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San Andres

Republic of the Philippines, Petitioner,


vs.
Jose Dayot, Respondent.
Facts:
It is shown from the records that Jose (respondent) married Felisa on November
24 1986 at the Pasay City Hall. In lieu of a marriage license, the two executed a sworn
affidavit attesting that both of them are of mature age, unmarried, and are living together
as husband and wife for at least five years. On 1993, Jose filed a complaint for
annulment and/or declaration of nullity of marriage before the RTC of Binan, Laguna.
He alleges that the marriage between him and Felisa were contracted through fraud. In
his version of events, he told that he was introduced to Felisa in 1986, and came to live
as a boarder in her house. Some three weeks later, Felisa asked him to come with her
to retrieve a package from the Pasay City Hall. At the City Hall, a man approached them
and were told that Jose should sign the papers that the man brought with him in order to
release the package. He hesitated at first, but after Felisas cajoles, he reluctantly
signed. It was in February 1987 that he learned of their marriage.
In opposing the complaint, Felisa denied the allegations and defended the
validity of their marriage. She declared that they have been living together as husband
and wife, but deferred contracting marriage with him because of their age gap. Felisa
further expounded that on January 1990, Jose contracted marriage to a certain Rufina
Pascual, resulting to Felisa filing a complaint for Bigamy. 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. He
was found administratively liable and was suspended for one year without emolument.
On July 26, 2000, Joses complaint was dismissed. The court holding that the
same does not deserve a favorable consideration. 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 Joses version of the story as implausible.
Joses sister has given her testimony under oath that she witnessed the marriage
between Jose and Felisa. The testimony of his sister all the more belied his claim that
his consent was procured through fraud. Moreover, the RTC ruled that Joses action
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has prescribed. Jose then filed an appeal before the CA, and the appellate court
affirmed the decision of the court a quo. They further rejected Joses assertion that his
marriage with Felisa is void ab initio for lack of a marriage license, since it was
contracted under Article 76 of the Civil Code as one of exceptional character, with them
executing the required affidavit. 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.
Differing from the CAs ruling, Jose filed a Motion for Reconsideration, th central
argument being that the sworn affidavit both he and Felisa executed was false. It was
then granted by the CA, setting aside their previous decision and declaring the marriage
void ab initio.
Felisa sought reconsideration of the amended decision but was denied.
Meanwhile, the Republic of the Philippines, through the OSG, filed a petition for review
that the marriage be declared valid and subsisting. Felisa filed a separate petition for
review. The court consolidated both petitions for uniformity of ruling. The Republic
propounds that; Jose failed to overthrow the presumption of validity of marriage; that
since he did not come to the court with clean hands, he should not benefit from his
fraudulent conduct, and that he is estopped from assailing the legality of his marriage
for lack of a marriage license.
Correlative to the above, Felisa submits that the Court of Appeals misapplied
Nial. And further adduced that Jose only sought for annulment in order to avoid the
Bigamy case filed by her.
Issue:
Whether or not the marriage contracted by Jose and Felisa be valid or void ab initio.
Held:
Void Ab Initio. Falsity of the allegation in the sworn affidavit relating to the period
of Jose and Felisas 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
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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.
The second assignment of error is a misplaced invocation. It must be stated that
equity finds no room for application where there is a law, and that the ruling is to be
made without prejudice to the criminal case at bar.
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. This is
erroneous. An action for nullity of marriage is imprescriptible. Jose and Felisas
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.