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G.R. No. 132529. February 2, 2001 SUSAN NICDAO CARIO, petitioner, vs. SUSAN YEE CARIO, respondent.

DECISION YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.: The issue for resolution in the case at bar hinges on the validity of the two marriages contracted by the deceased SPO4 Santiago S. Cario, whose death benefits is now the subject of the controversy between the two Susans whom he married.

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Before this Court is a petition for review on certiorari seeking to set aside the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 51263, which affirmed in toto the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 87, in Civil Case No. Q-93-18632. During the lifetime of the late SPO4 Santiago S. Cario, he contracted two marriages, the first was on June 20, 1969, with petitioner Susan Nicdao Cario (hereafter referred to as Susan Nicdao), with whom he had two offsprings, namely, Sahlee and Sandee Cario; and the second was on November 10, 1992, with respondent Susan Yee Cario (hereafter referred to as Susan Yee), with whom he had no children in their almost ten year cohabitation starting way back in 1982. In 1988, SPO4 Santiago S. Cario became ill and bedridden due to diabetes complicated by pulmonary tuberculosis. He passed away on November 23, 1992, under the care of Susan Yee, who spent for his medical and burial expenses. Both petitioner and respondent filed claims for monetary benefits and financial assistance pertaining to the deceased from various government agencies. Petitioner Susan Nicdao was able to collect a total of P146,000.00 from MBAI, PCCUI, Commutation, NAPOLCOM, [and] Pagibig, while respondent Susan Yee received a total of P21,000.00 from GSIS Life, Burial (GSIS) and burial (SSS). On December 14, 1993, respondent Susan Yee filed the instant case for collection of sum of money against petitioner Susan Nicdao praying, inter alia, that petitioner be ordered to return to her at least one-half of the one hundred forty-six thousand pesos (P146,000.00) collectively denominated as death benefits which she (petitioner) received from MBAI, PCCUI, Commutation, NAPOLCOM, [and] Pag-ibig. Despite service of summons, petitioner failed to file her answer, prompting the trial court to declare her in default. Respondent Susan Yee admitted that her marriage to the deceased took place during the subsistence of, and without first obtaining a judicial declaration of nullity of, the marriage between petitioner and the deceased. She, however, claimed that she had no knowledge of the previous marriage and that she

became aware of it only at the funeral of the deceased, where she met petitioner who introduced herself as the wife of the deceased. To bolster her action for collection of sum of money, respondent contended that the marriage of petitioner and the deceased is void ab initio because the same was solemnized without the required marriage license. In support thereof, respondent presented: 1) the marriage certificate of the deceased and the petitioner which bears no marriage license number; and 2) a certification dated March 9, 1994, from the Local Civil Registrar of San Juan, Metro Manila, which reads

This is to certify that this Office has no record of marriage license of the spouses SANTIAGO CARINO (sic) and SUSAN NICDAO, who are married in this municipality on June 20, 1969. Hence, we cannot issue as requested a true copy or transcription of Marriage License number from the records of this archives. This certification is issued upon the request of Mrs. Susan Yee Cario for whatever legal purpose it may serve.
On August 28, 1995, the trial court ruled in favor of respondent, Susan Yee, holding as follows:

WHEREFORE, the defendant is hereby ordered to pay the plaintiff the sum of P73,000.00, half of the amount which was paid to her in the form of death benefits arising from the death of SPO4 Santiago S. Cario, plus attorneys fees in the amount of P5,000.00, and costs of suit. IT IS SO ORDERED.
On appeal by petitioner to the Court of Appeals, the latter affirmed in toto the decision of the trial court. Hence, the instant petition, contending that: I. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE FINDINGS OF THE LOWER COURT THAT VDA. DE CONSUEGRA VS. GSIS IS APPLICABLE TO THE CASE AT BAR. II. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN APPLYING EQUITY IN THE INSTANT CASE INSTEAD OF THE CLEAR AND UNEQUIVOCAL MANDATE OF THE FAMILY CODE. III. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT FINDING THE CASE OF VDA. DE CONSUEGRA VS GSIS TO HAVE BEEN MODIFIED, AMENDED AND EVEN ABANDONED BY THE ENACTMENT OF THE FAMILY CODE. Under Article 40 of the Family Code, 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. Meaning, 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. However, for purposes other than remarriage, no judicial action is necessary to declare a marriage an absolute nullity. For other purposes, such as but not limited to the determination of heirship, legitimacy or illegitimacy of a child, settlement of estate, dissolution of property regime, or a criminal case for that matter, the court may pass upon the validity of marriage even after the death of the parties thereto, and even in a suit not directly instituted to question the validity of said marriage, so long as it is essential to the determination of the case. In such instances, evidence must be adduced, testimonial or documentary, to prove the existence of grounds rendering such a previous marriage an absolute nullity. These need not be limited solely to an earlier final judgment of a court declaring such previous marriage void. It is clear therefore that the Court is clothed with sufficient authority to pass upon the validity of the two marriages in this case, as the same is essential to the determination of who is rightfully entitled to the subject death benefits of the deceased. Under the Civil Code, which was the law in force when the marriage of petitioner Susan Nicdao and the deceased was solemnized in 1969, a valid marriage license is a requisite of marriage, and the absence thereof, subject to certain exceptions, renders the marriage void ab initio. In the case at bar, there is no question that the marriage of petitioner and the deceased does not fall within the marriages exempt from the license requirement. A marriage license, therefore, was indispensable to the validity of their marriage. This notwithstanding, the records reveal that the marriage contract of petitioner and the deceased bears no marriage license number and, as certified by the Local Civil Registrar of San Juan, Metro Manila, their office has no record of such marriage license. In Republic v. Court of

Appeals, the Court held that such a certification is adequate to prove the non-issuance of a marriage
license. Absent any circumstance of suspicion, as in the present case, the certification issued by the local civil registrar enjoys probative value, he being the officer charged under the law to keep a record of all data relative to the issuance of a marriage license. Such being the case, the presumed validity of the marriage of petitioner and the deceased has been sufficiently overcome. It then became the burden of petitioner to prove that their marriage is valid and that they secured the required marriage license. Although she was declared in default before the trial court, petitioner could have squarely met the issue and explained the absence of a marriage license in her pleadings before the Court of Appeals and this Court. But petitioner conveniently avoided the issue and chose to refrain from pursuing an argument that will put her case in jeopardy. Hence, the presumed validity of their marriage cannot stand.

It is beyond cavil, therefore, that the marriage between petitioner Susan Nicdao and the deceased, having been solemnized without the necessary marriage license, and not being one of the marriages exempt from the marriage license requirement, is undoubtedly void ab initio. It does not follow from the foregoing disquisition, however, that since the marriage of petitioner and the deceased is declared void ab initio, the death benefits under scrutiny would now be awarded to respondent Susan Yee. To reiterate, under Article 40 of the Family Code, for purposes of remarriage, there must first be a prior judicial declaration of the nullity of a previous marriage, though void, before a party can enter into a second marriage, otherwise, the second marriage would also be void. Accordingly, the declaration in the instant case of nullity of the previous marriage of the deceased and petitioner Susan Nicdao does not validate the second marriage of the deceased with respondent Susan Yee. The fact remains that their marriage was solemnized without first obtaining a judicial decree declaring the marriage of petitioner Susan Nicdao and the deceased void. Hence, the marriage of respondent Susan Yee and the deceased is, likewise, void ab initio. One of the effects of the declaration of nullity of marriage is the separation of the property of the spouses according to the applicable property regime. Considering that the two marriages are void ab initio, the applicable property regime would not be absolute community or conjugal partnership of property, but rather, be governed by the provisions of Articles 147 and 148 of the Family Code on Property Regime of Unions Without Marriage. Under Article 148 of the Family Code, which refers to the property regime of bigamous marriages, adulterous relationships, relationships in a state of concubine, relationships where both man and woman are married to other persons, multiple alliances of the same married man, -

