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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 159031 June 23, 2014

NOEL A. LASANAS, Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J.:

Any person who contracts a second marriage without first having a judicial declaration of the
nullity of his or her first marriage, albeit on its face void and in existent for lack of a marriage
license, is guilty of bigamy as defined and penalized by Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code.

The Case

The accused seeks the reversal of the decision promulgated on August 29, 2002,1 whereby the
Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed his conviction for bigamy under the judgment rendered on
October 30, 2000 in Criminal Case No. 49808 by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 38, in
Iloilo City.

Antecedents

On February 16, 1968,2 Judge Carlos B. Salazar of the Municipal Trial Court of San Miguel,
Iloilo solemnized the marriage of accused Noel Lasanas and Socorro Patingo3 without the benefit
of a marriage license.4 The records show that Lasanas and Patingo had not executed any affidavit
of cohabitation to excuse the lack of the marriage license.5 On August 27, 1980, Lasanas and
Patingo reaffirmed their marriage vows in a religious ceremony before Fr. Rodolfo Tamayo at
the San Jose Church in Iloilo City.6 They submitted no marriage license or affidavit of
cohabitation for that purpose.7 Both ceremonies were evidenced by the corresponding marriage
certificates.8 In 1982, Lasanas and Patingo separated de facto because of irreconcilable
differences.9

On December 27, 1993, the accused contracted marriage with Josefa Eslaban in a religious
ceremony solemnized by Fr. Ramon Sequito at the Sta. Maria Church in Iloilo City. Their
marriage certificate reflected the civil status of the accused as single.10

On July 26, 1996, the accused filed a complaint for annulment of marriage and damages against
Socorro in the RTC in Iloilo City,11 which was docketed as Civil Case No. 23133 and raffled to
Branch 39 of the RTC. The complaint alleged that Socorro had employed deceit,

1
misrepresentations and fraud in securing his consent to their marriage; and that subsequent
marital breaches, psychological incompatibilities and her infidelity had caused him to suffer
mental anguish, sleepless nights and social humiliation warranting the award of damages. In
support of his complaint, he further alleged, among others, that:

He was married to the defendant on February 16, 1968 which marriage was officiated by Hon.
Carlos B. Salazar, Municipal Judge of San Miguel, Iloilo. Machine copy of the Marriage
Contract is herewith attached as Exhibit "A" and made part hereof; which marriage was ratified
by a wedding at San Jose Church, Iloilo City on August 27, 1980 and registered at the office of
Iloilo City Registrar. Machine copy of the Marriage Contract is herewith attached as Annex "B";

Plaintiff and defendant have no children and have no properties except some personal
belongings;

Plaintiff met the defendant sometime in the middle of 1967 at the house of Mr. Raul L.
Cataloctocan in Burgos Street, Lapaz, Iloilo City wherein the purpose of their meeting was for
the plaintiff to consult and seek treatment by the defendant because the latter was a "babaylan":
Plaintiff was treated by the defendant and the subsequent treatments were performed by the
defendant at her residence in Barangay, Banga, Mina, Iloilo, the treatment made being on a
continuing basis;

xxxx

On February 16, 1968, defendant asked the plaintiff to come with her to Iloilo City. They went to
Dainty Restaurant at J.M. Basa Street. Plaintiff saw several persons therein. After eating plaintiff
was made to sign the marriage contract, which was null and void for lack of marriage license and
based on a false affidavit of cohabitation. After their marriage, they went home to Barangay
Bangac, Mina, Iloilo, which marked the start of a married life rocked with marital differences,
quarrels and incompatibilities, without love, but under the uncontrollable fear of harm that
should befall him should he not follow her;

xxxx

During the period the parties are living together defendant would nag the plaintiff, fabricate
stories against him and displayed her fit of jealousy, neglect her marital obligations even
committed infidelity, which psychological incompatibilities and marital breaches have forced the
petitioner to live separately from defendant since 1982 up to the present.12

In October 1998, Socorro charged the accused with bigamy in the Office of the City Prosecutor
of Iloilo City.13 After due proceedings, the accused was formally indicted for bigamy under the
information filed on October 20, 1998 in the RTC, viz:

That on or about the 27th day of December, 1993 in the City of Iloilo, Philippines and within the
jurisdiction of this Court, said accused, Noel Lasanas being previously united in a lawful
marriage with Socorro Patingo and without the said marriage having been legally dissolve (sic)

2
or annulled, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously contract a second or
subsequent marriage with Josefa Eslaban.

CONTRARY TO LAW.14

The criminal case, docketed as Criminal Case No. 49808, was raffled to Branch 38 of the RTC in
Iloilo City. The accused pleaded not guilty at his arraignment,15 and trial ensued in due course.

In the meanwhile, on November 24, 1998, the RTC (Branch 39) rendered its judgment in Civil
Case No. 23133 dismissing the accused’s complaint for annulment of marriage, and declaring the
marriage between him and Socorro valid and legal, as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered dismissing the complaint filed
by the plaintiff Noel Arenga Lasanas against the defendant, Socorro Patingo, considering that the
marriage between them is valid and legal.

The plaintiff Noel Lasanas is hereby ordered to give monthly support to his wife, the defendant
in this case, Ma. Socorro Patingo in the amount of ₱3,000.00 a month, from the time that she
filed her answer with counterclaim on February 3, 1997, pursuant to Article 203 of the Family
Code and every month thereafter. Costs against the plaintiff.

SO ORDERED.16

The accused appealed to the CA.17

Ruling of the RTC

On October 30, 2000, the RTC (Branch 38) rendered its assailed decision in Criminal Case No.
49808, disposing thusly:

WHEREFORE, finding accused NOEL LASANAS guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the
offense of BIGAMY punishable under Art. 349 of the Revised Penal Code, judgment is hereby
entered ordering him to serve an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of two (2) years and
four (4) months of prision correccional, as minimum, to eight (8) years and one (1) day of prision
mayor as maximum.

The accused is entitled to the privileges extended to him under Art. 29 of the Revised Penal
Code.

SO ORDERED.18

Decision of the CA Aggrieved, the accused appealed his conviction to the CA, insisting that the
RTC thereby erred in finding that he had legally married Socorro despite the absence of the
marriage license, affidavit of cohabitation and affidavit of the solemnizing officer.

3
The accused contended that because he had not been legally married to Socorro, the first element
of bigamy was not established; that his good faith and the absence of criminal intent were
absolutory in his favor; and that he had been of the honest belief that there was no need for a
judicial declaration of the nullity of the first marriage before he could contract a subsequent
marriage.19

On August 29, 2002, however, the CA promulgated its challenged decision, decreeing:
WHEREFORE, for lack of merit, the Court DISMISSES the appeal and AFFIRMS the appealed
Decision.

SO ORDERED.20

Issues

Hence, the accused has appealed by petition for review on certiorari.21 He argues that the RTC
and the CA incorrectly applied the provisions of Article 349 of the Revised Penal
Code,22 asserting that the civil law rule embodied in Article 40 of the Family Code requiring a
judicial declaration of nullity before one could contract a subsequent marriage should not apply
in this purely criminal prosecution;23 that even if Article 40 of the Family Code was applicable,
he should still be acquitted because his subsequent marriage was null and void for being without
a recorded judgment of nullity of marriage, as provided in Article 53 in relation to Article 52 of
the Family Code;24 that, consequently, an essential element of the crime of bigamy, i.e. that the
subsequent marriage be valid, was lacking;25and that his good faith and lack of criminal intent
were sufficient to relieve him of criminal liability.26

Ruling

The appeal lacks merit.

The law on bigamy is found in Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, which provides:

Article 349. Bigamy. — 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.

The elements of the crime of bigamy are as follows: (1) that the offender has been legally
married; (2) that the marriage has not been legally dissolved or, in case his or her spouse is
absent, the absent spouse could not yet be presumed dead according to the Civil Code; (3) that he
or she contracts a second or subsequent marriage; and (4) that the second or subsequent marriage
has all the essential requisites for validity.27

The CA specifically observed:

This Court concedes that the marriage between accused-appellant Lasanas and private
complainant Patingo was void because of the absence of a marriage license or of an affidavit of

4
cohabitation. The ratificatory religious wedding ceremony could not have validated the void
marriage. Neither can the church wedding be treated as a marriage in itself for to do so, all the
essential and formal requisites of a valid marriage should be present. One of these requisites is a
valid marriage license except in those instances when this requirement may be excused. There
having been no marriage license nor affidavit of cohabitation presented to the priest who
presided over the religious rites, the religious wedding cannot be treated as a valid marriage in
itself.

But then, as the law and jurisprudence say, petitioner should have first secured a judicial
declaration of the nullity of his void marriage to private complainant Patingo before marrying
Josefa Eslaban. Actually, he did just that but after his marriage to Josefa Eslaban. Consequently,
he violated the law on bigamy.

Accused’s reliance on the cases of People v. Mendoza, 95 Phil. 845 and People v. Aragon, 100
Phil. 1033 is misplaced because the ruling in these cases have already been abandoned per
Relova v. Landico, supra, and Wiegel v. Sempio-Diy, 143 SCRA 499. The petitioner also cited
Yap v. Court of Appeals, 145 SCRA 229 which resurrected the Aragon and Mendoza doctrine
but Yap’s ruling too had been overtaken by Art. 40 of the Family Code and by Domingo v. Court
of Appeals and Te v. Court of Appeals, supra.

Regarding accused-appellant’s defense of good faith, the same is unavailing pursuant to


Mañozca v. Domagas, 248 SCRA 625.

This Court, therefore concludes that the appealed Decision is correct in all respect.28

Decision of the CA

Aggrieved, the accused appealed his conviction to the CA, insisting that the RTC thereby erred
in finding that he had legally married Socorro despite the absence of the marriage license,
affidavit of cohabitation and affidavit of the solemnizing officer.

The accused contended that because he had not been legally married to Socorro, the first element
of bigamy was not established; that his good faith and the absence of criminal intent were
absolutory in his favor; and that he had been of the honest belief that there was no need for a
judicial declaration of the nullity of the first marriage before he could contract a subsequent
marriage.19

On August 29, 2002, however, the CA promulgated its challenged decision, decreeing:
WHEREFORE, for lack of merit, the Court DISMISSES the appeal and AFFIRMS the appealed
Decision.

SO ORDERED.20

Issues

5
Hence, the accused has appealed by petition for review on certiorari.21 He argues that the RTC
and the CA incorrectly applied the provisions of Article 349 of the Revised Penal
Code,22 asserting that the civil law rule embodied in Article 40 of the Family Code requiring a
judicial declaration of nullity before one could contract a subsequent marriage should not apply
in this purely criminal prosecution;23 that even if Article 40 of the Family Code was applicable,
he should still be acquitted because his subsequent marriage was null and void for being without
a recorded judgment of nullity of marriage, as provided in Article 53 in relation to Article 52 of
the Family Code;24 that, consequently, an essential element of the crime of bigamy, i.e. that the
subsequent marriage be valid, was lacking;25and that his good faith and lack of criminal intent
were sufficient to relieve him of criminal liability.26

Ruling

The appeal lacks merit.

The law on bigamy is found in Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, which provides:

Article 349. Bigamy. — 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.

The elements of the crime of bigamy are as follows: (1) that the offender has been legally
married; (2) that the marriage has not been legally dissolved or, in case his or her spouse is
absent, the absent spouse could not yet be presumed dead according to the Civil Code; (3) that he
or she contracts a second or subsequent marriage; and (4) that the second or subsequent marriage
has all the essential requisites for validity.27

The CA specifically observed:

This Court concedes that the marriage between accused-appellant Lasanas and private
complainant Patingo was void because of the absence of a marriage license or of an affidavit of
cohabitation. The ratificatory religious wedding ceremony could not have validated the void
marriage. Neither can the church wedding be treated as a marriage in itself for to do so, all the
essential and formal requisites of a valid marriage should be present. One of these requisites is a
valid marriage license except in those instances when this requirement may be excused. There
having been no marriage license nor affidavit of cohabitation presented to the priest who
presided over the religious rites, the religious wedding cannot be treated as a valid marriage in
itself.

But then, as the law and jurisprudence say, petitioner should have first secured a judicial
declaration of the nullity of his void marriage to private complainant Patingo before marrying
Josefa Eslaban. Actually, he did just that but after his marriage to Josefa Eslaban. Consequently,
he violated the law on bigamy.

6
Accused’s reliance on the cases of People v. Mendoza, 95 Phil. 845 and People v. Aragon, 100
Phil. 1033 is misplaced because the ruling in these cases have already been abandoned per
Relova v. Landico, supra, and Wiegel v. Sempio-Diy, 143 SCRA 499. The petitioner also cited
Yap v. Court of Appeals, 145 SCRA 229 which resurrected the Aragon and Mendoza doctrine
but Yap’s ruling too had been overtaken by Art. 40 of the Family Code and by Domingo v. Court
of Appeals and Te v. Court of Appeals, supra.

Regarding accused-appellant’s defense of good faith, the same is unavailing pursuant to


Mañozca v. Domagas, 248 SCRA 625.

This Court, therefore concludes that the appealed Decision is correct in all respect.28

Based on the findings of the CA, this case has all the foregoing elements attendant.

The first and second elements of bigamy were present in view of the absence of a judicial
declaration of nullity of marriage between the accused and Socorro. The requirement of securing
a judicial declaration of nullity of marriage prior to contracting a subsequent marriage is found in
Article 40 of the Family Code, to wit:

Article 40. The absolute nullity of a previous marriage may be invoked for purposes of
remarriage on the basis solely of a final judgment declaring such previous marriage void. (n)

The reason for the provision was aptly discussed in Teves v. People:29

x x x The Family Code has settled once and for all the conflicting jurisprudence on the matter. A
declaration of the absolute nullity of a marriage is now explicitly required either as a cause of
action or a ground for defense. Where the absolute nullity of a previous marriage is sought to be
invoked for purposes of contracting a second marriage, the sole basis acceptable in law for said
projected marriage to be free from legal infirmity is a final judgment declaring the previous
marriage void.

The Family Law Revision Committee and the Civil Code Revision Committee which drafted
what is now the Family Code of the Philippines took the position that 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.

In fact, the requirement for a declaration of absolute nullity of a marriage is also for the
protection of the spouse who, believing that his or her marriage is illegal and void, marries again.
With the judicial declaration of the nullity of his or her marriage, the person who marries again
cannot be charged with bigamy.

In numerous cases, this Court has consistently held that a judicial declaration of nullity is
required before a valid subsequent marriage can be contracted; or else, what transpires is a
bigamous marriage, reprehensible and immoral.

7
If petitioner’s contention would be allowed, a person who commits bigamy can simply evade
prosecution by immediately filing a petition for the declaration of nullity of his earlier marriage
and hope that a favorable decision is rendered therein before anyone institutes a complaint
against him. We note that in petitioner’s case the complaint was filed before the first marriage
was declared a nullity. It was only the filing of the Information that was overtaken by the
declaration of nullity of his first marriage. Following petitioner’s argument, even assuming that a
complaint has been instituted, such as in this case, the offender can still escape liability provided
that a decision nullifying his earlier marriage precedes the filing of the Information in court.
Such cannot be allowed. To do so would make the crime of bigamy dependent upon the ability or
inability of the Office of the Public Prosecutor to immediately act on complaints and eventually
file Informations in court. Plainly, petitioner’s strained reading of the law is against its simple
letter.

Pursuant to Teves, the accused’s conviction for bigamy is affirmed.1âwphi1 The crime of
bigamy was consummated from the moment he contracted the second marriage without his
marriage to Socorro being first judicially declared null and void, because at the time of the
celebration of the second marriage, his marriage to Socorro was still deemed valid and subsisting
due to such marriage not being yet declared null and void by a court of competent
jurisdiction.30"What makes a person criminally liable for bigamy," according to People v.
Odtuhan:31

x x x is when he contracts a second or subsequent marriage during the subsistence of a valid


marriage. Parties to the marriage should not be permitted to judge for themselves its nullity, for
the same must be submitted to the judgment of competent courts and only when the nullity of the
marriage is so declared can it beheld as void, and so long as there is no such declaration, the
presumption is that the marriage exists. Therefore, he who contracts a second marriage before the
judicial declaration of nullity of the first marriage assumes the risk of being prosecuted for
bigamy.

The accused’s defense of acting in good faith deserves scant consideration especially because the
records show that he had filed a complaint for the annulment of his marriage with Socorro prior
to the institution of the criminal complaint against him but after he had already contracted his
second marriage with Josefa. But even such defense would abandon him because the RTC
(Branch 39) dismissed his complaint for annulment of marriage after the information for bigamy
had already been filed against him, thus confirming the validity of his marriage to Socorro.
Considering that the accused’s subsequent marriage to Josefa was an undisputed fact, the third
element of bigamy was established. Nonetheless, he submits that his marriage to Josefa was
invalid because of lack of a recorded judgment of nullity of marriage. Such argument had no
worth, however, because it was he himself who failed to secure a judicial declaration of nullity of
his previous marriage prior to contracting his subsequent marriage. In Tenebro v. Court of
Appeals,32 the Court has explained that "[s]ince a marriage contracted during the subsistence of a
valid marriage is automatically void, the nullity of this second marriage is not per se an argument
for the avoidance of criminal liability for bigamy.

8
x x x A plain reading of [Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code], therefore, would indicate that
the provision penalizes the mere act of contracting a second or subsequent marriage during the
subsistence of a valid marriage."33

The Court has further observed in Nollora, Jr. v. People:34 x x x Nollora may not impugn his
[subsequent] marriage to Geraldino in order to extricate himself from criminal liability;
otherwise, we would be opening the doors to allowing the solemnization of multiple flawed
marriage ceremonies. As we stated in Tenebro v. Court of Appeals:

There is therefore a recognition written into the law itself that such a marriage, although void ab
initio, may still produce legal consequences. Among these legal consequences is incurring
criminal liability for bigamy. To hold otherwise would render the State's penal laws on bigamy
completely nugatory, and allow 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.

Under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, the penalty for bigamy is prision mayor. With
neither an aggravating nor a mitigating circumstance attendant in the commission of the crime,
the imposable penalty is the medium period of prision mayor,35 which ranges from eight years
and one day to 10 years. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the minimum of the
indeterminate sentence should be within the range of prision correccional, the penalty next lower
than that prescribed for the offense, which is from six months and one day to six years.
Accordingly, the indeterminate sentence of two years and four months of prision correccional, as
minimum, to eight years and one day of prision mayor as maximum, as imposed by the RTC,
was proper.

WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Court of Appeals promulgated on
August 29, 2002; and ORDERS the petitioner to pay the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
Associate Justice

SECOND DIVISION

CENON R. TEVES, G.R. No. 188775


Petitioner,
Present:

CARPIO,
Chairperson,
BRION
9
- versus - PERALTA*
PEREZ, and
MENDOZA,** JJ.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES Promulgated:


and DANILO R. BONGALON,
Respondents.
August 24, 2011

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

DECISION

PEREZ, J.:

This Petition for Review seeks the reversal of the 21 January 2009 decision [1] of
the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 31125 affirming in toto the
decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 20, Malolos City in Criminal
Case No. 2070-M-2006. The RTC decision[2] found petitioner Cenon R.
Teves guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Bigamy penalized under
Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code.

THE FACTS

On 26 November 1992, a marriage was solemnized between Cenon Teves (Cenon)


and Thelma Jaime-Teves (Thelma) at the Metropolitan Trial Court of Muntinlupa
City, Metro Manila.[3]

After the marriage, Thelma left to work abroad. She would only come home to the
Philippines for vacations. While on a vacation in 2002, she was informed that her
husband had contracted marriage with a certain Edita Calderon (Edita). To verify
the information, she went to the National Statistics Office and secured a copy of
the Certificate of Marriage[4] indicating that her husband and Edita contracted
marriage on 10 December 2001 at the Divine Trust Consulting Services, Malhacan,
Meycauayan, Bulacan.

10
On 13 February 2006, Danilo Bongalon, uncle of Thelma, filed before the Office
of the Provincial Prosecutor of Malolos City, Bulacan a complaint[5] accusing
petitioner of committing bigamy.

Petitioner was charged on 8 June 2006 with bigamy defined and penalized under
Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, in an Information [6] which
reads:

That on or about the 10th day of December, 2001 up to the present, in the
municipality of Meycauayan, province of Bulacan, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said Cenon R. Teves being previously united
in lawful marriage on November 26, 1992 with Thelma B. Jaime and without the said
marriage having legally dissolved, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously contract a second marriage with one Edita T. Calderon, who knowing of
the criminal design of accused Cenon R. Teves to marry her and in concurrence
thereof, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously cooperate in the
execution of the offense by marrying Cenon R. Teves, knowing fully well of the
existence of the marriage of the latter with Thelma B. Jaime.

