereafter, they went to the reception, had lunch and took pictures. She saw the
petitioner there. She also identified the wedding invitation given to her by Joey. 7

Florida Umadac, the mother of Joey, testified that she heard the couple declare during the ceremony that
they take each other as husband and wife.8 Days after the wedding, she went to the municipal local civil
registrar of San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte with Atty. Mariano R. Nalupta Jr. where she was given a certificate
that no marriage license was issued to the couple.9

The petitioner, while admitting that he conducted a ceremony, denied that his act of blessing the couple
was tantamount to a solemnization of the marriage as contemplated by law.10

The MTC Judgment

The MTC found the petitioner guilty of violation of Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, and imposed on
him a ₱200.00 fine pursuant to Section 44 of Act No. 3613. It held that the petitioner’s act of giving a
blessing constitutes a marriage ceremony as he made an official church recognition of the cohabitation of
the couple as husband and wife.11 It further ruled that in performing a marriage ceremony without the
couple’s marriage license, the petitioner violated Article 352 of the RPC which imposes the penalty
provided under Act No. 3613 or the Marriage Law. The MTC applied Section 44 of the Marriage Law
which pertinently states that a violation of any of its provisions that is not specifically penalized or of the
regulations to be promulgated, shall be punished by a fine of not more than two hundred pesos or by
imprisonment of not more than one month, or both, in the discretion of the court.

The RPC is a law subsequent to the Marriage Law, and provides the penalty for violation of the latter law.
Applying these laws, the MTC imposed the penalty of a fine in the amount of ₱200.00. 12

The RTC Ruling

The RTC affirmed the findings of the MTC and added that the circumstances surrounding the act of the
petitioner in "blessing" the couple unmistakably show that a marriage ceremony had transpired. It further
ruled that the positive declarations of the prosecution witnesses deserve more credence than the
petitioner’s negative statements.13 The RTC, however, ruled that the basis of the fine should be Section
39, instead of Section 44, of the Marriage Law.

The CA Decision

On appeal, the CA affirmed the RTC’s ruling. The CA observed that although there is no prescribed form
or religious rite for the solemnization of marriage, the law provides minimum standards in determining
whether a marriage ceremony has been conducted, viz.: (1) the contracting parties must appear
personally before the solemnizing officer; and (2) they should declare that they take each other as
husband and wife in the presence of at least two witnesses of legal age.14 According to the CA, the
prosecution duly proved these requirements. It added that the presence of a marriage certificate is not a
requirement in a marriage ceremony.15

The CA additionally ruled that the petitioner’s criminal liability under Article 352 of the RPC, as amended,
is not dependent on whether Joey or Claire were charged or found guilty under Article 350 of the same
Code.16

The CA agreed with the MTC that the legal basis for the imposition of the fine is Section 44 of the
Marriage Law since it covers violation of regulations to be promulgated by the proper authorities such as
the RPC.

The Petition

The petitioner argues that the CA erred on the following grounds: First, Article 352 of the RPC, as
amended, is vague and does not define what constitutes "an illegal marriage ceremony." Assuming that a
marriage ceremony principally constitutes those enunciated in Article 55 of the Civil Code and Article 6 of
the Family Code, these provisions require the verbal declaration that the couple take each other as
husband and wife, and a marriage certificate containing the declaration in writing which is duly signed by
the contracting parties and attested to by the solemnizing officer.17 The petitioner likewise maintains that
the prosecution failed to prove that the contracting parties personally declared that they take each other
as husband and wife.18 Second, under the principle of separation of church and State, the State cannot
interfere in ecclesiastical affairs such as the administration of matrimony. Therefore, the State cannot
convert the "blessing" into a "marriage ceremony."19

Third, the petitioner had no criminal intent as he conducted the "blessing" in good faith for purposes of
giving moral guidance to the couple.20

Fourth, the non-filing of a criminal case against the couple in violating Article 350 of the RPC, as
amended, should preclude the filing of the present case against him.21

Finally, Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, does not provide for a penalty. The present case is not
covered by Section 44 of the Marriage Law as the petitioner was not found violating its provisions nor a
regulation promulgated thereafter.22

THE COURT’S RULING:

We find the petition unmeritorious.


The elements of the crime punishable under Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, were proven by the
prosecution

Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, penalizes an authorized solemnizing officer who shall perform or
authorize any illegal marriage ceremony. The elements of this crime are as follows: (1) authority of the
solemnizing officer; and (2) his performance of an illegal marriage ceremony. In the present case, the
petitioner admitted that he has authority to solemnize a marriage. Hence, the only issue to be resolved is
whether the alleged "blessing" by the petitioner is tantamount to the performance of an "illegal marriage
ceremony" which is punishable under Article 352 of the RPC, as amended.

While Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, does not specifically define a "marriage ceremony" and what
constitutes its "illegal" performance, Articles 3(3) and 6 of the Family Code are clear on these matters.
These provisions were taken from Article 5523 of the New Civil Code which, in turn, was copied from
Section 324 of the Marriage Law with no substantial amendments. Article 625 of the Family Code provides
that "[n]o prescribed form or religious rite for the solemnization of the marriage is required. It shall be
necessary, however, for the contracting parties to appear personally before the solemnizing officer and
declare in the presence of not less than two witnesses of legal age that they take each other as husband
and wife."26 Pertinently, Article 3(3)27 mirrors Article 6 of the Family Code and particularly defines a
marriage ceremony as that which takes place with the appearance of the contracting parties before the
solemnizing officer and their personal declaration that they take each other as husband and wife in the
presence of not less than two witnesses of legal age.

Even prior to the date of the enactment of Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, the rule was clear that no
prescribed form of religious rite for the solemnization of the marriage is required. However, as correctly
found by the CA, the law sets the minimum requirements constituting a marriage ceremony: first, there
should be the personal appearance of the contracting parties before a solemnizing officer; and second,
heir declaration in the presence of not less than two witnesses that they take each other as husband and
wife.

As to the first requirement, the petitioner admitted that the parties appeared before him and this fact was
testified to by witnesses. On the second requirement, we find that, contrary to the petitioner’s allegation,
the prosecution has proven, through the testimony of Florida, that the contracting parties personally
declared that they take each other as husband and wife.

The petitioner’s allegation that the court asked insinuating and leading questions to Florida fails to
persuadeus. A judge may examine or cross-examine a witness. He may propound clarificatory questions
to test the credibility of the witness and to extract the truth. He may seek to draw out relevant and material
testimony though that testimony may tend to support or rebut the position taken by one or the other party.
It cannot be taken against him if the clarificatory questions he propounds happen to reveal certain truths
that tend to destroy the theory of one party.28

At any rate, if the defense found the line of questioning of the judge objectionable, its failure to timely
register this bars it from belatedly invoking any irregularity.

In addition, the testimonies of Joseph and Mary Anne, and even the petitioner’s admission regarding the
circumstances of the ceremony, support Florida’s testimony that there had indeed been the declaration by
the couple that they take each other as husband and wife. The testimony of Joey disowning their
declaration as husband and wife cannot overcome these clear and convincing pieces of evidence.
Notably, the defense failed to show that the prosecution witnesses, Joseph and Mary Anne, had any ill-
motive to testify against the petitioner.

We also do not agree with the petitioner that the principle of separation of church and State precludes the
State from qualifying the church "blessing" into a marriage ceremony. Contrary to the petitioner’s
allegation, this principle has been duly preserved by Article 6 of the Family Code when it provides that no
prescribed form or religious rite for the solemnization of marriage is required. This pronouncement gives
any religion or sect the freedom or latitude in conducting its respective marital rites, subject only to the
requirement that the core requirements of law be observed.

We emphasize at this point that Article 1529 of the Constitution recognizes marriage as an inviolable social
institution and that our family law is based on the policy that marriage is not a mere contract, but a social
institution in which the State is vitally interested. The State has paramount interest in the enforcement of
its constitutional policies and the preservation of the sanctity of marriage. To this end, it is within its power
to enact laws and regulations, such as Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, which penalize the
commission of acts resulting in the disintegration and mockery of marriage.
From these perspectives, we find it clear that what the petitioner conducted was a marriage ceremony, as
the minimum requirements set by law were complied with. While the petitioner may view this merely as a
"blessing," the presence of the requirements of the law constitutive of a marriage ceremony qualified this
"blessing" into a "marriage ceremony" as contemplated by Article 3(3) of the Family Code and Article 352
of the RPC, as amended.

We come now to the issue of whether the solemnization by the petitioner of this marriage ceremony was
illegal.

Under Article 3(3) of the Family Code, one of the essential requisites of marriage is the presence of a
valid marriage certificate. In the present case, the petitioner admitted that he knew that the couple had no
marriage license, yet he conducted the "blessing" of their relationship.

Undoubtedly, the petitioner conducted the marriage ceremony despite knowledge that the essential and
formal requirements of marriage set by law were lacking. The marriage ceremony, therefore, was illegal.
The petitioner’s knowledge of the absence of these requirements negates his defense of good faith.

We also do not agree with the petitioner that the lack of a marriage certificate negates his criminal liability
in the present case. For purposes of determining if a marriage ceremony has been conducted, a marriage
certificate is not included in the requirements provided by Article 3(3) of the Family Code, as discussed
above.

Neither does the non-filing of a criminal complaint against the couple negate criminal liability of the
petitioner. Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, does not make this an element of the crime. The penalty
imposed is proper

On the issue on the penalty for violation of Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, this provision clearly
provides that it shall be imposed in accordance with the provision of the Marriage Law. The penalty
provisions of the Marriage Law are Sections 39 and 44 which provide as follows: Section 39 of the
Marriage Law provides that:

Section 39. Illegal Solemnization of Marriage – Any priest or minister solemnizing marriage without being
authorized by the Director of the Philippine National Library or who, upon solemnizing marriage, refuses
to exhibit the authorization in force when called upon to do so by the parties or parents, grandparents,
guardians, or persons having charge and any bishop or officer, priest, or minister of any church, religion
or sect the regulations and practices whereof require banns or publications previous to the solemnization
of a marriage in accordance with section ten, who authorized the immediate solemnization of a marriage
that is subsequently declared illegal; or any officer, priest or minister solemnizing marriage in violation of
this act, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one month nor more than two years, or by a
fine of not less than two hundred pesos nor more than two thousand pesos. [emphasis ours]

On the other hand, Section 44 of the Marriage Law states that:

Section 44. General Penal Clause – Any violation of any provision of this Act not specifically penalized, or
of the regulations to be promulgated by the proper authorities, shall be punished by a fine of not more
than two hundred pesos or by imprisonment for not more than one month, or both, in the discretion of the
court. [emphasis ours]

From a reading of the provisions cited above, we find merit in the ruling of the CA and the MTC that the
penalty imposable in the present case is that covered under Section 44, and not Section 39, of the
Marriage Law.

The penalized acts under Section 39 of Act No. 3613 do not include the present case.1âwphi1 As
correctly found by the MTC, the petitioner was not found violating the provisions of the Marriage Law but
Article 352 of the RPC, as amended. It is only the imposition of the penalty for the violation of this
provision which is referred to the Marriage Law. On this point, Article 352 falls squarely under the
provision of Section 44 of Act No. 3613 which provides for the penalty for any violation of the regulations
to be promulgated by the proper authorities; Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, which was enacted
after the Marriage Law, is one of such regulations.

Therefore, the CA did not err in imposing the penalty of fine of ₱200.00 pursuant to Section 44 of the
Marriage Law.

WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition and affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals dated April 3, 2008
in CA-G.R. CR. No. 31028.
SO ORDERED.

ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice

G.R. No. 145226 February 06, 2004

LUCIO MORIGO y CACHO, petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.

DECISION

QUISUMBING, J.:

This petition for review on certiorari seeks to reverse the decision1 dated October 21, 1999 of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 20700, which affirmed the judgment2 dated August 5, 1996 of the Regional
Trial Court (RTC) of Bohol, Branch 4, in Criminal Case No. 8688. The trial court found herein petitioner
Lucio Morigo y Cacho guilty beyond reasonable doubt of bigamy and sentenced him to a prison term of
seven (7) months of prision correccional as minimum to six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor as
maximum. Also assailed in this petition is the resolution3 of the appellate court, dated September 25,
2000, denying Morigo’s motion for reconsideration.

The facts of this case, as found by the court a quo, are as follows:

Appellant Lucio Morigo and Lucia Barrete were boardmates at the house of Catalina Tortor at
Tagbilaran City, Province of Bohol, for a period of four (4) years (from 1974-1978).

After school year 1977-78, Lucio Morigo and Lucia Barrete lost contact with each other.

In 1984, Lucio Morigo was surprised to receive a card from Lucia Barrete from Singapore. The
former replied and after an exchange of letters, they became sweethearts.

In 1986, Lucia returned to the Philippines but left again for Canada to work there. While in
Canada, they maintained constant communication.

In 1990, Lucia came back to the Philippines and proposed to petition appellant to join her in
Canada. Both agreed to get married, thus they were married on August 30, 1990 at the Iglesia de
Filipina Nacional at Catagdaan, Pilar, Bohol.

On September 8, 1990, Lucia reported back to her work in Canada leaving appellant Lucio
behind.

On August 19, 1991, Lucia filed with the Ontario Court (General Division) a petition for divorce
against appellant which was granted by the court on January 17, 1992 and to take effect on
February 17, 1992.

On October 4, 1992, appellant Lucio Morigo married Maria Jececha Lumbago4 at the Virgen sa
Barangay Parish, Tagbilaran City, Bohol.

On September 21, 1993, accused filed a complaint for judicial declaration of nullity of marriage in
the Regional Trial Court of Bohol, docketed as Civil Case No. 6020. The complaint seek (sic)
among others, the declaration of nullity of accused’s marriage with Lucia, on the ground that no
marriage ceremony actually took place.
On October 19, 1993, appellant was charged with Bigamy in an Information5 filed by the City
Prosecutor of Tagbilaran [City], with the Regional Trial Court of Bohol.6

The petitioner moved for suspension of the arraignment on the ground that the civil case for judicial
nullification of his marriage with Lucia posed a prejudicial question in the bigamy case. His motion was
granted, but subsequently denied upon motion for reconsideration by the prosecution. When arraigned in
the bigamy case, which was docketed as Criminal Case No. 8688, herein petitioner pleaded not guilty to
the charge. Trial thereafter ensued.

On August 5, 1996, the RTC of Bohol handed down its judgment in Criminal Case No. 8688, as follows:

WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, the Court finds accused Lucio Morigo y Cacho
guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Bigamy and sentences him to suffer the penalty of
imprisonment ranging from Seven (7) Months of Prision Correccional as minimum to Six (6)
Years and One (1) Day of Prision Mayor as maximum.

SO ORDERED.7

In convicting herein petitioner, the trial court discounted petitioner’s claim that his first marriage to Lucia
was null and void ab initio. Following Domingo v. Court of Appeals,8 the trial court ruled that want of a
valid marriage ceremony is not a defense in a charge of bigamy. The parties to a marriage should not be
allowed to assume that their marriage is void even if such be the fact but must first secure a judicial
declaration of the nullity of their marriage before they can be allowed to marry again.

Anent the Canadian divorce obtained by Lucia, the trial court cited Ramirez v. Gmur,9 which held that the
court of a country in which neither of the spouses is domiciled and in which one or both spouses may
resort merely for the purpose of obtaining a divorce, has no jurisdiction to determine the matrimonial
status of the parties. As such, a divorce granted by said court is not entitled to recognition anywhere.
Debunking Lucio’s defense of good faith in contracting the second marriage, the trial court stressed that
following People v. Bitdu,10 everyone is presumed to know the law, and the fact that one does not know
that his act constitutes a violation of the law does not exempt him from the consequences thereof.

Seasonably, petitioner filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. CR No. 20700.

Meanwhile, on October 23, 1997, or while CA-G.R. CR No. 20700 was pending before the appellate
court, the trial court rendered a decision in Civil Case No. 6020 declaring the marriage between Lucio and
Lucia void ab initio since no marriage ceremony actually took place. No appeal was taken from this
decision, which then became final and executory.

On October 21, 1999, the appellate court decided CA-G.R. CR No. 20700 as follows:

WHEREFORE, finding no error in the appealed decision, the same is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.

SO ORDERED.11

In affirming the assailed judgment of conviction, the appellate court stressed that the subsequent
declaration of nullity of Lucio’s marriage to Lucia in Civil Case No. 6020 could not acquit Lucio. The
reason is that what is sought to be punished by Article 34912 of the Revised Penal Code is the act of
contracting a second marriage before the first marriage had been dissolved. Hence, the CA held, the fact
that the first marriage was void from the beginning is not a valid defense in a bigamy case.

The Court of Appeals also pointed out that the divorce decree obtained by Lucia from the Canadian court
could not be accorded validity in the Philippines, pursuant to Article 1513 of the Civil Code and given the
fact that it is contrary to public policy in this jurisdiction. Under Article 1714 of the Civil Code, a declaration
of public policy cannot be rendered ineffectual by a judgment promulgated in a foreign jurisdiction.

Petitioner moved for reconsideration of the appellate court’s decision, contending that the doctrine
in Mendiola v. People,15 allows mistake upon a difficult question of law (such as the effect of a foreign
divorce decree) to be a basis for good faith.

On September 25, 2000, the appellate court denied the motion for lack of merit. 16 However, the denial
was by a split vote. The ponente of the appellate court’s original decision in CA-G.R. CR No. 20700,
Justice Eugenio S. Labitoria, joined in the opinion prepared by Justice Bernardo P. Abesamis. The
dissent observed that as the first marriage was validly declared void ab initio, then there was no first
marriage to speak of. Since the date of the nullity retroacts to the date of the first marriage and since
herein petitioner was, in the eyes of the law, never married, he cannot be convicted beyond reasonable
doubt of bigamy.

The present petition raises the following issues for our resolution:

A.

WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FAILING TO APPLY THE RULE
THAT IN CRIMES PENALIZED UNDER THE REVISED PENAL CODE, CRIMINAL INTENT IS
AN INDISPENSABLE REQUISITE. COROLLARILY, WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF
APPEALS ERRED IN FAILING TO APPRECIATE [THE] PETITIONER’S LACK OF CRIMINAL
INTENT WHEN HE CONTRACTED THE SECOND MARRIAGE.

B.

WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE RULING IN
PEOPLE VS. BITDU (58 PHIL. 817) IS APPLICABLE TO THE CASE AT BAR.

C.

WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FAILING TO APPLY THE RULE
THAT EACH AND EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE FAVORING THE INNOCENCE OF THE
ACCUSED MUST BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT.17

To our mind, the primordial issue should be whether or not petitioner committed bigamy and if so, whether
his defense of good faith is valid.

The petitioner submits that he should not be faulted for relying in good faith upon the divorce decree of
the Ontario court. He highlights the fact that he contracted the second marriage openly and publicly,
which a person intent upon bigamy would not be doing. The petitioner further argues that his lack of
criminal intent is material to a conviction or acquittal in the instant case. The crime of bigamy, just like
other felonies punished under the Revised Penal Code, is mala in se, and hence, good faith and lack of
criminal intent are allowed as a complete defense. He stresses that there is a difference between the
intent to commit the crime and the intent to perpetrate the act. Hence, it does not necessarily follow that
his intention to contract a second marriage is tantamount to an intent to commit bigamy.

For the respondent, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) submits that good faith in the instant case is
a convenient but flimsy excuse. The Solicitor General relies upon our ruling in Marbella-Bobis v.
Bobis,18 which held that bigamy can be successfully prosecuted provided all the elements concur,
stressing that under Article 4019 of the Family Code, a judicial declaration of nullity is a must before a
party may re-marry. Whether or not the petitioner was aware of said Article 40 is of no account as
everyone is presumed to know the law. The OSG counters that petitioner’s contention that he was in good
faith because he relied on the divorce decree of the Ontario court is negated by his act of filing Civil Case
No. 6020, seeking a judicial declaration of nullity of his marriage to Lucia.

Before we delve into petitioner’s defense of good faith and lack of criminal intent, we must first determine
whether all the elements of bigamy are present in this case. In Marbella-Bobis v. Bobis,20 we laid down
the elements of bigamy thus:

(1) the offender has been legally married;

(2) the first marriage has not been legally dissolved, or in case his or her spouse is absent, the
absent spouse has not been judicially declared presumptively dead;

(3) he contracts a subsequent marriage; and

(4) the subsequent marriage would have been valid had it not been for the existence of the first.

Applying the foregoing test to the instant case, we note that during the pendency of CA-G.R. CR No.
20700, the RTC of Bohol Branch 1, handed down the following decision in Civil Case No. 6020, to wit:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered decreeing the annulment of


the marriage entered into by petitioner Lucio Morigo and Lucia Barrete on August 23, 1990 in
Pilar, Bohol and further directing the Local Civil Registrar of Pilar, Bohol to effect the cancellation
of the marriage contract.
SO ORDERED.21

The trial court found that there was no actual marriage ceremony performed between Lucio and Lucia by
a solemnizing officer. Instead, what transpired was a mere signing of the marriage contract by the two,
without the presence of a solemnizing officer. The trial court thus held that the marriage is void ab initio, in
accordance with Articles 322 and 423 of the Family Code. As the dissenting opinion in CA-G.R. CR No.
20700, correctly puts it, "This simply means that there was no marriage to begin with; and that such
declaration of nullity retroacts to the date of the first marriage. In other words, for all intents and purposes,
reckoned from the date of the declaration of the first marriage as void ab initio to the date of the
celebration of the first marriage, the accused was, under the eyes of the law, never married." 24 The
records show that no appeal was taken from the decision of the trial court in Civil Case No. 6020, hence,
the decision had long become final and executory.