... [O]nly the properties acquired by both of the parties through their actual joint contribution of money, property, or industry shall be owned by them in common in proportion to their respective contributions ...
In this property regime, the properties acquired by the parties through their actual joint contribution shall belong to the co-ownership. Wages and salaries earned by each party belong to him or her exclusively. Then too, contributions in the form of care of the home, children and household, or spiritual or moral inspiration, are excluded in this regime. Considering that the marriage of respondent Susan Yee and the deceased is a bigamous marriage, having been solemnized during the subsistence of a previous marriage then presumed to be valid (between petitioner and the deceased), the application of Article 148 is therefore in order. The disputed P146,000.00 from MBAI [AFP Mutual Benefit Association, Inc.], NAPOLCOM, Commutation, Pag-ibig, and PCCUI, are clearly renumerations, incentives and benefits from governmental agencies earned

by the deceased as a police officer. Unless respondent Susan Yee presents proof to the contrary, it could not be said that she contributed money, property or industry in the acquisition of these monetary benefits. Hence, they are not owned in common by respondent and the deceased, but belong to the deceased alone and respondent has no right whatsoever to claim the same. By intestate succession, the said death benefits of the deceased shall pass to his legal heirs. And, respondent, not being the legal wife of the deceased is not one of them. As to the property regime of petitioner Susan Nicdao and the deceased, Article 147 of the Family Code governs. This article applies to unions of parties who are legally capacitated and not barred by any impediment to contract marriage, but whose marriage is nonetheless void for other reasons, like the absence of a marriage license. Article 147 of the Family Code reads

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 formers efforts consisted in the care and maintenance of the family and of the household. xxx 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.
In contrast to Article 148, under the foregoing article, wages and salaries earned by either party during the cohabitation shall be owned by the parties in equal shares and will be divided equally between them, even if only one party earned the wages and the other did not contribute thereto. Conformably, even if the disputed death benefits were earned by the deceased alone as a government employee, Article 147 creates a co-ownership in respect thereto, entitling the petitioner to share one-half thereof. As there is no allegation of bad faith in the present case, both parties of the first marriage are presumed to be in good faith. Thus, one-half of the subject death benefits under scrutiny shall go to the petitioner as her share in

the property regime, and the other half pertaining to the deceased shall pass by, intestate succession, to his legal heirs, namely, his children with Susan Nicdao. In affirming the decision of the trial court, the Court of Appeals relied on the case of Vda. de Consuegra v.

Government Service Insurance System, where the Court awarded one-half of the retirement benefits of the
deceased to the first wife and the other half, to the second wife, holding that:

... [S]ince the defendants first marriage has not been dissolved or declared void the conjugal partnership established by that marriage has not ceased. Nor has the first wife lost or relinquished her status as putative heir of her husband under the new Civil Code, entitled to share in his estate upon his death should she survive him. Consequently, whether as conjugal partner in a still subsisting marriage or as such putative heir she has an interest in the husbands share in the property here in dispute.... And with respect to the right of the second wife, this Court observed that although the second marriage can be presumed to be void ab initio as it was celebrated while the first marriage was still subsisting, still there is need for judicial declaration of such nullity. And inasmuch as the conjugal partnership formed by the second marriage was dissolved before judicial declaration of its nullity, [t]he only just and equitable solution in this case would be to recognize the right of the second wife to her share of one-half in the property acquired by her and her husband, and consider the other half as pertaining to the conjugal partnership of the first marriage.
It should be stressed, however, that the aforecited decision is premised on the rule which requires a prior and separate judicial declaration of nullity of marriage. This is the reason why in the said case, the Court determined the rights of the parties in accordance with their existing property regime. In Domingo v. Court of Appeals, however, the Court, construing Article 40 of the Family Code, clarified that a prior and separate declaration of nullity of a marriage is an all important condition precedent only for purposes of remarriage. That is, if a party who is previously married wishes to contract a second marriage, he or she has to obtain first a judicial decree declaring the first marriage void, before he or she could contract said second marriage, otherwise the second marriage would be void. The same rule applies even if the first marriage is patently void because the parties are not free to determine for themselves the validity or invalidity or their marriage. However, for purposes other than to remarry, like for filing a case for collection of sum of money anchored on a marriage claimed to be valid, no prior and separate judicial declaration of nullity is necessary. All that a party has to do is to present evidence, testimonial or documentary, that would prove that the marriage from which his or her rights flow is in fact valid. Thereupon, the court, if material to the determination of the issues before it, will rule on the status of the marriage involved and proceed to determine the rights of the parties in accordance with the applicable laws and jurisprudence. Thus, in Nial v. Bayadog, the Court explained:

[T]he court may pass upon the validity of marriage even in a suit not directly instituted to question the same so long as it is essential to the determination of the case. This is without prejudice to any issue that may arise in the case. When such need arises, a final judgment of declaration of nullity is necessary even if the purpose is other than to remarry. The clause on the basis of a final judgment declaring such previous marriage void in Article 40 of the Family Code connoted that such final judgment need not be obtained only for purpose of remarriage.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED, and the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 51263 which affirmed the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City ordering petitioner to pay respondent the sum of P73,000.00 plus attorneys fees in the amount of P5,000.00, is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The complaint in Civil Case No. Q-93-18632, is hereby DISMISSED. No pronouncement as to costs.

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SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J. (Chairman), Kapunan, and Pardo, JJ., concur. Puno J., on official leave.

[G.R. No. 137110. August 1, 2000] VINCENT PAUL G. MERCADO a.k.a. VINCENT G. MERCADO,, Petitioner, v. CONSUELO TAN, Respondent. DECISION PANGANIBAN, J.: A judicial declaration of nullity of a previous marriage is necessary before a subsequent one can be legally contracted. One who enters into a subsequent marriage without first obtaining such judicial declaration is guilty of bigamy. This principle applies even if the earlier union is characterized by statute as void. The Case Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari assailing the July 14, 1998 Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-GR CR No. 19830 and its January 4, 1999 Resolution denying reconsideration. The assailed Decision affirmed the ruling of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Bacolod City in Criminal Case No. 13848, which convicted herein petitioner of bigamy as follows: WHEREFORE, finding the guilt of accused Dr. Vincent Paul G. Mercado a.k.a. Dr. Vincent G. Mercado of the crime of Bigamy punishable under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code to have been proven beyond reasonable doubt, [the court hereby renders] judgment imposing upon him a prison term of three (3) years, four (4) months and fifteen (15) days of prision correccional, as minimum of his indeterminate sentence, to eight (8) years and twenty-one (21) days of prision mayor, as maximum, plus accessory penalties provided by law.

Costs against accused. The Facts The facts are quoted by Court of Appeals (CA) from the trial courts judgment, as follows: From the evidence adduced by the parties, there is no dispute that accused Dr. Vincent Mercado and complainant Ma. Consuelo Tan got married on June 27, 1991 before MTCC-Bacolod City Br. 7 Judge Gorgonio J. Ibaez [by reason of] which a Marriage Contract was duly executed and signed by the parties. As entered in said document, the status of accused was single. There is no dispute either that at the time of the celebration of the wedding with complainant, accused was actually a married man, having been in lawful wedlock with Ma. Thelma Oliva in a marriage ceremony solemnized on April 10, 1976 by Judge Leonardo B. Caares, CFIBr. XIV, Cebu City per Marriage Certificate issued in connection therewith, which matrimony was further blessed by Rev. Father Arthur Baur on October 10, 1976 in religious rites at the Sacred Heart Church, Cebu City. In the same manner, the civil marriage between accused and complainant was confirmed in a church ceremony on June 29, 1991 officiated by Msgr. Victorino A. Rivas, Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Bacolod City. Both marriages were consummated when out of the first consortium, Ma. Thelma Oliva bore accused two children, while a child, Vincent Paul, Jr. was sired by accused with complainant Ma. Consuelo Tan. On October 5, 1992, a letter-complaint for bigamy was filed by complainant through counsel with the City Prosecutor of Bacolod City, which eventually resulted [in] the institution of the present case before this Court against said accused, Dr. Vincent G. Mercado, on March 1, 1993 in an Information dated January 22, 1993. On November 13, 1992, or more than a month after the bigamy case was lodged in the Prosecutors Office, accused filed an action for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage against Ma. Thelma V. Oliva in RTC-Br. 22, Cebu City, and in a Decision dated May 6, 1993 the marriage between Vincent G. Mercado and Ma. Thelma V. Oliva was declared null and void. Accused is charged [with] bigamy under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code for having contracted a second marriage with herein complainant Ma. Consuelo Tan on June 27, 1991 when at that time he was previously united in lawful marriage with Ma. Thelma V. Oliva on April 10, 1976 at Cebu City, without said first marriage having been legally dissolved. As shown by the evidence and admitted by accused, all the essential elements of the crime are present, namely: (a) that the offender has been previously legally married; (2) that the first marriage has not been legally dissolved or in case the spouse is absent, the absent spouse could not yet be presumed dead according to the Civil Code; (3) that he contract[ed] a second or subsequent marriage; and (4) that the second or subsequent marriage ha[d] all the essential requisites for validity. x x x

While acknowledging the existence of the two marriage[s], accused posited the defense that his previous marriage ha[d] been judicially declared null and void and that the private complainant had knowledge of the first marriage of accused. It is an admitted fact that when the second marriage was entered into with Ma. Consuelo Tan on June 27, 1991, accuseds prior marriage with Ma. Thelma V. Oliva was subsisting, no judicial action having yet been initiated or any judicial declaration obtained as to the nullity of such prior marriage with Ma. Thelma V. Oliva. Since no declaration of the nullity of his first marriage ha[d] yet been made at the time of his second marriage, it is clear that accused was a married man when he contracted such second marriage with complainant on June 27, 1991. He was still at the time validly married to his first wife. Ruling of the Court of Appeals Agreeing with the lower court, the Court of Appeals stated: Under Article 40 of the Family Code, 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. But here, the final judgment declaring null and void accuseds previous marriage came not before the celebration of the second marriage, but after, when the case for bigamy against accused was already tried in court. And what constitutes the crime of bigamy is the act of any person who shall contract a second subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been legally dissolved. Hence, this Petition. The Issues In his Memorandum, petitioner raises the following issues: Whether or not the element of previous legal marriage is present in order to convict petitioner. Whether or not a liberal interpretation in favor of petitioner of Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code punishing bigamy, in relation to Articles 36 and 40 of the Family Code, negates the guilt of petitioner. Whether or not petitioner is entitled to an acquittal on the basis of reasonable doubt. The Courts Ruling The Petition is not meritorious. Main Issue:Effect of Nullity of Previous Marriage

Petitioner was convicted of bigamy under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, which provides: The penalty of prision mayor shall be imposed upon any person who shall contract a second or subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been legally dissolved, or before the absent spouse has been declared presumptively dead by means of a judgment rendered in the proper proceedings. 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; 4. That the second or subsequent marriage has all the essential requisites for validity. When the Information was filed on January 22, 1993, all the elements of bigamy were present. It is undisputed that petitioner married Thelma G. Oliva on April 10, 1976 in Cebu City. While that marriage was still subsisting, he contracted a second marriage, this time with Respondent Ma. Consuelo Tan who subsequently filed the Complaint for bigamy. Petitioner contends, however, that he obtained a judicial declaration of nullity of his first marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code, thereby rendering it void ab initio. Unlike voidable marriages which are considered valid until set aside by a competent court, he argues that a void marriage is deemed never to have taken place at all.[8 Thus, he concludes that there is no first marriage to speak of. Petitioner also quotes the commentaries of former Justice Luis Reyes that it is now settled that if the first marriage is void from the beginning, it is a defense in a bigamy charge. But if the first marriage is voidable, it is not a defense. Respondent, on the other hand, admits that the first marriage was declared null and void under Article 36 of the Family Code, but she points out that that declaration came only after the Information had been filed. Hence, by then, the crime had already been consummated. She argues that a judicial declaration of nullity of a void previous marriage must be obtained before a person can marry for a subsequent time. We agree with the respondent. To be sure, jurisprudence regarding the need for a judicial declaration of nullity of the previous marriage has been characterized as conflicting. In People v. Mendoza, a bigamy case involving an accused who married three times, the Court ruled that there was no need for such declaration. In that case, the accused contracted a second marriage during the subsistence of the first. When the first wife died, he married for the third time. The second wife then charged him with bigamy. Acquitting him, the Court held that the

second marriage was void ab initio because it had been contracted while the first marriage was still in effect. Since the second marriage was obviously void and illegal, the Court ruled that there was no need for a judicial declaration of its nullity. Hence, the accused did not commit bigamy when he married for the third time. This ruling was affirmed by the Court in People v. Aragon,[12 which involved substantially the same facts. But in subsequent cases, the Court impressed the need for a judicial declaration of nullity. In Vda de

Consuegra v. GSIS,[13 Jose Consuegra married for the second time while the first marriage was still
subsisting. Upon his death, the Court awarded one half of the proceeds of his retirement benefits to the first wife and the other half to the second wife and her children, notwithstanding the manifest nullity of the second marriage. It held: And with respect to the right of the second wife, this Court observes that although the second marriage can be presumed to be void ab initio as it was celebrated while the first marriage was still subsisting, still there is need for judicial declaration of such nullity. In Tolentino v. Paras, however, the Court again held that judicial declaration of nullity of a void marriage was not necessary. In that case, a man married twice. In his Death Certificate, his second wife was named as his surviving spouse. The first wife then filed a Petition to correct the said entry in the Death Certificate. The Court ruled in favor of the first wife, holding that the second marriage that he contracted with private respondent during the lifetime of the first spouse is null and void from the beginning and of no force and effect.No judicial decree is necessary to establish the invalidity of a void marriage. In Wiegel v. Sempio-Diy, the Court stressed the need for such declaration. In that case, Karl Heinz Wiegel filed an action for the declaration of nullity of his marriage to Lilia Olivia Wiegel on the ground that the latter had a prior existing marriage. After pretrial, Lilia asked that she be allowed to present evidence to prove, among others, that her first husband had previously been married to another woman. In holding that there was no need for such evidence, the Court ruled: x x x There is likewise no need of introducing evidence about the existing prior marriage of her first husband at the time they married each other, for

then such a marriage though void still needs, according to this Court, a judicial declaration of such fact and for all legal intents and purposes she would still be regarded as a married woman at the time she
contracted her marriage with respondent Karl Heinz Wiegel; x x x. Subsequently, in Yap v. CA, the Court reverted to the ruling in People v. Mendoza, holding that there was no need for such declaration of nullity. In Domingo v. CA, the issue raised was whether a judicial declaration of nullity was still necessary for the recovery and the separation of properties of erstwhile spouses. Ruling in the affirmative, the Court declared: 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; 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 first marriage, the person who marries again cannot be charged with bigamy. Unlike Mendoza and Aragon, Domingo as well as the other cases herein cited was not a criminal prosecution for bigamy. Nonetheless,Domingo underscored the need for a judicial declaration of nullity of a void marriage on the basis of a new provision of the Family Code, which came into effect several years after the promulgation of Mendoza and Aragon. In Mendoza and Aragon, the Court relied on Section 29 of Act No. 3613 (Marriage Law), which provided:

Illegal marriages. Any marriage subsequently contracted by any person during the lifetime of the first
spouse shall be illegal and void from its performance, unless: (a) The first marriage was annulled or dissolved; (b) The first spouse had been absent for seven consecutive years at the time of the second marriage without the spouse present having news of the absentee being alive, or the absentee being generally considered as dead and believed to be so by the spouse present at the time of contracting such subsequent marriage, the marriage as contracted being valid in either case until declared null and void by a competent court." The Court held in those two cases that the said provision plainly makes a subsequent marriage contracted by any person during the lifetime of his first spouse illegal and void from its performance, and no judicial

decree is necessary to establish its invalidity, as distinguished from mere annulable marriages.
The provision appeared in substantially the same form under Article 83 of the 1950 Civil Code and Article 41 of the Family Code. However, Article 40 of the Family Code, a new provision, expressly requires a judicial declaration of nullity of the previous marriage, as follows: ART. 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 marriage void. In view of this provision, Domingo stressed that a final judgment declaring such marriage void was necessary. Verily, the Family Code andDomingo affirm the earlier ruling in Wiegel. Thus, a Civil Law authority and member of the Civil Code Revision Commitee has observed: [Article 40] is also in line with the recent decisions of the Supreme Court that the marriage of a person may be null and void but there is need of a judicial declaration of such fact before that person can marry again; otherwise, the second marriage will also be void (Wiegel v. Sempio-Diy, Aug. 19/86, 143 SCRA 499, Vda. De Consuegra v. GSIS, 37 SCRA 315). This provision changes the old rule that where a marriage is

illegal and void from its performance, no judicial decree is necessary to establish its validity (People v. Mendoza, 95 Phil. 843; People v. Aragon, 100 Phil. 1033).
In this light, the statutory mooring of the ruling in Mendoza and Aragon that there is no need for a judicial declaration of nullity of a void marriage -- has been cast aside by Article 40 of the Family Code. Such declaration is now necessary before one can contract a second marriage. Absent that declaration, we hold that one may be charged with and convicted of bigamy. The present ruling is consistent with our pronouncement in Terre v. Terre, which involved an administrative Complaint against a lawyer for marrying twice. In rejecting the lawyers argument that he was free to enter into a second marriage because the first one was void ab initio, the Court ruled: for purposes of determining whether a person is legally free to contract a second marriage, a judicial declaration that the first marriage was null and void ab initio is essential. The Court further noted that the said rule was cast into statutory form by Article 40 of the Family Code. Significantly, it observed that the second marriage, contracted without a judicial declaration that the first marriage was void, was bigamous and criminal in character. Moreover, Justice Reyes, an authority in Criminal Law whose earlier work was cited by petitioner, changed his view on the subject in view of Article 40 of the Family Code and wrote in 1993 that a person must first obtain a judicial declaration of the nullity of a void marriage before contracting a subsequent marriage:

It is now settled that the fact that the first marriage is void from the beginning is not a defense in a bigamy charge. As with a voidable marriage, there must be a judicial declaration of the nullity of a marriage before contracting the second marriage. Article 40 of the Family Code states that x x x. The Code
Commission believes that the parties to a marriage should not be allowed to assume that their marriage is void, even if such is the fact, but must first secure a judicial declaration of nullity of their marriage before they should be allowed to marry again. x x x. In the instant case, petitioner contracted a second marriage although there was yet no judicial declaration of nullity of his first marriage. In fact, he instituted the Petition to have the first marriage declared void only after complainant had filed a letter-complaint charging him with bigamy. By contracting a second marriage while the first was still subsisting, he committed the acts punishable under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code. That he subsequently obtained a judicial declaration of the nullity of the first marriage was immaterial. To repeat, the crime had already been consummated by then. Moreover, his view effectively encourages delay in the prosecution of bigamy cases; an accused could simply file a petition to declare his previous marriage void and invoke the pendency of that action as a prejudicial question in the criminal case. We cannot allow that.

Under the circumstances of the present case, he is guilty of the charge against him.

Damages
In her Memorandum, respondent prays that the Court set aside the ruling of the Court of Appeals insofar as it denied her claim of damages and attorneys fees. Her prayer has no merit. She did not appeal the ruling of the CA against her; hence, she cannot obtain affirmative relief from this Court. In any event, we find no reason to reverse or set aside the pertinent ruling of the CA on this point, which we quote hereunder: We are convinced from the totality of the evidence presented in this case that Consuelo Tan is not the innocent victim that she claims to be; she was well aware of the existence of the previous marriage when she contracted matrimony with Dr. Mercado. The testimonies of the defense witnesses prove this, and we find no reason to doubt said testimonies. xxx Indeed, the claim of Consuelo Tan that she was not aware of his previous marriage does not inspire belief, especially as she had seen that Dr. Mercado had two (2) children with him. We are convinced that she took the plunge anyway, relying on the fact that the first wife would no longer return to Dr. Mercado, she being by then already living with another man. Consuelo Tan can therefore not claim damages in this case where she was fully conscious of the consequences of her act. She should have known that she would suffer humiliation in the event the truth [would] come out, as it did in this case, ironically because of her personal instigation. If there are indeed damages caused to her reputation, they are of her own willful making. WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED and the assailed Decision AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner. SO ORDERED.

Melo, (Chairman), Purisima, and Gonzaga-Reyes, JJ., concur. Vitug, J., see concurring and dissenting opinion.

CONCURRING AND DISSENTING OPINION VITUG, J.: At the pith of the controversy is the defense of the absolute nullity of a previous marriage in an indictment for bigamy. The majority opinion, penned by my esteemed brother, Mr. Justice Artemio V. Panganiban,

enunciates that it is only a judicially decreed prior void marriage which can constitute a defense against the criminal charge. The civil law rule stated in Article 40 of the Family Code is a given but I have strong reservations on its application beyond what appears to be its expressed context. The subject of the instant petition is a criminal prosecution, not a civil case, and theponencia affirms the conviction of petitioner Vincent Paul G. Mercado for bigamy. Article 40 of the Family code reads: ART. 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. The phrase for purposes of remarriage is not at all insignificant. Void marriages, like void contracts, are inexistent from the very beginning. It is only by way of exception that the Family code requires a judicial declaration of nullity of the previous marriage before a subsequent marriage is contracted; without such declaration, the validity and the full legal consequence of the subsequent marriage would itself be in similar jeopardy under Article 53, in relation to Article 52, of the Family Code. Parenthetically, I would daresay that the necessity of a judicial declaration of nullity of a void marriage for the purpose of remarriage should be held to refer merely to cases where it can be said that a marriage, at least ostensibly, had taken place. No such judicial declaration of nullity, in my view, should still be deemed essential when the marriage, for instance, is between persons of the same sex or when either or both parties had not at all given consent to the marriage. Indeed, it is likely that Article 40 of the Family Code has been meant and intended to refer only to marriages declared void under the provisions of Articles 35, 36, 37, 38 and 53 thereof. In fine, the Family Code, I respectfully submit, did not have the effect of overturning the rule in criminal law and related jurisprudence. The Revised Penal Code expresses: Art. 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. Surely, the foregoing provision contemplated an existing, not void, prior marriage. Covered by article 349 would thus be, for instance, a voidable marriage, it obviously being valid and subsisting until set aside by a competent court. As early as People vs. Aragon,1 this Court has underscored: xxx Our Revised Penal Code is of recent enactment and had the rule enunciated in Spain and in America requiring judicial declaration of nullity of ab initio void marriages been within the contemplation of the

legislature, an express provision to that effect would or should have been inserted in the law. In its absence, we are bound by said rule of strict interpretation. Unlike a voidable marriage which legally exists until judicially annulled (and therefore not a defense in bigamy if the second marriage were contracted prior to the decree of annulment), the complete nullity, however, of a previously contracted marriage, being a total nullity and inexistent, should be capable of being independently raised by way of a defense in a criminal case for bigamy. I see no incongruence between this rule in criminal law and that of the Family Code, and each may be applied within the respective spheres of governance. Accordingly, I vote to grant the petition.