During the pendency of the criminal case for bigamy, the Regional Trial Court ,
Branch 130, Caloocan City, rendered a decision[7] dated 4 May 2006 declaring the
marriage of petitioner and Thelma null and void on the ground that Thelma is
physically incapacitated to comply with her essential marital obligations pursuant
to Article 36 of the Family Code. Said decision became final by virtue of a
Certification of Finality[8] issued on 27 June 2006.

On 15 August 2007, the trial court rendered its assailed decision, the dispositive
portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding the


accused Cenon R. Teves, also known as Cenon Avelino R. Teves, guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime of Bigamy penalized under Article 349 of the
Revised Penal Code, as charged in the Information dated June 8, 2006. Pursuant to
the provisions of the Indeterminate Sentence Law, he is hereby sentenced to suffer
the penalty of imprisonment of four (4) years, two (2) months and one (1) day
of prision correccional, as minimum, to six (6) years and one (1) day of prision
mayor, as maximum.[9]

Refusing to accept such verdict, petitioner appealed the decision before the Court
of Appeals contending that the court a quo erred in not ruling that his criminal
action or liability had already been extinguished. He also claimed that the trial
11
court erred in finding him guilty of Bigamy despite the defective Information filed
by the prosecution.[10]

On 21 January 2009, the CA promulgated its decision, the dispositive portion of


which reads:
WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED and the Decision dated August 15, 2007
in Criminal Case No. 2070-M-2006 is AFFIRMED in TOTO.[11]

On 11 February 2009, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the


decision.[12] This however, was denied by the CA in a resolution issued on 2 July
2009.[13]
Hence, this petition.

Petitioner claims that since his previous marriage was declared null and void, there
is in effect no marriage at all, and thus, there is no bigamy to speak of. [14] He
differentiates a previous valid or voidable marriage from a marriage null and
void ab initio, and posits that the former requires a judicial dissolution before one
can validly contract a second marriage but a void marriage, for the same purpose,
need not be judicially determined.

Petitioner further contends that the ruling of the Court in Mercado v. Tan[15] is
inapplicable in his case because in the Mercado case the prosecution for bigamy
was initiated before the declaration of nullity of marriage was filed. In petitioners
case, the first marriage had already been legally dissolved at the time the bigamy
case was filed in court.
We find no reason to disturb the findings of the CA. There is nothing in the law
that would sustain petitioners contention.

Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code states:


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.

The elements of this crime are as follows:

1. That the offender has been legally married;


2. That the marriage has not been legally dissolved or, in case his or her
spouse is absent, the absent spouse could not yet be presumed dead
according to the Civil Code;
3. That he contracts a second or subsequent marriage; and

12
4. That the second or subsequent marriage has all the essential requisites for
validity.[16]

The instant case has all the elements of the crime of bigamy. Thus, the CA was
correct in affirming the conviction of petitioner.

Petitioner was legally married to Thelma on 26 November 1992 at the


Metropolitan Trial Court of Muntinlupa City. He contracted a second or
subsequent marriage with Edita on 10 December 2001 in Meycauayan, Bulacan. At
the time of his second marriage with Edita, his marriage with Thelma was legally
subsisting. It is noted that the finality of the decision declaring the nullity of his
first marriage with Thelma was only on 27 June 2006 or about five (5) years after
his second marriage to Edita.Finally, the second or subsequent marriage of
petitioner with Edita has all the essential requisites for validity. Petitioner has in
fact not disputed the validity of such subsequent marriage.[17]
It is evident therefore that petitioner has committed the crime charged. His
contention that he cannot be charged with bigamy in view of the declaration of
nullity of his first marriage is bereft of merit. The Family Code has settled once
and for all the conflicting jurisprudence on the matter. A declaration of the
absolute nullity of a marriage is now explicitly required either as a cause of action
or a ground for defense. Where the absolute nullity of a previous marriage is
sought to be invoked for purposes of contracting a second marriage, the sole basis
acceptable in law for said projected marriage to be free from legal infirmity is a
final judgment declaring the previous marriage void.[18]

The Family Law Revision Committee and the Civil Code Revision Committee
which drafted what is now the Family Code of the Philippines took the position
that 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.[19]

In fact, the requirement for a declaration of absolute nullity of a marriage is also


for the protection of the spouse who, believing that his or her marriage is illegal
and void, marries again. With the judicial declaration of the nullity of his or her
marriage, the person who marries again cannot be charged with bigamy.[20]

In numerous cases,[21] this Court has consistently held that a judicial declaration of
nullity is required before a valid subsequent marriage can be contracted; or else,
what transpires is a bigamous marriage, reprehensible and immoral.

13
If petitioners contention would be allowed, a person who commits bigamy can
simply evade prosecution by immediately filing a petition for the declaration of
nullity of his earlier marriage and hope that a favorable decision is rendered therein
before anyone institutes a complaint against him. We note that in petitioners case
the complaint was filed before the first marriage was declared a nullity. It was only
the filing of the Information that was overtaken by the declaration of nullity of his
first marriage. Following petitioners argument, even assuming that a complaint has
been instituted, such as in this case, the offender can still escape liability provided
that a decision nullifying his earlier marriage precedes the filing of the Information
in court. Such cannot be allowed. To do so would make the crime of bigamy
dependent upon the ability or inability of the Office of the Public Prosecutor to
immediately act on complaints and eventually file Informations in court. Plainly,
petitioners strained reading of the law is against its simple letter.

Settled is the rule that criminal culpability attaches to the offender upon the
commission of the offense, and from that instant, liability appends to him until
extinguished as provided by law, and that the time of filing of the criminal
complaint (or Information, in proper cases) is material only for determining
prescription.[22] The crime of bigamy was committed by petitioner on 10 December
2001 when he contracted a second marriage with Edita. The finality on 27 June
2006 of the judicial declaration of the nullity of his previous marriage to Thelma
cannot be made to retroact to the date of the bigamous marriage.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition for review is DENIED and the assailed
Decision dated 21 January 2009 of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED in toto.

Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

14
SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 209741, April 15, 2015

SOCIAL SECURITY COMMISSION, Petitioner, v. EDNA A. AZOTE, Respondent.

DECISION

MENDOZA, J.:

This petition for review on certiorari1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court filed by petitioner Social Security Commission (SSC) assails the August
13, 2013 Decision2 of the Court of Appeals (CA), and its October 29, 2013 Resolution3 in CA-G.R. SP No. 122933, allowing respondent Edna A.
Azote (Edna) to claim the death benefits of her late husband, Edgardo Azote (Edgardo).

The Antecedents:

On June 19, 1992, respondent Edna and Edgardo, a member of the Social Security System (SSS), were married in civil rites at the Regional Trial
Court, Branch 9, Legazpi City, Albay (RTC).� Their union produced six children4 born from 1985 to 1999.� On April 27, 1994, Edgardo submitted
Form E-4 to the SSS with Edna and their three older children as designated beneficiaries. Thereafter or on September 7, 2001, Edgardo submitted
another Form E-4 to the SSS designating his three younger children as additional beneficiaries.5

On January 13, 2005, Edgardo passed away.� Shortly thereafter, Edna filed her claim for death benefits with the SSS as the wife of a deceased-
member.� It appeared, however, from the SSS records that Edgardo had earlier submitted another Form E-4 on November 5, 1982 with a different
set of beneficiaries, namely: Rosemarie Azote (Rosemarie), as his spouse; and Elmer Azote (Elmer), as dependent, born on October 9, 1982.�
Consequently, Edna�s claim was denied.� Her children were adjudged as beneficiaries and she was considered as the legal guardian of her minor
children. The benefits, however, would be stopped once a child would attain the age of 21. 6

On March 13, 2007, Edna filed a petition with the SSC to claim the death benefits, lump sum and monthly pension of Edgardo. 7� She insisted that
she was the legitimate wife of Edgardo. In its answer, the SSS averred that there was a conflicting information in the forms submitted by the
deceased.� Summons was published in a newspaper of general circulation directing Rosemarie to file her answer.� Despite the publication, no
answer was filed and Rosemarie was subsequently declared in default. 8

In the Resolution,9 dated December 8, 2010, the SSC dismissed Edna�s petition for lack of merit.� Citing Section 24(c) of the SS Law, it explained
that although Edgardo filed the Form E-4 designating Edna and their six children as beneficiaries, he did not revoke the designation of Rosemarie as
his wife-beneficiary, and Rosemarie was still presumed to be his legal wife.

The SSC further wrote that the National Statistics Office (NSO) records revealed that the marriage of Edgardo to one� Rosemarie Teodora Sino was
registered on July 28, 1982.� Consequently, it opined that Edgardo�s marriage to Edna was not valid as there was no showing that his first
marriage had been annulled or dissolved. The SSC stated that there must be a judicial determination of nullity of a previous marriage before a party
could enter into a second marriage.10

In an order,11 dated June 8, 2011, the SSC denied Edna�s motion for reconsideration.� It explained that it was incumbent upon Edna to prove that
her marriage to the deceased was valid, which she failed to do.� It further opined that Rosemarie could not be merely presumed dead, and that death
benefits under the SSS could not be considered properties which may be disposed of in a holographic will. 12

In the assailed August 13, 2013 Decision, the CA reversed and set aside the resolution and the order of the SSC.� It held that the SSC could not
make a determination of the validity or invalidity of the marriage of Edna to Edgardo considering that no contest came from either Rosemarie or
Elmer.13

The CA explained that Edna had established her right to the benefits by substantial evidence, namely, her marriage certificate and the baptismal
certificates of her children.14� It ruled that Edgardo made a deliberate change of his wife-beneficiary in his 1994 E-4 form, as such was clearly his
voluntary act manifesting his intention to revoke his former declaration in the 1982 E-4 form.15� The 1994 E-4 form submitted by Edgardo,
designating Edna as his wife, superseded his former declaration in his 1982 E-4 form.16

It further opined that the Davac case cited by the SSC was not applicable because there were two conflicting claimants in that case, both claiming to
be wives of the deceased,� while in this case, Edna was the sole claimant for the death benefits, and that her designation as wife-beneficiary
remained valid and unchallenged.� It was of the view that Rosemarie�s non-appearance despite notice could be deemed a waiver to claim death
benefits from the SSS, thereby losing whatever standing she might have had to dispute Edna�s claim.17

In the assailed October 29, 2013 Resolution,18 the CA denied the SSC�s motion for reconsideration.19

15
Hence, the present petition.

GROUNDS

RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN RULING THAT THE COMMISSION IS BEREFT OF AUTHORITY TO
DETERMINE THE VALIDITY OR INVALIDITY OF THE MARRIAGE OF THE PRIVATE RESPONDENT AND MEMBER
EDGARDO AZOTE.

RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN GRANTING THE PETITION OF THE PRIVATE RESPONDENT AND
FINDING HER ENTITLED TO THE SS BENEFITS.

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN RULING THAT THE DESIGNATION OF THE PRIVATE
RESPONDENT AS WIFE-BENEFICIARY IS VALID.20

The SSC argues that the findings of fact of the CA were not supported by the records.� It submits that under Section 5 of the SS Law, it is called
upon to determine the rightful beneficiary in the performance of its quasi-judicial function of adjudicating SS benefits.� In fact, it cited a number of
cases,21 where the SSC had passed upon the validity of marriages for the purpose of determining who were entitled to SS benefits.22

The SSC contends that Edna was not the legitimate spouse of deceased member Edgardo as the CA failed to consider the NSO certification showing
that Edgardo was previously married to Rosemarie.� With the death certificate of Rosemarie showing that she died only on November 6, 2004, it
proved that she was alive at the time Edna and Edgardo were married, and, therefore, there existed a legal impediment to his second marriage,
rendering it void.� Edna is, therefore, not a legitimate spouse who is entitled to the death benefits of Edgardo. 23

The SSC claims that the right to designate a beneficiary is subject to the SS Law. The designation of a wife-beneficiary merely creates a disputable
presumption that they are legally married and may be overthrown by evidence to the contrary.� Edna�s designation became invalid with the
determination of the subsistence of a previous marriage.� The SSC posits that even though Edgardo revoked and superseded his earlier designation
of Rosemarie as beneficiary, his designation of Edna was still not valid considering that only a legitimate spouse could qualify as a primary
beneficiary.24

The Court�s Ruling

The petition is meritorious.

The law in force at the time of Edgardo�s death was Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8282,25 the amendatory law of R.A. No. 1161 or the �Social Security
Law.�� It is a tax-exempt social security service designed to promote social justice and provide meaningful protection to members and their
beneficiaries against the hazards of disability, sickness, maternity, old age, death, and other contingencies resulting in loss of income or financial
burden.26� As a social security program of the government, Section 8 (e) and (k) of the said law expressly provides who would be entitled to receive
benefits from its deceased-member, to wit:

SEC. 8. Terms Defined. - For purposes of this Act, the following terms shall, unless the context indicates otherwise, have the following meanings:

xxxx

(e) Dependents - The dependents shall be the following:

(1) The legal spouse entitled by law to receive support from the member;

(2) The legitimate, legitimated or legally adopted, and illegitimate child who is unmarried, not gainfully employed, and has not reached twenty-one
(21) years of age, or if over twenty-one (21) years of age, he is congenitally or while still a minor has been permanently incapacitated and incapable
of self-support, physically or mentally; and

(3) The parent who is receiving regular support from the member.

xxxx

(k) Beneficiaries - The dependent spouse until he or she remarries, the dependent legitimate, legitimated or legally adopted, and illegitimate children,
who shall be the primary beneficiaries of the member: Provided, That the dependent illegitimate children shall be entitled to fifty percent (50%) of
the share of the legitimate, legitimated or legally adopted children: Provided, further, That in the absence of the dependent legitimate, legitimated
children of the member, his/her dependent illegitimate children shall be entitled to one hundred percent (100%) of the benefits. In their absence, the
dependent parents who shall be the secondary beneficiaries of the member. In the absence of all the foregoing, any other person designated by the
member as his/her secondary beneficiary. (Emphasis supplied)

16
Applying Section 8(e) and (k) of R. A. No. 8282, it is clear that only the legal spouse of the deceased-member is qualified to be the beneficiary of the
latter�s SS benefits.� In this case, there is a concrete proof that Edgardo contracted an earlier marriage with another individual as evidenced by
their marriage contract.� Edgardo even acknowledged his married status when he filled out the 1982 Form E-4 designating Rosemarie as his
spouse.27

It is undisputed that the second marriage of Edgardo with Edna was celebrated at the time when the Family Code was already in force.� Article 41
of the Family Code expressly states:

Art. 41. A marriage contracted by any person during 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 has a well-founded belief that the absent
spouse was already dead. In case of disappearance where there is danger under the circumstances set forth in the provisions of Article 391 of the
Civil Code, an absence of only two years shall be sufficient.

For the purpose of contracting a 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 and underscoring supplied)

Using the parameters outlined in Article 41 of the Family Code, Edna, without doubt, failed to establish that there was no impediment or that the
impediment was already removed at the time of the celebration of her marriage to Edgardo.� Settled is the rule that �whoever claims entitlement to
the benefits provided by law should establish his or her right thereto by substantial evidence.�28 Edna could not adduce evidence to prove that the
earlier marriage of Edgardo was either annulled or dissolved or whether there was a declaration of Rosemarie�s presumptive death before her
marriage to Edgardo. What is apparent is that Edna was the second wife of Edgardo. Considering that Edna was not able to show that she was the
legal spouse of a� deceased-member, she would not qualify under the law to be the beneficiary of the death benefits of Edgardo.

The Court does not subscribe to the disquisition of the CA that the updated Form E-4 of Edgardo was determinative of Edna�s status and eligibility
to claim the death benefits of deceased-member. Although an SSS member is free to designate a beneficiary, the designation must always conform to
the statute.� To blindly rely on the form submitted by the deceased-member would subject the entire social security system to the whims and
caprices of its members and would render the SS Law inutile.

Although the SSC is not intrinsically empowered to determine the validity of marriages, it is required by Section 4(b) (7) of R.A. No. 8282 29 to
examine available statistical and economic data to ensure that the benefits fall into the rightful beneficiaries.� As held in Social Security
Commission vs. Favila,30

SSS, as the primary institution in charge of extending social security protection to workers and their beneficiaries is mandated by Section 4(b)(7) of
RA 8282 to require reports, compilations and analyses of statistical and economic data and to make an investigation as may be needed for its proper
administration and development.� Precisely, the investigations conducted by SSS are appropriate in order to ensure that the benefits provided under
the SS Law are received by the rightful beneficiaries.� It is not hard to see that such measure is necessary for the system�s proper administration,
otherwise, it will be swamped with bogus claims that will pointlessly deplete its funds.� Such scenario will certainly frustrate the purpose of the law
which is to provide covered employees and their families protection against the hazards of disability, sickness, old age and death, with a view to
promoting their well-being in the spirit of social justice.� Moreover and as correctly pointed out by SSC, such investigations are likewise necessary
to carry out the mandate of Section 15 of the SS Law which provides in part, viz:

Sec. 15. Non-transferability of Benefits. � The SSS shall pay the benefits provided for in this Act to such [x x x] persons as may be entitled thereto
in accordance with the provisions of this Act� x x x. (Emphasis supplied.)

The existence of two Form E-4s designating, on two different dates, two different women as his spouse is already an indication that only one of them
can be the legal spouse.� As can be gleaned from the certification issued by the NSO,31 there is no doubt that Edgardo married Rosemarie in
1982.� Edna cannot be considered as the legal spouse of Edgardo as their marriage took place during the existence of a previously contracted
marriage.� For said reason, the denial of Edna�s claim by the SSC was correct. It should be emphasized that the SSC determined Edna�s
eligibility on the basis of available statistical data and documents on their database as expressly permitted by Section 4(b) (7) of R.A. No. 8282.

It is of no moment that the first wife, Rosemarie, did not participate or oppose Edna�s claim. Rosemarie�s non-participation or her subsequent
death on November 11, 200432 did not cure or legitimize the status of Edna.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED.� The August 13, 2013 Decision and the October 29, 2013 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-
G.R. SP No. 122933 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE.� Accordingly, the petition for entitlement of SS death benefits filed by respondent Edna
Azote is DENIEDfor lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

Del Castillo, Perez,* and Mendoza, JJ., concur.


Leonen, J., see separate dissenting opinion.

17
Endnotes:

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. 184621 December 10, 2013

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,


vs.
MARIA FE ESPINOSA CANTOR, Respondent.

DECISION

BRION, J.:

The petition for review on certiorari1 before us assails the decision2 dated August 27, 2008 of the Court of Appeals (CA)
in CA-G.R. SP No. 01558-MIN which affirmed be order3 dated December 15, 2006 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC),
Branch 25, Koronadal City, South Cotabato, in SP Proc. Case No. 313-25, declaring Jerry F. Cantor, respondent Maria
Fe Espinosa Cantor’s husband, presumptively dead under Article 41 of the Family Code.

The Factual Antecedents

The respondent and Jerry were married on September 20, 1997. They lived together as husband and wife in their
conjugal dwelling in Agan Homes, Koronadal City, South Cotabato. Sometime in January 1998, the couple had a violent
quarrel brought about by: (1) the respondent’s inability to reach "sexual climax" whenever she and Jerry would have
intimate moments; and (2) Jerry’s expression of animosity toward the respondent’s father.

After their quarrel, Jerry left their conjugal dwelling and this was the last time that the respondent ever saw him. Since
then, she had not seen, communicated nor heard anything from Jerry or about his whereabouts.

On May 21, 2002, or more than four (4) years from the time of Jerry’s disappearance, the respondent filed before the
RTC a petition4for her husband’s declaration of presumptive death, docketed as SP Proc. Case No. 313-25. She claimed
that she had a well-founded belief that Jerry was already dead. She alleged that she had inquired from her mother-in-law,
her brothers-in-law, her sisters-in-law, as well as her neighbors and friends, but to no avail. In the hopes of finding Jerry,
she also allegedly made it a point to check the patients’ directory whenever she went to a hospital. All these earnest
efforts, the respondent claimed, proved futile, prompting her to file the petition in court.