The first element of bigamy as a crime requires that the accused must have been legally married. But in
this case, legally speaking, the petitioner was never married to Lucia Barrete. Thus, there is no first
marriage to speak of. Under the principle of retroactivity of a marriage being declared void ab initio, the
two were never married "from the beginning." The contract of marriage is null; it bears no legal effect.
Taking this argument to its logical conclusion, for legal purposes, petitioner was not married to Lucia at
the time he contracted the marriage with Maria Jececha. The existence and the validity of the first
marriage being an essential element of the crime of bigamy, it is but logical that a conviction for said
offense cannot be sustained where there is no first marriage to speak of. The petitioner, must, perforce be
acquitted of the instant charge.

The present case is analogous to, but must be distinguished from Mercado v. Tan.25 In the latter case, the
judicial declaration of nullity of the first marriage was likewise obtained after the second marriage was
already celebrated. We held therein that:

A judicial declaration of nullity of a previous marriage is necessary before a subsequent one can
be legally contracted. One who enters into a subsequent marriage without first obtaining such
judicial declaration is guilty of bigamy. This principle applies even if the earlier union is
characterized by statutes as "void."26

It bears stressing though that in Mercado, the first marriage was actually solemnized not just once, but
twice: first before a judge where a marriage certificate was duly issued and then again six months later
before a priest in religious rites. Ostensibly, at least, the first marriage appeared to have transpired,
although later declared void ab initio.

In the instant case, however, no marriage ceremony at all was performed by a duly authorized
solemnizing officer. Petitioner and Lucia Barrete merely signed a marriage contract on their own. The
mere private act of signing a marriage contract bears no semblance to a valid marriage and thus, needs
no judicial declaration of nullity. Such act alone, without more, cannot be deemed to constitute an
ostensibly valid marriage for which petitioner might be held liable for bigamy unless he first secures a
judicial declaration of nullity before he contracts a subsequent marriage.

The law abhors an injustice and the Court is mandated to liberally construe a penal statute in favor of an
accused and weigh every circumstance in favor of the presumption of innocence to ensure that justice is
done. Under the circumstances of the present case, we held that petitioner has not committed bigamy.
Further, we also find that we need not tarry on the issue of the validity of his defense of good faith or lack
of criminal intent, which is now moot and academic.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The assailed decision, dated October 21, 1999 of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 20700, as well as the resolution of the appellate court dated
September 25, 2000, denying herein petitioner’s motion for reconsideration, is REVERSED and SET
ASIDE. The petitioner Lucio Morigo y Cacho is ACQUITTED from the charge of BIGAMY on the ground
that his guilt has not been proven with moral certainty.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. L-68470 October 8, 1985

ALICE REYES VAN DORN, petitioner,


vs.
HON. MANUEL V. ROMILLO, JR., as Presiding Judge of Branch CX, Regional Trial Court of the
National Capital Region Pasay City and RICHARD UPTON respondents.

MELENCIO-HERRERA, J.:\

In this Petition for certiorari and Prohibition, petitioner Alice Reyes Van Dorn seeks to set aside the
Orders, dated September 15, 1983 and August 3, 1984, in Civil Case No. 1075-P, issued by respondent
Judge, which denied her Motion to Dismiss said case, and her Motion for Reconsideration of the
Dismissal Order, respectively.

The basic background facts are that petitioner is a citizen of the Philippines while private respondent is a
citizen of the United States; that they were married in Hongkong in 1972; that, after the marriage, they
established their residence in the Philippines; that they begot two children born on April 4, 1973 and
December 18, 1975, respectively; that the parties were divorced in Nevada, United States, in 1982; and
that petitioner has re-married also in Nevada, this time to Theodore Van Dorn.

Dated June 8, 1983, private respondent filed suit against petitioner in Civil Case No. 1075-P of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch CXV, in Pasay City, stating that petitioner's business in Ermita, Manila, (the
Galleon Shop, for short), is conjugal property of the parties, and asking that petitioner be ordered to
render an accounting of that business, and that private respondent be declared with right to manage the
conjugal property. Petitioner moved to dismiss the case on the ground that the cause of action is barred
by previous judgment in the divorce proceedings before the Nevada Court wherein respondent had
acknowledged that he and petitioner had "no community property" as of June 11, 1982. The Court below
denied the Motion to Dismiss in the mentioned case on the ground that the property involved is located in
the Philippines so that the Divorce Decree has no bearing in the case. The denial is now the subject of
this certiorari proceeding.

Generally, the denial of a Motion to Dismiss in a civil case is interlocutory and is not subject to appeal.
certiorari and Prohibition are neither the remedies to question the propriety of an interlocutory order of the
trial Court. However, when a grave abuse of discretion was patently committed, or the lower Court acted
capriciously and whimsically, then it devolves upon this Court in a certiorari proceeding to exercise its
supervisory authority and to correct the error committed which, in such a case, is equivalent to lack of
jurisdiction. 1 Prohibition would then lie since it would be useless and a waste of time to go ahead with the
proceedings. 2 Weconsider the petition filed in this case within the exception, and we have given it due
course.

For resolution is the effect of the foreign divorce on the parties and their alleged conjugal property in the
Philippines.

Petitioner contends that respondent is estopped from laying claim on the alleged conjugal property
because of the representation he made in the divorce proceedings before the American Court that they
had no community of property; that the Galleon Shop was not established through conjugal funds, and
that respondent's claim is barred by prior judgment.

For his part, respondent avers that the Divorce Decree issued by the Nevada Court cannot prevail over
the prohibitive laws of the Philippines and its declared national policy; that the acts and declaration of a
foreign Court cannot, especially if the same is contrary to public policy, divest Philippine Courts of
jurisdiction to entertain matters within its jurisdiction.

For the resolution of this case, it is not necessary to determine whether the property relations between
petitioner and private respondent, after their marriage, were upon absolute or relative community
property, upon complete separation of property, or upon any other regime. The pivotal fact in this case is
the Nevada divorce of the parties.

The Nevada District Court, which decreed the divorce, had obtained jurisdiction over petitioner who
appeared in person before the Court during the trial of the case. It also obtained jurisdiction over private
respondent who, giving his address as No. 381 Bush Street, San Francisco, California, authorized his
attorneys in the divorce case, Karp & Gradt Ltd., to agree to the divorce on the ground of incompatibility in
the understanding that there were neither community property nor community obligations. 3 As explicitly
stated in the Power of Attorney he executed in favor of the law firm of KARP & GRAD LTD., 336 W.
Liberty, Reno, Nevada, to represent him in the divorce proceedings:

xxx xxx xxx


You are hereby authorized to accept service of Summons, to file an Answer, appear on
my behalf and do an things necessary and proper to represent me, without further
contesting, subject to the following:

1. That my spouse seeks a divorce on the ground of incompatibility.

2. That there is no community of property to be adjudicated by the Court.

3. 'I'hat there are no community obligations to be adjudicated by the court.

xxx xxx xxx 4

There can be no question as to the validity of that Nevada divorce in any of the States of the United
States. The decree is binding on private respondent as an American citizen. For instance, private
respondent cannot sue petitioner, as her husband, in any State of the Union. What he is contending in
this case is that the divorce is not valid and binding in this jurisdiction, the same being contrary to local
law and public policy.

It is true that owing to the nationality principle embodied in Article 15 of the Civil Code, 5 only Philippine
nationals are covered by the policy against absolute divorces the same being considered contrary to our
concept of public police and morality. However, aliens may obtain divorces abroad, which may be
recognized in the Philippines, provided they are valid according to their national law. 6 In this case, the
divorce in Nevada released private respondent from the marriage from the standards of American law,
under which divorce dissolves the marriage. As stated by the Federal Supreme Court of the United States
in Atherton vs. Atherton, 45 L. Ed. 794, 799:

The purpose and effect of a decree of divorce from the bond of matrimony by a court of
competent jurisdiction are to change the existing status or domestic relation of husband
and wife, and to free them both from the bond. The marriage tie when thus severed as to
one party, ceases to bind either. A husband without a wife, or a wife without a husband,
is unknown to the law. When the law provides, in the nature of a penalty. that the guilty
party shall not marry again, that party, as well as the other, is still absolutely freed from
the bond of the former marriage.

Thus, pursuant to his national law, private respondent is no longer the husband of petitioner. He would
have no standing to sue in the case below as petitioner's husband entitled to exercise control over
conjugal assets. As he is bound by the Decision of his own country's Court, which validly exercised
jurisdiction over him, and whose decision he does not repudiate, he is estopped by his own
representation before said Court from asserting his right over the alleged conjugal property.

To maintain, as private respondent does, that, under our laws, petitioner has to be considered still married
to private respondent and still subject to a wife's obligations under Article 109, et. seq. of the Civil Code
cannot be just. Petitioner should not be obliged to live together with, observe respect and fidelity, and
render support to private respondent. The latter should not continue to be one of her heirs with possible
rights to conjugal property. She should not be discriminated against in her own country if the ends of
justice are to be served.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is granted, and respondent Judge is hereby ordered to dismiss the Complaint
filed in Civil Case No. 1075-P of his Court.

Without costs.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 80116 June 30, 1989

IMELDA MANALAYSAY PILAPIL, petitioner,


vs.
HON. CORONA IBAY-SOMERA, in her capacity as Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court of
Manila, Branch XXVI; HON. LUIS C. VICTOR, in his capacity as the City Fiscal of Manila; and
ERICH EKKEHARD GEILING, respondents.
REGALADO, J.:

An ill-starred marriage of a Filipina and a foreigner which ended in a foreign absolute divorce, only to be
followed by a criminal infidelity suit of the latter against the former, provides Us the opportunity to lay
down a decisional rule on what hitherto appears to be an unresolved jurisdictional question.

On September 7, 1979, petitioner Imelda Manalaysay Pilapil, a Filipino citizen, and private respondent
Erich Ekkehard Geiling, a German national, were married before the Registrar of Births, Marriages and
Deaths at Friedensweiler in the Federal Republic of Germany. The marriage started auspiciously enough,
and the couple lived together for some time in Malate, Manila where their only child, Isabella Pilapil
Geiling, was born on April 20, 1980. 1

Thereafter, marital discord set in, with mutual recriminations between the spouses, followed by a
separation de facto between them.

After about three and a half years of marriage, such connubial disharmony eventuated in private
respondent initiating a divorce proceeding against petitioner in Germany before the Schoneberg Local
Court in January, 1983. He claimed that there was failure of their marriage and that they had been living
apart since April, 1982. 2

Petitioner, on the other hand, filed an action for legal separation, support and separation of property
before the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch XXXII, on January 23, 1983 where the same is still
pending as Civil Case No. 83-15866. 3

On January 15, 1986, Division 20 of the Schoneberg Local Court, Federal Republic of Germany,
promulgated a decree of divorce on the ground of failure of marriage of the spouses. The custody of the
child was granted to petitioner. The records show that under German law said court was locally and
internationally competent for the divorce proceeding and that the dissolution of said marriage was legally
founded on and authorized by the applicable law of that foreign jurisdiction. 4

On June 27, 1986, or more than five months after the issuance of the divorce decree, private respondent
filed two complaints for adultery before the City Fiscal of Manila alleging that, while still married to said
respondent, petitioner "had an affair with a certain William Chia as early as 1982 and with yet another
man named Jesus Chua sometime in 1983". Assistant Fiscal Jacinto A. de los Reyes, Jr., after the
corresponding investigation, recommended the dismissal of the cases on the ground of insufficiency of
evidence. 5 However, upon review, the respondent city fiscal approved a resolution, dated January 8,
1986, directing the filing of two complaints for adultery against the petitioner. 6 The complaints were
accordingly filed and were eventually raffled to two branches of the Regional Trial Court of Manila. The
case entitled "People of the Philippines vs. Imelda Pilapil and William Chia", docketed as Criminal Case
No. 87-52435, was assigned to Branch XXVI presided by the respondent judge; while the other
case, "People of the Philippines vs. Imelda Pilapil and James Chua", docketed as Criminal Case No. 87-
52434 went to the sala of Judge Leonardo Cruz, Branch XXV, of the same court. 7

On March 14, 1987, petitioner filed a petition with the Secretary of Justice asking that the aforesaid
resolution of respondent fiscal be set aside and the cases against her be dismissed. 8 A similar petition
was filed by James Chua, her co-accused in Criminal Case No. 87-52434. The Secretary of Justice,
through the Chief State Prosecutor, gave due course to both petitions and directed the respondent city
fiscal to inform the Department of Justice "if the accused have already been arraigned and if not yet
arraigned, to move to defer further proceedings" and to elevate the entire records of both cases to his
office for review. 9

Petitioner thereafter filed a motion in both criminal cases to defer her arraignment and to suspend further
proceedings thereon. 10 As a consequence, Judge Leonardo Cruz suspended proceedings in Criminal
Case No. 87-52434. On the other hand, respondent judge merely reset the date of the arraignment in
Criminal Case No. 87-52435 to April 6, 1987. Before such scheduled date, petitioner moved for the
cancellation of the arraignment and for the suspension of proceedings in said Criminal Case No. 87-
52435 until after the resolution of the petition for review then pending before the Secretary of Justice. 11 A
motion to quash was also filed in the same case on the ground of lack of jurisdiction, 12 which motion was
denied by the respondent judge in an order dated September 8, 1987. The same order also directed the
arraignment of both accused therein, that is, petitioner and William Chia. The latter entered a plea of not
guilty while the petitioner refused to be arraigned. Such refusal of the petitioner being considered by
respondent judge as direct contempt, she and her counsel were fined and the former was ordered
detained until she submitted herself for arraignment. 13 Later, private respondent entered a plea of not
guilty. 14
On October 27, 1987, petitioner filed this special civil action for certiorari and prohibition, with a prayer for
a temporary restraining order, seeking the annulment of the order of the lower court denying her motion to
quash. The petition is anchored on the main ground that the court is without jurisdiction "to try and decide
the charge of adultery, which is a private offense that cannot be prosecuted de officio (sic), since the
purported complainant, a foreigner, does not qualify as an offended spouse having obtained a final
divorce decree under his national law prior to his filing the criminal complaint." 15

On October 21, 1987, this Court issued a temporary restraining order enjoining the respondents from
implementing the aforesaid order of September 8, 1987 and from further proceeding with Criminal Case
No. 87-52435. Subsequently, on March 23, 1988 Secretary of Justice Sedfrey A. Ordoñez acted on the
aforesaid petitions for review and, upholding petitioner's ratiocinations, issued a resolution directing the
respondent city fiscal to move for the dismissal of the complaints against the petitioner. 16

We find this petition meritorious. The writs prayed for shall accordingly issue.

Under Article 344 of the Revised Penal Code, 17 the crime of adultery, as well as four other crimes against
chastity, cannot be prosecuted except upon a sworn written complaint filed by the offended spouse. It has
long since been established, with unwavering consistency, that compliance with this rule is a
jurisdictional, and not merely a formal, requirement. 18 While in point of strict law the jurisdiction of the
court over the offense is vested in it by the Judiciary Law, the requirement for a sworn written complaint is
just as jurisdictional a mandate since it is that complaint which starts the prosecutory proceeding 19 and
without which the court cannot exercise its jurisdiction to try the case.

Now, the law specifically provides that in prosecutions for adultery and concubinage the person who can
legally file the complaint should be the offended spouse, and nobody else. Unlike the offenses of
seduction, abduction, rape and acts of lasciviousness, no provision is made for the prosecution of the
crimes of adultery and concubinage by the parents, grandparents or guardian of the offended party. The
so-called exclusive and successive rule in the prosecution of the first four offenses above mentioned do
not apply to adultery and concubinage. It is significant that while the State, as parens patriae, was added
and vested by the 1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure with the power to initiate the criminal action for a
deceased or incapacitated victim in the aforesaid offenses of seduction, abduction, rape and acts of
lasciviousness, in default of her parents, grandparents or guardian, such amendment did not include the
crimes of adultery and concubinage. In other words, only the offended spouse, and no other, is authorized
by law to initiate the action therefor.

Corollary to such exclusive grant of power to the offended spouse to institute the action, it necessarily
follows that such initiator must have the status, capacity or legal representation to do so at the time of the
filing of the criminal action. This is a familiar and express rule in civil actions; in fact, lack of legal capacity
to sue, as a ground for a motion to dismiss in civil cases, is determined as of the filing of the complaint or
petition.

The absence of an equivalent explicit rule in the prosecution of criminal cases does not mean that the
same requirement and rationale would not apply. Understandably, it may not have been found necessary
since criminal actions are generally and fundamentally commenced by the State, through the People of
the Philippines, the offended party being merely the complaining witness therein. However, in the so-
called "private crimes" or those which cannot be prosecuted de oficio, and the present prosecution for
adultery is of such genre, the offended spouse assumes a more predominant role since the right to
commence the action, or to refrain therefrom, is a matter exclusively within his power and option.

This policy was adopted out of consideration for the aggrieved party who might prefer to suffer the
outrage in silence rather than go through the scandal of a public trial. 20 Hence, as cogently argued by
petitioner, Article 344 of the Revised Penal Code thus presupposes that the marital relationship is still
subsisting at the time of the institution of the criminal action for, adultery. This is a logical consequence
since the raison d'etre of said provision of law would be absent where the supposed offended party had
ceased to be the spouse of the alleged offender at the time of the filing of the criminal case. 21

In these cases, therefore, it is indispensable that the status and capacity of the complainant to commence
the action be definitely established and, as already demonstrated, such status or capacity must
indubitably exist as of the time he initiates the action. It would be absurd if his capacity to bring the action
would be determined by his status before or subsequent to the commencement thereof, where such
capacity or status existed prior to but ceased before, or was acquired subsequent to but did not exist at
the time of, the institution of the case. We would thereby have the anomalous spectacle of a party
bringing suit at the very time when he is without the legal capacity to do so.

To repeat, there does not appear to be any local precedential jurisprudence on the specific issue as to
when precisely the status of a complainant as an offended spouse must exist where a criminal
prosecution can be commenced only by one who in law can be categorized as possessed of such status.
Stated differently and with reference to the present case, the inquiry ;would be whether it is necessary in
the commencement of a criminal action for adultery that the marital bonds between the complainant and
the accused be unsevered and existing at the time of the institution of the action by the former against the
latter.

American jurisprudence, on cases involving statutes in that jurisdiction which are in pari materia with ours,
yields the rule that after a divorce has been decreed, the innocent spouse no longer has the right to
institute proceedings against the offenders where the statute provides that the innocent spouse shall have
the exclusive right to institute a prosecution for adultery. Where, however, proceedings have been
properly commenced, a divorce subsequently granted can have no legal effect on the prosecution of the
criminal proceedings to a conclusion. 22

In the cited Loftus case, the Supreme Court of Iowa held that —

'No prosecution for adultery can be commenced except on the complaint of the husband
or wife.' Section 4932, Code. Though Loftus was husband of defendant when the offense
is said to have been committed, he had ceased to be such when the prosecution was
begun; and appellant insists that his status was not such as to entitle him to make the
complaint. We have repeatedly said that the offense is against the unoffending spouse,
as well as the state, in explaining the reason for this provision in the statute; and we are
of the opinion that the unoffending spouse must be such when the prosecution is
commenced. (Emphasis supplied.)

We see no reason why the same doctrinal rule should not apply in this case and in our jurisdiction,
considering our statutory law and jural policy on the matter. We are convinced that in cases of such
nature, the status of the complainant vis-a-vis the accused must be determined as of the time the
complaint was filed. Thus, the person who initiates the adultery case must be an offended spouse, and by
this is meant that he is still married to the accused spouse, at the time of the filing of the complaint.

In the present case, the fact that private respondent obtained a valid divorce in his country, the Federal
Republic of Germany, is admitted. Said divorce and its legal effects may be recognized in the Philippines
insofar as private respondent is concerned 23 in view of the nationality principle in our civil law on the
matter of status of persons.

Thus, in the recent case of Van Dorn vs. Romillo, Jr., et al., 24 after a divorce was granted by a United
States court between Alice Van Dornja Filipina, and her American husband, the latter filed a civil case in a
trial court here alleging that her business concern was conjugal property and praying that she be ordered
to render an accounting and that the plaintiff be granted the right to manage the business. Rejecting his
pretensions, this Court perspicuously demonstrated the error of such stance, thus:

There can be no question as to the validity of that Nevada divorce in any of the States of
the United States. The decree is binding on private respondent as an American citizen.
For instance, private respondent cannot sue petitioner, as her husband, in any State of
the Union. ...

It is true that owing to the nationality principle embodied in Article 15 of the Civil Code,
only Philippine nationals are covered by the policy against absolute divorces the same
being considered contrary to our concept of public policy and morality. However, aliens
may obtain divorces abroad, which may be recognized in the Philippines, provided they
are valid according to their national law. ...

Thus, pursuant to his national law, private respondent is no longer the husband of
petitioner. He would have no standing to sue in the case below as petitioner's husband
entitled to exercise control over conjugal assets. ... 25

Under the same considerations and rationale, private respondent, being no longer the husband of
petitioner, had no legal standing to commence the adultery case under the imposture that he was the
offended spouse at the time he filed suit.

The allegation of private respondent that he could not have brought this case before the decree of divorce
for lack of knowledge, even if true, is of no legal significance or consequence in this case. When said
respondent initiated the divorce proceeding, he obviously knew that there would no longer be a family nor
marriage vows to protect once a dissolution of the marriage is decreed. Neither would there be a danger
of introducing spurious heirs into the family, which is said to be one of the reasons for the particular
formulation of our law on adultery, 26 since there would thenceforth be no spousal relationship to speak of.
The severance of the marital bond had the effect of dissociating the former spouses from each other,
hence the actuations of one would not affect or cast obloquy on the other.

