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Tenchavez v.

Escaño, 15 SCRA 355

No. L-19671 November 29, 1965

FACTS:
Vicenta Escaño missed her afternoon classes on Feb. 24, 1948 in the University of San Carlos to
exchange marriage vows with Pastor Tenchavez, 82. Upon the knowledge of her parents, recelebration
was planned to validate what they believed to be an invalid marriage, from the standpoint of the Church.
The recelebration, however, did not take place because of a letter disclosing an amorous relationship
between Pastor Tenchavez and Pacita Noel. Vicenta continued living with her parents.

A petition was later drafted to annul her marriage but the case was dismissed without prejudice because
of her non-appearance at the hearing. Vicenta left for United Staes and on August 22, 1950. She filed a
verified complaint for divorce against Pastor on the ground extreme cruelty, entirely mental in character. A
decree of divorce, final and absolute was then issued in open court by the second judicial District Court of
the State of Nevada.

On September 13, 1954, Vicenta married an American, Russel Leo Moran, in Nevada. She now lives in
California with their begotten children. She acquired American citizenship on August 8, 1958. On July 30,
1955, Pastor Tenchavez initiated the proceedings at bar by a complaint in the Court of first instance of
Cebu against Vicenta and her parents whom he charged with having dissuaded and discouraged Vicenta
from joining her husband and alienating her affections. He asked for legal separation and P1M in
damages.

Vicenta claimed a valid divorce and equally valid marriage to her present husband Russell Leo Moran
while her parents denied the allegations and counter claimed for moral damages.

ISSUE:
May the Philippine court recognize a divorce decree obtained abroad by spouses who are Filipino
citizens?

HELD:
No. It is equally clear from the record that the valid marriage between Pastor Tenchavez and
Vicenta Escaño remained subsisting and undissolved under Philippine law, notwithstanding the decree of
absolute divorce that the wife sought and obtained on 21 October 1950 from the Second Judicial District
Court of Washoe County, State of Nevada, on grounds of “extreme cruelty, entirely mental in character. “
At the time the divorce decree was issued, Vicenta Escaño, like her husband, was still a Filipino citizen.
She was then subject to Philippine law, and Article 15 of the Civil Code of the Philippines.

For the Philippine courts to recognize and give recognition of effect to a foreign decree of absolute
divorce between Filipino citizens could be a patent violation of the declared public policy of the state,
especially in view of the third paragraph of Article 17 of the Civil Code that prescribes the following:

“Prohibitive laws concerning persons, their acts or property, and those which have for their object public
order, policy and good customs, shall not be rendered ineffective by laws or judgments promulgated, or
by determinations or conventions agreed upon in a foreign country.” [Art.17 (3)]

From the preceding facts and considerations, there flows as a necessary consequence that in this
jurisdiction Vicenta Escaño’s divorce and second marriage are not entitled to recognition as valid; for her
previous union to plaintiff Tenchavez must be declared to be existent and undissolved.