The Ruling of the RTC

After due proceedings, the RTC issued an order granting the respondent’s petition and declaring Jerry presumptively
dead. It concluded that the respondent had a well-founded belief that her husband was already dead since more than four
(4) years had passed without the former receiving any news about the latter or his whereabouts. The dispositive portion
of the order dated December 15, 2006 reads:

WHEREFORE, the Court hereby declares, as it hereby declared that respondent Jerry F. Cantor is presumptively dead
pursuant to Article 41 of the Family Code of the Philippines without prejudice to the effect of the reappearance of the
absent spouse Jerry F. Cantor.5

18
The Ruling of the CA

The case reached the CA through a petition for certiorari6filed by the petitioner, Republic of the Philippines, through the
Office of the Solicitor General (OSG). In its August 27, 2008 decision, the CA dismissed the petitioner’s petition,
finding no grave abuse of discretion on the RTC’s part, and, accordingly, fully affirmed the latter’s order, thus:

WHEREFORE, premises foregoing (sic), the instant petition is hereby DISMISSED and the assailed Order dated
December 15, 2006 declaring Jerry F. Cantor presumptively dead is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.7

The petitioner brought the matter via a Rule 45 petition before this Court. The Petition The petitioner contends that
certiorari lies to challenge the decisions, judgments or final orders of trial courts in petitions for declaration of
presumptive death of an absent spouse under Rule 41 of the Family Code. It maintains that although judgments of trial
courts in summary judicial proceedings, including presumptive death cases, are deemed immediately final and executory
(hence, not appeal able under Article 247 of the Family Code), this rule does not mean that they are not subject to review
on certiorari.

The petitioner also posits that the respondent did not have a well-founded belief to justify the declaration of her
husband’s presumptive death. It claims that the respondent failed to conduct the requisite diligent search for her missing
husband. Likewise, the petitioner invites this Court’s attention to the attendant circumstances surrounding the case,
particularly, the degree of search conducted and the respondent’s resultant failure to meet the strict standard under
Article 41 of the Family Code.

The Issues

The petition poses to us the following issues:

(1) Whether certiorarilies to challenge the decisions, judgments or final orders of trial courts in petitions for
declaration of presumptive death of an absent spouse under Article 41 of the Family Code; and

(2) Whether the respondent had a well-founded belief that Jerry is already dead.

The Court’s Ruling

We grant the petition.

a. On the Issue of the Propriety of Certiorari as a Remedy

Court’s Judgment in the Judicial


Proceedings for Declaration of
Presumptive Death Is Final and
Executory, Hence, Unappealable

The Family Code was explicit that the court’s judgment in summary proceedings, such as the declaration of presumptive
death of an absent spouse under Article 41 of the Family Code, shall be immediately final and executory.

Article 41,in relation to Article 247, of the Family Code provides:

Art. 41. A marriage contracted by any person during 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 has 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 Article 391 of the Civil Code, an absence of only

19
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.

Art. 247. The judgment of the court shall be immediately final and executory. [underscores ours]

With the judgment being final, it necessarily follows that it is no longer subject to an appeal, the dispositions and
conclusions therein having become immutable and unalterable not only as against the parties but even as against the
courts.8 Modification of the court’s ruling, no matter how erroneous is no longer permissible. The final and executory
nature of this summary proceeding thus prohibits the resort to appeal. As explained in Republic of the Phils. v.
Bermudez-Lorino,9 the right to appeal is not granted to parties because of the express mandate of Article 247 of the
Family Code, to wit:

In Summary Judicial Proceedings under the Family Code, there is no reglementary period within which to perfect an
appeal, precisely because judgments rendered thereunder, by express provision of [Article] 247, Family Code, supra, are
"immediately final and executory." It was erroneous, therefore, on the part of the RTCto give due course to the
Republic’s appeal and order the transmittal of the entire records of the case to the Court of Appeals.

An appellate court acquires no jurisdiction to review a judgment which, by express provision of law, is immediately final
and executory. As we have said in Veloria vs. Comelec, "the right to appeal is not a natural right nor is it a part of due
process, for it is merely a statutory privilege." Since, by express mandate of Article 247 of the Family Code, all
judgments rendered in summary judicial proceedings in Family Law are "immediately final and executory," the right to
appeal was not granted to any of the parties therein. The Republic of the Philippines, as oppositor in the petition for
declaration of presumptive death, should not be treated differently. It had no right to appeal the RTC decision of
November 7, 2001. [emphases ours; italics supplied]

Certiorari Lies to Challenge the


Decisions, Judgments or Final
Orders of Trial Courts in a Summary
Proceeding for the Declaration of Presumptive
Death Under the Family Code

A losing party in this proceeding, however, is not entirely left without a remedy. While jurisprudence tells us that no
appeal can be made from the trial court's judgment, an aggrieved party may, nevertheless, file a petition for certiorari
under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court to question any abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction that
transpired.

As held in Delos Santos v. Rodriguez, et al.,10 the fact that a decision has become final does not automatically negate the
original action of the CA to issue certiorari, prohibition and mandamus in connection with orders or processes issued by
the trial court. Certiorari may be availed of where a court has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave
abuse of discretion, and where the ordinary remedy of appeal is not available. Such a procedure finds support in the case
of Republic v. Tango,11 wherein we held that:

This case presents an opportunity for us to settle the rule on appeal of judgments rendered in summary proceedings under
the Family Code and accordingly, refine our previous decisions thereon.

Article 238 of the Family Code, under Title XI: SUMMARY JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS IN THE FAMILY LAW,
establishes the rules that govern summary court proceedings in the Family Code:

20
"ART. 238. Until modified by the Supreme Court, the procedural rules in this Title shall apply in all cases provided for
in this Code requiring summary court proceedings. Such cases shall be decided in an expeditious manner without regard
to technical rules."

In turn, Article 253 of the Family Code specifies the cases covered by the rules in chapters two and three of the same
title. It states:

"ART. 253. The foregoing rules in Chapters 2and 3 hereof shall likewise govern summary proceedings filed under
Articles 41, 51, 69, 73, 96, 124 and 217, insofar as they are applicable."(Emphasis supplied.)

In plain text, Article 247 in Chapter 2 of the same title reads:

"ART.247. The judgment of the court shall be immediately final and executory."

By express provision of law, the judgment of the court in a summary proceeding shall be immediately final and
executory. As a matter of course, it follows that no appeal can be had of the trial court's judgment ina summary
proceeding for the declaration of presumptive death of an absent spouse under Article 41 of the Family Code. It goes
without saying, however, that an aggrieved party may file a petition for certiorari to question abuse of discretion
amounting to lack of jurisdiction. Such petition should be filed in the Court of Appeals in accordance with the Doctrine
of Hierarchy of Courts. To be sure, even if the Court's original jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari is concurrent with
the RTCs and the Court of Appeals in certain cases, such concurrence does not sanction an unrestricted freedom of
choice of court forum. [emphasis ours]

Viewed in this light, we find that the petitioner’s resort to certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court to question the
RTC’s order declaring Jerry presumptively dead was proper.

b. On the Issue of the Existence of Well-Founded Belief

The Essential Requisites for the


Declaration of Presumptive Death
Under Article 41 of the Family Code

Before a judicial declaration of presumptive death can be obtained, it must be shown that the prior spouse had been
absent for four consecutive years and the present spouse had a well-founded belief that the prior spouse was already
dead. Under Article 41 of the Family Code, there are four (4) essential requisites for the declaration of presumptive
death:

1. That the absent spouse has been missing for four consecutive years, or two consecutive years if the
disappearance occurred where there is danger of death under the circumstances laid down in Article 391, Civil
Code;

2. That the present spouse wishes to remarry;

3. That the present spouse has a well-founded belief that the absentee is dead; and

4. That the present spouse files a summary proceeding for the declaration of presumptive death of the absentee.12

The Present Spouse Has the Burden


of Proof to Show that All the
Requisites Under Article 41 of the

21
Family Code Are Present

The burden of proof rests on the present spouse to show that all the requisites under Article 41 of the Family Code are
present. Since it is the present spouse who, for purposes of declaration of presumptive death, substantially asserts the
affirmative of the issue, it stands to reason that the burden of proof lies with him/her. He who alleges a fact has the
burden of proving it and mere allegation is not evidence.13

Declaration of Presumptive Death


Under Article 41 of the Family Code
Imposes a Stricter Standard

Notably, Article 41 of the Family Code, compared to the old provision of the Civil Code which it superseded, imposes
a stricter standard. It requires a "well-founded belief " that the absentee is already dead before a petition for declaration
of presumptive death can be granted. We have had occasion to make the same observation in Republic v.
Nolasco,14 where we noted the crucial differences between Article 41 of the Family Code and Article 83 of the Civil
Code, to wit:

Under Article 41, the time required for the presumption to arise has been shortened to four (4) years; however, there is
need for a judicial declaration of presumptive death to enable the spouse present to remarry. Also, Article 41 of the
Family Code imposes a stricter standard than the Civil Code: Article 83 of the Civil Code merely requires either that
there be no news that such absentee is still alive; or the absentee is generally considered to be dead and believed to be so
by the spouse present, or is presumed dead under Articles 390 and 391 of the Civil Code. The Family Code, upon the
other hand, prescribes as "well founded belief" that the absentee is already dead before a petition for declaration of
presumptive death can be granted.

Thus, mere absence of the spouse (even for such period required by the law), lack of any news that such absentee is still
alive, failure to communicate or general presumption of absence under the Civil Code would not suffice. This conclusion
proceeds from the premise that Article 41 of the Family Code places upon the present spouse the burden of proving the
additional and more stringent requirement of "well-founded belief" which can only be discharged upon a showing of
proper and honest-to-goodness inquiries and efforts to ascertain not only the absent spouse’s whereabouts but, more
importantly, that the absent spouse is still alive or is already dead.15

The Requirement of Well-Founded Belief

The law did not define what is meant by "well-founded belief." It depends upon the circumstances of each particular
case. Its determination, so to speak, remains on a case-to-case basis. To be able to comply with this requirement, the
present spouse must prove that his/her belief was the result of diligent and reasonable efforts and inquiries to locate the
absent spouse and that based on these efforts and inquiries, he/she believes that under the circumstances, the absent
spouseis already dead. It requires exertion of active effort (not a mere passive one).

To illustrate this degree of "diligent and reasonable search" required by the law, an analysis of the following relevant
cases is warranted:

i. Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals (Tenth Div.)16

In Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals (Tenth Div.),17 the Court ruled that the present spouse failed to prove
that he had a well-founded belief that his absent spouse was already dead before he filed his petition. His efforts to locate
his absent wife allegedly consisted of the following:

(1) He went to his in-laws’ house to look for her;

22
(2) He sought the barangay captain’s aid to locate her;

(3) He went to her friends’ houses to find her and inquired about her whereabouts among his friends;

(4) He went to Manila and worked as a part-time taxi driver to look for her in malls during his free time;

(5) He went back to Catbalogan and again looked for her; and

(6) He reported her disappearance to the local police station and to the NBI.

Despite these alleged "earnest efforts," the Court still ruled against the present spouse. The Court found that he failed to
present the persons from whom he allegedly made inquiries and only reported his wife’s absence after the OSG filed its
notice to dismiss his petition in the RTC.

The Court also provided the following criteria for determining the existence of a "well-founded belief" under Article 41
of the Family Code:

The belief of the present spouse must be the result of proper and honest to goodness inquiries and efforts to ascertain the
whereabouts of the absent spouse and whether the absent spouse is still alive or is already dead. Whether or not the
spouse present acted on a well-founded belief of death of the absent spouse depends upon the inquiries to be drawn from
a great many circumstances occurring before and after the disappearance of the absent spouse and the nature and extent
of the inquiries made by [the] present spouse.18

ii. Republic v. Granada19

Similarly in Granada, the Court ruled that the absent spouse failed to prove her "well-founded belief" that her absent
spouse was already dead prior to her filing of the petition. In this case, the present spouse alleged that her brother had
made inquiries from their relatives regarding the absent spouse’s whereabouts. The present spouse did not report to the
police nor seek the aid of the mass media. Applying the standards in Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals
(Tenth Div.),20 the Court ruled against the present spouse, as follows:

Applying the foregoing standards to the present case, petitioner points out that respondent Yolanda did not initiate a
diligent search to locate her absent husband. While her brother Diosdado Cadacio testified to having inquiredabout the
whereabouts of Cyrus from the latter’s relatives, these relatives were not presented to corroborate Diosdado’s testimony.
In short, respondent was allegedly not diligent in her search for her husband. Petitioner argues that if she were, she
would have sought information from the Taiwanese Consular Office or assistance from other government agencies in
Taiwan or the Philippines. She could have also utilized mass media for this end, but she did not. Worse, she failed to
explain these omissions.

iii.Republic v. Nolasco21

In Nolasco, the present spouse filed a petition for declaration of presumptive death of his wife, who had been missing for
more than four years. He testified that his efforts to find her consisted of:

(1) Searching for her whenever his ship docked in England;

(2) Sending her letters which were all returned to him; and

(3) Inquiring from their friends regarding her whereabouts, which all proved fruitless. The Court ruled that the
present spouse’s investigations were too sketchy to form a basis that his wife was already dead and ruled that the
pieces of evidence only proved that his wife had chosen not to communicate with their common acquaintances,

23
and not that she was dead.

iv.The present case

In the case at bar, the respondent’s "well-founded belief" was anchored on her alleged "earnest efforts" to locate Jerry,
which consisted of the following:

(1) She made inquiries about Jerry’s whereabouts from her in-laws, neighbors and friends; and

(2) Whenever she went to a hospital, she saw to it that she looked through the patients’ directory, hoping to find
Jerry.

These efforts, however, fell short of the "stringent standard" and degree of diligence required by jurisprudence for the
following reasons:

First, the respondent did not actively look for her missing husband. It can be inferred from the records that her hospital
1âwphi1

visits and her consequent checking of the patients’ directory therein were unintentional. She did not purposely undertake
a diligent search for her husband as her hospital visits were not planned nor primarily directed to look for him. This
Court thus considers these attempts insufficient to engender a belief that her husband is dead.

Second, she did not report Jerry’s absence to the police nor did she seek the aid of the authorities to look for him. While a
finding of well-founded belief varies with the nature of the situation in which the present spouse is placed, under present
conditions, we find it proper and prudent for a present spouse, whose spouse had been missing, to seek the aid of the
authorities or, at the very least, report his/her absence to the police.

Third, she did not present as witnesses Jerry’s relatives or their neighbors and friends, who can corroborate her efforts to
locate Jerry. Worse, these persons, from whom she allegedly made inquiries, were not even named. As held in Nolasco,
the present spouse’s bare assertion that he inquired from his friends about his absent spouse’s whereabouts is insufficient
as the names of the friends from whom he made inquiries were not identified in the testimony nor presented as witnesses.

Lastly, there was no other corroborative evidence to support the respondent’s claim that she conducted a diligent search.
Neither was there supporting evidence proving that she had a well-founded belief other than her bare claims that she
inquired from her friends and in-laws about her husband’s whereabouts. In sum, the Court is of the view that the
respondent merely engaged in a "passive search" where she relied on uncorroborated inquiries from her in-laws,
neighbors and friends. She failed to conduct a diligent search because her alleged efforts are insufficient to form a well-
founded belief that her husband was already dead. As held in Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals (Tenth
Div.),22 "[w]hether or not the spouse present acted on a well-founded belief of death of the absent spouse depends upon
the inquiries to be drawn from a great many circumstances occurring before and after the disappearance of the absent
spouse and the natureand extent of the inquiries made by [the] present spouse."

Strict Standard Approach Is


Consistent with the State’s Policy
to Protect and Strengthen Marriage

In the above-cited cases, the Court, fully aware of the possible collusion of spouses in nullifying their marriage, has
consistently applied the "strictstandard" approach. This is to ensure that a petition for declaration of presumptive death
under Article 41 of the Family Code is not used as a tool to conveniently circumvent the laws. Courts should never allow
procedural shortcuts and should ensure that the stricter standard required by the Family Code is met. In Republic of the
Philippines v. Court of Appeals (Tenth Div.),23 we emphasized that:

In view of the summary nature of proceedings under Article 41 of the Family Code for the declaration of presumptive

24
death of one’s spouse, the degree of due diligence set by this Honorable Court in the above-mentioned cases in locating
the whereabouts of a missing spouse must be strictly complied with. There have been times when Article 41 of the
Family Code had been resorted to by parties wishing to remarry knowing fully well that their alleged missing spouses are
alive and well. It is even possible that those who cannot have their marriages xxx declared null and void under Article 36
of the Family Code resort to Article 41 of the Family Code for relief because of the xxx summary nature of its
proceedings.

The application of this stricter standard becomes even more imperative if we consider the State’s policy to protect and
strengthen the institution of marriage.24 Since marriage serves as the family’s foundation25 and since it is the state’s policy
to protect and strengthen the family as a basic social institution,26 marriage should not be permitted to be dissolved at the
whim of the parties. In interpreting and applying Article 41, this is the underlying rationale –to uphold the sanctity of
marriage. Arroyo, Jr.v. Court of Appeals27 reflected this sentiment when we stressed:

[The]protection of the basic social institutions of marriage and the family in the preservation of which the State has the
strongest interest; the public policy here involved is of the most fundamental kind. In Article II, Section 12 of the
Constitution there is set forth the following basic state policy:

The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social
institution.

Strict Standard Prescribed Under


Article 41 of the Family Code
Is for the Present Spouse’s Benefit

The requisite judicial declaration of presumptive death of the absent spouse (and consequently, the application of a
stringent standard for its issuance) is also for the present spouse's benefit. It is intended to protect him/her from a
criminal prosecution of bigamy under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code which might come into play if he/she
would prematurely remarry sans the court's declaration.

Upon the issuance of the decision declaring his/her absent spouse presumptively dead, the present spouse's good faith in
contracting a second marriage is effectively established. The decision of the competent court constitutes sufficient proof
of his/her good faith and his/her criminal intent in case of remarriage is effectively negated.28 Thus, for purposes of
remarriage, it is necessary to strictly comply with the stringent standard and have the absent spouse judicially declared
presumptively dead.

Final Word

As a final word, it has not escaped this Court's attention that the strict standard required in petitions for declaration of
presumptive death has not been fully observed by the lower courts. We need only to cite the instances when this Court,
on review, has consistently ruled on the sanctity of marriage and reiterated that anything less than the use of the strict
standard necessitates a denial. To rectify this situation, lower courts are now expressly put on notice of the strict standard
this Court requires in cases under Article 41 of the Family Code.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the assailed decision dated August 27, 2008 of the Court of Appeals, which
affirmed the order dated December 15, 2006 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 25, Koronadal City, South Cotabato,
declaring Jerry F. Cantor presumptively dead is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE.

SO ORDERED.

ARTURO D. BRION

25
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. NO. 182760 : April 10, 2013

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, v. ROBERT P. NARCEDA, Respondent.

RESOLUTION

SERENO, C.J.:

The present case stems from a Petition for Review1 filed by the Republic of the Philippines (petitioner), praying for the reversal of the Decision 2 of
the Court of Appeals (CA) dated 14 November 2007 and its subsequent Resolution3 dated 29 April 2008. The CA dismissed the appeal of petitioner,
because it supposedly lacked jurisdiction to decide the matter. It held that the Decision 4 of the Regional Trial Court of Balaoan, La Union (RTC)
declaring the presumptive death of Marina B. Narceda (Marina) was immediately final and executory, "because by express provision of law, the
judgment of the RTC is not appealable."5 chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Robert P. Narceda (respondent) married Marina on 22 July 1987. A reading of the Marriage Contract 6 he presented will reveal that at the time of their
wedding, Marina was only 17 years and 4 months old.

According to respondent, Marina went to Singapore sometime in 1994 and never returned since. 7 There was never any communication between them.
He tried to look for her, but he could not find her. Several years after she left, one of their town mates in Luna, La Union came home from Singapore
and told him that the last time she saw his wife, the latter was already living with a Singaporean husband.8 chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

In view of her absence and his desire to remarry,9 respondent filed with the RTC on 16 May 2002 a Petition for a judicial declaration of the
presumptive death and/or absence of Marina.10 chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

The RTC granted respondent's Petition in a Decision11 dated 5 May 2005, the dispositive portion of which reads: chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court hereby renders judgment declaring the PRESUMPTIVE DEATH of MARINA B. NARCEDA for all
legal intents and purposes of law as provided for in Rule 131, Sec. 3(w-4), Rules of Court, without prejudice to the effect of re-appearance of the
absent spouse.

SO ORDERED.12 chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Petitioner, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), appealed the foregoing Decision to the CA. According to petitioner, respondent failed
to conduct a search for his missing wife with the diligence required by law and enough to give rise to a "well-founded" belief that she was dead.13 chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

The CA dismissed the appeal ruling that the hearing of a petition for the declaration of presumptive death is a summary proceeding under the Family
Code and is thus governed by Title XI thereof.14 Article 247 of the Family Code provides that the judgment of the trial court in summary court
proceedings shall be immediately final and executory. The dispositive portion of the CA Decision reads: chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant appeal is hereby DISMISSED OUTRIGHT on the GROUND OF LACK OF JURISDICTION, and
this Court hereby reiterates the fact that the RTC Decision is immediately final and executory because by express provision of law, the judgment of
the RTC is not appealable.