The aforecited case of United States vs. Mata cannot be successfully relied upon by private respondent.
In applying Article 433 of the old Penal Code, substantially the same as Article 333 of the Revised Penal
Code, which punished adultery "although the marriage be afterwards declared void", the Court merely
stated that "the lawmakers intended to declare adulterous the infidelity of a married woman to her marital
vows, even though it should be made to appear that she is entitled to have her marriage contract declared
null and void, until and unless she actually secures a formal judicial declaration to that effect". Definitely, it
cannot be logically inferred therefrom that the complaint can still be filed after the declaration of nullity
because such declaration that the marriage is void ab initio is equivalent to stating that it never existed.
There being no marriage from the beginning, any complaint for adultery filed after said declaration of
nullity would no longer have a leg to stand on. Moreover, what was consequently contemplated and within
the purview of the decision in said case is the situation where the criminal action for adultery was
filed before the termination of the marriage by a judicial declaration of its nullity ab initio. The same rule
and requisite would necessarily apply where the termination of the marriage was effected, as in this case,
by a valid foreign divorce.

Private respondent's invocation of Donio-Teves, et al. vs. Vamenta, hereinbefore cited, 27 must suffer the
same fate of inapplicability. A cursory reading of said case reveals that the offended spouse therein had
duly and seasonably filed a complaint for adultery, although an issue was raised as to its sufficiency but
which was resolved in favor of the complainant. Said case did not involve a factual situation akin to the
one at bar or any issue determinative of the controversy herein.

WHEREFORE, the questioned order denying petitioner's motion to quash is SET ASIDE and another one
entered DISMISSING the complaint in Criminal Case No. 87-52435 for lack of jurisdiction. The temporary
restraining order issued in this case on October 21, 1987 is hereby made permanent.

SO ORDERED.

Melencio-Herrera, Padilla and Sarmiento, JJ., concur.

Separate Opinions

PARAS, J., concurring:

It is my considered opinion that regardless of whether We consider the German absolute divorce as valid
also in the Philippines, the fact is that the husband in the instant case, by the very act of his obtaining an
absolute divorce in Germany can no longer be considered as the offended party in case his former wife
actually has carnal knowledge with another, because in divorcing her, he already implicitly authorized the
woman to have sexual relations with others. A contrary ruling would be less than fair for a man, who is
free to have sex will be allowed to deprive the woman of the same privilege.

In the case of Recto v. Harden (100 Phil. 427 [1956]), the Supreme Court considered the absolute divorce
between the American husband and his American wife as valid and binding in the Philippines on the
theory that their status and capacity are governed by their National law, namely, American law. There is
no decision yet of the Supreme Court regarding the validity of such a divorce if one of the parties, say an
American, is married to a Filipino wife, for then two (2) different nationalities would be involved.

In the book of Senate President Jovito Salonga entitled Private International Law and precisely because
of the National law doctrine, he considers the absolute divorce as valid insofar as the American husband
is concerned but void insofar as the Filipino wife is involved. This results in what he calls a "socially
grotesque situation," where a Filipino woman is still married to a man who is no longer her husband. It is
the opinion however, of the undersigned that very likely the opposite expresses the correct view. While
under the national law of the husband the absolute divorce will be valid, still one of the exceptions to the
application of the proper foreign law (one of the exceptions to comity) is when the foreign law will work an
injustice or injury to the people or residents of the forum. Consequently since to recognize the absolute
divorce as valid on the part of the husband would be injurious or prejudicial to the Filipino wife whose
marriage would be still valid under her national law, it would seem that under our law existing before the
new Family Code (which took effect on August 3, 1988) the divorce should be considered void both with
respect to the American husband and the Filipino wife.

The recent case of Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. (139 SCRA [1985]) cannot apply despite the fact that the
husband was an American can with a Filipino wife because in said case the validity of the divorce insofar
as the Filipino wife is concerned was NEVER put in issue.

Separate Opinions

PARAS, J., concurring:

It is my considered opinion that regardless of whether We consider the German absolute divorce as valid
also in the Philippines, the fact is that the husband in the instant case, by the very act of his obtaining an
absolute divorce in Germany can no longer be considered as the offended party in case his former wife
actually has carnal knowledge with another, because in divorcing her, he already implicitly authorized the
woman to have sexual relations with others. A contrary ruling would be less than fair for a man, who is
free to have sex will be allowed to deprive the woman of the same privilege.

In the case of Recto v. Harden (100 Phil. 427 [1956]), the Supreme Court considered the absolute divorce
between the American husband and his American wife as valid and binding in the Philippines on the
theory that their status and capacity are governed by their National law, namely, American law. There is
no decision yet of the Supreme Court regarding the validity of such a divorce if one of the parties, say an
American, is married to a Filipino wife, for then two (2) different nationalities would be involved.

In the book of Senate President Jovito Salonga entitled Private International Law and precisely because
of the National law doctrine, he considers the absolute divorce as valid insofar as the American husband
is concerned but void insofar as the Filipino wife is involved. This results in what he calls a "socially
grotesque situation," where a Filipino woman is still married to a man who is no longer her husband. It is
the opinion however, of the undersigned that very likely the opposite expresses the correct view. While
under the national law of the husband the absolute divorce will be valid, still one of the exceptions to the
application of the proper foreign law (one of the exceptions to comity) is when the foreign law will work an
injustice or injury to the people or residents of the forum. Consequently since to recognize the absolute
divorce as valid on the part of the husband would be injurious or prejudicial to the Filipino wife whose
marriage would be still valid under her national law, it would seem that under our law existing before the
new Family Code (which took effect on August 3, 1988) the divorce should be considered void both with
respect to the American husband and the Filipino wife.

The recent case of Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. (139 SCRA [1985]) cannot apply despite the fact that the
husband was an American can with a Filipino wife because in said case the validity of the divorce insofar
as the Filipino wife is concerned was NEVER put in issue.

G.R. No. 138322 October 2, 2001

GRACE J. GARCIA, a.k.a. GRACE J. GARCIA-RECIO, petitioner,


vs.
REDERICK A. RECIO, respondents.

PANGANIBAN, J.:

A divorce obtained abroad by an alien may be recognized in our jurisdiction, provided such decree is valid
according to the national law of the foreigner. However, the divorce decree and the governing personal
law of the alien spouse who obtained the divorce must be proven. Our courts do not take judicial notice of
foreign laws and judgment; hence, like any other facts, both the divorce decree and the national law of the
alien must be alleged and proven according to our law on evidence.

The Case
Before us is a Petition for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, seeking to nullify the January 7,
1999 Decision1 and the March 24, 1999 Order2 of the Regional Trial Court of Cabanatuan City, Branch
28, in Civil Case No. 3026-AF. The assailed Decision disposed as follows:

"WHEREFORE, this Court declares the marriage between Grace J. Garcia and Rederick A. Recio
solemnized on January 12, 1994 at Cabanatuan City as dissolved and both parties can now
remarry under existing and applicable laws to any and/or both parties." 3

The assailed Order denied reconsideration of the above-quoted Decision.

The Facts

Rederick A. Recio, a Filipino, was married to Editha Samson, an Australian citizen, in Malabon, Rizal, on
March 1, 1987.4 They lived together as husband and wife in Australia. On May 18, 1989, 5 a decree of
divorce, purportedly dissolving the marriage, was issued by an Australian family court.

On June 26, 1992, respondent became an Australian citizen, as shown by a "Certificate of Australian
Citizenship" issued by the Australian government.6 Petitioner – a Filipina – and respondent were married
on January 12, 1994 in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Cabanatuan City. 7 In their application for a
marriage license, respondent was declared as "single" and "Filipino." 8

Starting October 22, 1995, petitioner and respondent lived separately without prior judicial dissolution of
their marriage. While the two were still in Australia, their conjugal assets were divided on May 16, 1996, in
accordance with their Statutory Declarations secured in Australia.9

On March 3, 1998, petitioner filed a Complaint for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage 10 in the court a quo,
on the ground of bigamy – respondent allegedly had a prior subsisting marriage at the time he married
her on January 12, 1994. She claimed that she learned of respondent's marriage to Editha Samson only
in November, 1997.

In his Answer, respondent averred that, as far back as 1993, he had revealed to petitioner his prior
marriage and its subsequent dissolution.11 He contended that his first marriage to an Australian citizen
had been validly dissolved by a divorce decree obtained in Australian in 1989; 12 thus, he was legally
capacitated to marry petitioner in 1994.1âwphi1.nêt

On July 7, 1998 – or about five years after the couple's wedding and while the suit for the declaration of
nullity was pending – respondent was able to secure a divorce decree from a family court in Sydney,
Australia because the "marriage ha[d] irretrievably broken down." 13

Respondent prayed in his Answer that the Complained be dismissed on the ground that it stated no cause
of action.14 The Office of the Solicitor General agreed with respondent.15 The court marked and admitted
the documentary evidence of both parties.16 After they submitted their respective memoranda, the case
was submitted for resolution.17

Thereafter, the trial court rendered the assailed Decision and Order.

Ruling of the Trial Court

The trial court declared the marriage dissolved on the ground that the divorce issued in Australia was
valid and recognized in the Philippines. It deemed the marriage ended, but not on the basis of any defect
in an essential element of the marriage; that is, respondent's alleged lack of legal capacity to remarry.
Rather, it based its Decision on the divorce decree obtained by respondent. The Australian divorce had
ended the marriage; thus, there was no more martial union to nullify or annual.

Hence, this Petition.18

Issues

Petitioner submits the following issues for our consideration:

"I
The trial court gravely erred in finding that the divorce decree obtained in Australia by the
respondent ipso facto terminated his first marriage to Editha Samson thereby capacitating him to
contract a second marriage with the petitioner.

"2

The failure of the respondent, who is now a naturalized Australian, to present a certificate of legal
capacity to marry constitutes absence of a substantial requisite voiding the petitioner' marriage to
the respondent.

"3

The trial court seriously erred in the application of Art. 26 of the Family Code in this case.

"4

The trial court patently and grievously erred in disregarding Arts. 11, 13, 21, 35, 40, 52 and 53 of
the Family Code as the applicable provisions in this case.

"5

The trial court gravely erred in pronouncing that the divorce gravely erred in pronouncing that the
divorce decree obtained by the respondent in Australia ipso facto capacitated the parties to
remarry, without first securing a recognition of the judgment granting the divorce decree before
our courts."19

The Petition raises five issues, but for purposes of this Decision, we shall concentrate on two pivotal
ones: (1) whether the divorce between respondent and Editha Samson was proven, and (2) whether
respondent was proven to be legally capacitated to marry petitioner. Because of our ruling on these two,
there is no more necessity to take up the rest.

The Court's Ruling

The Petition is partly meritorious.

First Issue:

Proving the Divorce Between Respondent and Editha Samson

Petitioner assails the trial court's recognition of the divorce between respondent and Editha Samson.
Citing Adong v. Cheong Seng Gee,20 petitioner argues that the divorce decree, like any other foreign
judgment, may be given recognition in this jurisdiction only upon proof of the existence of (1) the foreign
law allowing absolute divorce and (2) the alleged divorce decree itself. She adds that respondent
miserably failed to establish these elements.

Petitioner adds that, based on the first paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, marriages solemnized
abroad are governed by the law of the place where they were celebrated (the lex loci celebrationist). In
effect, the Code requires the presentation of the foreign law to show the conformity of the marriage in
question to the legal requirements of the place where the marriage was performed.

At the outset, we lay the following basic legal principles as the take-off points for our discussion.
Philippine law does not provide for absolute divorce; hence, our courts cannot grant it. 21 A marriage
between two Filipinos cannot be dissolved even by a divorce obtained abroad, because of Articles
1522 and 1723 of the Civil Code.24 In mixed marriages involving a Filipino and a foreigner, Article 2625 of
the Family Code allows the former to contract a subsequent marriage in case the divorce is "validly
obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry."26 A divorce obtained abroad by
a couple, who are both aliens, may be recognized in the Philippines, provided it is consistent with their
respective national laws.27

A comparison between marriage and divorce, as far as pleading and proof are concerned, can be
made. Van Dorn v. Romillo Jr. decrees that "aliens may obtain divorces abroad, which may be recognized
in the Philippines, provided they are valid according to their national law."28 Therefore, before a foreign
divorce decree can be recognized by our courts, the party pleading it must prove the divorce as a fact and
demonstrate its conformity to the foreign law allowing it.29 Presentation solely of the divorce decree is
insufficient.
Divorce as a Question of Fact

Petitioner insists that before a divorce decree can be admitted in evidence, it must first comply with the
registration requirements under Articles 11, 13 and 52 of the Family Code. These articles read as follows:

"ART. 11. Where a marriage license is required, each of the contracting parties shall file
separately a sworn application for such license with the proper local civil registrar which shall
specify the following:

xxx xxx xxx

"(5) If previously married, how, when and where the previous marriage was dissolved or annulled;

xxx xxx xxx

"ART. 13. In case either of the contracting parties has been previously married, the applicant
shall be required to furnish, instead of the birth of baptismal certificate required in the last
preceding article, the death certificate of the deceased spouse or the judicial decree of annulment
or declaration of nullity of his or her previous marriage. x x x.

"ART. 52. The judgment of annulment or of absolute nullity of the marriage, the partition and
distribution of the properties of the spouses, and the delivery of the children's presumptive
legitimes shall be recorded in the appropriate civil registry and registries of property; otherwise,
the same shall not affect their persons."

Respondent, on the other hand, argues that the Australian divorce decree is a public document – a
written official act of an Australian family court. Therefore, it requires no further proof of its authenticity
and due execution.

Respondent is getting ahead of himself. Before a foreign judgment is given presumptive evidentiary value,
the document must first be presented and admitted in evidence.30 A divorce obtained abroad is proven by
the divorce decree itself. Indeed the best evidence of a judgment is the judgment itself. 31 The decree
purports to be a written act or record of an act of an officially body or tribunal of a foreign country.32

Under Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132, on the other hand, 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
attested33 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.34

The divorce decree between respondent and Editha Samson appears to be an authentic one issued by
an Australian family court.35 However, appearance is not sufficient; compliance with the aforemetioned
rules on evidence must be demonstrated.

Fortunately for respondent's cause, when the divorce decree of May 18, 1989 was submitted in evidence,
counsel for petitioner objected, not to its admissibility, but only to the fact that it had not been registered in
the Local Civil Registry of Cabanatuan City.36 The trial court ruled that it was admissible, subject to
petitioner's qualification.37 Hence, it was admitted in evidence and accorded weight by the judge. Indeed,
petitioner's failure to object properly rendered the divorce decree admissible as a written act of the Family
Court of Sydney, Australia.38

Compliance with the quoted articles (11, 13 and 52) of the Family Code is not necessary; respondent was
no longer bound by Philippine personal laws after he acquired Australian citizenship in
1992.39 Naturalization is the legal act of adopting an alien and clothing him with the political and civil rights
belonging to a citizen.40 Naturalized citizens, freed from the protective cloak of their former states, don the
attires of their adoptive countries. By becoming an Australian, respondent severed his allegiance to the
Philippines and the vinculum juris that had tied him to Philippine personal laws.

Burden of Proving Australian Law

Respondent contends that the burden to prove Australian divorce law falls upon petitioner, because she is
the party challenging the validity of a foreign judgment. He contends that petitioner was satisfied with the
original of the divorce decree and was cognizant of the marital laws of Australia, because she had lived
and worked in that country for quite a long time. Besides, the Australian divorce law is allegedly known by
Philippine courts: thus, judges may take judicial notice of foreign laws in the exercise of sound discretion.

We are not persuaded. The burden of proof lies with "the party who alleges the existence of a fact or thing
necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action."41 In civil cases, plaintiffs have the burden of
proving the material allegations of the complaint when those are denied by the answer; and defendants
have the burden of proving the material allegations in their answer when they introduce new
matters.42 Since the divorce was a defense raised by respondent, the burden of proving the pertinent
Australian law validating it falls squarely upon him.

It is well-settled in our jurisdiction that our courts cannot take judicial notice of foreign laws. 43 Like any
other facts, they must be alleged and proved. Australian marital laws are not among those matters that
judges are supposed to know by reason of their judicial function. 44 The power of judicial notice must be
exercised with caution, and every reasonable doubt upon the subject should be resolved in the negative.

Second Issue:

Respondent's Legal Capacity to Remarry

Petitioner contends that, in view of the insufficient proof of the divorce, respondent was legally
incapacitated to marry her in 1994.

Hence, she concludes that their marriage was void ab initio.

Respondent replies that the Australian divorce decree, which was validly admitted in evidence,
adequately established his legal capacity to marry under Australian law.

Respondent's contention is untenable. In its strict legal sense, divorce means the legal dissolution of a
lawful union for a cause arising after marriage. But divorces are of different types. The two basic ones are
(1) absolute divorce or a vinculo matrimonii and (2) limited divorce or a mensa et thoro. The first kind
terminates the marriage, while the second suspends it and leaves the bond in full force.45 There is no
showing in the case at bar which type of divorce was procured by respondent.

Respondent presented a decree nisi or an interlocutory decree – a conditional or provisional judgment of


divorce. It is in effect the same as a separation from bed and board, although an absolute divorce may
follow after the lapse of the prescribed period during which no reconciliation is effected. 46

Even after the divorce becomes absolute, the court may under some foreign statutes and practices, still
restrict remarriage. Under some other jurisdictions, remarriage may be limited by statute; thus, the guilty
party in a divorce which was granted on the ground of adultery may be prohibited from remarrying again.
The court may allow a remarriage only after proof of good behavior.47

On its face, the herein Australian divorce decree contains a restriction that reads:

"1. A party to a marriage who marries again before this decree becomes absolute (unless the
other party has died) commits the offence of bigamy."48

This quotation bolsters our contention that the divorce obtained by respondent may have been restricted.
It did not absolutely establish his legal capacity to remarry according to his national law. Hence, we find
no basis for the ruling of the trial court, which erroneously assumed that the Australian divorce ipso
facto restored respondent's capacity to remarry despite the paucity of evidence on this matter.

We also reject the claim of respondent that the divorce decree raises a disputable presumption or
presumptive evidence as to his civil status based on Section 48, Rule 3949 of the Rules of Court, for the
simple reason that no proof has been presented on the legal effects of the divorce decree obtained under
Australian laws.

Significance of the Certificate of Legal Capacity

Petitioner argues that the certificate of legal capacity required by Article 21 of the Family Code was not
submitted together with the application for a marriage license. According to her, its absence is proof that
respondent did not have legal capacity to remarry.

We clarify. To repeat, the legal capacity to contract marriage is determined by the national law of the party
concerned. The certificate mentioned in Article 21 of the Family Code would have been sufficient to
establish the legal capacity of respondent, had he duly presented it in court. A duly authenticated and
admitted certificate is prima facie evidence of legal capacity to marry on the part of the alien applicant for
a marriage license.50

As it is, however, there is absolutely no evidence that proves respondent's legal capacity to marry
petitioner. A review of the records before this Court shows that only the following exhibits were presented
before the lower court: (1) for petitioner: (a) Exhibit "A" – Complaint;51 (b) Exhibit "B" – Certificate of
Marriage Between Rederick A. Recto (Filipino-Australian) and Grace J. Garcia (Filipino) on January 12,
1994 in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija;52 (c) Exhibit "C" – Certificate of Marriage Between Rederick A.
Recio (Filipino) and Editha D. Samson (Australian) on March 1, 1987 in Malabon, Metro Manila; 53 (d)
Exhibit "D" – Office of the City Registrar of Cabanatuan City Certification that no information of annulment
between Rederick A. Recto and Editha D. Samson was in its records;54 and (e) Exhibit "E" – Certificate of
Australian Citizenship of Rederick A. Recto;55 (2) for respondent: (Exhibit "1" – Amended Answer;56 (b)
Exhibit "S" – Family Law Act 1975 Decree Nisi of Dissolution of Marriage in the Family Court of
Australia;57 (c) Exhibit "3" – Certificate of Australian Citizenship of Rederick A. Recto;58 (d) Exhibit "4" –
Decree Nisi of Dissolution of Marriage in the Family Court of Australia Certificate; 59 and Exhibit "5" –
Statutory Declaration of the Legal Separation Between Rederick A. Recto and Grace J. Garcia Recio
since October 22, 1995.60

Based on the above records, we cannot conclude that respondent, who was then a naturalized Australian
citizen, was legally capacitated to marry petitioner on January 12, 1994. We agree with petitioner's
contention that the court a quo erred in finding that the divorce decree ipso facto clothed respondent with
the legal capacity to remarry without requiring him to adduce sufficient evidence to show the Australian
personal law governing his status; or at the very least, to prove his legal capacity to contract the second
marriage.

Neither can we grant petitioner's prayer to declare her marriage to respondent null and void on the ground
of bigamy. After all, it may turn out that under Australian law, he was really capacitated to marry petitioner
as a direct result of the divorce decree. Hence, we believe that the most judicious course is to remand this
case to the trial court to receive evidence, if any, which show petitioner's legal capacity to marry
petitioner. Failing in that, then the court a quo may declare a nullity of the parties' marriage on the ground
of bigamy, there being already in evidence two existing marriage certificates, which were both obtained in
the Philippines, one in Malabon, Metro Manila dated March 1, 1987 and the other, in Cabanatuan City
dated January 12, 1994.

WHEREFORE, in the interest of orderly procedure and substantial justice, we REMAND the case to the
court a quo for the purpose of receiving evidence which conclusively show respondent's legal capacity to
marry petitioner; and failing in that, of declaring the parties' marriage void on the ground of bigamy, as
above discussed. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

Melo, Puno, Vitug, and Sandoval-Gutierrez, JJ., concur.

G.R. No. 221029

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner


vs
MARELYN TANEDO MANALO, Respondent

RESOLUTION

peralta, J.:

This petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court (Rules) seeks to reverse and set
aside the September 18, 2014 Decision1 and October 12, 2015 Resolution2 of the Court of Appeals (CA)
in CA-G.R. CV No. 100076. The dispositive portion of the Decision states:
WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is GRANTED. The Decision dated 15 October 2012 of the Regional
Trial Court of Dagupan City, First Judicial Region, Branch 43, in SPEC. PROC. NO. 2012-0005
is REVERSED and SET ASIDE.

Let a copy of this Decision be served on the Local Civil Registrar of San Juan, Metro Manila.

SO ORDERED.3

The facts are undisputed.

On January 10, 2012, respondent Marelyn Tanedo Manalo (Manalo) filed a petition for cancellation of

Entry of marriage in the Civil Registry of San Juan , Metro Manila, by virtueof a judgment of divorce
Japanese court.

Finding the petition to be sufficient in form and in substance, Branch 43 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC)
of Dagupan City set the case for initial hearing on April 25, 2012. The petition and the notice of initial
hearing were published once a week for three consecutive weeks in newspaper of general circulation.
During the initial hearing, counsel for Manalo marked the documentary evidence (consisting of the trial
courts Order dated January 25, 2012, affidavit of publication, and issues of the Northern Journal dated
February 21-27, 2012, February 28 - March 5, 2012, and March 6-12, 2012) for purposes of compliance
with the jurisdictional requirements.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) entered its appearance for petitioner Republic of the Philippines
authorizing the Office of the City Prosecutor of Dagupan to appear on its behalf. Likewise, a Manifestation
and Motion was filed questioning the title and/or caption of the petition considering that based on the
allegations therein, the proper action should be a petition for recognition and enforcement of a foreign
judgment.

As a result, Manalo moved to admit an Amended Petition, which the court granted. The Amended
Petition, which captioned that if it is also a petition for recognition and enforcement of foreign judgment
alleged:

2. That petitioner is previously married in the Philippines to a Japanese national named YOSHINO
MINORO as shown by their Marriage Contract xxx;

3. That recently, a case for divorce was filed by herein [petitioner] in Japan and after die proceedings, a
divorce decree dated December 6, 2011 was rendered by the Japanese Court x x x;

4. That at present, by virtue of the said divorce decree, petitioner and her divorce Japanese husband are
no longer living together and in fact, petitioner and her daughter are living separately from said Japanese
former husband;

5. That there is an imperative need to have the entry of marriage in Civil Registry of San Juan, Metro
Manila cancelled, where the petitioner and the former Japanese husband's marriage was previously
registered, in order that it would not appear anymore that petitioner is still married to the said Japanese
national who is no longer her husband or is no longer married to her, she shall not be bothered and
disturbed by aid entry of marriage;

6. That this petition is filed principally for the purpose of causing the cancellation of entry of the marriage
between the petitioner and the said Japanese national, pursuant to Rule 108 of the Revised Rules of
Court, which marriage was already dissolved by virtue of the aforesaid divorce decree; [and]

7. That petitioner prays, among others, that together with the cancellation of the said entry of her
marriage, that she be allowed to return and use her maiden surname, MANALO. 4

Manalo was allowed to testify in advance as she was scheduled to leave for Japan for her employment.
Among the documents that were offered and admitted were:

1. Court Order dated January 25, 2012, finding the petition and its attachments to be sufficient in form and
in substance;

2. Affidavit of Publication;
3. Issues of the Northern Journal dated February 21-27, 2012, February 28 - March 5, 2012, and March
6-12, 2012;

4. Certificate of Marriage between Manalo and her former Japanese husband;

5. Divorce Decree of Japanese court;

6. Authentication/Certificate issued by the Philippine Consulate General in Osaka, Japan of the


Notification of Divorce; and

7. Acceptance of Certificate of Divorce.5

The OSG did not present any controverting evidence to rebut the allegations of Manalo.

On October 15, 2012, the trial court denied the petition for lack of merit. In ruling that the divorce obtained
by Manalo in Japan should not be recognized, it opined that, based on Article 15 of the New Civil Code,
the Philippine law "does not afford Filipinos the right to file for a divorce whether they are in the country or
living abroad, if they are married to Filipinos or to foreigners, or if they celebrated their marriage in the
Philippines or in another country" and that unless Filipinos "are naturalized as citizens of another country,
Philippine laws shall have control over issues related to Filipinos' family rights and duties, together with
the determination of their condition and legal capacity to enter into contracts and civil relations, inclusing
marriages."6

On appeal, the CA overturned the RTC decision. It held that Article 26 of the Family Code of the
Philippines (Family Code) is applicable even if it was Manalo who filed for divorce against her Japanese
husband because the decree may obtained makes the latter no longer married to the former, capacitating
him to remarry. Conformably with Navarro, et al. V. Exec. Secretary Ermita, et al.7 ruling that the meaning
of the law should be based on the intent of the lawmakers and in view of the legislative intent behind
Article 26, it would be height of injustice to consider Manalo as still married to the Japanese national, who,
in turn, is no longer married to her. For the appellate court, the fact that it was Manalo who filed the
divorce case is inconsequential. Cited as similar to this case was Van Dorn v. Judge Romilo, Jr. 8 where
the mariage between a foreigner an a Filipino was dissolved filed abroad by the latter.

The OSG filed a motion for reconsideration, but it was denied; hence, this petition.

We deny the petition and partially affirm the CA decision.

Divorce, the legal dissolution of a lawful union for a cause arising after the marriage, are of two types: (1)
absolute divorce or a vinculo matrimonii, which terminates the marriage, and (2) limited divorce or a
mensa et thoro, which suspends it and leaves the bond in full force.9 In this jurisdiction, the following rules
exist:

1. Philippine law does not provide for absolute divorce; hence, our courts cannot grant it. 10

2. Consistent with Articles 1511 and 1712 of the New Civil Code, the marital bond between two
Filipinos cannot be dissolved even by an absolute divorce obtained abroad.13

3. An absolute divorce obtained abroad by a couple, who both aliens, may be recognized in the
Philippines, provided it is consistent with their respective national laws.14

4. In mixed marriages involving a Filipino and a foreigner, the former is allowed to contract a
subsequent marriage in case the absolute divorce is validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse
capacitating him or her to remarry.15

On July 6, 1987, then President Corazon C. Aquino signed into law Executive Order (E.O.) No. 209,
otherwise known as the Family Code of the Philippines, which took effect on August 3, 1988. 16 Shortly
thereafter , E.O. No. 227 was issued on July 17, 1987. 17 Aside from amending Articles 36 and 39 of the
Family Code, a second paragraph was added to Article 26.18 This provision was originally deleted by
the Civil Code Revision Committee (Committee),but it was presented and approved at a Cabinet meeting
after Pres. Aquino signed E.O. No. 209.19 As modified, Article 26 now states:

Art. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines, in accordance with the laws in force in the
where 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 Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter
validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him her to remarry under Philippine law.

Paragraph 2 of Article 26 confers jurisdiction on Philippine courts to extend the effect of a foreign divorce
decree to a Filipino spouse without undergoing trial to determine the validity of the dissolution of the
marriage.20 It authorizes our courts to adopt the effects of a foreign divorce decree precisely because the
Philippines does not allow divorce.21 Philippine courts cannot try the case on the merits because it is
tantamount to trying a divorce case.22 Under the principles of comity, our jurisdiction recognizes a valid
divorce obtained by the spouse of foreign nationality, but the legal effects thereof, e.g., on custody, care
and support of the children or property relations of the spouses, must still be determined by our courts. 23

According to Judge Alicia Sempio-Diy, a member of the Committee, the idea of the amendment is to
avoid the absurd situation of a Filipino as still being married to his or her alien spouse, although the latter
is no longer married to the former because he or she had obtained a divorce abroad that is recognized by
his or national law.24 The aim was that it would solved the problem of many Filipino women who, under
the New Civil Code, are still considered married to their alien husbands even after the latter have already
validly divorced them under their (the husbands') national laws and perhaps have already married
again.25

In 2005, this Court concluded that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 applies to a case where, at the time of the
celebration of the marriage, the parties were Filipino citizens, but later on, one of them acquired foreign
citizenship by naturalization, initiated a divorce proceeding, and obtained a favorable decree. We held
in Republic of the Phils. v. Orbecido III:26

The jurisprudential answer lies latent in the 1998 case of Quita v. Court of Appeals. In Quita, the parties
were, as in this case, Filipino citizens when they got married. The wife became naturalized American
citizen n 1954 and obtained a divorce in the same year. The court therein hinted, by the 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
foreign citizen and obtains divorce decree. The Filipino spouse should likewise be allowed to remarry as if
the other party were foreigner at the time of the solemnization of the marriage. To rule otherwise would be
to sanction absurdity and injustice. x x x

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 marriage, but their
citizenship at the time valid divorced obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating the latter to
remarry.

Now, the Court is tasked to resolve whether, under the same provision, a Filipino citizen has the capacity
to remarry under Philippine law after initiating a divorce proceeding abroad and obtaining a favorable
judgment against his or her alien spouse who is capacitated to remarry. Specifically, Manalo pleads for
the recognition of enforcement of the divorced decree rendered by the Japanese court and for the
cancellation of the entry of marriage in the local civil registry " in order that it would not appear anymore
that she is still married to the said Japanese national who is no longer her husband or is no longer
married to her; [and], in the event that [she] decides to be remarried, she shall not be bothered and
disturbed by said entry of marriage," and to use her maiden surname.

We rule in the affirmative.


Both Dacasin v. Dacasin28 and Van Dorn29 already recognized a foreign divorce decree that was initiated
and obtained by the Filipino spouse and extended its legal effects on the issues of child custody and
property relation, respectively.

In Dacasin, post-divorce, the former spouses executed an Agreement for the joint custody of their minor
daughter. Later on, the husband who is a US citizen, sued his Filipino wife enforce the Agreement,
alleging that it was only the latter who exercised sole custody of their child. The trial court dismissed the
action for lack of jurisdiction, on the ground, among others, that the divorce decree is binding following the
"nationality rule" prevailing in this jurisdiction. The husband moved to reconsider, arguing that the divorce
decree obtained by his former wife is void, but it was denied. In ruling that the trial court has jurisdiction to
entertain the suit bu not to enforce the Agreement, which is void, this Court said:

Nor can petitioner rely on the divorce decree's alleged invalidity - not because the Illinois court lacked
jurisdiction or that the divorced decree violated Illinois law, but because the divorce was obtained by his
Filipino spouse - to support the Agreement's enforceability . The argument that foreigners in this
jurisdiction are not bound by foreign divorce decrees is hardly novel. Van Dron v. Romillo settled the
matter by holding that an alien spouse of a Filipino is bound by a divorce decree obtained abroad. There,
we dismissed the alien divorcee's Philippine suit for accounting of alleged post-divorce conjugal property
and rejected his submission that the foreign divorce (obtained by the Filipino spouse) is not valid in this
jurisdiction x x x.30

Van Dorn was decided before the Family Code took into effect. There, a complaint was filed by the ex-
husband , who is a US citizen, against his Filipino wife to render an accounting of a business that was
alleged to be a conjugal property and to be declared with right to manage the same. Van Dorn moved to
dismiss the case on the ground that the cause of action was barred by previous judgment in the divorce
proceedings that she initiated, but the trial court denied the motion. On his part, her ex-husband averred
that the divorce decree issued by the Nevada court could not prevail over the prohibitive laws of the
Philippines and its declared national policy; that the acts and declaration of a foreign court cannot,
especially if the same is contrary to public policy, divest Philippine courts of jurisdiction to entertain
matters within its jurisdiction . In dismissing the case filed by the alien spouse, the Court discussed the
effect of the foreign divorce on the parties and their conjugal property in the Philippines. Thus:

There can be no question as to the validity of that Nevada divorce in any of the States of the United
States. The decree is binding on private respondent as an American citizen. For instance, private
respondent cannot sue petitioner, as her husband, in any State of the Union. What he is contending in
this case is that the divorce is not valid and binding in this jurisdiction, the same being contrary to local
law and public policy.

Is it true that owing to the nationality principle embodied in Article 15 of the Civil Code, only Philippine
nationals are covered by the policy and morality. However, aliens may obtain divorce abroad, which may
be recognized in the Philippines, provided they are valid according to their national law. In this case, the
divorce in Nevada released private respondent from the marriage from standards of American law, under
which divorce dissolves the marriage. As stated by the Federal Supreme Court of the United States
in Atherton vs. Atherton, 45 L. Ed. 794,799:

"The purpose and effect of a decree of divorce from the bond of matrimony by a court of competent
jurisdiction are to change the existing status or domestic relation of husband and wife, and to free them
both from the bond. The marriage tie, when thus severed as stone party, ceases to bind either. A
husband without a wife, or a wife without a husband, is unknown to the law. When the law provides in the
nature of penalty, that the guilty party shall not marry again, that party, as well as the other, is still
absolutely feed from the bond of the former marriage."

Thus, pursuant to his national law, private respondent is no longer the husband of petitioner. He would
have no standing to sue in the case below as petitioner's husband entitled to exercise control over
conjugal assets. As he is estopped by his own representation before said court from asserting his right
over the alleged conjugal property.

To maintain, as private respondent does, that under our laws, petitioner has to be considered still married
to private respondent and still subject to a wife's obligations under Article 109, et. seq. of the Civil Code
cannot be just. Petitioner should not be obliged to live together with, observe respect and fidelity, and
render support to private respondent. The latter should not continue to be one of her heirs with possible
rights to conjugal property. She should not be discriminated against in her own country if the ends of
justice are to be served.31
In addition, the fact that a validity obtained foreign divorce initiated by the Filipino spouse can be
recognized and given legal effects in the Philippines is implied from Our rulings in Fujiki v. Marinay, et
al.32 and Medina v. Koike.33

In Fujiki, the Filipino wife, with the help of her husband, who is a Japanese national, was able to obtain a
judgment from Japan's family court. Which declared the marriage between her and her second husband,
who is a Japanese national, void on the ground of bigamy. In resolving the issue of whether a husband or
wife of a prior marriage can file a petition to recognize a foreign judgment nullifying the subsequent
marriage between his her spouse and a foreign citizen on the ground of bigamy, We ruled:

Fujiki has the personality to file a petition to recognize the Japanese Family Court judgment nullifying the
marriage between Marinay and Maekara on the ground of bigamy because the judgment concerns his
civil status as married to Marinay. For the same reason he has the personality to file a petition under Rule
108 to cancel the entry of marriage between Marinay and Maekara in the civil registry on the basis of the
decree of the Japanese Family Court.

There is no doubt that the prior spouse has a personal and material interest in maintaining the integrity of
the marriage he contracted and the property relations arising from it. There is also no doubt that he is
interested in the cancellation of an entry of a bigamous marriage in the civil registry, which compromises
the public record of his marriage. The interest derives from the substantive right of the spouse not only to
preserve (or dissolve, in limited instances) his most intimate human relation, but also to protect his
property interests that arise by operation of law the moment he contracts marriage. These property
interests in marriage included the right to be supported "in keeping with the financial capacity of the
family" and preserving the property regime of the marriage.

Property rights are already substantive rights protected by the Constitution, but a spouse's right in a
marriage extends further to relational rights recognized under Title III ("Rights and Obligations between
Husband and Wife") of the Family Code. x x x34

On the other hand, in Medina, the Filipino wife and her Japanese husband jointly filed for divorce, which
was granted.1âwphi1 Subsequently, she filed a petition before the RTC for judicial recognition of foreign
divorce and declaration of capacity to remarry pursuant to Paragraph 2 of Article 26. The RTC denied the
petition on the ground that the foreign divorce decree and the national law of the alien spouse recognizing
his capacity to obtain a divorce must be proven in accordance with Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132 of the
Revised Rules on Evidence. This Court agreed and ruled that, consistent with Corpuz v. Sto. Tomas, et
al.35 and Garcia v. Recio,36 the divorce decree and the national law of the alien spouse must be proven.
Instead of dismissing the case, We referred it to the CA for appropriate action including the reception of
evidence to determine and resolve the pertinent factual issues.

There is no compelling reason to deviate from the above-mentioned rulings. When this Court recognized
a foreign divorce decree that was initiated and obtained by the Filipino spouse and extended its legal
effects on the issues of child custody and property relation, it should not stop short in a likewise
acknowledging that one of the usual and necessary consequences of absolute divorce is the right to
remarry. Indeed, there is no longer a mutual obligation to live together and observe fidelity. When the
marriage tie is severed and ceased to exist, the civil status and the domestic relation of the former
spouses change as both of them are freed from the marital bond.

The dissent is of the view that, under the nationality principle, Manalo's personal status is subject to
Philippine law, which prohibits absolute divorce. Hence, the divorce decree which she obtained under
Japanese law cannot be given effect, as she is, without dispute, a national not of Japan, bit of the
Philippines. It is said that that a contrary ruling will subvert not only the intention of the framers of the law,
but also that of the Filipino peopl, as expressed in the Constitution. The Court is, therefore, bound to
respect the prohibition until the legislature deems it fit to lift the same.

We beg to differ.

Paragraph 2 of Artilce 26 speaksof "a divorce x x x validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse
capacitating him or her to remarry." Based on a clear and plain reading of the provision, it only requires
that there be a divorce validly obtained abroad. The letter of the law does not demand that the alien
spouse should be the one who initiated the proceeding wherein the divorce decree was granted. It does
not distinguish whether the Filipino spouse is the petitioner or the respondent in the foreign divorce
proceeding. The Court is bound by the words of the statute; neither can We put words in the mouth of
lawmakers.37 The legislature is presumed to know the meaning of the words to have used words advisely
and to have expressed its intent by the use of such words as are found in the statute. Verba legis non est
recedendum, or from the words if a statute there should be departure."38
Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the word "obtained" should be interpreted to mean that the
divorce proceeding must be actually initiated by the alien spouse, still, the Court will not follow the letter of
the statute when to do so would depart from the true intent of the legislature or would otherwise yield
conclusions inconsistent with the general purpose of the act.39 Law have ends to achieve, and statutes
should be so construed as not to defeat but to carry out such ends and purposes. 40 As held in League of
Cities of the Phils. et al. v. COMELEC et. al.:41

The legislative intent is not at all times accurately reflected in the manner in which the resulting law is
couched. Thus, applying a verba legis or strictly literal interpretation of a statute may render it
meaningless and lead to inconvience, an absurd situation or injustice. To obviate this aberration, and
bearing in mind the principle that the intent or the spirit of the law is the law itself, resort should be to the
rule that the spirit of the law control its letter.

To reiterate, the purpose of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 is to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino
spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after a foreign divorce decree that is effective in the
country where it was rendered, is no longer married to the Filipino spouse. The provision is a corrective
measure is free to marry under the laws of his or her countr.42 Whether the Filipino spouse initiated the
foreign divorce proceeding or not, a favorable decree dissolving the marriage bond and capacitating his or
her alien spouse to remarry will have the same result: the Filipino spouse will effectively be without a
husband or wife. A Filipino who initiated a foreign divorce proceeding is in the same place and in like
circumstances as a Filipino who is at the receiving end of an alien initiated proceeding. Therefore, the
subject provision should not make a distinction. In both instance, it is extended as a means to recognize
the residual effect of the foreign divorce decree on a Filipinos whose marital ties to their alien spouses are
severed by operations of their alien spouses are severed by operation on the latter's national law.

Conveniently invoking the nationality principle is erroneous. Such principle, found under Article 15 of the
City Code, is not an absolute and unbending rule. In fact, the mer e existence of Paragraph 2 of Article 26
is a testament that the State may provide for an exception thereto. Moreover, blind adherence to the
nationality principle must be disallowed if it would cause unjust discrimination and oppression to certain
classes of individuals whose rights are equally protected by law. The courts have the duty to enforce the
laws of divorce as written by the Legislature only if they are constitutional. 43

While the Congress is allowed a wide leeway in providing for a valid classification and that its decision is
accorded recognition and respect by the court of justice, such classification may be subjected to judicial
review.44 The deference stops where the classification violates a fundamental right, or prejudices persons
accorded special protection by the Constitution.45 When these violations arise, this Court must discharge
its primary role as the vanguard of constitutional guaranties, and require a stricter and more exacting
adherence to constitutional limitations.46 If a legislative classification impermissibly interferes with the
exercise of a fundamental right or operates to the peculiar disadvantage of a suspect class strict judicial
scrutiny is required since it is presumed unconstitutional, and the burden is upon the government to prove
that the classification is necessary to achieve a compelling state interest and that it is the least restrictive
means to protect such interest.47

"Fundamental rights" whose infringement leads to strict scrutiny under the equal protection clause are
those basic liberties explicitly or implicitly guaranteed in the Constitution. 48 It includes the right to free
speech, political expression, press, assembly, and forth, the right to travel, and the right to vote.49 On the
other hand, what constitutes compelling state interest is measured by the scale rights and powers arrayed
in the Constitution and calibrated by history.50 It is akin to the paramount interest of the state for which
some individual liberties must give way, such as the promotion of public interest, public safety or the
general welfare.51 It essentially involves a public right or interest that, because of its primacy, overrides
individual rights, and allows the former to take precedence over the latter. 52

Although the Family Code was not enacted by the Congress, the same principle applies with respect to
the acts of the President which have the force and effect of law unless declared otherwise by the court. In
this case, We find that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 violates one of the essential requisites 53 of the equal
protection clause.54 Particularly, the limitation of the provision only to a foreign divorce decree initiated by
the alien spouse is unreasonable as it is based on superficial, arbitrary, and whimsical classification.