SO ORDERED.15 chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

The OSG filed a Motion for Reconsideration, but it was likewise denied through the CA's 29 April 2008 Resolution. 16 chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Petitioner now comes to this Court, through Rule 45, alleging as follows: chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

26
1. The Court of Appeals erred in dismissing the Petition on the ground of lack of jurisdiction. 17 chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

2. Respondent has failed to establish a well-founded belief that his absentee spouse is dead.18 chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

The OSG insists that the CA had jurisdiction to entertain the Petition, because respondent had failed to establish a well-founded belief that his
absentee spouse was dead.19 The OSG cites Republic v. CA (Jomoc),20 in which this Court ruled: chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

By the trial court's citation of Article 41 of the Family Code, it is gathered that the petition of Apolinaria Jomoc to have her absent spouse declared
presumptively dead had for its purpose her desire to contract a valid subsequent marriage. Ergo, the petition for that purpose is a "summary
proceeding," following above-quoted Art. 41, paragraph 2 of the Family Code.

xxx

there is no doubt that the petition of Apolinaria Jomoc required, and is, therefore, a summary proceeding under the Family Code, not a special
proceeding under the Revised Rules of Court appeal for which calls for the filing of a Record on Appeal. It being a summary ordinary proceeding, the
filing of a Notice of Appeal from the trial court's order sufficed. (Emphasis in the original) 21
chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

The CA points out, however, that because the resolution of a petition for the declaration of presumptive death requires a summary proceeding, the
procedural rules to be followed are those enumerated in Title XI of the Family Code. Articles 238, 247, and 253 thereof read: chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Art. 238. Until modified by the Supreme Court, the procedural rules provided for in this Title shall apply as regards separation in fact between
husband and wife, abandonment by one of the other, and incidents involving parental authority.

xxx

Art. 247. The judgment of the court shall be immediately final and executory.

xxx

ART. 253. The foregoing rules in Chapters 2 and 3 hereof shall likewise govern summary proceedings filed under Articles 41, 51, 69, 73, 96, 124 and
217, insofar as they are applicable.

The appellate court argues that there is no reglementary period within which to perfect an appeal in summary judicial proceedings under the Family
Code, because the judgments rendered thereunder, by express provision of Article 247, are immediately final and executory upon notice to the
parties.22 In support of its stance, it cited Republic v. Bermudez-Lorino (Bermudez-Lorino),23 in which this Court held: chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

In Summary Judicial Proceedings under the Family Code, there is no reglementary period within which to perfect an appeal, precisely because
judgments rendered thereunder, by express provision of Section 247, Family Code, supra, are "immediately final and executory." It was erroneous,
therefore, on the part of the RTC to give due course to the Republic's appeal and order the transmittal of the entire records of the case to the Court of
Appeals.

An appellate court acquires no jurisdiction to review a judgment which, by express provision of law, is immediately final and executory. As we have
said in Veloria vs. Comelec, "the right to appeal is not a natural right nor is it a part of due process, for it is merely a statutory privilege." Since, by
express mandate of Article 247 of the Family Code, all judgments rendered in summary judicial proceedings in Family Law are "immediately final
and executory," the right to appeal was not granted to any of the parties therein. The Republic of the Philippines, as oppositor in the petition for
declaration of presumptive death, should not be treated differently. It had no right to appeal the RTC decision of November 7, 2001. 24 chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

We agree with the CA.

Article 41 of the Family Code provides: chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Art. 41. 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 has 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 Article 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

27
provided in this Code for the declaration of presumptive death of the absentee, without prejudice to the effect of reappearance of the absent spouse.

This Court has already declared in Republic v. Granda 25 that Jomoc cannot be interpreted as having superseded our pronouncements in Bermudez-
Lorino, because Jomoc does not expound on the characteristics of a summary proceeding under the Family Code; Bermudez-Lorino, however,
squarely touches upon the impropriety of an ordinary appeal as a vehicle for questioning a trial court's decision in a summary proceeding for the
declaration of presumptive death under Article 41 of the Family Code. 26 chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

As explained in Republic v. Tango,27 the remedy of a losing party in a summary proceeding is not an ordinary appeal, but a petition for certiorari, to
wit:
chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

By express provision of law, the judgment of the court in a summary proceeding shall be immediately final and executory. As a matter of course, it
follows that no appeal can be had of the trial court's judgment in a summary proceeding for the declaration of presumptive death of an absent spouse
under Article 41 of the Family Code. It goes without saying, however, that an aggrieved party may file a petition for certiorari to question abuse of
discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction. Such petition should be filed in the Court of Appeals in accordance with the Doctrine of Hierarchy of
Courts. To be sure, even if the Court's original jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari is concurrent with the RTCs and the Court of Appeals in
certain cases, such concurrence does not sanction an unrestricted freedom of choice of court forum. From the decision of the Court of Appeals, the
losing party may then file a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court with the Supreme Court. This is because the errors
which the court may commit in the exercise of jurisdiction are merely errors of judgment which are the proper subject of an appeal.

When the OSG filed its notice of appeal under Rule 42, it availed itself of the wrong remedy. As a result, the running of the period for filing of a
Petition for Certiorari continued to run and was not tolled. Upon lapse of that period, the Decision of the RTC could no longer be questioned.
Consequently, petitioner's contention that respondent has failed to establish a well-founded belief that his absentee spouse is dead28 may no longer be
entertained by this Court.

WHEREFORE, the instant Petition is DENIED. The 14 November 2007 Decision of the Court Appeals and its subsequent 29 April 2008 Resolution
in CA-G.R. CV No. 85704, dismissing the appeal of the Republic of the Philippines are AFFIRMED.

The Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Balaoan, La Union in Special Proceeding No. 622 dated 5 May 2005 declaring the presumptive death of
Marina B. Narceda is hereby declared FINAL and EXECUTORY.

SO ORDERED.

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 187061, October 08, 2014

CELERINA J. SANTOS, Petitioner, v. RICARDO T. SANTOS, Respondent.

DECISION

LEONEN, J.:

The proper remedy for a judicial declaration of presumptive death obtained by extrinsic fraud is an action to annul the judgment. An affidavit of
reappearance is not the proper remedy when the person declared presumptively dead has never been absent.

This is a petition for review on certiorari filed by Celerina J. Santos, assailing the Court of Appeals' resolutions dated November 28, 2008 and March
5, 2009. The Court of Appeals dismissed the petition for the annulment of the trial court's judgment declaring her presumptively dead.

On July 27, 2007, the Regional Trial Court of Tarlac City declared petitioner Celerina J. Santos (Celerina) presumptively dead after her husband,
respondent Ricardo T. Santos (Ricardo), had filed a petition for declaration of absence or presumptive death for the purpose of remarriage on� June
15, 2007.1 Ricardo remarried on September 17, 2008.2 chanrobleslaw

In his petition for declaration of absence or presumptive death, Ricardo alleged that he and Celerina rented an apartment somewhere in San Juan,
Metro Manila; after they had gotten married on June 18, 1980. 3 After a year, they moved to Tarlac City. They were engaged in the buy and sell
business.4 chanrobleslaw

Ricardo claimed that their business did not prosper. 5 As a result, Celerina convinced him to allow her to work as a domestic helper in Hong
Kong.6 Ricardo initially refused but because of Celerina's insistence, he allowed her to work abroad.7 She allegedly applied in an employment agency
in Ermita, Manila, in February 1995. She left Tarlac two months after and was never heard from again. 8 chanrobleslaw

28
Ricardo further alleged that he exerted efforts to locate Celerina. 9 He went to Celerina's parents in Cubao, Quezon City, but they, too, did not know
their daughter's whereabouts.10 He also inquired about her from other relatives and friends, but no one gave him any information. 11 chanrobleslaw

Ricardo claimed that it was almost 12 years from the date of his Regional Trial Court petition since Celerina left.� He believed that she had passed
away.12chanrobleslaw

Celerina claimed that she learned about Ricardo's petition only sometime in October 2008 when she could no longer avail the remedies of new trial,
appeal, petition for relief, or other appropriate remedies. 13
chanrobleslaw

On November 17, 2008, Celerina filed a petition for annulment of judgment 14 before the Court of Appeals on the grounds of extrinsic fraud and lack
of jurisdiction. She argued that she was deprived her day in court when Ricardo, despite his knowledge of her true residence, misrepresented to the
court that she was a resident of Tarlac City.15 According to Celerina, her true residence was in Neptune Extension, Congressional Avenue, Quezon
City.16 This residence had been her and Ricardo's conjugal dwelling since 1989 until Ricardo left in May 2008. 17 As a result of Ricardo's
misrepresentation, she was deprived of any notice of and opportunity to oppose the petition declaring her presumptively dead.18 chanrobleslaw

Celerina claimed that she never resided in Tarlac.� She also never left and worked as a domestic helper abroad.20 Neither did she go to an
employment agency in February 1995.21 She also claimed that it was not true that she had been absent for 12 years. Ricardo was aware that she never
left their conjugal dwelling in Quezon City.22 It was he who left the conjugal dwelling in May 2008 to cohabit with another woman. 23 Celerina
referred to a joint affidavit executed by their children to support her contention that Ricardo made false allegations in his petition. 24 chanrobleslaw

Celerina also argued that the court did not acquire jurisdiction over Ricardo's petition because it had never been published in a newspaper.25 She
added that the Office of the Solicitor General and the Provincial Prosecutor's Office were not furnished copies of Ricardo's petition.26 chanrobleslaw

The Court of Appeals issued the resolution dated November 28, 2008, dismissing Celerina's petition for annulment of judgment for being a wrong
mode of remedy.27 According to the Court of Appeals, the proper remedy was to file a sworn statement before the civil registry, declaring her
reappearance in accordance with Article 42 of the Family Code.28 chanrobleslaw

Celerina filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court of Appeals' resolution dated November 28, 2008. 29 The Court of Appeals denied the motion
for reconsideration in the resolution dated March 5, 2009. 30 chanrobleslaw

Hence, this petition was filed.

The issue for resolution is whether the Court of Appeals erred in dismissing Celerina's petition for annulment of judgment for being a wrong remedy
for a fraudulently obtained judgment declaring presumptive death.

Celerina argued that filing an affidavit of reappearance under Article 42 of the Family Code is appropriate only when the spouse is actually absent
and the spouse seeking the declaration of presumptive death actually has a well-founded belief of the spouse's death.31 She added that it would be
inappropriate to file an affidavit of reappearance if she did not disappear in the first place. 32 She insisted that an action for annulment of judgment is
proper when the declaration of presumptive death is obtained fraudulently. 33 chanrobleslaw

Celerina further argued that filing an affidavit of reappearance under Article 42 of the Family Code would not be a sufficient remedy because it
would not nullify the legal effects of the judgment declaring her presumptive death. 34 chanrobleslaw

In Ricardo's comment,35 he argued that a petition for annulment of judgment is not the proper remedy because it cannot be availed when there are
other remedies available. Celerina could always file an affidavit of reappearance to terminate the subsequent marriage. Ricardo iterated the Court of
Appeals' ruling that the remedy afforded to Celerina under Article 42 of the Family Code is the appropriate remedy.

The petition is meritorious.

Annulment of judgment is the remedy when the Regional Trial Court's judgment, order, or resolution has become final, and the "remedies of new
trial, appeal, petition for relief (or other appropriate remedies) are no longer available through no fault of the petitioner."36 chanrobleslaw

The grounds for annulment of judgment are extrinsic fraud and lack of jurisdiction.37 This court defined extrinsic fraud in Stilianopulos v. City of
Legaspi:38 chanrobleslaw

For fraud to become a basis for annulment of judgment, it has to be extrinsic or actual. It is intrinsic when the fraudulent acts pertain to an issue
involved in the original action or where the acts constituting the fraud were or could have been litigated, It is extrinsic or collateral when a litigant
commits acts outside of the trial which prevents a parly from having a real contest, or from presenting all of his case, such that there is no fair
submission of the controversy.39 (Emphasis supplied)

Celerina alleged in her petition for annulment of judgment that there was fraud when Ricardo deliberately made false allegations in the court with
respect to her residence.40 Ricardo also falsely claimed that she was absent for 12 years. There was also no publication of the notice of hearing of
Ricardo's petition in a newspaper of general circulation.41 Celerina claimed that because of these, she was deprived of notice and opportunity to
oppose Ricardo's petition to declare her presumptively dead. 42 chanrobleslaw

29
Celerina alleged that all the facts supporting Ricardo's petition for declaration of presumptive death were false. 43 Celerina further claimed that the
court did not acquire jurisdiction because the Office of the Solicitor General and the Provincial Prosecutor's Office were not given copies of Ricardo's
petition.44 chanrobleslaw

These are allegations of extrinsic fraud and lack of jurisdiction. Celerina alleged in her petition with the Court of Appeals sufficient ground/s for
annulment of judgment.

Celerina filed her petition for annulment of judgment45 on November 17, 2008. This was less than two years from the July 27, 2007 decision
declaring her presumptively dead and about a month from her discovery of the decision in October 2008. The petition was, therefore, filed within the
four-year period allowed by law in case of extrinsic fraud, and before the action is barred by laches, which is the period allowed in case of lack of
jurisdiction.46 chanrobleslaw

There was also no other sufficient remedy available to Celerina at the time of her discovery of the fraud perpetrated on her.

The choice of remedy is important because remedies carry with them certain admissions, presumptions, and conditions.

The Family Code provides that it is the proof of absence of a spouse for four consecutive years, coupled with a well-founded belief by the present
spouse that the absent spouse is already dead, that constitutes a justification for a second marriage during the subsistence of another marriage. 47 chanrobleslaw

The Family Code also provides that the second marriage is in danger of being terminated by the presumptively dead spouse when he or she reappears.
Thus:chanRoblesv irtualLawlibrary

Article 42. The subsequent marriage referred to in the preceding Article shall be automatically terminated by the recording of the affidavit of
reappearance of the absent spouse, unless there is a judgment annulling the previous marriage or declaring it void ab initio.

A sworn statement of the fact and circumstances of reappearance shall be recorded in the civil registry of the residence of the parties to the
subsequent marriage at the instance of any interested person, with due notice to the spouses of the subsequent marriage and without prejudice to the
fact of reappearance being judicially determined in case such fact is disputed. (Emphasis supplied)

In other words, the Family Code provides the presumptively dead spouse with the remedy of terminating the subsequent marriage by mere
reappearance.

The filing of an affidavit of reappearance is an admission on the part of the first spouse that his or her marriage to the present spouse was terminated
when he or she was declared absent or presumptively dead.

Moreover, a close reading of the entire Article 42 reveals that the termination of the subsequent marriage by reappearance is subject to several
conditions: (1) the non-existence of a judgment annulling the previous marriage or declaring it void ab initio; (2) recording in the civil registry of the
residence of the parties to the subsequent marriage of the sworn statement of fact and circumstances of reappearance; (3) due notice to the spouses of
the subsequent marriage of the fact of reappearance; and (4) the fact of reappearance must either be undisputed or judicially determined.

The existence of these conditions means that reappearance does not always immediately cause the subsequent marriage's termination.�
Reappearance of the absent or presumptively dead spouse will cause the termination of the subsequent marriage only when all the conditions
enumerated in the Family Code are present.

Hence, the subsequent marriage may still subsist despite the absent or presumptively dead spouse's reappearance (1) if the first marriage has already
been annulled or has been declared a nullity; (2) if the sworn statement of the reappearance is not recorded in the civil registry of the subsequent
spouses' residence; (3) if there is no notice to the subsequent spouses; or (4) if the fact of reappearance is disputed in the proper courts of law, and no
judgment is yet rendered confirming, such fact of reappearance.

When subsequent marriages are contracted after a judicial declaration of presumptive death, a presumption arises that the first spouse is already dead
and that the second marriage is legal. This presumption should prevail over the continuance of the marital relations with the first spouse.48 The second
marriage, as with all marriages, is presumed valid.49 The burden of proof to show that the first marriage was not properly dissolved rests on the
person assailing the validity of the second marriage.50 chanrobleslaw

This court recognized the conditional nature of reappearance as a cause for terminating the subsequent marriage in Social Security System v. Vda. de
Bailon.51 This court noted52 that mere reappearance will not terminate the subsequent marriage even if the parties to the subsequent marriage were
notified if there was "no step . . . taken to terminate the subsequent marriage, either by [filing an] affidavit [of reappearance] or by court
action[.]"53 "Since the second marriage has been contracted because of a presumption that the former spouse is dead, such presumption continues
inspite of the spouse's physical reappearance, and by fiction of law, he or she must still be regarded as legally an absentee until the subsequent
marriage is terminated as provided by law."54 chanrobleslaw

The choice of the proper remedy is also important for purposes of determining the status of the second marriage and the liabilities of the spouse who,
in bad faith, claimed that the other spouse was absent.

A second marriage is bigamous while the first subsists.� However, a bigamous subsequent marriage may be considered valid when the following are

30
present: chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

1) The prior spouse had been absent for four consecutive years;
2) The spouse present has a well-founded belief that the absent spouse was already dead;
3) There must be a summary proceeding for the declaration of presumptive death of the absent spouse;
and
4) There is a court declaration of presumptive death of the absent spouse.55
A subsequent marriage contracted in bad faith, even if it was contracted after a court declaration of presumptive death, lacks the requirement of a
well-founded belief56 that the spouse is already dead. The first marriage will not be considered as. validly terminated. Marriages contracted prior to
the valid termination of a subsisting marriage are generally considered bigamous and void.57 Only a subsequent marriage contracted in good faith is
protected by law.

Therefore, the party who contracted the subsequent marriage in bad faith is also not immune from an action to declare his subsequent marriage void
for being bigamous. The prohibition against marriage during the subsistence of another marriage still applies. 58 chanrobleslaw

If, as Celerina contends, Ricardo was in bad faith when he filed his petition to declare her presumptively dead and when he contracted the subsequent
marriage, such marriage would be considered void for being bigamous under Article 35(4) of the Family Code. This is because the circumstances
lack the element of "well-founded belief under Article 41 of the Family Code, which is essential for the exception to the rule against bigamous
marriages to apply.59 chanrobleslaw

The provision on reappearance in the Family Code as a remedy to effect the termination of the subsequent marriage does not preclude the spouse who
was declared presumptively dead from availing other remedies existing in law. This court had, in fact, recognized that a subsequent marriage may
also be terminated by filing "an action in court to prove the reappearance of the absentee and obtain a declaration of dissolution or termination of the
subsequent marriage."60 chanrobleslaw

Celerina does not admit to have been absent. She also seeks not merely the termination of the subsequent marriage but also the nullification of its
effects. She contends that reappearance is not a sufficient remedy because it will only terminate the subsequent marriage but not nullify the effects of
the declaration of her presumptive death and the subsequent marriage.

Celerina is correct. Since an undisturbed subsequent marriage under Article 42 of the Family Code is valid until terminated, the "children of such
marriage shall be considered legitimate, and the property relations of the spouse[s] in such marriage will be the same as in valid marriages."61 If it is
terminated by mere reappearance, the children of the subsequent marriage conceived before the termination shall still be considered
legitimate.62 Moreover, a judgment declaring presumptive death is a defense against prosecution for bigamy. 63 chanrobleslaw

It is true that in most cases, an action to declare the nullity of the subsequent marriage may nullify the effects of the subsequent marriage, specifically,
in relation to the status of children and the prospect of prosecuting a respondent for bigamy.

However, "a Petition for Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages may be filed solely by the husband or wife." 64� This means that even if
Celerina is a real party in interest who stands to be benefited or injured by the outcome of an action to nullify the second marriage,65 this remedy is
not available to her.

Therefore, for the purpose of not only terminating the subsequent marriage but also of nullifying the effects of the declaration of presumptive death
and the subsequent marriage, mere filing of an affidavit of reappearance would not suffice. Celerina's choice to file an action for annulment of
judgment will, therefore, lie.

WHEREFORE, the case is REMANDED to the Court of Appeals for determination of the existence of extrinsic fraud, grounds for
nullity/annulment of the first marriage, and the merits of the petition.

SO ORDERED. cralawlawlibrary

Carpio, (Chairperson), Del Castillo,� Mendoza, and Perlas-Bernabe,* JJ., concur.

Endnotes:

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 169766 March 30, 2011

ESTRELLITA JULIANO-LLAVE, Petitioner,


vs.

31
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, HAJA PUTRI ZORAYDA A. TAMANO and ADIB AHMAD A.
TAMANO,Respondents.

DECISION

DEL CASTILLO, J.:

A new law ought to affect the future, not what is past. Hence, in the case of subsequent marriage laws, no vested rights
shall be impaired that pertain to the protection of the legitimate union of a married couple.