A Filipino who is married to another Filipino is not similarly situated with a Filipino who is married to a
foreign citizen. There are real, material and substantial differences between them. Ergo, they should not
be treated alike, both as to rights conferred and liabilities imposed. Without a doubt, there are political,
economic cultural, and religious dissimilarities as well as varying legal systems and procedures, all too
unfamiliar, that a Filipino national who is married to an alien spouse has to contend with. More
importantly, while a divorce decree obtained abroad by a Filipino against another Filipino is null and void,
a divorce decree obtained by an alien against his her Filipino spouse is recognized if made in accordance
with the national law of the foreigner.55
On the contrary, there is no real and substantial difference between a Filipino who initiated a foreign
divorce proceedings a Filipino who obtained a divorce decree upon the instance of his or her alien spouse
. In the eyes of the Philippine and foreign laws, both are considered as Filipinos who have the same rights
and obligations in a alien land. The circumstances surrounding them are alike. Were it not for Paragraph
2 of Article 26, both are still married to their foreigner spouses who are no longer their wives/husbands.
Hence, to make a distinction between them based merely on the superficial difference of whether they
initiated the divorce proceedings or not is utterly unfair. Indeed, the treatment gives undue favor to one
and unjustly discriminate against the other.

Further, the differentiation in Paragraph 2 Article 26 is arbitrary. There is inequality in treatment because a
foreign divorce decree that was initiated and obtained by a Filipino citizen against his or her alien spouse
would not be recognized even if based on grounds similar to Articles 35, 36, 37 and 38 of the Family
Code.56 In filing for divorce based on these grounds, the Filipino spouse cannot be accused of invoking
foreign law at whim, tantamount to insisting that he or she should be governed with whatever law he or
she chooses. The dissent's comment that Manalo should be "reminded that all is not lost, for she may still
pray for the severance of her martial ties before the RTC in accordance with the mechanism now existing
under the Family Code" is anything but comforting. For the guidance of the bench and the bar, it would
have been better if the dissent discussed in detail what these "mechanism" are and how they specifically
apply in Manalo's case as well as those who are similarly situated. If the dissent refers to a petition for
declaration of nullity or annulment of marriage, the reality is that there is no assurance that our courts will
automatically grant the same. Besides, such proceeding is duplicitous, costly, and protracted. All to the
prejudice of our kababayan.

It is argued that the Court's liberal interpretation of Paragraph 2 of Artilce 26 encourages Filipinos to
marry foreigners, opening the floodgate to the indiscriminate practice of Filipinos marrying foreign
nationals or initiating divorce proceedings against their alien spouses.

The supposition is speculative and unfounded.

First, the dissent falls into a hasty generalization as no data whatsoever was sworn to support what he
intends to prove. Second, We adhere to the presumption of good faith in this jurisdiction. Under the rules
on evidence, it is disputable presumed (i.e., satisfactory if uncontradicted and overcome by other
evidence) that a person is innocent of crime or wrong,57 that a person takes ordinary care of his
concerns,59 that acquiescence resulted from a belief that the thing acquiesced in was conformable to the
law and fact, 60 that a man and woman deporting themselves as husband and wife have entered into a
lawful contract of marriage,61 and that the law has been obeyed.62 It is whimsical to easily attribute any
illegal, irregular or immoral conduct on the part of a Filipino just because he or she opted to marry a
foreigner instead of a fellow Filipino. It is presumed that interracial unions are entered into out of genuine
love and affection, rather than prompted by pure lust or profit. Third, We take judicial notice of the fact that
Filipinos are relatively more forbearing and conservative in nature and that they are more often the victims
or losing end of mixed marriages. And Fourth, it is not for Us to prejudge the motive behind Filipino's
decision to marry an alien national. In one case, it was said:

Motive for entering into a marriage are varied and complex. The State does not and cannot dictated on
the kind of life that a couple chooses to lead. Any attempt to regulate their lifestyle would go into the realm
of their right to privacy and would raise serious constitutional questions. The right marital privacy allows
married couples to structure their marriages in almost any way they see it fit, to live together or live apart,
to have children or no children, to love one another or not, and so on. Thus, marriages entered into for
other purposes, limited or otherwise, such as convenience, companionship, money, status, and title,
provided that they comply with all the legal requisites, are equally valid. Love, though the ideal
consideration in a marriage contract, is not the only valid cause for marriage. Other considerations, not
precluded by law, may validly support a marriage.63

The 1987 Constitution expresses that marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the
family and shall be protected by the State.64 Nevertheless, it was not meant to be a general prohibition on
divorce because Commissioner Jose Luis Martin C. Gascon, in response to a question by Father Joaquin
G. Bernas during the deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, was categorical about this
point.65 Their exchange reveal as follows:

MR. RAMA. Mr. Presiding Officer, may I ask that Commissioner Bernas be recognized.

THE PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Colayco). Commissioner Bernas is recognized.

FR. BERNAS. Just one question, and I am not sure if it has been categorically answered. I refer
specifically to the proposal of Commissioner Gascon. Is this be understood as a prohibition of a general
law on divorce? His intention is to make this a prohibition so that the legislature cannot pass a divorce
law.

MR. GASCON. Mr. Presding Officer, that was not primarily my intention. My intention was primarily to
encourage the social institution of marriage, but not necessarily discourage divorce. But now that the
mentioned the issue of divorce, my personal opinion is to discourage it. Mr. Presiding Officer.

FR. BERNAS. No my question is more categorical. Does this carry the meaning of prohibiting a divorce
law?

MR. GASCON. No Mr. Presiding Officer.

FR. BERNAS. Thank you.66

Notably, a law on absolute divorce is not new in our country. Effectivity March 11, 1917, Philippine courts
could grant an absolute divorce in the grounds of adultery on the part of the wife or concubinage on the
part of the husband by virtue of Act No. 2710 of the Philippine Legislature. 67 On March 25, 1943, pursuant
to the authority conferred upon him by the Commander-in-Chief fo the Imperial Japanese Forces in the
Philippines and with the approval of the latter, the Chairman of the Philippine Executive Commission
promulgated an E.O. No. 141 ("New Divorce Law"), which repealed Act No. 2710 and provided eleven
ground for absolute divorce, such as intentional or unjustified desertion continuously for at least one year
prior to the filing of the action, slander by deed or gross insult by one spouse against the other to such an
extent as to make further living together impracticable, and a spouse's incurable insanity. 68 When the
Philippines was liberated and the Commonwealth Government was restored, it ceased to have force and
effect and Act No. 2710 again prevailed.69 From August 30, 1950, upon the effectivity of Republic Act No.
836 or the New Civil Code, an absolute divorce obatined by Filipino citizens, whether here or abroad, is
no longer recognized.70

Through the years, there has been constant clamor from various sectors of the Philippine society to re-
institute absolute divorce. As a matte of fcat, in the currnet 17th Congress, House Bill (H.B.) Nos.
11671 106272 238073 and 602774 were filed in the House of representatives. In substitution of these bills,
H.B. No. 7303 entitled "An Act Instituting Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage in the
Philippines" or the Absolute Divorce Act of 2018 was submitted by the House Committee on Population

And Family Relations of February 8, 2018. It was approved on March 19, 2018 on Third Reading - with
134 in favor, 57 against, and 2 absentations. Under the bill, the grounds for a judicial decree of absolute
divorce are as follows:

1. The grounds for legal separation under Article 55 of the Family Code, modified or amended, as follows:

a. Physical violence or grossly abusive conduct directed against the petitioner, a common child,
or a child of the petitioner;

b. Physical violence or moral pressure to compel the petitioner to change religious or political
affiliation;

c. Attempt of respondent to corrupt or induce the petitioner, a common child, or a child of a


petitioner, to engage in prostitution, or connivance in such corruption or inducement;

d. Final judgment sentencing the respondent to imprisonment of more than six (6) years, even if
pardoned;

e. Drug addiction or habitual alchoholism ro chronic gambling of respondent;

f. Homosexuality of the respondent;

g. Contracting by the respondent of a subsequent bigamous marriage, whether in the Philippines


or abroad;

h. Marital infidelity or perversion or having a child with another person other than one's spouse
during the marriage, except when upon the mutual agreement of the spouses, a child is born to
them by in vitro or a similar procedure or when the wife bears a child after being a victim of rape;

i. attempt by the respondent against the life of the petitioner, a common child or a child of a
petitioner; and
j. Abandonment of petitioner by respondent without justifiable cause for more than one (1) year.

When the spouses are legally separated by judicial decree for more thath two (2) years, either or both
spouses can petition the proper court for an absolute divorce based on said judicial decree of legal
separation.

1. Grounds for annulment of marriage under Article 45 of the Family Code restated as follows:

a. The party in whose behalf it is sought to have the marriage annulled was eighteen (18) years of
age or over but below twety-one (21), and the marriage was solemnized without the consent of
the parents guradian or personl having substitute parental authority over the party, in that order,
unless after attaining the age of twenty-one (21) such party freely cohabited with the other and
both lived together as husband and wife;

b. either party was of unsound mind, unless such party after coming to reason, freely cohabited
with the other as husband and wife;

c. The consent of either party was obtained by fraud, unless such party afterwards with full
knowledge of the facts constituting the fraud, freely cohabited with the other husband and wife;

d. consent of either party was obtained by force, intimidation or undue influence, unless the same
having disappeared or ceased, such party thereafter freely cohabited with the other as husband
and wife;

e. Either party was physically incapable of consummating the marriage with the other and such
incapacity continues or appears to be incurable; and

f. Either part was afflicted with the sexually transmissible infection found to be serious or appears
to be incurable.

Provided, That the ground mentioned in b, e and f existed either at the time of the marriage or
supervening after the marriage.

1. When the spouses have been separated in fact for at least five (5) years at the time the petition for
absolute divorce is filed, and the reconciliation is highly improbable;

2. Psychological incapacity of either spouse as provided for in Article 36 of the Family Code, whether or
not the incapacity was present at the time of the celebration of the marriage or later;

3. When one of the spouses undergoes a gender reassignment surgery or transition from one sex to
another, the other spouse is entitled to petition for absolute divorce with the transgender or transsexual as
respondent, or vice-versa;

4. Irreconcilable marital differences and conflicts which have resulted in the total breakdown of the
marriage beyond repair, despite earnest and repeated efforts at reconciliation.

To be sure, a good number of Filipinos led by the Roman Catholic Church react adversely to any attempt
to enact a law on absolute divorce, viewing it as contrary to our customs, morals, and traditions that has
looked upon marriage and family as an institution and their nature of permanence,

In the same breath that the establishment clause restricts what the government can do with religion, it
also limits what religious sects can or cannot do. They can neither cause the government to adopt their
particular doctrines as policy for everyone, nor can they cause the government to restrict other groups. To
do so, in simple terms, would cause the State to adhere to a particular religion and, thus establish a state
religion.76

The Roman Catholic Church can neither impose its beliefs and convictions on the State and the rest of
the citizenry nor can it demand that the nation follow its beliefs, even if it is sincerely believes that they are
good for country.77 While marriage is considered a sacrament, it has civil and legal consequences which
are governed by the Family Code.78 It is in this aspect, bereft of any ecclesiastical overtone, that the State
has a legitimate right and interest to regulate.

The declared State policy that marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is a foundation of the family
and shall be protected by the State, should not be read in total isolation but must be harmonized with
other constitutional provision. Aside from strengthening the solidarity of the Filipino family, the State is
equally mandated to actively promote its total development.79 It is also obligated to defend, among others,
the right of children to special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation, and other
conditions prejudicial to their development.80 To Our mind, the State cannot effectively enforce these
obligation s if We limit the application of Paragraph 2 or Article 26 only those foreign divorce initiated by
the alien spouse. It is not amiss to point that the women and children are almost always the helpless
victims of all forms of domestic abuse and violence. In fact, among the notable legislation passed in order
to minimize, if not eradicate, the menace are R.A. No. 9262 ("Anti-Violence Against Women and Their
Children Act of 2004") R.A. No. 9710 ("The Magna Carta of Women"), R.A. No 10354 ("The Responsible
Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012") and R.A. No 9208 ("Anti-Trafficking in Person Act of
2003"), as amended by R.A. No. 10364 ("ExpandedAnti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012"). Moreover, in
protecting and strengthening the Filipino family as a basic autonomous social institution, the Court must
not lose sight of the constitutional mandate to value the dignity of every human person, guarantee full
respect for human rights, and ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men.81

A prohibitive view of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 would do more harm than good. If We disallow a Filipino
citizen who initiated and obtained a foreign divorce from the coverage of Paragraph 2 Article 26 and still
require him or her to first avail of the existing "mechanisms" under the Family Code, any subsequent
relationship that he or she would enter in the meantime shall be considered as illicit in the eyes of the
Philippine law. Worse, any child born out such "extra-marital" affair has to suffer the stigma of being
branded as illegitimate. Surely, these are just but a few of the adverse consequences, not only to the
parent but also to the child, if We are to hold a restrictive interpretation of the subject provision. The irony
is that the principle of inviolability of marriage under Section 2, Article XV of the Constitution is meant to
be tilted in favor of marriage and against unions not formalized by marriage, but without denying State
protection and assistance to live-in arrangements or to families formed according to indigenous
customs.82

This Court should not turn a blind eye to the realities of the present time. With the advancement of
communication and information technology, as well as the improvement of the transportation system that
almost instantly connect people from all over the world, mixed marriages have become not too
uncommon. Likewise, it is recognized that not all marriages are made in heaven and that imperfect
humans more often than not create imperfect unions.83 Living in a flawed world, the unfortunate reality for
some is that the attainment of the individual's full human potential and self fulfillment is not found and
achieved in the context of a marriage. Thus it is hypocritical to safeguard the quantity of existing
marriages and, at the same time, brush aside the truth that some of them are rotten quality.

Going back, we hold that marriage, being a mutual and shared commitment between two parties, cannot
possibly be productive of any good to the society where one is considered released from the marital bond
while the other remains bound to it.84 In reiterating that the Filipino spouse should not be discriminated
against in his or her own country if the ends of justice are to be served, San Luis v. San Luis85 quoted:

x x x In Alonzo v. Intermediate Applellate Court, the Court stated:

But as has also been aptly observed, we test a law by its results: and likewise, we may add, by its
purposes. It is a cardinal rule that, in seeking the meaning of the law, the first concern of the judge should
be to discover in its provisions the intent of the lawmaker. Unquestionably, the law should never be
interpreted in such a way as to cause injustice as this is never within the legislative intent. An
indispensable part of that intent, in fact, for we presume the good motives of the legislature, is to render
justice.

Thus, we interpret and apply the law not independently of but in consonance with justice. Law and justice
are inseparable, and we must keep them so. To be sure, there are some laws that, while generally valid,
may seem arbitrary when applied in a particular case because only of our nature and functions, to apply
them just the same, in slavish obedience to their language. What we do instead is find a balance between
the sord and the will, that justice may be done even as the law is obeyed.

As judges, we are not automatons. We do not and must not unfeelingly apply the law as it worded,
yielding like robots to the literal command without regard to its cause and consequence. "Courts are apt
to err by sticking too closely to the words of law," so we are warned, by Justice Holmes agaian, "where
these words import a policy that goes beyond them."

xxxx

More that twenty centuries ago, Justinian defined justice "as the constant and perpetual wish to render
every one of his due." That wish continues to motivate this Court when it assesses the facts and the law
in ever case brought to it for decisions. Justice is always an essential ingredient of its decisions. Thus
when the facts warrant, we interpret the law in a way that will render justice, presuming that it was the
intention if the lawmaker, to begin with, that the law be dispensed with justice. 86

Indeed, 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.87 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.88

The foregoing notwithstanding, We cannot yet write finis to this controversy by granting Manalo's petition
to recognize and enforce the divorce decree rendered by the Japanese court and to cancel the entry of
marriage in the Civil Registry of San Juan, Metro Manila.

Jurisprudence has set guidelines before the Philippine courts recognize a foreign judgment relating to the
status of a marriage where one of the parties is a citizen of foreign country. Presentation solely of the
divorce decree will not suffice.89 The fact of divorce must still first be proven.90 Before a a foreign divorce
decree can be recognized by our courts, the party pleading it must prove the divorce as a fact and
demonstrate its conformity to the foreign law allowing it.91

x x x Before a foreign judgment is given presumptive evidentiary value, the document must first be
presented and admitted in evidence. A divorce obtained abroad is proven by the divorce decree itself.
The decree purports to be written act or record of an act of an official body or tribunal of foreign country.

Under Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132, on the other hand, 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.92

In granting Manalo's petition, the CA noted:

In this case, Petitioner was able to submit before the court a quo the 1) Decision of the Japanese Court
allowing the divorce; 2) the Authentication/Certificate issued by the Philippines Consulate General in
Osaka, Japan of the Decree of Divorce; and 3) Acceptance of Certificate of Divorce byu the Petitioner and
the Japanese national. Under Rule 132, Sections 24 and 25, in relation to Rule 39, Section 48 (b) of the
Rules of Court, these documents sufficiently prove the subject Divorce Decree as a fact. Thus, We are
constrained to recognize the Japanese Court's judgment decreeing the divorce. 93

If the opposing party fails to properly object, as in this case, the divorce decree is rendered admissible a a
written act of the foreign court.94 As it appears, the existence of the divorce decree was not denied by the
OSG; neither was the jurisdiction of the divorce court impeached nor the validity of its proceedings
challenged on the ground of collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of fact or law, albeit an opportunity to do
so.95

Nonetheless, the Japanese law on divorce must still be proved.

x x x The burden of proof lies with the "party who alleges the existence of a fact or thing necessary in the
prosecution or defense of an action." In civil cases, plaintiffs have the burden of proving the material
defendants have the burden of proving the material allegations in their answer when they introduce new
matters. x x x

It is well-settled in our jurisdiction that our courts cannot take judicial notice of foreign laws. Like any other
facts, they must alleged and proved. x x x The power of judicial notice must be exercise d with caution,
and every reasonable doubt upon the subject should be resolved in the negative. 96

Since the divorce was raised by Manalo, the burden of proving the pertinent Japanese law validating it, as
well as her former husband's capacity to remarry, fall squarely upon her. Japanese laws on persons and
family relations are not among those matters that Filipino judges are supposed to know by reason of their
judicial function.

WHEREFORE, the petition for review on certiorari is DENIED. The September 18, 2014 Decision and
October 12, 2015 Resolution if the Court of Appeals in CA G.R. CV. No. 100076, are AFFIRMED IN
PART. The case is REMANDED to the court of origin for further proceedings and reception of evidence
as to the relevant Japanese law on divorce.
SO ORDERED

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice

.R. No. 154380 October 5, 2005

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,


vs.
CIPRIANO ORBECIDO III, Respondent.

DECISION

QUISUMBING, J.:

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 Decision1 dated May 15, 2002, of the Regional
Trial Court of Molave, Zamboanga del Sur, Branch 23 and its Resolution2 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, Cipriano’s 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 CODE4

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 respondent’s 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 petition—Any 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 Hearings9 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 re-marry, 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 Cipriano’s 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 OSG’s 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 respondent’s 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 respondent’s 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 respondent’s 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

G.R. No. 155635 November 7, 2008

MARIA REBECCA MAKAPUGAY BAYOT, petitioner,


vs.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS and VICENTE MADRIGAL BAYOT, respondents.

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

G.R. No. 163979 November 7, 2008

MARIA REBECCA MAKAPUGAY BAYOT, petitioner,


vs.
VICENTE MADRIGAL BAYOT, respondent.

DECISION
VELASCO, JR., J.:

The Case

Before us are these two petitions interposed by petitioner Maria Rebecca Makapugay Bayot impugning
certain issuances handed out by the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 68187.

In the first, a petition for certiorari1 under Rule 65 and docketed as G.R. No. 155635, Rebecca assails and
seeks to nullify the April 30, 2002 Resolution2 of the CA, as reiterated in another Resolution of September
2, 2002,3 granting a writ of preliminary injunction in favor of private respondent Vicente Madrigal Bayot
staving off the trial court's grant of support pendente lite to Rebecca.

The second, a petition for review under Rule 45,4 docketed G.R. No. 163979, assails the March 25, 2004
Decision5 of the CA, (1) dismissing Civil Case No. 01-094, a suit for declaration of absolute nullity of
marriage with application for support commenced by Rebecca against Vicente before the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) in Muntinlupa City; and (2) setting aside certain orders and a resolution issued by the RTC in
the said case.

Per its Resolution of August 11, 2004, the Court ordered the consolidation of both cases.

The Facts

Vicente and Rebecca were married on April 20, 1979 in Sanctuario de San Jose, Greenhills,
Mandaluyong City. On its face, the Marriage Certificate6 identified Rebecca, then 26 years old, to be an
American citizen7 born in Agaña, Guam, USA to Cesar Tanchiong Makapugay, American, and Helen
Corn Makapugay, American.

On November 27, 1982 in San Francisco, California, Rebecca gave birth to Marie Josephine Alexandra or
Alix. From then on, Vicente and Rebecca's marital relationship seemed to have soured as the latter,
sometime in 1996, initiated divorce proceedings in the Dominican Republic. Before the Court of the First
Instance of the Judicial District of Santo Domingo, Rebecca personally appeared, while Vicente was duly
represented by counsel. On February 22, 1996, the Dominican court issued Civil Decree No.
362/96,8 ordering the dissolution of the couple's marriage and "leaving them to remarry after completing
the legal requirements," but giving them joint custody and guardianship over Alix. Over a year later, the
same court would issue Civil Decree No. 406/97,9 settling the couple's property relations pursuant to an
Agreement10 they executed on December 14, 1996. Said agreement specifically stated that the "conjugal
property which they acquired during their marriage consist[s] only of the real property and all the
improvements and personal properties therein contained at 502 Acacia Avenue, Alabang, Muntinlupa." 11

Meanwhile, on March 14, 1996, or less than a month from the issuance of Civil Decree No. 362/96,
Rebecca filed with the Makati City RTC a petition12 dated January 26, 1996, with attachments, for
declaration of nullity of marriage, docketed as Civil Case No. 96-378. Rebecca, however, later
moved13 and secured approval14 of the motion to withdraw the petition.

On May 29, 1996, Rebecca executed an Affidavit of Acknowledgment15 stating under oath that she is an
American citizen; that, since 1993, she and Vicente have been living separately; and that she is carrying a
child not of Vicente.