This petition for review on certiorari assails the Decision1 dated August 17, 2004 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-
G.R. CV No. 61762 and its subsequent Resolution2 dated September 13, 2005, which affirmed the Decision of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch 89 declaring petitioner Estrellita Juliano-Llave’s (Estrellita)
marriage to Sen. Mamintal A.J. Tamano (Sen. Tamano) as void ab initio.

Factual Antecedents

Around 11 months before his death, Sen. Tamano married Estrellita twice – initially under the Islamic laws and tradition
on May 27, 1993 in Cotabato City3 and, subsequently, under a civil ceremony officiated by an RTC Judge at Malabang,
Lanao del Sur on June 2, 1993.4 In their marriage contracts, Sen. Tamano’s civil status was indicated as ‘divorced.’

Since then, Estrellita has been representing herself to the whole world as Sen. Tamano’s wife, and upon his death, his
widow.

On November 23, 1994, private respondents Haja Putri Zorayda A. Tamano (Zorayda) and her son Adib Ahmad A.
Tamano (Adib), in their own behalf and in behalf of the rest of Sen. Tamano’s legitimate children with Zorayda,5 filed a
complaint with the RTC of Quezon City for the declaration of nullity of marriage between Estrellita and Sen. Tamano for
being bigamous. The complaint6 alleged, inter alia, that Sen. Tamano married Zorayda on May 31, 1958 under civil rites,
and that this marriage remained subsisting when he married Estrellita in 1993. The complaint likewise averred that:

11. The marriage of the deceased and Complainant Zorayda, having been celebrated under the New Civil Code,
is therefore governed by this law. Based on Article 35 (4) of the Family Code, the subsequent marriage entered
into by deceased Mamintal with Defendant Llave is void ab initio because he contracted the same while his prior
marriage to Complainant Zorayda was still subsisting, and his status being declared as "divorced" has no factual
or legal basis, because the deceased never divorced Complainant Zorayda in his lifetime, and he could not have
validly done so because divorce is not allowed under the New Civil Code;

11.1 Moreover, the deceased did not and could not have divorced Complainant Zorayda by invoking the
provision of P.D. 1083, otherwise known as the Code of Muslim Personal Laws, for the simple reason that the
marriage of the deceased with Complainant Zorayda was never deemed, legally and factually, to have been one
contracted under Muslim law as provided under Art. 186 (2) of P.D. 1083, since they (deceased and
Complainant Zorayda) did not register their mutual desire to be thus covered by this law;7

Summons was then served on Estrellita on December 19, 1994. She then asked from the court for an extension of 30
days to file her answer to be counted from January 4, 1995,8 and again, another 15 days9 or until February 18, 1995, both
of which the court granted.10

Instead of submitting her answer, however, Estrellita filed a Motion to Dismiss11 on February 20, 1995 where she
declared that Sen. Tamano and Zorayda are both Muslims who were married under the Muslim rites, as had been averred
in the latter’s disbarment complaint against Sen. Tamano.12 Estrellita argued that the RTC has no jurisdiction to take
cognizance of the case because under Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1083, or the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the

32
Philippines (Muslim Code), questions and issues involving Muslim marriages and divorce fall under the exclusive
jurisdiction of shari’a courts.

The trial court denied Estrellita’s motion and asserted its jurisdiction over the case for declaration of nullity.13 Thus,
Estrellita filed in November 1995 a certiorari petition with this Court questioning the denial of her Motion to Dismiss.
On December 15, 1995, we referred the petition to the CA14 which was docketed thereat as CA-G.R. SP No. 39656.

During the pendency of CA-G.R. SP No. 39656, the RTC continued to try the case since there can be no default in cases
of declaration of nullity of marriage even if the respondent failed to file an answer. Estrellita was allowed to participate
in the trial while her opposing parties presented their evidence. When it was Estrellita’s turn to adduce evidence, the
hearings set for such purpose15 were postponed mostly at her instance until the trial court, on March 22, 1996, suspended
the proceedings16 in view of the CA’s temporary restraining order issued on February 29, 1996, enjoining it from hearing
the case.17

Eventually, however, the CA resolved the petition adverse to Estrellita in its Decision dated September 30,
1996.18Estrellita then elevated the appellate court’s judgment to this Court by way of a petition for review on certiorari
docketed as G.R. No. 126603.19

Subsequent to the promulgation of the CA Decision, the RTC ordered Estrellita to present her evidence on June 26,
1997.20 As Estrellita was indisposed on that day, the hearing was reset to July 9, 1997.21 The day before this scheduled
hearing, Estrellita again asked for a postponement.22

Unhappy with the delays in the resolution of their case, Zorayda and Adib moved to submit the case for
decision,23reasoning that Estrellita had long been delaying the case. Estrellita opposed, on the ground that she has not yet
filed her answer as she still awaits the outcome of G.R. No. 126603.24

On June 29, 1998, we upheld the jurisdiction of the RTC of Quezon City,25 stating as one of the reasons that as shari’a
courts are not vested with original and exclusive jurisdiction in cases of marriages celebrated under both the Civil Code
and PD 1083, the RTC, as a court of general jurisdiction, is not precluded from assuming jurisdiction over such cases. In
our Resolution dated August 24, 1998,26 we denied Estrellita’s motion for reconsideration27 with finality.

A few days before this resolution, or on August 18, 1998, the RTC rendered the aforementioned judgment declaring
Estrellita’s marriage with Sen. Tamano as void ab initio.28

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court

The RTC, finding that the marital ties of Sen. Tamano and Zorayda were never severed, declared Sen. Tamano’s
subsequent marriage to Estrellita as void ab initio for being bigamous under Article 35 of the Family Code of the
Philippines and under Article 83 of the Civil Code of the Philippines.29 The court said:

A comparison between Exhibits A and B (supra) immediately shows that the second marriage of the late Senator with
[Estrellita] was entered into during the subsistence of his first marriage with [Zorayda]. This renders the subsequent
marriage void from the very beginning. The fact that the late Senator declared his civil status as "divorced" will not in
any way affect the void character of the second marriage because, in this jurisdiction, divorce obtained by the Filipino
spouse is not an acceptable method of terminating the effects of a previous marriage, especially, where the subsequent
marriage was solemnized under the Civil Code or Family Code.30

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

In her appeal,31 Estrellita argued that she was denied her right to be heard as

33
the RTC rendered its judgment even without waiting for the finality of the Decision of the Supreme Court in G.R. No.
126603. She claimed that the RTC should have required her to file her answer after the denial of her motion to dismiss.
She maintained that Sen. Tamano is capacitated to marry her as his marriage and subsequent divorce with Zorayda is
governed by the Muslim Code. Lastly, she highlighted Zorayda’s lack of legal standing to question the validity of her
marriage to the deceased.

In dismissing the appeal in its Decision dated August 17, 2004,32 the CA held that Estrellita can no longer be allowed to
file her answer as she was given ample opportunity to be heard but simply ignored it by asking for numerous
postponements. She never filed her answer despite the lapse of around 60 days, a period longer than what was prescribed
by the rules. It also ruled that Estrellita cannot rely on her pending petition for certiorari with the higher courts since, as
an independent and original action, it does not interrupt the proceedings in the trial court.

As to the substantive merit of the case, the CA adjudged that Estrellita’s marriage to Sen. Tamano is void ab initio for
being bigamous, reasoning that the marriage of Zorayda and Sen. Tamano is governed by the Civil Code, which does not
provide for an absolute divorce. It noted that their first nuptial celebration was under civil rites, while the subsequent
Muslim celebration was only ceremonial. Zorayda then, according to the CA, had the legal standing to file the action as
she is Sen. Tamano’s wife and, hence, the injured party in the senator’s subsequent bigamous marriage with Estrellita.

In its September 13, 2005 Resolution,33 the CA denied Estrellita’s Motion for Reconsideration/Supplemental Motion for
Reconsideration where it debunked the additional errors she raised. The CA noted that the allegation of lack of the public
prosecutor’s report on the existence of collusion in violation of both Rule 9, Section 3(e) of the Rules of Court34 and
Article 48 of the Family Code35 will not invalidate the trial court’s judgment as the proceedings between the parties had
been adversarial, negating the existence of collusion. Assuming that the issues have not been joined before the RTC, the
same is attributable to Estrellita’s refusal to file an answer. Lastly, the CA disregarded Estrellita’s allegation that the trial
court erroneously rendered its judgment way prior to our remand to the RTC of the records of the case ratiocinating that
G.R. No. 126603 pertains to the issue on the denial of the Motion to Dismiss, and not to the issue of the validity of
Estrellita’s marriage to Sen. Tamano.

The Parties’ Respective Arguments

Reiterating her arguments before the court a quo, Estrellita now argues that the CA erred in upholding the RTC judgment
as the latter was prematurely issued, depriving her of the opportunity to file an answer and to present her evidence to
dispute the allegations against the validity of her marriage. She claims that Judge Macias v. Macias36laid down the rule
that the filing of a motion to dismiss instead of an answer suspends the period to file an answer and, consequently, the
trial court is obliged to suspend proceedings while her motion to dismiss on the ground of lack of jurisdiction has not yet
been resolved with finality. She maintains that she merely participated in the RTC hearings because of the trial court’s
assurance that the proceedings will be without prejudice to whatever action the High Court will take on her petition
questioning the RTC’s jurisdiction and yet, the RTC violated this commitment as it rendered an adverse judgment on
August 18, 1998, months before the records of G.R. No. 126603 were remanded to the CA on November 11, 1998.37 She
also questions the lack of a report of the public prosecutor anent a finding of whether there was collusion, this being a
prerequisite before further proceeding could be held when a party has failed to file an answer in a suit for declaration of
nullity of marriage.

Estrellita is also steadfast in her belief that her marriage with the late senator is valid as the latter was already divorced
under the Muslim Code at the time he married her. She asserts that such law automatically applies to the marriage of
Zorayda and the deceased without need of registering their consent to be covered by it, as both parties are Muslims
whose marriage was solemnized under Muslim law. She pointed out that Sen. Tamano married all his wives under
Muslim rites, as attested to by the affidavits of the siblings of the deceased.38

Lastly, Estrellita argues that Zorayda and Adib have no legal standing to file suit because only the husband or the wife
can file a complaint for the declaration of nullity of marriage under Supreme Court Resolution A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC.39

34
Refuting the arguments, the Solicitor General (Sol Gen) defends the CA’s reasoning and stresses that Estrellita was never
deprived of her right to be heard; and, that filing an original action for certiorari does not stay the proceedings of the
main action before the RTC.

As regards the alleged lack of report of the public prosecutor if there is collusion, the Sol Gen says that this is no longer
essential considering the vigorous opposition of Estrellita in the suit that obviously shows the lack of collusion. The Sol
Gen also supports private respondents’ legal standing to challenge the validity of Estrellita’s purported marriage with
Sen. Tamano, reasoning that any proper interested party may attack directly or collaterally a void marriage, and Zorayda
and Adib have such right to file the action as they are the ones prejudiced by the marital union.

Zorayda and Adib, on the other hand, did not file any comment.

Issues

The issues that must be resolved are the following:

1. Whether the CA erred in affirming the trial court’s judgment, even though the latter was rendered prematurely
because: a) the judgment was rendered without waiting for the Supreme Court’s final resolution of her certiorari
petition, i.e., G.R. No. 126603; b) she has not yet filed her answer and thus was denied due process; and c) the
public prosecutor did not even conduct an investigation whether there was collusion;

2. Whether the marriage between Estrellita and the late Sen. Tamano was bigamous; and

3. Whether Zorayda and Adib have the legal standing to have Estrellita’s marriage declared void ab initio.

Our Ruling

Estrellita’s refusal to file an answer eventually led to the loss of her right to answer; and her pending petition for
certiorari/review on certiorari questioning the denial of the motion to dismiss before the higher courts does not at all
suspend the trial proceedings of the principal suit before the RTC of Quezon City.

Firstly, it can never be argued that Estrellita was deprived of her right to due process. She was never declared in default,
and she even actively participated in the trial to defend her interest.

Estrellita invokes Judge Macias v. Macias40 to justify the suspension of the period to file an answer and of the
proceedings in the trial court until her petition for certiorari questioning the validity of the denial of her Motion to
Dismiss has been decided by this Court. In said case, we affirmed the following reasoning of the CA which, apparently,
is Estrellita’s basis for her argument, to wit:

However, she opted to file, on April 10, 2001, a ‘Motion to Dismiss,’ instead of filing an Answer to the complaint. The
filing of said motion suspended the period for her to file her Answer to the complaint. Until said motion is resolved by
the Respondent Court with finality, it behooved the Respondent Court to suspend the hearings of the case on the merits.
The Respondent Court, on April 19, 2001, issued its Order denying the ‘Motion to Dismiss’ of the Petitioner. Under
Section 6, Rule 16 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure [now Section 4], the Petitioner had the balance of the period
provided for in Rule 11 of the said Rules but in no case less than five (5) days computed from service on her of the
aforesaid Order of the Respondent Court within which to file her Answer to the complaint: x x x41 (Emphasis supplied.)

Estrellita obviously misappreciated Macias. All we pronounced therein is that the trial court is mandated to suspend trial
until it finally resolves the motion to dismiss that is filed before it. Nothing in the above excerpt states that the trial court
should suspend its proceedings should the issue of the propriety or impropriety of the motion to dismiss be raised before
the appellate courts. In Macias, the trial court failed to observe due process in the course of the proceeding of the case

35
because after it denied the wife’s motion to dismiss, it immediately proceeded to allow the husband to present evidence
ex parte and resolved the case with undue haste even when, under the rules of procedure, the wife still had time to file an
answer. In the instant case, Estrellita had no time left for filing an answer, as she filed the motion to dismiss beyond the
extended period earlier granted by the trial court after she filed motions for extension of time to file an answer.

Estrellita argues that the trial court prematurely issued its judgment, as it should have waited first for the resolution of
her Motion to Dismiss before the CA and, subsequently, before this Court. However, in upholding the RTC, the CA
correctly ruled that the pendency of a petition for certiorari does not suspend the proceedings before the trial court. "An
application for certiorari is an independent action which is not part or a continuation of the trial which resulted in the
rendition of the judgment complained of."42 Rule 65 of the Rules of Court is explicit in stating that "[t]he petition shall
not interrupt the course of the principal case unless a temporary restraining order or a writ of preliminary injunction has
been issued against the public respondent from further proceeding in the case."43 In fact, the trial court respected the
CA’s temporary restraining order and only after the CA rendered judgment did the RTC again require Estrellita to
present her evidence.

Notably, when the CA judgment was elevated to us by way of Rule 45, we never issued any order precluding the trial
court from proceeding with the principal action. With her numerous requests for postponements, Estrellita remained
obstinate in refusing to file an answer or to present her evidence when it was her turn to do so, insisting that the trial
court should wait first for our decision in G.R. No. 126603. Her failure to file an answer and her refusal to present her
evidence were attributable only to herself and she should not be allowed to benefit from her own dilatory tactics to the
prejudice of the other party. Sans her answer, the trial court correctly proceeded with the trial and rendered its Decision
after it deemed Estrellita to have waived her right to present her side of the story. Neither should the lower court wait for
the decision in G.R. No. 126603 to become final and executory, nor should it wait for its records to be remanded back to
it because G.R. No. 126603 involves strictly the propriety of the Motion to Dismiss and not the issue of validity of
marriage.

The Public Prosecutor issued a report as

to the non-existence of collusion.

Aside from Article 48 of the Family Code and Rule 9, Section 3(e) of the Rules of Court, the Rule on Declaration of
Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages (A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC)44 also requries the
participation of the public prosecutor in cases involving void marriages. It specifically mandates the prosecutor to submit
his investigation report to determine whether there is collusion between the parties:

Sec. 9. Investigation report of public prosecutor.–(1) Within one month after receipt of the court order mentioned in
paragraph (3) of Section 8 above, the public prosecutor shall submit a report to the court stating whether the parties are in
collusion and serve copies thereof on the parties and their respective counsels, if any.

(2) If the public prosecutor finds that collusion exists, he shall state the basis thereof in his report. The parties
shall file their respective comments on the finding of collusion within ten days from receipt of a copy of the
report. The court shall set the report for hearing and if convinced that the parties are in collusion, it shall dismiss
the petition.

(3) If the public prosecutor reports that no collusion exists, the court shall set the case for pre-trial. It shall be the
duty of the public prosecutor to appear for the State at the pre-trial.

Records show that the trial court immediately directed the public prosecutor to submit the required report,45 which we
find to have been sufficiently complied with by Assistant City Prosecutor Edgardo T. Paragua in his Manifestation dated
March 30, 1995,46 wherein he attested that there could be no collusion between the parties and no fabrication of evidence
because Estrellita is not the spouse of any of the private respondents.

36
Furthermore, the lack of collusion is evident in the case at bar. Even assuming that there is a lack of report of collusion
or a lack of participation by the public prosecutor, just as we held in Tuason v. Court of Appeals,47 the lack of
participation of a fiscal does not invalidate the proceedings in the trial court:

The role of the prosecuting attorney or fiscal in annulment of marriage and legal separation proceedings is to determine
whether collusion exists between the parties and to take care that the evidence is not suppressed or fabricated. Petitioner's
vehement opposition to the annulment proceedings negates the conclusion that collusion existed between the parties.
There is no allegation by the petitioner that evidence was suppressed or fabricated by any of the parties. Under these
circumstances, we are convinced that the non-intervention of a prosecuting attorney to assure lack of collusion between
the contending parties is not fatal to the validity of the proceedings in the trial court.48

The Civil Code governs the marriage of Zorayda and the late Sen. Tamano; their marriage was never invalidated by PD
1083. Sen. Tamano’s subsequent marriage to Estrellita is void ab initio.

The marriage between the late Sen. Tamano and Zorayda was celebrated in 1958, solemnized under civil and Muslim
rites.49 The only law in force governing marriage relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims alike was the Civil
Code of 1950, under the provisions of which only one marriage can exist at any given time.50 Under the marriage
provisions of the Civil Code, divorce is not recognized except during the effectivity of Republic Act No. 39451 which
was not availed of during its effectivity.

As far as Estrellita is concerned, Sen. Tamano’s prior marriage to Zorayda has been severed by way of divorce under PD
1083,52 the law that codified Muslim personal laws. However, PD 1083 cannot benefit Estrellita. Firstly, Article 13(1)
thereof provides that the law applies to "marriage and divorce wherein both parties are Muslims, or wherein only the
male party is a Muslim and the marriage is solemnized in accordance with Muslim law or this Code in any part of the
Philippines." But we already ruled in G.R. No. 126603 that "Article 13 of PD 1083 does not provide for a situation where
the parties were married both in civil and Muslim rites."53

Moreover, the Muslim Code took effect only on February 4, 1977, and this law cannot retroactively override the Civil
Code which already bestowed certain rights on the marriage of Sen. Tamano and Zorayda. The former explicitly
provided for the prospective application of its provisions unless otherwise provided:

Art. 186 (1). Effect of code on past acts. —Acts executed prior to the effectivity of this Code shall be governed by the
laws in force at the time of their execution, and nothing herein except as otherwise specifically provided, shall affect
their validity or legality or operate to extinguish any right acquired or liability incurred thereby.

It has been held that:

The foregoing provisions are consistent with the principle that all laws operate prospectively, unless the contrary appears
or is clearly, plainly and unequivocably expressed or necessarily implied; accordingly, every case of doubt will be
resolved against the retroactive operation of laws. Article 186 aforecited enunciates the general rule of the Muslim Code
to have its provisions applied prospectively, and implicitly upholds the force and effect of a pre-existing body of law,
specifically, the Civil Code – in respect of civil acts that took place before the Muslim Code’s enactment.54

An instance of retroactive application of the Muslim Code is Article 186(2) which states:

A marriage contracted by a Muslim male prior to the effectivity of this Code in accordance with non-Muslim law shall
be considered as one contracted under Muslim law provided the spouses register their mutual desire to this effect.

Even granting that there was registration of mutual consent for the marriage to be considered as one contracted under the
Muslim law, the registration of mutual consent between Zorayda and Sen. Tamano will still be ineffective, as both are
Muslims whose marriage was celebrated under both civil and Muslim laws. Besides, as we have already settled, the Civil

37
Code governs their personal status since this was in effect at the time of the celebration of their marriage. In view of Sen.
Tamano’s prior marriage which subsisted at the time Estrellita married him, their subsequent marriage is correctly
adjudged by the CA as void ab initio.

Zorayda and Adib, as the injured parties, have the legal personalities to file the declaration of nullity of marriage. A.M.
No. 02-11-10-SC, which limits to only the husband or the wife the filing of a petition for nullity is prospective in
application and does not shut out the prior spouse from filing suit if the ground is a bigamous subsequent marriage.