On March 21, 2001, Rebecca filed another petition, this time before the Muntinlupa City RTC, for
declaration of absolute nullity of marriage16 on the ground of Vicente's alleged psychological incapacity.
Docketed as Civil Case No. 01-094 and entitled as Maria Rebecca Makapugay Bayot v. Vicente Madrigal
Bayot, the petition was eventually raffled to Branch 256 of the court. In it, Rebecca also sought the
dissolution of the conjugal partnership of gains with application for support pendente lite for her and Alix.
Rebecca also prayed that Vicente be ordered to pay a permanent monthly support for their daughter Alix
in the amount of PhP 220,000.

On June 8, 2001, Vicente filed a Motion to Dismiss17 on, inter alia, the grounds of lack of cause of action
and that the petition is barred by the prior judgment of divorce. Earlier, on June 5, 2001, Rebecca filed
and moved for the allowance of her application for support pendente lite.

To the motion to dismiss, Rebecca interposed an opposition, insisting on her Filipino citizenship, as
affirmed by the Department of Justice (DOJ), and that, therefore, there is no valid divorce to speak of.
Meanwhile, Vicente, who had in the interim contracted another marriage, and Rebecca commenced
several criminal complaints against each other. Specifically, Vicente filed adultery and perjury complaints
against Rebecca. Rebecca, on the other hand, charged Vicente with bigamy and concubinage.

Ruling of the RTC on the Motion to Dismiss


and Motion for Support Pendente Lite

On August 8, 2001, the RTC issued an Order18 denying Vicente's motion to dismiss Civil Case No. 01-
094 and granting Rebecca's application for support pendente lite, disposing as follows:

Wherefore, premises considered, the Motion to Dismiss filed by the respondent is DENIED.
Petitioner's Application in Support of the Motion for Support Pendente Lite is hereby GRANTED.
Respondent is hereby ordered to remit the amount of TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY
THOUSAND PESOS (Php 220,000.00) a month to Petitioner as support for the duration of the
proceedings relative to the instant Petition.

SO ORDERED.19

The RTC declared, among other things, that the divorce judgment invoked by Vicente as bar to the
petition for declaration of absolute nullity of marriage is a matter of defense best taken up during actual
trial. As to the grant of support pendente lite, the trial court held that a mere allegation of adultery against
Rebecca does not operate to preclude her from receiving legal support.

Following the denial20 of his motion for reconsideration of the above August 8, 2001 RTC order, Vicente
went to the CA on a petition for certiorari, with a prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order
(TRO) and/or writ of preliminary injunction.21 His petition was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 68187.

Grant of Writ of Preliminary Injunction by the CA

On January 9, 2002, the CA issued the desired TRO.22 On April 30, 2002, the appellate court granted, via
a Resolution, the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction, the decretal portion of which reads:

IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, pending final resolution of the petition at bar, let the Writ of
Preliminary Injunction be ISSUED in this case, enjoining the respondent court from implementing
the assailed Omnibus Order dated August 8, 2001 and the Order dated November 20, 2001, and
from conducting further proceedings in Civil Case No. 01-094, upon the posting of an injunction
bond in the amount of P250,000.00.

SO ORDERED.23

Rebecca moved24 but was denied reconsideration of the aforementioned April 30, 2002 resolution. In the
meantime, on May 20, 2002, the preliminary injunctive writ25 was issued. Rebecca also moved for
reconsideration of this issuance, but the CA, by Resolution dated September 2, 2002, denied her motion.

The adverted CA resolutions of April 30, 2002 and September 2, 2002 are presently being assailed in
Rebecca's petition for certiorari, docketed under G.R. No. 155635.

Ruling of the CA

Pending resolution of G.R. No. 155635, the CA, by a Decision dated March 25, 2004, effectively
dismissed Civil Case No. 01-094, and set aside incidental orders the RTC issued in relation to the case.
The fallo of the presently assailed CA Decision reads:

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the petition is GRANTED. The Omnibus Order dated August 8,
2001 and the Order dated November 20, 2001 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE and a new one
entered DISMISSING Civil Case No. 01-094, for failure to state a cause of action. No
pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.26

To the CA, the RTC ought to have granted Vicente's motion to dismiss on the basis of the following
premises:
(1) As held in China Road and Bridge Corporation v. Court of Appeals, the hypothetical-admission rule
applies in determining whether a complaint or petition states a cause of action. 27 Applying said rule in the
light of the essential elements of a cause of action,28 Rebecca had no cause of action against Vicente for
declaration of nullity of marriage.

(2) Rebecca no longer had a legal right in this jurisdiction to have her marriage with Vicente declared
void, the union having previously been dissolved on February 22, 1996 by the foreign divorce decree she
personally secured as an American citizen. Pursuant to the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family
Code, such divorce restored Vicente's capacity to contract another marriage.

(3) Rebecca's contention about the nullity of a divorce, she being a Filipino citizen at the time the foreign
divorce decree was rendered, was dubious. Her allegation as to her alleged Filipino citizenship was also
doubtful as it was not shown that her father, at the time of her birth, was still a Filipino citizen. The
Certification of Birth of Rebecca issued by the Government of Guam also did not indicate the nationality of
her father.

(4) Rebecca was estopped from denying her American citizenship, having professed to have that
nationality status and having made representations to that effect during momentous events of her life,
such as: (a) during her marriage; (b) when she applied for divorce; and (c) when she applied for and
eventually secured an American passport on January 18, 1995, or a little over a year before she initiated
the first but later withdrawn petition for nullity of her marriage (Civil Case No. 96-378) on March 14, 1996.

(5) Assuming that she had dual citizenship, being born of a purportedly Filipino father in Guam, USA
which follows the jus soli principle, Rebecca's representation and assertion about being an American
citizen when she secured her foreign divorce precluded her from denying her citizenship and impugning
the validity of the divorce.

Rebecca seasonably filed a motion for reconsideration of the above Decision, but this recourse was
denied in the equally assailed June 4, 2004 Resolution.29 Hence, Rebecca's Petition for Review on
Certiorari under Rule 45, docketed under G.R. No. 163979.

The Issues

In G.R. No. 155635, Rebecca raises four (4) assignments of errors as grounds for the allowance of her
petition, all of which converged on the proposition that the CA erred in enjoining the implementation of the
RTC's orders which would have entitled her to support pending final resolution of Civil Case No. 01-094.

In G.R. No. 163979, Rebecca urges the reversal of the assailed CA decision submitting as follows:

THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT MENTIONING AND NOT TAKING INTO
CONSIDERATION IN ITS APPRECIATION OF THE FACTS THE FACT OF PETITIONER'S
FILIPINO CITIZENSHIP AS CATEGORICALLY STATED AND ALLEGED IN HER PETITION
BEFORE THE COURT A QUO.

II

THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN RELYING ONLY ON ANNEXES TO THE


PETITION IN RESOLVING THE MATTERS BROUGHT BEFORE IT.

III

THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN FAILING TO CONSIDER THAT


RESPONDENT IS ESTOPPED FROM CLAIMING THAT HIS MARRIAGE TO PETITIONER HAD
ALREADY BEEN DISSOLVED BY VIRTUE OF HIS SUBSEQUENT AND CONCURRENT ACTS.

IV

THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN RULING THAT THERE WAS ABUSE OF
DISCRETION ON THE PART OF THE TRIAL COURT, MUCH LESS A GRAVE ABUSE.30

We shall first address the petition in G.R. No. 163979, its outcome being determinative of the success or
failure of the petition in G.R. No. 155635.
Three legal premises need to be underscored at the outset. First, a divorce obtained abroad by an alien
married to a Philippine national may be recognized in the Philippines, provided the decree of divorce is
valid according to the national law of the foreigner.31 Second, the reckoning point is not the citizenship of
the divorcing parties at birth or at the time of marriage, but their citizenship at the time a valid divorce is
obtained abroad. And third, an absolute divorce secured by a Filipino married to another Filipino is
contrary to our concept of public policy and morality and shall not be recognized in this jurisdiction. 32

Given the foregoing perspective, the determinative issue tendered in G.R. No. 155635, i.e., the propriety
of the granting of the motion to dismiss by the appellate court, resolves itself into the questions of: first,
whether petitioner Rebecca was a Filipino citizen at the time the divorce judgment was rendered in the
Dominican Republic on February 22, 1996; and second, whether the judgment of divorce is valid and, if
so, what are its consequent legal effects?

The Court's Ruling

The petition is bereft of merit.

Rebecca an American Citizen in the Purview of This Case

There can be no serious dispute that Rebecca, at the time she applied for and obtained her divorce from
Vicente, was an American citizen and remains to be one, absent proof of an effective repudiation of such
citizenship. The following are compelling circumstances indicative of her American citizenship: (1) she
was born in Agaña, Guam, USA; (2) the principle of jus soli is followed in this American territory granting
American citizenship to those who are born there; and (3) she was, and may still be, a holder of an
American passport.33

And as aptly found by the CA, Rebecca had consistently professed, asserted, and represented herself as
an American citizen, particularly: (1) during her marriage as shown in the marriage certificate; (2) in the
birth certificate of Alix; and (3) when she secured the divorce from the Dominican Republic. Mention may
be made of the Affidavit of Acknowledgment34 in which she stated being an American citizen.

It is true that Rebecca had been issued by the Bureau of Immigration (Bureau) of Identification (ID)
Certificate No. RC 9778 and a Philippine Passport. On its face, ID Certificate No. RC 9778 would tend to
show that she has indeed been recognized as a Filipino citizen. It cannot be over-emphasized, however,
that such recognition was given only on June 8, 2000 upon the affirmation by the Secretary of Justice of
Rebecca's recognition pursuant to the Order of Recognition issued by Bureau Associate Commissioner
Edgar L. Mendoza.

For clarity, we reproduce in full the contents of ID Certificate No. RC 9778:

To Whom It May Concern:

This is to certify that *MARIA REBECCA MAKAPUGAY BAYOT* whose photograph and
thumbprints are affixed hereto and partially covered by the seal of this Office, and whose other
particulars are as follows:

Place of Birth: Guam, USA Date of Birth: March 5, 1953

Sex: female Civil Status: married Color of Hair: brown

Color of Eyes: brown Distinguishing marks on face: none

was - r e c o g n i z e d - as a citizen of the Philippines as per pursuant to Article IV, Section 1,


Paragraph 3 of the 1935 Constitution per order of Recognition JBL 95-213 signed by Associate
Commissioner Jose B. Lopez dated October 6, 1995, and duly affirmed by Secretary of Justice
Artemio G. Tuquero in his 1st Indorsement dated June 8, 2000.

Issued for identification purposes only. NOT VALID for travel purposes.

Given under my hand and seal this 11th day of October, 1995

(SGD) EDGAR L. MENDOZA


ASSO. COMMISSIONER
Official Receipt No. 5939988
issued at Manila
dated Oct. 10, 1995 for P 2,000

From the text of ID Certificate No. RC 9778, the following material facts and dates may be deduced: (1)
Bureau Associate Commissioner Jose B. Lopez issued the Order of Recognition on October 6, 1995; (2)
the 1st Indorsement of Secretary of Justice Artemio G. Tuquero affirming Rebecca's recognition as a
Filipino citizen was issued on June 8, 2000 or almost five years from the date of the order of recognition;
and (3) ID Certificate No. RC 9778 was purportedly issued on October 11, 1995 after the payment of the
PhP 2,000 fee on October 10, 1995 per OR No. 5939988.

What begs the question is, however, how the above certificate could have been issued by the Bureau on
October 11, 1995 when the Secretary of Justice issued the required affirmation only on June 8, 2000. No
explanation was given for this patent aberration. There seems to be no error with the date of the issuance
of the 1st Indorsement by Secretary of Justice Tuquero as this Court takes judicial notice that he was the
Secretary of Justice from February 16, 2000 to January 22, 2001. There is, thus, a strong valid reason to
conclude that the certificate in question must be spurious.

Under extant immigration rules, applications for recognition of Filipino citizenship require the affirmation
by the DOJ of the Order of Recognition issued by the Bureau. Under Executive Order No. 292, also
known as the 1987 Administrative Code, specifically in its Title III, Chapter 1, Sec. 3(6), it is the DOJ
which is tasked to "provide immigration and naturalization regulatory services and implement the laws
governing citizenship and the admission and stay of aliens." Thus, the confirmation by the DOJ of any
Order of Recognition for Filipino citizenship issued by the Bureau is required.

Pertinently, Bureau Law Instruction No. RBR-99-00235 on Recognition as a Filipino Citizen clearly
provides:

The Bureau [of Immigration] through its Records Section shall automatically furnish the
Department of Justice an official copy of its Order of Recognition within 72 days from its date of
approval by the way of indorsement for confirmation of the Order by the Secretary of Justice
pursuant to Executive Order No. 292. No Identification Certificate shall be issued before the
date of confirmation by the Secretary of Justice and any Identification Certificate issued by
the Bureau pursuant to an Order of Recognition shall prominently indicate thereon the date of
confirmation by the Secretary of Justice. (Emphasis ours.)

Not lost on the Court is the acquisition by Rebecca of her Philippine passport only on June 13, 2000, or
five days after then Secretary of Justice Tuquero issued the 1 st Indorsement confirming the order of
recognition. It may be too much to attribute to coincidence this unusual sequence of close events which,
to us, clearly suggests that prior to said affirmation or confirmation, Rebecca was not yet recognized as a
Filipino citizen. The same sequence would also imply that ID Certificate No. RC 9778 could not have
been issued in 1995, as Bureau Law Instruction No. RBR-99-002 mandates that no identification
certificate shall be issued before the date of confirmation by the Secretary of Justice. Logically, therefore,
the affirmation or confirmation of Rebecca's recognition as a Filipino citizen through the 1 st Indorsement
issued only on June 8, 2000 by Secretary of Justice Tuquero corresponds to the eventual issuance of
Rebecca's passport a few days later, or on June 13, 2000 to be exact.

When Divorce Was Granted Rebecca, She Was not a


Filipino Citizen and Was not Yet Recognized as One

The Court can assume hypothetically that Rebecca is now a Filipino citizen. But from the foregoing
disquisition, it is indubitable that Rebecca did not have that status of, or at least was not yet recognized
as, a Filipino citizen when she secured the February 22, 1996 judgment of divorce from the Dominican
Republic.

The Court notes and at this juncture wishes to point out that Rebecca voluntarily withdrew her original
petition for declaration of nullity (Civil Case No. 96-378 of the Makati City RTC) obviously because she
could not show proof of her alleged Filipino citizenship then. In fact, a perusal of that petition shows that,
while bearing the date January 26, 1996, it was only filed with the RTC on March 14, 1996 or less than a
month after Rebecca secured, on February 22, 1996, the foreign divorce decree in question.
Consequently, there was no mention about said divorce in the petition. Significantly, the only documents
appended as annexes to said original petition were: the Vicente-Rebecca Marriage Contract (Annex "A")
and Birth Certificate of Alix (Annex "B"). If indeed ID Certificate No. RC 9778 from the Bureau was truly
issued on October 11, 1995, is it not but logical to expect that this piece of document be appended to
form part of the petition, the question of her citizenship being crucial to her case?
As may be noted, the petition for declaration of absolute nullity of marriage under Civil Case No. 01-094,
like the withdrawn first petition, also did not have the ID Certificate from the Bureau as attachment. What
were attached consisted of the following material documents: Marriage Contract (Annex "A") and Divorce
Decree. It was only through her Opposition (To Respondent's Motion to Dismiss dated 31 May 2001) 36 did
Rebecca attach as Annex "C" ID Certificate No. RC 9778.

At any rate, the CA was correct in holding that the RTC had sufficient basis to dismiss the petition for
declaration of absolute nullity of marriage as said petition, taken together with Vicente's motion to dismiss
and Rebecca's opposition to motion, with their respective attachments, clearly made out a case of lack of
cause of action, which we will expound later.

Validity of Divorce Decree

Going to the second core issue, we find Civil Decree Nos. 362/96 and 406/97 valid.

First, at the time of the divorce, as above elucidated, Rebecca was still to be recognized, assuming for
argument that she was in fact later recognized, as a Filipino citizen, but represented herself in public
documents as an American citizen. At the very least, she chose, before, during, and shortly after her
divorce, her American citizenship to govern her marital relationship. Second, she secured personally said
divorce as an American citizen, as is evident in the text of the Civil Decrees, which pertinently declared:

IN THIS ACTION FOR DIVORCE in which the parties expressly submit to the jurisdiction of this
court, by reason of the existing incompatibility of temperaments x x x. The parties MARIA
REBECCA M. BAYOT, of United States nationality, 42 years of age, married, domiciled and
residing at 502 Acacia Ave., Ayala Alabang, Muntin Lupa, Philippines, x x x, who personally
appeared before this court, accompanied by DR. JUAN ESTEBAN OLIVERO, attorney, x x x
and VICENTE MADRIGAL BAYOT, of Philippine nationality, of 43 years of age, married and
domiciled and residing at 502 Acacia Ave., Ayala Alabang, Muntin Lupa, Filipino, appeared
before this court represented by DR. ALEJANDRO TORRENS, attorney, x x x, revalidated by
special power of attorney given the 19th of February of 1996, signed before the Notary Public
Enrico L. Espanol of the City of Manila, duly legalized and authorizing him to subscribe all the
acts concerning this case.37 (Emphasis ours.)

Third, being an American citizen, Rebecca was bound by the national laws of the United States of
America, a country which allows divorce. Fourth, the property relations of Vicente and Rebecca were
properly adjudicated through their Agreement38 executed on December 14, 1996 after Civil Decree No.
362/96 was rendered on February 22, 1996, and duly affirmed by Civil Decree No. 406/97 issued on
March 4, 1997. Veritably, the foreign divorce secured by Rebecca was valid.

To be sure, the Court has taken stock of the holding in Garcia v. Recio that a foreign divorce can be
recognized here, provided the divorce decree is proven as a fact and as valid under the national law of
the alien spouse.39 Be this as it may, the fact that Rebecca was clearly an American citizen when she
secured the divorce and that divorce is recognized and allowed in any of the States of the Union, 40 the
presentation of a copy of foreign divorce decree duly authenticated by the foreign court issuing said
decree is, as here, sufficient.

It bears to stress that the existence of the divorce decree has not been denied, but in fact admitted by
both parties. And neither did they impeach the jurisdiction of the divorce court nor challenge the validity of
its proceedings on the ground of collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of fact or law, albeit both appeared to
have the opportunity to do so. The same holds true with respect to the decree of partition of their conjugal
property. As this Court explained in Roehr v. Rodriguez:

Before our courts can give the effect of res judicata to a foreign judgment [of divorce] x x x, it
must be shown that the parties opposed to the judgment had been given ample opportunity to do
so on grounds allowed under Rule 39, Section 50 of the Rules of Court (now Rule 39, Section 48,
1997 Rules of Civil Procedure), to wit:

SEC. 50. Effect of foreign judgments.--The effect of a judgment of a tribunal of a foreign


country, having jurisdiction to pronounce the judgment is as follows:

(a) In case of a judgment upon a specific thing, the judgment is conclusive upon the title
to the thing;

(b) In case of a judgment against a person, the judgment is presumptive evidence of a


right as between the parties and their successors in interest by a subsequent title; but the
judgment may be repelled by evidence of a want of jurisdiction, want of notice to the
party, collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact.

It is essential that there should be an opportunity to challenge the foreign judgment, in order for
the court in this jurisdiction to properly determine its efficacy. In this jurisdiction, our Rules of
Court clearly provide that with respect to actions in personam, as distinguished from actions in
rem, a foreign judgment |merely constitutes prima facie evidence of the justness of the claim of a
party and, as such, is subject to proof to the contrary. 41

As the records show, Rebecca, assisted by counsel, personally secured the foreign divorce while Vicente
was duly represented by his counsel, a certain Dr. Alejandro Torrens, in said proceedings. As things
stand, the foreign divorce decrees rendered and issued by the Dominican Republic court are valid and,
consequently, bind both Rebecca and Vicente.

Finally, the fact that Rebecca may have been duly recognized as a Filipino citizen by force of the June 8,
2000 affirmation by Secretary of Justice Tuquero of the October 6, 1995 Bureau Order of Recognition will
not, standing alone, work to nullify or invalidate the foreign divorce secured by Rebecca as an American
citizen on February 22, 1996. For as we stressed at the outset, in determining whether or not a divorce
secured abroad would come within the pale of the country's policy against absolute divorce, the reckoning
point is the citizenship of the parties at the time a valid divorce is obtained.42

Legal Effects of the Valid Divorce

Given the validity and efficacy of divorce secured by Rebecca, the same shall be given a res
judicata effect in this jurisdiction. As an obvious result of the divorce decree obtained, the
marital vinculum between Rebecca and Vicente is considered severed; they are both freed from the bond
of matrimony. In plain language, Vicente and Rebecca are no longer husband and wife to each other. As
the divorce court formally pronounced: "[T]hat the marriage between MARIA REBECCA M. BAYOT and
VICENTE MADRIGAL BAYOT is hereby dissolved x x x leaving them free to remarry after
completing the legal requirements."43

Consequent to the dissolution of the marriage, Vicente could no longer be subject to a husband's
obligation under the Civil Code. He cannot, for instance, be obliged to live with, observe respect and
fidelity, and render support to Rebecca.44

The divorce decree in question also brings into play the second paragraph of Art. 26 of the Family Code,
providing as follows:

Art. 26. x x x x

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 likewise have capacity to remarry under Philippine law. (As amended by
E.O. 227)

In Republic v. Orbecido III, we spelled out the twin elements for the applicability of the second paragraph
of Art. 26, thus:

x x x [W]e 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.45

Both elements obtain in the instant case. We need not belabor further the fact of marriage of Vicente and
Rebecca, their citizenship when they wed, and their professed citizenship during the valid divorce
proceedings.
Not to be overlooked of course is the fact that Civil Decree No. 406/97 and the Agreement executed on
December 14, 1996 bind both Rebecca and Vicente as regards their property relations. The Agreement
provided that the ex-couple's conjugal property consisted only their family home, thus:

9. That the parties stipulate that the conjugal property which they acquired during their
marriage consists only of the real property and all the improvements and personal properties
therein contained at 502 Acacia Avenue, Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa, covered by TCT No.
168301 dated Feb. 7, 1990 issued by the Register of Deeds of Makati, Metro Manila registered in
the name of Vicente M. Bayot, married to Rebecca M. Bayot, x x x.46 (Emphasis ours.)