Her marriage covered by the Family Code of the Philippines,55 Estrellita relies on A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC which took
effect on March 15, 2003 claiming that under Section 2(a)56 thereof, only the husband or the wife, to the exclusion of
others, may file a petition for declaration of absolute nullity, therefore only she and Sen. Tamano may directly attack the
validity of their own marriage.

Estrellita claims that only the husband or the wife in a void marriage can file a petition for declaration of nullity of
marriage. However, this interpretation does not apply if the reason behind the petition is bigamy.

In explaining why under A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC only the spouses may file the petition to the exclusion of compulsory or
intestate heirs, we said:

The Rationale of the Rules on Annulment of Voidable Marriages and Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages,
Legal Separation and Provisional Orders explicates on Section 2(a) in the following manner, viz:

(1) Only an aggrieved or injured spouse may file petitions for annulment of voidable marriages and declaration of
absolute nullity of void marriages. Such petitions cannot be filed by the compulsory or intestate heirs of the spouses or
by the State. [Section 2; Section 3, paragraph a]

Only an aggrieved or injured spouse may file a petition for annulment of voidable marriages or declaration of absolute
nullity of void marriages. Such petition cannot be filed by compulsory or intestate heirs of the spouses or by the State.
The Committee is of the belief that they do not have a legal right to file the petition. Compulsory or intestate heirs have
only inchoate rights prior to the death of their predecessor, and hence can only question the validity of the marriage of
the spouses upon the death of a spouse in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased spouse filed in the
regular courts. On the other hand, the concern of the State is to preserve marriage and not to seek its dissolution.57

Note that the Rationale makes it clear that Section 2(a) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC refers to the "aggrieved or injured
spouse." If Estrellita’s interpretation is employed, the prior spouse is unjustly precluded from filing an action. Surely,
this is not what the Rule contemplated.

The subsequent spouse may only be expected to take action if he or she had only discovered during the connubial period
that the marriage was bigamous, and especially if the conjugal bliss had already vanished. Should parties in a subsequent
marriage benefit from the bigamous marriage, it would not be expected that they would file an action to declare the
marriage void and thus, in such circumstance, the "injured spouse" who should be given a legal remedy is the one in a
subsisting previous marriage. The latter is clearly the aggrieved party as the bigamous marriage not only threatens the
financial and the property ownership aspect of the prior marriage but most of all, it causes an emotional burden to the
prior spouse. The subsequent marriage will always be a reminder of the infidelity of the spouse and the disregard of the
prior marriage which sanctity is protected by the Constitution.

Indeed, Section 2(a) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC precludes the son from impugning the subsequent marriage. But in the
1âwphi1

case at bar, both Zorayda and Adib have legal personalities to file an action for nullity. Albeit the Supreme Court
Resolution governs marriages celebrated under the Family Code, such is prospective in application and does not apply to
cases already commenced before March 15, 2003.58

38
Zorayda and Adib filed the case for declaration of nullity of Estrellita’s marriage in November 1994. While the Family
Code is silent with respect to the proper party who can file a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage prior to A.M.
No. 02-11-10-SC, it has been held that in a void marriage, in which no marriage has taken place and cannot be the source
of rights, any interested party may attack the marriage directly or collaterally without prescription, which may be filed
even beyond the lifetime of the parties to the marriage.59 Since A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC does not apply, Adib, as one of
the children of the deceased who has property rights as an heir, is likewise considered to be the real party in interest in
the suit he and his mother had filed since both of them stand to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit.60

Since our Philippine laws protect the marital union of a couple, they should be interpreted in a way that would preserve
their respective rights which include striking down bigamous marriages. We thus find the CA Decision correctly
rendered.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The assailed August 17, 2004 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV
No. 61762, as well as its subsequent Resolution issued on September 13, 2005, are hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT

Manila

FIRST DIVISION

ERIC U. YU, G.R. No. 189207

Petitioner,

Present:

- versus -
VELASCO, JR., J.,

39
Acting Chairperson,*

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,

HONORABLE JUDGE AGNES BERSAMIN,**


REYES-CARPIO, in her official
DEL CASTILLO,
capacity as Presiding Judge,
Regional Trial Court of Pasig- PEREZ, JJ.
Branch 261; and CAROLINE T.
YU,

Respondents.
Promulgated:

June 15, 2011

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

DECISION

VELASCO, JR., J.:

The Case

This is a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 which seeks to annul and set aside the
March 31, 2009 Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 106878. The
CA Decision affirmed the Orders dated August 4, 2008[2] and October 24, 2008[3] of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 261 in Pasig City.

40
The Facts

The instant petition stemmed from a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage
filed by petitioner Eric U. Yu against private respondent Caroline T. Yu with the RTC
in Pasig City. The case was initially raffled to Branch 163.

On May 30, 2006, Judge Leili Cruz Suarez of the RTC-Branch 163 issued an Order,
stating that petitioners Partial Offer of Evidence dated April 18, 2006 would already be
submitted for resolution after certain exhibits of petitioner have been remarked. But the
exhibits were only relative to the issue of the nullity of marriage of the parties.[4]

On September 12, 2006, private respondent moved to submit the incident on the
declaration of nullity of marriage for resolution of the court, considering that the incidents
on custody, support, and property relations were mere consequences of the declaration of
nullity of the parties marriage.[5]

On September 28, 2006, petitioner opposed private respondents Motion, claiming


that the incident on the declaration of nullity of marriage cannot be resolved without the
presentation of evidence for the incidents on custody, support, and property
relations.[6] Petitioner, therefore, averred that the incident on nullity of marriage, on the
one hand, and the incidents on custody, support, and property relations, on the other,
should both proceed and be simultaneously resolved.

On March 21, 2007, RTC-Branch 163 issued an Order in favor of petitioners


opposition. Particularly, it stated that:

The Court agrees with the contention of the Petitioner that it would be
more in accord with the rules if the Parties were first allowed to present their

41
evidence relative to the issues of property relations, custody and support to
enable the Court to issue a comprehensive decision thereon.[7]

Subsequently, private respondent was able to successfully cause the inhibition of


Judge Cruz Suarez of the RTC-Branch 163. Consequently, the case was re-raffled to
another branch of the Pasig RTC, particularly Branch 261, presided by Judge Agnes
Reyes-Carpio.[8]

Thereafter, while the case was being heard by the RTC-Branch 261, private
respondent filed an Omnibus Motion on May 21, 2008. The Omnibus Motion sought (1)
the strict observation by the RTC-Branch 261 of the Rule on Declaration of Absolute
Nullity of Void Marriages, as codified in A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC, in the subject
proceedings; and (2) that the incident on the declaration of nullity of marriage be already
submitted for resolution.[9] Conversely, private respondent prayed that the incident on the
declaration of nullity of marriage be resolved ahead of the incidents on custody, support,
and property relations, and not simultaneously.

Quite expectedly, petitioner opposed the Omnibus Motion, arguing that the issues
that were the subject of the Omnibus Motion had already been resolved in the March 21,
2007 Order. Concurrently, petitioner prayed that the incidents on nullity, custody, support,
and property relations of the spouses be resolved simultaneously.[10]

In its Order dated August 4, 2008, the RTC-Branch 261 granted the Omnibus
Motion. Judge Reyes-Carpio explained that:

At the outset, the parties are reminded that the main cause of action in this
case is the declaration of nullity of marriage of the parties and the issues relating
to property relations, custody and support are merely ancillary incidents thereto.

42
xxxx

Consistent, therefore, with Section 19 of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC, the


Court finds it more prudent to rule first on the petitioners petition and
respondents counter-petition for declaration of nullity of marriage on the ground
of each others psychological incapacity to perform their respective marital
obligations. If the Court eventually finds that the parties respective petitions for
declaration of nullity of marriage is indeed meritorious on the basis of either or
both of the parties psychological incapacity, then the parties shall proceed to
comply with Article[s] 50 and 51 of the Family Code before a final decree of
absolute nullity of marriage can be issued. Pending such ruling on the declaration
of nullity of the parties marriage, the Court finds no legal ground, at this stage, to
proceed with the reception of evidence in regard the issues on custody and
property relations, since these are mere incidents of the nullity of the parties
marriage.[11]

On August, 28, 2008, petitioner moved for the reconsideration of the August 4,
2008 Order. On October 24, 2008, Judge Reyes-Carpio issued an Order denying
petitioners motion for reconsideration. In denying the motion, Judge Reyes-Carpio
reasoned:

x x x [I]t is very clear that what petitioner seeks to reconsider in the


Courts Order dated August 4, 2008 is the procedure regarding the reception of
evidence on the issues of property relations, custody and support. He opposes the
fact that the main issue on declaration of nullity is submitted for decision when
he has not yet presented evidence on the issues on property relations, custody
and support.

43
Considering that what he seeks to set aside is the procedural aspect of the
instanct case, i.e. the reception of evidence which is a matter of procedure, there
is no question that it is A.M. 02-11-[10]-SC which should be followed and not
the procedures provided in Articles 50 and 51 of the Family Code. While it is
true that the Family Code is a substantive law and rule of procedure cannot alter
a substantive law, the provisions laid in Articles 50 and 51 relative to the
liquidation and dissolution of properties are by nature procedural, thus there are
no substantive rights which may be prejudiced or any vested rights that may be
impaired.

In fact, the Supreme Court in a number of cases has even held that there
are some provisions of the Family Code which are procedural in nature, such as
Article[s] 185 and 50 of the Family Code which may be given retroactive effect
to pending suits. Adopting such rationale in the instant case, if the Court is to
adopt the procedures laid down in A.M. No. 02-11-[10]-SC, no vested or
substantive right will be impaired on the part of the petitioner or the
respondent. Even Section 17 of A.M. No. 02-11-[10]-SC allows the reception of
evidence to a commissioner in matters involving property relations of the
spouses.

xxxx

Lastly, it is the policy of the courts to give effect to both procedural and
substantive laws, as complementing each other, in the just and speedy resolution
of the dispute between the parties. Moreover, as previously stated, the Court
finds it more prudent to rule first on the petitioners petition and respondents
counter-petition for declaration of nullity of marriage on the ground of each
others psychological incapacity to perform their respective marital obligations. If
the Court eventually finds that the parties respective petitions for
declaration of nullity of marriage is indeed meritorious on the basis of either
or both of the parties psychological incapacity, then the parties shall
proceed to comply with Article[s] 50 and 51 of the Family Code before a
final decree of absolute nullity of marriage can be issued.[12]
44
The Ruling of the Appellate Court

On January 8, 2009, petitioner filed a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 with the
CA, assailing both the RTC Orders dated August 4, 2008 and October 24, 2008. The
petition impleaded Judge Reyes-Carpio as respondent and alleged that the latter committed
grave abuse of discretion in the issuance of the assailed orders.

On March 31, 2009, the CA affirmed the judgment of the trial court and dismissed
the petition. The dispositive portion of the CA Decision reads:

All told, absent any arbitrary or despotic exercise of judicial power as to


amount to abuse of discretion on the part of respondent Judge in issuing the
assailed Orders, the instant petition for certiorari cannot prosper.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.[13]

The Issues

This appeal is, hence, before Us, with petitioner maintaining that the CA committed
grave abuse of discretion in upholding the assailed orders issued by the trial court and
dismissing the Petition for Certiorari. Particularly, petitioner brings forth the following
issues:

45
A. Whether or not the [CA] committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to
lack of jurisdiction in holding that a petition for certiorari is not a proper
remedy of the Petitioner

B. Whether or not the [CA] committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to


lack [or excess] of jurisdiction in upholding the Respondent Judge in
submitting the main issue of nullity of marriage for resolution ahead of the
reception of evidence on custody, support, and property relations

C. Whether or not the reception of evidence on custody, support and property


relations is necessary for a complete and comprehensive adjudication of the
parties respective claims and [defenses].[14]

The Courts Ruling

We find the petition without merit.

A Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 is the proper remedy in assailing that a judge
has committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction. Section 1, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court clearly sets forth when a petition for
certiorari can be used as a proper remedy:

SECTION 1. Petition for certiorari. When any tribunal, board or officer


exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions has acted without or in excess of
its jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess
of jurisdiction, and there is no appeal, or any plain, speedy, and adequate

46
remedy in the ordinary course of law, a person aggrieved thereby may file a
verified petition in the proper court, alleging the facts with certainty and praying
that judgment be rendered annulling or modifying the proceedings of such
tribunal, board or officer, and granting such incidental reliefs as law and justice
may require. (Emphasis Ours.)

The term grave abuse of discretion has a specific meaning. An act of a court or
tribunal can only be considered as with grave abuse of discretion when such act is done in
a capricious or whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of
jurisdiction.[15] The abuse of discretion must be so patent and gross as to amount to an
evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, or to
act at all in contemplation of law, as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and
despotic manner by reason of passion and hostility.[16] Furthermore, the use of a petition
for certiorari is restricted only to truly extraordinary cases wherein the act of the lower
court or quasi-judicial body is wholly void.[17] From the foregoing definition, it is clear that
the special civil action of certiorari under Rule 65 can only strike an act down for having
been done with grave abuse of discretion if the petitioner could manifestly show that such
act was patent and gross.[18] But this is not the case here.

Nowhere in the petition was it shown that the acts being alleged to have been
exercised with grave abuse of discretion(1) the Orders of the RTC deferring the
presentation of evidence on custody, support, and property relations; and (2) the appellate
courts Decision of upholding the Orderswere patent and gross that would warrant striking
down through a petition for certiorari under Rule 65.

At the very least, petitioner should prove and demonstrate that the RTC Orders and
the CA Decision were done in a capricious or whimsical exercise of judgment.[19] This,
however, has not been shown in the petition.

It appears in the records that the Orders in question, or what are alleged to have
47
been exercised with grave abuse of discretion, are interlocutory orders. An interlocutory
order is one which does not finally dispose of the case, and does not end the Courts task of
adjudicating the parties contentions and determining their rights and liabilities as regards
each other, but obviously indicates that other things remain to be done by the Court. [20] To
be clear, certiorari under Rule 65 is appropriate to strike down an interlocutory order only
when the following requisites concur:
(1) when the tribunal issued such order without or in excess of jurisdiction or
with grave abuse of discretion; and

(2) when the assailed interlocutory order is patently erroneous and the remedy of
appeal would not afford adequate and expeditious relief.[21]

In this case, as We have discussed earlier, petitioner failed to prove that the assailed
orders were issued with grave abuse of discretion and that those were patently
erroneous. Considering that the requisites that would justify certiorari as an appropriate
remedy to assail an interlocutory order have not been complied with, the proper recourse
for petitioner should have been an appeal in due course of the judgment of the trial court
on the merits, incorporating the grounds for assailing the interlocutory orders.[22] The
appellate court, thus, correctly cited Triplex Enterprises, Inc. v. PNB-Republic Bank and
Solid Builders, Inc., penned by Chief Justice Renato Corona, which held:

Certiorari as a special civil action is proper when any tribunal, board or


officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions has acted without or in
excess of its jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion, and there is no appeal
nor any plain, speedy and adequate remedy at law. The writ may be issued only
where it is convincingly proved that the lower court committed grave abuse
of discretion, or an act too patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of a
duty, or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or act in
contemplation of law, or that the trial court exercised its power in an
arbitrary and despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility.

48
While certiorari may be maintained as an appropriate remedy to
assail an interlocutory order in cases where the tribunal has issued an order
without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion, it does
not lie to correct every controversial interlocutory ruling. In this connection,
we quote with approval the pronouncement of the appellate court:

In this jurisdiction, there is an erroneous impression that


interlocutory [orders] of trial courts on debatable legal points may be
assailed by certiorari. To correct that impression and to avoid clogging the
appellate court with future certiorari petitions it should be underscored
that the office of the writ of certiorari has been reduced to the correction
of defects of jurisdiction solely and cannot legally be used for any other
purpose.

The writ of certiorari is restricted to truly extraordinary cases wherein the


act of the lower court or quasi-judicial body is wholly void. Moreover, it is
designed to correct errors of jurisdiction and not errors in judgment. The
rationale of this rule is that, when a court exercises its jurisdiction, an error
committed while so engaged does not deprive it of the jurisdiction being
exercised when the error is committed. Otherwise, every mistake made by a
court will deprive it of its jurisdiction and every erroneous judgment will be a
void judgment.

When the court has jurisdiction over the case and person of the defendant,
any mistake in the application of the law and the appreciation of evidence
committed by a court may be corrected only by appeal. The determination made
by the trial court regarding the admissibility of evidence is but an exercise of its
jurisdiction and whatever fault it may have perpetrated in making such a
determination is an error in judgment, not of jurisdiction. Hence, settled is the

49
rule that rulings of the trial court on procedural questions and on admissibility of
evidence during the course of a trial are interlocutory in nature and may not be
the subject of a separate appeal or review on certiorari. They must be assigned as
errors and reviewed in the appeal properly taken from the decision rendered by
the trial court on the merits of the case.

Here, petitioner assails the order of the trial court disallowing the
admission in evidence of the testimony of Roque on the opinion of the OGCC.
By that fact alone, no grave abuse of discretion could be imputed to the trial
court. Furthermore, the said order was not an error of jurisdiction. Even
assuming that it was erroneous, the mistake was an error in judgment not
correctable by the writ of certiorari.[23]

Be that as it may, even dwelling on the merits of the case just as the CA has already
done and clearly explicated, We still find no reason to grant the petition.

It must be noted that Judge Reyes-Carpio did not disallow the presentation of
evidence on the incidents on custody, support, and property relations. It is clear in the
assailed orders that the trial court judge merely deferred the reception of evidence relating
to custody, support, and property relations, to wit:
August 4, 2008 Order

Consistent, therefore, with Section 19 of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC, the


Court finds it more prudent to rule first on the petitioners petition and
respondents counter-petition for declaration of nullity of marriage on the ground
of each others psychological incapacity to perform their respective marital
obligations. If the Court eventually finds that the parties respective petitions
for declaration of nullity of marriage is indeed meritorious on the basis of
either or both of the parties psychological incapacity, then the parties shall

50
proceed to comply with Article[s] 50 and 51 of the Family Code before a
final decree of absolute nullity of marriage can be issued. Pending such
ruling on the declaration of nullity of the parties marriage, the Court finds
no legal ground, at this stage, to proceed with the reception of evidence in
regard the issues on custody and property relations, since these are mere
incidents of the nullity of the parties marriage.[24]

October 24, 2008 Order

Lastly, it is the policy of the courts to give effect to both procedural and
substantive laws, as complementing each other, in the just and speedy resolution
of the dispute between the parties. Moreover, as previously stated, the Court
finds it more prudent to rule first on the petitioners petition and respondents
counter-petition for declaration of nullity of marriage on the ground of each
others psychological incapacity to perform their respective marital obligations. If
the Court eventually finds that the parties respective petitions for
declaration of nullity of marriage is indeed meritorious on the basis of either
or both of the parties psychological incapacity, then the parties shall
proceed to comply with Article (sic) 50 and 51 of the Family Code before a
final decree of absolute nullity of marriage can be issued.[25]

And the trial judges decision was not without basis. Judge Reyes-Carpio finds
support in the Court En Banc Resolution in A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC or the Rule on
Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable
Marriages. Particularly, Secs. 19 and 21 of the Rule clearly allow the reception of
evidence on custody, support, and property relations after the trial court renders a decision
granting the petition, or upon entry of judgment granting the petition:

Section 19. Decision. - (1) If the court renders a decision granting the petition, it
shall declare therein that the decree of absolute nullity or decree of annulment

51
shall be issued by the court only after compliance with Articles 50 and 51 of
the Family Code as implemented under the Rule on Liquidation, Partition
and Distribution of Properties.

xxxx

Section 21. Liquidation, partition and distribution, custody, support of common


children and delivery of their presumptive legitimes. - Upon entry of the
judgment granting the petition, or, in case of appeal, upon receipt of the entry
of judgment of the appellate court granting the petition, the Family Court, on
motion of either party, shall proceed with the liquidation, partition and
distribution of the properties of the spouses, including custody, support of
common children and delivery of their presumptive legitimes pursuant to
Articles 50 and 51 of the Family Code unless such matters had been
adjudicated in previous judicial proceedings.