This property settlement embodied in the Agreement was affirmed by the divorce court which, per its
second divorce decree, Civil Decree No. 406/97 dated March 4, 1997, ordered that, "THIRD: That the
agreement entered into between the parties dated 14th day of December 1996 in Makati City, Philippines
shall survive in this Judgment of divorce by reference but not merged and that the parties are hereby
ordered and directed to comply with each and every provision of said agreement."47

Rebecca has not repudiated the property settlement contained in the Agreement. She is thus estopped by
her representation before the divorce court from asserting that her and Vicente's conjugal property was
not limited to their family home in Ayala Alabang.48

No Cause of Action in the Petition for Nullity of Marriage

Upon the foregoing disquisitions, it is abundantly clear to the Court that Rebecca lacks, under the
premises, cause of action. Philippine Bank of Communications v. Trazo explains the concept and
elements of a cause of action, thus:

A cause of action is an act or omission of one party in violation of the legal right of the other. A
motion to dismiss based on lack of cause of action hypothetically admits the truth of the
allegations in the complaint. The allegations in a complaint are sufficient to constitute a cause of
action against the defendants if, hypothetically admitting the facts alleged, the court can render a
valid judgment upon the same in accordance with the prayer therein. A cause of action exists if
the following elements are present, namely: (1) a right in favor of the plaintiff by whatever means
and under whatever law it arises or is created; (2) an obligation on the part of the named
defendant to respect or not to violate such right; and (3) an act or omission on the part of such
defendant violative of the right of the plaintiff or constituting a breach of the obligation of the
defendant to the plaintiff for which the latter may maintain an action for recovery of damages.49

One thing is clear from a perusal of Rebecca's underlying petition before the RTC, Vicente's motion to
dismiss and Rebecca's opposition thereof, with the documentary evidence attached therein: The
petitioner lacks a cause of action for declaration of nullity of marriage, a suit which presupposes the
existence of a marriage.

To sustain a motion to dismiss for lack of cause of action, the movant must show that the claim for relief
does not exist rather than that a claim has been defectively stated or is ambiguous, indefinite, or
uncertain.50 With the valid foreign divorce secured by Rebecca, there is no more marital tie binding her to
Vicente. There is in fine no more marriage to be dissolved or nullified.

The Court to be sure does not lose sight of the legal obligation of Vicente and Rebecca to support the
needs of their daughter, Alix. The records do not clearly show how he had discharged his duty, albeit
Rebecca alleged that the support given had been insufficient. At any rate, we do note that Alix, having
been born on November 27, 1982, reached the majority age on November 27, 2000, or four months
before her mother initiated her petition for declaration of nullity. She would now be 26 years old. Hence,
the issue of back support, which allegedly had been partly shouldered by Rebecca, is best litigated in a
separate civil action for reimbursement. In this way, the actual figure for the support of Alix can be proved
as well as the earning capacity of both Vicente and Rebecca. The trial court can thus determine what
Vicente owes, if any, considering that support includes provisions until the child concerned shall have
finished her education.

Upon the foregoing considerations, the Court no longer need to delve into the issue tendered in G.R. No.
155635, that is, Rebecca's right to support pendente lite. As it were, her entitlement to that kind of support
hinges on the tenability of her petition under Civil Case No. 01-094 for declaration of nullity of marriage.
The dismissal of Civil Case No. 01-094 by the CA veritably removed any legal anchorage for, and
effectively mooted, the claim for support pendente lite.

WHEREFORE, the petition for certiorari in G.R. No. 155635 is hereby DISMISSED on the ground of
mootness, while the petition for review in G.R. No. 163979 is hereby DENIED for lack of merit.
Accordingly, the March 25, 2004 Decision and June 4, 2004 Resolution of the CA in CA-G.R. SP No.
68187 are hereby AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 186571 August 11, 2010

GERBERT R. CORPUZ, Petitioner,


vs.
DAISYLYN TIROL STO. TOMAS and The SOLICITOR GENERAL, Respondents.

DECISION

BRION, J.:

Before the Court is a direct appeal from the decision1 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Laoag City,
Branch 11, elevated via a petition for review on certiorari2 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court (present
petition).

Petitioner Gerbert R. Corpuz was a former Filipino citizen who acquired Canadian citizenship through
naturalization on November 29, 2000.3 On January 18, 2005, Gerbert married respondent Daisylyn T.
Sto. Tomas, a Filipina, in Pasig City.4 Due to work and other professional commitments, Gerbert left for
Canada soon after the wedding. He returned to the Philippines sometime in April 2005 to surprise
Daisylyn, but was shocked to discover that his wife was having an affair with another man. Hurt and
disappointed, Gerbert returned to Canada and filed a petition for divorce. The Superior Court of Justice,
Windsor, Ontario, Canada granted Gerbert’s petition for divorce on December 8, 2005. The divorce
decree took effect a month later, on January 8, 2006.5

Two years after the divorce, Gerbert has moved on and has found another Filipina to love. Desirous of
marrying his new Filipina fiancée in the Philippines, Gerbert went to the Pasig City Civil Registry Office
and registered the Canadian divorce decree on his and Daisylyn’s marriage certificate. Despite the
registration of the divorce decree, an official of the National Statistics Office (NSO) informed Gerbert that
the marriage between him and Daisylyn still subsists under Philippine law; to be enforceable, the foreign
divorce decree must first be judicially recognized by a competent Philippine court, pursuant to NSO
Circular No. 4, series of 1982.6

Accordingly, Gerbert filed a petition for judicial recognition of foreign divorce and/or declaration of
marriage as dissolved (petition) with the RTC. Although summoned, Daisylyn did not file any responsive
pleading but submitted instead a notarized letter/manifestation to the trial court. She offered no opposition
to Gerbert’s petition and, in fact, alleged her desire to file a similar case herself but was prevented by
financial and personal circumstances. She, thus, requested that she be considered as a party-in-interest
with a similar prayer to Gerbert’s.

In its October 30, 2008 decision,7 the RTC denied Gerbert’s petition. The RTC concluded that Gerbert
was not the proper party to institute the action for judicial recognition of the foreign divorce decree as he
is a naturalized Canadian citizen. It ruled that only the Filipino spouse can avail of the remedy, under the
second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code,8 in order for him or her to be able to remarry under
Philippine law.9 Article 26 of the Family Code reads:

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 likewise have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.

This conclusion, the RTC stated, is consistent with the legislative intent behind the enactment of the
second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, as determined by the Court in Republic v. Orbecido
III;10 the provision was enacted 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."11
THE PETITION

From the RTC’s ruling,12 Gerbert filed the present petition.13

Gerbert asserts that his petition before the RTC is essentially for declaratory relief, similar to that filed in
Orbecido; he, thus, similarly asks for a determination of his rights under the second paragraph of Article
26 of the Family Code. Taking into account the rationale behind the second paragraph of Article 26 of the
Family Code, he contends that the provision applies as well to the benefit of the alien spouse. He claims
that the RTC ruling unduly stretched the doctrine in Orbecido by limiting the standing to file the petition
only to the Filipino spouse – an interpretation he claims to be contrary to the essence of the second
paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code. He considers himself as a proper party, vested with sufficient
legal interest, to institute the case, as there is a possibility that he might be prosecuted for bigamy if he
marries his Filipina fiancée in the Philippines since two marriage certificates, involving him, would be on
file with the Civil Registry Office. The Office of the Solicitor General and Daisylyn, in their respective
Comments,14 both support Gerbert’s position.

Essentially, the petition raises the issue of whether the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code
extends to aliens the right to petition a court of this jurisdiction for the recognition of a foreign divorce
decree.

THE COURT’S RULING

The alien spouse can claim no right under the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code as the
substantive right it establishes is in favor of the Filipino spouse

The resolution of the issue requires a review of the legislative history and intent behind the second
paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code.

The Family Code recognizes only two types of defective marriages – void15 and voidable16 marriages. In
both cases, the basis for the judicial declaration of absolute nullity or annulment of the marriage exists
before or at the time of the marriage. Divorce, on the other hand, contemplates the dissolution of the
lawful union for cause arising after the marriage.17 Our family laws do not recognize absolute divorce
between Filipino citizens.18

Recognizing the reality that divorce is a possibility in marriages between a Filipino and an alien, President
Corazon C. Aquino, in the exercise of her legislative powers under the Freedom Constitution, 19 enacted
Executive Order No. (EO) 227, amending Article 26 of the Family Code to its present wording, as follows:

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 likewise have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.

Through the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, EO 227 effectively incorporated into the
law this Court’s holding in Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr.20 and Pilapil v. Ibay-Somera.21 In both cases, the Court
refused to acknowledge the alien spouse’s assertion of marital rights after a foreign court’s divorce decree
between the alien and the Filipino. The Court, thus, recognized that the foreign divorce had already
severed the marital bond between the spouses. The Court reasoned in Van Dorn v. Romillo that:

To maintain x x x that, under our laws, [the Filipino spouse] has to be considered still married to [the alien
spouse] and still subject to a wife's obligations x x x cannot be just. [The Filipino spouse] should not be
obliged to live together with, observe respect and fidelity, and render support to [the alien spouse]. The
latter should not continue to be one of her heirs with possible rights to conjugal property. She should not
be discriminated against in her own country if the ends of justice are to be served. 22

As the RTC correctly stated, the provision was included in the law "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."23 The legislative intent is for the benefit of the Filipino spouse, by
clarifying his or her marital status, settling the doubts created by the divorce decree. Essentially, the
second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code provided the Filipino spouse a substantive right to
have his or her marriage to the alien spouse considered as dissolved, capacitating him or her to
remarry.24 Without the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, the judicial recognition of the
foreign decree of divorce, whether in a proceeding instituted precisely for that purpose or as a related
issue in another proceeding, would be of no significance to the Filipino spouse since our laws do not
recognize divorce as a mode of severing the marital bond;25 Article 17 of the Civil Code provides that the
policy against absolute divorces cannot be subverted by judgments promulgated in a foreign country. The
inclusion of the second paragraph in Article 26 of the Family Code provides the direct exception to this
rule and serves as basis for recognizing the dissolution of the marriage between the Filipino spouse and
his or her alien spouse.

Additionally, an action based on the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code is not limited to
the recognition of the foreign divorce decree. If the court finds that the decree capacitated the alien
spouse to remarry, the courts can declare that the Filipino spouse is likewise capacitated to contract
another marriage. No court in this jurisdiction, however, can make a similar declaration for the alien
spouse (other than that already established by the decree), whose status and legal capacity are generally
governed by his national law.26

Given the rationale and intent behind the enactment, and the purpose of the second paragraph of Article
26 of the Family Code, the RTC was correct in limiting the applicability of the provision for the benefit of
the Filipino spouse. In other words, only the Filipino spouse can invoke the second paragraph of Article
26 of the Family Code; the alien spouse can claim no right under this provision.

The foreign divorce decree is presumptive evidence of a right that clothes the party with legal interest to
petition for its recognition in this jurisdiction

We qualify our above conclusion – i.e., that the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code
bestows no rights in favor of aliens – with the complementary statement that this conclusion is not
sufficient basis to dismiss Gerbert’s petition before the RTC. In other words, the unavailability of the
second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code to aliens does not necessarily strip Gerbert of legal
interest to petition the RTC for the recognition of his foreign divorce decree. The foreign divorce decree
itself, after its authenticity and conformity with the alien’s national law have been duly proven according to
our rules of evidence, serves as a presumptive evidence of right in favor of Gerbert, pursuant to Section
48, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court which provides for the effect of foreign judgments. This Section states:

SEC. 48. Effect of foreign judgments or final orders.—The effect of a judgment or final order of a tribunal
of a foreign country, having jurisdiction to render the judgment or final order is as follows:

(a) In case of a judgment or final order upon a specific thing, the judgment or final order is
conclusive upon the title of the thing; and

(b) In case of a judgment or final order against a person, the judgment or final order is
presumptive evidence of a right as between the parties and their successors in interest by a
subsequent title.

In either case, the judgment or final order may be repelled by evidence of a want of jurisdiction, want of
notice to the party, collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact.

To our mind, direct involvement or being the subject of the foreign judgment is sufficient to clothe a party
with the requisite interest to institute an action before our courts for the recognition of the foreign
judgment. In a divorce situation, we have declared, no less, that the divorce obtained by an alien abroad
may be recognized in the Philippines, provided the divorce is valid according to his or her national law. 27

The starting point in any recognition of a foreign divorce judgment is the acknowledgment that our courts
do not take judicial notice of foreign judgments and laws. Justice Herrera explained that, as a rule, "no
sovereign is bound to give effect within its dominion to a judgment rendered by a tribunal of another
country."28 This means that the foreign judgment and its authenticity must be proven as facts under our
rules on evidence, together with the alien’s applicable national law to show the effect of the judgment on
the alien himself or herself.29 The recognition may be made in an action instituted specifically for the
purpose or in another action where a party invokes the foreign decree as an integral aspect of his claim or
defense.

In Gerbert’s case, since both the foreign divorce decree and the national law of the alien, recognizing his
or her capacity to obtain a divorce, purport to be official acts of a sovereign authority, Section 24, Rule
132 of the Rules of Court comes into play. This Section requires proof, either by (1) official publications or
(2) copies attested by the officer having legal custody of the documents. If the copies of official records
are not kept in the Philippines, these 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.
The records show that Gerbert attached to his petition a copy of the divorce decree, as well as the
required certificates proving its authenticity,30 but failed to include a copy of the Canadian law on
divorce.31 Under this situation, we can, at this point, simply dismiss the petition for insufficiency of
supporting evidence, unless we deem it more appropriate to remand the case to the RTC to determine
whether the divorce decree is consistent with the Canadian divorce law.

We deem it more appropriate to take this latter course of action, given the Article 26 interests that will be
served and the Filipina wife’s (Daisylyn’s) obvious conformity with the petition. A remand, at the same
time, will allow other interested parties to oppose the foreign judgment and overcome a petitioner’s
presumptive evidence of a right by proving want of jurisdiction, want of notice to a party, collusion, fraud,
or clear mistake of law or fact. Needless to state, every precaution must be taken to ensure conformity
with our laws before a recognition is made, as the foreign judgment, once recognized, shall have the
effect of res judicata32 between the parties, as provided in Section 48, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court. 33

In fact, more than the principle of comity that is served by the practice of reciprocal recognition of foreign
judgments between nations, the res judicata effect of the foreign judgments of divorce serves as the
deeper basis for extending judicial recognition and for considering the alien spouse bound by its terms.
This same effect, as discussed above, will not obtain for the Filipino spouse were it not for the substantive
rule that the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code provides.

Considerations beyond the recognition of the foreign divorce decree

As a matter of "housekeeping" concern, we note that the Pasig City Civil Registry Office has already
recorded the divorce decree on Gerbert and Daisylyn’s marriage certificate based on the mere
presentation of the decree.34 We consider the recording to be legally improper; hence, the need to draw
attention of the bench and the bar to what had been done.

Article 407 of the Civil Code states that "[a]cts, events and judicial decrees concerning the civil status of
persons shall be recorded in the civil register." The law requires the entry in the civil registry of judicial
decrees that produce legal consequences touching upon a person’s legal capacity and status, i.e., those
affecting "all his personal qualities and relations, more or less permanent in nature, not ordinarily
terminable at his own will, such as his being legitimate or illegitimate, or his being married or not." 35

A judgment of divorce is a judicial decree, although a foreign one, affecting a person’s legal capacity and
status that must be recorded. In fact, Act No. 3753 or the Law on Registry of Civil Status specifically
requires the registration of divorce decrees in the civil registry:

Sec. 1. Civil Register. – A civil register is established for recording the civil status of persons, in which
shall be entered:

(a) births;

(b) deaths;

(c) marriages;

(d) annulments of marriages;

(e) divorces;

(f) legitimations;

(g) adoptions;

(h) acknowledgment of natural children;

(i) naturalization; and

(j) changes of name.

xxxx

Sec. 4. Civil Register Books. — The local registrars shall keep and preserve in their offices the following
books, in which they shall, respectively make the proper entries concerning the civil status of persons:
(1) Birth and death register;

(2) Marriage register, in which shall be entered not only the marriages solemnized but also
divorces and dissolved marriages.

(3) Legitimation, acknowledgment, adoption, change of name and naturalization register.

But while the law requires the entry of the divorce decree in the civil registry, the law and the submission
of the decree by themselves do not ipso facto authorize the decree’s registration. The law should be read
in relation with the requirement of a judicial recognition of the foreign judgment before it can be given res
judicata effect. In the context of the present case, no judicial order as yet exists recognizing the foreign
divorce decree. Thus, the Pasig City Civil Registry Office acted totally out of turn and without authority of
law when it annotated the Canadian divorce decree on Gerbert and Daisylyn’s marriage certificate, on the
strength alone of the foreign decree presented by Gerbert.

Evidently, the Pasig City Civil Registry Office was aware of the requirement of a court recognition, as it
cited NSO Circular No. 4, series of 1982,36 and Department of Justice Opinion No. 181, series of 198237 –
both of which required a final order from a competent Philippine court before a foreign judgment,
dissolving a marriage, can be registered in the civil registry, but it, nonetheless, allowed the registration of
the decree. For being contrary to law, the registration of the foreign divorce decree without the requisite
judicial recognition is patently void and cannot produce any legal effect.1avvphi1

Another point we wish to draw attention to is that the recognition that the RTC may extend to the
Canadian divorce decree does not, by itself, authorize the cancellation of the entry in the civil registry. A
petition for recognition of a foreign judgment is not the proper proceeding, contemplated under the Rules
of Court, for the cancellation of entries in the civil registry.

Article 412 of the Civil Code declares that "no entry in a civil register shall be changed or corrected,
without judicial order." The Rules of Court supplements Article 412 of the Civil Code by specifically
providing for a special remedial proceeding by which entries in the civil registry may be judicially
cancelled or corrected. Rule 108 of the Rules of Court sets in detail the jurisdictional and procedural
requirements that must be complied with before a judgment, authorizing the cancellation or correction,
may be annotated in the civil registry. It also requires, among others, that the verified petition must be
filed with the RTC of the province where the corresponding civil registry is located; 38 that the civil registrar
and all persons who have or claim any interest must be made parties to the proceedings; 39 and that the
time and place for hearing must be published in a newspaper of general circulation. 40 As these basic
jurisdictional requirements have not been met in the present case, we cannot consider the petition
Gerbert filed with the RTC as one filed under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court.

We hasten to point out, however, that this ruling should not be construed as requiring two separate
proceedings for the registration of a foreign divorce decree in the civil registry – one for recognition of the
foreign decree and another specifically for cancellation of the entry under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court.
The recognition of the foreign divorce decree may be made in a Rule 108 proceeding itself, as the object
of special proceedings (such as that in Rule 108 of the Rules of Court) is precisely to establish the status
or right of a party or a particular fact. Moreover, Rule 108 of the Rules of Court can serve as the
appropriate adversarial proceeding41 by which the applicability of the foreign judgment can be measured
and tested in terms of jurisdictional infirmities, want of notice to the party, collusion, fraud, or clear mistake
of law or fact.

WHEREFORE, we GRANT the petition for review on certiorari, and REVERSE the October 30, 2008
decision of the Regional Trial Court of Laoag City, Branch 11, as well as its February 17, 2009 order. We
order the REMAND of the case to the trial court for further proceedings in accordance with our ruling
above. Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Civil Registrar General. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 133743 February 6, 2007

EDGAR SAN LUIS, Petitioner,


vs.
FELICIDAD SAN LUIS, Respondent.
x ---------------------------------------------------- x

G.R. No. 134029 February 6, 2007

RODOLFO SAN LUIS, Petitioner,


vs.
FELICIDAD SAGALONGOS alias FELICIDAD SAN LUIS, Respondent.

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

Before us are consolidated petitions for review assailing the February 4, 1998 Decision 1 of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 52647, which reversed and set aside the September 12, 1995 2 and January
31, 1996 3 Resolutions of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 134 in SP. Proc. No. M-3708;
and its May 15, 1998 Resolution 4 denying petitioners’ motion for reconsideration.

The instant case involves the settlement of the estate of Felicisimo T. San Luis (Felicisimo), who was the
former governor of the Province of Laguna. During his lifetime, Felicisimo contracted three marriages. His
first marriage was with Virginia Sulit on March 17, 1942 out of which were born six children, namely:
Rodolfo, Mila, Edgar, Linda, Emilita and Manuel. 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 5 before the
Family Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii, United States of America (U.S.A.), which issued a
Decree Granting Absolute Divorce and Awarding Child Custody on December 14, 1973. 6

On June 20, 1974, Felicisimo married respondent Felicidad San Luis, then surnamed Sagalongos, before
Rev. Fr. William Meyer, Minister of the United Presbyterian at Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles,
California, U.S.A. 7 He had no children with respondent but lived with her for 18 years from the time of
their marriage up to his death on December 18, 1992.

Thereafter, respondent sought the dissolution of their conjugal partnership assets and the settlement of
Felicisimo’s estate. On December 17, 1993, she filed a petition for letters of administration 8 before the
Regional Trial Court of Makati City, docketed as SP. Proc. No. M-3708 which was raffled to Branch 146
thereof.