Evidently, Judge Reyes-Carpio did not deny the reception of evidence on custody,
support, and property relations but merely deferred it, based on the existing rules issued by
this Court, to a time when a decision granting the petition is already at hand and before a
final decree is issued. Conversely, the trial court, or more particularly the family court,
shall proceed with the liquidation, partition and distribution, custody, support of common
children, and delivery of their presumptive legitimes upon entry of judgment granting the
petition. And following the pertinent provisions of the Court En Banc Resolution in A.M.
No. 02-11-10-SC, this act is undoubtedly consistent with Articles 50 and 51 of the Family
Code, contrary to what petitioner asserts. Particularly, Arts. 50 and 51 of the Family Code
state:

Article 50. x x x

52
The final judgment in such cases shall provide for the liquidation,
partition and distribution of the properties of the spouses, the custody and
support of the common children, and the delivery of their presumptive
legitimes, unless such matters had been adjudicated in the previous judicial
proceedings.

xxxx

Article 51. In said partition, the value of the presumptive legitimes of all
common children, computed as of the date of the final judgment of the trial
court, shall be delivered in cash, property or sound securities, unless the parties,
by mutual agreement judicially approved, had already provided for such matters.
(Emphasis Ours.)

Finally, petitioner asserts that the deferment of the reception of evidence on custody,
support, and property relations would amount to an ambiguous and fragmentary judgment
on the main issue.[26] This argument does not hold water. The Court En Banc Resolution in
A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC clearly allows the deferment of the reception of evidence on
custody, support, and property relations. Conversely, the trial court may receive evidence
on the subject incidents after a judgment granting the petition but before the decree of
nullity or annulment of marriage is issued. And this is what Judge Reyes-Carpio sought to
comply with in issuing the assailed orders. As correctly pointed out by the CA, petitioners
assertion that ruling the main issue without receiving evidence on the subject incidents
would result in an ambiguous and fragmentary judgment is certainly speculative and,
hence, contravenes the legal presumption that a trial judge can fairly weigh and appraise
the evidence submitted by the parties.[27]

Therefore, it cannot be said at all that Judge Reyes-Carpio acted in a capricious and
whimsical manner, much less in a way that is patently gross and erroneous, when she
issued the assailed orders deferring the reception of evidence on custody, support, and
property relations. To reiterate, this decision is left to the trial courts wisdom and legal

53
soundness. Consequently, therefore, the CA cannot likewise be said to have committed
grave abuse of discretion in upholding the Orders of Judge Reyes-Carpio and in ultimately
finding an absence of grave abuse of discretion on her part.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED. The CA Decision in CA-G.R. SP No.


106878 finding that Judge Agnes Reyes-Carpio did not commit grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 114742. July 17, 1997]

CARLITOS E. SILVA, petitioner, vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS and SUZANNE


T. GONZALES, respondents.

DECISION
VITUG, J.:

Parents have the natural right, as well as the moral and legal duty, to care for their children, see to
their proper upbringing and safeguard their best interest and welfare. This authority and responsibility
may not be unduly denied the parents; neither may it be renounced by them. Even when the parents are
estranged and their affection for each other is lost, the attachment and feeling for their offsprings
invariably remain unchanged. Neither the law nor the courts allow this affinity to suffer absent, of course,
any real, grave and imminent threat to the well-being of the child.
The petition bears upon this concern.
Carlitos E. Silva, a married businessman, and Suzanne T. Gonzales, an unmarried local actress,
cohabited without the benefit of marriage. The union saw the birth of two children: Ramon Carlos and
Rica Natalia. Not very long after, a rift in their relationship surfaced. It began, according to Silva, when

54
Gonzales decided to resume her acting career over his vigorous objections. The assertion was quickly
refuted by Gonzales who claimed that she, in fact, had never stopped working throughout their
relationship. At any rate, the two eventually parted ways.
The instant controversy was spawned, in February 1986, by the refusal of Gonzales to allow Silva, in
apparent contravention of a previous understanding, to have the children in his company on
weekends. Silva filed a petition for custodial rights over the children before the Regional Trial Court
(RTC), Branch 78, of Quezon City. The petition was opposed by Gonzales who averred that Silva often
engaged in "gambling and womanizing" which she feared could affect the moral and social values of the
children.
In an order, dated 07 April 1989, the trial court adjudged:

"WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is rendered directing respondent to allow


herein petitioner visitorial rights to his children during Saturdays and/or Sundays, but in no
case should he take out the children without the written consent of the mother or
respondent herein. No pronouncement as to costs." [1]

Silva appeared somehow satisfied with the judgment for only Gonzales interposed an appeal from the
RTCs order to the Court of Appeals.
In the meantime, Gonzales got married to a Dutch national. The newlyweds emigrated to Holland
with Ramon Carlos and Rica Natalia.
On 23 September 1993, the appellate tribunal ruled in favor of Gonzales; it held:

"In all questions, regarding the care, custody, education and property of the child, his welfare
shall be the paramount consideration' - not the welfare of the parents (Art. 8, PD 603). Under
the predicament and/or status of both petitioner-appellee and respondent-appellant, We find it
more wholesome morally and emotionally for the children if we put a stop to the rotation of
custody of said children. Allowing these children to stay with their mother on weekdays and
then with their father and the latter's live-in partner on weekends may not be conducive to a
normal up-bringing of children of tender age. There is no telling how this kind of set-up, no
matter how temporary and/or remote, would affect the moral and emotional conditions of the
minor children. Knowing that they are illegitimate is hard enough, but having to live with it,
witnessing their father living with a woman not their mother may have a more damaging
effect upon them.

"Article 3 of PD 603, otherwise known as the Child and Youth Welfare Code, provides in
part:

"`Art. 3. Rights of the Child. - x x x

`(1) x x x

`(2) x x x
55
`(3) x x x

`(4) x x x

`(5) Every child has the right to be brought up in an atmosphere of morality and rectitude for
the enrichment and the strengthening of his character.

`(6) x x x

`(7) x x x

`(8) Every child has the right to protection against exploitation, improper influences, hazards
and other conditions or circumstances prejudicial to his physical, mental, emotional, social
and moral development.

`x x x'

"With Articles 3 and 8 of PD 603, in mind, We find it to the best interest of the minor
children, to deny visitorial and/or temporary custodial rights to the father, even at the expense
of hurting said parent. After all, if indeed his love for the children is genuine and more divine
than the love for himself, a little self-sacrifice and self-denial may bring more benefit to the
children. While petitioner-appellee, as father, may not intentionally prejudice the children by
improper influence, what the children may witness and hear while in their father's house may
not be in keeping with the atmosphere of morality and rectitude where they should be brought
up.

"The children concerned are still in their early formative years of life. The molding of the
character of the child starts at home. A home with only one parent is more normal than two
separate houses - (one house where one parent lives and another house where the other
parent with another woman/man lives). After all, under Article 176 of the Family Code,
illegitimate children are supposed to use the surname of and shall be under the parental
authority of their mother.

"The child is one of the most important assets of the nation. It is thus important we be careful
in rearing the children especially so if they are illegitimates, as in this case.

"WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered giving due course
to the appeal. The Order of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City dated April 7, 1989 is
hereby reversed. Petitioner-appellee's petition for visitorial rights is hereby denied.

"SO ORDERED." [2]

Silva comes to this Court for relief.


56
The issue before us is not really a question of child custody; instead, the case merely concerns the
visitation right of a parent over his children which the trial court has adjudged in favor of petitioner by
holding that he shall have visitorial rights to his children during Saturdays and/or Sundays, but in no case
(could) he take out the children without the written consent of the mother x x x." The visitation right
referred to is the right of access of a noncustodial parent to his or her child or children.[3]
There is, despite a dearth of specific legal provisions, enough recognition on
the inherent and natural right of parents over their children. Article 150 of the Family Code expresses
that "(f)amily relations include those x x x (2) (b)etween parents and children; x x x." Article 209, in
relation to Article 220, of the Code states that it is the natural right and duty of parents and those
exercising parental authority to, among other things, keep children in their company and to give them
love and affection, advice and counsel, companionship and understanding. The Constitution itself speaks
in terms of the "natural and primary rights of parents in the rearing of the youth.[4] There is nothing
conclusive to indicate that these provisions are meant to solely address themselves to legitimate
relationships. Indeed, although in varying degrees, the laws on support and successional rights, by way of
examples, clearly go beyond the legitimate members of the family and so explicitly encompass
illegitimate relationships as well.[5] Then, too, and most importantly, in the declaration of nullity of
marriages, a situation that presupposes a void or inexistent marriage, Article 49 of the Family Code
provides for appropriate visitation rights to parents who are not given custody of their children.
There is no doubt that in all cases involving a child, his interest and welfare is always the paramount
consideration. The Court shares the view of the Solicitor General, who has recommended due course to
the petition, that a few hours spent by petitioner with the children, however, could not all be that
detrimental to the children. Similarly, what the trial court has observed is not entirely without merit; thus:

"The allegations of respondent against the character of petitioner, even assuming as true,
cannot be taken as sufficient basis to render petitioner an unfit father. The fears expressed by
respondent to the effect that petitioner shall be able to corrupt and degrade their children once
allowed to even temporarily associate with petitioner is but the product of respondent's
unfounded imagination, for no man, bereft of all moral persuasions and goodness, would ever
take the trouble and expense in instituting a legal action for the purpose of seeing his
illegitimate children. It can just be imagined the deep sorrows of a father who is deprived of
his children of tender ages." [6]

The Court appreciates the apprehensions of private respondent and their well-meant concern for the
children; nevertheless, it seems unlikely that petitioner would have ulterior motives or undue designs
more than a parents natural desire to be able to call on, even if it were only on brief visits, his own
children. The trial court, in any case, has seen it fit to understandably provide this precautionary measure,
i.e., "in no case (can petitioner) take out the children without the written consent of the mother."
WHEREFORE, the decision of the trial court is REINSTATED, reversing thereby the judgment of
the appellate court which is hereby SET ASIDE. No costs.
SO ORDERED.
Padilla, Bellosillo, and Kapunan, JJ., concur.
Hermosisima, Jr., J., on leave.

57
FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 122749. July 31, 1996]

ANTONIO A. S. VALDES, petitioner, vs. REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH


102, QUEZON CITY, and CONSUELO M. GOMEZ-VALDES, respondents.

DECISION
VITUG, J.:

The petition for review bewails, purely on a question of law, an alleged error committed
by the Regional Trial Court in Civil Case No. Q-92-12539. Petitioner avers that the court a
quo has failed to apply the correct law that should govern the disposition of a family dwelling
in a situation where a marriage is declared void ab initio because of psychological incapacity
on the part of either or both of the parties to the contract.
The pertinent facts giving rise to this incident are, by and large, not in dispute.
Antonio Valdes and Consuelo Gomez were married on 05 January 1971. Begotten during
the marriage were five children. In a petition, dated 22 June 1992, Valdes sought the
declaration of nullity of the marriage pursuant to Article 36 of the Family Code (docketed
Civil Case No. Q-92-12539, Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 102). After hearing
the parties following the joinder of issues, the trial court, in its decision of 29 July 1994,
[1]

granted the petition; viz:

"WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:

"(1) The marriage of petitioner Antonio Valdes and respondent Consuelo Gomez-Valdes is
hereby declared null and void under Article 36 of the Family Code on the ground of their
mutual psychological incapacity to comply with their essential marital obligations;

"(2) The three older children, Carlos Enrique III, Antonio Quintin and Angela Rosario shall
choose which parent they would want to stay with.

"Stella Eloisa and Joaquin Pedro shall be placed in the custody of their mother, herein
respondent Consuelo Gomez-Valdes.

"The petitioner and respondent shall have visitation rights over the children who are in the
custody of the other.

58
"(3) The petitioner and respondent are directed to start proceedings on the liquidation of their
common properties as defined by Article 147 of the Family Code, and to comply with the
provisions of Articles 50, 51 and 52 of the same code, within thirty (30) days from notice of
this decision.

"Let a copy of this decision be furnished the Local Civil Registrar of Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, for
proper recording in the registry of marriages."[2] (Italics ours)

Consuelo Gomez sought a clarification of that portion of the decision directing


compliance with Articles 50, 51 and 52 of the Family Code. She asserted that the Family
Code contained no provisions on the procedure for the liquidation of common property in
"unions without marriage." Parenthetically, during the hearing on the motion, the children
filed a joint affidavit expressing their desire to remain with their father, Antonio Valdes,
herein petitioner.
In an Order, dated 05 May 1995, the trial court made the following clarification:

"Consequently, considering that Article 147 of the Family Code explicitly provides that the
property acquired by both parties during their union, in the absence of proof to the contrary,
are presumed to have been obtained through the joint efforts of the parties and will be owned
by them in equal shares, plaintiff and defendant will own their 'family home' and all their
other properties for that matter in equal shares.

"In the liquidation and partition of the properties owned in common by the plaintiff and defendant, the
provisions on co-ownership found in the Civil Code shall apply."[3] (Italics supplied)

In addressing specifically the issue regarding the disposition of the family dwelling, the
trial court said:

"Considering that this Court has already declared the marriage between petitioner and
respondent as null and void ab initio, pursuant to Art. 147, the property regime of petitioner
and respondent shall be governed by the rules on co-ownership.

"The provisions of Articles 102 and 129 of the Family Code finds no application since Article 102 refers
to the procedure for the liquidation of the conjugal partnership property and Article 129 refers to the
procedure for the liquidation of the absolute community of property."[4]

Petitioner moved for a reconsideration of the order. The motion was denied on 30 October
1995.
In his recourse to this Court, petitioner submits that Articles 50, 51 and 52 of the Family
Code should be held controlling; he argues that:
"I

59
"Article 147 of the Family Code does not apply to cases where the parties are psychological
incapacitated.
"II

"Articles 50, 51 and 52 in relation to Articles 102 and 129 of the Family Code govern the
disposition of the family dwelling in cases where a marriage is declared void ab initio,
including a marriage declared void by reason of the psychological incapacity of the spouses.
"III

"Assuming arguendo that Article 147 applies to marriages declared void ab initio on the
ground of the psychological incapacity of a spouse, the same may be read consistently with
Article 129.
"IV

"It is necessary to determine the parent with whom majority of the children wish to stay."[5]

The trial court correctly applied the law. In a void marriage, regardless of the cause
thereof, the property relations of the parties during the period of cohabitation is governed by
the provisions of Article 147 or Article 148, such as the case may be, of the Family Code.
Article 147 is a remake of Article 144 of the Civil Code as interpreted and so applied in
previous cases; it provides:
[6]

"ART. 147. When a man and a woman who are capacitated to marry each other, live
exclusively with each other as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage or under a
void marriage, their wages and salaries shall be owned by them in equal shares and the
property acquired by both of them through their work or industry shall be governed by the
rules on co-ownership.

"In the absence of proof to the contrary, properties acquired while they lived together shall be
presumed to have been obtained by their joint efforts, work or industry, and shall be owned by
them in equal shares. For purposes of this Article, a party who did not participate in the
acquisition by the other party of any property shall be deemed to have contributed jointly in
the acquisition thereof if the former's efforts consisted in the care and maintenance of the
family and of the household.

"Neither party can encumber or dispose by acts inter vivos of his or her share in the property
acquired during cohabitation and owned in common, without the consent of the other, until
after the termination of their cohabitation.

"When only one of the parties to a void marriage is in good faith, the share of the party in bad
60
faith in the co-ownership shall be forfeited in favor of their common children. In case of
default of or waiver by any or all of the common children or their descendants, each vacant
share shall belong to the respective surviving descendants. In the absence of descendants,
such share shall belong to the innocent party. In all cases, the forfeiture shall take place upon
termination of the cohabitation."

This peculiar kind of co-ownership applies when a man and a woman, suffering no legal
impediment to marry each other, so exclusively live together as husband and wife under a
void marriage or without the benefit of marriage. The term "capacitated" in the provision (in
the first paragraph of the law) refers to the legal capacity of a party to contract marriage, i.e.,
any "male or female of the age of eighteen years or upwards not under any of the impediments
mentioned in Articles 37 and 38" of the Code.
[7]

Under this property regime, property acquired by both spouses through


their work and industry shall be governed by the rules on equal co-ownership. Any property
acquired during the union is prima facie presumed to have been obtained through their joint
efforts. A party who did not participate in the acquisition of the property shall still be
considered as having contributed thereto jointly if said party's "efforts consisted in the care
and maintenance of the family household." Unlike the conjugal partnership of gains, the
[8]

fruits of the couple's separate property are not included in the co-ownership.
Article 147 of the Family Code, in substance and to the above extent, has clarified Article
144 of the Civil Code; in addition, the law now expressly provides that
(a) Neither party can dispose or encumber by act inter vivos his or her share in co-
ownership property, without the consent of the other, during the period of cohabitation; and
(b) In the case of a void marriage, any party in bad faith shall forfeit his or her share in the
co-ownership in favor of their common children; in default thereof or waiver by any or all of
the common children, each vacant share shall belong to the respective surviving descendants,
or still in default thereof, to the innocent party. The forfeiture shall take place upon the
termination of the cohabitation or declaration of nullity of the marriage.
[9] [10]

When the common-law spouses suffer from a legal impediment to marry or when they do
not live exclusively with each other (as husband and wife ),only the property acquired by both
of them through their actual joint contribution of money, property or industry shall be owned
in common and in proportion to their respective contributions. Such contributions and
corresponding shares, however, are prima facie presumed to be equal. The share of any party
who is married to another shall accrue to the absolute community or conjugal partnership, as
the case may be, if so existing under a valid marriage. If the party who has acted in bad faith
is not validly married to another, his or her share shall be forfeited in the manner already
heretofore expressed. [11]

In deciding to take further cognizance of the issue on the settlement of the parties'
common property, the trial court acted neither imprudently nor precipitately; a court which
61
has jurisdiction to declare the marriage a nullity must be deemed likewise clothed with
authority to resolve incidental and consequential matters. Nor did it commit a reversible error
in ruling that petitioner and private respondent own the "family home" and all their common
property in equal shares, as well as in concluding that, in the liquidation and partition of the
property owned in common by them, the provisions on co-ownership under the Civil Code,
not Articles 50, 51 and 52, in relation to Articles 102 and 129, of the Family Code, should
[12]

aptly prevail. The rules set up to govern the liquidation of either the absolute community or
the conjugal partnership of gains, the property regimes recognized for valid and voidable
marriages (in the latter case until the contract is annulled ),are irrelevant to the liquidation of
the co-ownership that exists between common-law spouses. The first paragraph of Article 50
of the Family Code, applying paragraphs (2 ),(3 ),(4) and (5) of Article 43, relates only, by
[13]

its explicit terms, to voidable marriages and, exceptionally, to void marriages under Article
40 of the Code, i.e., the declaration of nullity of a subsequent marriage contracted by a
[14]

spouse of a prior void marriage before the latter is judicially declared void. The latter is a
special rule that somehow recognizes the philosophy and an old doctrine that void marriages
are inexistent from the very beginning and no judicial decree is necessary to establish their
nullity. In now requiring for purposes of remarriage, the declaration of nullity by final
judgment of the previously contracted void marriage, the present law aims to do away with
any continuing uncertainty on the status of the second marriage. It is not then illogical for the
provisions of Article 43, in relation to Articles 41 and 42, of the Family Code, on the
[15] [16]

effects of the termination of a subsequent marriage contracted during the subsistence of a


previous marriage to be made applicable pro hac vice. In all other cases, it is not to be
assumed that the law has also meant to have coincident property relations, on the one hand,
between spouses in valid and voidable marriages (before annulment) and, on the other,
between common-law spouses or spouses of void marriages, leaving to ordain, in the latter
case, the ordinary rules on co-ownership subject to the provision of Article 147 and Article
148 of the Family Code. It must be stressed, nevertheless, even as it may merely state the
obvious, that the provisions of the Family Code on the "family home," i.e., the provisions
found in Title V, Chapter 2, of the Family Code, remain in force and effect regardless of the
property regime of the spouses.
WHEREFORE, the questioned orders, dated 05 May 1995 and 30 October 1995, of the
trial court are AFFIRMED. No costs.
SO ORDERED.
Padilla, Kapunan, and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ., concur.
Bellosillo, J., on leave.
SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 178044 January 19, 2011

ALAIN M. DIÑO , Petitioner,

62
vs.
MA. CARIDAD L. DIÑO, Respondent.

DECISION

CARPIO, J.:

The Case

Before the Court is a petition for review1 assailing the 18 October 2006 Decision2 and the 12 March 2007 Order3 of the
Regional Trial Court of Las Piñas City, Branch 254 (trial court) in Civil Case No. LP-01-0149.

The Antecedent Facts

Alain M. Diño (petitioner) and Ma. Caridad L. Diño (respondent) were childhood friends and sweethearts. They started
living together in 1984 until they decided to separate in 1994. In 1996, petitioner and respondent decided to live together
again. On 14 January 1998, they were married before Mayor Vergel Aguilar of Las Piñas City.

On 30 May 2001, petitioner filed an action for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage against respondent, citing
psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the Family Code. Petitioner alleged that respondent failed in her marital
obligation to give love and support to him, and had abandoned her responsibility to the family, choosing instead to go on
shopping sprees and gallivanting with her friends that depleted the family assets. Petitioner further alleged that
respondent was not faithful, and would at times become violent and hurt him.

Extrajudicial service of summons was effected upon respondent who, at the time of the filing of the petition, was already
living in the United States of America. Despite receipt of the summons, respondent did not file an answer to the petition
within the reglementary period. Petitioner later learned that respondent filed a petition for divorce/dissolution of her
marriage with petitioner, which was granted by the Superior Court of California on 25 May 2001. Petitioner also learned
that on 5 October 2001, respondent married a certain Manuel V. Alcantara.

On 30 April 2002, the Office of the Las Piñas prosecutor found that there were no indicative facts of collusion between
the parties and the case was set for trial on the merits.

Dr. Nedy L. Tayag (Dr. Tayag), a clinical psychologist, submitted a psychological report establishing that respondent
was suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder which was deeply ingrained in her system since her early formative
years. Dr. Tayag found that respondent’s disorder was long-lasting and by nature, incurable.

In its 18 October 2006 Decision, the trial court granted the petition on the ground that respondent was psychologically
incapacited to comply with the essential marital obligations at the time of the celebration of the marriage.

The Decision of the Trial Court

The trial court ruled that based on the evidence presented, petitioner was able to establish respondent’s psychological
incapacity. The trial court ruled that even without Dr. Tayag’s psychological report, the allegations in the complaint,
substantiated in the witness stand, clearly made out a case of psychological incapacity against respondent. The trial court
found that respondent committed acts which hurt and embarrassed petitioner and the rest of the family, and that
respondent failed to observe mutual love, respect and fidelity required of her under Article 68 of the Family Code. The
trial court also ruled that respondent abandoned petitioner when she obtained a divorce abroad and married another man.

The dispositive portion of the trial court’s decision reads:

63
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered:

1. Declaring the marriage between plaintiff ALAIN M. DIÑO and defendant MA. CARIDAD L. DIÑO on
January 14, 1998, and all its effects under the law, as NULL and VOID from the beginning; and

2. Dissolving the regime of absolute community of property.

A DECREE OF ABSOLUTE NULLITY OF MARRIAGE shall only be issued upon compliance with Article[s] 50 and
51 of the Family Code.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished the parties, the Office of the Solicitor General, Office of the City Prosecutor, Las
Piñas City and the Office of the Local Civil Registrar of Las Piñas City, for their information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.4

Petitioner filed a motion for partial reconsideration questioning the dissolution of the absolute community of property
and the ruling that the decree of annulment shall only be issued upon compliance with Articles 50 and 51 of the Family
Code.

In its 12 March 2007 Order, the trial court partially granted the motion and modified its 18 October 2006 Decision as
follows:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered:

1) Declaring the marriage between plaintiff ALAIN M. DIÑO and defendant MA. CARIDAD L. DIÑO on
January 14, 1998, and all its effects under the law, as NULL and VOID from the beginning; and

2) Dissolving the regime of absolute community of property.

A DECREE OF ABSOLUTE NULLITY OF MARRIAGE shall be issued after liquidation, partition and distribution of
the parties’ properties under Article 147 of the Family Code.

Let copies of this Order be furnished the parties, the Office of the Solicitor General, the Office of the City Prosecutor of
Las Piñas City and the Local Civil Registrar of Las Piñas City, for their information and guidance.5

Hence, the petition before this Court.

The Issue

The sole issue in this case is whether the trial court erred when it ordered that a decree of absolute nullity of marriage
shall only be issued after liquidation, partition, and distribution of the parties’ properties under Article 147 of the Family
Code.

The Ruling of this Court

The petition has merit.

Petitioner assails the ruling of the trial court ordering that a decree of absolute nullity of marriage shall only be issued
after liquidation, partition, and distribution of the parties’ properties under Article 147 of the Family Code. Petitioner
argues that Section 19(1) of the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Null Marriages and Annulment of Voidable

64
Marriages6 (the Rule) does not apply to Article 147 of the Family Code.

We agree with petitioner.

The Court has ruled in Valdes v. RTC, Branch 102, Quezon City that in a void marriage, regardless of its cause, the
property relations of the parties during the period of cohabitation is governed either by Article 147 or Article 148 of the
Family Code.7 Article 147 of the Family Code applies to union of parties who are legally capacitated and not barred by
any impediment to contract marriage, but whose marriage is nonetheless void,8 such as petitioner and respondent in the
case before the Court.

Article 147 of the Family Code provides:

Article 147. When a man and a woman who are capacitated to marry each other, live exclusively with each other as
husband and wife without the benefit of marriage or under a void marriage, their wages and salaries shall be owned by
them in equal shares and the property acquired by both of them through their work or industry shall be governed by the
rules on co-ownership.

In the absence of proof to the contrary, properties acquired while they lived together shall be presumed to have been
obtained by their joint efforts, work or industry, and shall be owned by them in equal shares. For purposes of this Article,
a party who did not participate in the acquisition by the other party of any property shall be deemed to have contributed
jointly in the acquisition thereof if the former’s efforts consisted in the care and maintenance of the family and of the
household.

Neither party can encumber or dispose by acts inter vivos of his or her share in the property acquired during cohabitation
and owned in common, without the consent of the other, until after the termination of their cohabitation.

When only one of the parties to a void marriage is in good faith, the share of the party in bad faith in the co-ownership
shall be forfeited in favor of their common children. In case of default of or waiver by any or all of the common children
or their descendants, each vacant share shall belong to the respective surviving descendants. In the absence of
descendants, such share shall belong to the innocent party. In all cases, the forfeiture shall take place upon termination of
the cohabitation.

For Article 147 of the Family Code to apply, the following elements must be present:

1. The man and the woman must be capacitated to marry each other;

2. They live exclusively with each other as husband and wife; and

3. Their union is without the benefit of marriage, or their marriage is void.9

All these elements are present in this case and there is no question that Article 147 of the Family Code applies to the
property relations between petitioner and respondent.

We agree with petitioner that the trial court erred in ordering that a decree of absolute nullity of marriage shall be issued
only after liquidation, partition and distribution of the parties’ properties under Article 147 of the Family Code. The
ruling has no basis because Section 19(1) of the Rule does not apply to cases governed under Articles 147 and 148 of the
Family Code. Section 19(1) of the Rule provides:

Sec. 19. Decision. - (1) If the court renders a decision granting the petition, it shall declare therein that the decree of
absolute nullity or decree of annulment shall be issued by the court only after compliance with Articles 50 and 51 of the
Family Code as implemented under the Rule on Liquidation, Partition and Distribution of Properties.

65
The pertinent provisions of the Family Code cited in Section 19(1) of the Rule are:

Article 50. The effects provided for in paragraphs (2), (3), (4) and (5) of Article 43 and in Article 44 shall also apply in
proper cases to marriages which are declared void ab initio or annulled by final judgment under Articles 40 and 45.10

The final judgment in such cases shall provide for the liquidation, partition and distribution of the properties of the
spouses, the custody and support of the common children, and the delivery of their presumptive legitimes, unless such
matters had been adjudicated in previous judicial proceedings.

All creditors of the spouses as well as of the absolute community of the conjugal partnership shall be notified of the
proceedings for liquidation.

In the partition, the conjugal dwelling and the lot on which it is situated, shall be adjudicated in accordance with the
provisions of Articles 102 and 129.

Article 51. In said partition, the value of the presumptive legitimes of all common children, computed as of the date of
the final judgment of the trial court, shall be delivered in cash, property or sound securities, unless the parties, by mutual
agreement judicially approved, had already provided for such matters.

The children of their guardian, or the trustee of their property, may ask for the enforcement of the judgment.

The delivery of the presumptive legitimes herein prescribed shall in no way prejudice the ultimate successional rights of
the children accruing upon the death of either or both of the parents; but the value of the properties already received
under the decree of annulment or absolute nullity shall be considered as advances on their legitime.

It is clear from Article 50 of the Family Code that Section 19(1) of the Rule applies only to marriages which are declared
void ab initio or annulled by final judgment under Articles 40 and 45 of the Family Code. In short, Article 50 of the
Family Code does not apply to marriages which are declared void ab initio under Article 36 of the Family Code, which
should be declared void without waiting for the liquidation of the properties of the parties.

Article 40 of the Family Code contemplates a situation where a second or bigamous marriage was contracted. Under 1avvphil

Article 40, "[t]he absolute nullity of a previous marriage may be invoked for purposes of remarriage on the basis solely
of a final judgment declaring such previous marriage void." Thus we ruled:

x x x where the absolute nullity of a previous marriage is sought to be invoked for purposes of contracting a second
marriage, the sole basis acceptable in law, for said projected marriage to be free from legal infirmity, is a final judgment
declaring a previous marriage void.11

Article 45 of the Family Code, on the other hand, refers to voidable marriages, meaning, marriages which are valid until
they are set aside by final judgment of a competent court in an action for annulment.12 In both instances under Articles 40
and 45, the marriages are governed either by absolute community of property13 or conjugal partnership of gains14 unless
the parties agree to a complete separation of property in a marriage settlement entered into before the marriage. Since the
property relations of the parties is governed by absolute community of property or conjugal partnership of gains, there is
a need to liquidate, partition and distribute the properties before a decree of annulment could be issued. That is not the
case for annulment of marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code because the marriage is governed by the ordinary
rules on co-ownership.

In this case, petitioner’s marriage to respondent was declared void under Article 3615 of the Family Code and not under
Article 40 or 45. Thus, what governs the liquidation of properties owned in common by petitioner and respondent are the
rules on co-ownership. In Valdes, the Court ruled that the property relations of parties in a void marriage during the
period of cohabitation is governed either by Article 147 or Article 148 of the Family Code.16 The rules on co-ownership

66
apply and the properties of the spouses should be liquidated in accordance with the Civil Code provisions on co-
ownership. Under Article 496 of the Civil Code, "[p]artition may be made by agreement between the parties or by
judicial proceedings. x x x." It is not necessary to liquidate the properties of the spouses in the same proceeding for
declaration of nullity of marriage.

WHEREFORE, we AFFIRM the Decision of the trial court with the MODIFICATION that the decree of absolute
nullity of the marriage shall be issued upon finality of the trial court’s decision without waiting for the liquidation,
partition, and distribution of the parties’ properties under Article 147 of the Family Code.

SO ORDERED.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 189538 February 10, 2014

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,


vs.
MERLINDA L. OLAYBAR, Respondent.

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

Assailed in this petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court are the Regional Trial Court1(RTC)
Decision2 dated May 5, 2009 and Order3 dated August 25, 2009 in SP. Proc. No. 16519-CEB. The assailed decision
granted respondent Merlinda L. Olaybar's petition for cancellation of entries in the latter's marriage contract; while the
assailed order denied the motion for reconsideration filed by petitioner Republic of the Philippines through the Office of
the Solicitor General (OSG).

The facts of the case are as follows:

Respondent requested from the National Statistics Office (NSO) a Certificate of No Marriage (CENOMAR) as one of
the requirements for her marriage with her boyfriend of five years. Upon receipt thereof, she discovered that she was
already married to a certain Ye Son Sune, a Korean National, on June 24, 2002, at the Office of the Municipal Trial
Court in Cities (MTCC), Palace of Justice. She denied having contracted said marriage and claimed that she did not
know the alleged husband; she did not appear before the solemnizing officer; and, that the signature appearing in the
marriage certificate is not hers.4 She, thus, filed a Petition for Cancellation of Entries in the Marriage Contract, especially
the entries in the wife portion thereof.5 Respondent impleaded the Local Civil Registrar of Cebu City, as well as her
alleged husband, as parties to the case.

During trial, respondent testified on her behalf and explained that she could not have appeared before Judge Mamerto
Califlores, the supposed solemnizing officer, at the time the marriage was allegedly celebrated, because she was then in
Makati working as a medical distributor in Hansao Pharma. She completely denied having known the supposed husband,
but she revealed that she recognized the named witnesses to the marriage as she had met them while she was working as

67
a receptionist in Tadels Pension House. She believed that her name was used by a certain Johnny Singh, who owned a
travel agency, whom she gave her personal circumstances in order for her to obtain a passport.6 Respondent also
presented as witness a certain Eufrocina Natinga, an employee of MTCC, Branch 1, who confirmed that the marriage of
Ye Son Sune was indeed celebrated in their office, but claimed that the alleged wife who appeared was definitely not
respondent.7 Lastly, a document examiner testified that the signature appearing in the marriage contract was forged.8

On May 5, 2009, the RTC rendered the assailed Decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered, the petition is granted in favor of the petitioner, Merlinda L. Olaybar. The
Local Civil Registrar of Cebu City is directed to cancel all the entries in the WIFE portion of the alleged marriage
contract of the petitioner and respondent Ye Son Sune.

SO ORDERED.9

Finding that the signature appearing in the subject marriage contract was not that of respondent, the court found basis in
granting the latter’s prayer to straighten her record and rectify the terrible mistake.10

Petitioner, however, moved for the reconsideration of the assailed Decision on the grounds that: (1) there was no clerical
spelling, typographical and other innocuous errors in the marriage contract for it to fall within the provisions of Rule 108
of the Rules of Court; and (2) granting the cancellation of all the entries in the wife portion of the alleged marriage
contract is, in effect, declaring the marriage void ab initio.11

In an Order dated August 25, 2009, the RTC denied petitioner’s motion for reconsideration couched in this wise:

WHEREFORE, the court hereby denies the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the Republic of the Philippines. Furnish
copies of this order to the Office of the Solicitor General, the petitioner’s counsel, and all concerned government
agencies.

SO ORDERED.12

Contrary to petitioner’s stand, the RTC held that it had jurisdiction to take cognizance of cases for correction of entries
even on substantial errors under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court being the appropriate adversary proceeding required.
Considering that respondent’s identity was used by an unknown person to contract marriage with a Korean national, it
would not be feasible for respondent to institute an action for declaration of nullity of marriage since it is not one of the
void marriages under Articles 35 and 36 of the Family Code.13

Petitioner now comes before the Court in this Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court
seeking the reversal of the assailed RTC Decision and Order based on the following grounds:

I.

RULE 108 OF THE REVISED RULES OF COURT APPLIES ONLY WHEN THERE ARE ERRORS IN THE
ENTRIES SOUGHT TO BE CANCELLED OR CORRECTED.

II.

GRANTING THE CANCELLATION OF "ALL THE ENTRIES IN THE WIFE PORTION OF THE ALLEGED
MARRIAGE CONTRACT," IS IN EFFECT DECLARING THE MARRIAGE VOID AB INITIO. 14

Petitioner claims that there are no errors in the entries sought to be cancelled or corrected, because the entries made in
the certificate of marriage are the ones provided by the person who appeared and represented herself as Merlinda L.

68
Olaybar and are, in fact, the latter’s personal circumstances.15 In directing the cancellation of the entries in the wife
portion of the certificate of marriage, the RTC, in effect, declared the marriage null and void ab initio.16Thus, the petition
instituted by respondent is actually a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage in the guise of a Rule 108
proceeding.17

We deny the petition.

At the outset, it is necessary to stress that a direct recourse to this Court from the decisions and final orders of the RTC
may be taken where only questions of law are raised or involved. There is a question of law when the doubt arises as to
what the law is on a certain state of facts, which does not call for the examination of the probative value of the evidence
of the parties.18 Here, the issue raised by petitioner is whether or not the cancellation of entries in the marriage contract
which, in effect, nullifies the marriage may be undertaken in a Rule 108 proceeding. Verily, petitioner raised a pure
question of law.

Rule 108 of the Rules of Court sets forth the rules on cancellation or correction of entries in the civil registry, to wit:

SEC. 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.

Rule 108 of the Rules of Court provides the procedure for cancellation or correction of entries in the civil registry. The
proceedings may either be summary or adversary. If the correction is clerical, then the procedure to be adopted is

69
summary. If the rectification affects the civil status, citizenship or nationality of a party, it is deemed substantial, and the
procedure to be adopted is adversary. Since the promulgation of Republic v. Valencia19 in 1986, the Court has repeatedly
ruled that "even substantial errors in a civil registry may be corrected through a petition filed under Rule 108, with the
true facts established and the parties aggrieved by the error availing themselves of the appropriate adversarial
proceeding."20 An appropriate adversary suit or proceeding is one where the trial court has conducted proceedings where
all relevant facts have been fully and properly developed, where opposing counsel have been given opportunity to
demolish the opposite party’s case, and where the evidence has been thoroughly weighed and considered.21

It is true that in special proceedings, formal pleadings and a hearing may be dispensed with, and the remedy [is] granted
upon mere application or motion. However, a special proceeding is not always summary. The procedure laid down in
Rule 108 is not a summary proceeding per se. It requires publication of the petition; it mandates the inclusion as parties
of all persons who may claim interest which would be affected by the cancellation or correction; it also requires the civil
registrar and any person in interest to file their opposition, if any; and it states that although the court may make orders
expediting the proceedings, it is after hearing that the court shall either dismiss the petition or issue an order granting the
same. Thus, as long as the procedural requirements in Rule 108 are followed, it is the appropriate adversary proceeding
to effect substantial corrections and changes in entries of the civil register.22

In this case, the entries made in the wife portion of the certificate of marriage are admittedly the personal circumstances
of respondent. The latter, however, claims that her signature was forged and she was not the one who contracted
marriage with the purported husband. In other words, she claims that no such marriage was entered into or if there was,
she was not the one who entered into such contract. It must be recalled that when respondent tried to obtain a
CENOMAR from the NSO, it appeared that she was married to a certain Ye Son Sune. She then sought the cancellation
of entries in the wife portion of the marriage certificate.

In filing the petition for correction of entry under Rule 108, respondent made the Local Civil Registrar of Cebu City, as
well as her alleged husband Ye Son Sune, as parties-respondents. It is likewise undisputed that the procedural
requirements set forth in Rule 108 were complied with. The Office of the Solicitor General was likewise notified of the
petition which in turn authorized the Office of the City Prosecutor to participate in the proceedings. More importantly,
trial was conducted where respondent herself, the stenographer of the court where the alleged marriage was conducted,
as well as a document examiner, testified. Several documents were also considered as evidence. With the testimonies and
other evidence presented, the trial court found that the signature appearing in the subject marriage certificate was
different from respondent’s signature appearing in some of her government issued identification cards.23 The court thus
made a categorical conclusion that respondent’s signature in the marriage certificate was not hers and, therefore, was
forged. Clearly, it was established that, as she claimed in her petition, no such marriage was celebrated.

Indeed the Court made a pronouncement in the recent case of Minoru Fujiki v. Maria Paz Galela Marinay, Shinichi
Maekara, Local Civil Registrar of Quezon City, and the Administrator and Civil Registrar General of the National
Statistics Office24 that:

To be sure, a petition for correction or cancellation of an entry in the civil registry cannot substitute for an action to
invalidate a marriage. A direct action is necessary to prevent circumvention of the substantive and procedural safeguards
of marriage under the Family Code, A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC and other related laws. Among these safeguards are the
requirement of proving the limited grounds for the dissolution of marriage, support pendente lite of the spouses and
children, the liquidation, partition and distribution of the properties of the spouses and the investigation of the public
prosecutor to determine collusion. A direct action for declaration of nullity or annulment of marriage is also necessary to
prevent circumvention of the jurisdiction of the Family Courts under the Family Courts Act of 1997 (Republic Act No.
8369), as a petition for cancellation or correction of entries in the civil registry may be filed in the Regional Trial Court
where the corresponding civil registry is located. In other words, a Filipino citizen cannot dissolve his marriage by the
mere expedient of changing his entry of marriage in the civil registry.

Aside from the certificate of marriage, no such evidence was presented to show the existence of marriage. Rather,
1âwp hi1

respondent showed by overwhelming evidence that no marriage was entered into and that she was not even aware of

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such existence. The testimonial and documentary evidence clearly established that the only "evidence" of marriage
which is the marriage certificate was a forgery. While we maintain that Rule 108 cannot be availed of to determine the
validity of marriage, we cannot nullify the proceedings before the trial court where all the parties had been given the
opportunity to contest the allegations of respondent; the procedures were followed, and all the evidence of the parties had
already been admitted and examined. Respondent indeed sought, not the nullification of marriage as there was no
marriage to speak of, but the correction of the record of such marriage to reflect the truth as set forth by the evidence.
Otherwise stated, in allowing the correction of the subject certificate of marriage by cancelling the wife portion thereof,
the trial court did not, in any way, declare the marriage void as there was no marriage to speak of.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The Regional Trial Court Decision dated
May 5, 2009 and Order dated August 25, 2009 in SP. Proc. No. 16519-CEB, are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

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