Respondent alleged that she is the widow of Felicisimo; that, at the time of his death, the decedent was
residing at 100 San Juanico Street, New Alabang Village, Alabang, Metro Manila; that the decedent’s
surviving heirs are respondent as legal spouse, his six children by his first marriage, and son by his
second marriage; that the decedent left real properties, both conjugal and exclusive, valued at
₱30,304,178.00 more or less; that the decedent does not have any unpaid debts. Respondent prayed
that the conjugal partnership assets be liquidated and that letters of administration be issued to her.

On February 4, 1994, petitioner Rodolfo San Luis, one of the children of Felicisimo by his first marriage,
filed a motion to dismiss 9 on the grounds of improper venue and failure to state a cause of action.
Rodolfo claimed that the petition for letters of administration should have been filed in the Province of
Laguna because this was Felicisimo’s place of residence prior to his death. He further claimed that
respondent 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.

On February 15, 1994, Linda invoked the same grounds and joined her brother Rodolfo in seeking the
dismissal 10 of the petition. On February 28, 1994, the trial court issued an Order 11 denying the two
motions to dismiss.

Unaware of the denial of the motions to dismiss, respondent filed on March 5, 1994 her
opposition 12 thereto. She submitted documentary evidence showing that while Felicisimo exercised the
powers of his public office in Laguna, he regularly went home to their house in New Alabang Village,
Alabang, Metro Manila which they bought sometime in 1982. Further, she 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, 13 Article 26 of the Family Code and the doctrine laid down
in Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. 14
Thereafter, Linda, Rodolfo and herein petitioner Edgar San Luis, separately filed motions for
reconsideration from the Order denying their motions to dismiss. 15 They asserted that paragraph 2,
Article 26 of the Family Code cannot be given retroactive effect to validate respondent’s bigamous
marriage with Felicisimo because this would impair vested rights in derogation of Article 256 16 of the
Family Code.

On April 21, 1994, Mila, another daughter of Felicisimo from his first marriage, filed a motion to disqualify
Acting Presiding Judge Anthony E. Santos from hearing the case.

On October 24, 1994, the trial court issued an Order 17 denying the motions for reconsideration. It ruled
that respondent, as widow of the decedent, possessed the legal standing to file the petition and that
venue was properly laid. Meanwhile, the motion for disqualification was deemed moot and
academic 18 because then Acting Presiding Judge Santos was substituted by Judge Salvador S. Tensuan
pending the resolution of said motion.

Mila filed a motion for inhibition 19 against Judge Tensuan on November 16, 1994. On even date, Edgar
also filed a motion for reconsideration 20 from the Order denying their motion for reconsideration arguing
that it does not state the facts and law on which it was based.

On November 25, 1994, Judge Tensuan issued an Order 21 granting the motion for inhibition. The case
was re-raffled to Branch 134 presided by Judge Paul T. Arcangel.

On April 24, 1995, 22 the trial court required the parties to submit their respective position papers on the
twin issues of venue and legal capacity of respondent to file the petition. On May 5, 1995, Edgar
manifested 23 that he is adopting the arguments and evidence set forth in his previous motion for
reconsideration as his position paper. Respondent and Rodolfo filed their position papers on June
14, 24 and June 20, 25 1995, respectively.

On September 12, 1995, the trial court dismissed the petition for letters of administration. It held that, at
the time of his death, Felicisimo was the duly elected governor and a resident of the Province of Laguna.
Hence, the petition should have been filed in Sta. Cruz, Laguna and not in Makati City. It also ruled that
respondent was without legal capacity to file the petition for letters of administration because her marriage
with Felicisimo was bigamous, thus, void ab initio. It found that the decree of absolute divorce dissolving
Felicisimo’s marriage to Merry Lee was not valid in the Philippines and did not bind Felicisimo who was a
Filipino citizen. It also ruled that paragraph 2, Article 26 of the Family Code cannot be retroactively
applied because it would impair the vested rights of Felicisimo’s legitimate children.

Respondent moved for reconsideration 26 and for the disqualification 27 of Judge Arcangel but said
motions were denied. 28

Respondent appealed to the Court of Appeals which reversed and set aside the orders of the trial court in
its assailed Decision dated February 4, 1998, the dispositive portion of which states:

WHEREFORE, the Orders dated September 12, 1995 and January 31, 1996 are hereby REVERSED and
SET ASIDE; the Orders dated February 28 and October 24, 1994 are REINSTATED; and the records of
the case is REMANDED to the trial court for further proceedings. 29

The appellante court ruled that under Section 1, Rule 73 of the Rules of Court, the term "place of
residence" of the decedent, for purposes of fixing the venue of the settlement of his estate, refers to the
personal, actual or physical habitation, or actual residence or place of abode of a person as distinguished
from legal residence or domicile. It noted that although Felicisimo discharged his functions as governor in
Laguna, he actually resided in Alabang, Muntinlupa. Thus, the petition for letters of administration was
properly filed in Makati City.

The Court of Appeals also held that Felicisimo had legal capacity to marry respondent by virtue of
paragraph 2, Article 26 of the Family Code and the rulings in Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. 30 and Pilapil v.
Ibay-Somera. 31 It found that the marriage between Felicisimo and Merry Lee was validly dissolved by
virtue of the decree of absolute divorce issued by the Family Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii. As
a result, under paragraph 2, Article 26, Felicisimo was capacitated to contract a subsequent marriage with
respondent. Thus –

With the well-known rule – express mandate of paragraph 2, Article 26, of the Family Code of the
Philippines, the doctrines in Van Dorn, Pilapil, and the reason and philosophy behind the enactment of
E.O. No. 227, — there is no justiciable reason to sustain the individual view — sweeping statement — of
Judge Arc[h]angel, that "Article 26, par. 2 of the Family Code, contravenes the basic policy of our state
against divorce in any form whatsoever." Indeed, courts cannot deny what the law grants. All that the
courts should do is to give force and effect to the express mandate of the law. The foreign divorce having
been obtained by the Foreigner on December 14, 1992, 32 the Filipino divorcee, "shall x x x have capacity
to remarry under Philippine laws". For this reason, the marriage between the deceased and petitioner
should not be denominated as "a bigamous marriage.

Therefore, under Article 130 of the Family Code, the petitioner as the surviving spouse can institute the
judicial proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased. x x x 33

Edgar, Linda, and Rodolfo filed separate motions for reconsideration 34 which were denied by the Court of
Appeals.

On July 2, 1998, Edgar appealed to this Court via the instant petition for review on certiorari. 35 Rodolfo
later filed a manifestation and motion to adopt the said petition which was granted. 36

In the instant consolidated petitions, Edgar and Rodolfo insist that the venue of the subject petition for
letters of administration was improperly laid because at the time of his death, Felicisimo was a resident of
Sta. Cruz, Laguna. They contend that pursuant to our rulings in Nuval v. Guray 37 and Romualdez v. RTC,
Br. 7, Tacloban City, 38 "residence" is synonymous with "domicile" which denotes a fixed permanent
residence to which when absent, one intends to return. They claim that a person can only have one
domicile at any given time. Since Felicisimo never changed his domicile, the petition for letters of
administration should have been filed in Sta. Cruz, Laguna.

Petitioners also contend that respondent’s marriage to Felicisimo was void and bigamous because it was
performed during the subsistence of the latter’s marriage to Merry Lee. They argue that paragraph 2,
Article 26 cannot be retroactively applied because it would impair vested rights and ratify the void
bigamous marriage. As such, respondent cannot be considered the surviving wife of Felicisimo; hence,
she has no legal capacity to file the petition for letters of administration.

The issues for resolution: (1) whether venue was properly laid, and (2) whether respondent has legal
capacity to file the subject petition for letters of administration.

The petition lacks merit.

Under Section 1, 39 Rule 73 of the Rules of Court, the petition for letters of administration of the estate of
Felicisimo should be filed in the Regional Trial Court of the province "in which he resides at the time of his
death." In the case of Garcia Fule v. Court of Appeals, 40 we laid down the doctrinal rule for determining
the residence – as contradistinguished from domicile – of the decedent for purposes of fixing the venue of
the settlement of his estate:

[T]he term "resides" connotes ex vi termini "actual residence" as distinguished from "legal residence or
domicile." This term "resides," like the terms "residing" and "residence," is elastic and should be
interpreted in the light of the object or purpose of the statute or rule in which it is employed. In the
application of venue statutes and rules – Section 1, Rule 73 of the Revised Rules of Court is of such
nature – residence rather than domicile is the significant factor. Even where the statute uses the word
"domicile" still it is construed as meaning residence and not domicile in the technical sense. Some cases
make a distinction between the terms "residence" and "domicile" but as generally used in statutes fixing
venue, the terms are synonymous, and convey the same meaning as the term "inhabitant." In other
words, "resides" should be viewed or understood in its popular sense, meaning, the personal, actual or
physical habitation of a person, actual residence or place of abode. It signifies physical presence in a
place and actual stay thereat. In this popular sense, the term means merely residence, that is, personal
residence, not legal residence or domicile. Residence simply requires bodily presence as an inhabitant in
a given place, while domicile requires bodily presence in that place and also an intention to make it one’s
domicile. No particular length of time of residence is required though; however, the residence must be
more than temporary. 41 (Emphasis supplied)

It is incorrect for petitioners to argue that "residence," for purposes of fixing the venue of the settlement of
the estate of Felicisimo, is synonymous with "domicile." The rulings in Nuval and Romualdez are
inapplicable to the instant case because they involve election cases. Needless to say, there is a
distinction between "residence" for purposes of election laws and "residence" for purposes of fixing the
venue of actions. In election cases, "residence" and "domicile" are treated as synonymous terms, that is,
the fixed permanent residence to which when absent, one has the intention of returning. 42 However, for
purposes of fixing venue under the Rules of Court, the "residence" of a person is his personal, actual or
physical habitation, or actual residence or place of abode, which may not necessarily be his legal
residence or domicile provided he resides therein with continuity and consistency. 43 Hence, it is possible
that a person may have his residence in one place and domicile in another.
In the instant case, while petitioners established that Felicisimo was domiciled in Sta. Cruz, Laguna,
respondent proved that he also maintained a residence in Alabang, Muntinlupa from 1982 up to the time
of his death. Respondent submitted in evidence the Deed of Absolute Sale 44 dated January 5, 1983
showing that the deceased purchased the aforesaid property. She also presented billing
statements 45 from the Philippine Heart Center and Chinese General Hospital for the period August to
December 1992 indicating the address of Felicisimo at "100 San Juanico, Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa."
Respondent also presented proof of membership of the deceased in the Ayala Alabang Village
Association 46 and Ayala Country Club, Inc., 47 letter-envelopes 48 from 1988 to 1990 sent by the
deceased’s children to him at his Alabang address, and the deceased’s calling cards 49 stating that his
home/city address is at "100 San Juanico, Ayala Alabang Village, Muntinlupa" while his office/provincial
address is in "Provincial Capitol, Sta. Cruz, Laguna."

From the foregoing, we find that Felicisimo was a resident of Alabang, Muntinlupa for purposes of fixing
the venue of the settlement of his estate. Consequently, the subject petition for letters of administration
was validly filed in the Regional Trial Court 50 which has territorial jurisdiction over Alabang, Muntinlupa.
The subject petition was filed on December 17, 1993. At that time, Muntinlupa was still a municipality and
the branches of the Regional Trial Court of the National Capital Judicial Region which had territorial
jurisdiction over Muntinlupa were then seated in Makati City as per Supreme Court Administrative Order
No. 3. 51 Thus, the subject petition was validly filed before the Regional Trial Court of Makati City.

Anent the issue of respondent Felicidad’s legal personality to file the petition for letters of administration,
we must first resolve the issue of whether a Filipino who is divorced by his alien spouse abroad may
validly remarry under the Civil Code, considering that Felicidad’s marriage to Felicisimo was solemnized
on June 20, 1974, or before the Family Code took effect on August 3, 1988. In resolving this issue, we
need not retroactively apply the provisions of the Family Code, particularly Art. 26, par. (2) considering
that there is sufficient jurisprudential basis allowing us to rule in the affirmative.

The case of Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. 52 involved a marriage between a foreigner and his Filipino wife,
which marriage was subsequently dissolved through a divorce obtained abroad by the latter. Claiming
that the divorce was not valid under Philippine law, the alien spouse alleged that his interest in the
properties from their conjugal partnership should be protected. The Court, however, recognized the
validity of the divorce and held that the alien spouse had no interest in the properties acquired by the
Filipino wife after the divorce. Thus:

In this case, the divorce in Nevada released private respondent from the marriage from the standards of
American law, under which divorce dissolves the marriage. As stated by the Federal Supreme Court of
the United States in Atherton vs. Atherton, 45 L. Ed. 794, 799:

"The purpose and effect of a decree of divorce from the bond of matrimony by a competent jurisdiction
are to change the existing status or domestic relation of husband and wife, and to free them both from the
bond. The marriage tie, when thus severed as to one party, ceases to bind either. A husband without a
wife, or a wife without a husband, is unknown to the law. When the law provides, in the nature of a
penalty, that the guilty party shall not marry again, that party, as well as the other, is still absolutely freed
from the bond of the former marriage."

Thus, pursuant to his national law, private respondent is no longer the husband of petitioner. He would
have no standing to sue in the case below as petitioner’s husband entitled to exercise control over
conjugal assets. As he is bound by the Decision of his own country’s Court, which validly exercised
jurisdiction over him, and whose decision he does not repudiate, he is estopped by his own
representation before said Court from asserting his right over the alleged conjugal property. 53

As to the effect of the divorce on the Filipino wife, the Court ruled that she should no longer be considered
married to the alien spouse. Further, she should not be required to perform her marital duties and
obligations. It held:

To maintain, as private respondent does, that, under our laws, petitioner has to be considered still
married to private respondent and still subject to a wife's obligations under Article 109, et. seq. of
the Civil Code cannot be just. Petitioner should not be obliged to live together with, observe respect and
fidelity, and render support to private respondent. The latter should not continue to be one of her heirs
with possible rights to conjugal property. She should not be discriminated against in her own country
if the ends of justice are to be served. 54 (Emphasis added)

This principle was thereafter applied in Pilapil v. Ibay-Somera 55 where the Court recognized the validity of
a divorce obtained abroad. In the said case, it was held that the alien spouse is not a proper party in filing
the adultery suit against his Filipino wife. The Court stated that "the severance of the marital bond had the
effect of dissociating the former spouses from each other, hence the actuations of one would not affect or
cast obloquy on the other." 56

Likewise, in Quita v. Court of Appeals, 57 the Court stated that where a Filipino is divorced by his
naturalized foreign spouse, the ruling in Van Dorn applies. 58 Although decided on December 22, 1998,
the divorce in the said case was obtained in 1954 when the Civil Code provisions were still in effect.

The significance of the Van Dorn case to the development of limited recognition of divorce in the
Philippines cannot be denied. The ruling has long been interpreted as severing marital ties between
parties in a mixed marriage and capacitating the Filipino spouse to remarry as a necessary consequence
of upholding the validity of a divorce obtained abroad by the alien spouse. In his treatise, Dr. Arturo M.
Tolentino cited Van Dorn stating that "if the foreigner obtains a valid foreign divorce, the Filipino spouse
shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law." 59 In Garcia v. Recio, 60 the Court likewise cited the
aforementioned case in relation to Article 26. 61

In the recent case of Republic v. Orbecido III, 62 the historical background and legislative intent behind
paragraph 2, Article 26 of the Family Code were discussed, to wit:

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)

xxxx
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. 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. 63 (Emphasis
added)

As such, the Van Dorn case is sufficient basis in resolving a situation where a divorce is validly obtained
abroad by the alien spouse. With the enactment of the Family Code and paragraph 2, Article 26 thereof,
our lawmakers codified the law already established through judicial precedent.1awphi1.net

Indeed, when the object of a marriage is defeated by rendering its continuance intolerable to one of the
parties and productive of no possible good to the community, relief in some way should be
obtainable. 64 Marriage, being a mutual and shared commitment between two parties, cannot possibly be
productive of any good to the society where one is considered released from the marital bond while the
other remains bound to it. Such is the state of affairs where the alien spouse obtains a valid divorce
abroad against the Filipino spouse, as in this case.
Petitioners cite Articles 15 65 and 17 66 of the Civil Code in stating that the divorce is void under Philippine
law insofar as Filipinos are concerned. However, in light of this Court’s rulings in the cases discussed
above, the Filipino spouse should not be discriminated against in his own country if the ends of justice are
to be served. 67 In Alonzo v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 68 the Court stated:

But as has also been aptly observed, we test a law by its results; and likewise, we may add, by its
purposes. It is a cardinal rule that, in seeking the meaning of the law, the first concern of the judge should
be to discover in its provisions the intent of the lawmaker. Unquestionably, the law should never be
interpreted in such a way as to cause injustice as this is never within the legislative intent. An
indispensable part of that intent, in fact, for we presume the good motives of the legislature, is to render
justice.

Thus, we interpret and apply the law not independently of but in consonance with justice. Law and justice
are inseparable, and we must keep them so. To be sure, there are some laws that, while generally valid,
may seem arbitrary when applied in a particular case because of its peculiar circumstances. In such a
situation, we are not bound, because only of our nature and functions, to apply them just the same, in
slavish obedience to their language. What we do instead is find a balance between the word and the will,
that justice may be done even as the law is obeyed.

As judges, we are not automatons. We do not and must not unfeelingly apply the law as it is worded,
yielding like robots to the literal command without regard to its cause and consequence. "Courts are apt
to err by sticking too closely to the words of a law," so we are warned, by Justice Holmes again, "where
these words import a policy that goes beyond them."

xxxx

More than twenty centuries ago, Justinian defined justice "as the constant and perpetual wish to render
every one his due." That wish continues to motivate this Court when it assesses the facts and the law in
every case brought to it for decision. Justice is always an essential ingredient of its decisions. Thus when
the facts warrants, we interpret the law in a way that will render justice, presuming that it was the intention
of the lawmaker, to begin with, that the law be dispensed with justice. 69

Applying the above doctrine in the instant case, 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 Felicisimo’s 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 respondent
and Felicisimo under the laws of the U.S.A. In Garcia v. Recio, 70 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. 71

With regard to respondent’s marriage to Felicisimo allegedly solemnized in California, U.S.A., she
submitted photocopies of the Marriage Certificate and the annotated text 72 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. 73

Therefore, this 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.

Even assuming that Felicisimo was not capacitated to marry respondent in 1974, nevertheless, we find
that the latter has the legal personality to file the subject petition for letters of administration, as she may
be considered the co-owner of Felicisimo as regards the properties that were acquired through their joint
efforts during their cohabitation.

Section 6, 74 Rule 78 of the Rules of Court states that letters of administration may be granted to the
surviving spouse of the decedent. However, Section 2, Rule 79 thereof also provides in part:

SEC. 2. Contents of petition for letters of administration. – A petition for letters of administration must be
filed by an interested person and must show, as far as known to the petitioner: x x x.
An "interested person" has been defined as one who would be benefited by the estate, such as an heir, or
one who has a claim against the estate, such as a creditor. The interest must be material and direct, and
not merely indirect or contingent. 75

In the instant case, respondent would qualify as an interested person who has a direct interest in the
estate of Felicisimo by virtue of their cohabitation, the existence of which was not denied by petitioners. If
she proves the validity of the divorce and Felicisimo’s capacity to remarry, but fails to prove that her
marriage with him was validly performed under the laws of the U.S.A., then she may be considered as a
co-owner under Article 144 76 of the Civil Code. This provision governs the property relations between
parties who live together as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage, or their marriage is void
from the beginning. It provides that the property acquired by either or both of them through their work or
industry or their wages and salaries shall be governed by the rules on co-ownership. In a co-ownership, it
is not necessary that the property be acquired through their joint labor, efforts and industry. Any property
acquired during the union is prima facie presumed to have been obtained through their joint efforts.
Hence, the portions belonging to the co-owners shall be presumed equal, unless the contrary is proven. 77

Meanwhile, if respondent fails to prove the validity of both the divorce and the marriage, the applicable
provision would be Article 148 of the Family Code which has filled the hiatus in Article 144 of the Civil
Code by expressly regulating the property relations of couples living together as husband and wife but are
incapacitated to marry. 78 In Saguid v. Court of Appeals, 79 we held that even if the cohabitation or the
acquisition of property occurred before the Family Code took effect, Article 148 governs. 80 The Court
described the property regime under this provision as follows:

The regime of limited co-ownership of property governing the union of parties who are not legally
capacitated to marry each other, but who nonetheless live together as husband and wife, applies to
properties acquired during said cohabitation in proportion to their respective contributions. Co-ownership
will only be up to the extent of the proven actual contribution of money, property or industry. Absent proof
of the extent thereof, their contributions and corresponding shares shall be presumed to be equal.

xxxx

In the cases of Agapay v. Palang, and Tumlos v. Fernandez, which involved the issue of co-ownership of
properties acquired by the parties to a bigamous marriage and an adulterous relationship, respectively,
we ruled that proof of actual contribution in the acquisition of the property is essential. x x x

As in other civil cases, the burden of proof rests upon the party who, as determined by the pleadings or
the nature of the case, asserts an affirmative issue. Contentions must be proved by competent evidence
and reliance must be had on the strength of the party’s own evidence and not upon the weakness of the
opponent’s defense. x x x 81

In view of the foregoing, we find that respondent’s legal capacity to file the subject petition for letters of
administration may arise from her status as the surviving wife of Felicisimo or as his co-owner under
Article 144 of the Civil Code or Article 148 of the Family Code.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals reinstating and affirming the
February 28, 1994 Order of the Regional Trial Court which denied petitioners’ motion to dismiss and its
October 24, 1994 Order which dismissed petitioners’ motion for reconsideration is AFFIRMED. Let this
case be REMANDED to the trial court for further proceedings.

SO ORDERED.

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice