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REPUBLIC ACT NO.

10354
AN ACT PROVIDING FOR A NATIONAL POLICY ON RESPONSIBLE PARENTHOOD AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH
Section 15. Certificate of Compliance. No marriage license shall be issued by the Local Civil Registrar unless the applicants present a
Certificate of Compliance issued for free by the local Family Planning Office certifying that they had duly received adequate instructions and
information on responsible parenthood, family planning, breastfeeding and infant nutrition.

Fifteenth Congress
Third Regular Session
Begun and held in Metro Manila, on Monday, the twenty-third day of July, two thousand twelve.

REPUBLIC ACT No. 10572


AN ACT ESTABLISHING THE LIABILITY OF THE ABSOLUTE COMMUNITY OR CONJUGAL PARTNERSHIP FOR AN OBLIGATION OF A SPOUSE
WHO PRACTICES A PROFESSION AND THE CAPABILITY OF EITHER SPOUSE TO DISPOSE OF AN EXCLUSIVE PROPERTY WITHOUT THE
CONSENT OF THE OTHER SPOUSE, AMENDING FOR THE PURPOSE ARTICLES 73 AND 111 OF EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 209, ALSO KNOWN AS
THE FAMILY CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines in Congress assembled:
Section 1. Article 73 of the Family Code, as amended, is hereby further amended to read as follows:
"Art. 73. Either spouse may exercise any legitimate profession, occupation, business or activity without the consent of the other. The latter
may object only on valid, serious, and moral grounds.
"In case of disagreement, the court shall decide whether or not:
"(1) The objection is proper, and
"(2) Benefit has accrued to the family prior to the objection or thereafter. If the benefit accrued prior to the objection, the resulting
obligation shall be enforced against the community property. If the benefit accrued thereafter, such obligation shall be enforced against
the separate property of the spouse who has not obtained consent.
"The foregoing provisions shall not prejudice the rights of creditors who acted in good faith."
Section 2. Article 111 of the Family Code, as amended, is hereby further amended to read as follows:
"Art. 111. Either spouse may mortgage, encumber, alienate or otherwise dispose of his or her exclusive property."
Section 3. Separability Clause. If any provision or part hereof is held invalid or unconstitutional, the remainder of the law or the provision
not otherwise affected shall remain valid and subsisting.
Section 4. Repealing Clause. Any law, presidential decree or issuance, executive order, letter of instruction, administrative order, rule or
regulation contrary to or inconsistent with the provisions of this Act is hereby repealed, modified or amended accordingly.
Section 5. Effectivity Clause. This Act shall take effect fifteen (15) days after its publication in at least two (2) newspapers of general
circulation.
Approved,
CASE NO. 1

G.R. No. 174689 October 22, 2007


ROMMEL JACINTO DANTES SILVERIO, petitioner,
vs.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.
DECISION
CORONA, J.:
When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God; He created them male and female. (Genesis 5:1-2)
Amihan gazed upon the bamboo reed planted by Bathala and she heard voices coming from inside the bamboo. "Oh North Wind! North
Wind! Please let us out!," the voices said. She pecked the reed once, then twice. All of a sudden, the bamboo cracked and slit open. Out
came two human beings; one was a male and the other was a female. Amihan named the man "Malakas" (Strong) and the woman
"Maganda" (Beautiful). (The Legend of Malakas and Maganda)
When is a man a man and when is a woman a woman? In particular, does the law recognize the changes made by a physician using scalpel,
drugs and counseling with regard to a persons sex? May a person successfully petition for a change of name and sex appearing in the birth
certificate to reflect the result of a sex reassignment surgery?
On November 26, 2002, petitioner Rommel Jacinto Dantes Silverio filed a petition for the change of his first name and sex in his birth
certificate in the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 8. The petition, docketed as SP Case No. 02-105207, impleaded the civil registrar of
Manila as respondent.
Petitioner alleged in his petition that he was born in the City of Manila to the spouses Melecio Petines Silverio and Anita Aquino Dantes on
April 4, 1962. His name was registered as "Rommel Jacinto Dantes Silverio" in his certificate of live birth (birth certificate). His sex was
registered as "male."
He further alleged that he is a male transsexual, that is, "anatomically male but feels, thinks and acts as a female" and that he had always
identified himself with girls since childhood.1 Feeling trapped in a mans body, he consulted several doctors in the United States. He
underwent psychological examination, hormone treatment and breast augmentation. His attempts to transform himself to a "woman"
culminated on January 27, 2001 when he underwent sex reassignment surgery2 in Bangkok, Thailand. He was thereafter examined by Dr.
Marcelino Reysio-Cruz, Jr., a plastic and reconstruction surgeon in the Philippines, who issued a medical certificate attesting that he
(petitioner) had in fact undergone the procedure.
From then on, petitioner lived as a female and was in fact engaged to be married. He then sought to have his name in his birth certificate
changed from "Rommel Jacinto" to "Mely," and his sex from "male" to "female."
An order setting the case for initial hearing was published in the Peoples Journal Tonight, a newspaper of general circulation in Metro
Manila, for three consecutive weeks.3 Copies of the order were sent to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and the civil registrar of
Manila.
On the scheduled initial hearing, jurisdictional requirements were established. No opposition to the petition was made.
During trial, petitioner testified for himself. He also presented Dr. Reysio-Cruz, Jr. and his American fianc, Richard P. Edel, as witnesses.
On June 4, 2003, the trial court rendered a decision4 in favor of petitioner. Its relevant portions read:
Petitioner filed the present petition not to evade any law or judgment or any infraction thereof or for any unlawful motive but solely for the
purpose of making his birth records compatible with his present sex.
The sole issue here is whether or not petitioner is entitled to the relief asked for.
The [c]ourt rules in the affirmative.
Firstly, the [c]ourt is of the opinion that granting the petition would be more in consonance with the principles of justice and equity. With
his sexual [re-assignment], petitioner, who has always felt, thought and acted like a woman, now possesses the physique of a female.
Petitioners misfortune to be trapped in a mans body is not his own doing and should not be in any way taken against him.
Likewise, the [c]ourt believes that no harm, injury [or] prejudice will be caused to anybody or the community in granting the petition. On
the contrary, granting the petition would bring the much-awaited happiness on the part of the petitioner and her [fianc] and the
realization of their dreams.
Finally, no evidence was presented to show any cause or ground to deny the present petition despite due notice and publication thereof.
Even the State, through the [OSG] has not seen fit to interpose any [o]pposition.
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered GRANTING the petition and ordering the Civil Registrar of Manila to change the entries
appearing in the Certificate of Birth of [p]etitioner, specifically for petitioners first name from "Rommel Jacinto" to MELY and petitioners
gender from "Male" to FEMALE. 5
On August 18, 2003, the Republic of the Philippines (Republic), thru the OSG, filed a petition for certiorari in the Court of Appeals.6 It
alleged that there is no law allowing the change of entries in the birth certificate by reason of sex alteration.
On February 23, 2006, the Court of Appeals7 rendered a decision8 in favor of the Republic. It ruled that the trial courts decision lacked legal
basis. There is no law allowing the change of either name or sex in the certificate of birth on the ground of sex reassignment through
surgery. Thus, the Court of Appeals granted the Republics petition, set aside the decision of the trial court and ordered the dismissal of SP
Case No. 02-105207. Petitioner moved for reconsideration but it was denied.9 Hence, this petition.
Petitioner essentially claims that the change of his name and sex in his birth certificate is allowed under Articles 407 to 413 of the Civil
Code, Rules 103 and 108 of the Rules of Court and RA 9048.10
The petition lacks merit.
A Persons First Name Cannot Be Changed On the Ground of Sex Reassignment
Petitioner invoked his sex reassignment as the ground for his petition for change of name and sex. As found by the trial court:
Petitioner filed the present petition not to evade any law or judgment or any infraction thereof or for any unlawful motive but solely for the
purpose of making his birth records compatible with his present sex. (emphasis supplied)
Petitioner believes that after having acquired the physical features of a female, he became entitled to the civil registry changes sought. We
disagree.
The State has an interest in the names borne by individuals and entities for purposes of identification. 11 A change of name is a privilege, not
a right.12 Petitions for change of name are controlled by statutes.13 In this connection, Article 376 of the Civil Code provides:
ART. 376. No person can change his name or surname without judicial authority.
This Civil Code provision was amended by RA 9048 (Clerical Error Law). In particular, Section 1 of RA 9048 provides:
SECTION 1. Authority to Correct Clerical or Typographical Error and Change of First Name or Nickname. No entry in a civil register shall be
changed or corrected without a judicial order, except for clerical or typographical errors and change of first name or nickname which can be
corrected or changed by the concerned city or municipal civil registrar or consul general in accordance with the provisions of this Act and its
implementing rules and regulations.
RA 9048 now governs the change of first name.14 It vests the power and authority to entertain petitions for change of first name to the city
or municipal civil registrar or consul general concerned. Under the law, therefore, jurisdiction over applications for change of first name is
now primarily lodged with the aforementioned administrative officers. The intent and effect of the law is to exclude the change of first
name from the coverage of Rules 103 (Change of Name) and 108 (Cancellation or Correction of Entries in the Civil Registry) of the Rules of
Court, until and unless an administrative petition for change of name is first filed and subsequently denied. 15 It likewise lays down the
corresponding venue,16 form17 and procedure. In sum, the remedy and the proceedings regulating change of first name are primarily
administrative in nature, not judicial.
RA 9048 likewise provides the grounds for which change of first name may be allowed:
SECTION 4. Grounds for Change of First Name or Nickname. The petition for change of first name or nickname may be allowed in any of
the following cases:
(1) The petitioner finds the first name or nickname to be ridiculous, tainted with dishonor or extremely difficult to write or pronounce;
(2) The new first name or nickname has been habitually and continuously used by the petitioner and he has been publicly known by that
first name or nickname in the community; or
(3) The change will avoid confusion.
Petitioners basis in praying for the change of his first name was his sex reassignment. He intended to make his first name compatible with
the sex he thought he transformed himself into through surgery. However, a change of name does not alter ones legal capacity or civil
status.18 RA 9048 does not sanction a change of first name on the ground of sex reassignment. Rather than avoiding confusion, changing
petitioners first name for his declared purpose may only create grave complications in the civil registry and the public interest.
Before a person can legally change his given name, he must present proper or reasonable cause or any compelling reason justifying such
change.19 In addition, he must show that he will be prejudiced by the use of his true and official name. 20 In this case, he failed to show, or
even allege, any prejudice that he might suffer as a result of using his true and official name.
In sum, the petition in the trial court in so far as it prayed for the change of petitioners first name was not within that courts primary
jurisdiction as the petition should have been filed with the local civil registrar concerned, assuming it could be legally done. It was an
improper remedy because the proper remedy was administrative, that is, that provided under RA 9048. It was also filed in the wrong venue
as the proper venue was in the Office of the Civil Registrar of Manila where his birth certificate is kept. More importantly, it had no merit
since the use of his true and official name does not prejudice him at all. For all these reasons, the Court of Appeals correctly dismissed
petitioners petition in so far as the change of his first name was concerned.
No Law Allows The Change of Entry In The Birth Certificate As To Sex On the Ground of Sex Reassignment
The determination of a persons sex appearing in his birth certificate is a legal issue and the court must look to the statutes.21 In this
connection, Article 412 of the Civil Code provides:
ART. 412. No entry in the civil register shall be changed or corrected without a judicial order.
Together with Article 376 of the Civil Code, this provision was amended by RA 9048 in so far as clerical or typographical errors are involved.
The correction or change of such matters can now be made through administrative proceedings and without the need for a judicial order.
In effect, RA 9048 removed from the ambit of Rule 108 of the Rules of Court the correction of such errors. 22 Rule 108 now applies only to
substantial changes and corrections in entries in the civil register.23
Section 2(c) of RA 9048 defines what a "clerical or typographical error" is:
SECTION 2. Definition of Terms. As used in this Act, the following terms shall mean:
xxx xxx xxx
(3) "Clerical or typographical error" refers to a mistake committed in the performance of clerical work in writing, copying, transcribing or
typing an entry in the civil register that is harmless and innocuous, such as misspelled name or misspelled place of birth or the like, which is
visible to the eyes or obvious to the understanding, and can be corrected or changed only by reference to other existing record or
records: Provided, however, That no correction must involve the change of nationality, age, status or sex of the petitioner. (emphasis
supplied)
Under RA 9048, a correction in the civil registry involving the change of sex is not a mere clerical or typographical error. It is a substantial
change for which the applicable procedure is Rule 108 of the Rules of Court.
The entries envisaged in Article 412 of the Civil Code and correctable under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court are those provided in Articles
407 and 408 of the Civil Code:24
ART. 407. Acts, events and judicial decrees concerning the civil status of persons shall be recorded in the civil register.
ART. 408. The following shall be entered in the civil register:
(1) Births; (2) marriages; (3) deaths; (4) legal separations; (5) annulments of marriage; (6) judgments declaring marriages void from the
beginning; (7) legitimations; (8) adoptions; (9) acknowledgments of natural children; (10) naturalization; (11) loss, or (12) recovery of
citizenship; (13) civil interdiction; (14) judicial determination of filiation; (15) voluntary emancipation of a minor; and (16) changes of name.
The acts, events or factual errors contemplated under Article 407 of the Civil Code include even those that occur after birth.25 However, no
reasonable interpretation of the provision can justify the conclusion that it covers the correction on the ground of sex reassignment.
To correct simply means "to make or set aright; to remove the faults or error from" while to change means "to replace something with
something else of the same kind or with something that serves as a substitute." 26 The birth certificate of petitioner contained no error. All
entries therein, including those corresponding to his first name and sex, were all correct. No correction is necessary.
Article 407 of the Civil Code authorizes the entry in the civil registry of certain acts (such as legitimations, acknowledgments of illegitimate
children and naturalization), events (such as births, marriages, naturalization and deaths) and judicial decrees (such as legal separations,
annulments of marriage, declarations of nullity of marriages, adoptions, naturalization, loss or recovery of citizenship, civil interdiction,
judicial determination of filiation and changes of name). These acts, events and judicial decrees produce legal consequences that touch
upon the legal capacity, status and nationality of a person. Their effects are expressly sanctioned by the laws. In contrast, sex reassignment
is not among those acts or events mentioned in Article 407. Neither is it recognized nor even mentioned by any law, expressly or impliedly.
"Status" refers to the circumstances affecting the legal situation (that is, the sum total of capacities and incapacities) of a person in view of
his age, nationality and his family membership.27
The status of a person in law includes all his personal qualities and relations, more or less permanent in nature, not ordinarily terminable at
his own will, such as his being legitimate or illegitimate, or his being married or not. The comprehensive term status include such matters
as the beginning and end of legal personality, capacity to have rights in general, family relations, and its various aspects, such as birth,
legitimation, adoption, emancipation, marriage, divorce, and sometimes even succession. 28 (emphasis supplied)
A persons sex is an essential factor in marriage and family relations. It is a part of a persons legal capacity and civil status. In this
connection, Article 413 of the Civil Code provides:
ART. 413. All other matters pertaining to the registration of civil status shall be governed by special laws.
But there is no such special law in the Philippines governing sex reassignment and its effects. This is fatal to petitioners cause.
Moreover, Section 5 of Act 3753 (the Civil Register Law) provides:
SEC. 5. Registration and certification of births. The declaration of the physician or midwife in attendance at the birth or, in default thereof,
the declaration of either parent of the newborn child, shall be sufficient for the registration of a birth in the civil register. Such declaration
shall be exempt from documentary stamp tax and shall be sent to the local civil registrar not later than thirty days after the birth, by the
physician or midwife in attendance at the birth or by either parent of the newborn child.
In such declaration, the person above mentioned shall certify to the following facts: (a) date and hour of birth; (b) sex and nationality of
infant; (c) names, citizenship and religion of parents or, in case the father is not known, of the mother alone; (d) civil status of parents; (e)
place where the infant was born; and (f) such other data as may be required in the regulations to be issued.
xxx xxx xxx (emphasis supplied)
Under the Civil Register Law, a birth certificate is a historical record of the facts as they existed at the time of birth.29Thus, the sex of a
person is determined at birth, visually done by the birth attendant (the physician or midwife) by examining the genitals of the infant.
Considering that there is no law legally recognizing sex reassignment, the determination of a persons sex made at the time of his or her
birth, if not attended by error,30 is immutable.31
When words are not defined in a statute they are to be given their common and ordinary meaning in the absence of a contrary legislative
intent. The words "sex," "male" and "female" as used in the Civil Register Law and laws concerning the civil registry (and even all other
laws) should therefore be understood in their common and ordinary usage, there being no legislative intent to the contrary. In this
connection, sex is defined as "the sum of peculiarities of structure and function that distinguish a male from a female" 32 or "the distinction
between male and female."33Female is "the sex that produces ova or bears young"34 and male is "the sex that has organs to produce
spermatozoa for fertilizing ova."35 Thus, the words "male" and "female" in everyday understanding do not include persons who have
undergone sex reassignment. Furthermore, "words that are employed in a statute which had at the time a well-known meaning are
presumed to have been used in that sense unless the context compels to the contrary."36 Since the statutory language of the Civil Register
Law was enacted in the early 1900s and remains unchanged, it cannot be argued that the term "sex" as used then is something alterable
through surgery or something that allows a post-operative male-to-female transsexual to be included in the category "female."
For these reasons, while petitioner may have succeeded in altering his body and appearance through the intervention of modern surgery,
no law authorizes the change of entry as to sex in the civil registry for that reason. Thus, there is no legal basis for his petition for the
correction or change of the entries in his birth certificate.
Neither May Entries in the Birth Certificate As to First Name or Sex Be Changed on the Ground of Equity
The trial court opined that its grant of the petition was in consonance with the principles of justice and equity. It believed that allowing the
petition would cause no harm, injury or prejudice to anyone. This is wrong.
The changes sought by petitioner will have serious and wide-ranging legal and public policy consequences. First, even the trial court itself
found that the petition was but petitioners first step towards his eventual marriage to his male fianc. However, marriage, one of the most
sacred social institutions, is a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman.37 One of its essential requisites is the legal
capacity of the contracting parties who must be a male and a female.38 To grant the changes sought by petitioner will substantially
reconfigure and greatly alter the laws on marriage and family relations. It will allow the union of a man with another man who has
undergone sex reassignment (a male-to-female post-operative transsexual). Second, there are various laws which apply particularly to
women such as the provisions of the Labor Code on employment of women, 39 certain felonies under the Revised Penal Code40 and the
presumption of survivorship in case of calamities under Rule 131 of the Rules of Court, 41 among others. These laws underscore the public
policy in relation to women which could be substantially affected if petitioners petition were to be granted.
It is true that Article 9 of the Civil Code mandates that "[n]o judge or court shall decline to render judgment by reason of the silence,
obscurity or insufficiency of the law." However, it is not a license for courts to engage in judicial legislation. The duty of the courts is to
apply or interpret the law, not to make or amend it.
In our system of government, it is for the legislature, should it choose to do so, to determine what guidelines should govern the recognition
of the effects of sex reassignment. The need for legislative guidelines becomes particularly important in this case where the claims asserted
are statute-based.
To reiterate, the statutes define who may file petitions for change of first name and for correction or change of entries in the civil registry,
where they may be filed, what grounds may be invoked, what proof must be presented and what procedures shall be observed. If the
legislature intends to confer on a person who has undergone sex reassignment the privilege to change his name and sex to conform with
his reassigned sex, it has to enact legislation laying down the guidelines in turn governing the conferment of that privilege.
It might be theoretically possible for this Court to write a protocol on when a person may be recognized as having successfully changed his
sex. However, this Court has no authority to fashion a law on that matter, or on anything else. The Court cannot enact a law where no law
exists. It can only apply or interpret the written word of its co-equal branch of government, Congress.
Petitioner pleads that "[t]he unfortunates are also entitled to a life of happiness, contentment and [the] realization of their dreams." No
argument about that. The Court recognizes that there are people whose preferences and orientation do not fit neatly into the commonly
recognized parameters of social convention and that, at least for them, life is indeed an ordeal. However, the remedies petitioner seeks
involve questions of public policy to be addressed solely by the legislature, not by the courts.
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED.
Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.
CASE NO. 2
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 166676
Petitioner, Present:
- versus - Quisumbing, J., Chairperson,
JENNIFER B. CAGANDAHAN, Carpio Morales,
Respondent. Tinga,
VELASCO, JR., and
BRION, JJ.
Promulgated:
September 12, 2008
QUISUMBING, J.:
This is a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court raising purely questions of law and seeking a reversal of the
Decision[1] dated January 12, 2005 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 33 of Siniloan, Laguna, which granted the Petition for
Correction of Entries in Birth Certificate filed by Jennifer B. Cagandahan and ordered the following changes of entries in Cagandahans
birth certificate: (1) the name "Jennifer Cagandahan" changed to "Jeff Cagandahan" and (2) gender from "female" to "male."
The facts are as follows.
On December 11, 2003, respondent Jennifer Cagandahan filed a Petition for Correction of Entries in Birth Certificate 2 before the RTC,
Branch 33 of Siniloan, Laguna.
In her petition, she alleged that she was born on January 13, 1981 and was registered as a female in the Certificate of Live Birth but while
growing up, she developed secondary male characteristics and was diagnosed to have Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) which is a
condition where persons thus afflicted possess both male and female characteristics. She further alleged that she was diagnosed to have
clitoral hyperthropy in her early years and at age six, underwent an ultrasound where it was discovered that she has small ovaries. At age
thirteen, tests revealed that her ovarian structures had minimized, she has stopped growing and she has no breast or menstrual
development. She then alleged that for all interests and appearances as well as in mind and emotion, she has become a male person.
Thus, she prayed that her birth certificate be corrected such that her gender be changed from female to male and her first name be
changed from Jennifer to Jeff.
The petition was published in a newspaper of general circulation for three (3) consecutive weeks and was posted in conspicuous places by
the sheriff of the court. The Solicitor General entered his appearance and authorized the Assistant Provincial Prosecutor to appear in his
behalf.
To prove her claim, respondent testified and presented the testimony of Dr. Michael Sionzon of the Department of Psychiatry, University
of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital. Dr. Sionzon issued a medical certificate stating that respondents condition is known as
CAH. He explained that genetically respondent is female but because her body secretes male hormones, her female organs did not
develop normally and she has two sex organs female and male. He testified that this condition is very rare, that respondents uterus is
not fully developed because of lack of female hormones, and that she has no monthly period. He further testified that respondents
condition is permanent and recommended the change of gender because respondent has made up her mind, adjusted to her chosen role
as male, and the gender change would be advantageous to her.
The RTC granted respondents petition in a Decision dated January 12, 2005 which reads:
The Court is convinced that petitioner has satisfactorily shown that he is entitled to the reliefs prayed [for]. Petitioner has adequately
presented to the Court very clear and convincing proofs for the granting of his petition. It was medically proven that petitioners body
produces male hormones, and first his body as well as his action and feelings are that of a male. He has chosen to be male. He is a normal
person and wants to be acknowledged and identified as a male.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Civil Register of Pakil, Laguna is hereby ordered to make the following corrections in the birth
[c]ertificate of Jennifer Cagandahan upon payment of the prescribed fees:
a) By changing the name from Jennifer Cagandahan to JEFF CAGANDAHAN; and
b) By changing the gender from female to MALE.
It is likewise ordered that petitioners school records, voters registry, baptismal certificate, and other pertinent records are hereby
amended to conform with the foregoing corrected data.
SO ORDERED.[3]
Thus, this petition by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) seeking a reversal of the abovementioned ruling.
The issues raised by petitioner are:
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GRANTING THE PETITION CONSIDERING THAT:
I.
THE REQUIREMENTS OF RULES 103 AND 108 OF THE RULES OF COURT HAVE NOT BEEN COMPLIED WITH; AND,
II.
CORRECTION OF ENTRY UNDER RULE 108 DOES NOT ALLOW CHANGE OF "SEX" OR "GENDER" IN THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE, WHILE
RESPONDENTS MEDICAL CONDITION, i.e., CONGENITAL ADRENAL HYPERPLASIA DOES NOT MAKE HER A "MALE." 4
Simply stated, the issue is whether the trial court erred in ordering the correction of entries in the birth certificate of respondent to
change her sex or gender, from female to male, on the ground of her medical condition known as CAH, and her name from "Jennifer" to
"Jeff," under Rules 103 and 108 of the Rules of Court.
The OSG contends that the petition below is fatally defective for non-compliance with Rules 103 and 108 of the Rules of Court because
while the local civil registrar is an indispensable party in a petition for cancellation or correction of entries under Section 3, Rule 108 of the
Rules of Court, respondents petition before the court a quo did not implead the local civil registrar.5 The OSG further contends
respondents petition is fatally defective since it failed to state that respondent is a bona fide resident of the province where the petition
was filed for at least three (3) years prior to the date of such filing as mandated under Section 2(b), Rule 103 of the Rules of Court.6 The
OSG argues that Rule 108 does not allow change of sex or gender in the birth certificate and respondents claimed medical condition
known as CAH does not make her a male.7
On the other hand, respondent counters that although the Local Civil Registrar of Pakil, Laguna was not formally named a party in the
Petition for Correction of Birth Certificate, nonetheless the Local Civil Registrar was furnished a copy of the Petition, the Order to publish
on December 16, 2003 and all pleadings, orders or processes in the course of the proceedings, 8 respondent is actually a male person and
hence his birth certificate has to be corrected to reflect his true sex/gender, 9 change of sex or gender is allowed under Rule 108,10 and
respondent substantially complied with the requirements of Rules 103 and 108 of the Rules of Court. 11
Rules 103 and 108 of the Rules of Court provide:
Rule 103
CHANGE OF NAME
Section 1. Venue. A person desiring to change his name shall present the petition to the Regional Trial Court of the province in which he
resides, [or, in the City of Manila, to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court].
Sec. 2. Contents of petition. A petition for change of name shall be signed and verified by the person desiring his name changed, or
some other person on his behalf, and shall set forth:
(a) That the petitioner has been a bona fide resident of the province where the petition is filed for at least three (3) years prior to the date
of such filing;
(b) The cause for which the change of the petitioner's name is sought;
(c) The name asked for.
Sec. 3. Order for hearing. If the petition filed is sufficient in form and substance, the court, by an order reciting the purpose of the
petition, shall fix a date and place for the hearing thereof, and shall direct that a copy of the order be published before the hearing at least
once a week for three (3) successive weeks in some newspaper of general circulation published in the province, as the court shall deem
best. The date set for the hearing shall not be within thirty (30) days prior to an election nor within four (4) months after the last
publication of the notice.
Sec. 4. Hearing. Any interested person may appear at the hearing and oppose the petition. The Solicitor General or the proper provincial
or city fiscal shall appear on behalf of the Government of the Republic.
Sec. 5. Judgment. Upon satisfactory proof in open court on the date fixed in the order that such order has been published as directed
and that the allegations of the petition are true, the court shall, if proper and reasonable cause appears for changing the name of the
petitioner, adjudge that such name be changed in accordance with the prayer of the petition.
Sec. 6. Service of judgment. Judgments or orders rendered in connection with this rule shall be furnished the civil registrar of the
municipality or city where the court issuing the same is situated, who shall forthwith enter the same in the civil register.
Rule 108
CANCELLATION OR CORRECTION OF ENTRIES
IN THE CIVIL REGISTRY
Section 1. Who may file petition. Any person interested in any act, event, order or decree concerning the civil status of persons which
has been recorded in the civil register, may file a verified petition for the cancellation or correction of any entry relating thereto, with the
Regional Trial Court of the province where the corresponding civil registry is located.
Sec. 2. Entries subject to cancellation or correction. Upon good and valid grounds, the following entries in the civil register may be
cancelled or corrected: (a) births; (b) marriages; (c) deaths; (d) legal separations; (e) judgments of annulments of marriage; (f) judgments
declaring marriages void from the beginning; (g) legitimations; (h) adoptions; (i) acknowledgments of natural children; (j) naturalization;
(k) election, loss or recovery of citizenship; (l) civil interdiction; (m) judicial determination of filiation; (n) voluntary emancipation of a
minor; and (o) changes of name.
Sec. 3. Parties. When cancellation or correction of an entry in the civil register is sought, the civil registrar and all persons who have or
claim any interest which would be affected thereby shall be made parties to the proceeding.
Sec. 4. Notice and publication. Upon the filing of the petition, the court shall, by an order, fix the time and place for the hearing of the
same, and cause reasonable notice thereof to be given to the persons named in the petition. The court shall also cause the order to be
published once a week for three (3) consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the province.
Sec. 5. Opposition. The civil registrar and any person having or claiming any interest under the entry whose cancellation or correction is
sought may, within fifteen (15) days from notice of the petition, or from the last date of publication of such notice, file his opposition
thereto.
Sec. 6. Expediting proceedings. The court in which the proceedings is brought may make orders expediting the proceedings, and may
also grant preliminary injunction for the preservation of the rights of the parties pending such proceedings.
Sec. 7. Order. After hearing, the court may either dismiss the petition or issue an order granting the cancellation or correction prayed
for. In either case, a certified copy of the judgment shall be served upon the civil registrar concerned who shall annotate the same in his
record.
The OSG argues that the petition below is fatally defective for non-compliance with Rules 103 and 108 of the Rules of Court because
respondents petition did not implead the local civil registrar. Section 3, Rule 108 provides that the civil registrar and all persons who have
or claim any interest which would be affected thereby shall be made parties to the proceedings. Likewise, the local civil registrar is
required to be made a party in a proceeding for the correction of name in the civil registry. He is an indispensable party without whom no
final determination of the case can be had.[12] Unless all possible indispensable parties were duly notified of the proceedings, the same
shall be considered as falling much too short of the requirements of the rules. 13 The corresponding petition should also implead as
respondents the civil registrar and all other persons who may have or may claim to have any interest that would be affected
thereby.14 Respondent, however, invokes Section 6,[15] Rule 1 of the Rules of Court which states that courts shall construe the Rules
liberally to promote their objectives of securing to the parties a just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of the matters brought before it.
We agree that there is substantial compliance with Rule 108 when respondent furnished a copy of the petition to the local civil registrar.
The determination of a persons sex appearing in his birth certificate is a legal issue and the court must look to the statutes. In this
connection, Article 412 of the Civil Code provides:
ART. 412. No entry in a civil register shall be changed or corrected without a judicial order.
Together with Article 376[16] of the Civil Code, this provision was amended by Republic Act No. 9048[17] in so far as clerical or
typographical errors are involved. The correction or change of such matters can now be made through administrative proceedings and
without the need for a judicial order. In effect, Rep. Act No. 9048 removed from the ambit of Rule 108 of the Rules of Court the correction
of such errors. Rule 108 now applies only to substantial changes and corrections in entries in the civil register.18
Under Rep. Act No. 9048, a correction in the civil registry involving the change of sex is not a mere clerical or typographical error. It is a
substantial change for which the applicable procedure is Rule 108 of the Rules of Court.19
The entries envisaged in Article 412 of the Civil Code and correctable under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court are those provided in Articles
407 and 408 of the Civil Code:
ART. 407. Acts, events and judicial decrees concerning the civil status of persons shall be recorded in the civil register.
ART. 408. The following shall be entered in the civil register:
(1) Births; (2) marriages; (3) deaths; (4) legal separations; (5) annulments of marriage; (6) judgments declaring marriages void from the
beginning; (7) legitimations; (8) adoptions; (9) acknowledgments of natural children; (10) naturalization; (11) loss, or (12) recovery of
citizenship; (13) civil interdiction; (14) judicial determination of filiation; (15) voluntary emancipation of a minor; and (16) changes of
name.
The acts, events or factual errors contemplated under Article 407 of the Civil Code include even those that occur after birth.20
Respondent undisputedly has CAH. This condition causes the early or "inappropriate" appearance of male characteristics. A person, like
respondent, with this condition produces too much androgen, a male hormone. A newborn who has XX chromosomes coupled with CAH
usually has a (1) swollen clitoris with the urethral opening at the base, an ambiguous genitalia often appearing more male than female; (2)
normal internal structures of the female reproductive tract such as the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes; as the child grows older, some
features start to appear male, such as deepening of the voice, facial hair, and failure to menstruate at puberty. About 1 in 10,000 to
18,000 children are born with CAH.
CAH is one of many conditions[21] that involve intersex anatomy. During the twentieth century, medicine adopted the term
"intersexuality" to apply to human beings who cannot be classified as either male or female.[22] The term is now of widespread use.
According to Wikipedia, intersexuality "is the state of a living thing of a gonochoristic species whose sex chromosomes, genitalia, and/or
secondary sex characteristics are determined to be neither exclusively male nor female. An organism with intersex may have biological
characteristics of both male and female sexes."
Intersex individuals are treated in different ways by different cultures. In most societies, intersex individuals have been expected to
conform to either a male or female gender role.[23] Since the rise of modern medical science in Western societies, some intersex people
with ambiguous external genitalia have had their genitalia surgically modified to resemble either male or female genitals.[24] More
commonly, an intersex individual is considered as suffering from a "disorder" which is almost always recommended to be treated,
whether by surgery and/or by taking lifetime medication in order to mold the individual as neatly as possible into the category of either
male or female.
In deciding this case, we consider the compassionate calls for recognition of the various degrees of intersex as variations which should not
be subject to outright denial. "It has been suggested that there is some middle ground between the sexes, a no-mans land for those
individuals who are neither truly male nor truly female."[25] The current state of Philippine statutes apparently compels that a person
be classified either as a male or as a female, but this Court is not controlled by mere appearances when nature itself fundamentally
negates such rigid classification.
In the instant case, if we determine respondent to be a female, then there is no basis for a change in the birth certificate entry for gender.
But if we determine, based on medical testimony and scientific development showing the respondent to be other than female, then a
change in the
subjects birth certificate entry is in order.
Biologically, nature endowed respondent with a mixed (neither consistently and categorically female nor consistently and categorically
male) composition. Respondent has female (XX) chromosomes. However, respondents body system naturally produces high levels of
male hormones (androgen). As a result, respondent has ambiguous genitalia and the phenotypic features of a male.
Ultimately, we are of the view that where the person is biologically or naturally intersex the determining factor in his gender classification
would be what the individual, like respondent, having reached the age of majority, with good reason thinks of his/her sex. Respondent
here thinks of himself as a male and considering that his body produces high levels of male hormones (androgen) there is preponderant
biological support for considering him as being male. Sexual development in cases of intersex persons makes the gender classification at
birth inconclusive. It is at maturity that the gender of such persons, like respondent, is fixed.
Respondent here has simply let nature take its course and has not taken unnatural steps to arrest or interfere with what he was born
with. And accordingly, he has already ordered his life to that of a male. Respondent could have undergone treatment and taken steps, like
taking lifelong medication,[26] to force his body into the categorical mold of a female but he did not. He chose not to do so. Nature has
instead taken its due course in respondents development to reveal more fully his male characteristics.
In the absence of a law on the matter, the Court will not dictate on respondent concerning a matter so innately private as ones sexuality
and lifestyle preferences, much less on whether or not to undergo medical treatment to reverse the male tendency due to CAH. The Court
will not consider respondent as having erred in not choosing to undergo treatment in order to become or remain as a female. Neither will
the Court force respondent to undergo treatment and to take medication in order to fit the mold of a female, as society commonly
currently knows this gender of the human species. Respondent is the one who has to live with his intersex anatomy. To him belongs the
human right to the pursuit of happiness and of health. Thus, to him should belong the primordial choice of what courses of action to take
along the path of his sexual development and maturation. In the absence of evidence that respondent is an "incompetent"[27]and in the
absence of evidence to show that classifying respondent as a male will harm other members of society who are equally entitled to
protection under the law, the Court affirms as valid and justified the respondents position and his personal judgment of being a male.
In so ruling we do no more than give respect to (1) the diversity of nature; and (2) how an individual deals with what nature has handed
out. In other words, we respect respondents congenital condition and his mature decision to be a male. Life is already difficult for the
ordinary person. We cannot but respect how respondent deals with his unordinary state and thus help make his life easier, considering
the unique circumstances in this case.
As for respondents change of name under Rule 103, this Court has held that a change of name is not a matter of right but of judicial
discretion, to be exercised in the light of the reasons adduced and the consequences that will follow.[28] The trial courts grant of
respondents change of name from Jennifer to Jeff implies a change of a feminine name to a masculine name. Considering the
consequence that respondents change of name merely recognizes his preferred gender, we find merit in respondents change of name.
Such a change will conform with the change of the entry in his birth certificate from female to male.
WHEREFORE, the Republics petition is DENIED. The Decision dated January 12, 2005 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 33 of Siniloan,
Laguna, is AFFIRMED. No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
CASE NO. 3

G.R. No. 198780 October 16, 2013


REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,
vs.
LIBERTY D. ALBIOS, Respondent.
DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:
This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules t of Court assailing the September 29, 2011 Decision1 of the Court of
Appeals (CA), in CA-G.R. CV No. 95414, which affirmed the April 25, 2008Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court, Imus, Cavite (RTC). declaring
the marriage of Daniel Lee Fringer (Fringer) and respondent Liberty Albios (A/bios) as void from the beginning.
The facts
On October 22, 2004, Fringer, an American citizen, and Albios were married before Judge Ofelia I. Calo of the Metropolitan Trial Court,
Branch59, Mandaluyong City (MeTC), as evidenced by a Certificate of Marriage with Register No. 2004-1588.3
On December 6, 2006, Albios filed with the RTC a petition for declaration of nullity 4 of her marriage with Fringer. She alleged that
immediately after their marriage, they separated and never lived as husband and wife because they never really had any intention of
entering into a married state or complying with any of their essential marital obligations. She described their marriage as one made in jest
and, therefore, null and void ab initio .
Summons was served on Fringer but he did not file his answer. On September 13, 2007, Albios filed a motion to set case for pre-trial and to
admit her pre-trial brief. The RTC ordered the Assistant Provincial Prosecutor to conduct an investigation and determine the existence of a
collusion. On October 2, 2007, the Assistant Prosecutor complied and reported that she could not make a determination for failure of both
parties to appear at the scheduled investigation.
At the pre-trial, only Albios, her counsel and the prosecutor appeared. Fringer did not attend the hearing despite being duly notified of the
schedule. After the pre-trial, hearing on the merits ensued.
Ruling of the RTC
In its April 25, 2008 Decision,5 the RTC declared the marriage void ab initio, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered declaring the marriage of Liberty Albios and Daniel Lee Fringer as void
from the very beginning. As a necessary consequence of this pronouncement, petitioner shall cease using the surname of respondent as
she never acquired any right over it and so as to avoid a misimpression that she remains the wife of respondent.
xxxx
SO ORDERED.6
The RTC was of the view that the parties married each other for convenience only. Giving credence to the testimony of Albios, it stated that
she contracted Fringer to enter into a marriage to enable her to acquire American citizenship; that in consideration thereof, she agreed to
pay him the sum of $2,000.00; that after the ceremony, the parties went their separate ways; that Fringer returned to the United States
and never again communicated with her; and that, in turn, she did not pay him the $2,000.00 because he never processed her petition for
citizenship. The RTC, thus, ruled that when marriage was entered into for a purpose other than the establishment of a conjugal and family
life, such was a farce and should not be recognized from its inception.
Petitioner Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), filed a motion for reconsideration. The RTC
issued the Order, 7 dated February 5, 2009, denying the motion for want of merit. It explained that the marriage was declared void because
the parties failed to freely give their consent to the marriage as they had no intention to be legally bound by it and used it only as a means
to acquire American citizenship in consideration of $2,000.00.
Not in conformity, the OSG filed an appeal before the CA.
Ruling of the CA
In its assailed decision, dated September 29, 2011, the CA affirmed the RTC ruling which found that the essential requisite of consent was
lacking. The CA stated that the parties clearly did not understand the nature and consequence of getting married and that their case was
similar to a marriage in jest. It further explained that the parties never intended to enter into the marriage contract and never intended to
live as husband and wife or build a family. It concluded that their purpose was primarily for personal gain, that is, for Albios to obtain
foreign citizenship, and for Fringer, the consideration of $2,000.00.
Hence, this petition.
Assignment of Error
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED ON A QUESTION OF LAWWHEN IT HELD THAT A MARRIAGE CONTRACTED FOR THEPURPOSE OF OBTAINING
FOREIGN CITIZENSHIP WAS DONEIN JEST, HENCE, LACKING IN THE ESSENTIAL ELEMENT OFCONSENT.8
The OSG argues that albeit the intention was for Albios to acquire American citizenship and for Fringer to be paid $2,000.00, both parties
freely gave their consent to the marriage, as they knowingly and willingly entered into that marriage and knew the benefits and
consequences of being bound by it. According to the OSG, consent should be distinguished from motive, the latter being inconsequential to
the validity of marriage.
The OSG also argues that the present case does not fall within the concept of a marriage in jest. The parties here intentionally consented to
enter into a real and valid marriage, for if it were otherwise, the purpose of Albios to acquire American citizenship would be rendered
futile.
On October 29, 2012, Albios filed her Comment9 to the petition, reiterating her stand that her marriage was similar to a marriage by way of
jest and, therefore, void from the beginning.
On March 22, 2013, the OSG filed its Reply10 reiterating its arguments in its petition for review on certiorari.
Ruling of the Court
The resolution of this case hinges on this sole question of law: Is a marriage, contracted for the sole purpose of acquiring American
citizenship in consideration of $2,000.00, void ab initio on the ground of lack of consent?
The Court resolves in the negative.
Before the Court delves into its ruling, It shall first examine the phenomenon of marriage fraud for the purposes of immigration.
Marriage Fraud in Immigration
The institution of marriage carries with it concomitant benefits. This has led to the development of marriage fraud for the sole purpose of
availing of particular benefits. In the United States, marriages where a couple marries only to achieve a particular purpose or acquire
specific benefits, have been referred to as "limited purpose" marriages.11 A common limited purpose marriage is one entered into solely for
the legitimization of a child.12 Another, which is the subject of the present case, is for immigration purposes. Immigration law is usually
concerned with the intention of the couple at the time of their marriage, 13 and it attempts to filter out those who use marriage solely to
achieve immigration status.14
In 1975, the seminal case of Bark v. Immigration and Naturalization Service, 15 established the principal test for determining the presence of
marriage fraud in immigration cases. It ruled that a "marriage is a sham if the bride and groom did not intend to establish a life together at
the time they were married. "This standard was modified with the passage of the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendment of 1986 (IMFA),
which now requires the couple to instead demonstrate that the marriage was not "entered into for the purpose of evading the immigration
laws of the United States." The focus, thus, shifted from determining the intention to establish a life together, to determining the intention
of evading immigration laws.16 It must be noted, however, that this standard is used purely for immigration purposes and, therefore, does
not purport to rule on the legal validity or existence of a marriage.
The question that then arises is whether a marriage declared as a sham or fraudulent for the limited purpose of immigration is also legally
void and in existent. The early cases on limited purpose marriages in the United States made no definitive ruling. In 1946, the notable case
of
United States v. Rubenstein17 was promulgated, wherein in order to allow an alien to stay in the country, the parties had agreed to marry
but not to live together and to obtain a divorce within six months. The Court, through Judge Learned Hand, ruled that a marriage to convert
temporary into permanent permission to stay in the country was not a marriage, there being no consent, to wit:
x x x But, that aside, Spitz and Sandler were never married at all. Mutual consent is necessary to every contract; and no matter what forms
or ceremonies the parties may go through indicating the contrary, they do not contract if they do not in fact assent, which may always be
proved. x x x Marriage is no exception to this rule: a marriage in jest is not a marriage at all. x x x It is quite true that a marriage without
subsequent consummation will be valid; but if the spouses agree to a marriage only for the sake of representing it as such to the outside
world and with the understanding that they will put an end to it as soon as it has served its purpose to deceive, they have never really
agreed to be married at all. They must assent to enter into the relation as it is ordinarily understood, and it is not ordinarily understood as
merely a pretence, or cover, to deceive others.18
(Italics supplied)
On the other end of the spectrum is the 1969 case of Mpiliris v. Hellenic Lines, 19 which declared as valid a marriage entered into solely for
the husband to gain entry to the United States, stating that a valid marriage could not be avoided "merely because the marriage was
entered into for a limited purpose."20 The 1980 immigration case of Matter of McKee,21 further recognized that a fraudulent or sham
marriage was intrinsically different from a non subsisting one.
Nullifying these limited purpose marriages for lack of consent has, therefore, been recognized as problematic. The problem being that in
order to obtain an immigration benefit, a legal marriage is first necessary.22 At present, United States courts have generally denied
annulments involving" limited purpose" marriages where a couple married only to achieve a particular purpose, and have upheld such
marriages as valid.23
The Court now turns to the case at hand.
Respondents marriage not void
In declaring the respondents marriage void, the RTC ruled that when a marriage was entered into for a purpose other than the
establishment of a conjugal and family life, such was a farce and should not be recognized from its inception. In its resolution denying the
OSGs motion for reconsideration, the RTC went on to explain that the marriage was declared void because the parties failed to freely give
their consent to the marriage as they had no intention to be legally bound by it and used it only as a means for the respondent to acquire
American citizenship. Agreeing with the RTC, the CA ruled that the essential requisite of consent was lacking. It held that the parties clearly
did not understand the nature and consequence of getting married. As in the Rubenstein case, the CA found the marriage to be similar to a
marriage in jest considering that the parties only entered into the marriage for the acquisition of American citizenship in exchange of
$2,000.00. They never intended to enter into a marriage contract and never intended to live as husband and wife or build a family.
The CAs assailed decision was, therefore, grounded on the parties supposed lack of consent. Under Article 2 of the Family Code, consent is
an essential requisite of marriage. Article 4 of the same Code provides that the absence of any essential requisite shall render a marriage
void ab initio.
Under said Article 2, for consent to be valid, it must be (1) freely given and (2) made in the presence of a solemnizing officer. A "freely
given" consent requires that the contracting parties willingly and deliberately enter into the marriage. Consent must be real in the sense
that it is not vitiated nor rendered defective by any of the vices of consent under Articles45 and 46 of the Family Code, such as fraud, force,
intimidation, and undue influence.24Consent must also be conscious or intelligent, in that the parties must be capable of intelligently
understanding the nature of, and both the beneficial or unfavorable consequences of their act. 25 Their understanding should not be
affected by insanity, intoxication, drugs, or hypnotism.26
Based on the above, consent was not lacking between Albios and Fringer. In fact, there was real consent because it was not vitiated nor
rendered defective by any vice of consent. Their consent was also conscious and intelligent as they understood the nature and the
beneficial and inconvenient consequences of their marriage, as nothing impaired their ability to do so. That their consent was freely given is
best evidenced by their conscious purpose of acquiring American citizenship through marriage. Such plainly demonstrates that they
willingly and deliberately contracted the marriage. There was a clear intention to enter into a real and valid marriage so as to fully comply
with the requirements of an application for citizenship. There was a full and complete understanding of the legal tie that would be created
between them, since it was that precise legal tie which was necessary to accomplish their goal.
In ruling that Albios marriage was void for lack of consent, the CA characterized such as akin to a marriage by way of jest. A marriage in jest
is a pretended marriage, legal in form but entered into as a joke, with no real intention of entering into the actual marriage status, and with
a clear understanding that the parties would not be bound. The ceremony is not followed by any conduct indicating a purpose to enter into
such a relation.27 It is a pretended marriage not intended to be real and with no intention to create any legal ties whatsoever, hence, the
absence of any genuine consent. Marriages in jest are void ab initio, not for vitiated, defective, or unintelligent consent, but for a complete
absence of consent. There is no genuine consent because the parties have absolutely no intention of being bound in any way or for any
purpose.
The respondents marriage is not at all analogous to a marriage in jest.1wphi1 Albios and Fringer had an undeniable intention to be bound
in order to create the very bond necessary to allow the respondent to acquire American citizenship. Only a genuine consent to be married
would allow them to further their objective, considering that only a valid marriage can properly support an application for citizenship.
There was, thus, an apparent intention to enter into the actual marriage status and to create a legal tie, albeit for a limited purpose.
Genuine consent was, therefore, clearly present.
The avowed purpose of marriage under Article 1 of the Family Code is for the couple to establish a conjugal and family life. The possibility
that the parties in a marriage might have no real intention to establish a life together is, however, insufficient to nullify a marriage freely
entered into in accordance with law. The same Article 1 provides that the nature, consequences, and incidents of marriage are governed by
law and not subject to stipulation. A marriage may, thus, only be declared void or voidable under the grounds provided by law. There is no
law that declares a marriage void if it is entered into for purposes other than what the Constitution or law declares, such as the acquisition
of foreign citizenship. Therefore, so long as all the essential and formal requisites prescribed by law are present, and it is not void or
voidable under the grounds provided by law, it shall be declared valid.28
Motives for entering into a marriage are varied and complex. The State does not and cannot dictate on the kind of life that a couple
chooses to lead. Any attempt to regulate their lifestyle would go into the realm of their right to privacy and would raise serious
constitutional questions.29 The right to marital privacy allows married couples to structure their marriages in almost any way they see fit, to
live together or live apart, to have children or no children, to love one another or not, and so on. 30 Thus, marriages entered into for other
purposes, limited or otherwise, such as convenience, companionship, money, status, and title, provided that they comply with all the legal
requisites,31are equally valid. Love, though the ideal consideration in a marriage contract, is not the only valid cause for marriage. Other
considerations, not precluded by law, may validly support a marriage.
Although the Court views with disdain the respondents attempt to utilize marriage for dishonest purposes, It cannot declare the marriage
void. Hence, though the respondents marriage may be considered a sham or fraudulent for the purposes of immigration, it is not void ab
initio and continues to be valid and subsisting.
Neither can their marriage be considered voidable on the ground of fraud under Article 45 (3) of the Family Code. Only the circumstances
listed under Article 46 of the same Code may constitute fraud, namely, (1) non- disclosure of a previous conv1ctwn involving moral
turpitude; (2) concealment by the wife of a pregnancy by another man; (3) concealment of a sexually transmitted disease; and (4)
concealment of drug addiction, alcoholism, or homosexuality. No other misrepresentation or deceit shall constitute fraud as a ground for
an action to annul a marriage. Entering into a marriage for the sole purpose of evading immigration laws does not qualify under any of the
listed circumstances. Furthermore, under Article 47 (3), the ground of fraud may only be brought by the injured or innocent party. In the
present case, there is no injured party because Albios and Fringer both conspired to enter into the sham marriage.
Albios has indeed made a mockery of the sacred institution of marriage. Allowing her marriage with Fringer to be declared void would only
further trivialize this inviolable institution. The Court cannot declare such a marriage void in the event the parties fail to qualify for
immigration benefits, after they have availed of its benefits, or simply have no further use for it. These unscrupulous individuals cannot be
allowed to use the courts as instruments in their fraudulent schemes. Albios already misused a judicial institution to enter into a marriage
of convenience; she should not be allowed to again abuse it to get herself out of an inconvenient situation.
No less than our Constitution declares that marriage, as an in violable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be
protected by the State.32 It must, therefore, be safeguarded from the whims and caprices of the contracting parties. This Court cannot
leave the impression that marriage may easily be entered into when it suits the needs of the parties, and just as easily nullified when no
longer needed.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The September 29, 2011 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 95414 is ANNULLED,
and Civil Case No. 1134-06 is DISMISSED for utter lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.
CASE NO. 4
G.R. No. 182438 July 2, 2014
RENE RONULO, Petitioner,
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
DECISION
BRION, J.:
Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari1 filed by petitioner Fr. Rene Ronulo challenging the April 3, 2008 decision2 of the Court
of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR. No. 31028 which affirmed the decision of the Regional Trial Court, (RTC) Branch 18, Batac, Ilocos Norte.
The Factual Antecedents
The presented evidence showed that3 Joey Umadac and Claire Bingayen were scheduled to marry each other on March 29, 2003 at the Sta.
Rosa Catholic Parish Church of San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte. However, on the day of the wedding, the supposed officiating priest, Fr. Mario
Ragaza, refused to solemnize the marriage upon learning that the couple failed to secure a marriage license. As a recourse, Joey, who was
then dressed in barong tagalong,and Claire, clad in a wedding gown, together with their parents, sponsors and guests, proceeded to the
Independent Church of Filipino Christians, also known as the Aglipayan Church. They requested the petitioner, an Aglipayan priest, to
perform a ceremony to which the latter agreed despite having been informed by the couple that they had no marriage certificate.
The petitioner prepared his choir and scheduled a mass for the couple on the same date. He conducted the ceremony in the presence of
the groom, the bride, their parents, the principal and secondary sponsors and the rest of their invited guests.4
An information for violation of Article 352 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), as amended, was filed against the petitioner before the
Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Batac, Ilocos Norte for allegedly performing an illegal marriage ceremony. 5
The petitioner entered the plea of "not guilty" to the crime charged on arraignment.
The prosecutions witnesses, Joseph and Mary Anne Yere, testified on the incidents of the ceremony. Joseph was the veil sponsor while
Mary Anne was the cord sponsor in the wedding. Mary Anne testified that she saw the bride walk down the aisle. She also saw the couple
exchange their wedding rings, kiss each other, and sign a document. 6She heard the petitioner instructing the principal sponsors to sign the
marriage contract. Thereafter, they went to the reception, had lunch and took pictures. She saw the petitioner there. She also identified
the wedding invitation given to her by Joey.7
Florida Umadac, the mother of Joey, testified that she heard the couple declare during the ceremony that they take each other as husband
and wife.8 Days after the wedding, she went to the municipal local civil registrar of San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte with Atty. Mariano R. Nalupta
Jr. where she was given a certificate that no marriage license was issued to the couple.9
The petitioner, while admitting that he conducted a ceremony, denied that his act of blessing the couple was tantamount to a
solemnization of the marriage as contemplated by law.10
The MTC Judgment
The MTC found the petitioner guilty of violation of Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, and imposed on him a 200.00 fine pursuant to
Section 44 of Act No. 3613. It held that the petitioners act of giving a blessing constitutes a marriage ceremony as he made an official
church recognition of the cohabitation of the couple as husband and wife.11 It further ruled that in performing a marriage ceremony
without the couples marriage license, the petitioner violated Article 352 of the RPC which imposes the penalty provided under Act No.
3613 or the Marriage Law. The MTC applied Section 44 of the Marriage Law which pertinently states that a violation of any of its provisions
that is not specifically penalized or of the regulations to be promulgated, shall be punished by a fine of not more than two hundred pesos
or by imprisonment of not more than one month, or both, in the discretion of the court.
The RPC is a law subsequent to the Marriage Law, and provides the penalty for violation of the latter law. Applying these laws, the MTC
imposed the penalty of a fine in the amount of 200.00.12
The RTC Ruling
The RTC affirmed the findings of the MTC and added that the circumstances surrounding the act of the petitioner in "blessing" the couple
unmistakably show that a marriage ceremony had transpired. It further ruled that the positive declarations of the prosecution witnesses
deserve more credence than the petitioners negative statements.13 The RTC, however, ruled that the basis of the fine should be Section
39, instead of Section 44, of the Marriage Law.
The CA Decision
On appeal, the CA affirmed the RTCs ruling. The CA observed that although there is no prescribed form or religious rite for the
solemnization of marriage, the law provides minimum standards in determining whether a marriage ceremony has been conducted, viz.: (1)
the contracting parties must appear personally before the solemnizing officer; and (2) they should declare that they take each other as
husband and wife in the presence of at least two witnesses of legal age. 14 According to the CA, the prosecution duly proved these
requirements. It added that the presence of a marriage certificate is not a requirement in a marriage ceremony. 15
The CA additionally ruled that the petitioners criminal liability under Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, is not dependent on whether Joey
or Claire were charged or found guilty under Article 350 of the same Code.16
The CA agreed with the MTC that the legal basis for the imposition of the fine is Section 44 of the Marriage Law since it covers violation of
regulations to be promulgated by the proper authorities such as the RPC.
The Petition
The petitioner argues that the CA erred on the following grounds: First, Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, is vague and does not define
what constitutes "an illegal marriage ceremony." Assuming that a marriage ceremony principally constitutes those enunciated in Article 55
of the Civil Code and Article 6 of the Family Code, these provisions require the verbal declaration that the couple take each other as
husband and wife, and a marriage certificate containing the declaration in writing which is duly signed by the contracting parties and
attested to by the solemnizing officer.17 The petitioner likewise maintains that the prosecution failed to prove that the contracting parties
personally declared that they take each other as husband and wife.18 Second, under the principle of separation of church and State, the
State cannot interfere in ecclesiastical affairs such as the administration of matrimony. Therefore, the State cannot convert the "blessing"
into a "marriage ceremony."19
Third, the petitioner had no criminal intent as he conducted the "blessing" in good faith for purposes of giving moral guidance to the
couple.20
Fourth, the non-filing of a criminal case against the couple in violating Article 350 of the RPC, as amended, should preclude the filing of the
present case against him.21
Finally, Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, does not provide for a penalty. The present case is not covered by Section 44 of the Marriage
Law as the petitioner was not found violating its provisions nor a regulation promulgated thereafter.22
THE COURTS RULING:
We find the petition unmeritorious.
The elements of the crime punishable under Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, were proven by the prosecution
Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, penalizes an authorized solemnizing officer who shall perform or authorize any illegal marriage
ceremony. The elements of this crime are as follows: (1) authority of the solemnizing officer; and (2) his performance of an illegal marriage
ceremony. In the present case, the petitioner admitted that he has authority to solemnize a marriage. Hence, the only issue to be resolved
is whether the alleged "blessing" by the petitioner is tantamount to the performance of an "illegal marriage ceremony" which is punishable
under Article 352 of the RPC, as amended.
While Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, does not specifically define a "marriage ceremony" and what constitutes its "illegal"
performance, Articles 3(3) and 6 of the Family Code are clear on these matters. These provisions were taken from Article 55 23 of the New
Civil Code which, in turn, was copied from Section 324 of the Marriage Law with no substantial amendments. Article 625 of the Family Code
provides that "[n]o prescribed form or religious rite for the solemnization of the marriage is required. It shall be necessary, however, for the
contracting parties to appear personally before the solemnizing officer and declare in the presence of not less than two witnesses of legal
age that they take each other as husband and wife."26 Pertinently, Article 3(3)27 mirrors Article 6 of the Family Code and particularly defines
a marriage ceremony as that which takes place with the appearance of the contracting parties before the solemnizing officer and their
personal declaration that they take each other as husband and wife in the presence of not less than two witnesses of legal age.
Even prior to the date of the enactment of Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, the rule was clear that no prescribed form of religious rite
for the solemnization of the marriage is required. However, as correctly found by the CA, the law sets the minimum requirements
constituting a marriage ceremony: first, there should be the personal appearance of the contracting parties before a solemnizing officer;
and second, heir declaration in the presence of not less than two witnesses that they take each other as husband and wife.
As to the first requirement, the petitioner admitted that the parties appeared before him and this fact was testified to by witnesses. On the
second requirement, we find that, contrary to the petitioners allegation, the prosecution has proven, through the testimony of Florida,
that the contracting parties personally declared that they take each other as husband and wife.
The petitioners allegation that the court asked insinuating and leading questions to Florida fails to persuadeus. A judge may examine or
cross-examine a witness. He may propound clarificatory questions to test the credibility of the witness and to extract the truth. He may
seek to draw out relevant and material testimony though that testimony may tend to support or rebut the position taken by one or the
other party. It cannot be taken against him if the clarificatory questions he propounds happen to reveal certain truths that tend to destroy
the theory of one party.28
At any rate, if the defense found the line of questioning of the judge objectionable, its failure to timely register this bars it from belatedly
invoking any irregularity.
In addition, the testimonies of Joseph and Mary Anne, and even the petitioners admission regarding the circumstances of the ceremony,
support Floridas testimony that there had indeed been the declaration by the couple that they take each other as husband and wife. The
testimony of Joey disowning their declaration as husband and wife cannot overcome these clear and convincing pieces of evidence.
Notably, the defense failed to show that the prosecution witnesses, Joseph and Mary Anne, had any ill-motive to testify against the
petitioner.
We also do not agree with the petitioner that the principle of separation of church and State precludes the State from qualifying the church
"blessing" into a marriage ceremony. Contrary to the petitioners allegation, this principle has been duly preserved by Article 6 of the
Family Code when it provides that no prescribed form or religious rite for the solemnization of marriage is required. This pronouncement
gives any religion or sect the freedom or latitude in conducting its respective marital rites, subject only to the requirement that the core
requirements of law be observed.
We emphasize at this point that Article 15 29 of the Constitution recognizes marriage as an inviolable social institution and that our family
law is based on the policy that marriage is not a mere contract, but a social institution in which the State is vitally interested. The State has
paramount interest in the enforcement of its constitutional policies and the preservation of the sanctity of marriage. To this end, it is within
its power to enact laws and regulations, such as Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, which penalize the commission of acts resulting in the
disintegration and mockery of marriage.
From these perspectives, we find it clear that what the petitioner conducted was a marriage ceremony, as the minimum requirements set
by law were complied with. While the petitioner may view this merely as a "blessing," the presence of the requirements of the law
constitutive of a marriage ceremony qualified this "blessing" into a "marriage ceremony" as contemplated by Article 3(3) of the Family
Code and Article 352 of the RPC, as amended.
We come now to the issue of whether the solemnization by the petitioner of this marriage ceremony was illegal.
Under Article 3(3) of the Family Code, one of the essential requisites of marriage is the presence of a valid marriage certificate. In the
present case, the petitioner admitted that he knew that the couple had no marriage license, yet he conducted the "blessing" of their
relationship.
Undoubtedly, the petitioner conducted the marriage ceremony despite knowledge that the essential and formal requirements of marriage
set by law were lacking. The marriage ceremony, therefore, was illegal. The petitioners knowledge of the absence of these requirements
negates his defense of good faith.
We also do not agree with the petitioner that the lack of a marriage certificate negates his criminal liability in the present case. For
purposes of determining if a marriage ceremony has been conducted, a marriage certificate is not included in the requirements provided by
Article 3(3) of the Family Code, as discussed above.
Neither does the non-filing of a criminal complaint against the couple negate criminal liability of the petitioner. Article 352 of the RPC, as
amended, does not make this an element of the crime. The penalty imposed is proper
On the issue on the penalty for violation of Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, this provision clearly provides that it shall be imposed in
accordance with the provision of the Marriage Law. The penalty provisions of the Marriage Law are Sections 39 and 44 which provide as
follows: Section 39 of the Marriage Law provides that:
Section 39. Illegal Solemnization of Marriage Any priest or minister solemnizing marriage without being authorized by the Director of the
Philippine National Library or who, upon solemnizing marriage, refuses to exhibit the authorization in force when called upon to do so by
the parties or parents, grandparents, guardians, or persons having charge and any bishop or officer, priest, or minister of any church,
religion or sect the regulations and practices whereof require banns or publications previous to the solemnization of a marriage in
accordance with section ten, who authorized the immediate solemnization of a marriage that is subsequently declared illegal; or any
officer, priest or minister solemnizing marriage in violation of this act, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one month nor
more than two years, or by a fine of not less than two hundred pesos nor more than two thousand pesos. [emphasis ours]
On the other hand, Section 44 of the Marriage Law states that:
Section 44. General Penal Clause Any violation of any provision of this Act not specifically penalized, or of the regulations to be
promulgated by the proper authorities, shall be punished by a fine of not more than two hundred pesos or by imprisonment for not more
than one month, or both, in the discretion of the court. [emphasis ours]
From a reading of the provisions cited above, we find merit in the ruling of the CA and the MTC that the penalty imposable in the present
case is that covered under Section 44, and not Section 39, of the Marriage Law.
The penalized acts under Section 39 of Act No. 3613 do not include the present case.1wphi1 As correctly found by the MTC, the petitioner
was not found violating the provisions of the Marriage Law but Article 352 of the RPC, as amended. It is only the imposition of the penalty
for the violation of this provision which is referred to the Marriage Law. On this point, Article 352 falls squarely under the provision of
Section 44 of Act No. 3613 which provides for the penalty for any violation of the regulations to be promulgated by the proper authorities;
Article 352 of the RPC, as amended, which was enacted after the Marriage Law, is one of such regulations.
Therefore, the CA did not err in imposing the penalty of fine of 200.00 pursuant to Section 44 of the Marriage Law.
WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition and affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals dated April 3, 2008 in CA-G.R. CR. No. 31028.
SO ORDERED.
CASE NO. 5
G.R. No. 145226 February 06, 2004
LUCIO MORIGO y CACHO, petitioner,
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.
DECISION
QUISUMBING, J.:
This petition for review on certiorari seeks to reverse the decision1 dated October 21, 1999 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 20700,
which affirmed the judgment2 dated August 5, 1996 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Bohol, Branch 4, in Criminal Case No. 8688. The trial
court found herein petitioner Lucio Morigo y Cacho guilty beyond reasonable doubt of bigamy and sentenced him to a prison term of seven
(7) months of prision correccionalas minimum to six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor as maximum. Also assailed in this petition is
the resolution3 of the appellate court, dated September 25, 2000, denying Morigos motion for reconsideration.
The facts of this case, as found by the court a quo, are as follows:
Appellant Lucio Morigo and Lucia Barrete were boardmates at the house of Catalina Tortor at Tagbilaran City, Province of Bohol, for a
period of four (4) years (from 1974-1978).
After school year 1977-78, Lucio Morigo and Lucia Barrete lost contact with each other.
In 1984, Lucio Morigo was surprised to receive a card from Lucia Barrete from Singapore. The former replied and after an exchange of
letters, they became sweethearts.
In 1986, Lucia returned to the Philippines but left again for Canada to work there. While in Canada, they maintained constant
communication.
In 1990, Lucia came back to the Philippines and proposed to petition appellant to join her in Canada. Both agreed to get married, thus they
were married on August 30, 1990 at the Iglesia de Filipina Nacional at Catagdaan, Pilar, Bohol.
On September 8, 1990, Lucia reported back to her work in Canada leaving appellant Lucio behind.
On August 19, 1991, Lucia filed with the Ontario Court (General Division) a petition for divorce against appellant which was granted by the
court on January 17, 1992 and to take effect on February 17, 1992.
On October 4, 1992, appellant Lucio Morigo married Maria Jececha Lumbago4 at the Virgen sa Barangay Parish, Tagbilaran City, Bohol.
On September 21, 1993, accused filed a complaint for judicial declaration of nullity of marriage in the Regional Trial Court of Bohol,
docketed as Civil Case No. 6020. The complaint seek (sic) among others, the declaration of nullity of accuseds marriage with Lucia, on the
ground that no marriage ceremony actually took place.
On October 19, 1993, appellant was charged with Bigamy in an Information5 filed by the City Prosecutor of Tagbilaran [City], with the
Regional Trial Court of Bohol.6
The petitioner moved for suspension of the arraignment on the ground that the civil case for judicial nullification of his marriage with Lucia
posed a prejudicial question in the bigamy case. His motion was granted, but subsequently denied upon motion for reconsideration by the
prosecution. When arraigned in the bigamy case, which was docketed as Criminal Case No. 8688, herein petitioner pleaded not guilty to the
charge. Trial thereafter ensued.
On August 5, 1996, the RTC of Bohol handed down its judgment in Criminal Case No. 8688, as follows:
WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, the Court finds accused Lucio Morigo y Cacho guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of
Bigamy and sentences him to suffer the penalty of imprisonment ranging from Seven (7) Months of Prision Correccional as minimum to Six
(6) Years and One (1) Day of Prision Mayoras maximum.
SO ORDERED.7
In convicting herein petitioner, the trial court discounted petitioners claim that his first marriage to Lucia was null and void ab initio.
Following Domingo v. Court of Appeals,8 the trial court ruled that want of a valid marriage ceremony is not a defense in a charge of bigamy.
The parties to a marriage should not be allowed to assume that their marriage is void even if such be the fact but must first secure a judicial
declaration of the nullity of their marriage before they can be allowed to marry again.
Anent the Canadian divorce obtained by Lucia, the trial court cited Ramirez v. Gmur,9 which held that the court of a country in which
neither of the spouses is domiciled and in which one or both spouses may resort merely for the purpose of obtaining a divorce, has no
jurisdiction to determine the matrimonial status of the parties. As such, a divorce granted by said court is not entitled to recognition
anywhere. Debunking Lucios defense of good faith in contracting the second marriage, the trial court stressed that following People v.
Bitdu,10 everyone is presumed to know the law, and the fact that one does not know that his act constitutes a violation of the law does not
exempt him from the consequences thereof.
Seasonably, petitioner filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. CR No. 20700.
Meanwhile, on October 23, 1997, or while CA-G.R. CR No. 20700 was pending before the appellate court, the trial court rendered a decision
in Civil Case No. 6020 declaring the marriage between Lucio and Lucia void ab initiosince no marriage ceremony actually took place. No
appeal was taken from this decision, which then became final and executory.
On October 21, 1999, the appellate court decided CA-G.R. CR No. 20700 as follows:
WHEREFORE, finding no error in the appealed decision, the same is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.
SO ORDERED.11
In affirming the assailed judgment of conviction, the appellate court stressed that the subsequent declaration of nullity of Lucios marriage
to Lucia in Civil Case No. 6020 could not acquit Lucio. The reason is that what is sought to be punished by Article 34912 of the Revised Penal
Code is the act of contracting a second marriage before the first marriage had been dissolved. Hence, the CA held, the fact that the first
marriage was void from the beginning is not a valid defense in a bigamy case.
The Court of Appeals also pointed out that the divorce decree obtained by Lucia from the Canadian court could not be accorded validity in
the Philippines, pursuant to Article 1513 of the Civil Code and given the fact that it is contrary to public policy in this jurisdiction. Under
Article 1714 of the Civil Code, a declaration of public policy cannot be rendered ineffectual by a judgment promulgated in a foreign
jurisdiction.
Petitioner moved for reconsideration of the appellate courts decision, contending that the doctrine in Mendiola v. People,15 allows mistake
upon a difficult question of law (such as the effect of a foreign divorce decree) to be a basis for good faith.
On September 25, 2000, the appellate court denied the motion for lack of merit. 16 However, the denial was by a split vote. The ponente of
the appellate courts original decision in CA-G.R. CR No. 20700, Justice Eugenio S. Labitoria, joined in the opinion prepared by Justice
Bernardo P. Abesamis. The dissent observed that as the first marriage was validly declared void ab initio, then there was no first marriage
to speak of. Since the date of the nullity retroacts to the date of the first marriage and since herein petitioner was, in the eyes of the law,
never married, he cannot be convicted beyond reasonable doubt of bigamy.
The present petition raises the following issues for our resolution:
A.
WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FAILING TO APPLY THE RULE THAT IN CRIMES PENALIZED UNDER THE REVISED PENAL
CODE, CRIMINAL INTENT IS AN INDISPENSABLE REQUISITE. COROLLARILY, WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FAILING TO
APPRECIATE [THE] PETITIONERS LACK OF CRIMINAL INTENT WHEN HE CONTRACTED THE SECOND MARRIAGE.
B.
WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE RULING IN PEOPLE VS. BITDU (58 PHIL. 817) IS APPLICABLE TO
THE CASE AT BAR.
C.
WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FAILING TO APPLY THE RULE THAT EACH AND EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE FAVORING THE
INNOCENCE OF THE ACCUSED MUST BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT.17
To our mind, the primordial issue should be whether or not petitioner committed bigamy and if so, whether his defense of good faith is
valid.
The petitioner submits that he should not be faulted for relying in good faith upon the divorce decree of the Ontario court. He highlights
the fact that he contracted the second marriage openly and publicly, which a person intent upon bigamy would not be doing. The
petitioner further argues that his lack of criminal intent is material to a conviction or acquittal in the instant case. The crime of bigamy, just
like other felonies punished under the Revised Penal Code, is mala in se, and hence, good faith and lack of criminal intent are allowed as a
complete defense. He stresses that there is a difference between the intent to commit the crime and the intent to perpetrate the act.
Hence, it does not necessarily follow that his intention to contract a second marriage is tantamount to an intent to commit bigamy.
For the respondent, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) submits that good faith in the instant case is a convenient but flimsy excuse.
The Solicitor General relies upon our ruling in Marbella-Bobis v. Bobis,18 which held that bigamy can be successfully prosecuted provided all
the elements concur, stressing that under Article 4019 of the Family Code, a judicial declaration of nullity is a must before a party may re-
marry. Whether or not the petitioner was aware of said Article 40 is of no account as everyone is presumed to know the law. The OSG
counters that petitioners contention that he was in good faith because he relied on the divorce decree of the Ontario court is negated by
his act of filing Civil Case No. 6020, seeking a judicial declaration of nullity of his marriage to Lucia.
Before we delve into petitioners defense of good faith and lack of criminal intent, we must first determine whether all the elements of
bigamy are present in this case. In Marbella-Bobis v. Bobis,20 we laid down the elements of bigamy thus:
(1) the offender has been legally married;
(2) the first marriage has not been legally dissolved, or in case his or her spouse is absent, the absent spouse has not been judicially
declared presumptively dead;
(3) he contracts a subsequent marriage; and
(4) the subsequent marriage would have been valid had it not been for the existence of the first.
Applying the foregoing test to the instant case, we note that during the pendency of CA-G.R. CR No. 20700, the RTC of Bohol Branch 1,
handed down the following decision in Civil Case No. 6020, to wit:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered decreeing the annulment of the marriage entered into by petitioner Lucio
Morigo and Lucia Barrete on August 23, 1990 in Pilar, Bohol and further directing the Local Civil Registrar of Pilar, Bohol to effect the
cancellation of the marriage contract.
SO ORDERED.21
The trial court found that there was no actual marriage ceremony performed between Lucio and Lucia by a solemnizing officer. Instead,
what transpired was a mere signing of the marriage contract by the two, without the presence of a solemnizing officer. The trial court thus
held that the marriage is void ab initio, in accordance with Articles 322 and 423 of the Family Code. As the dissenting opinion in CA-G.R. CR
No. 20700, correctly puts it, "This simply means that there was no marriage to begin with; and that such declaration of nullity retroacts to
the date of the first marriage. In other words, for all intents and purposes, reckoned from the date of the declaration of the first marriage
as void ab initio to the date of the celebration of the first marriage, the accused was, under the eyes of the law, never married."24 The
records show that no appeal was taken from the decision of the trial court in Civil Case No. 6020, hence, the decision had long become final
and executory.
The first element of bigamy as a crime requires that the accused must have been legally married. But in this case, legally speaking, the
petitioner was never married to Lucia Barrete. Thus, there is no first marriage to speak of. Under the principle of retroactivity of a marriage
being declared void ab initio, the two were never married "from the beginning." The contract of marriage is null; it bears no legal effect.
Taking this argument to its logical conclusion, for legal purposes, petitioner was not married to Lucia at the time he contracted the
marriage with Maria Jececha. The existence and the validity of the first marriage being an essential element of the crime of bigamy, it is but
logical that a conviction for said offense cannot be sustained where there is no first marriage to speak of. The petitioner, must, perforce be
acquitted of the instant charge.
The present case is analogous to, but must be distinguished from Mercado v. Tan.25 In the latter case, the judicial declaration of nullity of
the first marriage was likewise obtained after the second marriage was already celebrated. We held therein that:
A judicial declaration of nullity of a previous marriage is necessary before a subsequent one can be legally contracted. One who enters into
a subsequent marriage without first obtaining such judicial declaration is guilty of bigamy. This principle applies even if the earlier union is
characterized by statutes as "void."26
It bears stressing though that in Mercado, the first marriage was actually solemnized not just once, but twice: first before a judge where a
marriage certificate was duly issued and then again six months later before a priest in religious rites. Ostensibly, at least, the first marriage
appeared to have transpired, although later declared void ab initio.
In the instant case, however, no marriage ceremony at all was performed by a duly authorized solemnizing officer. Petitioner and Lucia
Barrete merely signed a marriage contract on their own. The mere private act of signing a marriage contract bears no semblance to a valid
marriage and thus, needs no judicial declaration of nullity. Such act alone, without more, cannot be deemed to constitute an ostensibly
valid marriage for which petitioner might be held liable for bigamy unless he first secures a judicial declaration of nullity before he contracts
a subsequent marriage.
The law abhors an injustice and the Court is mandated to liberally construe a penal statute in favor of an accused and weigh every
circumstance in favor of the presumption of innocence to ensure that justice is done. Under the circumstances of the present case, we held
that petitioner has not committed bigamy. Further, we also find that we need not tarry on the issue of the validity of his defense of good
faith or lack of criminal intent, which is now moot and academic.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The assailed decision, dated October 21, 1999 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No.
20700, as well as the resolution of the appellate court dated September 25, 2000, denying herein petitioners motion for reconsideration, is
REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The petitioner Lucio Morigo y Cacho is ACQUITTED from the charge of BIGAMY on the ground that his guilt has
not been proven with moral certainty.
SO ORDERED.
CASE NO. 6
CONSOLIDATED CASES
G.R. No. 204819 April 8, 2014
JAMES M. IMBONG and LOVELY-ANN C. IMBONG, for themselves and in behalf of their minor children vs. HON. PAQUITO N. OCHOA,
JR., Respondents.
DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:
Freedom of religion was accorded preferred status by the framers of our fundamental law. And this Court has consistently affirmed this
preferred status, well aware that it is "designed to protect the broadest possible liberty of conscience, to allow each man to believe as his
conscience directs, to profess his beliefs , and to live as he believes he ought to live, consistent with the liberty of others and with the
common good."1
To this day, poverty is still a major stumbling block to the nation's emergence as a developed country, leaving our people beleaguered in a
state of hunger, illiteracy and unemployment. While governmental policies have been geared towards the revitalization of the economy,
the bludgeoning dearth in social services remains to be a problem that concerns not only the poor, but every member of society. The
government continues to tread on a trying path to the realization of its very purpose, that is, the general welfare of the Filipino people and
the development of the country as a whole. The legislative branch, as the main facet of a representative government, endeavors to enact
laws and policies that aim to remedy looming societal woes, while the executive is closed set to fully implement these measures and bring
concrete and substantial solutions within the reach of Juan dela Cruz. Seemingly distant is the judicial branch, oftentimes regarded as an
inert governmental body that merely casts its watchful eyes on clashing stakeholders until it is called upon to adjudicate. Passive, yet
reflexive when called into action, the Judiciary then willingly embarks on its solemn duty to interpret legislation vis-a-vis the most vital and
enduring principle that holds Philippine society together - the supremacy of the Philippine Constitution.
Nothing has polarized the nation more in recent years than the issues of population growth control, abortion and contraception. As in
every democratic society, diametrically opposed views on the subjects and their perceived consequences freely circulate in various media.
From television debates2 to sticker campaigns,3 from rallies by socio-political activists to mass gatherings organized by members of the
clergy4 - the clash between the seemingly antithetical ideologies of the religious conservatives and progressive liberals has caused a deep
division in every level of the society. Despite calls to withhold support thereto, however, Republic Act (R.A.) No. 10354, otherwise known as
the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RH Law), was enacted by Congress on December 21, 2012.
Shortly after the President placed his imprimatur on the said law, challengers from various sectors of society came knocking on the doors of
the Court, beckoning it to wield the sword that strikes down constitutional disobedience. Aware of the profound and lasting impact that its
decision may produce, the Court now faces the iuris controversy, as presented in fourteen (14) petitions and two (2) petitions- in-
intervention, to wit:
(1) Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition,5 filed by spouses Attys. James M. Imbong and Lovely Ann C. Imbong, in their personal capacities
as citizens, lawyers and taxpayers and on behalf of their minor children; and the Magnificat Child Leaming Center, Inc., a domestic,
privately-owned educational institution (Jmbong);
(2) Petition for Prohibition,6 filed by the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines, Inc., through its president, Atty. Maria Concepcion S.
Noche7 and several others8 in their personal capacities as citizens and on behalf of the generations unborn (ALFI);
(3) Petition for Certiorari,9 filed by the Task Force for Family and Life Visayas, Inc., and Valeriano S. Avila, in their capacities as citizens and
taxpayers (Task Force Family);
(4) Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition,10 filed by Serve Life Cagayan De Oro City, Inc.,11 Rosevale Foundation, Inc.,12 a domestic, privately-
owned educational institution, and several others,13 in their capacities as citizens (Serve Life);
(5) Petition,14 filed by Expedito A. Bugarin, Jr. in his capacity as a citizen (Bugarin);
(6) Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition,15 filed by Eduardo Olaguer and the Catholic Xybrspace Apostolate of the Philippines,16 in their
capacities as a citizens and taxpayers (Olaguer);
(7) Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition,17 filed by the Philippine Alliance of Xseminarians Inc.,18 and several others19 in their capacities as
citizens and taxpayers (PAX);
(8) Petition,20 filed by Reynaldo J. Echavez, M.D. and several others,21 in their capacities as citizens and taxpayers (Echavez);
(9) Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition,22 filed by spouses Francisco and Maria Fenny C. Tatad and Atty. Alan F. Paguia, in their capacities
as citizens, taxpayers and on behalf of those yet unborn. Atty. Alan F. Paguia is also proceeding in his capacity as a member of the Bar
(Tatad);
(10) Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition,23 filed by Pro-Life Philippines Foundation Inc.24 and several others,25 in their capacities as
citizens and taxpayers and on behalf of its associates who are members of the Bar (Pro-Life);
(11) Petition for Prohibition,26 filed by Millennium Saint Foundation, Inc.,27 Attys. Ramon Pedrosa, Cita Borromeo-Garcia, Stella Acedera,
and Berteni Catalufia Causing, in their capacities as citizens, taxpayers and members of the Bar (MSF);
(12) Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition,28 filed by John Walter B. Juat and several others,29 in their capacities as citizens (Juat) ;
(13) Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition,30 filed by Couples for Christ Foundation, Inc. and several others, 31in their capacities as citizens
(CFC);
(14) Petition for Prohibition32 filed by Almarim Centi Tillah and Abdulhussein M. Kashim in their capacities as citizens and taxpayers (Tillah);
and
(15) Petition-In-Intervention,33 filed by Atty. Samson S. Alcantara in his capacity as a citizen and a taxpayer (Alcantara); and
(16) Petition-In-Intervention,34 filed by Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (B UHAY) , an accredited political party.
A perusal of the foregoing petitions shows that the petitioners are assailing the constitutionality of RH Law on the following GROUNDS:
The RH Law violates the right to life of the unborn. According to the petitioners, notwithstanding its declared policy against abortion, the
implementation of the RH Law would authorize the purchase of hormonal contraceptives, intra-uterine devices and injectables which are
abortives, in violation of Section 12, Article II of the Constitution which guarantees protection of both the life of the mother and the life of
the unborn from conception.35
The RH Law violates the right to health and the right to protection against hazardous products. The petitioners posit that the RH Law
provides universal access to contraceptives which are hazardous to one's health, as it causes cancer and other health problems.36
The RH Law violates the right to religious freedom. The petitioners contend that the RH Law violates the constitutional guarantee
respecting religion as it authorizes the use of public funds for the procurement of contraceptives. For the petitioners, the use of public
funds for purposes that are believed to be contrary to their beliefs is included in the constitutional mandate ensuring religious freedom.37
It is also contended that the RH Law threatens conscientious objectors of criminal prosecution, imprisonment and other forms of
punishment, as it compels medical practitioners 1] to refer patients who seek advice on reproductive health programs to other doctors;
and 2] to provide full and correct information on reproductive health programs and service, although it is against their religious beliefs and
convictions.38
In this connection, Section 5 .23 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the RH Law (RH-IRR),39 provides that skilled health
professionals who are public officers such as, but not limited to, Provincial, City, or Municipal Health Officers, medical officers, medical
specialists, rural health physicians, hospital staff nurses, public health nurses, or rural health midwives, who are specifically charged with
the duty to implement these Rules, cannot be considered as conscientious objectors. 40
It is also argued that the RH Law providing for the formulation of mandatory sex education in schools should not be allowed as it is an
affront to their religious beliefs.41
While the petit10ners recognize that the guarantee of religious freedom is not absolute, they argue that the RH Law fails to satisfy the
"clear and present danger test" and the "compelling state interest test" to justify the regulation of the right to free exercise of religion and
the right to free speech.42
The RH Law violates the constitutional provision on involuntary servitude. According to the petitioners, the RH Law subjects medical
practitioners to involuntary servitude because, to be accredited under the PhilHealth program, they are compelled to provide forty-eight
(48) hours of pro bona services for indigent women, under threat of criminal prosecution, imprisonment and other forms of punishment. 43
The petitioners explain that since a majority of patients are covered by PhilHealth, a medical practitioner would effectively be forced to
render reproductive health services since the lack of PhilHealth accreditation would mean that the majority of the public would no longer
be able to avail of the practitioners services.44
The RH Law violates the right to equal protection of the law. It is claimed that the RH Law discriminates against the poor as it makes them
the primary target of the government program that promotes contraceptive use. The petitioners argue that, rather than promoting
reproductive health among the poor, the RH Law seeks to introduce contraceptives that would effectively reduce the number of the poor.45
The RH Law is "void-for-vagueness" in violation of the due process clause of the Constitution. In imposing the penalty of imprisonment
and/or fine for "any violation," it is vague because it does not define the type of conduct to be treated as "violation" of the RH Law.46
In this connection, it is claimed that "Section 7 of the RH Law violates the right to due process by removing from them (the people) the right
to manage their own affairs and to decide what kind of health facility they shall be and what kind of services they shall offer."47 It ignores
the management prerogative inherent in corporations for employers to conduct their affairs in accordance with their own discretion and
judgment.
The RH Law violates the right to free speech. To compel a person to explain a full range of family planning methods is plainly to curtail his
right to expound only his own preferred way of family planning. The petitioners note that although exemption is granted to institutions
owned and operated by religious groups, they are still forced to refer their patients to another healthcare facility willing to perform the
service or procedure.48
The RH Law intrudes into the zone of privacy of one's family protected by the Constitution. It is contended that the RH Law providing for
mandatory reproductive health education intrudes upon their constitutional right to raise their children in accordance with their beliefs.49
It is claimed that, by giving absolute authority to the person who will undergo reproductive health procedure, the RH Law forsakes any real
dialogue between the spouses and impedes the right of spouses to mutually decide on matters pertaining to the overall well-being of their
family. In the same breath, it is also claimed that the parents of a child who has suffered a miscarriage are deprived of parental authority to
determine whether their child should use contraceptives.50
The RH Law violates the constitutional principle of non-delegation of legislative authority. The petitioners question the delegation by
Congress to the FDA of the power to determine whether a product is non-abortifacient and to be included in the Emergency Drugs List
(EDL).51
The RH Law violates the one subject/one bill rule provision under Section 26( 1 ), Article VI of the Constitution. 52
The RH Law violates Natural Law.53
The RH Law violates the principle of Autonomy of Local Government Units (LGUs) and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao
{ARMM). It is contended that the RH Law, providing for reproductive health measures at the local government level and the ARMM,
infringes upon the powers devolved to LGUs and the ARMM under the Local Government Code and R.A . No. 9054.54
Various parties also sought and were granted leave to file their respective comments-in-intervention in defense of the constitutionality of
the RH Law. Aside from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) which commented on the petitions in behalf of the
respondents,55 Congressman Edcel C. Lagman,56 former officials of the Department of Health Dr. Esperanza I. Cabral, Jamie Galvez-Tan, and
Dr. Alberto G. Romualdez,57 the Filipino Catholic Voices for Reproductive Health (C4RH),58 Ana Theresa "Risa" Hontiveros,59 and Atty. Joan
De Venecia60 also filed their respective Comments-in-Intervention in conjunction with several others. On June 4, 2013, Senator Pia Juliana S.
Cayetano was also granted leave to intervene.61
The respondents, aside from traversing the substantive arguments of the petitioners, pray for the dismissal of the petitions for the principal
reasons that 1] there is no actual case or controversy and, therefore, the issues are not yet ripe for judicial determination.; 2] some
petitioners lack standing to question the RH Law; and 3] the petitions are essentially petitions for declaratory relief over which the Court
has no original jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, on March 15, 2013, the RH-IRR for the enforcement of the assailed legislation took effect.
On March 19, 2013, after considering the issues and arguments raised, the Court issued the Status Quo Ante Order (SQAO), enjoining the
effects and implementation of the assailed legislation for a period of one hundred and twenty (120) days, or until July 17, 2013.62
On May 30, 2013, the Court held a preliminary conference with the counsels of the parties to determine and/or identify the pertinent
issues raised by the parties and the sequence by which these issues were to be discussed in the oral arguments. On July 9 and 23, 2013, and
on August 6, 13, and 27, 2013, the cases were heard on oral argument. On July 16, 2013, the SQAO was ordered extended until further
orders of the Court.63
Thereafter, the Court directed the parties to submit their respective memoranda within sixty (60) days and, at the same time posed several
questions for their clarification on some contentions of the parties.64
The Status Quo Ante
(Population, Contraceptive and Reproductive Health Laws
Prior to the RH Law
Long before the incipience of the RH Law, the country has allowed the sale, dispensation and distribution of contraceptive drugs and
devices. As far back as June 18, 1966, the country enacted R.A. No. 4729 entitled "An Act to Regu,late the Sale, Dispensation, and/or
Distribution of Contraceptive Drugs and Devices." Although contraceptive drugs and devices were allowed, they could not be sold,
dispensed or distributed "unless such sale, dispensation and distribution is by a duly licensed drug store or pharmaceutical company and
with the prescription of a qualified medical practitioner."65
In addition, R.A. No. 5921,66 approved on June 21, 1969, contained provisions relative to "dispensing of abortifacients or anti-conceptional
substances and devices." Under Section 37 thereof, it was provided that "no drug or chemical product or device capable of provoking
abortion or preventing conception as classified by the Food and Drug Administration shall be delivered or sold to any person without a
proper prescription by a duly licensed physician."
On December 11, 1967, the Philippines, adhering to the UN Declaration on Population, which recognized that the population problem
should be considered as the principal element for long-term economic development, enacted measures that promoted male vasectomy
and tubal ligation to mitigate population growth.67 Among these measures included R.A. No. 6365, approved on August 16, 1971, entitled
"An Act Establishing a National Policy on Population, Creating the Commission on Population and for Other Purposes. " The law envisioned
that "family planning will be made part of a broad educational program; safe and effective means will be provided to couples desiring to
space or limit family size; mortality and morbidity rates will be further reduced."
To further strengthen R.A. No. 6365, then President Ferdinand E . Marcos issued Presidential Decree. (P.D.) No. 79, 68 dated December 8,
1972, which, among others, made "family planning a part of a broad educational program," provided "family planning services as a part of
over-all health care," and made "available all acceptable methods of contraception, except abortion, to all Filipino citizens desirous of
spacing, limiting or preventing pregnancies."
Through the years, however, the use of contraceptives and family planning methods evolved from being a component of demographic
management, to one centered on the promotion of public health, particularly, reproductive health. 69 Under that policy, the country gave
priority to one's right to freely choose the method of family planning to be adopted, in conformity with its adherence to the commitments
made in the International Conference on Population and Development. 70 Thus, on August 14, 2009, the country enacted R.A. No. 9710 or
"The Magna Carta for Women, " which, among others, mandated the State to provide for comprehensive health services and programs for
women, including family planning and sex education.71
The RH Law
Despite the foregoing legislative measures, the population of the country kept on galloping at an uncontrollable pace. From a paltry
number of just over 27 million Filipinos in 1960, the population of the country reached over 76 million in the year 2000 and over 92 million
in 2010.72 The executive and the legislative, thus, felt that the measures were still not adequate. To rein in the problem, the RH Law was
enacted to provide Filipinos, especially the poor and the marginalized, access and information to the full range of modem family planning
methods, and to ensure that its objective to provide for the peoples' right to reproductive health be achieved. To make it more effective,
the RH Law made it mandatory for health providers to provide information on the full range of modem family planning methods, supplies
and services, and for schools to provide reproductive health education. To put teeth to it, the RH Law criminalizes certain acts of refusals to
carry out its mandates.
Stated differently, the RH Law is an enhancement measure to fortify and make effective the current laws on contraception, women's health
and population control.
Prayer of the Petitioners - Maintain the Status Quo
The petitioners are one in praying that the entire RH Law be declared unconstitutional. Petitioner ALFI, in particular, argues that the
government sponsored contraception program, the very essence of the RH Law, violates the right to health of women and the sanctity of
life, which the State is mandated to protect and promote. Thus, ALFI prays that "the status quo ante - the situation prior to the passage of
the RH Law - must be maintained."73 It explains:
x x x. The instant Petition does not question contraception and contraceptives per se. As provided under Republic Act No. 5921 and
Republic Act No. 4729, the sale and distribution of contraceptives are prohibited unless dispensed by a prescription duly licensed by a
physician. What the Petitioners find deplorable and repugnant under the RH Law is the role that the State and its agencies - the entire
bureaucracy, from the cabinet secretaries down to the barangay officials in the remotest areas of the country - is made to play in the
implementation of the contraception program to the fullest extent possible using taxpayers' money. The State then will be the funder and
provider of all forms of family planning methods and the implementer of the program by ensuring the widespread dissemination of, and
universal access to, a full range of family planning methods, devices and supplies.74
ISSUES
After a scrutiny of the various arguments and contentions of the parties, the Court has synthesized and refined them to the following
principal issues:
I. PROCEDURAL: Whether the Court may exercise its power of judicial review over the controversy.
1] Power of Judicial Review
2] Actual Case or Controversy
3] Facial Challenge
4] Locus Standi
5] Declaratory Relief
6] One Subject/One Title Rule
II. SUBSTANTIVE: Whether the RH law is unconstitutional:
1] Right to Life
2] Right to Health
3] Freedom of Religion and the Right to Free Speech
4] The Family
5] Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom
6] Due Process
7] Equal Protection
8] Involuntary Servitude
9] Delegation of Authority to the FDA
10] Autonomy of Local Govemments/ARMM
DISCUSSION
Before delving into the constitutionality of the RH Law and its implementing rules, it behooves the Court to resolve some procedural
impediments.
I. PROCEDURAL ISSUE: Whether the Court can exercise its power of judicial review over the controversy.
The Power of Judicial Review
In its attempt to persuade the Court to stay its judicial hand, the OSG asserts that it should submit to the legislative and political wisdom of
Congress and respect the compromises made in the crafting of the RH Law, it being "a product of a majoritarian democratic process"75 and
"characterized by an inordinate amount of transparency."76 The OSG posits that the authority of the Court to review social legislation like
the RH Law by certiorari is "weak," since the Constitution vests the discretion to implement the constitutional policies and positive norms
with the political departments, in particular, with Congress.77 It further asserts that in view of the Court's ruling in Southern Hemisphere v.
Anti-Terrorism Council,78 the remedies of certiorari and prohibition utilized by the petitioners are improper to assail the validity of the acts
of the legislature.79
Moreover, the OSG submits that as an "as applied challenge," it cannot prosper considering that the assailed law has yet to be enforced
and applied to the petitioners, and that the government has yet to distribute reproductive health devices that are abortive. It claims that
the RH Law cannot be challenged "on its face" as it is not a speech-regulating measure.80
In many cases involving the determination of the constitutionality of the actions of the Executive and the Legislature, it is often sought that
the Court temper its exercise of judicial power and accord due respect to the wisdom of its co-equal branch on the basis of the principle of
separation of powers. To be clear, the separation of powers is a fundamental principle in our system of government, which obtains not
through express provision but by actual division in our Constitution. Each department of the government has exclusive cognizance of
matters within its jurisdiction and is supreme within its own sphere.81
Thus, the 1987 Constitution provides that: (a) the legislative power shall be vested in the Congress of the Philippines; 82 (b) the executive
power shall be vested in the President of the Philippines; 83 and (c) the judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such
lower courts as may be established by law.84 The Constitution has truly blocked out with deft strokes and in bold lines, the allotment of
powers among the three branches of government.85
In its relationship with its co-equals, the Judiciary recognizes the doctrine of separation of powers which imposes upon the courts proper
restraint, born of the nature of their functions and of their respect for the other branches of government, in striking down the acts of the
Executive or the Legislature as unconstitutional. Verily, the policy is a harmonious blend of courtesy and caution. 86
It has also long been observed, however, that in times of social disquietude or political instability, the great landmarks of the Constitution
are apt to be forgotten or marred, if not entirely obliterated. 87 In order to address this, the Constitution impresses upon the Court to
respect the acts performed by a co-equal branch done within its sphere of competence and authority, but at the same time, allows it to
cross the line of separation - but only at a very limited and specific point - to determine whether the acts of the executive and the
legislative branches are null because they were undertaken with grave abuse of discretion. 88 Thus, while the Court may not pass upon
questions of wisdom, justice or expediency of the RH Law, it may do so where an attendant unconstitutionality or grave abuse of discretion
results.89 The Court must demonstrate its unflinching commitment to protect those cherished rights and principles embodied in the
Constitution.
In this connection, it bears adding that while the scope of judicial power of review may be limited, the Constitution makes no distinction as
to the kind of legislation that may be subject to judicial scrutiny, be it in the form of social legislation or otherwise. The reason is simple and
goes back to the earlier point. The Court may pass upon the constitutionality of acts of the legislative and the executive branches, since its
duty is not to review their collective wisdom but, rather, to make sure that they have acted in consonance with their respective authorities
and rights as mandated of them by the Constitution. If after said review, the Court finds no constitutional violations of any sort, then, it has
no more authority of proscribing the actions under review.90 This is in line with Article VIII, Section 1 of the Constitution which expressly
provides:
Section 1. The judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law.
Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and
enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the
part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government. [Emphases supplied]
As far back as Tanada v. Angara,91 the Court has unequivocally declared that certiorari, prohibition and mandamus are appropriate
remedies to raise constitutional issues and to review and/or prohibit/nullify, when proper, acts of legislative and executive officials, as
there is no other plain, speedy or adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. This ruling was later on applied in Macalintal v.
COMELEC,92 Aldaba v. COMELEC,93 Magallona v. Ermita,94 and countless others. In Tanada, the Court wrote:
In seeking to nullify an act of the Philippine Senate on the ground that it contravenes the Constitution, the petition no doubt raises a
justiciable controversy. Where an action of the legislative branch is seriously alleged to have infringed the Constitution, it becomes not only
the right but in fact the duty of the judiciary to settle the dispute. "The question thus posed is judicial rather than political. The duty (to
adjudicate) remains to assure that the supremacy of the Constitution is upheld. " Once a "controversy as to the application or
interpretation of constitutional provision is raised before this Court (as in the instant case), it becomes a legal issue which the Court is
bound by constitutional mandate to decide. [Emphasis supplied]
In the scholarly estimation of former Supreme Court Justice Florentino Feliciano, "judicial review is essential for the maintenance and
enforcement of the separation of powers and the balancing of powers among the three great departments of government through the
definition and maintenance of the boundaries of authority and control between them. To him, judicial review is the chief, indeed the only,
medium of participation - or instrument of intervention - of the judiciary in that balancing operation.95
Lest it be misunderstood, it bears emphasizing that the Court does not have the unbridled authority to rule on just any and every claim of
constitutional violation. Jurisprudence is replete with the rule that the power of judicial review is limited by four exacting requisites, viz : (a)
there must be an actual case or controversy; (b) the petitioners must possess locus standi; (c) the question of constitutionality must be
raised at the earliest opportunity; and (d) the issue of constitutionality must be the lis mota of the case. 96
Actual Case or Controversy
Proponents of the RH Law submit that the subj ect petitions do not present any actual case or controversy because the RH Law has yet to
be implemented.97 They claim that the questions raised by the petitions are not yet concrete and ripe for adjudication since no one has
been charged with violating any of its provisions and that there is no showing that any of the petitioners' rights has been adversely affected
by its operation.98 In short, it is contended that judicial review of the RH Law is premature.
An actual case or controversy means an existing case or controversy that is appropriate or ripe for determination, not conjectural or
anticipatory, lest the decision of the court would amount to an advisory opinion. 99 The rule is that courts do not sit to adjudicate mere
academic questions to satisfy scholarly interest, however intellectually challenging. The controversy must be justiciable-definite and
concrete, touching on the legal relations of parties having adverse legal interests. In other words, the pleadings must show an active
antagonistic assertion of a legal right, on the one hand, and a denial thereof, on the other; that is, it must concern a real, tangible and not
merely a theoretical question or issue. There ought to be an actual and substantial controversy admitting of specific relief through a decree
conclusive in nature, as distinguished from an opinion advising what the law would be upon a hypothetical state of facts.100
Corollary to the requirement of an actual case or controversy is the requirement of ripeness. 101 A question is ripe for adjudication when the
act being challenged has had a direct adverse effect on the individual challenging it. For a case to be considered ripe for adjudication, it is a
prerequisite that something has then been accomplished or performed by either branch before a court may come into the picture, and the
petitioner must allege the existence of an immediate or threatened injury to himself as a result of the challenged action. He must show that
he has sustained or is immediately in danger of sustaining some direct injury as a result of the act complained of 102
In The Province of North Cotabato v. The Government of the Republic of the Philippines,103 where the constitutionality of an
unimplemented Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) was put in question, it was argued that the Court has no
authority to pass upon the issues raised as there was yet no concrete act performed that could possibly violate the petitioners' and the
intervenors' rights. Citing precedents, the Court ruled that the fact of the law or act in question being not yet effective does not negate
ripeness. Concrete acts under a law are not necessary to render the controversy ripe. Even a singular violation of the Constitution and/or
the law is enough to awaken judicial duty.
In this case, the Court is of the view that an actual case or controversy exists and that the same is ripe for judicial determination.
Considering that the RH Law and its implementing rules have already taken effect and that budgetary measures to carry out the law have
already been passed, it is evident that the subject petitions present a justiciable controversy. As stated earlier, when an action of the
legislative branch is seriously alleged to have infringed the Constitution, it not only becomes a right, but also a duty of the Judiciary to settle
the dispute.104
Moreover, the petitioners have shown that the case is so because medical practitioners or medical providers are in danger of being
criminally prosecuted under the RH Law for vague violations thereof, particularly public health officers who are threatened to be dismissed
from the service with forfeiture of retirement and other benefits. They must, at least, be heard on the matter NOW.
Facial Challenge
The OSG also assails the propriety of the facial challenge lodged by the subject petitions, contending that the RH Law cannot be challenged
"on its face" as it is not a speech regulating measure.105
The Court is not persuaded.
In United States (US) constitutional law, a facial challenge, also known as a First Amendment Challenge, is one that is launched to assail the
validity of statutes concerning not only protected speech, but also all other rights in the First Amendment. 106 These include religious
freedom, freedom of the press, and the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of
grievances.107 After all, the fundamental right to religious freedom, freedom of the press and peaceful assembly are but component rights
of the right to one's freedom of expression, as they are modes which one's thoughts are externalized.
In this jurisdiction, the application of doctrines originating from the U.S. has been generally maintained, albeit with some modifications.
While this Court has withheld the application of facial challenges to strictly penal statues, 108 it has expanded its scope to cover statutes not
only regulating free speech, but also those involving religious freedom, and other fundamental rights. 109 The underlying reason for this
modification is simple. For unlike its counterpart in the U.S., this Court, under its expanded jurisdiction, is mandated by the Fundamental
Law not only to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, but also to determine whether
or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of
the Government.110 Verily, the framers of Our Constitution envisioned a proactive Judiciary, ever vigilant with its duty to maintain the
supremacy of the Constitution.
Consequently, considering that the foregoing petitions have seriously alleged that the constitutional human rights to life, speech and
religion and other fundamental rights mentioned above have been violated by the assailed legislation, the Court has authority to take
cognizance of these kindred petitions and to determine if the RH Law can indeed pass constitutional scrutiny. To dismiss these petitions on
the simple expedient that there exist no actual case or controversy, would diminish this Court as a reactive branch of government, acting
only when the Fundamental Law has been transgressed, to the detriment of the Filipino people.
Locus Standi
The OSG also attacks the legal personality of the petitioners to file their respective petitions. It contends that the "as applied challenge"
lodged by the petitioners cannot prosper as the assailed law has yet to be enforced and applied against them, 111 and the government has
yet to distribute reproductive health devices that are abortive.112
The petitioners, for their part, invariably invoke the "transcendental importance" doctrine and their status as citizens and taxpayers in
establishing the requisite locus standi.
Locus standi or legal standing is defined as a personal and substantial interest in a case such that the party has sustained or will sustain
direct injury as a result of the challenged governmental act.113 It requires a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure
the concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult
constitutional questions.114
In relation to locus standi, the "as applied challenge" embodies the rule that one can challenge the constitutionality of a statute only if he
asserts a violation of his own rights. The rule prohibits one from challenging the constitutionality of the statute grounded on a violation of
the rights of third persons not before the court. This rule is also known as the prohibition against third-party standing.115
Transcendental Importance
Notwithstanding, the Court leans on the doctrine that "the rule on standing is a matter of procedure, hence, can be relaxed for non-
traditional plaintiffs like ordinary citizens, taxpayers, and legislators when the public interest so requires, such as when the matter is of
transcendental importance, of overreaching significance to society, or of paramount public interest."116
In Coconut Oil Refiners Association, Inc. v. Torres, 117 the Court held that in cases of paramount importance where serious constitutional
questions are involved, the standing requirement may be relaxed and a suit may be allowed to prosper even where there is no direct injury
to the party claiming the right of judicial review. In the first Emergency Powers Cases, 118 ordinary citizens and taxpayers were allowed to
question the constitutionality of several executive orders although they had only an indirect and general interest shared in common with
the public.
With these said, even if the constitutionality of the RH Law may not be assailed through an "as-applied challenge, still, the Court has time
and again acted liberally on the locus s tandi requirement. It has accorded certain individuals standing to sue, not otherwise directly injured
or with material interest affected by a Government act, provided a constitutional issue of transcendental importance is invoked. The rule
on locus standi is, after all, a procedural technicality which the Court has, on more than one occasion, waived or relaxed, thus allowing non-
traditional plaintiffs, such as concerned citizens, taxpayers, voters or legislators, to sue in the public interest, albeit they may not have been
directly injured by the operation of a law or any other government act. As held in Jaworski v. PAGCOR: 119
Granting arguendo that the present action cannot be properly treated as a petition for prohibition, the transcendental importance of the
issues involved in this case warrants that we set aside the technical defects and take primary jurisdiction over the petition at bar. One
cannot deny that the issues raised herein have potentially pervasive influence on the social and moral well being of this nation, specially
the youth; hence, their proper and just determination is an imperative need. This is in accordance with the well-entrenched principle that
rules of procedure are not inflexible tools designed to hinder or delay, but to facilitate and promote the administration of justice. Their
strict and rigid application, which would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate, rather than promote substantial justice, must always
be eschewed. (Emphasis supplied)
In view of the seriousness, novelty and weight as precedents, not only to the public, but also to the bench and bar, the issues raised must
be resolved for the guidance of all. After all, the RH Law drastically affects the constitutional provisions on the right to life and health, the
freedom of religion and expression and other constitutional rights. Mindful of all these and the fact that the issues of contraception and
reproductive health have already caused deep division among a broad spectrum of society, the Court entertains no doubt that the petitions
raise issues of transcendental importance warranting immediate court adjudication. More importantly, considering that it is the right to life
of the mother and the unborn which is primarily at issue, the Court need not wait for a life to be taken away before taking action.
The Court cannot, and should not, exercise judicial restraint at this time when rights enshrined in the Constitution are being imperilled to
be violated. To do so, when the life of either the mother or her child is at stake, would lead to irreparable consequences.
Declaratory Relief
The respondents also assail the petitions because they are essentially petitions for declaratory relief over which the Court has no original
jurisdiction.120 Suffice it to state that most of the petitions are praying for injunctive reliefs and so the Court would just consider them as
petitions for prohibition under Rule 65, over which it has original jurisdiction. Where the case has far-reaching implications and prays for
injunctive reliefs, the Court may consider them as petitions for prohibition under Rule 65.121
One Subject-One Title
The petitioners also question the constitutionality of the RH Law, claiming that it violates Section 26(1 ), Article VI of the
Constitution,122 prescribing the one subject-one title rule. According to them, being one for reproductive health with responsible
parenthood, the assailed legislation violates the constitutional standards of due process by concealing its true intent - to act as a population
control measure.123
To belittle the challenge, the respondents insist that the RH Law is not a birth or population control measure, 124 and that the concepts of
"responsible parenthood" and "reproductive health" are both interrelated as they are inseparable. 125
Despite efforts to push the RH Law as a reproductive health law, the Court sees it as principally a population control measure. The corpus of
the RH Law is geared towards the reduction of the country's population. While it claims to save lives and keep our women and children
healthy, it also promotes pregnancy-preventing products. As stated earlier, the RH Law emphasizes the need to provide Filipinos, especially
the poor and the marginalized, with access to information on the full range of modem family planning products and methods. These family
planning methods, natural or modem, however, are clearly geared towards the prevention of pregnancy.
For said reason, the manifest underlying objective of the RH Law is to reduce the number of births in the country.
It cannot be denied that the measure also seeks to provide pre-natal and post-natal care as well. A large portion of the law, however,
covers the dissemination of information and provisions on access to medically-safe, non-abortifacient, effective, legal, affordable, and
quality reproductive health care services, methods, devices, and supplies, which are all intended to prevent pregnancy.
The Court, thus, agrees with the petitioners' contention that the whole idea of contraception pervades the entire RH Law. It is, in fact, the
central idea of the RH Law.126 Indeed, remove the provisions that refer to contraception or are related to it and the RH Law loses its very
foundation.127 As earlier explained, "the other positive provisions such as skilled birth attendance, maternal care including pre-and post-
natal services, prevention and management of reproductive tract infections including HIV/AIDS are already provided for in the Magna Carta
for Women."128
Be that as it may, the RH Law does not violate the one subject/one bill rule. In Benjamin E. Cawaling, Jr. v. The Commission on Elections and
Rep. Francis Joseph G Escudero, it was written:
It is well-settled that the "one title-one subject" rule does not require the Congress to employ in the title of the enactment language of such
precision as to mirror, fully index or catalogue all the contents and the minute details therein. The rule is sufficiently complied with if the
title is comprehensive enough as to include the general object which the statute seeks to effect, and where, as here, the persons interested
are informed of the nature, scope and consequences of the proposed law and its operation. Moreover, this Court has invariably adopted a
liberal rather than technical construction of the rule "so as not to cripple or impede legislation." [Emphases supplied]
In this case, a textual analysis of the various provisions of the law shows that both "reproductive health" and "responsible parenthood" are
interrelated and germane to the overriding objective to control the population growth. As expressed in the first paragraph of Section 2 of
the RH Law:
SEC. 2. Declaration of Policy. - The State recognizes and guarantees the human rights of all persons including their right to equality and
nondiscrimination of these rights, the right to sustainable human development, the right to health which includes reproductive health, the
right to education and information, and the right to choose and make decisions for themselves in accordance with their religious
convictions, ethics, cultural beliefs, and the demands of responsible parenthood.
The one subject/one title rule expresses the principle that the title of a law must not be "so uncertain that the average person reading it
would not be informed of the purpose of the enactment or put on inquiry as to its contents, or which is misleading, either in referring to or
indicating one subject where another or different one is really embraced in the act, or in omitting any expression or indication of the real
subject or scope of the act."129
Considering the close intimacy between "reproductive health" and "responsible parenthood" which bears to the attainment of the goal of
achieving "sustainable human development" as stated under its terms, the Court finds no reason to believe that Congress intentionally
sought to deceive the public as to the contents of the assailed legislation.
II - SUBSTANTIVE ISSUES:
1-The Right to Life
Position of the Petitioners
The petitioners assail the RH Law because it violates the right to life and health of the unborn child under Section 12, Article II of the
Constitution. The assailed legislation allowing access to abortifacients/abortives effectively sanctions abortion.130
According to the petitioners, despite its express terms prohibiting abortion, Section 4(a) of the RH Law considers contraceptives that
prevent the fertilized ovum to reach and be implanted in the mother's womb as an abortifacient; thus, sanctioning contraceptives that take
effect after fertilization and prior to implantation, contrary to the intent of the Framers of the Constitution to afford protection to the
fertilized ovum which already has life.
They argue that even if Section 9 of the RH Law allows only "non-abortifacient" hormonal contraceptives, intrauterine devices, injectables
and other safe, legal, non-abortifacient and effective family planning products and supplies, medical research shows that contraceptives
use results in abortion as they operate to kill the fertilized ovum which already has life.131
As it opposes the initiation of life, which is a fundamental human good, the petitioners assert that the State sanction of contraceptive use
contravenes natural law and is an affront to the dignity of man.132
Finally, it is contended that since Section 9 of the RH Law requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to certify that the product or
supply is not to be used as an abortifacient, the assailed legislation effectively confirms that abortifacients are not prohibited. Also
considering that the FDA is not the agency that will actually supervise or administer the use of these products and supplies to prospective
patients, there is no way it can truthfully make a certification that it shall not be used for abortifacient purposes. 133
Position of the Respondents
For their part, the defenders of the RH Law point out that the intent of the Framers of the Constitution was simply the prohibition of
abortion. They contend that the RH Law does not violate the Constitution since the said law emphasizes that only "non-abortifacient"
reproductive health care services, methods, devices products and supplies shall be made accessible to the public. 134
According to the OSG, Congress has made a legislative determination that contraceptives are not abortifacients by enacting the RH Law. As
the RH Law was enacted with due consideration to various studies and consultations with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other
experts in the medical field, it is asserted that the Court afford deference and respect to such a determination and pass judgment only
when a particular drug or device is later on determined as an abortive.135
For his part, respondent Lagman argues that the constitutional protection of one's right to life is not violated considering that various
studies of the WHO show that life begins from the implantation of the fertilized ovum. Consequently, he argues that the RH Law is
constitutional since the law specifically provides that only contraceptives that do not prevent the implantation of the fertilized ovum are
allowed.136
The Court's Position
It is a universally accepted principle that every human being enjoys the right to life. 137
Even if not formally established, the right to life, being grounded on natural law, is inherent and, therefore, not a creation of, or dependent
upon a particular law, custom, or belief. It precedes and transcends any authority or the laws of men.
In this jurisdiction, the right to life is given more than ample protection. Section 1, Article III of the Constitution provides:
Section 1. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal
protection of the laws.
As expounded earlier, the use of contraceptives and family planning methods in the Philippines is not of recent vintage. From the
enactment of R.A. No. 4729, entitled "An Act To Regulate The Sale, Dispensation, and/or Distribution of Contraceptive Drugs and Devices
"on June 18, 1966, prescribing rules on contraceptive drugs and devices which prevent fertilization, 138 to the promotion of male vasectomy
and tubal ligation,139 and the ratification of numerous international agreements, the country has long recognized the need to promote
population control through the use of contraceptives in order to achieve long-term economic development. Through the years, however,
the use of contraceptives and other family planning methods evolved from being a component of demographic management, to one
centered on the promotion of public health, particularly, reproductive health.140
This has resulted in the enactment of various measures promoting women's rights and health and the overall promotion of the family's
well-being. Thus, aside from R.A. No. 4729, R.A. No. 6365 or "The Population Act of the Philippines" and R.A. No. 9710, otherwise known as
the "The Magna Carta of Women" were legislated. Notwithstanding this paradigm shift, the Philippine national population program has
always been grounded two cornerstone principles: "principle of no-abortion" and the "principle of non-coercion."141 As will be discussed
later, these principles are not merely grounded on administrative policy, but rather, originates from the constitutional protection expressly
provided to afford protection to life and guarantee religious freedom.
When Life Begins*
Majority of the Members of the Court are of the position that the question of when life begins is a scientific and medical issue that should
not be decided, at this stage, without proper hearing and evidence. During the deliberation, however, it was agreed upon that the
individual members of the Court could express their own views on this matter.
In this regard, the ponente, is of the strong view that life begins at fertilization.
In answering the question of when life begins, focus should be made on the particular phrase of Section 12 which reads:
Section 12. The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social
institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty
of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the
Government.
Textually, the Constitution affords protection to the unborn from conception. This is undisputable because before conception, there is no
unborn to speak of. For said reason, it is no surprise that the Constitution is mute as to any proscription prior to conception or when life
begins. The problem has arisen because, amazingly, there are quarters who have conveniently disregarded the scientific fact that
conception is reckoned from fertilization. They are waving the view that life begins at implantation. Hence, the issue of when life begins.
In a nutshell, those opposing the RH Law contend that conception is synonymous with "fertilization" of the female ovum by the male
sperm.142 On the other side of the spectrum are those who assert that conception refers to the "implantation" of the fertilized ovum in the
uterus.143
Plain and Legal Meaning
It is a canon in statutory construction that the words of the Constitution should be interpreted in their plain and ordinary meaning. As held
in the recent case of Chavez v. Judicial Bar Council:144
One of the primary and basic rules in statutory construction is that where the words of a statute are clear, plain, and free from ambiguity, it
must be given its literal meaning and applied without attempted interpretation. It is a well-settled principle of constitutional construction
that the language employed in the Constitution must be given their ordinary meaning except where technical terms are employed. As much
as possible, the words of the Constitution should be understood in the sense they have in common use. What it says according to the text
of the provision to be construed compels acceptance and negates the power of the courts to alter it, based on the postulate that the
framers and the people mean what they say. Verba legis non est recedendum - from the words of a statute there should be no departure.
The raison d' etre for the rule is essentially two-fold: First, because it is assumed that the words in which constitutional provisions are
couched express the objective sought to be attained; and second, because the Constitution is not primarily a lawyer's document but
essentially that of the people, in whose consciousness it should ever be present as an important condition for the rule of law to prevail.
In conformity with the above principle, the traditional meaning of the word "conception" which, as described and defined by all reliable
and reputable sources, means that life begins at fertilization.
Webster's Third New International Dictionary describes it as the act of becoming pregnant, formation of a viable zygote; the fertilization
that results in a new entity capable of developing into a being like its parents.145
Black's Law Dictionary gives legal meaning to the term "conception" as the fecundation of the female ovum by the male spermatozoon
resulting in human life capable of survival and maturation under normal conditions.146
Even in jurisprudence, an unborn child has already a legal personality. In Continental Steel Manufacturing Corporation v. Hon. Accredited
Voluntary Arbitrator Allan S. Montano,147 it was written:
Life is not synonymous with civil personality. One need not acquire civil personality first before he/she could die. Even a child inside the
womb already has life. No less than the Constitution recognizes the life of the unborn from conception, that the State must protect equally
with the life of the mother. If the unborn already has life, then the cessation thereof even prior to the child being delivered, qualifies as
death. [Emphases in the original]
In Gonzales v. Carhart,148 Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the US Supreme Court, said that the State "has respect for human life at all
stages in the pregnancy" and "a legitimate and substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life." Invariably, in the decision, the
fetus was referred to, or cited, as a baby or a child.149
Intent of the Framers
Records of the Constitutional Convention also shed light on the intention of the Framers regarding the term "conception" used in Section
12, Article II of the Constitution. From their deliberations, it clearly refers to the moment of "fertilization." The records reflect the following:
Rev. Rigos: In Section 9, page 3, there is a sentence which reads:
"The State shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from the moment of conception."
When is the moment of conception?
xxx
Mr. Villegas: As I explained in the sponsorship speech, it is when the ovum is fertilized by the sperm that there is human life. x x x.150
xxx
As to why conception is reckoned from fertilization and, as such, the beginning of human life, it was explained:
Mr. Villegas: I propose to review this issue in a biological manner. The first question that needs to be answered is: Is the fertilized ovum
alive? Biologically categorically says yes, the fertilized ovum is alive. First of all, like all living organisms, it takes in nutrients which it
processes by itself. It begins doing this upon fertilization. Secondly, as it takes in these nutrients, it grows from within. Thirdly, it multiplies
itself at a geometric rate in the continuous process of cell division. All these processes are vital signs of life. Therefore, there is no question
that biologically the fertilized ovum has life.
The second question: Is it human? Genetics gives an equally categorical "yes." At the moment of conception, the nuclei of the ovum and
the sperm rupture. As this happens 23 chromosomes from the ovum combine with 23 chromosomes of the sperm to form a total of 46
chromosomes. A chromosome count of 46 is found only - and I repeat, only in human cells. Therefore, the fertilized ovum is human.
Since these questions have been answered affirmatively, we must conclude that if the fertilized ovum is both alive and human, then, as
night follows day, it must be human life. Its nature is human.151
Why the Constitution used the phrase "from the moment of conception" and not "from the moment of fertilization" was not because of
doubt when human life begins, but rather, because:
Mr. Tingson: x x x x the phrase from the moment of conception" was described by us here before with the scientific phrase "fertilized
ovum" may be beyond the comprehension of some people; we want to use the simpler phrase "from the moment of conception." 152
Thus, in order to ensure that the fertilized ovum is given ample protection under the Constitution, it was discussed:
Rev. Rigos: Yes, we think that the word "unborn" is sufficient for the purpose of writing a Constitution, without specifying "from the
moment of conception."
Mr. Davide: I would not subscribe to that particular view because according to the Commissioner's own admission, he would leave it to
Congress to define when life begins. So, Congress can define life to begin from six months after fertilization; and that would really be very,
very, dangerous. It is now determined by science that life begins from the moment of conception. There can be no doubt about it. So we
should not give any doubt to Congress, too.153
Upon further inquiry, it was asked:
Mr. Gascon: Mr. Presiding Officer, I would like to ask a question on that point. Actually, that is one of the questions I was going to raise
during the period of interpellations but it has been expressed already. The provision, as proposed right now states:
The State shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from the moment of conception.
When it speaks of "from the moment of conception," does this mean when the egg meets the sperm?
Mr. Villegas: Yes, the ovum is fertilized by the sperm.
Mr. Gascon: Therefore that does not leave to Congress the right to determine whether certain contraceptives that we know today are
abortifacient or not because it is a fact that some of the so-called contraceptives deter the rooting of the ovum in the uterus. If fertilization
has already occurred, the next process is for the fertilized ovum to travel towards the uterus and to take root. What happens with some
contraceptives is that they stop the opportunity for the fertilized ovum to reach the uterus. Therefore, if we take the provision as it is
proposed, these so called contraceptives should be banned.
Mr. Villegas: Yes, if that physical fact is established, then that is what is called abortifacient and, therefore, would be unconstitutional and
should be banned under this provision.
Mr. Gascon: Yes. So my point is that I do not think it is up to Congress to state whether or not these certain contraceptives are
abortifacient. Scientifically and based on the provision as it is now proposed, they are already considered abortifacient. 154
From the deliberations above-quoted, it is apparent that the Framers of the Constitution emphasized that the State shall provide equal
protection to both the mother and the unborn child from the earliest opportunity of life, that is, upon fertilization or upon the union of the
male sperm and the female ovum. It is also apparent is that the Framers of the Constitution intended that to prohibit Congress from
enacting measures that would allow it determine when life begins.
Equally apparent, however, is that the Framers of the Constitution did not intend to ban all contraceptives for being unconstitutional. In
fact, Commissioner Bernardo Villegas, spearheading the need to have a constitutional provision on the right to life, recognized that the
determination of whether a contraceptive device is an abortifacient is a question of fact which should be left to the courts to decide on
based on established evidence.155
From the discussions above, contraceptives that kill or destroy the fertilized ovum should be deemed an abortive and thus prohibited.
Conversely, contraceptives that actually prevent the union of the male sperm and the female ovum, and those that similarly take action
prior to fertilization should be deemed non-abortive, and thus, constitutionally permissible.
As emphasized by the Framers of the Constitution:
xxx xxx xxx
Mr. Gascon: xx xx. As I mentioned in my speech on the US bases, I am pro-life, to the point that I would like not only to protect the life of
the unborn, but also the lives of the millions of people in the world by fighting for a nuclear-free world. I would just like to be assured of the
legal and pragmatic implications of the term "protection of the life of the unborn from the moment of conception." I raised some of these
implications this afternoon when I interjected in the interpellation of Commissioner Regalado. I would like to ask that question again for a
categorical answer.
I mentioned that if we institutionalize the term "the life of the unborn from the moment of conception" we are also actually saying "no,"
not "maybe," to certain contraceptives which are already being encouraged at this point in time. Is that the sense of the committee or does
it disagree with me?
Mr. Azcuna: No, Mr. Presiding Officer, because contraceptives would be preventive. There is no unborn yet. That is yet unshaped.
Mr. Gascon: Yes, Mr. Presiding Officer, but I was speaking more about some contraceptives, such as the intra-uterine device which actually
stops the egg which has already been fertilized from taking route to the uterus. So if we say "from the moment of conception," what really
occurs is that some of these contraceptives will have to be unconstitutionalized.
Mr. Azcuna: Yes, to the extent that it is after the fertilization.
Mr. Gascon: Thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer.156
The fact that not all contraceptives are prohibited by the 1987 Constitution is even admitted by petitioners during the oral arguments.
There it was conceded that tubal ligation, vasectomy, even condoms are not classified as abortifacients.157
Atty. Noche:
Before the union of the eggs, egg and the sperm, there is no life yet.
Justice Bersamin:
There is no life.
Atty. Noche:
So, there is no life to be protected.
Justice Bersamin:
To be protected.
Atty. Noche:
Under Section 12, yes.
Justice Bersamin:
So you have no objection to condoms?
Atty. Noche:
Not under Section 12, Article II.
Justice Bersamin:
Even if there is already information that condoms sometimes have porosity?
Atty. Noche:
Well, yes, Your Honor, there are scientific findings to that effect, Your Honor, but I am discussing here Section 12, Article II, Your Honor, yes.
Justice Bersamin:
Alright.
Atty. Noche:
And it's not, I have to admit it's not an abortifacient, Your Honor.158
Medical Meaning
That conception begins at fertilization is not bereft of medical foundation. Mosby s Medical, Nursing, and Allied Health Dictionary defines
conception as "the beginning of pregnancy usually taken to be the instant a spermatozoon enters an ovum and forms a viable zygote."159
It describes fertilization as "the union of male and female gametes to form a zygote from which the embryo develops." 160
The Textbook of Obstetrics (Physiological & Pathological Obstetrics),161 used by medical schools in the Philippines, also concludes that
human life (human person) begins at the moment of fertilization with the union of the egg and the sperm resulting in the formation of a
new individual, with a unique genetic composition that dictates all developmental stages that ensue.
Similarly, recent medical research on the matter also reveals that: "Human development begins after the union of male and female
gametes or germ cells during a process known as fertilization (conception). Fertilization is a sequence of events that begins with the contact
of a sperm (spermatozoon) with a secondary oocyte (ovum) and ends with the fusion of their pronuclei (the haploid nuclei of the sperm
and ovum) and the mingling of their chromosomes to form a new cell. This fertilized ovum, known as a zygote, is a large diploid cell that is
the beginning, or primordium, of a human being."162
The authors of Human Embryology & Teratology163 mirror the same position. They wrote: "Although life is a continuous process,
fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed....
The combination of 23 chromosomes present in each pronucleus results in 46 chromosomes in the zygote. Thus the diploid number is
restored and the embryonic genome is formed. The embryo now exists as a genetic unity."
In support of the RH Bill, The Philippine Medical Association came out with a "Paper on the Reproductive Health Bill (Responsible
Parenthood Bill)" and therein concluded that:
CONCLUSION
The PMA throws its full weight in supporting the RH Bill at the same time that PMA maintains its strong position that fertilization is sacred
because it is at this stage that conception, and thus human life, begins. Human lives are sacred from the moment of conception, and that
destroying those new lives is never licit, no matter what the purported good outcome would be. In terms of biology and human
embryology, a human being begins immediately at fertilization and after that, there is no point along the continuous line of human
embryogenesis where only a "potential" human being can be posited. Any philosophical, legal, or political conclusion cannot escape this
objective scientific fact.
The scientific evidence supports the conclusion that a zygote is a human organism and that the life of a new human being commences at a
scientifically well defined "moment of conception." This conclusion is objective, consistent with the factual evidence, and independent of
any specific ethical, moral, political, or religious view of human life or of human embryos.164
Conclusion: The Moment of Conception is Reckoned from
Fertilization
In all, whether it be taken from a plain meaning, or understood under medical parlance, and more importantly, following the intention of
the Framers of the Constitution, the undeniable conclusion is that a zygote is a human organism and that the life of a new human being
commences at a scientifically well-defined moment of conception, that is, upon fertilization.
For the above reasons, the Court cannot subscribe to the theory advocated by Hon. Lagman that life begins at implantation. 165 According to
him, "fertilization and conception are two distinct and successive stages in the reproductive process. They are not identical and
synonymous."166 Citing a letter of the WHO, he wrote that "medical authorities confirm that the implantation of the fertilized ovum is the
commencement of conception and it is only after implantation that pregnancy can be medically detected."167
This theory of implantation as the beginning of life is devoid of any legal or scientific mooring. It does not pertain to the beginning of life
but to the viability of the fetus. The fertilized ovum/zygote is not an inanimate object - it is a living human being complete with DNA and 46
chromosomes.168 Implantation has been conceptualized only for convenience by those who had population control in mind. To adopt it
would constitute textual infidelity not only to the RH Law but also to the Constitution.
Not surprisingly, even the OSG does not support this position.
If such theory would be accepted, it would unnervingly legitimize the utilization of any drug or device that would prevent the implantation
of the fetus at the uterine wall. It would be provocative and further aggravate religious-based divisiveness.
It would legally permit what the Constitution proscribes - abortion and abortifacients.
The RH Law and Abortion
The clear and unequivocal intent of the Framers of the 1987 Constitution in protecting the life of the unborn from conception was to
prevent the Legislature from enacting a measure legalizing abortion. It was so clear that even the Court cannot interpret it otherwise. This
intent of the Framers was captured in the record of the proceedings of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. Commissioner Bernardo
Villegas, the principal proponent of the protection of the unborn from conception, explained:
The intention .. .is to make sure that there would be no pro-abortion laws ever passed by Congress or any pro-abortion decision passed by
the Supreme Court.169
A reading of the RH Law would show that it is in line with this intent and actually proscribes abortion. While the Court has opted not to
make any determination, at this stage, when life begins, it finds that the RH Law itself clearly mandates that protection be afforded from
the moment of fertilization. As pointed out by Justice Carpio, the RH Law is replete with provisions that embody the policy of the law to
protect to the fertilized ovum and that it should be afforded safe travel to the uterus for implantation. 170
Moreover, the RH Law recognizes that abortion is a crime under Article 256 of the Revised Penal Code, which penalizes the destruction or
expulsion of the fertilized ovum. Thus:
1] xx x.
Section 4. Definition of Terms. - For the purpose of this Act, the following terms shall be defined as follows:
xxx.
(q) Reproductive health care refers to the access to a full range of methods, facilities, services and supplies that contribute to reproductive
health and well-being by addressing reproductive health-related problems. It also includes sexual health, the purpose of which is the
enhancement of life and personal relations. The elements of reproductive health care include the following:
xxx.
(3) Proscription of abortion and management of abortion complications;
xxx.
2] xx x.
Section 4. x x x.
(s) Reproductive health rights refers to the rights of individuals and couples, to decide freely and responsibly whether or not to have
children; the number, spacing and timing of their children; to make other decisions concerning reproduction, free of discrimination,
coercion and violence; to have the information and means to do so; and to attain the highest standard of sexual health and reproductive
health: Provided, however, That reproductive health rights do not include abortion, and access to abortifacients.
3] xx x.
SEC. 29. Repealing Clause. - Except for prevailing laws against abortion, any law, presidential decree or issuance, executive order, letter of
instruction, administrative order, rule or regulation contrary to or is inconsistent with the provisions of this Act including Republic Act No.
7392, otherwise known as the Midwifery Act, is hereby repealed, modified or amended accordingly.
The RH Law and Abortifacients
In carrying out its declared policy, the RH Law is consistent in prohibiting abortifacients. To be clear, Section 4(a) of the RH Law defines an
abortifacient as:
Section 4. Definition of Terms - x x x x
(a) Abortifacient refers to any drug or device that induces abortion or the destruction of a fetus inside the mother's womb or the
prevention of the fertilized ovum to reach and be implanted in the mother's womb upon determination of the FDA.
As stated above, the RH Law mandates that protection must be afforded from the moment of fertilization. By using the word " or," the RH
Law prohibits not only drugs or devices that prevent implantation, but also those that induce abortion and those that induce the
destruction of a fetus inside the mother's womb. Thus, an abortifacient is any drug or device that either:
(a) Induces abortion; or
(b) Induces the destruction of a fetus inside the mother's womb; or
(c) Prevents the fertilized ovum to reach and be implanted in the mother's womb, upon determination of the FDA.
Contrary to the assertions made by the petitioners, the Court finds that the RH Law, consistent with the Constitution, recognizes that the
fertilized ovum already has life and that the State has a bounden duty to protect it. The conclusion becomes clear because the RH Law, first,
prohibits any drug or device that induces abortion (first kind), which, as discussed exhaustively above, refers to that which induces the
killing or the destruction of the fertilized ovum, and, second, prohibits any drug or device the fertilized ovum to reach and be implanted in
the mother's womb (third kind).
By expressly declaring that any drug or device that prevents the fertilized ovum to reach and be implanted in the mother's womb is an
abortifacient (third kind), the RH Law does not intend to mean at all that life only begins only at implantation, as Hon. Lagman suggests. It
also does not declare either that protection will only be given upon implantation, as the petitioners likewise suggest. Rather, it recognizes
that: one, there is a need to protect the fertilized ovum which already has life, and two, the fertilized ovum must be protected the moment
it becomes existent - all the way until it reaches and implants in the mother's womb. After all, if life is only recognized and afforded
protection from the moment the fertilized ovum implants - there is nothing to prevent any drug or device from killing or destroying the
fertilized ovum prior to implantation.
From the foregoing, the Court finds that inasmuch as it affords protection to the fertilized ovum, the RH Law does not sanction abortion. To
repeat, it is the Court's position that life begins at fertilization, not at implantation. When a fertilized ovum is implanted in the uterine wall ,
its viability is sustained but that instance of implantation is not the point of beginning of life. It started earlier. And as defined by the RH
Law, any drug or device that induces abortion, that is, which kills or destroys the fertilized ovum or prevents the fertilized ovum to reach
and be implanted in the mother's womb, is an abortifacient.
Proviso Under Section 9 of the RH Law
This notwithstanding, the Court finds that the proviso under Section 9 of the law that "any product or supply included or to be included in
the EDL must have a certification from the FDA that said product and supply is made available on the condition that it is not to be used as
an abortifacient" as empty as it is absurd. The FDA, with all its expertise, cannot fully attest that a drug or device will not all be used as an
abortifacient, since the agency cannot be present in every instance when the contraceptive product or supply will be used. 171
Pursuant to its declared policy of providing access only to safe, legal and non-abortifacient contraceptives, however, the Court finds that
the proviso of Section 9, as worded, should bend to the legislative intent and mean that "any product or supply included or to be included
in the EDL must have a certification from the FDA that said product and supply is made available on the condition that it cannot be used as
abortifacient." Such a construction is consistent with the proviso under the second paragraph of the same section that provides:
Provided, further, That the foregoing offices shall not purchase or acquire by any means emergency contraceptive pills, postcoital pills,
abortifacients that will be used for such purpose and their other forms or equivalent.
Abortifacients under the RH-IRR
At this juncture, the Court agrees with ALFI that the authors of the RH-IRR gravely abused their office when they redefined the meaning of
abortifacient. The RH Law defines "abortifacient" as follows:
SEC. 4. Definition of Terms. - For the purpose of this Act, the following terms shall be defined as follows:
(a) Abortifacient refers to any drug or device that induces abortion or the destruction of a fetus inside the mother's womb or the
prevention of the fertilized ovum to reach and be implanted in the mother's womb upon determination of the FDA.
Section 3.0l (a) of the IRR, however, redefines "abortifacient" as:
Section 3.01 For purposes of these Rules, the terms shall be defined as follows:
a) Abortifacient refers to any drug or device that primarily induces abortion or the destruction of a fetus inside the mother's womb or the
prevention of the fertilized ovum to reach and be implanted in the mother's womb upon determination of the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA). [Emphasis supplied]
Again in Section 3.0lG) of the RH-IRR, "contraceptive," is redefined, viz:
j) Contraceptive refers to any safe, legal, effective and scientifically proven modern family planning method, device, or health product,
whether natural or artificial, that prevents pregnancy but does not primarily destroy a fertilized ovum or prevent a fertilized ovum from
being implanted in the mother's womb in doses of its approved indication as determined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The above-mentioned section of the RH-IRR allows "contraceptives" and recognizes as "abortifacient" only those that primarily induce
abortion or the destruction of a fetus inside the mother's womb or the prevention of the fertilized ovum to reach and be implanted in the
mother's womb.172
This cannot be done.
In this regard, the observations of Justice Brion and Justice Del Castillo are well taken. As they pointed out, with the insertion of the word
"primarily," Section 3.0l(a) and G) of the RH-IRR173 must be struck down for being ultra vires.
Evidently, with the addition of the word "primarily," in Section 3.0l(a) and G) of the RH-IRR is indeed ultra vires. It contravenes Section 4(a)
of the RH Law and should, therefore, be declared invalid. There is danger that the insertion of the qualifier "primarily" will pave the way for
the approval of contraceptives which may harm or destroy the life of the unborn from conception/fertilization in violation of Article II,
Section 12 of the Constitution. With such qualification in the RH-IRR, it appears to insinuate that a contraceptive will only be considered as
an "abortifacient" if its sole known effect is abortion or, as pertinent here, the prevention of the implantation of the fertilized ovum.
For the same reason, this definition of "contraceptive" would permit the approval of contraceptives which are actually abortifacients
because of their fail-safe mechanism.174
Also, as discussed earlier, Section 9 calls for the certification by the FDA that these contraceptives cannot act as abortive. With this,
together with the definition of an abortifacient under Section 4 (a) of the RH Law and its declared policy against abortion, the undeniable
conclusion is that contraceptives to be included in the PNDFS and the EDL will not only be those contraceptives that do not have the
primary action of causing abortion or the destruction of a fetus inside the mother's womb or the prevention of the fertilized ovum to reach
and be implanted in the mother's womb, but also those that do not have the secondary action of acting the same way.
Indeed, consistent with the constitutional policy prohibiting abortion, and in line with the principle that laws should be construed in a
manner that its constitutionality is sustained, the RH Law and its implementing rules must be consistent with each other in prohibiting
abortion. Thus, the word " primarily" in Section 3.0l(a) and G) of the RH-IRR should be declared void. To uphold the validity of Section
3.0l(a) and G) of the RH-IRR and prohibit only those contraceptives that have the primary effect of being an abortive would effectively
"open the floodgates to the approval of contraceptives which may harm or destroy the life of the unborn from conception/fertilization in
violation of Article II, Section 12 of the Constitution."175
To repeat and emphasize, in all cases, the "principle of no abortion" embodied in the constitutional protection of life must be upheld.
2-The Right to Health
The petitioners claim that the RH Law violates the right to health because it requires the inclusion of hormonal contraceptives, intrauterine
devices, injectables and family products and supplies in the National Drug Formulary and the inclusion of the same in the regular purchase
of essential medicines and supplies of all national hospitals.176Citing various studies on the matter, the petitioners posit that the risk of
developing breast and cervical cancer is greatly increased in women who use oral contraceptives as compared to women who never use
them. They point out that the risk is decreased when the use of contraceptives is discontinued. Further, it is contended that the use of
combined oral contraceptive pills is associated with a threefold increased risk of venous thromboembolism, a twofold increased risk of
ischematic stroke, and an indeterminate effect on risk of myocardial infarction.177 Given the definition of "reproductive health" and "sexual
health" under Sections 4(p)178 and (w)179 of the RH Law, the petitioners assert that the assailed legislation only seeks to ensure that women
have pleasurable and satisfying sex lives.180
The OSG, however, points out that Section 15, Article II of the Constitution is not self-executory, it being a mere statement of the
administration's principle and policy. Even if it were self-executory, the OSG posits that medical authorities refute the claim that
contraceptive pose a danger to the health of women.181
The Court's Position
A component to the right to life is the constitutional right to health. In this regard, the Constitution is replete with provisions protecting and
promoting the right to health. Section 15, Article II of the Constitution provides:
Section 15. The State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.
A portion of Article XIII also specifically provides for the States' duty to provide for the health of the people, viz:
HEALTH
Section 11. The State shall adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development which shall endeavor to make
essential goods, health and other social services available to all the people at affordable cost. There shall be priority for the needs of the
underprivileged, sick, elderly, disabled, women, and children. The State shall endeavor to provide free medical care to paupers.
Section 12. The State shall establish and maintain an effective food and drug regulatory system and undertake appropriate health,
manpower development, and research, responsive to the country's health needs and problems.
Section 13. The State shall establish a special agency for disabled person for their rehabilitation, self-development, and self-reliance, and
their integration into the mainstream of society.
Finally, Section 9, Article XVI provides:
Section 9. The State shall protect consumers from trade malpractices and from substandard or hazardous products.
Contrary to the respondent's notion, however, these provisions are self-executing. Unless the provisions clearly express the contrary, the
provisions of the Constitution should be considered self-executory. There is no need for legislation to implement these self-executing
provisions.182 In Manila Prince Hotel v. GSIS,183 it was stated:
x x x Hence, unless it is expressly provided that a legislative act is necessary to enforce a constitutional mandate, the presumption now is
that all provisions of the constitution are self-executing. If the constitutional provisions are treated as requiring legislation instead of self-
executing, the legislature would have the power to ignore and practically nullify the mandate of the fundamental law. This can be
cataclysmic. That is why the prevailing view is, as it has always been, that
... in case of doubt, the Constitution should be considered self-executing rather than non-self-executing. . . . Unless the contrary is clearly
intended, the provisions of the Constitution should be considered self-executing, as a contrary rule would give the legislature discretion to
determine when, or whether, they shall be effective. These provisions would be subordinated to the will of the lawmaking body, which
could make them entirely meaningless by simply refusing to pass the needed implementing statute. (Emphases supplied)
This notwithstanding, it bears mentioning that the petitioners, particularly ALFI, do not question contraception and contraceptives per
se.184 In fact, ALFI prays that the status quo - under R.A. No. 5921 and R.A. No. 4729, the sale and distribution of contraceptives are not
prohibited when they are dispensed by a prescription of a duly licensed by a physician - be maintained.185
The legislative intent in the enactment of the RH Law in this regard is to leave intact the provisions of R.A. No. 4729. There is no intention at
all to do away with it. It is still a good law and its requirements are still in to be complied with. Thus, the Court agrees with the observation
of respondent Lagman that the effectivity of the RH Law will not lead to the unmitigated proliferation of contraceptives since the sale,
distribution and dispensation of contraceptive drugs and devices will still require the prescription of a licensed physician. With R.A. No.
4729 in place, there exists adequate safeguards to ensure the public that only contraceptives that are safe are made available to the public.
As aptly explained by respondent Lagman:
D. Contraceptives cannot be
dispensed and used without
prescription
108. As an added protection to voluntary users of contraceptives, the same cannot be dispensed and used without prescription.
109. Republic Act No. 4729 or "An Act to Regulate the Sale, Dispensation, and/ or Distribution of Contraceptive Drugs and Devices" and
Republic Act No. 5921 or "An Act Regulating the Practice of Pharmacy and Setting Standards of Pharmaceutical Education in the Philippines
and for Other Purposes" are not repealed by the RH Law and the provisions of said Acts are not inconsistent with the RH Law.
110. Consequently, the sale, distribution and dispensation of contraceptive drugs and devices are particularly governed by RA No. 4729
which provides in full:
"Section 1. It shall be unlawful for any person, partnership, or corporation, to sell, dispense or otherwise distribute whether for or without
consideration, any contraceptive drug or device, unless such sale, dispensation or distribution is by a duly licensed drug store or
pharmaceutical company and with the prescription of a qualified medical practitioner.
"Sec. 2 . For the purpose of this Act:
"(a) "Contraceptive drug" is any medicine, drug, chemical, or portion which is used exclusively for the purpose of preventing fertilization of
the female ovum: and
"(b) "Contraceptive device" is any instrument, device, material, or agent introduced into the female reproductive system for the primary
purpose of preventing conception.
"Sec. 3 Any person, partnership, or corporation, violating the provisions of this Act shall be punished with a fine of not more than five
hundred pesos or an imprisonment of not less than six months or more than one year or both in the discretion of the Court.
"This Act shall take effect upon its approval.
"Approved: June 18, 1966"
111. Of the same import, but in a general manner, Section 25 of RA No. 5921 provides:
"Section 25. Sale of medicine, pharmaceuticals, drugs and devices. No medicine, pharmaceutical, or drug of whatever nature and kind or
device shall be compounded, dispensed, sold or resold, or otherwise be made available to the consuming public except through a
prescription drugstore or hospital pharmacy, duly established in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
112. With all of the foregoing safeguards, as provided for in the RH Law and other relevant statutes, the pretension of the petitioners that
the RH Law will lead to the unmitigated proliferation of contraceptives, whether harmful or not, is completely unwarranted and
baseless.186 [Emphases in the Original. Underlining supplied.]
In Re: Section 10 of the RH Law:
The foregoing safeguards should be read in connection with Section 10 of the RH Law which provides:
SEC. 10. Procurement and Distribution of Family Planning Supplies. - The DOH shall procure, distribute to LGUs and monitor the usage of
family planning supplies for the whole country. The DOH shall coordinate with all appropriate local government bodies to plan and
implement this procurement and distribution program. The supply and budget allotments shall be based on, among others, the current
levels and projections of the following:
(a) Number of women of reproductive age and couples who want to space or limit their children;
(b) Contraceptive prevalence rate, by type of method used; and
(c) Cost of family planning supplies.
Provided, That LGUs may implement its own procurement, distribution and monitoring program consistent with the overall provisions of
this Act and the guidelines of the DOH.
Thus, in the distribution by the DOH of contraceptive drugs and devices, it must consider the provisions of R.A. No. 4729, which is still in
effect, and ensure that the contraceptives that it will procure shall be from a duly licensed drug store or pharmaceutical company and that
the actual dispensation of these contraceptive drugs and devices will done following a prescription of a qualified medical practitioner. The
distribution of contraceptive drugs and devices must not be indiscriminately done. The public health must be protected by all possible
means. As pointed out by Justice De Castro, a heavy responsibility and burden are assumed by the government in supplying contraceptive
drugs and devices, for it may be held accountable for any injury, illness or loss of life resulting from or incidental to their use.187
At any rate, it bears pointing out that not a single contraceptive has yet been submitted to the FDA pursuant to the RH Law. It behooves the
Court to await its determination which drugs or devices are declared by the FDA as safe, it being the agency tasked to ensure that food and
medicines available to the public are safe for public consumption. Consequently, the Court finds that, at this point, the attack on the RH
Law on this ground is premature. Indeed, the various kinds of contraceptives must first be measured up to the constitutional yardstick as
expounded herein, to be determined as the case presents itself.
At this point, the Court is of the strong view that Congress cannot legislate that hormonal contraceptives and intra-uterine devices are safe
and non-abortifacient. The first sentence of Section 9 that ordains their inclusion by the National Drug Formulary in the EDL by using the
mandatory "shall" is to be construed as operative only after they have been tested, evaluated, and approved by the FDA. The FDA, not
Congress, has the expertise to determine whether a particular hormonal contraceptive or intrauterine device is safe and non-abortifacient.
The provision of the third sentence concerning the requirements for the inclusion or removal of a particular family planning supply from
the EDL supports this construction.
Stated differently, the provision in Section 9 covering the inclusion of hormonal contraceptives, intra-uterine devices, injectables, and other
safe, legal, non-abortifacient and effective family planning products and supplies by the National Drug Formulary in the EDL is not
mandatory. There must first be a determination by the FDA that they are in fact safe, legal, non-abortifacient and effective family planning
products and supplies. There can be no predetermination by Congress that the gamut of contraceptives are "safe, legal, non-abortifacient
and effective" without the proper scientific examination.
3 -Freedom of Religion
and the Right to Free Speech
Position of the Petitioners:
1. On Contraception
While contraceptives and procedures like vasectomy and tubal ligation are not covered by the constitutional proscription, there are those
who, because of their religious education and background, sincerely believe that contraceptives, whether abortifacient or not, are evil.
Some of these are medical practitioners who essentially claim that their beliefs prohibit not only the use of contraceptives but also the
willing participation and cooperation in all things dealing with contraceptive use. Petitioner PAX explained that "contraception is gravely
opposed to marital chastity, it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life, and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses; it harms
true love and denies the sovereign rule of God in the transmission of Human life."188
The petitioners question the State-sponsored procurement of contraceptives, arguing that the expenditure of their taxes on contraceptives
violates the guarantee of religious freedom since contraceptives contravene their religious beliefs.189
2. On Religious Accommodation and
The Duty to Refer
Petitioners Imbong and Luat note that while the RH Law attempts to address religious sentiments by making provisions for a conscientious
objector, the constitutional guarantee is nonetheless violated because the law also imposes upon the conscientious objector the duty to
refer the patient seeking reproductive health services to another medical practitioner who would be able to provide for the patient's needs.
For the petitioners, this amounts to requiring the conscientious objector to cooperate with the very thing he refuses to do without violating
his/her religious beliefs.190
They further argue that even if the conscientious objector's duty to refer is recognized, the recognition is unduly limited, because although
it allows a conscientious objector in Section 23 (a)(3) the option to refer a patient seeking reproductive health services and information - no
escape is afforded the conscientious objector in Section 23 (a)(l) and (2), i.e. against a patient seeking reproductive health procedures. They
claim that the right of other individuals to conscientiously object, such as: a) those working in public health facilities referred to in Section
7; b) public officers involved in the implementation of the law referred to in Section 23(b ); and c) teachers in public schools referred to in
Section 14 of the RH Law, are also not recognize.191
Petitioner Echavez and the other medical practitioners meanwhile, contend that the requirement to refer the matter to another health
care service provider is still considered a compulsion on those objecting healthcare service providers. They add that compelling them to do
the act against their will violates the Doctrine of Benevolent Neutrality. Sections 9, 14 and 1 7 of the law are too secular that they tend to
disregard the religion of Filipinos. Authorizing the use of contraceptives with abortive effects, mandatory sex education, mandatory pro-
bono reproductive health services to indigents encroach upon the religious freedom of those upon whom they are required. 192
Petitioner CFC also argues that the requirement for a conscientious objector to refer the person seeking reproductive health care services
to another provider infringes on one's freedom of religion as it forces the objector to become an unwilling participant in the commission of
a serious sin under Catholic teachings. While the right to act on one's belief may be regulated by the State, the acts prohibited by the RH
Law are passive acts which produce neither harm nor injury to the public.193
Petitioner CFC adds that the RH Law does not show compelling state interest to justify regulation of religious freedom because it mentions
no emergency, risk or threat that endangers state interests. It does not explain how the rights of the people (to equality, non-discrimination
of rights, sustainable human development, health, education, information, choice and to make decisions according to religious convictions,
ethics, cultural beliefs and the demands of responsible parenthood) are being threatened or are not being met as to justify the impairment
of religious freedom.194
Finally, the petitioners also question Section 15 of the RH Law requiring would-be couples to attend family planning and responsible
parenthood seminars and to obtain a certificate of compliance. They claim that the provision forces individuals to participate in the
implementation of the RH Law even if it contravenes their religious beliefs.195 As the assailed law dangles the threat of penalty of fine
and/or imprisonment in case of non-compliance with its provisions, the petitioners claim that the RH Law forcing them to provide, support
and facilitate access and information to contraception against their beliefs must be struck down as it runs afoul to the constitutional
guarantee of religious freedom.
The Respondents' Positions
The respondents, on the other hand, contend that the RH Law does not provide that a specific mode or type of contraceptives be used, be
it natural or artificial. It neither imposes nor sanctions any religion or belief.196 They point out that the RH Law only seeks to serve the public
interest by providing accessible, effective and quality reproductive health services to ensure maternal and child health, in line with the
State's duty to bring to reality the social justice health guarantees of the Constitution, 197 and that what the law only prohibits are those acts
or practices, which deprive others of their right to reproductive health.198 They assert that the assailed law only seeks to guarantee
informed choice, which is an assurance that no one will be compelled to violate his religion against his free will. 199
The respondents add that by asserting that only natural family planning should be allowed, the petitioners are effectively going against the
constitutional right to religious freedom, the same right they invoked to assail the constitutionality of the RH Law. 200 In other words, by
seeking the declaration that the RH Law is unconstitutional, the petitioners are asking that the Court recognize only the Catholic Church's
sanctioned natural family planning methods and impose this on the entire citizenry.201
With respect to the duty to refer, the respondents insist that the same does not violate the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom, it
being a carefully balanced compromise between the interests of the religious objector, on one hand, who is allowed to keep silent but is
required to refer -and that of the citizen who needs access to information and who has the right to expect that the health care professional
in front of her will act professionally. For the respondents, the concession given by the State under Section 7 and 23(a)(3) is sufficient
accommodation to the right to freely exercise one's religion without unnecessarily infringing on the rights of others.202
Whatever burden is placed on the petitioner's religious freedom is minimal as the duty to refer is limited in duration, location and
impact.203
Regarding mandatory family planning seminars under Section 15 , the respondents claim that it is a reasonable regulation providing an
opportunity for would-be couples to have access to information regarding parenthood, family planning, breastfeeding and infant nutrition.
It is argued that those who object to any information received on account of their attendance in the required seminars are not compelled
to accept information given to them. They are completely free to reject any information they do not agree with and retain the freedom to
decide on matters of family life without intervention of the State.204
For their part, respondents De Venecia et al., dispute the notion that natural family planning is the only method acceptable to Catholics and
the Catholic hierarchy. Citing various studies and surveys on the matter, they highlight the changing stand of the Catholic Church on
contraception throughout the years and note the general acceptance of the benefits of contraceptives by its followers in planning their
families.
The Church and The State
At the outset, it cannot be denied that we all live in a heterogeneous society. It is made up of people of diverse ethnic, cultural and religious
beliefs and backgrounds. History has shown us that our government, in law and in practice, has allowed these various religious, cultural,
social and racial groups to thrive in a single society together. It has embraced minority groups and is tolerant towards all - the religious
people of different sects and the non-believers. The undisputed fact is that our people generally believe in a deity, whatever they conceived
Him to be, and to whom they call for guidance and enlightenment in crafting our fundamental law. Thus, the preamble of the present
Constitution reads:
We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society, and establish a
Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to
ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom,
love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.
The Filipino people in "imploring the aid of Almighty God " manifested their spirituality innate in our nature and consciousness as a people,
shaped by tradition and historical experience. As this is embodied in the preamble, it means that the State recognizes with respect the
influence of religion in so far as it instills into the mind the purest principles of morality.205 Moreover, in recognition of the contributions of
religion to society, the 1935, 1973 and 1987 constitutions contain benevolent and accommodating provisions towards religions such as tax
exemption of church property, salary of religious officers in government institutions, and optional religious instructions in public schools.
The Framers, however, felt the need to put up a strong barrier so that the State would not encroach into the affairs of the church, and vice-
versa. The principle of separation of Church and State was, thus, enshrined in Article II, Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution, viz:
Section 6. The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.
Verily, the principle of separation of Church and State is based on mutual respect.1wphi1 Generally, the State cannot meddle in the
internal affairs of the church, much less question its faith and dogmas or dictate upon it. It cannot favor one religion and discriminate
against another. On the other hand, the church cannot impose its beliefs and convictions on the State and the rest of the citizenry. It
cannot demand that the nation follow its beliefs, even if it sincerely believes that they are good for the country.
Consistent with the principle that not any one religion should ever be preferred over another, the Constitution in the above-cited provision
utilizes the term "church" in its generic sense, which refers to a temple, a mosque, an iglesia, or any other house of God which
metaphorically symbolizes a religious organization. Thus, the "Church" means the religious congregations collectively.
Balancing the benefits that religion affords and the need to provide an ample barrier to protect the State from the pursuit of its secular
objectives, the Constitution lays down the following mandate in Article III, Section 5 and Article VI, Section 29 (2), of the 1987 Constitution:
Section. 5. No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and
enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be
required for the exercise of civil or political rights.
Section 29.
xxx.
No public money or property shall be appropriated, applied, paid, or employed, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any
sect, church, denomination, sectarian institution, or system of religion, or of any priest, preacher, minister, other religious teacher, or
dignitary as such, except when such priest, preacher, minister, or dignitary is assigned to the armed forces, or to any penal institution, or
government orphanage or leprosarium.
In short, the constitutional assurance of religious freedom provides two guarantees: the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause.
The establishment clause "principally prohibits the State from sponsoring any religion or favoring any religion as against other religions. It
mandates a strict neutrality in affairs among religious groups." 206 Essentially, it prohibits the establishment of a state religion and the use of
public resources for the support or prohibition of a religion.
On the other hand, the basis of the free exercise clause is the respect for the inviolability of the human conscience. 207 Under this part of
religious freedom guarantee, the State is prohibited from unduly interfering with the outside manifestations of one's belief and
faith.208 Explaining the concept of religious freedom, the Court, in Victoriano v. Elizalde Rope Workers Union 209 wrote:
The constitutional provisions not only prohibits legislation for the support of any religious tenets or the modes of worship of any sect, thus
forestalling compulsion by law of the acceptance of any creed or the practice of any form of worship (U.S. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78, 88 L. ed.
1148, 1153), but also assures the free exercise of one's chosen form of religion within limits of utmost amplitude. It has been said that the
religion clauses of the Constitution are all designed to protect the broadest possible liberty of conscience, to allow each man to believe as
his conscience directs, to profess his beliefs, and to live as he believes he ought to live, consistent with the liberty of others and with the
common good. Any legislation whose effect or purpose is to impede the observance of one or all religions, or to discriminate invidiously
between the religions, is invalid, even though the burden may be characterized as being only indirect. (Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 10
L.ed.2d 965, 83 S. Ct. 1970) But if the state regulates conduct by enacting, within its power, a general law which has for its purpose and
effect to advance the state's secular goals, the statute is valid despite its indirect burden on religious observance, unless the state can
accomplish its purpose without imposing such burden. (Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599, 6 Led. 2d. 563, 81 S. Ct. 144; McGowan v.
Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 444-5 and 449).
As expounded in Escritor,
The establishment and free exercise clauses were not designed to serve contradictory purposes. They have a single goal-to promote
freedom of individual religious beliefs and practices. In simplest terms, the free exercise clause prohibits government from inhibiting
religious beliefs with penalties for religious beliefs and practice, while the establishment clause prohibits government from inhibiting
religious belief with rewards for religious beliefs and practices. In other words, the two religion clauses were intended to deny government
the power to use either the carrot or the stick to influence individual religious beliefs and practices.210
Corollary to the guarantee of free exercise of one's religion is the principle that the guarantee of religious freedom is comprised of two
parts: the freedom to believe, and the freedom to act on one's belief. The first part is absolute. As explained in Gerona v. Secretary of
Education:211
The realm of belief and creed is infinite and limitless bounded only by one's imagination and thought. So is the freedom of belief, including
religious belief, limitless and without bounds. One may believe in most anything, however strange, bizarre and unreasonable the same may
appear to others, even heretical when weighed in the scales of orthodoxy or doctrinal standards. But between the freedom of belief and
the exercise of said belief, there is quite a stretch of road to travel.212
The second part however, is limited and subject to the awesome power of the State and can be enjoyed only with proper regard to the
rights of others. It is "subject to regulation where the belief is translated into external acts that affect the public welfare." 213
Legislative Acts and the
Free Exercise Clause
Thus, in case of conflict between the free exercise clause and the State, the Court adheres to the doctrine of benevolent neutrality. This has
been clearly decided by the Court in Estrada v. Escritor, (Escritor) 214 where it was stated "that benevolent neutrality-accommodation,
whether mandatory or permissive, is the spirit, intent and framework underlying the Philippine Constitution." 215 In the same case, it was
further explained that"
The benevolent neutrality theory believes that with respect to these governmental actions, accommodation of religion may be allowed, not
to promote the government's favored form of religion, but to allow individuals and groups to exercise their religion without hindrance.
"The purpose of accommodation is to remove a burden on, or facilitate the exercise of, a person's or institution's religion."216 "What is
sought under the theory of accommodation is not a declaration of unconstitutionality of a facially neutral law, but an exemption from its
application or its 'burdensome effect,' whether by the legislature or the courts."217
In ascertaining the limits of the exercise of religious freedom, the compelling state interest test is proper.218Underlying the compelling state
interest test is the notion that free exercise is a fundamental right and that laws burdening it should be subject to strict scrutiny.219 In
Escritor, it was written:
Philippine jurisprudence articulates several tests to determine these limits. Beginning with the first case on the Free Exercise Clause,
American Bible Society, the Court mentioned the "clear and present danger" test but did not employ it. Nevertheless, this test continued to
be cited in subsequent cases on religious liberty. The Gerona case then pronounced that the test of permissibility of religious freedom is
whether it violates the established institutions of society and law. The Victoriano case mentioned the "immediate and grave danger" test as
well as the doctrine that a law of general applicability may burden religious exercise provided the law is the least restrictive means to
accomplish the goal of the law. The case also used, albeit inappropriately, the "compelling state interest" test. After Victoriano , German
went back to the Gerona rule. Ebralinag then employed the "grave and immediate danger" test and overruled the Gerona test. The fairly
recent case of Iglesia ni Cristo went back to the " clear and present danger" test in the maiden case of A merican Bible Society. Not
surprisingly, all the cases which employed the "clear and present danger" or "grave and immediate danger" test involved, in one form or
another, religious speech as this test is often used in cases on freedom of expression. On the other hand, the Gerona and German cases set
the rule that religious freedom will not prevail over established institutions of society and law. Gerona, however, which was the authority
cited by German has been overruled by Ebralinag which employed the "grave and immediate danger" test . Victoriano was the only case
that employed the "compelling state interest" test, but as explained previously, the use of the test was inappropriate to the facts of the
case.
The case at bar does not involve speech as in A merican Bible Society, Ebralinag and Iglesia ni Cristo where the "clear and present danger"
and "grave and immediate danger" tests were appropriate as speech has easily discernible or immediate effects. The Gerona and German
doctrine, aside from having been overruled, is not congruent with the benevolent neutrality approach, thus not appropriate in this
jurisdiction. Similar to Victoriano, the present case involves purely conduct arising from religious belief. The "compelling state interest" test
is proper where conduct is involved for the whole gamut of human conduct has different effects on the state's interests: some effects may
be immediate and short-term while others delayed and far-reaching. A test that would protect the interests of the state in preventing a
substantive evil, whether immediate or delayed, is therefore necessary. However, not any interest of the state would suffice to prevail over
the right to religious freedom as this is a fundamental right that enjoys a preferred position in the hierarchy of rights - "the most inalienable
and sacred of all human rights", in the words of Jefferson. This right is sacred for an invocation of the Free Exercise Clause is an appeal to a
higher sovereignty. The entire constitutional order of limited government is premised upon an acknowledgment of such higher sovereignty,
thus the Filipinos implore the "aid of Almighty God in order to build a just and humane society and establish a government." As held in
Sherbert, only the gravest abuses, endangering paramount interests can limit this fundamental right. A mere balancing of interests which
balances a right with just a colorable state interest is therefore not appropriate. Instead, only a compelling interest of the state can prevail
over the fundamental right to religious liberty. The test requires the state to carry a heavy burden, a compelling one, for to do otherwise
would allow the state to batter religion, especially the less powerful ones until they are destroyed. In determining which shall prevail
between the state's interest and religious liberty, reasonableness shall be the guide. The "compelling state interest" serves the purpose of
revering religious liberty while at the same time affording protection to the paramount interests of the state. This was the test used in
Sherbert which involved conduct, i.e. refusal to work on Saturdays. In the end, the "compelling state interest" test, by upholding the
paramount interests of the state, seeks to protect the very state, without which, religious liberty will not be preserved. [Emphases in the
original. Underlining supplied.]
The Court's Position
In the case at bench, it is not within the province of the Court to determine whether the use of contraceptives or one's participation in the
support of modem reproductive health measures is moral from a religious standpoint or whether the same is right or wrong according to
one's dogma or belief. For the Court has declared that matters dealing with "faith, practice, doctrine, form of worship, ecclesiastical law,
custom and rule of a church ... are unquestionably ecclesiastical matters which are outside the province of the civil courts." 220 The
jurisdiction of the Court extends only to public and secular morality. Whatever pronouncement the Court makes in the case at bench
should be understood only in this realm where it has authority. Stated otherwise, while the Court stands without authority to rule on
ecclesiastical matters, as vanguard of the Constitution, it does have authority to determine whether the RH Law contravenes the guarantee
of religious freedom.
At first blush, it appears that the RH Law recognizes and respects religion and religious beliefs and convictions. It is replete with assurances
the no one can be compelled to violate the tenets of his religion or defy his religious convictions against his free will. Provisions in the RH
Law respecting religious freedom are the following:
1. The State recognizes and guarantees the human rights of all persons including their right to equality and nondiscrimination of these
rights, the right to sustainable human development, the right to health which includes reproductive health, the right to education and
information, and the right to choose and make decisions for themselves in accordance with their religious convictions, ethics, cultural
beliefs, and the demands of responsible parenthood. [Section 2, Declaration of Policy]
2 . The State recognizes marriage as an inviolable social institution and the foundation of the family which in turn is the foundation of the
nation. Pursuant thereto, the State shall defend:
(a) The right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood."
[Section 2, Declaration of Policy]
3. The State shall promote and provide information and access, without bias, to all methods of family planning, including effective natural
and modern methods which have been proven medically safe, legal, non-abortifacient, and effective in accordance with scientific and
evidence-based medical research standards such as those registered and approved by the FDA for the poor and marginalized as identified
through the NHTS-PR and other government measures of identifying marginalization: Provided, That the State shall also provide funding
support to promote modern natural methods of family planning, especially the Billings Ovulation Method, consistent with the needs of
acceptors and their religious convictions. [Section 3(e), Declaration of Policy]
4. The State shall promote programs that: (1) enable individuals and couples to have the number of children they desire with due
consideration to the health, particularly of women, and the resources available and affordable to them and in accordance with existing
laws, public morals and their religious convictions. [Section 3CDJ
5. The State shall respect individuals' preferences and choice of family planning methods that are in accordance with their religious
convictions and cultural beliefs, taking into consideration the State's obligations under various human rights instruments. [Section 3(h)]
6. Active participation by nongovernment organizations (NGOs) , women's and people's organizations, civil society, faith-based
organizations, the religious sector and communities is crucial to ensure that reproductive health and population and development policies,
plans, and programs will address the priority needs of women, the poor, and the marginalized. [Section 3(i)]
7. Responsible parenthood refers to the will and ability of a parent to respond to the needs and aspirations of the family and children. It is
likewise a shared responsibility between parents to determine and achieve the desired number of children, spacing and timing of their
children according to their own family life aspirations, taking into account psychological preparedness, health status, sociocultural and
economic concerns consistent with their religious convictions. [Section 4(v)] (Emphases supplied)
While the Constitution prohibits abortion, laws were enacted allowing the use of contraceptives. To some medical practitioners, however,
the whole idea of using contraceptives is an anathema. Consistent with the principle of benevolent neutrality, their beliefs should be
respected.
The Establishment Clause
and Contraceptives
In the same breath that the establishment clause restricts what the government can do with religion, it also limits what religious sects can
or cannot do with the government. They can neither cause the government to adopt their particular doctrines as policy for everyone, nor
can they not cause the government to restrict other groups. To do so, in simple terms, would cause the State to adhere to a particular
religion and, thus, establishing a state religion.
Consequently, the petitioners are misguided in their supposition that the State cannot enhance its population control program through the
RH Law simply because the promotion of contraceptive use is contrary to their religious beliefs. Indeed, the State is not precluded to
pursue its legitimate secular objectives without being dictated upon by the policies of any one religion. One cannot refuse to pay his taxes
simply because it will cloud his conscience. The demarcation line between Church and State demands that one render unto Caesar the
things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.221
The Free Exercise Clause and the Duty to Refer
While the RH Law, in espousing state policy to promote reproductive health manifestly respects diverse religious beliefs in line with the
Non-Establishment Clause, the same conclusion cannot be reached with respect to Sections 7, 23 and 24 thereof. The said provisions
commonly mandate that a hospital or a medical practitioner to immediately refer a person seeking health care and services under the law
to another accessible healthcare provider despite their conscientious objections based on religious or ethical beliefs.
In a situation where the free exercise of religion is allegedly burdened by government legislation or practice, the compelling state interest
test in line with the Court's espousal of the Doctrine of Benevolent Neutrality in Escritor, finds application. In this case, the conscientious
objector's claim to religious freedom would warrant an exemption from obligations under the RH Law, unless the government succeeds in
demonstrating a more compelling state interest in the accomplishment of an important secular objective. Necessarily so, the plea of
conscientious objectors for exemption from the RH Law deserves no less than strict scrutiny.
In applying the test, the first inquiry is whether a conscientious objector's right to religious freedom has been burdened. As in Escritor,
there is no doubt that an intense tug-of-war plagues a conscientious objector. One side coaxes him into obedience to the law and the
abandonment of his religious beliefs, while the other entices him to a clean conscience yet under the pain of penalty. The scenario is an
illustration of the predicament of medical practitioners whose religious beliefs are incongruent with what the RH Law promotes.
The Court is of the view that the obligation to refer imposed by the RH Law violates the religious belief and conviction of a conscientious
objector. Once the medical practitioner, against his will, refers a patient seeking information on modem reproductive health products,
services, procedures and methods, his conscience is immediately burdened as he has been compelled to perform an act against his beliefs.
As Commissioner Joaquin A. Bernas (Commissioner Bernas) has written, "at the basis of the free exercise clause is the respect for the
inviolability of the human conscience.222
Though it has been said that the act of referral is an opt-out clause, it is, however, a false compromise because it makes pro-life health
providers complicit in the performance of an act that they find morally repugnant or offensive. They cannot, in conscience, do indirectly
what they cannot do directly. One may not be the principal, but he is equally guilty if he abets the offensive act by indirect participation.
Moreover, the guarantee of religious freedom is necessarily intertwined with the right to free speech, it being an externalization of one's
thought and conscience. This in turn includes the right to be silent. With the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom follows the
protection that should be afforded to individuals in communicating their beliefs to others as well as the protection for simply being silent.
The Bill of Rights guarantees the liberty of the individual to utter what is in his mind and the liberty not to utter what is not in his
mind.223 While the RH Law seeks to provide freedom of choice through informed consent, freedom of choice guarantees the liberty of the
religious conscience and prohibits any degree of compulsion or burden, whether direct or indirect, in the practice of one's religion.224
In case of conflict between the religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals, on one hand, and the interest of the State, on the
other, to provide access and information on reproductive health products, services, procedures and methods to enable the people to
determine the timing, number and spacing of the birth of their children, the Court is of the strong view that the religious freedom of health
providers, whether public or private, should be accorded primacy. Accordingly, a conscientious objector should be exempt from compliance
with the mandates of the RH Law. If he would be compelled to act contrary to his religious belief and conviction, it would be violative of
"the principle of non-coercion" enshrined in the constitutional right to free exercise of religion.
Interestingly, on April 24, 2013, Scotland's Inner House of the Court of Session, found in the case of Doogan and Wood v. NHS Greater
Glasgow and Clyde Health Board,225 that the midwives claiming to be conscientious objectors under the provisions of Scotland's Abortion
Act of 1967, could not be required to delegate, supervise or support staff on their labor ward who were involved in abortions.226 The Inner
House stated "that if 'participation' were defined according to whether the person was taking part 'directly' or ' indirectly' this would
actually mean more complexity and uncertainty."227
While the said case did not cover the act of referral, the applicable principle was the same - they could not be forced to assist abortions if it
would be against their conscience or will.
Institutional Health Providers
The same holds true with respect to non-maternity specialty hospitals and hospitals owned and operated by a religious group and health
care service providers. Considering that Section 24 of the RH Law penalizes such institutions should they fail or refuse to comply with their
duty to refer under Section 7 and Section 23(a)(3), the Court deems that it must be struck down for being violative of the freedom of
religion. The same applies to Section 23(a)(l) and (a)(2) in relation to Section 24, considering that in the dissemination of information
regarding programs and services and in the performance of reproductive health procedures, the religious freedom of health care service
providers should be respected.
In the case of Islamic Da'wah Council of the Philippines, Inc. v. Office of the Executive Secretary 228 it was stressed:
Freedom of religion was accorded preferred status by the framers of our fundamental law. And this Court has consistently affirmed this
preferred status, well aware that it is "designed to protect the broadest possible liberty of conscience, to allow each man to believe as his
conscience directs, to profess his beliefs, and to live as he believes he ought to live, consistent with the liberty of others and with the
common good."10
The Court is not oblivious to the view that penalties provided by law endeavour to ensure compliance. Without set consequences for either
an active violation or mere inaction, a law tends to be toothless and ineffectual. Nonetheless, when what is bartered for an effective
implementation of a law is a constitutionally-protected right the Court firmly chooses to stamp its disapproval. The punishment of a
healthcare service provider, who fails and/or refuses to refer a patient to another, or who declines to perform reproductive health
procedure on a patient because incompatible religious beliefs, is a clear inhibition of a constitutional guarantee which the Court cannot
allow.
The Implementing Rules and Regulation (RH-IRR)
The last paragraph of Section 5.24 of the RH-IRR reads:
Provided, That skilled health professional such as provincial, city or municipal health officers, chiefs of hospital, head nurses, supervising
midwives, among others, who by virtue of their office are specifically charged with the duty to implement the provisions of the RPRH Act
and these Rules, cannot be considered as conscientious objectors.
This is discriminatory and violative of the equal protection clause. The conscientious objection clause should be equally protective of the
religious belief of public health officers. There is no perceptible distinction why they should not be considered exempt from the mandates
of the law. The protection accorded to other conscientious objectors should equally apply to all medical practitioners without distinction
whether they belong to the public or private sector. After all, the freedom to believe is intrinsic in every individual and the protective robe
that guarantees its free exercise is not taken off even if one acquires employment in the government.
It should be stressed that intellectual liberty occupies a place inferior to none in the hierarchy of human values. The mind must be free to
think what it wills, whether in the secular or religious sphere, to give expression to its beliefs by oral discourse or through the media and,
thus, seek other candid views in occasions or gatherings or in more permanent aggrupation. Embraced in such concept then are freedom of
religion, freedom of speech, of the press, assembly and petition, and freedom of association.229
The discriminatory provision is void not only because no such exception is stated in the RH Law itself but also because it is violative of the
equal protection clause in the Constitution. Quoting respondent Lagman, if there is any conflict between the RH-IRR and the RH Law, the
law must prevail.
Justice Mendoza:
I'll go to another point. The RH law .. .in your Comment- in-Intervention on page 52, you mentioned RH Law is replete with provisions in
upholding the freedom of religion and respecting religious convictions. Earlier, you affirmed this with qualifications. Now, you have read, I
presumed you have read the IRR-Implementing Rules and Regulations of the RH Bill?
Congressman Lagman:
Yes, Your Honor, I have read but I have to admit, it's a long IRR and I have not thoroughly dissected the nuances of the provisions.
Justice Mendoza:
I will read to you one provision. It's Section 5.24. This I cannot find in the RH Law. But in the IRR it says: " .... skilled health professionals
such as provincial, city or municipal health officers, chief of hospitals, head nurses, supervising midwives, among others, who by virtue of
their office are specifically charged with the duty to implement the provisions of the RPRH Act and these Rules, cannot be considered as
conscientious objectors." Do you agree with this?
Congressman Lagman:
I will have to go over again the provisions, Your Honor.
Justice Mendoza:
In other words, public health officers in contrast to the private practitioners who can be conscientious objectors, skilled health
professionals cannot be considered conscientious objectors. Do you agree with this? Is this not against the constitutional right to the
religious belief?
Congressman Lagman:
Your Honor, if there is any conflict between the IRR and the law, the law must prevail.230
Compelling State Interest
The foregoing discussion then begets the question on whether the respondents, in defense of the subject provisions, were able to: 1]
demonstrate a more compelling state interest to restrain conscientious objectors in their choice of services to render; and 2] discharge the
burden of proof that the obligatory character of the law is the least intrusive means to achieve the objectives of the law.
Unfortunately, a deep scrutiny of the respondents' submissions proved to be in vain. The OSG was curiously silent in the establishment of a
more compelling state interest that would rationalize the curbing of a conscientious objector's right not to adhere to an action contrary to
his religious convictions. During the oral arguments, the OSG maintained the same silence and evasion. The Transcripts of the Stenographic
Notes disclose the following:
Justice De Castro:
Let's go back to the duty of the conscientious objector to refer. ..
Senior State Solicitor Hilbay:
Yes, Justice.
Justice De Castro:
... which you are discussing awhile ago with Justice Abad. What is the compelling State interest in imposing this duty to refer to a
conscientious objector which refuses to do so because of his religious belief?
Senior State Solicitor Hilbay:
Ahh, Your Honor, ..
Justice De Castro:
What is the compelling State interest to impose this burden?
Senior State Solicitor Hilbay:
In the first place, Your Honor, I don't believe that the standard is a compelling State interest, this is an ordinary health legislation involving
professionals. This is not a free speech matter or a pure free exercise matter. This is a regulation by the State of the relationship between
medical doctors and their patients.231
Resultantly, the Court finds no compelling state interest which would limit the free exercise clause of the conscientious objectors, however
few in number. Only the prevention of an immediate and grave danger to the security and welfare of the community can justify the
infringement of religious freedom. If the government fails to show the seriousness and immediacy of the threat, State intrusion is
constitutionally unacceptable.232
Freedom of religion means more than just the freedom to believe. It also means the freedom to act or not to act according to what one
believes. And this freedom is violated when one is compelled to act against one's belief or is prevented from acting according to one's
belief.233
Apparently, in these cases, there is no immediate danger to the life or health of an individual in the perceived scenario of the subject
provisions. After all, a couple who plans the timing, number and spacing of the birth of their children refers to a future event that is
contingent on whether or not the mother decides to adopt or use the information, product, method or supply given to her or whether she
even decides to become pregnant at all. On the other hand, the burden placed upon those who object to contraceptive use is immediate
and occurs the moment a patient seeks consultation on reproductive health matters.
Moreover, granting that a compelling interest exists to justify the infringement of the conscientious objector's religious freedom, the
respondents have failed to demonstrate "the gravest abuses, endangering paramount interests" which could limit or override a person's
fundamental right to religious freedom. Also, the respondents have not presented any government effort exerted to show that the means
it takes to achieve its legitimate state objective is the least intrusive means.234 Other than the assertion that the act of referring would only
be momentary, considering that the act of referral by a conscientious objector is the very action being contested as violative of religious
freedom, it behooves the respondents to demonstrate that no other means can be undertaken by the State to achieve its objective without
violating the rights of the conscientious objector. The health concerns of women may still be addressed by other practitioners who may
perform reproductive health-related procedures with open willingness and motivation. Suffice it to say, a person who is forced to perform
an act in utter reluctance deserves the protection of the Court as the last vanguard of constitutional freedoms.
At any rate, there are other secular steps already taken by the Legislature to ensure that the right to health is protected. Considering other
legislations as they stand now, R.A . No. 4 729 or the Contraceptive Act, R.A. No. 6365 or "The Population Act of the Philippines" and R.A.
No. 9710, otherwise known as "The Magna Carta of Women," amply cater to the needs of women in relation to health services and
programs. The pertinent provision of Magna Carta on comprehensive health services and programs for women, in fact, reads:
Section 17. Women's Right to Health. - (a) Comprehensive Health Services. - The State shall, at all times, provide for a comprehensive,
culture-sensitive, and gender-responsive health services and programs covering all stages of a woman's life cycle and which addresses the
major causes of women's mortality and morbidity: Provided, That in the provision for comprehensive health services, due respect shall be
accorded to women's religious convictions, the rights of the spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions, and
the demands of responsible parenthood, and the right of women to protection from hazardous drugs, devices, interventions, and
substances.
Access to the following services shall be ensured:
(1) Maternal care to include pre- and post-natal services to address pregnancy and infant health and nutrition;
(2) Promotion of breastfeeding;
(3) Responsible, ethical, legal, safe, and effective methods of family planning;
(4) Family and State collaboration in youth sexuality education and health services without prejudice to the primary right and duty of
parents to educate their children;
(5) Prevention and management of reproductive tract infections, including sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, and AIDS;
(6) Prevention and management of reproductive tract cancers like breast and cervical cancers, and other gynecological conditions and
disorders;
(7) Prevention of abortion and management of pregnancy-related complications;
(8) In cases of violence against women and children, women and children victims and survivors shall be provided with comprehensive
health services that include psychosocial, therapeutic, medical, and legal interventions and assistance towards healing, recovery, and
empowerment;
(9) Prevention and management of infertility and sexual dysfunction pursuant to ethical norms and medical standards;
(10) Care of the elderly women beyond their child-bearing years; and
(11) Management, treatment, and intervention of mental health problems of women and girls. In addition, healthy lifestyle activities are
encouraged and promoted through programs and projects as strategies in the prevention of diseases.
(b) Comprehensive Health Information and Education. - The State shall provide women in all sectors with appropriate, timely, complete,
and accurate information and education on all the above-stated aspects of women's health in government education and training
programs, with due regard to the following:
(1) The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth and the development of moral character and the right of
children to be brought up in an atmosphere of morality and rectitude for the enrichment and strengthening of character;
(2) The formation of a person's sexuality that affirms human dignity; and
(3) Ethical, legal, safe, and effective family planning methods including fertility awareness.
As an afterthought, Asst. Solicitor General Hilbay eventually replied that the compelling state interest was "Fifteen maternal deaths per
day, hundreds of thousands of unintended pregnancies, lives changed, x x x." 235 He, however, failed to substantiate this point by concrete
facts and figures from reputable sources.
The undisputed fact, however, is that the World Health Organization reported that the Filipino maternal mortality rate dropped to 48
percent from 1990 to 2008, 236 although there was still no RH Law at that time. Despite such revelation, the proponents still insist that such
number of maternal deaths constitute a compelling state interest.
Granting that there are still deficiencies and flaws in the delivery of social healthcare programs for Filipino women, they could not be solved
by a measure that puts an unwarrantable stranglehold on religious beliefs in exchange for blind conformity.
Exception: Life Threatening Cases
All this notwithstanding, the Court properly recognizes a valid exception set forth in the law. While generally healthcare service providers
cannot be forced to render reproductive health care procedures if doing it would contravene their religious beliefs, an exception must be
made in life-threatening cases that require the performance of emergency procedures. In these situations, the right to life of the mother
should be given preference, considering that a referral by a medical practitioner would amount to a denial of service, resulting to
unnecessarily placing the life of a mother in grave danger. Thus, during the oral arguments, Atty. Liban, representing CFC, manifested: "the
forced referral clause that we are objecting on grounds of violation of freedom of religion does not contemplate an emergency." 237
In a conflict situation between the life of the mother and the life of a child, the doctor is morally obliged always to try to save both lives. If,
however, it is impossible, the resulting death to one should not be deliberate. Atty. Noche explained:
Principle of Double-Effect. - May we please remind the principal author of the RH Bill in the House of Representatives of the principle of
double-effect wherein intentional harm on the life of either the mother of the child is never justified to bring about a "good" effect. In a
conflict situation between the life of the child and the life of the mother, the doctor is morally obliged always to try to save both lives.
However, he can act in favor of one (not necessarily the mother) when it is medically impossible to save both, provided that no direct harm
is intended to the other. If the above principles are observed, the loss of the child's life or the mother's life is not intentional and, therefore,
unavoidable. Hence, the doctor would not be guilty of abortion or murder. The mother is never pitted against the child because both their
lives are equally valuable.238
Accordingly, if it is necessary to save the life of a mother, procedures endangering the life of the child may be resorted to even if is against
the religious sentiments of the medical practitioner. As quoted above, whatever burden imposed upon a medical practitioner in this case
would have been more than justified considering the life he would be able to save.
Family Planning Seminars
Anent the requirement imposed under Section 15239 as a condition for the issuance of a marriage license, the Court finds the same to be a
reasonable exercise of police power by the government. A cursory reading of the assailed provision bares that the religious freedom of the
petitioners is not at all violated. All the law requires is for would-be spouses to attend a seminar on parenthood, family planning
breastfeeding and infant nutrition. It does not even mandate the type of family planning methods to be included in the seminar, whether
they be natural or artificial. As correctly noted by the OSG, those who receive any information during their attendance in the required
seminars are not compelled to accept the information given to them, are completely free to reject the information they find unacceptable,
and retain the freedom to decide on matters of family life without the intervention of the State.
4-The Family and the Right to Privacy
Petitioner CFC assails the RH Law because Section 23(a) (2) (i) thereof violates the provisions of the Constitution by intruding into marital
privacy and autonomy. It argues that it cultivates disunity and fosters animosity in the family rather than promote its solidarity and total
development.240
The Court cannot but agree.
The 1987 Constitution is replete with provisions strengthening the family as it is the basic social institution. In fact, one article, Article XV, is
devoted entirely to the family.
ARTICLE XV
THE FAMILY
Section 1. The State recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation. Accordingly, it shall strengthen its solidarity and actively
promote its total development.
Section 2. Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.
Section 3. The State shall defend:
The right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood;
The right of children to assistance, including proper care and nutrition, and special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty,
exploitation and other conditions prejudicial to their development;
The right of the family to a family living wage and income; and
The right of families or family assoc1at1ons to participate in the planning and implementation of policies and programs that affect them.
In this case, the RH Law, in its not-so-hidden desire to control population growth, contains provisions which tend to wreck the family as a
solid social institution. It bars the husband and/or the father from participating in the decision making process regarding their common
future progeny. It likewise deprives the parents of their authority over their minor daughter simply because she is already a parent or had
suffered a miscarriage.
The Family and Spousal Consent
Section 23(a) (2) (i) of the RH Law states:
The following acts are prohibited:
(a) Any health care service provider, whether public or private, who shall: ...
(2) refuse to perform legal and medically-safe reproductive health procedures on any person of legal age on the ground of lack of consent
or authorization of the following persons in the following instances:
(i) Spousal consent in case of married persons: provided, That in case of disagreement, the decision of the one undergoing the procedures
shall prevail. [Emphasis supplied]
The above provision refers to reproductive health procedures like tubal litigation and vasectomy which, by their very nature, should require
mutual consent and decision between the husband and the wife as they affect issues intimately related to the founding of a family. Section
3, Art. XV of the Constitution espouses that the State shall defend the "right of the spouses to found a family." One person cannot found a
family. The right, therefore, is shared by both spouses. In the same Section 3, their right "to participate in the planning and implementation
of policies and programs that affect them " is equally recognized.
The RH Law cannot be allowed to infringe upon this mutual decision-making. By giving absolute authority to the spouse who would
undergo a procedure, and barring the other spouse from participating in the decision would drive a wedge between the husband and wife,
possibly result in bitter animosity, and endanger the marriage and the family, all for the sake of reducing the population. This would be a
marked departure from the policy of the State to protect marriage as an inviolable social institution. 241
Decision-making involving a reproductive health procedure is a private matter which belongs to the couple, not just one of them. Any
decision they would reach would affect their future as a family because the size of the family or the number of their children significantly
matters. The decision whether or not to undergo the procedure belongs exclusively to, and shared by, both spouses as one cohesive unit as
they chart their own destiny. It is a constitutionally guaranteed private right. Unless it prejudices the State, which has not shown any
compelling interest, the State should see to it that they chart their destiny together as one family.
As highlighted by Justice Leonardo-De Castro, Section 19( c) of R.A. No. 9710, otherwise known as the "Magna Carta for Women," provides
that women shall have equal rights in all matters relating to marriage and family relations, including the joint decision on the number and
spacing of their children. Indeed, responsible parenthood, as Section 3(v) of the RH Law states, is a shared responsibility between parents.
Section 23(a)(2)(i) of the RH Law should not be allowed to betray the constitutional mandate to protect and strengthen the family by giving
to only one spouse the absolute authority to decide whether to undergo reproductive health procedure.242
The right to chart their own destiny together falls within the protected zone of marital privacy and such state intervention would encroach
into the zones of spousal privacy guaranteed by the Constitution. In our jurisdiction, the right to privacy was first recognized in Marje v.
Mutuc,243 where the Court, speaking through Chief Justice Fernando, held that "the right to privacy as such is accorded recognition
independently of its identification with liberty; in itself, it is fully deserving of constitutional protection." 244 Marje adopted the ruling of the
US Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut,245 where Justice William O. Douglas wrote:
We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights -older than our political parties, older than our school system. Marriage is a
coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes
a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association
for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions.
Ironically, Griswold invalidated a Connecticut statute which made the use of contraceptives a criminal offense on the ground of its
amounting to an unconstitutional invasion of the right to privacy of married persons. Nevertheless, it recognized the zone of privacy
rightfully enjoyed by couples. Justice Douglas in Grisworld wrote that "specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by
emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance. Various guarantees create zones of privacy."246
At any rate, in case of conflict between the couple, the courts will decide.
The Family and Parental Consent
Equally deplorable is the debarment of parental consent in cases where the minor, who will be undergoing a procedure, is already a parent
or has had a miscarriage. Section 7 of the RH law provides:
SEC. 7. Access to Family Planning. x x x.
No person shall be denied information and access to family planning services, whether natural or artificial: Provided, That minors will not
be allowed access to modern methods of family planning without written consent from their parents or guardian/s except when the minor
is already a parent or has had a miscarriage.
There can be no other interpretation of this provision except that when a minor is already a parent or has had a miscarriage, the parents
are excluded from the decision making process of the minor with regard to family planning. Even if she is not yet emancipated, the parental
authority is already cut off just because there is a need to tame population growth.
It is precisely in such situations when a minor parent needs the comfort, care, advice, and guidance of her own parents. The State cannot
replace her natural mother and father when it comes to providing her needs and comfort. To say that their consent is no longer relevant is
clearly anti-family. It does not promote unity in the family. It is an affront to the constitutional mandate to protect and strengthen the
family as an inviolable social institution.
More alarmingly, it disregards and disobeys the constitutional mandate that "the natural and primary right and duty of parents in the
rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government." 247 In this
regard, Commissioner Bernas wrote:
The 1987 provision has added the adjective "primary" to modify the right of parents. It imports the assertion that the right of parents is
superior to that of the State.248 [Emphases supplied]
To insist on a rule that interferes with the right of parents to exercise parental control over their minor-child or the right of the spouses to
mutually decide on matters which very well affect the very purpose of marriage, that is, the establishment of conjugal and family life,
would result in the violation of one's privacy with respect to his family. It would be dismissive of the unique and strongly-held Filipino
tradition of maintaining close family ties and violative of the recognition that the State affords couples entering into the special contract of
marriage to as one unit in forming the foundation of the family and society.
The State cannot, without a compelling state interest, take over the role of parents in the care and custody of a minor child, whether or not
the latter is already a parent or has had a miscarriage. Only a compelling state interest can justify a state substitution of their parental
authority.
First Exception: Access to Information
Whether with respect to the minor referred to under the exception provided in the second paragraph of Section 7 or with respect to the
consenting spouse under Section 23(a)(2)(i), a distinction must be made. There must be a differentiation between access to information
about family planning services, on one hand, and access to the reproductive health procedures and modern family planning methods
themselves, on the other. Insofar as access to information is concerned, the Court finds no constitutional objection to the acquisition of
information by the minor referred to under the exception in the second paragraph of Section 7 that would enable her to take proper care
of her own body and that of her unborn child. After all, Section 12, Article II of the Constitution mandates the State to protect both the life
of the mother as that of the unborn child. Considering that information to enable a person to make informed decisions is essential in the
protection and maintenance of ones' health, access to such information with respect to reproductive health must be allowed. In this
situation, the fear that parents might be deprived of their parental control is unfounded because they are not prohibited to exercise
parental guidance and control over their minor child and assist her in deciding whether to accept or reject the information received.
Second Exception: Life Threatening Cases
As in the case of the conscientious objector, an exception must be made in life-threatening cases that require the performance of
emergency procedures. In such cases, the life of the minor who has already suffered a miscarriage and that of the spouse should not be put
at grave risk simply for lack of consent. It should be emphasized that no person should be denied the appropriate medical care urgently
needed to preserve the primordial right, that is, the right to life.
In this connection, the second sentence of Section 23(a)(2)(ii) 249 should be struck down. By effectively limiting the requirement of parental
consent to "only in elective surgical procedures," it denies the parents their right of parental authority in cases where what is involved are
"non-surgical procedures." Save for the two exceptions discussed above, and in the case of an abused child as provided in the first sentence
of Section 23(a)(2)(ii), the parents should not be deprived of their constitutional right of parental authority. To deny them of this right
would be an affront to the constitutional mandate to protect and strengthen the family.
5 - Academic Freedom
It is asserted that Section 14 of the RH Law, in relation to Section 24 thereof, mandating the teaching of Age-and Development-Appropriate
Reproductive Health Education under threat of fine and/or imprisonment violates the principle of academic freedom . According to the
petitioners, these provisions effectively force educational institutions to teach reproductive health education even if they believe that the
same is not suitable to be taught to their students.250 Citing various studies conducted in the United States and statistical data gathered in
the country, the petitioners aver that the prevalence of contraceptives has led to an increase of out-of-wedlock births; divorce and
breakdown of families; the acceptance of abortion and euthanasia; the "feminization of poverty"; the aging of society; and promotion of
promiscuity among the youth.251
At this point, suffice it to state that any attack on the validity of Section 14 of the RH Law is premature because the Department of
Education, Culture and Sports has yet to formulate a curriculum on age-appropriate reproductive health education. One can only speculate
on the content, manner and medium of instruction that will be used to educate the adolescents and whether they will contradict the
religious beliefs of the petitioners and validate their apprehensions. Thus, considering the premature nature of this particular issue, the
Court declines to rule on its constitutionality or validity.
At any rate, Section 12, Article II of the 1987 Constitution provides that the natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of
the youth for civic efficiency and development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government. Like the 1973 Constitution
and the 1935 Constitution, the 1987 Constitution affirms the State recognition of the invaluable role of parents in preparing the youth to
become productive members of society. Notably, it places more importance on the role of parents in the development of their children by
recognizing that said role shall be "primary," that is, that the right of parents in upbringing the youth is superior to that of the State. 252
It is also the inherent right of the State to act as parens patriae to aid parents in the moral development of the youth. Indeed, the
Constitution makes mention of the importance of developing the youth and their important role in nation building. 253 Considering that
Section 14 provides not only for the age-appropriate-reproductive health education, but also for values formation; the development of
knowledge and skills in self-protection against discrimination; sexual abuse and violence against women and children and other forms of
gender based violence and teen pregnancy; physical, social and emotional changes in adolescents; women's rights and children's rights;
responsible teenage behavior; gender and development; and responsible parenthood, and that Rule 10, Section 11.01 of the RH-IRR and
Section 4(t) of the RH Law itself provides for the teaching of responsible teenage behavior, gender sensitivity and physical and emotional
changes among adolescents - the Court finds that the legal mandate provided under the assailed provision supplements, rather than
supplants, the rights and duties of the parents in the moral development of their children.
Furthermore, as Section 14 also mandates that the mandatory reproductive health education program shall be developed in conjunction
with parent-teacher-community associations, school officials and other interest groups, it could very well be said that it will be in line with
the religious beliefs of the petitioners. By imposing such a condition, it becomes apparent that the petitioners' contention that Section 14
violates Article XV, Section 3(1) of the Constitution is without merit.254
While the Court notes the possibility that educators might raise their objection to their participation in the reproductive health education
program provided under Section 14 of the RH Law on the ground that the same violates their religious beliefs, the Court reserves its
judgment should an actual case be filed before it.
6 - Due Process
The petitioners contend that the RH Law suffers from vagueness and, thus violates the due process clause of the Constitution. According to
them, Section 23 (a)(l) mentions a "private health service provider" among those who may be held punishable but does not define who is a
"private health care service provider." They argue that confusion further results since Section 7 only makes reference to a "private health
care institution."
The petitioners also point out that Section 7 of the assailed legislation exempts hospitals operated by religious groups from rendering
reproductive health service and modern family planning methods. It is unclear, however, if these institutions are also exempt from giving
reproductive health information under Section 23(a)(l), or from rendering reproductive health procedures under Section 23(a)(2).
Finally, it is averred that the RH Law punishes the withholding, restricting and providing of incorrect information, but at the same time fails
to define "incorrect information."
The arguments fail to persuade.
A statute or act suffers from the defect of vagueness when it lacks comprehensible standards that men of common intelligence must
necessarily guess its meaning and differ as to its application. It is repugnant to the Constitution in two respects: (1) it violates due process
for failure to accord persons, especially the parties targeted by it, fair notice of the conduct to avoid; and (2) it leaves law enforcers
unbridled discretion in carrying out its provisions and becomes an arbitrary flexing of the Government muscle. 255 Moreover, in determining
whether the words used in a statute are vague, words must not only be taken in accordance with their plain meaning alone, but also in
relation to other parts of the statute. It is a rule that every part of the statute must be interpreted with reference to the context, that is,
every part of it must be construed together with the other parts and kept subservient to the general intent of the whole enactment.256
As correctly noted by the OSG, in determining the definition of "private health care service provider," reference must be made to Section
4(n) of the RH Law which defines a "public health service provider," viz:
(n) Public health care service provider refers to: (1) public health care institution, which is duly licensed and accredited and devoted
primarily to the maintenance and operation of facilities for health promotion, disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care of
individuals suffering from illness, disease, injury, disability or deformity, or in need of obstetrical or other medical and nursing care; (2)
public health care professional, who is a doctor of medicine, a nurse or a midvvife; (3) public health worker engaged in the delivery of
health care services; or (4) barangay health worker who has undergone training programs under any accredited government and NGO and
who voluntarily renders primarily health care services in the community after having been accredited to function as such by the local health
board in accordance with the guidelines promulgated by the Department of Health (DOH) .
Further, the use of the term "private health care institution" in Section 7 of the law, instead of "private health care service provider,"
should not be a cause of confusion for the obvious reason that they are used synonymously.
The Court need not belabor the issue of whether the right to be exempt from being obligated to render reproductive health service and
modem family planning methods, includes exemption from being obligated to give reproductive health information and to render
reproductive health procedures. Clearly, subject to the qualifications and exemptions earlier discussed, the right to be exempt from being
obligated to render reproductive health service and modem family planning methods, necessarily includes exemption from being obligated
to give reproductive health information and to render reproductive health procedures. The terms "service" and "methods" are broad
enough to include the providing of information and the rendering of medical procedures.
The same can be said with respect to the contention that the RH Law punishes health care service providers who intentionally withhold,
restrict and provide incorrect information regarding reproductive health programs and services. For ready reference, the assailed provision
is hereby quoted as follows:
SEC. 23. Prohibited Acts. - The following acts are prohibited:
(a) Any health care service provider, whether public or private, who shall:
(1) Knowingly withhold information or restrict the dissemination thereof, and/ or intentionally provide incorrect information regarding
programs and services on reproductive health including the right to informed choice and access to a full range of legal, medically-safe, non-
abortifacient and effective family planning methods;
From its plain meaning, the word "incorrect" here denotes failing to agree with a copy or model or with established rules; inaccurate,
faulty; failing to agree with the requirements of duty, morality or propriety; and failing to coincide with the truth. 257 On the other hand, the
word "knowingly" means with awareness or deliberateness that is intentional.258 Used together in relation to Section 23(a)(l), they connote
a sense of malice and ill motive to mislead or misrepresent the public as to the nature and effect of programs and services on reproductive
health. Public health and safety demand that health care service providers give their honest and correct medical information in accordance
with what is acceptable in medical practice. While health care service providers are not barred from expressing their own personal opinions
regarding the programs and services on reproductive health, their right must be tempered with the need to provide public health and
safety. The public deserves no less.
7-Egual Protection
The petitioners also claim that the RH Law violates the equal protection clause under the Constitution as it discriminates against the poor
because it makes them the primary target of the government program that promotes contraceptive use . They argue that, rather than
promoting reproductive health among the poor, the RH Law introduces contraceptives that would effectively reduce the number of the
poor. Their bases are the various provisions in the RH Law dealing with the poor, especially those mentioned in the guiding principles259 and
definition of terms260 of the law.
They add that the exclusion of private educational institutions from the mandatory reproductive health education program imposed by the
RH Law renders it unconstitutional.
In Biraogo v. Philippine Truth Commission,261 the Court had the occasion to expound on the concept of equal protection. Thus:
One of the basic principles on which this government was founded is that of the equality of right which is embodied in Section 1, Article III
of the 1987 Constitution. The equal protection of the laws is embraced in the concept of due process, as every unfair discrimination offends
the requirements of justice and fair play. It has been embodied in a separate clause, however, to provide for a more specific guaranty
against any form of undue favoritism or hostility from the government. Arbitrariness in general may be challenged on the basis of the due
process clause. But if the particular act assailed partakes of an unwarranted partiality or prejudice, the sharper weapon to cut it down is the
equal protection clause.
"According to a long line of decisions, equal protection simply requires that all persons or things similarly situated should be treated alike,
both as to rights conferred and responsibilities imposed." It "requires public bodies and inst itutions to treat similarly situated individuals in
a similar manner." "The purpose of the equal protection clause is to secure every person within a state's jurisdiction against intentional and
arbitrary discrimination, whether occasioned by the express terms of a statue or by its improper execution through the state's duly
constituted authorities." "In other words, the concept of equal justice under the law requires the state to govern impartially, and it may not
draw distinctions between individuals solely on differences that are irrelevant to a legitimate governmental objective."
The equal protection clause is aimed at all official state actions, not just those of the legislature. Its inhibitions cover all the departments of
the government including the political and executive departments, and extend to all actions of a state denying equal protection of the laws,
through whatever agency or whatever guise is taken.
It, however, does not require the universal application of the laws to all persons or things without distinction. What it simply requires is
equality among equals as determined according to a valid classification. Indeed, the equal protection clause permits classification. Such
classification, however, to be valid must pass the test of reasonableness. The test has four requisites: (1) The classification rests on
substantial distinctions; (2) It is germane to the purpose of the law; (3) It is not limited to existing conditions only; and (4) It applies equally
to all members of the same class. "Superficial differences do not make for a valid classification."
For a classification to meet the requirements of constitutionality, it must include or embrace all persons who naturally belong to the class.
"The classification will be regarded as invalid if all the members of the class are not similarly treated, both as to rights conferred and
obligations imposed. It is not necessary that the classification be made with absolute symmetry, in the sense that the members of the class
should possess the same characteristics in equal degree. Substantial similarity will suffice; and as long as this is achieved, all those covered
by the classification are to be treated equally. The mere fact that an individual belonging to a class differs from the other members, as long
as that class is substantially distinguishable from all others, does not justify the non-application of the law to him."
The classification must not be based on existing circumstances only, or so constituted as to preclude addition to the number included in the
class. It must be of such a nature as to embrace all those who may thereafter be in similar circumstances and conditions. It must not leave
out or "underinclude" those that should otherwise fall into a certain classification. [Emphases supplied; citations excluded]
To provide that the poor are to be given priority in the government's reproductive health care program is not a violation of the equal
protection clause. In fact, it is pursuant to Section 11, Article XIII of the Constitution which recognizes the distinct necessity to address the
needs of the underprivileged by providing that they be given priority in addressing the health development of the people. Thus:
Section 11. The State shall adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development which shall endeavor to make
essential goods, health and other social services available to all the people at affordable cost. There shall be priority for the needs of the
underprivileged, sick, elderly, disabled, women, and children. The State shall endeavor to provide free medical care to paupers.
It should be noted that Section 7 of the RH Law prioritizes poor and marginalized couples who are suffering from fertility issues and desire
to have children. There is, therefore, no merit to the contention that the RH Law only seeks to target the poor to reduce their number.
While the RH Law admits the use of contraceptives, it does not, as elucidated above, sanction abortion. As Section 3(1) explains, the
"promotion and/or stabilization of the population growth rate is incidental to the advancement of reproductive health."
Moreover, the RH Law does not prescribe the number of children a couple may have and does not impose conditions upon couples who
intend to have children. While the petitioners surmise that the assailed law seeks to charge couples with the duty to have children only if
they would raise them in a truly humane way, a deeper look into its provisions shows that what the law seeks to do is to simply provide
priority to the poor in the implementation of government programs to promote basic reproductive health care.
With respect to the exclusion of private educational institutions from the mandatory reproductive health education program under Section
14, suffice it to state that the mere fact that the children of those who are less fortunate attend public educational institutions does not
amount to substantial distinction sufficient to annul the assailed provision. On the other hand, substantial distinction rests between public
educational institutions and private educational institutions, particularly because there is a need to recognize the academic freedom of
private educational institutions especially with respect to religious instruction and to consider their sensitivity towards the teaching of
reproductive health education.
8-Involuntary Servitude
The petitioners also aver that the RH Law is constitutionally infirm as it violates the constitutional prohibition against involuntary servitude.
They posit that Section 17 of the assailed legislation requiring private and non-government health care service providers to render forty-
eight (48) hours of pro bono reproductive health services, actually amounts to involuntary servitude because it requires medical
practitioners to perform acts against their will.262
The OSG counters that the rendition of pro bono services envisioned in Section 17 can hardly be considered as forced labor analogous to
slavery, as reproductive health care service providers have the discretion as to the manner and time of giving pro bono services. Moreover,
the OSG points out that the imposition is within the powers of the government, the accreditation of medical practitioners with PhilHealth
being a privilege and not a right.
The point of the OSG is well-taken.
It should first be mentioned that the practice of medicine is undeniably imbued with public interest that it is both a power and a duty of the
State to control and regulate it in order to protect and promote the public welfare. Like the legal profession, the practice of medicine is not
a right but a privileged burdened with conditions as it directly involves the very lives of the people. A fortiori, this power includes the power
of Congress263 to prescribe the qualifications for the practice of professions or trades which affect the public welfare, the public health, the
public morals, and the public safety; and to regulate or control such professions or trades, even to the point of revoking such right
altogether.264
Moreover, as some petitioners put it, the notion of involuntary servitude connotes the presence of force, threats, intimidation or other
similar means of coercion and compulsion. 265 A reading of the assailed provision, however, reveals that it only encourages private and non-
government reproductive healthcare service providers to render pro bono service. Other than non-accreditation with PhilHealth, no
penalty is imposed should they choose to do otherwise. Private and non-government reproductive healthcare service providers also enjoy
the liberty to choose which kind of health service they wish to provide, when, where and how to provide it or whether to provide it all.
Clearly, therefore, no compulsion, force or threat is made upon them to render pro bono service against their will. While the rendering of
such service was made a prerequisite to accreditation with PhilHealth, the Court does not consider the same to be an unreasonable
burden, but rather, a necessary incentive imposed by Congress in the furtherance of a perceived legitimate state interest.
Consistent with what the Court had earlier discussed, however, it should be emphasized that conscientious objectors are exempt from this
provision as long as their religious beliefs and convictions do not allow them to render reproductive health service, pro bona or otherwise.
9-Delegation of Authority to the FDA
The petitioners likewise question the delegation by Congress to the FDA of the power to determine whether or not a supply or product is to
be included in the Essential Drugs List (EDL).266
The Court finds nothing wrong with the delegation. The FDA does not only have the power but also the competency to evaluate, register
and cover health services and methods. It is the only government entity empowered to render such services and highly proficient to do so.
It should be understood that health services and methods fall under the gamut of terms that are associated with what is ordinarily
understood as "health products."
In this connection, Section 4 of R.A. No. 3 720, as amended by R.A. No. 9711 reads:
SEC. 4. To carry out the provisions of this Act, there is hereby created an office to be called the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the
Department of Health (DOH). Said Administration shall be under the Office of the Secretary and shall have the following functions, powers
and duties:
"(a) To administer the effective implementation of this Act and of the rules and regulations issued pursuant to the same;
"(b) To assume primary jurisdiction in the collection of samples of health products;
"(c) To analyze and inspect health products in connection with the implementation of this Act;
"(d) To establish analytical data to serve as basis for the preparation of health products standards, and to recommend standards of identity,
purity, safety, efficacy, quality and fill of container;
"(e) To issue certificates of compliance with technical requirements to serve as basis for the issuance of appropriate authorization and spot-
check for compliance with regulations regarding operation of manufacturers, importers, exporters, distributors, wholesalers, drug outlets,
and other establishments and facilities of health products, as determined by the FDA;
"x x x
"(h) To conduct appropriate tests on all applicable health products prior to the issuance of appropriate authorizations to ensure safety,
efficacy, purity, and quality;
"(i) To require all manufacturers, traders, distributors, importers, exporters, wholesalers, retailers, consumers, and non-consumer users of
health products to report to the FDA any incident that reasonably indicates that said product has caused or contributed to the death,
serious illness or serious injury to a consumer, a patient, or any person;
"(j) To issue cease and desist orders motu propio or upon verified complaint for health products, whether or not registered with the FDA
Provided, That for registered health products, the cease and desist order is valid for thirty (30) days and may be extended for sixty ( 60)
days only after due process has been observed;
"(k) After due process, to order the ban, recall, and/or withdrawal of any health product found to have caused death, serious illness or
serious injury to a consumer or patient, or is found to be imminently injurious, unsafe, dangerous, or grossly deceptive, and to require all
concerned to implement the risk management plan which is a requirement for the issuance of the appropriate authorization;
x x x.
As can be gleaned from the above, the functions, powers and duties of the FDA are specific to enable the agency to carry out the mandates
of the law. Being the country's premiere and sole agency that ensures the safety of food and medicines available to the public, the FDA was
equipped with the necessary powers and functions to make it effective. Pursuant to the principle of necessary implication, the mandate by
Congress to the FDA to ensure public health and safety by permitting only food and medicines that are safe includes "service" and
"methods." From the declared policy of the RH Law, it is clear that Congress intended that the public be given only those medicines that are
proven medically safe, legal, non-abortifacient, and effective in accordance with scientific and evidence-based medical research standards.
The philosophy behind the permitted delegation was explained in Echagaray v. Secretary of Justice, 267 as follows:
The reason is the increasing complexity of the task of the government and the growing inability of the legislature to cope directly with the
many problems demanding its attention. The growth of society has ramified its activities and created peculiar and sophisticated problems
that the legislature cannot be expected reasonably to comprehend. Specialization even in legislation has become necessary. To many of the
problems attendant upon present day undertakings, the legislature may not have the competence, let alone the interest and the time, to
provide the required direct and efficacious, not to say specific solutions.
10- Autonomy of Local Governments and the Autonomous Region
of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)
As for the autonomy of local governments, the petitioners claim that the RH Law infringes upon the powers devolved to local government
units (LGUs) under Section 17 of the Local Government Code. Said Section 17 vested upon the LGUs the duties and functions pertaining to
the delivery of basic services and facilities, as follows:
SECTION 17. Basic Services and Facilities.
(a) Local government units shall endeavor to be self-reliant and shall continue exercising the powers and discharging the duties and
functions currently vested upon them. They shall also discharge the functions and responsibilities of national agencies and offices devolved
to them pursuant to this Code. Local government units shall likewise exercise such other powers and discharge such other functions and
responsibilities as are necessary, appropriate, or incidental to efficient and effective provision of the basic services and facilities
enumerated herein.
(b) Such basic services and facilities include, but are not limited to, x x x.
While the aforementioned provision charges the LGUs to take on the functions and responsibilities that have already been devolved upon
them from the national agencies on the aspect of providing for basic services and facilities in their respective jurisdictions, paragraph (c) of
the same provision provides a categorical exception of cases involving nationally-funded projects, facilities, programs and services.268 Thus:
(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (b) hereof, public works and infrastructure projects and other facilities, programs and
services funded by the National Government under the annual General Appropriations Act, other special laws, pertinent executive orders,
and those wholly or partially funded from foreign sources, are not covered under this Section, except in those cases where the local
government unit concerned is duly designated as the implementing agency for such projects, facilities, programs and services. [Emphases
supplied]
The essence of this express reservation of power by the national government is that, unless an LGU is particularly designated as the
implementing agency, it has no power over a program for which funding has been provided by the national government under the annual
general appropriations act, even if the program involves the delivery of basic services within the jurisdiction of the LGU. 269 A complete
relinquishment of central government powers on the matter of providing basic facilities and services cannot be implied as the Local
Government Code itself weighs against it.270
In this case, a reading of the RH Law clearly shows that whether it pertains to the establishment of health care facilities, 271 the hiring of
skilled health professionals,272 or the training of barangay health workers,273 it will be the national government that will provide for the
funding of its implementation. Local autonomy is not absolute. The national government still has the say when it comes to national priority
programs which the local government is called upon to implement like the RH Law.
Moreover, from the use of the word "endeavor," the LG Us are merely encouraged to provide these services. There is nothing in the
wording of the law which can be construed as making the availability of these services mandatory for the LGUs. For said reason, it cannot
be said that the RH Law amounts to an undue encroachment by the national government upon the autonomy enjoyed by the local
governments.
The ARMM
The fact that the RH Law does not intrude in the autonomy of local governments can be equally applied to the ARMM. The RH Law does not
infringe upon its autonomy. Moreover, Article III, Sections 6, 10 and 11 of R.A. No. 9054, or the organic act of the ARMM, alluded to by
petitioner Tillah to justify the exemption of the operation of the RH Law in the autonomous region, refer to the policy statements for the
guidance of the regional government. These provisions relied upon by the petitioners simply delineate the powers that may be exercised by
the regional government, which can, in no manner, be characterized as an abdication by the State of its power to enact legislation that
would benefit the general welfare. After all, despite the veritable autonomy granted the ARMM, the Constitution and the supporting
jurisprudence, as they now stand, reject the notion of imperium et imperio in the relationship between the national and the regional
governments.274 Except for the express and implied limitations imposed on it by the Constitution, Congress cannot be restricted to exercise
its inherent and plenary power to legislate on all subjects which extends to all matters of general concern or common interest.275
11 - Natural Law
With respect to the argument that the RH Law violates natural law, 276 suffice it to say that the Court does not duly recognize it as a legal
basis for upholding or invalidating a law. Our only guidepost is the Constitution. While every law enacted by man emanated from what is
perceived as natural law, the Court is not obliged to see if a statute, executive issuance or ordinance is in conformity to it. To begin with, it
is not enacted by an acceptable legitimate body. Moreover, natural laws are mere thoughts and notions on inherent rights espoused by
theorists, philosophers and theologists. The jurists of the philosophical school are interested in the law as an abstraction, rather than in the
actual law of the past or present.277 Unless, a natural right has been transformed into a written law, it cannot serve as a basis to strike
down a law. In Republic v. Sandiganbayan,278 the very case cited by the petitioners, it was explained that the Court is not duty-bound to
examine every law or action and whether it conforms with both the Constitution and natural law. Rather, natural law is to be used sparingly
only in the most peculiar of circumstances involving rights inherent to man where no law is applicable.279
At any rate, as earlier expounded, the RH Law does not sanction the taking away of life. It does not allow abortion in any shape or form. It
only seeks to enhance the population control program of the government by providing information and making non-abortifacient
contraceptives more readily available to the public, especially to the poor.
Facts and Fallacies
and the Wisdom of the Law
In general, the Court does not find the RH Law as unconstitutional insofar as it seeks to provide access to medically-safe, non-abortifacient,
effective, legal, affordable, and quality reproductive healthcare services, methods, devices, and supplies. As earlier pointed out, however,
the religious freedom of some sectors of society cannot be trampled upon in pursuit of what the law hopes to achieve. After all, the
Constitutional safeguard to religious freedom is a recognition that man stands accountable to an authority higher than the State.
In conformity with the principle of separation of Church and State, one religious group cannot be allowed to impose its beliefs on the rest
of the society. Philippine modem society leaves enough room for diversity and pluralism. As such, everyone should be tolerant and open-
minded so that peace and harmony may continue to reign as we exist alongside each other.
As healthful as the intention of the RH Law may be, the idea does not escape the Court that what it seeks to address is the problem of rising
poverty and unemployment in the country. Let it be said that the cause of these perennial issues is not the large population but the
unequal distribution of wealth. Even if population growth is controlled, poverty will remain as long as the country's wealth remains in the
hands of the very few.
At any rate, population control may not be beneficial for the country in the long run. The European and Asian countries, which embarked
on such a program generations ago , are now burdened with ageing populations. The number of their young workers is dwindling with
adverse effects on their economy. These young workers represent a significant human capital which could have helped them invigorate,
innovate and fuel their economy. These countries are now trying to reverse their programs, but they are still struggling. For one, Singapore,
even with incentives, is failing.
And in this country, the economy is being propped up by remittances from our Overseas Filipino Workers. This is because we have an
ample supply of young able-bodied workers. What would happen if the country would be weighed down by an ageing population and the
fewer younger generation would not be able to support them? This would be the situation when our total fertility rate would go down
below the replacement level of two (2) children per woman.280
Indeed, at the present, the country has a population problem, but the State should not use coercive measures (like the penal provisions of
the RH Law against conscientious objectors) to solve it. Nonetheless, the policy of the Court is non-interference in the wisdom of a law.
x x x. But this Court cannot go beyond what the legislature has laid down. Its duty is to say what the law is as enacted by the lawmaking
body. That is not the same as saying what the law should be or what is the correct rule in a given set of circumstances. It is not the province
of the judiciary to look into the wisdom of the law nor to question the policies adopted by the legislative branch. Nor is it the business of
this Tribunal to remedy every unjust situation that may arise from the application of a particular law. It is for the legislature to enact
remedial legislation if that would be necessary in the premises. But as always, with apt judicial caution and cold neutrality, the Court must
carry out the delicate function of interpreting the law, guided by the Constitution and existing legislation and mindful of settled
jurisprudence. The Court's function is therefore limited, and accordingly, must confine itself to the judicial task of saying what the law is, as
enacted by the lawmaking body.281
Be that as it may, it bears reiterating that the RH Law is a mere compilation and enhancement of the prior existing contraceptive and
reproductive health laws, but with coercive measures. Even if the Court decrees the RH Law as entirely unconstitutional, there will still be
the Population Act (R.A. No. 6365), the Contraceptive Act (R.A. No. 4729) and the reproductive health for women or The Magna Carta of
Women (R.A. No. 9710), sans the coercive provisions of the assailed legislation. All the same, the principle of "no-abortion" and "non-
coercion" in the adoption of any family planning method should be maintained.
WHEREFORE, the petitions are PARTIALLY GRANTED. Accordingly, the Court declares R.A. No. 10354 as NOT UNCONSTITUTIONAL except
with respect to the following provisions which are declared UNCONSTITUTIONAL:
1) Section 7 and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR insofar as they: a) require private health facilities and non-maternity specialty
hospitals and hospitals owned and operated by a religious group to refer patients, not in an emergency or life-threatening case, as defined
under Republic Act No. 8344, to another health facility which is conveniently accessible; and b) allow minor-parents or minors who have
suffered a miscarriage access to modem methods of family planning without written consent from their parents or guardian/s;
2) Section 23(a)(l) and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR, particularly Section 5 .24 thereof, insofar as they punish any healthcare
service provider who fails and or refuses to disseminate information regarding programs and services on reproductive health regardless of
his or her religious beliefs.
3) Section 23(a)(2)(i) and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR insofar as they allow a married individual, not in an emergency or life-
threatening case, as defined under Republic Act No. 8344, to undergo reproductive health procedures without the consent of the spouse;
4) Section 23(a)(2)(ii) and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR insofar as they limit the requirement of parental consent only to
elective surgical procedures.
5) Section 23(a)(3) and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR, particularly Section 5.24 thereof, insofar as they punish any healthcare
service provider who fails and/or refuses to refer a patient not in an emergency or life-threatening case, as defined under Republic Act No.
8344, to another health care service provider within the same facility or one which is conveniently accessible regardless of his or her
religious beliefs;
6) Section 23(b) and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR, particularly Section 5 .24 thereof, insofar as they punish any public officer
who refuses to support reproductive health programs or shall do any act that hinders the full implementation of a reproductive health
program, regardless of his or her religious beliefs;
7) Section 17 and the corresponding prov1s10n in the RH-IRR regarding the rendering of pro bona reproductive health service in so far as
they affect the conscientious objector in securing PhilHealth accreditation; and
8) Section 3.0l(a) and Section 3.01 G) of the RH-IRR, which added the qualifier "primarily" in defining abortifacients and contraceptives, as
they are ultra vires and, therefore, null and void for contravening Section 4(a) of the RH Law and violating Section 12, Article II of the
Constitution.
The Status Quo Ante Order issued by the Court on March 19, 2013 as extended by its Order, dated July 16, 2013 , is hereby LIFTED, insofar
as the provisions of R.A. No. 10354 which have been herein declared as constitutional.
SO ORDERED.
CASE NO. 7
G.R. No. 167746 August 28, 2007
RESTITUTO M. ALCANTARA, Petitioner,
vs.
ROSITA A. ALCANTARA and HON. COURT OF APPEALS, Respondents.
DECISION
CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:
Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by petitioner Restituto Alcantara assailing the Decision 1of the Court of Appeals
dated 30 September 2004 in CA-G.R. CV No. 66724 denying petitioners appeal and affirming the decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC)
of Makati City, Branch 143, in Civil Case No. 97-1325 dated 14 February 2000, dismissing his petition for annulment of marriage.
The antecedent facts are:
A petition for annulment of marriage3 was filed by petitioner against respondent Rosita A. Alcantara alleging that on 8 December 1982 he
and respondent, without securing the required marriage license, went to the Manila City Hall for the purpose of looking for a person who
could arrange a marriage for them. They met a person who, for a fee, arranged their wedding before a certain Rev. Aquilino Navarro, a
Minister of the Gospel of the CDCC BR Chapel.4They got married on the same day, 8 December 1982. Petitioner and respondent went
through another marriage ceremony at the San Jose de Manuguit Church in Tondo, Manila, on 26 March 1983. The marriage was likewise
celebrated without the parties securing a marriage license. The alleged marriage license, procured in Carmona, Cavite, appearing on the
marriage contract, is a sham, as neither party was a resident of Carmona, and they never went to Carmona to apply for a license with the
local civil registrar of the said place. On 14 October 1985, respondent gave birth to their child Rose Ann Alcantara. In 1988, they parted
ways and lived separate lives. Petitioner prayed that after due hearing, judgment be issued declaring their marriage void and ordering the
Civil Registrar to cancel the corresponding marriage contract5 and its entry on file.6
Answering petitioners petition for annulment of marriage, respondent asserts the validity of their marriage and maintains that there was a
marriage license issued as evidenced by a certification from the Office of the Civil Registry of Carmona, Cavite. Contrary to petitioners
representation, respondent gave birth to their first child named Rose Ann Alcantara on 14 October 1985 and to another daughter named
Rachel Ann Alcantara on 27 October 1992.7 Petitioner has a mistress with whom he has three children. 8 Petitioner only filed the annulment
of their marriage to evade prosecution for concubinage. 9 Respondent, in fact, has filed a case for concubinage against petitioner before the
Metropolitan Trial Court of Mandaluyong City, Branch 60.10 Respondent prays that the petition for annulment of marriage be denied for
lack of merit.
On 14 February 2000, the RTC of Makati City, Branch 143, rendered its Decision disposing as follows:
The foregoing considered, judgment is rendered as follows:
1. The Petition is dismissed for lack of merit;
2. Petitioner is ordered to pay respondent the sum of twenty thousand pesos (20,000.00) per month as support for their two (2) children
on the first five (5) days of each month; and
3. To pay the costs.11
As earlier stated, the Court of Appeals rendered its Decision dismissing the petitioners appeal. His Motion for Reconsideration was likewise
denied in a resolution of the Court of Appeals dated 6 April 2005.12
The Court of Appeals held that the marriage license of the parties is presumed to be regularly issued and petitioner had not presented any
evidence to overcome the presumption. Moreover, the parties marriage contract being a public document is a prima facie proof of the
questioned marriage under Section 44, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court.13
In his Petition before this Court, petitioner raises the following issues for resolution:
a. The Honorable Court of Appeals committed a reversible error when it ruled that the Petition for Annulment has no legal and factual basis
despite the evidence on record that there was no marriage license at the precise moment of the solemnization of the marriage.
b. The Honorable Court of Appeals committed a reversible error when it gave weight to the Marriage License No. 7054133 despite the fact
that the same was not identified and offered as evidence during the trial, and was not the Marriage license number appearing on the face
of the marriage contract.
c. The Honorable Court of Appeals committed a reversible error when it failed to apply the ruling laid down by this Honorable Court in the
case of Sy vs. Court of Appeals. (G.R. No. 127263, 12 April 2000 [330 SCRA 550]).
d. The Honorable Court of Appeals committed a reversible error when it failed to relax the observance of procedural rules to protect and
promote the substantial rights of the party litigants.14
We deny the petition.
Petitioner submits that at the precise time that his marriage with the respondent was celebrated, there was no marriage license because he
and respondent just went to the Manila City Hall and dealt with a "fixer" who arranged everything for them. 15 The wedding took place at
the stairs in Manila City Hall and not in CDCC BR Chapel where Rev. Aquilino Navarro who solemnized the marriage belongs. 16 He and
respondent did not go to Carmona, Cavite, to apply for a marriage license. Assuming a marriage license from Carmona, Cavite, was issued
to them, neither he nor the respondent was a resident of the place. The certification of the Municipal Civil Registrar of Carmona, Cavite,
cannot be given weight because the certification states that "Marriage License number 7054133 was issued in favor of Mr. Restituto
Alcantara and Miss Rosita Almario"17 but their marriage contract bears the number 7054033 for their marriage license number.
The marriage involved herein having been solemnized on 8 December 1982, or prior to the effectivity of the Family Code, the applicable
law to determine its validity is the Civil Code which was the law in effect at the time of its celebration.
A valid marriage license is a requisite of marriage under Article 53 of the Civil Code, the absence of which renders the marriage void
ab initio pursuant to Article 80(3)18 in relation to Article 58 of the same Code.19
Article 53 of the Civil Code20 which was the law applicable at the time of the marriage of the parties states:
Art. 53. No marriage shall be solemnized unless all these requisites are complied with:
(1) Legal capacity of the contracting parties;
(2) Their consent, freely given;
(3) Authority of the person performing the marriage; and
(4) A marriage license, except in a marriage of exceptional character.
The requirement and issuance of a marriage license is the States demonstration of its involvement and participation in every marriage, in
the maintenance of which the general public is interested.21
Petitioner cannot insist on the absence of a marriage license to impugn the validity of his marriage. The cases where the court considered
the absence of a marriage license as a ground for considering the marriage void are clear-cut.
In Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals,22 the Local Civil Registrar issued a certification of due search and inability to find a record
or entry to the effect that Marriage License No. 3196182 was issued to the parties. The Court held that the certification of "due search and
inability to find" a record or entry as to the purported marriage license, issued by the Civil Registrar of Pasig, enjoys probative value, he
being the officer charged under the law to keep a record of all data relative to the issuance of a marriage license. Based on said
certification, the Court held that there is absence of a marriage license that would render the marriage void ab initio.
In Cario v. Cario,23 the Court considered the marriage of therein petitioner Susan Nicdao and the deceased Santiago S. Carino as void ab
initio. The records reveal that the marriage contract of petitioner and the deceased bears no marriage license number and, as certified by
the Local Civil Registrar of San Juan, Metro Manila, their office has no record of such marriage license. The court held that the certification
issued by the local civil registrar is adequate to prove the non-issuance of the marriage license. Their marriage having been solemnized
without the necessary marriage license and not being one of the marriages exempt from the marriage license requirement, the marriage of
the petitioner and the deceased is undoubtedly void ab initio.
In Sy v. Court of Appeals,24 the marriage license was issued on 17 September 1974, almost one year after the ceremony took place on 15
November 1973. The Court held that the ineluctable conclusion is that the marriage was indeed contracted without a marriage license.
In all these cases, there was clearly an absence of a marriage license which rendered the marriage void.
Clearly, from these cases, it can be deduced that to be considered void on the ground of absence of a marriage license, the law requires
that the absence of such marriage license must be apparent on the marriage contract, or at the very least, supported by a certification from
the local civil registrar that no such marriage license was issued to the parties. In this case, the marriage contract between the petitioner
and respondent reflects a marriage license number. A certification to this effect was also issued by the local civil registrar of Carmona,
Cavite.25 The certification moreover is precise in that it specifically identified the parties to whom the marriage license was issued, namely
Restituto Alcantara and Rosita Almario, further validating the fact that a license was in fact issued to the parties herein.
The certification of Municipal Civil Registrar Macrino L. Diaz of Carmona, Cavite, reads:
This is to certify that as per the registry Records of Marriage filed in this office, Marriage License No. 7054133 was issued in favor of Mr.
Restituto Alcantara and Miss Rosita Almario on December 8, 1982.
This Certification is being issued upon the request of Mrs. Rosita A. Alcantara for whatever legal purpose or intents it may serve.26
This certification enjoys the presumption that official duty has been regularly performed and the issuance of the marriage license was done
in the regular conduct of official business.27 The presumption of regularity of official acts may be rebutted by affirmative evidence of
irregularity or failure to perform a duty. However, the presumption prevails until it is overcome by no less than clear and convincing
evidence to the contrary. Thus, unless the presumption is rebutted, it becomes conclusive. Every reasonable intendment will be made in
support of the presumption and, in case of doubt as to an officers act being lawful or unlawful, construction should be in favor of its
lawfulness.28 Significantly, apart from these, petitioner, by counsel, admitted that a marriage license was, indeed, issued in Carmona,
Cavite.29
Petitioner, in a faint attempt to demolish the probative value of the marriage license, claims that neither he nor respondent is a resident of
Carmona, Cavite. Even then, we still hold that there is no sufficient basis to annul petitioner and respondents marriage. Issuance of a
marriage license in a city or municipality, not the residence of either of the contracting parties, and issuance of a marriage license despite
the absence of publication or prior to the completion of the 10-day period for publication are considered mere irregularities that do not
affect the validity of the marriage.30 An irregularity in any of the formal requisites of marriage does not affect its validity but the party or
parties responsible for the irregularity are civilly, criminally and administratively liable. 31
Again, petitioner harps on the discrepancy between the marriage license number in the certification of the Municipal Civil Registrar, which
states that the marriage license issued to the parties is No. 7054133, while the marriage contract states that the marriage license number
of the parties is number 7054033. Once more, this argument fails to sway us. It is not impossible to assume that the same is a mere a
typographical error, as a closer scrutiny of the marriage contract reveals the overlapping of the numbers 0 and 1, such that the marriage
license may read either as 7054133 or 7054033. It therefore does not detract from our conclusion regarding the existence and issuance of
said marriage license to the parties.
Under the principle that he who comes to court must come with clean hands, 32 petitioner cannot pretend that he was not responsible or a
party to the marriage celebration which he now insists took place without the requisite marriage license. Petitioner admitted that the civil
marriage took place because he "initiated it."33 Petitioner is an educated person. He is a mechanical engineer by profession. He knowingly
and voluntarily went to the Manila City Hall and likewise, knowingly and voluntarily, went through a marriage ceremony. He cannot benefit
from his action and be allowed to extricate himself from the marriage bond at his mere say-so when the situation is no longer palatable to
his taste or suited to his lifestyle. We cannot countenance such effrontery. His attempt to make a mockery of the institution of marriage
betrays his bad faith.34
Petitioner and respondent went through a marriage ceremony twice in a span of less than one year utilizing the same marriage license.
There is no claim that he went through the second wedding ceremony in church under duress or with a gun to his head. Everything was
executed without nary a whimper on the part of the petitioner.lavvphi1
In fact, for the second wedding of petitioner and respondent, they presented to the San Jose de Manuguit Church the marriage contract
executed during the previous wedding ceremony before the Manila City Hall. This is confirmed in petitioners testimony as follows
WITNESS
As I remember your honor, they asked us to get the necessary document prior to the wedding.
COURT
What particular document did the church asked you to produce? I am referring to the San Jose de Manuguit church.
WITNESS
I dont remember your honor.
COURT
Were you asked by the church to present a Marriage License?
WITNESS
I think they asked us for documents and I said we have already a Marriage Contract and I dont know if it is good enough for the marriage
and they accepted it your honor.
COURT
In other words, you represented to the San Jose de Manuguit church that you have with you already a Marriage Contract?
WITNESS
Yes your honor.
COURT
That is why the San Jose de Manuguit church copied the same marriage License in the Marriage Contract issued which Marriage License is
Number 7054033.
WITNESS
Yes your honor.35
The logical conclusion is that petitioner was amenable and a willing participant to all that took place at that time. Obviously, the church
ceremony was confirmatory of their civil marriage, thereby cleansing whatever irregularity or defect attended the civil wedding.36
Likewise, the issue raised by petitioner -- that they appeared before a "fixer" who arranged everything for them and who facilitated the
ceremony before a certain Rev. Aquilino Navarro, a Minister of the Gospel of the CDCC Br Chapel -- will not strengthen his posture. The
authority of the officer or clergyman shown to have performed a marriage ceremony will be presumed in the absence of any showing to
the contrary.37 Moreover, the solemnizing officer is not duty-bound to investigate whether or not a marriage license has been duly and
regularly issued by the local civil registrar. All the solemnizing officer needs to know is that the license has been issued by the competent
official, and it may be presumed from the issuance of the license that said official has fulfilled the duty to ascertain whether the contracting
parties had fulfilled the requirements of law.38
Semper praesumitur pro matrimonio. The presumption is always in favor of the validity of the marriage. 39 Every intendment of the law or
fact leans toward the validity of the marriage bonds. The Courts look upon this presumption with great favor. It is not to be lightly repelled;
on the contrary, the presumption is of great weight.
Wherefore, premises considered, the instant Petition is Denied for lack of merit. The decision of the Court of Appeals dated 30 September
2004 affirming the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 143 of Makati City, dated 14 February 2000, are AFFIRMED. Costs against
petitioner.
SO ORDERED.
CASE NO. 9
G.R. No. 154380 October 5, 2005
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,
vs.
CIPRIANO ORBECIDO III, Respondent.
DECISION
QUISUMBING, J.:
Given a valid marriage between two Filipino citizens, where one party is later naturalized as a foreign citizen and obtains a valid divorce
decree capacitating him or her to remarry, can the Filipino spouse likewise remarry under Philippine law?
Before us is a case of first impression that behooves the Court to make a definite ruling on this apparently novel question, presented as a
pure question of law.
In this petition for review, the Solicitor General assails the Decision1 dated May 15, 2002, of the Regional Trial Court of Molave, Zamboanga
del Sur, Branch 23 and its Resolution2 dated July 4, 2002 denying the motion for reconsideration. The court a quo had declared that herein
respondent Cipriano Orbecido III is capacitated to remarry. The fallo of the impugned Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, by virtue of the provision of the second paragraph of Art. 26 of the Family Code and by reason of the divorce decree obtained
against him by his American wife, the petitioner is given the capacity to remarry under the Philippine Law.
IT IS SO ORDERED.3
The factual antecedents, as narrated by the trial court, are as follows.
On May 24, 1981, Cipriano Orbecido III married Lady Myros M. Villanueva at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Lam-an,
Ozamis City. Their marriage was blessed with a son and a daughter, Kristoffer Simbortriz V. Orbecido and Lady Kimberly V. Orbecido.
In 1986, Ciprianos wife left for the United States bringing along their son Kristoffer. A few years later, Cipriano discovered that his wife had
been naturalized as an American citizen.
Sometime in 2000, Cipriano learned from his son that his wife had obtained a divorce decree and then married a certain Innocent Stanley.
She, Stanley and her child by him currently live at 5566 A. Walnut Grove Avenue, San Gabriel, California.
Cipriano thereafter filed with the trial court a petition for authority to remarry invoking Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code. No
opposition was filed. Finding merit in the petition, the court granted the same. The Republic, herein petitioner, through the Office of the
Solicitor General (OSG), sought reconsideration but it was denied.
In this petition, the OSG raises a pure question of law:
WHETHER OR NOT RESPONDENT CAN REMARRY UNDER ARTICLE 26 OF THE FAMILY CODE 4
The OSG contends that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code is not applicable to the instant case because it only applies to a valid
mixed marriage; that is, a marriage celebrated between a Filipino citizen and an alien. The proper remedy, according to the OSG, is to file a
petition for annulment or for legal separation.5 Furthermore, the OSG argues there is no law that governs respondents situation. The OSG
posits that this is a matter of legislation and not of judicial determination.6
For his part, respondent admits that Article 26 is not directly applicable to his case but insists that when his naturalized alien wife obtained
a divorce decree which capacitated her to remarry, he is likewise capacitated by operation of law pursuant to Section 12, Article II of the
Constitution.7
At the outset, we note that the petition for authority to remarry filed before the trial court actually constituted a petition for declaratory
relief. In this connection, Section 1, Rule 63 of the Rules of Court provides:
RULE 63
DECLARATORY RELIEF AND SIMILAR REMEDIES
Section 1. Who may file petitionAny person interested under a deed, will, contract or other written instrument, or whose rights are
affected by a statute, executive order or regulation, ordinance, or other governmental regulation may, before breach or violation thereof,
bring an action in the appropriate Regional Trial Court to determine any question of construction or validity arising, and for a declaration of
his rights or duties, thereunder.
...
The requisites of a petition for declaratory relief are: (1) there must be a justiciable controversy; (2) the controversy must be between
persons whose interests are adverse; (3) that the party seeking the relief has a legal interest in the controversy; and (4) that the issue is ripe
for judicial determination.8
This case concerns the applicability of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 to a marriage between two Filipino citizens where one later acquired alien
citizenship, obtained a divorce decree, and remarried while in the U.S.A. The interests of the parties are also adverse, as petitioner
representing the State asserts its duty to protect the institution of marriage while respondent, a private citizen, insists on a declaration of
his capacity to remarry. Respondent, praying for relief, has legal interest in the controversy. The issue raised is also ripe for judicial
determination inasmuch as when respondent remarries, litigation ensues and puts into question the validity of his second marriage.
Coming now to the substantive issue, does Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code apply to the case of respondent? Necessarily, we
must dwell on how this provision had come about in the first place, and what was the intent of the legislators in its enactment?
Brief Historical Background
On July 6, 1987, then President Corazon Aquino signed into law Executive Order No. 209, otherwise known as the "Family Code," which
took effect on August 3, 1988. Article 26 thereof states:
All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid
there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35, 37, and 38.
On July 17, 1987, shortly after the signing of the original Family Code, Executive Order No. 227 was likewise signed into law, amending
Articles 26, 36, and 39 of the Family Code. A second paragraph was added to Article 26. As so amended, it now provides:
ART. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized,
and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35(1), (4), (5) and (6), 36, 37 and 38.
Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the
alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law. (Emphasis supplied)
On its face, the foregoing provision does not appear to govern the situation presented by the case at hand. It seems to apply only to cases
where at the time of the celebration of the marriage, the parties are a Filipino citizen and a foreigner. The instant case is one where at the
time the marriage was solemnized, the parties were two Filipino citizens, but later on, the wife was naturalized as an American citizen and
subsequently obtained a divorce granting her capacity to remarry, and indeed she remarried an American citizen while residing in the
U.S.A.
Noteworthy, in the Report of the Public Hearings9 on the Family Code, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) registered
the following objections to Paragraph 2 of Article 26:
1. The rule is discriminatory. It discriminates against those whose spouses are Filipinos who divorce them abroad. These spouses who are
divorced will not be able to re-marry, while the spouses of foreigners who validly divorce them abroad can.
2. This is the beginning of the recognition of the validity of divorce even for Filipino citizens. For those whose foreign spouses validly divorce
them abroad will also be considered to be validly divorced here and can re-marry. We propose that this be deleted and made into law only
after more widespread consultation. (Emphasis supplied.)
Legislative Intent
Records of the proceedings of the Family Code deliberations showed that the intent of Paragraph 2 of Article 26, according to Judge Alicia
Sempio-Diy, a member of the Civil Code Revision Committee, is to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to
the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce, is no longer married to the Filipino spouse.
Interestingly, Paragraph 2 of Article 26 traces its origin to the 1985 case of Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr.10 The Van Dorn case involved a marriage
between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner. The Court held therein that a divorce decree validly obtained by the alien spouse is valid in the
Philippines, and consequently, the Filipino spouse is capacitated to remarry under Philippine law.
Does the same principle apply to a case where at the time of the celebration of the marriage, the parties were Filipino citizens, but later on,
one of them obtains a foreign citizenship by naturalization?
The jurisprudential answer lies latent in the 1998 case of Quita v. Court of Appeals.11 In Quita, the parties were, as in this case, Filipino
citizens when they got married. The wife became a naturalized American citizen in 1954 and obtained a divorce in the same year. The Court
therein hinted, by way of obiter dictum, that a Filipino divorced by his naturalized foreign spouse is no longer married under Philippine law
and can thus remarry.
Thus, taking into consideration the legislative intent and applying the rule of reason, we hold that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 should be
interpreted to include cases involving parties who, at the time of the celebration of the marriage were Filipino citizens, but later on, one of
them becomes naturalized as a foreign citizen and obtains a divorce decree. The Filipino spouse should likewise be allowed to remarry as if
the other party were a foreigner at the time of the solemnization of the marriage. To rule otherwise would be to sanction absurdity and
injustice. Where the interpretation of a statute according to its exact and literal import would lead to mischievous results or contravene the
clear purpose of the legislature, it should be construed according to its spirit and reason, disregarding as far as necessary the letter of the
law. A statute may therefore be extended to cases not within the literal meaning of its terms, so long as they come within its spirit or
intent.12
If we are to give meaning to the legislative intent to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to the alien
spouse who, after obtaining a divorce is no longer married to the Filipino spouse, then the instant case must be deemed as coming within
the contemplation of Paragraph 2 of Article 26.
In view of the foregoing, we state the twin elements for the application of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 as follows:
1. There is a valid marriage that has been celebrated between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner; and
2. A valid divorce is obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry.
The reckoning point is not the citizenship of the parties at the time of the celebration of the marriage, but their citizenship at the time a
valid divorce is obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating the latter to remarry.
In this case, when Ciprianos wife was naturalized as an American citizen, there was still a valid marriage that has been celebrated between
her and Cipriano. As fate would have it, the naturalized alien wife subsequently obtained a valid divorce capacitating her to remarry.
Clearly, the twin requisites for the application of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 are both present in this case. Thus Cipriano, the "divorced"
Filipino spouse, should be allowed to remarry.
We are also unable to sustain the OSGs theory that the proper remedy of the Filipino spouse is to file either a petition for annulment or a
petition for legal separation. Annulment would be a long and tedious process, and in this particular case, not even feasible, considering that
the marriage of the parties appears to have all the badges of validity. On the other hand, legal separation would not be a sufficient remedy
for it would not sever the marriage tie; hence, the legally separated Filipino spouse would still remain married to the naturalized alien
spouse.
However, we note that the records are bereft of competent evidence duly submitted by respondent concerning the divorce decree and the
naturalization of respondents wife. It is settled rule that one who alleges a fact has the burden of proving it and mere allegation is not
evidence.13
Accordingly, for his plea to prosper, respondent herein must prove his allegation that his wife was naturalized as an American citizen.
Likewise, before a foreign divorce decree can be recognized by our own courts, the party pleading it must prove the divorce as a fact and
demonstrate its conformity to the foreign law allowing it.14 Such foreign law must also be proved as our courts cannot take judicial notice
of foreign laws. Like any other fact, such laws must be alleged and proved.15 Furthermore, respondent must also show that the divorce
decree allows his former wife to remarry as specifically required in Article 26. Otherwise, there would be no evidence sufficient to declare
that he is capacitated to enter into another marriage.
Nevertheless, we are unanimous in our holding that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code (E.O. No. 209, as amended by E.O. No.
227), should be interpreted to allow a Filipino citizen, who has been divorced by a spouse who had acquired foreign citizenship and
remarried, also to remarry. However, considering that in the present petition there is no sufficient evidence submitted and on record, we
are unable to declare, based on respondents bare allegations that his wife, who was naturalized as an American citizen, had obtained a
divorce decree and had remarried an American, that respondent is now capacitated to remarry. Such declaration could only be made
properly upon respondents submission of the aforecited evidence in his favor.
ACCORDINGLY, the petition by the Republic of the Philippines is GRANTED. The assailed Decision dated May 15, 2002, and Resolution dated
July 4, 2002, of the Regional Trial Court of Molave, Zamboanga del Sur, Branch 23, are hereby SET ASIDE.
No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
CASE NO. 10
G.R. No. 186571 August 11, 2010
GERBERT R. CORPUZ, Petitioner,
vs.
DAISYLYN TIROL STO. TOMAS and The SOLICITOR GENERAL, Respondents.
DECISION
BRION, J.:
Before the Court is a direct appeal from the decision1 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Laoag City, Branch 11, elevated via a petition for
review on certiorari2 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court (present petition).
Petitioner Gerbert R. Corpuz was a former Filipino citizen who acquired Canadian citizenship through naturalization on November 29,
2000.3 On January 18, 2005, Gerbert married respondent Daisylyn T. Sto. Tomas, a Filipina, in Pasig City. 4 Due to work and other
professional commitments, Gerbert left for Canada soon after the wedding. He returned to the Philippines sometime in April 2005 to
surprise Daisylyn, but was shocked to discover that his wife was having an affair with another man. Hurt and disappointed, Gerbert
returned to Canada and filed a petition for divorce. The Superior Court of Justice, Windsor, Ontario, Canada granted Gerberts petition for
divorce on December 8, 2005. The divorce decree took effect a month later, on January 8, 2006.5
Two years after the divorce, Gerbert has moved on and has found another Filipina to love. Desirous of marrying his new Filipina fiance in
the Philippines, Gerbert went to the Pasig City Civil Registry Office and registered the Canadian divorce decree on his and Daisylyns
marriage certificate. Despite the registration of the divorce decree, an official of the National Statistics Office (NSO) informed Gerbert that
the marriage between him and Daisylyn still subsists under Philippine law; to be enforceable, the foreign divorce decree must first be
judicially recognized by a competent Philippine court, pursuant to NSO Circular No. 4, series of 1982.6
Accordingly, Gerbert filed a petition for judicial recognition of foreign divorce and/or declaration of marriage as dissolved (petition) with
the RTC. Although summoned, Daisylyn did not file any responsive pleading but submitted instead a notarized letter/manifestation to the
trial court. She offered no opposition to Gerberts petition and, in fact, alleged her desire to file a similar case herself but was prevented by
financial and personal circumstances. She, thus, requested that she be considered as a party-in-interest with a similar prayer to Gerberts.
In its October 30, 2008 decision,7 the RTC denied Gerberts petition. The RTC concluded that Gerbert was not the proper party to institute
the action for judicial recognition of the foreign divorce decree as he is a naturalized Canadian citizen. It ruled that only the Filipino spouse
can avail of the remedy, under the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, 8 in order for him or her to be able to remarry under
Philippine law.9 Article 26 of the Family Code reads:
Art. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines, in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized,
and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35(1), (4), (5) and (6), 36, 37 and 38.
Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the
alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall likewise have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.
This conclusion, the RTC stated, is consistent with the legislative intent behind the enactment of the second paragraph of Article 26 of the
Family Code, as determined by the Court in Republic v. Orbecido III;10 the provision was enacted to "avoid the absurd situation where the
Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce, is no longer married to the Filipino spouse."11
THE PETITION
From the RTCs ruling,12 Gerbert filed the present petition.13
Gerbert asserts that his petition before the RTC is essentially for declaratory relief, similar to that filed in Orbecido; he, thus, similarly asks
for a determination of his rights under the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code. Taking into account the rationale behind the
second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, he contends that the provision applies as well to the benefit of the alien spouse. He
claims that the RTC ruling unduly stretched the doctrine in Orbecido by limiting the standing to file the petition only to the Filipino spouse
an interpretation he claims to be contrary to the essence of the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code. He considers himself as
a proper party, vested with sufficient legal interest, to institute the case, as there is a possibility that he might be prosecuted for bigamy if
he marries his Filipina fiance in the Philippines since two marriage certificates, involving him, would be on file with the Civil Registry Office.
The Office of the Solicitor General and Daisylyn, in their respective Comments,14 both support Gerberts position.
Essentially, the petition raises the issue of whether the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code extends to aliens the right to
petition a court of this jurisdiction for the recognition of a foreign divorce decree.
THE COURTS RULING
The alien spouse can claim no right under the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code as the substantive right it establishes is in
favor of the Filipino spouse
The resolution of the issue requires a review of the legislative history and intent behind the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family
Code.
The Family Code recognizes only two types of defective marriages void15 and voidable16 marriages. In both cases, the basis for the judicial
declaration of absolute nullity or annulment of the marriage exists before or at the time of the marriage. Divorce, on the other hand,
contemplates the dissolution of the lawful union for cause arising after the marriage. 17 Our family laws do not recognize absolute divorce
between Filipino citizens.18
Recognizing the reality that divorce is a possibility in marriages between a Filipino and an alien, President Corazon C. Aquino, in the exercise
of her legislative powers under the Freedom Constitution,19 enacted Executive Order No. (EO) 227, amending Article 26 of the Family Code
to its present wording, as follows:
Art. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines, in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized,
and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35(1), (4), (5) and (6), 36, 37 and 38.
Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the
alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall likewise have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.
Through the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, EO 227 effectively incorporated into the law this Courts holding in Van
Dorn v. Romillo, Jr.20 and Pilapil v. Ibay-Somera.21 In both cases, the Court refused to acknowledge the alien spouses assertion of marital
rights after a foreign courts divorce decree between the alien and the Filipino. The Court, thus, recognized that the foreign divorce had
already severed the marital bond between the spouses. The Court reasoned in Van Dorn v. Romillo that:
To maintain x x x that, under our laws, [the Filipino spouse] has to be considered still married to [the alien spouse] and still subject to a
wife's obligations x x x cannot be just. [The Filipino spouse] should not be obliged to live together with, observe respect and fidelity, and
render support to [the alien spouse]. The latter should not continue to be one of her heirs with possible rights to conjugal property. She
should not be discriminated against in her own country if the ends of justice are to be served.22
As the RTC correctly stated, the provision was included in the law "to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married
to the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce, is no longer married to the Filipino spouse." 23 The legislative intent is for the benefit of
the Filipino spouse, by clarifying his or her marital status, settling the doubts created by the divorce decree. Essentially, the second
paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code provided the Filipino spouse a substantive right to have his or her marriage to the alien spouse
considered as dissolved, capacitating him or her to remarry. 24 Without the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, the judicial
recognition of the foreign decree of divorce, whether in a proceeding instituted precisely for that purpose or as a related issue in another
proceeding, would be of no significance to the Filipino spouse since our laws do not recognize divorce as a mode of severing the marital
bond;25 Article 17 of the Civil Code provides that the policy against absolute divorces cannot be subverted by judgments promulgated in a
foreign country. The inclusion of the second paragraph in Article 26 of the Family Code provides the direct exception to this rule and serves
as basis for recognizing the dissolution of the marriage between the Filipino spouse and his or her alien spouse.
Additionally, an action based on the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code is not limited to the recognition of the foreign
divorce decree. If the court finds that the decree capacitated the alien spouse to remarry, the courts can declare that the Filipino spouse is
likewise capacitated to contract another marriage. No court in this jurisdiction, however, can make a similar declaration for the alien
spouse (other than that already established by the decree), whose status and legal capacity are generally governed by his national law.26
Given the rationale and intent behind the enactment, and the purpose of the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, the RTC
was correct in limiting the applicability of the provision for the benefit of the Filipino spouse. In other words, only the Filipino spouse can
invoke the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code; the alien spouse can claim no right under this provision.
The foreign divorce decree is presumptive evidence of a right that clothes the party with legal interest to petition for its recognition in this
jurisdiction
We qualify our above conclusion i.e., that the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code bestows no rights in favor of aliens
with the complementary statement that this conclusion is not sufficient basis to dismiss Gerberts petition before the RTC. In other words,
the unavailability of the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code to aliens does not necessarily strip Gerbert of legal interest to
petition the RTC for the recognition of his foreign divorce decree. The foreign divorce decree itself, after its authenticity and conformity
with the aliens national law have been duly proven according to our rules of evidence, serves as a presumptive evidence of right in favor of
Gerbert, pursuant to Section 48, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court which provides for the effect of foreign judgments. This Section states:
SEC. 48. Effect of foreign judgments or final orders.The effect of a judgment or final order of a tribunal of a foreign country, having
jurisdiction to render the judgment or final order is as follows:
(a) In case of a judgment or final order upon a specific thing, the judgment or final order is conclusive upon the title of the thing; and
(b) In case of a judgment or final order against a person, the judgment or final order is presumptive evidence of a right as between the
parties and their successors in interest by a subsequent title.
In either case, the judgment or final order may be repelled by evidence of a want of jurisdiction, want of notice to the party, collusion,
fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact.
To our mind, direct involvement or being the subject of the foreign judgment is sufficient to clothe a party with the requisite interest to
institute an action before our courts for the recognition of the foreign judgment. In a divorce situation, we have declared, no less, that the
divorce obtained by an alien abroad may be recognized in the Philippines, provided the divorce is valid according to his or her national
law.27
The starting point in any recognition of a foreign divorce judgment is the acknowledgment that our courts do not take judicial notice of
foreign judgments and laws. Justice Herrera explained that, as a rule, "no sovereign is bound to give effect within its dominion to a
judgment rendered by a tribunal of another country." 28 This means that the foreign judgment and its authenticity must be proven as facts
under our rules on evidence, together with the aliens applicable national law to show the effect of the judgment on the alien himself or
herself.29 The recognition may be made in an action instituted specifically for the purpose or in another action where a party invokes the
foreign decree as an integral aspect of his claim or defense.
In Gerberts case, since both the foreign divorce decree and the national law of the alien, recognizing his or her capacity to obtain a divorce,
purport to be official acts of a sovereign authority, Section 24, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court comes into play. This Section requires proof,
either by (1) official publications or (2) copies attested by the officer having legal custody of the documents. If the copies of official records
are not kept in the Philippines, these must be (a) accompanied by a certificate issued by the proper diplomatic or consular officer in the
Philippine foreign service stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept and (b) authenticated by the seal of his office.
The records show that Gerbert attached to his petition a copy of the divorce decree, as well as the required certificates proving its
authenticity,30 but failed to include a copy of the Canadian law on divorce.31 Under this situation, we can, at this point, simply dismiss the
petition for insufficiency of supporting evidence, unless we deem it more appropriate to remand the case to the RTC to determine whether
the divorce decree is consistent with the Canadian divorce law.
We deem it more appropriate to take this latter course of action, given the Article 26 interests that will be served and the Filipina wifes
(Daisylyns) obvious conformity with the petition. A remand, at the same time, will allow other interested parties to oppose the foreign
judgment and overcome a petitioners presumptive evidence of a right by proving want of jurisdiction, want of notice to a party, collusion,
fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact. Needless to state, every precaution must be taken to ensure conformity with our laws before a
recognition is made, as the foreign judgment, once recognized, shall have the effect of res judicata 32 between the parties, as provided in
Section 48, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court.33
In fact, more than the principle of comity that is served by the practice of reciprocal recognition of foreign judgments between nations, the
res judicata effect of the foreign judgments of divorce serves as the deeper basis for extending judicial recognition and for considering the
alien spouse bound by its terms. This same effect, as discussed above, will not obtain for the Filipino spouse were it not for the substantive
rule that the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code provides.
Considerations beyond the recognition of the foreign divorce decree
As a matter of "housekeeping" concern, we note that the Pasig City Civil Registry Office has already recorded the divorce decree on Gerbert
and Daisylyns marriage certificate based on the mere presentation of the decree. 34 We consider the recording to be legally improper;
hence, the need to draw attention of the bench and the bar to what had been done.
Article 407 of the Civil Code states that "[a]cts, events and judicial decrees concerning the civil status of persons shall be recorded in the
civil register." The law requires the entry in the civil registry of judicial decrees that produce legal consequences touching upon a persons
legal capacity and status, i.e., those affecting "all his personal qualities and relations, more or less permanent in nature, not ordinarily
terminable at his own will, such as his being legitimate or illegitimate, or his being married or not."35
A judgment of divorce is a judicial decree, although a foreign one, affecting a persons legal capacity and status that must be recorded. In
fact, Act No. 3753 or the Law on Registry of Civil Status specifically requires the registration of divorce decrees in the civil registry:
Sec. 1. Civil Register. A civil register is established for recording the civil status of persons, in which shall be entered:
(a) births;
(b) deaths;
(c) marriages;
(d) annulments of marriages;
(e) divorces;
(f) legitimations;
(g) adoptions;
(h) acknowledgment of natural children;
(i) naturalization; and
(j) changes of name.
xxxx
Sec. 4. Civil Register Books. The local registrars shall keep and preserve in their offices the following books, in which they shall,
respectively make the proper entries concerning the civil status of persons:
(1) Birth and death register;
(2) Marriage register, in which shall be entered not only the marriages solemnized but also divorces and dissolved marriages.
(3) Legitimation, acknowledgment, adoption, change of name and naturalization register.
But while the law requires the entry of the divorce decree in the civil registry, the law and the submission of the decree by themselves do
not ipso facto authorize the decrees registration. The law should be read in relation with the requirement of a judicial recognition of the
foreign judgment before it can be given res judicata effect. In the context of the present case, no judicial order as yet exists recognizing the
foreign divorce decree. Thus, the Pasig City Civil Registry Office acted totally out of turn and without authority of law when it annotated the
Canadian divorce decree on Gerbert and Daisylyns marriage certificate, on the strength alone of the foreign decree presented by Gerbert.
Evidently, the Pasig City Civil Registry Office was aware of the requirement of a court recognition, as it cited NSO Circular No. 4, series of
1982,36 and Department of Justice Opinion No. 181, series of 198237 both of which required a final order from a competent Philippine
court before a foreign judgment, dissolving a marriage, can be registered in the civil registry, but it, nonetheless, allowed the registration of
the decree. For being contrary to law, the registration of the foreign divorce decree without the requisite judicial recognition is patently
void and cannot produce any legal effect.1avvphi1
Another point we wish to draw attention to is that the recognition that the RTC may extend to the Canadian divorce decree does not, by
itself, authorize the cancellation of the entry in the civil registry. A petition for recognition of a foreign judgment is not the proper
proceeding, contemplated under the Rules of Court, for the cancellation of entries in the civil registry.
Article 412 of the Civil Code declares that "no entry in a civil register shall be changed or corrected, without judicial order." The Rules of
Court supplements Article 412 of the Civil Code by specifically providing for a special remedial proceeding by which entries in the civil
registry may be judicially cancelled or corrected. Rule 108 of the Rules of Court sets in detail the jurisdictional and procedural requirements
that must be complied with before a judgment, authorizing the cancellation or correction, may be annotated in the civil registry. It also
requires, among others, that the verified petition must be filed with the RTC of the province where the corresponding civil registry is
located;38that the civil registrar and all persons who have or claim any interest must be made parties to the proceedings; 39and that the time
and place for hearing must be published in a newspaper of general circulation. 40 As these basic jurisdictional requirements have not been
met in the present case, we cannot consider the petition Gerbert filed with the RTC as one filed under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court.
We hasten to point out, however, that this ruling should not be construed as requiring two separate proceedings for the registration of a
foreign divorce decree in the civil registry one for recognition of the foreign decree and another specifically for cancellation of the entry
under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court. The recognition of the foreign divorce decree may be made in a Rule 108 proceeding itself, as the
object of special proceedings (such as that in Rule 108 of the Rules of Court) is precisely to establish the status or right of a party or a
particular fact. Moreover, Rule 108 of the Rules of Court can serve as the appropriate adversarial proceeding41 by which the applicability of
the foreign judgment can be measured and tested in terms of jurisdictional infirmities, want of notice to the party, collusion, fraud, or clear
mistake of law or fact.
WHEREFORE, we GRANT the petition for review on certiorari, and REVERSE the October 30, 2008 decision of the Regional Trial Court of
Laoag City, Branch 11, as well as its February 17, 2009 order. We order the REMAND of the case to the trial court for further proceedings in
accordance with our ruling above. Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Civil Registrar General. No costs.
SO ORDERED.
CASE NO. 11
G.R. No. 196049 June 26, 2013
MINORU FUJIKI, PETITIONER,
vs.
MARIA PAZ GALELA MARINAY, SHINICHI MAEKARA, LOCAL CIVIL REGISTRAR OF QUEZON CITY, AND THE ADMINISTRATOR AND CIVIL
REGISTRAR GENERAL OF THE NATIONAL STATISTICS OFFICE,RESPONDENTS.
DECISION
CARPIO, J.:
The Case
This is a direct recourse to this Court from the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 107, Quezon City, through a petition for review
on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court on a pure question of law. The petition assails the Order1 dated 31 January 2011 of the RTC
in Civil Case No. Q-11-68582 and its Resolution dated 2 March 2011 denying petitioners Motion for Reconsideration. The RTC dismissed
the petition for "Judicial Recognition of Foreign Judgment (or Decree of Absolute Nullity of Marriage)" based on improper venue and the
lack of personality of petitioner, Minoru Fujiki, to file the petition.
The Facts
Petitioner Minoru Fujiki (Fujiki) is a Japanese national who married respondent Maria Paz Galela Marinay (Marinay) in the Philippines2 on
23 January 2004. The marriage did not sit well with petitioners parents. Thus, Fujiki could not bring his wife to Japan where he resides.
Eventually, they lost contact with each other.
In 2008, Marinay met another Japanese, Shinichi Maekara (Maekara). Without the first marriage being dissolved, Marinay and Maekara
were married on 15 May 2008 in Quezon City, Philippines. Maekara brought Marinay to Japan. However, Marinay allegedly suffered
physical abuse from Maekara. She left Maekara and started to contact Fujiki.3
Fujiki and Marinay met in Japan and they were able to reestablish their relationship. In 2010, Fujiki helped Marinay obtain a judgment from
a family court in Japan which declared the marriage between Marinay and Maekara void on the ground of bigamy. 4 On 14 January 2011,
Fujiki filed a petition in the RTC entitled: "Judicial Recognition of Foreign Judgment (or Decree of Absolute Nullity of Marriage)." Fujiki
prayed that (1) the Japanese Family Court judgment be recognized; (2) that the bigamous marriage between Marinay and Maekara be
declared void ab initiounder Articles 35(4) and 41 of the Family Code of the Philippines;5 and (3) for the RTC to direct the Local Civil
Registrar of Quezon City to annotate the Japanese Family Court judgment on the Certificate of Marriage between Marinay and Maekara
and to endorse such annotation to the Office of the Administrator and Civil Registrar General in the National Statistics Office (NSO).6
The Ruling of the Regional Trial Court
A few days after the filing of the petition, the RTC immediately issued an Order dismissing the petition and withdrawing the case from its
active civil docket.7 The RTC cited the following provisions of the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment
of Voidable Marriages (A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC):
Sec. 2. Petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages.
(a) Who may file. A petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be filed solely by the husband or the wife.
xxxx
Sec. 4. Venue. The petition shall be filed in the Family Court of the province or city where the petitioner or the respondent has been
residing for at least six months prior to the date of filing, or in the case of a non-resident respondent, where he may be found in the
Philippines, at the election of the petitioner. x x x
The RTC ruled, without further explanation, that the petition was in "gross violation" of the above provisions. The trial court based its
dismissal on Section 5(4) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC which provides that "[f]ailure to comply with any of the preceding requirements may be a
ground for immediate dismissal of the petition." 8 Apparently, the RTC took the view that only "the husband or the wife," in this case either
Maekara or Marinay, can file the petition to declare their marriage void, and not Fujiki.
Fujiki moved that the Order be reconsidered. He argued that A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC contemplated ordinary civil actions for declaration of
nullity and annulment of marriage. Thus, A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC does not apply. A petition for recognition of foreign judgment is a special
proceeding, which "seeks to establish a status, a right or a particular fact,"9 and not a civil action which is "for the enforcement or
protection of a right, or the prevention or redress of a wrong." 10 In other words, the petition in the RTC sought to establish (1) the status
and concomitant rights of Fujiki and Marinay as husband and wife and (2) the fact of the rendition of the Japanese Family Court judgment
declaring the marriage between Marinay and Maekara as void on the ground of bigamy. The petitioner contended that the Japanese
judgment was consistent with Article 35(4) of the Family Code of the Philippines 11 on bigamy and was therefore entitled to recognition by
Philippine courts.12
In any case, it was also Fujikis view that A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC applied only to void marriages under Article 36 of the Family Code on the
ground of psychological incapacity.13 Thus, Section 2(a) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC provides that "a petition for declaration of absolute nullity
of void marriages may be filed solely by the husband or the wife." To apply Section 2(a) in bigamy would be absurd because only the guilty
parties would be permitted to sue. In the words of Fujiki, "[i]t is not, of course, difficult to realize that the party interested in having a
bigamous marriage declared a nullity would be the husband in the prior, pre-existing marriage."14 Fujiki had material interest and therefore
the personality to nullify a bigamous marriage.
Fujiki argued that Rule 108 (Cancellation or Correction of Entries in the Civil Registry) of the Rules of Court is applicable. Rule 108 is the
"procedural implementation" of the Civil Register Law (Act No. 3753) 15 in relation to Article 413 of the Civil Code.16 The Civil Register Law
imposes a duty on the "successful petitioner for divorce or annulment of marriage to send a copy of the final decree of the court to the
local registrar of the municipality where the dissolved or annulled marriage was solemnized." 17 Section 2 of Rule 108 provides that entries
in the civil registry relating to "marriages," "judgments of annulments of marriage" and "judgments declaring marriages void from the
beginning" are subject to cancellation or correction.18 The petition in the RTC sought (among others) to annotate the judgment of the
Japanese Family Court on the certificate of marriage between Marinay and Maekara.
Fujikis motion for reconsideration in the RTC also asserted that the trial court "gravely erred" when, on its own, it dismissed the petition
based on improper venue. Fujiki stated that the RTC may be confusing the concept of venue with the concept of jurisdiction, because it is
lack of jurisdiction which allows a court to dismiss a case on its own. Fujiki cited Dacoycoy v. Intermediate Appellate Court19 which held that
the "trial court cannot pre-empt the defendants prerogative to object to the improper laying of the venue by motu proprio dismissing the
case."20Moreover, petitioner alleged that the trial court should not have "immediately dismissed" the petition under Section 5 of A.M. No.
02-11-10-SC because he substantially complied with the provision.
On 2 March 2011, the RTC resolved to deny petitioners motion for reconsideration. In its Resolution, the RTC stated that A.M. No. 02-11-
10-SC applies because the petitioner, in effect, prays for a decree of absolute nullity of marriage.21 The trial court reiterated its two grounds
for dismissal, i.e. lack of personality to sue and improper venue under Sections 2(a) and 4 of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC. The RTC considered
Fujiki as a "third person"22 in the proceeding because he "is not the husband in the decree of divorce issued by the Japanese Family Court,
which he now seeks to be judicially recognized, x x x." 23 On the other hand, the RTC did not explain its ground of impropriety of venue. It
only said that "[a]lthough the Court cited Sec. 4 (Venue) x x x as a ground for dismissal of this case[,] it should be taken together with the
other ground cited by the Court x x x which is Sec. 2(a) x x x."24
The RTC further justified its motu proprio dismissal of the petition based on Braza v. The City Civil Registrar of Himamaylan City, Negros
Occidental.25 The Court in Braza ruled that "[i]n a special proceeding for correction of entry under Rule 108 (Cancellation or Correction of
Entries in the Original Registry), the trial court has no jurisdiction to nullify marriages x x x." 26 Braza emphasized that the "validity of
marriages as well as legitimacy and filiation can be questioned only in a direct action seasonably filed by the proper party, and not through
a collateral attack such as [a] petition [for correction of entry] x x x."27
The RTC considered the petition as a collateral attack on the validity of marriage between Marinay and Maekara. The trial court held that
this is a "jurisdictional ground" to dismiss the petition.28 Moreover, the verification and certification against forum shopping of the petition
was not authenticated as required under Section 529 of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC. Hence, this also warranted the "immediate dismissal" of the
petition under the same provision.
The Manifestation and Motion of the Office of the Solicitor General and the Letters of Marinay and Maekara
On 30 May 2011, the Court required respondents to file their comment on the petition for review. 30 The public respondents, the Local Civil
Registrar of Quezon City and the Administrator and Civil Registrar General of the NSO, participated through the Office of the Solicitor
General. Instead of a comment, the Solicitor General filed a Manifestation and Motion.31
The Solicitor General agreed with the petition. He prayed that the RTCs "pronouncement that the petitioner failed to comply with x x x
A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC x x x be set aside" and that the case be reinstated in the trial court for further proceedings.32 The Solicitor General
argued that Fujiki, as the spouse of the first marriage, is an injured party who can sue to declare the bigamous marriage between Marinay
and Maekara void. The Solicitor General cited Juliano-Llave v. Republic33 which held that Section 2(a) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC does not
apply in cases of bigamy. In Juliano-Llave, this Court explained:
[t]he 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. 34
The Solicitor General contended that the petition to recognize the Japanese Family Court judgment may be made in a Rule 108
proceeding.35 In Corpuz v. Santo Tomas,36 this Court held that "[t]he recognition of the foreign divorce decree may be made in a Rule 108
proceeding itself, as the object of special proceedings (such as that in Rule 108 of the Rules of Court) is precisely to establish the status or
right of a party or a particular fact."37 While Corpuzconcerned a foreign divorce decree, in the present case the Japanese Family Court
judgment also affected the civil status of the parties, especially Marinay, who is a Filipino citizen.
The Solicitor General asserted that Rule 108 of the Rules of Court is the procedure to record "[a]cts, events and judicial decrees concerning
the civil status of persons" in the civil registry as required by Article 407 of the Civil Code. In other words, "[t]he law requires the entry in
the civil registry of judicial decrees that produce legal consequences upon a persons legal capacity and status x x x." 38 The Japanese Family
Court judgment directly bears on the civil status of a Filipino citizen and should therefore be proven as a fact in a Rule 108 proceeding.
Moreover, the Solicitor General argued that there is no jurisdictional infirmity in assailing a void marriage under Rule 108, citing De Castro
v. De Castro39 and Nial v. Bayadog40 which declared that "[t]he validity of a void marriage may be collaterally attacked."41
Marinay and Maekara individually sent letters to the Court to comply with the directive for them to comment on the petition.42 Maekara
wrote that Marinay concealed from him the fact that she was previously married to Fujiki. 43Maekara also denied that he inflicted any form
of violence on Marinay.44 On the other hand, Marinay wrote that she had no reason to oppose the petition. 45 She would like to maintain
her silence for fear that anything she say might cause misunderstanding between her and Fujiki.46
The Issues
Petitioner raises the following legal issues:
(1) Whether the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages (A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC) is
applicable.
(2) Whether a husband or wife of a prior marriage can file a petition to recognize a foreign judgment nullifying the subsequent marriage
between his or her spouse and a foreign citizen on the ground of bigamy.
(3) Whether the Regional Trial Court can recognize the foreign judgment in a proceeding for cancellation or correction of entries in the Civil
Registry under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court.
The Ruling of the Court
We grant the petition.
The Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages (A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC) does not apply
in a petition to recognize a foreign judgment relating to the status of a marriage where one of the parties is a citizen of a foreign country.
Moreover, in Juliano-Llave v. Republic,47 this Court held that the rule in A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC that only the husband or wife can file a
declaration of nullity or annulment of marriage "does not apply if the reason behind the petition is bigamy."48
I.
For Philippine courts to recognize a foreign judgment relating to the status of a marriage where one of the parties is a citizen of a foreign
country, the petitioner only needs to prove the foreign judgment as a fact under the Rules of Court. To be more specific, a copy of the
foreign judgment may be admitted in evidence and proven as a fact under Rule 132, Sections 24 and 25, in relation to Rule 39, Section
48(b) of the Rules of Court.49 Petitioner may prove the Japanese Family Court judgment through (1) an official publication or (2) a
certification or copy attested by the officer who has custody of the judgment. If the office which has custody is in a foreign country such as
Japan, the certification may be made by the proper diplomatic or consular officer of the Philippine foreign service in Japan and
authenticated by the seal of office.50
To hold that A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC applies to a petition for recognition of foreign judgment would mean that the trial court and the parties
should follow its provisions, including the form and contents of the petition, 51 the service of summons,52 the investigation of the public
prosecutor,53 the setting of pre-trial,54 the trial55 and the judgment of the trial court.56 This is absurd because it will litigate the case anew. It
will defeat the purpose of recognizing foreign judgments, which is "to limit repetitive litigation on claims and issues." 57 The interpretation
of the RTC is tantamount to relitigating the case on the merits. In Mijares v. Raada,58 this Court explained that "[i]f every judgment of a
foreign court were reviewable on the merits, the plaintiff would be forced back on his/her original cause of action, rendering immaterial
the previously concluded litigation."59
A foreign judgment relating to the status of a marriage affects the civil status, condition and legal capacity of its parties. However, the
effect of a foreign judgment is not automatic. To extend the effect of a foreign judgment in the Philippines, Philippine courts must
determine if the foreign judgment is consistent with domestic public policy and other mandatory laws. 60 Article 15 of the Civil Code
provides that "[l]aws relating to family rights and duties, or to the status, condition and legal capacity of persons are binding upon citizens
of the Philippines, even though living abroad." This is the rule of lex nationalii in private international law. Thus, the Philippine State may
require, for effectivity in the Philippines, recognition by Philippine courts of a foreign judgment affecting its citizen, over whom it exercises
personal jurisdiction relating to the status, condition and legal capacity of such citizen.
A petition to recognize a foreign judgment declaring a marriage void does not require relitigation under a Philippine court of the case as if it
were a new petition for declaration of nullity of marriage. Philippine courts cannot presume to know the foreign laws under which the
foreign judgment was rendered. They cannot substitute their judgment on the status, condition and legal capacity of the foreign citizen
who is under the jurisdiction of another state. Thus, Philippine courts can only recognize the foreign judgment as a fact according to the
rules of evidence.
Section 48(b), Rule 39 of the Rules of Court provides that a foreign judgment or final order against a person creates a "presumptive
evidence of a right as between the parties and their successors in interest by a subsequent title." Moreover, Section 48 of the Rules of
Court states that "the judgment or final order may be repelled by evidence of a want of jurisdiction, want of notice to the party, collusion,
fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact." Thus, Philippine courts exercise limited review on foreign judgments. Courts are not allowed to delve
into the merits of a foreign judgment. Once a foreign judgment is admitted and proven in a Philippine court, it can only be repelled on
grounds external to its merits, i.e. , "want of jurisdiction, want of notice to the party, collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact." The
rule on limited review embodies the policy of efficiency and the protection of party expectations, 61 as well as respecting the jurisdiction of
other states.62
Since 1922 in Adong v. Cheong Seng Gee,63 Philippine courts have recognized foreign divorce decrees between a Filipino and a foreign
citizen if they are successfully proven under the rules of evidence. 64 Divorce involves the dissolution of a marriage, but the recognition of a
foreign divorce decree does not involve the extended procedure under A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC or the rules of ordinary trial. While the
Philippines does not have a divorce law, Philippine courts may, however, recognize a foreign divorce decree under the second paragraph of
Article 26 of the Family Code, to capacitate a Filipino citizen to remarry when his or her foreign spouse obtained a divorce decree abroad.65
There is therefore no reason to disallow Fujiki to simply prove as a fact the Japanese Family Court judgment nullifying the marriage
between Marinay and Maekara on the ground of bigamy. While the Philippines has no divorce law, the Japanese Family Court judgment is
fully consistent with Philippine public policy, as bigamous marriages are declared void from the beginning under Article 35(4) of the Family
Code. Bigamy is a crime under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code. Thus, Fujiki can prove the existence of the Japanese Family Court
judgment in accordance with Rule 132, Sections 24 and 25, in relation to Rule 39, Section 48(b) of the Rules of Court.
II.
Since the recognition of a foreign judgment only requires proof of fact of the judgment, it may be made in a special proceeding for
cancellation or correction of entries in the civil registry under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court. Rule 1, Section 3 of the Rules of Court provides
that "[a] special proceeding is a remedy by which a party seeks to establish a status, a right, or a particular fact." Rule 108 creates a remedy
to rectify facts of a persons life which are recorded by the State pursuant to the Civil Register Law or Act No. 3753. These are facts of public
consequence such as birth, death or marriage,66 which the State has an interest in recording. As noted by the Solicitor General, in Corpuz v.
Sto. Tomas this Court declared that "[t]he recognition of the foreign divorce decree may be made in a Rule 108 proceeding itself, as the
object of special proceedings (such as that in Rule 108 of the Rules of Court) is precisely to establish the status or right of a party or a
particular fact."67
Rule 108, Section 1 of the Rules of Court states:
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. (Emphasis supplied)
Fujiki has the personality to file a petition to recognize the Japanese Family Court judgment nullifying the marriage between Marinay and
Maekara on the ground of bigamy because the judgment concerns his civil status as married to Marinay. For the same reason he has the
personality to file a petition under Rule 108 to cancel the entry of marriage between Marinay and Maekara in the civil registry on the basis
of the decree of the Japanese Family Court.
There is no doubt that the prior spouse has a personal and material interest in maintaining the integrity of the marriage he contracted and
the property relations arising from it. There is also no doubt that he is interested in the cancellation of an entry of a bigamous marriage in
the civil registry, which compromises the public record of his marriage. The interest derives from the substantive right of the spouse not
only to preserve (or dissolve, in limited instances 68) his most intimate human relation, but also to protect his property interests that arise
by operation of law the moment he contracts marriage.69 These property interests in marriage include the right to be supported "in keeping
with the financial capacity of the family"70 and preserving the property regime of the marriage.71
Property rights are already substantive rights protected by the Constitution, 72 but a spouses right in a marriage extends further to
relational rights recognized under Title III ("Rights and Obligations between Husband and Wife") of the Family Code. 73 A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC
cannot "diminish, increase, or modify" the substantive right of the spouse to maintain the integrity of his marriage. 74 In any case, Section
2(a) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC preserves this substantive right by limiting the personality to sue to the husband or the wife of the union
recognized by law.
Section 2(a) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC does not preclude a spouse of a subsisting marriage to question the validity of a subsequent marriage
on the ground of bigamy. On the contrary, when Section 2(a) states that "[a] petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage
may be filed solely by the husband or the wife"75it refers to the husband or the wife of the subsisting marriage. Under Article 35(4) of
the Family Code, bigamous marriages are void from the beginning. Thus, the parties in a bigamous marriage are neither the husband nor
the wife under the law. The husband or the wife of the prior subsisting marriage is the one who has the personality to file a petition for
declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage under Section 2(a) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC.
Article 35(4) of the Family Code, which declares bigamous marriages void from the beginning, is the civil aspect of Article 349 of the Revised
Penal Code,76 which penalizes bigamy. Bigamy is a public crime. Thus, anyone can initiate prosecution for bigamy because any citizen has an
interest in the prosecution and prevention of crimes.77 If anyone can file a criminal action which leads to the declaration of nullity of a
bigamous marriage,78 there is more reason to confer personality to sue on the husband or the wife of a subsisting marriage. The prior
spouse does not only share in the public interest of prosecuting and preventing crimes, he is also personally interested in the purely civil
aspect of protecting his marriage.
When the right of the spouse to protect his marriage is violated, the spouse is clearly an injured party and is therefore interested in the
judgment of the suit.79 Juliano-Llave ruled that the prior spouse "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."80 Being a real party in interest, the prior spouse is entitled to sue in order to declare a bigamous marriage void. For this purpose,
he can petition a court to recognize a foreign judgment nullifying the bigamous marriage and judicially declare as a fact that such judgment
is effective in the Philippines. Once established, there should be no more impediment to cancel the entry of the bigamous marriage in the
civil registry.
III.
In Braza v. The City Civil Registrar of Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental, this Court held that a "trial court has no jurisdiction to nullify
marriages" in a special proceeding for cancellation or correction of entry under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court. 81 Thus, the "validity of
marriage[] x x x can be questioned only in a direct action" to nullify the marriage. 82 The RTC relied on Braza in dismissing the petition for
recognition of foreign judgment as a collateral attack on the marriage between Marinay and Maekara.
Braza is not applicable because Braza does not involve a recognition of a foreign judgment nullifying a bigamous marriage where one of the
parties is a citizen of the foreign country.
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,83 support pendente lite of the spouses and children,84 the liquidation, partition and distribution of the properties of the
spouses,85 and the investigation of the public prosecutor to determine collusion. 86 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."87 In other words, a Filipino citizen cannot dissolve his marriage by the mere expedient of changing
his entry of marriage in the civil registry.
However, this does not apply in a petition for correction or cancellation of a civil registry entry based on the recognition of a foreign
judgment annulling a marriage where one of the parties is a citizen of the foreign country. There is neither circumvention of the substantive
and procedural safeguards of marriage under Philippine law, nor of the jurisdiction of Family Courts under R.A. No. 8369. A recognition of a
foreign judgment is not an action to nullify a marriage. It is an action for Philippine courts to recognize the effectivity of a foreign
judgment, which presupposes a case which was already tried and decided under foreign law. The procedure in A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC does
not apply in a petition to recognize a foreign judgment annulling a bigamous marriage where one of the parties is a citizen of the foreign
country. Neither can R.A. No. 8369 define the jurisdiction of the foreign court.
Article 26 of the Family Code confers jurisdiction on Philippine courts to extend the effect of a foreign divorce decree to a Filipino spouse
without undergoing trial to determine the validity of the dissolution of the marriage. The second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code
provides that "[w]here a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained
abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law."
In Republic v. Orbecido,88 this Court recognized the legislative intent of the second paragraph of Article 26 which is "to avoid the absurd
situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce, is no longer married to the Filipino
spouse"89 under the laws of his or her country. The second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code only authorizes Philippine courts to
adopt the effects of a foreign divorce decree precisely because the Philippines does not allow divorce. Philippine courts cannot try the case
on the merits because it is tantamount to trying a case for divorce.
The second paragraph of Article 26 is only a corrective measure to address the anomaly that results from a marriage between a Filipino,
whose laws do not allow divorce, and a foreign citizen, whose laws allow divorce. The anomaly consists in the Filipino spouse being tied to
the marriage while the foreign spouse is free to marry under the laws of his or her country. The correction is made by extending in the
Philippines the effect of the foreign divorce decree, which is already effective in the country where it was rendered. The second paragraph
of Article 26 of the Family Code is based on this Courts decision in Van Dorn v. Romillo90 which declared that the Filipino spouse "should
not be discriminated against in her own country if the ends of justice are to be served." 91
The principle in Article 26 of the Family Code applies in a marriage between a Filipino and a foreign citizen who obtains a foreign judgment
nullifying the marriage on the ground of bigamy. The Filipino spouse may file a petition abroad to declare the marriage void on the ground
of bigamy. The principle in the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code applies because the foreign spouse, after the foreign
judgment nullifying the marriage, is capacitated to remarry under the laws of his or her country. If the foreign judgment is not recognized in
the Philippines, the Filipino spouse will be discriminatedthe foreign spouse can remarry while the Filipino spouse cannot remarry.
Under the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, Philippine courts are empowered to correct a situation where the Filipino
spouse is still tied to the marriage while the foreign spouse is free to marry. Moreover, notwithstanding Article 26 of the Family Code,
Philippine courts already have jurisdiction to extend the effect of a foreign judgment in the Philippines to the extent that the foreign
judgment does not contravene domestic public policy. A critical difference between the case of a foreign divorce decree and a foreign
judgment nullifying a bigamous marriage is that bigamy, as a ground for the nullity of marriage, is fully consistent with Philippine public
policy as expressed in Article 35(4) of the Family Code and Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code. The Filipino spouse has the option to
undergo full trial by filing a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage under A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC, but this is not the only remedy
available to him or her. Philippine courts have jurisdiction to recognize a foreign judgment nullifying a bigamous marriage, without
prejudice to a criminal prosecution for bigamy.
In the recognition of foreign judgments, Philippine courts are incompetent to substitute their judgment on how a case was decided under
foreign law. They cannot decide on the "family rights and duties, or on the status, condition and legal capacity" of the foreign citizen who is
a party to the foreign judgment. Thus, Philippine courts are limited to the question of whether to extend the effect of a foreign judgment in
the Philippines. In a foreign judgment relating to the status of a marriage involving a citizen of a foreign country, Philippine courts only
decide whether to extend its effect to the Filipino party, under the rule of lex nationalii expressed in Article 15 of the Civil Code.
For this purpose, Philippine courts will only determine (1) whether the foreign judgment is inconsistent with an overriding public policy in
the Philippines; and (2) whether any alleging party is able to prove an extrinsic ground to repel the foreign judgment, i.e. want of
jurisdiction, want of notice to the party, collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact. If there is neither inconsistency with public policy
nor adequate proof to repel the judgment, Philippine courts should, by default, recognize the foreign judgment as part of the comity of
nations. Section 48(b), Rule 39 of the Rules of Court states that the foreign judgment is already "presumptive evidence of a right between
the parties." Upon recognition of the foreign judgment, this right becomes conclusive and the judgment serves as the basis for the
correction or cancellation of entry in the civil registry. The recognition of the foreign judgment nullifying a bigamous marriage is a
subsequent event that establishes a new status, right and fact92 that needs to be reflected in the civil registry. Otherwise, there will be an
inconsistency between the recognition of the effectivity of the foreign judgment and the public records in the Philippines.1wphi1
However, the recognition of a foreign judgment nullifying a bigamous marriage is without prejudice to prosecution for bigamy under Article
349 of the Revised Penal Code.93 The recognition of a foreign judgment nullifying a bigamous marriage is not a ground for extinction of
criminal liability under Articles 89 and 94 of the Revised Penal Code. Moreover, under Article 91 of the Revised Penal Code, "[t]he term of
prescription [of the crime of bigamy] shall not run when the offender is absent from the Philippine archipelago."
Since A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC is inapplicable, the Court no longer sees the need to address the questions on venue and the contents and form
of the petition under Sections 4 and 5, respectively, of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC.
WHEREFORE, we GRANT the petition. The Order dated 31 January 2011 and the Resolution dated 2 March 2011 of the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 107, Quezon City, in Civil Case No. Q-11-68582 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Regional Trial Court
is ORDERED to REINSTATE the petition for further proceedings in accordance with this Decision.
SO ORDERED.
CASE NO. 12
G.R. No. 133743 February 6, 2007
EDGAR SAN LUIS, Petitioner,
vs.
FELICIDAD SAN LUIS, Respondent.
x ---------------------------------------------------- x
G.R. No. 134029 February 6, 2007
RODOLFO SAN LUIS, Petitioner,
vs.
FELICIDAD SAGALONGOS alias FELICIDAD SAN LUIS, Respondent.
DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
Before us are consolidated petitions for review assailing the February 4, 1998 Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 52647,
which reversed and set aside the September 12, 1995 2 and January 31, 1996 3Resolutions of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch
134 in SP. Proc. No. M-3708; and its May 15, 1998 Resolution 4 denying petitioners motion for reconsideration.
The instant case involves the settlement of the estate of Felicisimo T. San Luis (Felicisimo), who was the former governor of the Province of
Laguna. During his lifetime, Felicisimo contracted three marriages. His first marriage was with Virginia Sulit on March 17, 1942 out of which
were born six children, namely: Rodolfo, Mila, Edgar, Linda, Emilita and Manuel. On August 11, 1963, Virginia predeceased Felicisimo.
Five years later, on May 1, 1968, Felicisimo married Merry Lee Corwin, with whom he had a son, Tobias. However, on October 15, 1971,
Merry Lee, an American citizen, filed a Complaint for Divorce 5 before the Family Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii, United States of
America (U.S.A.), which issued a Decree Granting Absolute Divorce and Awarding Child Custody on December 14, 1973. 6
On June 20, 1974, Felicisimo married respondent Felicidad San Luis, then surnamed Sagalongos, before Rev. Fr. William Meyer, Minister of
the United Presbyterian at Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. 7 He had no children with respondent but lived with her for 18
years from the time of their marriage up to his death on December 18, 1992.
Thereafter, respondent sought the dissolution of their conjugal partnership assets and the settlement of Felicisimos estate. On December
17, 1993, she filed a petition for letters of administration 8 before the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, docketed as SP. Proc. No. M-3708
which was raffled to Branch 146 thereof.
Respondent alleged that she is the widow of Felicisimo; that, at the time of his death, the decedent was residing at 100 San Juanico Street,
New Alabang Village, Alabang, Metro Manila; that the decedents surviving heirs are respondent as legal spouse, his six children by his first
marriage, and son by his second marriage; that the decedent left real properties, both conjugal and exclusive, valued at 30,304,178.00
more or less; that the decedent does not have any unpaid debts. Respondent prayed that the conjugal partnership assets be liquidated and
that letters of administration be issued to her.
On February 4, 1994, petitioner Rodolfo San Luis, one of the children of Felicisimo by his first marriage, filed a motion to dismiss 9 on the
grounds of improper venue and failure to state a cause of action. Rodolfo claimed that the petition for letters of administration should have
been filed in the Province of Laguna because this was Felicisimos place of residence prior to his death. He further claimed that respondent
has no legal personality to file the petition because she was only a mistress of Felicisimo since the latter, at the time of his death, was still
legally married to Merry Lee.
On February 15, 1994, Linda invoked the same grounds and joined her brother Rodolfo in seeking the dismissal 10of the petition. On
February 28, 1994, the trial court issued an Order 11 denying the two motions to dismiss.
Unaware of the denial of the motions to dismiss, respondent filed on March 5, 1994 her opposition 12 thereto. She submitted documentary
evidence showing that while Felicisimo exercised the powers of his public office in Laguna, he regularly went home to their house in New
Alabang Village, Alabang, Metro Manila which they bought sometime in 1982. Further, she presented the decree of absolute divorce issued
by the Family Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii to prove that the marriage of Felicisimo to Merry Lee had already been dissolved.
Thus, she claimed that Felicisimo had the legal capacity to marry her by virtue of paragraph 2, 13 Article 26 of the Family Code and the
doctrine laid down in Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. 14
Thereafter, Linda, Rodolfo and herein petitioner Edgar San Luis, separately filed motions for reconsideration from the Order denying their
motions to dismiss. 15 They asserted that paragraph 2, Article 26 of the Family Code cannot be given retroactive effect to validate
respondents bigamous marriage with Felicisimo because this would impair vested rights in derogation of Article 256 16 of the Family Code.
On April 21, 1994, Mila, another daughter of Felicisimo from his first marriage, filed a motion to disqualify Acting Presiding Judge Anthony
E. Santos from hearing the case.
On October 24, 1994, the trial court issued an Order 17 denying the motions for reconsideration. It ruled that respondent, as widow of the
decedent, possessed the legal standing to file the petition and that venue was properly laid. Meanwhile, the motion for disqualification was
deemed moot and academic 18 because then Acting Presiding Judge Santos was substituted by Judge Salvador S. Tensuan pending the
resolution of said motion.
Mila filed a motion for inhibition 19 against Judge Tensuan on November 16, 1994. On even date, Edgar also filed a motion for
reconsideration 20 from the Order denying their motion for reconsideration arguing that it does not state the facts and law on which it was
based.
On November 25, 1994, Judge Tensuan issued an Order 21 granting the motion for inhibition. The case was re-raffled to Branch 134
presided by Judge Paul T. Arcangel.
On April 24, 1995, 22 the trial court required the parties to submit their respective position papers on the twin issues of venue and legal
capacity of respondent to file the petition. On May 5, 1995, Edgar manifested 23 that he is adopting the arguments and evidence set forth in
his previous motion for reconsideration as his position paper. Respondent and Rodolfo filed their position papers on June 14, 24 and June
20, 25 1995, respectively.
On September 12, 1995, the trial court dismissed the petition for letters of administration. It held that, at the time of his death, Felicisimo
was the duly elected governor and a resident of the Province of Laguna. Hence, the petition should have been filed in Sta. Cruz, Laguna and
not in Makati City. It also ruled that respondent was without legal capacity to file the petition for letters of administration because her
marriage with Felicisimo was bigamous, thus, void ab initio. It found that the decree of absolute divorce dissolving Felicisimos marriage to
Merry Lee was not valid in the Philippines and did not bind Felicisimo who was a Filipino citizen. It also ruled that paragraph 2, Article 26 of
the Family Code cannot be retroactively applied because it would impair the vested rights of Felicisimos legitimate children.
Respondent moved for reconsideration 26 and for the disqualification 27 of Judge Arcangel but said motions were denied. 28
Respondent appealed to the Court of Appeals which reversed and set aside the orders of the trial court in its assailed Decision dated
February 4, 1998, the dispositive portion of which states:
WHEREFORE, the Orders dated September 12, 1995 and January 31, 1996 are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE; the Orders dated February
28 and October 24, 1994 are REINSTATED; and the records of the case is REMANDED to the trial court for further proceedings. 29
The appellante court ruled that under Section 1, Rule 73 of the Rules of Court, the term "place of residence" of the decedent, for purposes
of fixing the venue of the settlement of his estate, refers to the personal, actual or physical habitation, or actual residence or place of
abode of a person as distinguished from legal residence or domicile. It noted that although Felicisimo discharged his functions as governor
in Laguna, he actually resided in Alabang, Muntinlupa. Thus, the petition for letters of administration was properly filed in Makati City.
The Court of Appeals also held that Felicisimo had legal capacity to marry respondent by virtue of paragraph 2, Article 26 of the Family
Code and the rulings in Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. 30 and Pilapil v. Ibay-Somera. 31 It found that the marriage between Felicisimo and Merry Lee
was validly dissolved by virtue of the decree of absolute divorce issued by the Family Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii. As a result,
under paragraph 2, Article 26, Felicisimo was capacitated to contract a subsequent marriage with respondent. Thus
With the well-known rule express mandate of paragraph 2, Article 26, of the Family Code of the Philippines, the doctrines in Van Dorn,
Pilapil, and the reason and philosophy behind the enactment of E.O. No. 227, there is no justiciable reason to sustain the individual view
sweeping statement of Judge Arc[h]angel, that "Article 26, par. 2 of the Family Code, contravenes the basic policy of our state against
divorce in any form whatsoever." Indeed, courts cannot deny what the law grants. All that the courts should do is to give force and effect to
the express mandate of the law. The foreign divorce having been obtained by the Foreigner on December 14, 1992, 32 the Filipino divorcee,
"shall x x x have capacity to remarry under Philippine laws". For this reason, the marriage between the deceased and petitioner should not
be denominated as "a bigamous marriage.
Therefore, under Article 130 of the Family Code, the petitioner as the surviving spouse can institute the judicial proceeding for the
settlement of the estate of the deceased. x x x 33
Edgar, Linda, and Rodolfo filed separate motions for reconsideration 34 which were denied by the Court of Appeals.
On July 2, 1998, Edgar appealed to this Court via the instant petition for review on certiorari. 35 Rodolfo later filed a manifestation and
motion to adopt the said petition which was granted. 36
In the instant consolidated petitions, Edgar and Rodolfo insist that the venue of the subject petition for letters of administration was
improperly laid because at the time of his death, Felicisimo was a resident of Sta. Cruz, Laguna. They contend that pursuant to our rulings in
Nuval v. Guray 37 and Romualdez v. RTC, Br. 7, Tacloban City, 38"residence" is synonymous with "domicile" which denotes a fixed permanent
residence to which when absent, one intends to return. They claim that a person can only have one domicile at any given time. Since
Felicisimo never changed his domicile, the petition for letters of administration should have been filed in Sta. Cruz, Laguna.
Petitioners also contend that respondents marriage to Felicisimo was void and bigamous because it was performed during the subsistence
of the latters marriage to Merry Lee. They argue that paragraph 2, Article 26 cannot be retroactively applied because it would impair
vested rights and ratify the void bigamous marriage. As such, respondent cannot be considered the surviving wife of Felicisimo; hence, she
has no legal capacity to file the petition for letters of administration.
The issues for resolution: (1) whether venue was properly laid, and (2) whether respondent has legal capacity to file the subject petition for
letters of administration.
The petition lacks merit.
Under Section 1, 39 Rule 73 of the Rules of Court, the petition for letters of administration of the estate of Felicisimo should be filed in the
Regional Trial Court of the province "in which he resides at the time of his death." In the case of Garcia Fule v. Court of Appeals, 40 we laid
down the doctrinal rule for determining the residence as contradistinguished from domicile of the decedent for purposes of fixing the
venue of the settlement of his estate:
[T]he term "resides" connotes ex vi termini "actual residence" as distinguished from "legal residence or domicile." This term "resides," like
the terms "residing" and "residence," is elastic and should be interpreted in the light of the object or purpose of the statute or rule in which
it is employed. In the application of venue statutes and rules Section 1, Rule 73 of the Revised Rules of Court is of such nature residence
rather than domicile is the significant factor. Even where the statute uses the word "domicile" still it is construed as meaning residence and
not domicile in the technical sense. Some cases make a distinction between the terms "residence" and "domicile" but as generally used in
statutes fixing venue, the terms are synonymous, and convey the same meaning as the term "inhabitant." In other words, "resides" should
be viewed or understood in its popular sense, meaning, the personal, actual or physical habitation of a person, actual residence or place of
abode. It signifies physical presence in a place and actual stay thereat. In this popular sense, the term means merely residence, that is,
personal residence, not legal residence or domicile. Residence simply requires bodily presence as an inhabitant in a given place, while
domicile requires bodily presence in that place and also an intention to make it ones domicile. No particular length of time of residence is
required though; however, the residence must be more than temporary. 41 (Emphasis supplied)
It is incorrect for petitioners to argue that "residence," for purposes of fixing the venue of the settlement of the estate of Felicisimo, is
synonymous with "domicile." The rulings in Nuval and Romualdez are inapplicable to the instant case because they involve election cases.
Needless to say, there is a distinction between "residence" for purposes of election laws and "residence" for purposes of fixing the venue of
actions. In election cases, "residence" and "domicile" are treated as synonymous terms, that is, the fixed permanent residence to which
when absent, one has the intention of returning. 42 However, for purposes of fixing venue under the Rules of Court, the "residence" of a
person is his personal, actual or physical habitation, or actual residence or place of abode, which may not necessarily be his legal residence
or domicile provided he resides therein with continuity and consistency. 43 Hence, it is possible that a person may have his residence in one
place and domicile in another.
In the instant case, while petitioners established that Felicisimo was domiciled in Sta. Cruz, Laguna, respondent proved that he also
maintained a residence in Alabang, Muntinlupa from 1982 up to the time of his death. Respondent submitted in evidence the Deed of
Absolute Sale 44 dated January 5, 1983 showing that the deceased purchased the aforesaid property. She also presented billing
statements 45 from the Philippine Heart Center and Chinese General Hospital for the period August to December 1992 indicating the
address of Felicisimo at "100 San Juanico, Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa." Respondent also presented proof of membership of the deceased in
the Ayala Alabang Village Association 46 and Ayala Country Club, Inc., 47 letter-envelopes 48 from 1988 to 1990 sent by the deceaseds
children to him at his Alabang address, and the deceaseds calling cards 49 stating that his home/city address is at "100 San Juanico, Ayala
Alabang Village, Muntinlupa" while his office/provincial address is in "Provincial Capitol, Sta. Cruz, Laguna."
From the foregoing, we find that Felicisimo was a resident of Alabang, Muntinlupa for purposes of fixing the venue of the settlement of his
estate. Consequently, the subject petition for letters of administration was validly filed in the Regional Trial Court 50 which has territorial
jurisdiction over Alabang, Muntinlupa. The subject petition was filed on December 17, 1993. At that time, Muntinlupa was still a
municipality and the branches of the Regional Trial Court of the National Capital Judicial Region which had territorial jurisdiction over
Muntinlupa were then seated in Makati City as per Supreme Court Administrative Order No. 3. 51 Thus, the subject petition was validly filed
before the Regional Trial Court of Makati City.
Anent the issue of respondent Felicidads legal personality to file the petition for letters of administration, we must first resolve the issue of
whether a Filipino who is divorced by his alien spouse abroad may validly remarry under the Civil Code, considering that Felicidads
marriage to Felicisimo was solemnized on June 20, 1974, or before the Family Code took effect on August 3, 1988. In resolving this issue,
we need not retroactively apply the provisions of the Family Code, particularly Art. 26, par. (2) considering that there is sufficient
jurisprudential basis allowing us to rule in the affirmative.
The case of Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. 52 involved a marriage between a foreigner and his Filipino wife, which marriage was subsequently
dissolved through a divorce obtained abroad by the latter. Claiming that the divorce was not valid under Philippine law, the alien spouse
alleged that his interest in the properties from their conjugal partnership should be protected. The Court, however, recognized the validity
of the divorce and held that the alien spouse had no interest in the properties acquired by the Filipino wife after the divorce. Thus:
In this case, the divorce in Nevada released private respondent from the marriage from the standards of American law, under which divorce
dissolves the marriage. As stated by the Federal Supreme Court of the United States in Atherton vs. Atherton, 45 L. Ed. 794, 799:
"The purpose and effect of a decree of divorce from the bond of matrimony by a competent jurisdiction are to change the existing status or
domestic relation of husband and wife, and to free them both from the bond. The marriage tie, when thus severed as to one party, ceases
to bind either. A husband without a wife, or a wife without a husband, is unknown to the law. When the law provides, in the nature of a
penalty, that the guilty party shall not marry again, that party, as well as the other, is still absolutely freed from the bond of the former
marriage."
Thus, pursuant to his national law, private respondent is no longer the husband of petitioner. He would have no standing to sue in the case
below as petitioners husband entitled to exercise control over conjugal assets. As he is bound by the Decision of his own countrys Court,
which validly exercised jurisdiction over him, and whose decision he does not repudiate, he is estopped by his own representation before
said Court from asserting his right over the alleged conjugal property. 53
As to the effect of the divorce on the Filipino wife, the Court ruled that she should no longer be considered married to the alien spouse.
Further, she should not be required to perform her marital duties and obligations. It held:
To maintain, as private respondent does, that, under our laws, petitioner has to be considered still marriedto private respondent and
still subject to a wife's obligations under Article 109, et. seq. of the Civil Code cannot be just. Petitioner should not be obliged to live
together with, observe respect and fidelity, and render support to private respondent. The latter should not continue to be one of her heirs
with possible rights to conjugal property. She should not be discriminated against in her own country if the ends of justice are to be
served.54 (Emphasis added)
This principle was thereafter applied in Pilapil v. Ibay-Somera 55 where the Court recognized the validity of a divorce obtained abroad. In the
said case, it was held that the alien spouse is not a proper party in filing the adultery suit against his Filipino wife. The Court stated that "the
severance of the marital bond had the effect of dissociating the former spouses from each other, hence the actuations of one would not
affect or cast obloquy on the other." 56
Likewise, in Quita v. Court of Appeals, 57 the Court stated that where a Filipino is divorced by his naturalized foreign spouse, the ruling
in Van Dorn applies. 58 Although decided on December 22, 1998, the divorce in the said case was obtained in 1954 when the Civil Code
provisions were still in effect.
The significance of the Van Dorn case to the development of limited recognition of divorce in the Philippines cannot be denied. The ruling
has long been interpreted as severing marital ties between parties in a mixed marriage and capacitating the Filipino spouse to remarry as a
necessary consequence of upholding the validity of a divorce obtained abroad by the alien spouse. In his treatise, Dr. Arturo M. Tolentino
cited Van Dorn stating that "if the foreigner obtains a valid foreign divorce, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under
Philippine law." 59In Garcia v. Recio, 60 the Court likewise cited the aforementioned case in relation to Article 26. 61
In the recent case of Republic v. Orbecido III, 62 the historical background and legislative intent behind paragraph 2, Article 26 of the Family
Code were discussed, to wit:
Brief Historical Background
On July 6, 1987, then President Corazon Aquino signed into law Executive Order No. 209, otherwise known as the "Family Code," which
took effect on August 3, 1988. Article 26 thereof states:
All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid
there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35, 37, and 38.
On July 17, 1987, shortly after the signing of the original Family Code, Executive Order No. 227 was likewise signed into law, amending
Articles 26, 36, and 39 of the Family Code. A second paragraph was added to Article 26. As so amended, it now provides:
ART. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized,
and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35(1), (4), (5) and (6), 36, 37 and 38.
Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the
alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law. (Emphasis supplied)
x x x x
Legislative Intent
Records of the proceedings of the Family Code deliberations showed that the intent of Paragraph 2 of Article 26, according to Judge Alicia
Sempio-Diy, a member of the Civil Code Revision Committee, is to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to
the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce, is no longer married to the Filipino spouse.
Interestingly, Paragraph 2 of Article 26 traces its origin to the 1985 case of Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. The Van Dorn case involved a
marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner. The Court held therein that a divorce decree validly obtained by the alien spouse is
valid in the Philippines, and consequently, the Filipino spouse is capacitated to remarry under Philippine law. 63 (Emphasis added)
As such, the Van Dorn case is sufficient basis in resolving a situation where a divorce is validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse. With
the enactment of the Family Code and paragraph 2, Article 26 thereof, our lawmakers codified the law already established through judicial
precedent.1awphi1.net
Indeed, when the object of a marriage is defeated by rendering its continuance intolerable to one of the parties and productive of no
possible good to the community, relief in some way should be obtainable. 64 Marriage, being a mutual and shared commitment between
two parties, cannot possibly be productive of any good to the society where one is considered released from the marital bond while the
other remains bound to it. Such is the state of affairs where the alien spouse obtains a valid divorce abroad against the Filipino spouse, as in
this case.
Petitioners cite Articles 15 65 and 17 66 of the Civil Code in stating that the divorce is void under Philippine law insofar as Filipinos are
concerned. However, in light of this Courts rulings in the cases discussed above, the Filipino spouse should not be discriminated against in
his own country if the ends of justice are to be served. 67 In Alonzo v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 68 the Court stated:
But as has also been aptly observed, we test a law by its results; and likewise, we may add, by its purposes. It is a cardinal rule that, in
seeking the meaning of the law, the first concern of the judge should be to discover in its provisions the intent of the lawmaker.
Unquestionably, the law should never be interpreted in such a way as to cause injustice as this is never within the legislative intent. An
indispensable part of that intent, in fact, for we presume the good motives of the legislature, is to render justice.
Thus, we interpret and apply the law not independently of but in consonance with justice. Law and justice are inseparable, and we must
keep them so. To be sure, there are some laws that, while generally valid, may seem arbitrary when applied in a particular case because of
its peculiar circumstances. In such a situation, we are not bound, because only of our nature and functions, to apply them just the same, in
slavish obedience to their language. What we do instead is find a balance between the word and the will, that justice may be done even as
the law is obeyed.
As judges, we are not automatons. We do not and must not unfeelingly apply the law as it is worded, yielding like robots to the literal
command without regard to its cause and consequence. "Courts are apt to err by sticking too closely to the words of a law," so we are
warned, by Justice Holmes again, "where these words import a policy that goes beyond them."
xxxx
More than twenty centuries ago, Justinian defined justice "as the constant and perpetual wish to render every one his due." That wish
continues to motivate this Court when it assesses the facts and the law in every case brought to it for decision. Justice is always an essential
ingredient of its decisions. Thus when the facts warrants, we interpret the law in a way that will render justice, presuming that it was the
intention of the lawmaker, to begin with, that the law be dispensed with justice. 69
Applying the above doctrine in the instant case, the divorce decree allegedly obtained by Merry Lee which absolutely allowed Felicisimo to
remarry, would have vested Felicidad with the legal personality to file the present petition as Felicisimos surviving spouse. However, the
records show that there is insufficient evidence to prove the validity of the divorce obtained by Merry Lee as well as the marriage of
respondent and Felicisimo under the laws of the U.S.A. In Garcia v. Recio, 70 the Court laid down the specific guidelines for pleading and
proving foreign law and divorce judgments. It held that presentation solely of the divorce decree is insufficient and that proof of its
authenticity and due execution must be presented. Under Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132, a writing or document may be proven as a public
or official record of a foreign country by either (1) an official publication or (2) a copy thereof attested by the officer having legal custody of
the document. If the record is not kept in the Philippines, such copy must be (a) accompanied by a certificate issued by the proper
diplomatic or consular officer in the Philippine foreign service stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept and (b)
authenticated by the seal of his office. 71
With regard to respondents marriage to Felicisimo allegedly solemnized in California, U.S.A., she submitted photocopies of the Marriage
Certificate and the annotated text 72 of the Family Law Act of California which purportedly show that their marriage was done in
accordance with the said law. As stated in Garcia, however, the Court cannot take judicial notice of foreign laws as they must be alleged
and proved. 73
Therefore, this case should be remanded to the trial court for further reception of evidence on the divorce decree obtained by Merry Lee
and the marriage of respondent and Felicisimo.
Even assuming that Felicisimo was not capacitated to marry respondent in 1974, nevertheless, we find that the latter has the legal
personality to file the subject petition for letters of administration, as she may be considered the co-owner of Felicisimo as regards the
properties that were acquired through their joint efforts during their cohabitation.
Section 6, 74 Rule 78 of the Rules of Court states that letters of administration may be granted to the surviving spouse of the decedent.
However, Section 2, Rule 79 thereof also provides in part:
SEC. 2. Contents of petition for letters of administration. A petition for letters of administration must be filed by an interested person and
must show, as far as known to the petitioner: x x x.
An "interested person" has been defined as one who would be benefited by the estate, such as an heir, or one who has a claim against the
estate, such as a creditor. The interest must be material and direct, and not merely indirect or contingent. 75
In the instant case, respondent would qualify as an interested person who has a direct interest in the estate of Felicisimo by virtue of their
cohabitation, the existence of which was not denied by petitioners. If she proves the validity of the divorce and Felicisimos capacity to
remarry, but fails to prove that her marriage with him was validly performed under the laws of the U.S.A., then she may be considered as a
co-owner under Article 144 76 of the Civil Code. This provision governs the property relations between parties who live together as husband
and wife without the benefit of marriage, or their marriage is void from the beginning. It provides that the property acquired by either or
both of them through their work or industry or their wages and salaries shall be governed by the rules on co-ownership. In a co-ownership,
it is not necessary that the property be acquired through their joint labor, efforts and industry. Any property acquired during the union
is prima facie presumed to have been obtained through their joint efforts. Hence, the portions belonging to the co-owners shall be
presumed equal, unless the contrary is proven. 77
Meanwhile, if respondent fails to prove the validity of both the divorce and the marriage, the applicable provision would be Article 148 of
the Family Code which has filled the hiatus in Article 144 of the Civil Code by expressly regulating the property relations of couples living
together as husband and wife but are incapacitated to marry. 78 In Saguid v. Court of Appeals, 79 we held that even if the cohabitation or the
acquisition of property occurred before the Family Code took effect, Article 148 governs. 80 The Court described the property regime under
this provision as follows:
The regime of limited co-ownership of property governing the union of parties who are not legally capacitated to marry each other, but
who nonetheless live together as husband and wife, applies to properties acquired during said cohabitation in proportion to their
respective contributions. Co-ownership will only be up to the extent of the proven actual contribution of money, property or industry.
Absent proof of the extent thereof, their contributions and corresponding shares shall be presumed to be equal.
xxxx
In the cases of Agapay v. Palang, and Tumlos v. Fernandez, which involved the issue of co-ownership of properties acquired by the parties
to a bigamous marriage and an adulterous relationship, respectively, we ruled that proof of actual contribution in the acquisition of the
property is essential. x x x
As in other civil cases, the burden of proof rests upon the party who, as determined by the pleadings or the nature of the case, asserts an
affirmative issue. Contentions must be proved by competent evidence and reliance must be had on the strength of the partys own
evidence and not upon the weakness of the opponents defense. x x x 81
In view of the foregoing, we find that respondents legal capacity to file the subject petition for letters of administration may arise from her
status as the surviving wife of Felicisimo or as his co-owner under Article 144 of the Civil Code or Article 148 of the Family Code.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals reinstating and affirming the February 28, 1994 Order of the
Regional Trial Court which denied petitioners motion to dismiss and its October 24, 1994 Order which dismissed petitioners motion for
reconsideration is AFFIRMED. Let this case be REMANDED to the trial court for further proceedings.
SO ORDERED.
CASE NO. 13
A.M. No. MTJ-14-1842 February 24, 2014
[Formerly OCA IPI No. 12-2491-MTJ]
REX M. TUPAL, Complainant,
vs.
JUDGE REMEGIO V. ROJO, Branch 5, Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, Respondent.
RESOLUTION
LEONEN, J.:
Municipal trial court judges cannot notarize affidavits of cohabitation of parties whose marriage they will solemnize.
Rex M. Tupal filed with the Office of the Court Administrator a complaint against Judge Remegio V. Rojo for violating the Code of Judicial
Conduct and for gross ignorance of the law.1
Judge Remegio V. Rojo presides Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 5, Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. Judge Rojo allegedly solemnized
marriages without the required marriage license. He instead notarized affidavits of cohabitation 2 and issued them to the contracting
parties.3 He notarized these affidavits on the day of the parties marriage. 4 These "package marriages" are allegedly common in Bacolod
City.5
Rex annexed to his complaint-affidavit nine affidavits of cohabitation all notarized by Judge Rojo. All affidavits were notarized on the day of
the contracting parties marriages.6 The affidavits contained the following jurat:
SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN to before me this [date] at Bacolod City, Philippines.
(sgd.)
HON. REMEGIO V. ROJO
Judge7
For notarizing affidavits of cohabitation of parties whose marriage he solemnized, Judge Rojo allegedly violated Circular No. 1-90 dated
February 26, 1990.8 Circular No. 1-90 allows municipal trial court judges to act as notaries public ex officio and notarize documents only if
connected with their official functions and duties. Rex argues that affidavits of cohabitation are not connected with a judges official
functions and duties as solemnizing officer.9 Thus, Judge Rojo cannot notarize ex officio affidavits of cohabitation of parties whose marriage
he solemnized.
Also, according to Rex, Judge Rojo allegedly violated the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice. Judge Rojo notarized affidavits of cohabitation
without affixing his judicial seal on the affidavits. He also did not require the parties to present their competent pieces of evidence of
identity as required by law.
These omissions allegedly constituted gross ignorance of the law as notarial rules "[are] x x x simple and elementary to ignore."10
Judge Rojo commented on the complaint.11 He argued that Rex was only harassing him. Rex is the father of Frialyn Tupal. Frialyn has a
pending perjury case in Branch 5 for allegedly making false statements in her affidavit of cohabitation. Rex only filed a complaint against
Judge Rojo to delay Frialyns case.12
Judge Rojo did not deny notarizing the affidavits of cohabitation. He argued that notarizing affidavits of cohabitation was connected with
his official functions and duties as a judge.13 The Guidelines on the Solemnization of Marriage by the Members of the Judiciary 14 does not
prohibit judges from notarizing affidavits of cohabitation of parties whose marriage they will solemnize. 15 Thus, Judge Rojo did not violate
Circular No. 1-90.
Judge Rojo also argued that he did not violate the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice. He is a judge, not a notary public. Thus, he was not
required to affix a notarial seal on the affidavits he notarized. 16
Also, Judge Rojo argued that he need not notarize the affidavits with the parties presenting their competent pieces of evidence of identity.
Since he interviewed the parties as to the contents of their affidavits, he personally knew them to be the same persons who executed the
affidavit.17 The parties identities are "unquestionable."18
Judge Rojo alleged that other judges in Bacolod City and Talisay City also notarized affidavits of cohabitation of parties whose marriage they
solemnized.19 He pleaded "not to make him [complainant Tupals] doormat, punching bag and chopping block" 20 since other judges also
notarized affidavits of cohabitation.
In its report dated July 30, 2013, the Office of the Court Administrator found that Judge Rojo violated Circular No. 1-90. The Office of the
Court Administrator recommended that Judge Rojo be fined 9,000.00 and sternly warned that repeating the same offense will be dealt
with more severely.
The Office of the Court Administrator ruled that affidavits of cohabitation are documents not connected with municipal trial court judges
official functions and duties. Under the Guidelines on the Solemnization of Marriage by the Members of the Judiciary, 21 a judges duty is to
personally examine the allegations in the affidavit of cohabitation before performing the marriage ceremony. 22 Nothing in the Guidelines
authorizes judges to notarize affidavits of cohabitation of parties whose marriage they will solemnize.
Since Judge Rojo notarized without authority nine affidavits of cohabitation, the Office of the Court Administrator recommended a fine of
1,000.00 per affidavit of cohabitation notarized.23
The issue is whether Judge Rojo is guilty of violating the New Code of Judicial Conduct and of gross ignorance of the law.
This court finds Judge Rojo guilty of violating the New Code of Judicial Conduct and of gross ignorance of the law. Judge Rojo violated
Circular No. 1-90 and the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice.
Municipal trial court and municipal circuit trial court judges may act as notaries public. However, they may do so only in their ex officio
capacities. They may notarize documents, contracts, and other conveyances only in the exercise of their official functions and duties.
Circular No. 1-90 dated February 26, 1990 provides:
Municipal trial court (MTC) and municipal circuit trial court (MCTC) judges are empowered to perform the function of notaries public ex
officio under Section 76 of Republic Act No. 296, as amended (otherwise known as the Judiciary Act of 1948) and Section 242 of the Revised
Administrative Code. But the Court hereby lays down the following qualifications on the scope of this power:
MTC and MCTC judges may act as notaries public ex officio in the notarization of documents connected only with the exercise of their
official functions and duties x x x. They may not, as notaries public ex officio, undertake the preparation and acknowledgment of private
documents, contracts and other acts of conveyances which bear no direct relation to the performance of their functions as judges. The
1989 Code of Judicial Conduct not only enjoins judges to regulate their extra-judicial activities in order to minimize the risk of conflict with
their judicial duties, but also prohibits them from engaging in the private practice of law (Canon 5 and Rule 5.07).
They may also act as notaries public ex officio only if lawyers or notaries public are lacking in their courts territorial jurisdiction. They must
certify as to the lack of lawyers or notaries public when notarizing documents ex officio:
However, the Court, taking judicial notice of the fact that there are still municipalities which have neither lawyers nor notaries public, rules
that MTC and MCTC judges assigned to municipalities or circuits with no lawyers or notaries public may, in the capacity as notaries public
ex officio, perform any act within the competency of a regular notary public, provided that: (1) all notarial fees charged be for the account
of the Government and turned over to the municipal treasurer (Lapena, Jr. vs. Marcos, Adm. Matter No. 1969-MJ, June 29, 1982, 114 SCRA
572); and, (2) certification be made in the notarized documents attesting to the lack of any lawyer or notary public in such municipality or
circuit.24
Judge Rojo notarized affidavits of cohabitation, which were documents not connected with the exercise of his official functions and duties
as solemnizing officer. He also notarized affidavits of cohabitation without certifying that lawyers or notaries public were lacking in his
courts territorial jurisdiction. Thus, Judge Rojo violated Circular No. 1-90.
Before performing the marriage ceremony, the judge must personally interview the contracting parties and examine the requirements they
submitted.25 The parties must have complied with all the essential and formal requisites of marriage. Among these formal requisites is a
marriage license.26
A marriage license is issued by the local civil registrar to parties who have all the qualifications and none of the legal disqualifications to
contract marriage.27 Before performing the marriage ceremony, the judge must personally examine the marriage license presented. 28
If the contracting parties have cohabited as husband and wife for at least five years and have no legal impediment to marry, they are
exempt from the marriage license requirement.29 Instead, the parties must present an affidavit of cohabitation sworn to before any person
authorized by law to administer oaths.30 The judge, as solemnizing officer, must personally examine the affidavit of cohabitation as to the
parties having lived together as husband and wife for at least five years and the absence of any legal impediment to marry each
other.31 The judge must also execute a sworn statement that he personally ascertained the parties qualifications to marry and found no
legal impediment to the marriage.32 Article 34 of the Family Code of the Philippines provides:
Art. 34. No license shall be necessary for the marriage of a man and a woman who have lived together as husband and wife for at least five
years and without any legal impediment to marry each other. The contracting parties shall state the foregoing facts in an affidavit before
any person authorized by law to administer oaths. The solemnizing officer shall also state under oath that he ascertained the qualifications
of the contracting parties and found no legal impediment to the marriage.
Section 5 of the Guidelines on the Solemnization of Marriage by the Members of the Judiciary also provides:
Sec. 5. Other duties of solemnizing officer before the solemnization of the marriage in legal ratification of cohabitation. In the case of a
marriage effecting legal ratification of cohabitation, the solemnizing officer shall (a) personally interview the contracting parties to
determine their qualifications to marry; (b) personally examine the affidavit of the contracting parties as to the fact of having lived together
as husband and wife for at least five [5] years and the absence of any legal impediments to marry each other; and (c) execute a sworn
statement showing compliance with (a) and (b) and that the solemnizing officer found no legal impediment to the marriage.
Based on law and the Guidelines on the Solemnization of Marriage by the Members of the Judiciary, the person who notarizes the
contracting parties affidavit of cohabitation cannot be the judge who will solemnize the parties marriage.
As a solemnizing officer, the judges only duty involving the affidavit of cohabitation is to examine whether the parties have indeed lived
together for at least five years without legal impediment to marry. The Guidelines does not state that the judge can notarize the parties
affidavit of cohabitation.
Thus, affidavits of cohabitation are documents not connected with the judges official function and duty to solemnize marriages. Notarizing
affidavits of cohabitation is inconsistent with the duty to examine the parties requirements for marriage. If the solemnizing officer
notarized the affidavit of cohabitation, he cannot objectively examine and review the affidavits statements before performing the
marriage ceremony. Should there be any irregularity or false statements in the affidavit of cohabitation he notarized, he cannot be
expected to admit that he solemnized the marriage despite the irregularity or false allegation.
Thus, judges cannot notarize the affidavits of cohabitation of the parties whose marriage they will solemnize. Affidavits of cohabitation are
documents not connected with their official function and duty to solemnize marriages.
Judge Rojo admitted that he notarized affidavits of cohabitation of parties "on the same day [he solemnized their marriages]."33 He
notarized documents not connected with his official function and duty to solemnize marriages. Thus, Judge Rojo violated Circular No. 1-90.
Judge Rojo argued that the Guidelines on the Solemnization of Marriage by the Members of the Judiciary does not expressly prohibit judges
from notarizing affidavits of cohabitation. Thus, he cannot be prohibited from notarizing affidavits of cohabitation.
To accept Judge Rojos argument will render the solemnizing officers duties to examine the affidavit of cohabitation and to issue a sworn
statement that the requirements have been complied with redundant. As discussed, a judge cannot objectively examine a document he
himself notarized. Article 34 of the Family Code and the Guidelines on the Solemnization of Marriage by the Members of the Judiciary
assume that "the person authorized by law to administer oaths" who notarizes the affidavit of cohabitation and the "solemnizing officer"
who performs the marriage ceremony are two different persons.
Judge Rojo argued that Circular No. 1-90 only prohibits municipal trial court judges from notarizing "private documents x x x [bearing] no
direct relation to the performance of their functions as judges." 34 Since a marriage license is a public document, its "counterpart," the
affidavit of cohabitation, is also a public document. Thus, when he notarizes an affidavit of cohabitation, he notarizes a public document.
He did not violate Circular No. 1-90.
An affidavit of cohabitation remains a private document until notarized. Notarization converts a private document into a public document,
"[rendering the document] admissible in court without further proof of its authenticity." 35 The affidavit of cohabitation, even if it serves a
"public purpose," remains a private document until notarized.
Thus, when Judge Rojo notarized the affidavits of cohabitation, he notarized nine private documents. As discussed, affidavits of
cohabitation are not connected with a judges official duty to solemnize marriages. Judge Rojo violated Circular No. 1-90.
Judge Rojo argued that Circular No. 1-90s purpose is to "eliminate competition between judges and private lawyers in transacting legal
conveyancing business."36 He cited Borre v. Judge Moya37 where this court found City Judge Arcilla guilty of violating Circular No. 1-90 for
notarizing a deed of sale. Judge Rojo argued that when he notarized the affidavits of cohabitation, he did "not compete with private law
practitioners or regular notaries in transacting legal conveyancing business."38 Thus, he did not violate Circular No. 1-90.
In Borre, Judge Arcilla notarized a deed of sale. This is the context in which this court stated that "[judges] should not compete with private
[lawyers] or regular notaries in transacting legal conveyancing business."39
At any rate, Circular No. 1-90s purpose is not limited to documents used to transact "legal conveyancing business." So long as a judge
notarizes a document not connected with his official functions and duties, he violates Circular No. 1-90.
Thus, in Mayor Quiones v. Judge Lopez, Jr.,40 this court fined Judge Lopez for notarizing a certificate of candidacy. In Ellert v. Judge
Galapon, Jr.,41 this court fined Judge Galapon for notarizing the verification page of an answer filed with the Department of Agrarian
Reform Adjudication Board. The documents involved in these cases were not used to transact "legal conveyancing business." Nevertheless,
this court found Judge Lopez and Judge Galapon guilty of violating Circular No. 1-90.
Since Judge Rojo notarized affidavits of cohabitation, which were not connected with his official function and duty to solemnize marriages,
he violated Circular No. 1-90.
Also, Judge Rojo notarized affidavits of cohabitation without certifying that lawyers or notaries public are lacking in Bacolod City. Failure to
certify that lawyers or notaries public are lacking in the municipality or circuit of the judges court constitutes violation of Circular No. 1-
90.42
That other judges have notarized affidavits of cohabitation of parties whose marriages they solemnized does not make the practice legal.
Violations of laws are not excused by practice to the contrary.43
All told, Judge Rojo violated Circular No. 1-90.
Judge Rojo also violated the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice. Rule IV, Section 2, paragraph (b) of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice
prohibits a notary public from notarizing documents if the signatory is not personally known to him. Otherwise, the notary public must
require the signatory to present a competent evidence of identity:
SEC. 2. Prohibitions. x x x x
(b) A person shall not perform a notarial act if the person involved as signatory to the instrument or document -
(1) is not in the notary's presence personally at the time of the notarization; and
(2) is not personally known to the notary public or otherwise identified by the notary public through competent evidence of identity as
defined by these Rules.
A competent evidence of identity guarantees that the person appearing before the notary public is the signatory to the instrument or
document to be notarized. If the notary public does not personally know the signatory, he must require the signatory to present a
competent evidence of identity.
In all the nine affidavits of cohabitation Judge Rojo notarized, he only stated that the parties subscribed and swore to their affidavits before
him. Judge Rojo did not state that the parties were personally known to him or that the parties presented their competent pieces of
evidence of identity. Thus, Judge Rojo violated the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice.
Judge Rojo argued that he personally knew the parties to the affidavits of cohabitation. They personally appeared before him to subscribe
to their affidavits of cohabitation. He also interviewed them on their qualifications to contract marriage. Thus, the parties to the affidavit of
cohabitation need not present their competent pieces of evidence of identity.44
That the parties appeared before Judge Rojo and that he interviewed them do not make the parties personally known to him. The parties
are supposed to appear in person to subscribe to their affidavits. To personally know the parties, the notary public must at least be
acquainted with them.45 Interviewing the contracting parties does not make the parties personally known to the notary public.
For violating Circular No. 1-90 and the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice nine times, Judge Rojo is guilty of gross ignorance of the law.
Judge Rojo argued that he notarized the affidavits of cohabitation in good faith. He cited Santos v. Judge How46where this court held that
"[g]ood faith and absence of malice, corrupt motives or improper considerations x x x" 47were defenses against gross ignorance of the law
charges. His good faith in notarizing affidavits of cohabitation should not hold him administratively liable.
However, this court also held in Santos that "good faith in situations of fallible discretion [inheres] only within the parameters of tolerable
judgment x x x."48 Good faith "does not apply where the issues are so simple and the applicable legal principles evident and basic as to be
beyond possible margins of error."49
Circular No. 1-90 requires judges to certify that lawyers or notaries public are lacking in their courts territorial jurisdiction before notarizing
documents. The 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice requires notaries public to personally know the signatory to the document they will
notarize or require the signatory to present a competent evidence of identity. These are basic legal principles and procedure Judge Rojo
violated. Failure to comply with these basic requirements nine times is not good faith.
Under the New Code of Judicial Conduct on integrity,50 "[j]udges shall ensure that not only is their conduct above reproach, but that it is
perceived to be so in the view of a reasonable observer."51 If the law involved is basic, ignorance constitutes "lack of integrity."52 Violating
basic legal principles and procedure nine times is gross ignorance of the law.
This court may impose the following sanctions for gross ignorance of the law or procedure, it being a serious charge: 53
a. dismissal from the service with forfeiture of benefits, except accrued leave credits, and disqualification from reinstatement or
appointment to any public office, including government-owned or controlled corporations;54
b. suspension from office without salary and other benefits for more than three (3) but not exceeding six (6) months;55 or
c. A fine of more than 20,000.00 but not exceeding 40,000.00.56
This court does not condone violations of law. Judges have been dismissed from the service for gross ignorance of the law. However, Judge
Rojo may have been misled by other judges practice of notarizing affidavits of cohabitation in Bacolod City and Talisay City. Thus, this court
finds suspension from office without salary and other benefits for six (6) months sufficient sanction.
Trial court judges are advised to strictly comply with the requirements of the law.1wphi1 They should act with caution with respect to
affidavits of cohabitation. Similar breach of the ethical requirements as in this case will be dealt with strictly.
WHEREFORE, Judge Remegio V. Rojo, Presiding Judge of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 5, Bacolod City, Negros Occidental is
SUSPENDED FROM OFFICE without salary and other benefits for SIX (6) MONTHS. His suspension is effective upon service on him of a copy
of this resolution.
SERVE copies of this resolution to all municipal trial courts in Bacolod City and Talisay City.
SO ORDERED.
CASE NO. 14
G.R. No. 175581 March 28, 2008
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,
vs.
JOSE A. DAYOT, Respondent.
x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x
G.R. No. 179474
FELISA TECSON-DAYOT, Petitioner,
vs.
JOSE A. DAYOT, Respondent.
DECISION
CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:
Before us are two consolidated petitions. G.R. No. 175581 and G.R. No. 179474 are Petitions for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court
filed by the Republic of the Philippines and Felisa Tecson-Dayot (Felisa), respectively, both challenging the Amended Decision1 of the Court
of Appeals, dated 7 November 2006, in CA-G.R. CV No. 68759, which declared the marriage between Jose Dayot (Jose) and Felisa void ab
initio.
The records disclose that on 24 November 1986, Jose and Felisa were married at the Pasay City Hall. The marriage was solemnized by Rev.
Tomas V. Atienza.2 In lieu of a marriage license, Jose and Felisa executed a sworn affidavit, 3 also dated 24 November 1986, attesting that
both of them had attained the age of maturity, and that being unmarried, they had lived together as husband and wife for at least five
years.
On 7 July 1993, Jose filed a Complaint4 for Annulment and/or Declaration of Nullity of Marriage with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Bian,
Laguna, Branch 25. He contended that his marriage with Felisa was a sham, as no marriage ceremony was celebrated between the parties;
that he did not execute the sworn affidavit stating that he and Felisa had lived as husband and wife for at least five years; and that his
consent to the marriage was secured through fraud.
In his Complaint, Jose gave his version of the events which led to his filing of the same. According to Jose, he was introduced to Felisa in
1986. Immediately thereafter, he came to live as a boarder in Felisas house, the latter being his landlady. Some three weeks later, Felisa
requested him to accompany her to the Pasay City Hall, ostensibly so she could claim a package sent to her by her brother from Saudi
Arabia. At the Pasay City Hall, upon a pre-arranged signal from Felisa, a man bearing three folded pieces of paper approached them. They
were told that Jose needed to sign the papers so that the package could be released to Felisa. He initially refused to do so. However, Felisa
cajoled him, and told him that his refusal could get both of them killed by her brother who had learned about their relationship.
Reluctantly, he signed the pieces of paper, and gave them to the man who immediately left. It was in February 1987 when he discovered
that he had contracted marriage with Felisa. He alleged that he saw a piece of paper lying on top of the table at the sala of Felisas house.
When he perused the same, he discovered that it was a copy of his marriage contract with Felisa. When he confronted Felisa, the latter
feigned ignorance.
In opposing the Complaint, Felisa denied Joses allegations and defended the validity of their marriage. She declared that they had
maintained their relationship as man and wife absent the legality of marriage in the early part of 1980, but that she had deferred
contracting marriage with him on account of their age difference.5 In her pre-trial brief, Felisa expounded that while her marriage to Jose
was subsisting, the latter contracted marriage with a certain Rufina Pascual (Rufina) on 31 August 1990. On 3 June 1993, Felisa filed an
action for bigamy against Jose. Subsequently, she filed an administrative complaint against Jose with the Office of the Ombudsman, since
Jose and Rufina were both employees of the National Statistics and Coordinating Board. 6 The Ombudsman found Jose administratively
liable for disgraceful and immoral conduct, and meted out to him the penalty of suspension from service for one year without emolument. 7
On 26 July 2000, the RTC rendered a Decision8 dismissing the Complaint. It disposed:
WHEREFORE, after a careful evaluation and analysis of the evidence presented by both parties, this Court finds and so holds that the
[C]omplaint does not deserve a favorable consideration. Accordingly, the above-entitled case is hereby ordered DISMISSED with costs
against [Jose].9
The RTC ruled that from the testimonies and evidence presented, the marriage celebrated between Jose and Felisa on 24 November 1986
was valid. It dismissed Joses version of the story as implausible, and rationalized that:
Any person in his right frame of mind would easily suspect any attempt to make him or her sign a blank sheet of paper. [Jose] could have
already detected that something was amiss, unusual, as they were at Pasay City Hall to get a package for [Felisa] but it [was] he who was
made to sign the pieces of paper for the release of the said package. Another indirect suggestion that could have put him on guard was the
fact that, by his own admission, [Felisa] told him that her brother would kill them if he will not sign the papers. And yet it took him, more or
less, three months to "discover" that the pieces of paper that he signed was [sic] purportedly the marriage contract. [Jose] does not seem
to be that ignorant, as perceived by this Court, to be "taken in for a ride" by [Felisa.]
[Joses] claim that he did not consent to the marriage was belied by the fact that he acknowledged Felisa Tecson as his wife when he wrote
[Felisas] name in the duly notarized statement of assets and liabilities he filled up on May 12, 1988, one year after he discovered the
marriage contract he is now claiming to be sham and false. [Jose], again, in his company I.D., wrote the name of [Felisa] as the person to be
contacted in case of emergency. This Court does not believe that the only reason why her name was written in his company I.D. was
because he was residing there then. This is just but a lame excuse because if he really considers her not his lawfully wedded wife, he would
have written instead the name of his sister.
When [Joses] sister was put into the witness stand, under oath, she testified that she signed her name voluntarily as a witness to the
marriage in the marriage certificate (T.S.N., page 25, November 29, 1996) and she further testified that the signature appearing over the
name of Jose Dayot was the signature of his [sic] brother that he voluntarily affixed in the marriage contract (page 26 of T.S.N. taken on
November 29, 1996), and when she was asked by the Honorable Court if indeed she believed that Felisa Tecson was really chosen by her
brother she answered yes. The testimony of his sister all the more belied his claim that his consent was procured through fraud.10
Moreover, on the matter of fraud, the RTC ruled that Joses action had prescribed. It cited Article 87 11 of the New Civil Code which requires
that the action for annulment of marriage must be commenced by the injured party within four years after the discovery of the fraud. Thus:
That granting even for the sake of argument that his consent was obtained by [Felisa] through fraud, trickery and machinations, he could
have filed an annulment or declaration of nullity of marriage at the earliest possible opportunity, the time when he discovered the alleged
sham and false marriage contract. [Jose] did not take any action to void the marriage at the earliest instance. x x x. 12
Undeterred, Jose filed an appeal from the foregoing RTC Decision to the Court of Appeals. In a Decision dated 11 August 2005, the Court of
Appeals found the appeal to be without merit. The dispositive portion of the appellate courts Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, the Decision appealed from is AFFIRMED.13
The Court of Appeals applied the Civil Code to the marriage between Jose and Felisa as it was solemnized prior to the effectivity of the
Family Code. The appellate court observed that the circumstances constituting fraud as a ground for annulment of marriage under Article
8614 of the Civil Code did not exist in the marriage between the parties. Further, it ruled that the action for annulment of marriage on the
ground of fraud was filed beyond the prescriptive period provided by law. The Court of Appeals struck down Joses appeal in the following
manner:
Nonetheless, even if we consider that fraud or intimidation was employed on Jose in giving his consent to the marriage, the action for the
annulment thereof had already prescribed. Article 87 (4) and (5) of the Civil Code provides that the action for annulment of marriage on the
ground that the consent of a party was obtained by fraud, force or intimidation must be commenced by said party within four (4) years
after the discovery of the fraud and within four (4) years from the time the force or intimidation ceased. Inasmuch as the fraud was
allegedly discovered by Jose in February, 1987 then he had only until February, 1991 within which to file an action for annulment of
marriage. However, it was only on July 7, 1993 that Jose filed the complaint for annulment of his marriage to Felisa. 15
Likewise, the Court of Appeals did not accept Joses assertion that his marriage to Felisa was void ab initio for lack of a marriage license. It
ruled that the marriage was solemnized under Article 7616 of the Civil Code as one of exceptional character, with the parties executing an
affidavit of marriage between man and woman who have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years. The Court of Appeals
concluded that the falsity in the affidavit to the effect that Jose and Felisa had lived together as husband and wife for the period required
by Article 76 did not affect the validity of the marriage, seeing that the solemnizing officer was misled by the statements contained therein.
In this manner, the Court of Appeals gave credence to the good-faith reliance of the solemnizing officer over the falsity of the affidavit. The
appellate court further noted that on the dorsal side of said affidavit of marriage, Rev. Tomas V. Atienza, the solemnizing officer, stated
that he took steps to ascertain the ages and other qualifications of the contracting parties and found no legal impediment to their
marriage. Finally, the Court of Appeals dismissed Joses argument that neither he nor Felisa was a member of the sect to which Rev. Tomas
V. Atienza belonged. According to the Court of Appeals, Article 56 17 of the Civil Code did not require that either one of the contracting
parties to the marriage must belong to the solemnizing officers church or religious sect. The prescription was established only in Article
718 of the Family Code which does not govern the parties marriage.
Differing with the ruling of the Court of Appeals, Jose filed a Motion for Reconsideration thereof.1avvphi1 His central opposition was that
the requisites for the proper application of the exemption from a marriage license under Article 76 of the Civil Code were not fully
attendant in the case at bar. In particular, Jose cited the legal condition that the man and the woman must have been living together as
husband and wife for at least five years before the marriage. Essentially, he maintained that the affidavit of marital cohabitation executed
by him and Felisa was false.
The Court of Appeals granted Joses Motion for Reconsideration and reversed itself. Accordingly, it rendered an Amended Decision, dated 7
November 2006, the fallo of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the Decision dated August 11, 2005 is RECALLED and SET ASIDE and another one entered declaring the marriage between
Jose A. Dayot and Felisa C. Tecson void ab initio.
Furnish a copy of this Amended Decision to the Local Civil Registrar of Pasay City.19
In its Amended Decision, the Court of Appeals relied on the ruling of this Court in Nial v. Bayadog,20 and reasoned that:
In Nial v. Bayadog, where the contracting parties to a marriage solemnized without a marriage license on the basis of their affidavit that
they had attained the age of majority, that being unmarried, they had lived together for at least five (5) years and that they desired to
marry each other, the Supreme Court ruled as follows:
"x x x In other words, the five-year common-law cohabitation period, which is counted back from the date of celebration of marriage,
should be a period of legal union had it not been for the absence of the marriage. This 5-year period should be the years immediately
before the day of the marriage and it should be a period of cohabitation characterized by exclusivity meaning no third party was involved
at any time within the 5 years and continuity that is unbroken. Otherwise, if that continuous 5-year cohabitation is computed without any
distinction as to whether the parties were capacitated to marry each other during the entire five years, then the law would be sanctioning
immorality and encouraging parties to have common law relationships and placing them on the same footing with those who lived
faithfully with their spouse. Marriage being a special relationship must be respected as such and its requirements must be strictly observed.
The presumption that a man and a woman deporting themselves as husband and wife is based on the approximation of the requirements
of the law. The parties should not be afforded any excuse to not comply with every single requirement and later use the same missing
element as a pre-conceived escape ground to nullify their marriage. There should be no exemption from securing a marriage license unless
the circumstances clearly fall within the ambit of the exception. It should be noted that a license is required in order to notify the public
that two persons are about to be united in matrimony and that anyone who is aware or has knowledge of any impediment to the union of
the two shall make it known to the local civil registrar.
Article 80(3) of the Civil Code provides that a marriage solemnized without a marriage license, save marriages of exceptional character,
shall be void from the beginning. Inasmuch as the marriage between Jose and Felisa is not covered by the exception to the requirement of
a marriage license, it is, therefore, void ab initio because of the absence of a marriage license. 21
Felisa sought reconsideration of the Amended Decision, but to no avail. The appellate court rendered a Resolution 22 dated 10 May 2007,
denying Felisas motion.
Meanwhile, the Republic of the Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), filed a Petition for Review before this Court in
G.R. No. 175581, praying that the Court of Appeals Amended Decision dated 7 November 2006 be reversed and set aside for lack of merit,
and that the marriage between Jose and Felisa be declared valid and subsisting. Felisa filed a separate Petition for Review, docketed as G.R.
No. 179474, similarly assailing the appellate courts Amended Decision. On 1 August 2007, this Court resolved to consolidate the two
Petitions in the interest of uniformity of the Court rulings in similar cases brought before it for resolution.23
The Republic of the Philippines propounds the following arguments for the allowance of its Petition, to wit:
I
RESPONDENT FAILED TO OVERTHROW THE PRESUMPTION OF THE VALIDITY OF HIS MARRIAGE TO FELISA.
II
RESPONDENT DID NOT COME TO THE COURT WITH CLEAN HANDS AND SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO PROFIT FROM HIS OWN
FRAUDULENT CONDUCT.
III
RESPONDENT IS ESTOPPED FROM ASSAILING THE LEGALITY OF HIS MARRIAGE FOR LACK OF MARRIAGE LICEN[S]E. 24
Correlative to the above, Felisa submits that the Court of Appeals misapplied Nial. 25 She differentiates the case at bar from Nial by
reasoning that one of the parties therein had an existing prior marriage, a circumstance which does not obtain in her cohabitation with
Jose. Finally, Felisa adduces that Jose only sought the annulment of their marriage after a criminal case for bigamy and an administrative
case had been filed against him in order to avoid liability. Felisa surmises that the declaration of nullity of their marriage would exonerate
Jose from any liability.
For our resolution is the validity of the marriage between Jose and Felisa. To reach a considered ruling on the issue, we shall jointly tackle
the related arguments vented by petitioners Republic of the Philippines and Felisa.
The Republic of the Philippines asserts that several circumstances give rise to the presumption that a valid marriage exists between Jose
and Felisa. For her part, Felisa echoes the claim that any doubt should be resolved in favor of the validity of the marriage by citing this
Courts ruling in Hernandez v. Court of Appeals.26 To buttress its assertion, the Republic points to the affidavit executed by Jose and Felisa,
dated 24 November 1986, attesting that they have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years, which they used in lieu of a
marriage license. It is the Republics position that the falsity of the statements in the affidavit does not affect the validity of the marriage, as
the essential and formal requisites were complied with; and the solemnizing officer was not required to investigate as to whether the said
affidavit was legally obtained. The Republic opines that as a marriage under a license is not invalidated by the fact that the license was
wrongfully obtained, so must a marriage not be invalidated by the fact that the parties incorporated a fabricated statement in their
affidavit that they cohabited as husband and wife for at least five years. In addition, the Republic posits that the parties marriage contract
states that their marriage was solemnized under Article 76 of the Civil Code. It also bears the signature of the parties and their witnesses,
and must be considered a primary evidence of marriage. To further fortify its Petition, the Republic adduces the following documents: (1)
Joses notarized Statement of Assets and Liabilities, dated 12 May 1988 wherein he wrote Felisas name as his wife; (2) Certification dated
25 July 1993 issued by the Barangay Chairman 192, Zone ZZ, District 24 of Pasay City, attesting that Jose and Felisa had lived together as
husband and wife in said barangay; and (3) Joses company ID card, dated 2 May 1988, indicating Felisas name as his wife.
The first assignment of error compels this Court to rule on the issue of the effect of a false affidavit under Article 76 of the Civil Code. A
survey of the prevailing rules is in order.
It is beyond dispute that the marriage of Jose and Felisa was celebrated on 24 November 1986, prior to the effectivity of the Family Code.
Accordingly, the Civil Code governs their union. Article 53 of the Civil Code spells out the essential requisites of marriage as a contract:
ART. 53. No marriage shall be solemnized unless all these requisites are complied with:
(1) Legal capacity of the contracting parties;
(2) Their consent, freely given;
(3) Authority of the person performing the marriage; and
(4) A marriage license, except in a marriage of exceptional character. (Emphasis ours.)
Article 5827 makes explicit that no marriage shall be solemnized without a license first being issued by the local civil registrar of the
municipality where either contracting party habitually resides, save marriages of an exceptional character authorized by the Civil Code, but
not those under Article 75.28 Article 80(3)29 of the Civil Code makes it clear that a marriage performed without the corresponding marriage
license is void, this being nothing more than the legitimate consequence flowing from the fact that the license is the essence of the
marriage contract.30 This is in stark contrast to the old Marriage Law,31 whereby the absence of a marriage license did not make the
marriage void. The rationale for the compulsory character of a marriage license under the Civil Code is that it is the authority granted by the
State to the contracting parties, after the proper government official has inquired into their capacity to contract marriage. 32
Under the Civil Code, marriages of exceptional character are covered by Chapter 2, Title III, comprising Articles 72 to 79. To wit, these
marriages are: (1) marriages in articulo mortis or at the point of death during peace or war, (2) marriages in remote places, (2) consular
marriages,33 (3) ratification of marital cohabitation, (4) religious ratification of a civil marriage, (5) Mohammedan or pagan marriages, and
(6) mixed marriages.34
The instant case pertains to a ratification of marital cohabitation under Article 76 of the Civil Code, which provides:
ART. 76. No marriage license shall be necessary when a man and a woman who have attained the age of majority and who, being
unmarried, have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years, desire to marry each other. The contracting parties shall state
the foregoing facts in an affidavit before any person authorized by law to administer oaths. The official, priest or minister who solemnized
the marriage shall also state in an affidavit that he took steps to ascertain the ages and other qualifications of the contracting parties and
that he found no legal impediment to the marriage.
The reason for the law,35 as espoused by the Code Commission, is that the publicity attending a marriage license may discourage such
persons who have lived in a state of cohabitation from legalizing their status. 36
It is not contested herein that the marriage of Jose and Felisa was performed without a marriage license. In lieu thereof, they executed an
affidavit declaring that "they have attained the age of maturity; that being unmarried, they have lived together as husband and wife for at
least five years; and that because of this union, they desire to marry each other."37 One of the central issues in the Petition at bar is thus:
whether the falsity of an affidavit of marital cohabitation, where the parties have in truth fallen short of the minimum five-year
requirement, effectively renders the marriage void ab initio for lack of a marriage license.
We answer in the affirmative.
Marriages of exceptional character are, doubtless, the exceptions to the rule on the indispensability of the formal requisite of a marriage
license. Under the rules of statutory construction, exceptions, as a general rule, should be strictly 38 but reasonably construed.39 They
extend only so far as their language fairly warrants, and all doubts should be resolved in favor of the general provisions rather than the
exception.40 Where a general rule is established by statute with exceptions, the court will not curtail the former or add to the latter by
implication.41 For the exception in Article 76 to apply, it is a sine qua non thereto that the man and the woman must have attained the age
of majority, and that, being unmarried, they have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years.
A strict but reasonable construction of Article 76 leaves us with no other expediency but to read the law as it is plainly written. The
exception of a marriage license under Article 76 applies only to those who have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years
and desire to marry each other. The Civil Code, in no ambiguous terms, places a minimum period requirement of five years of cohabitation.
No other reading of the law can be had, since the language of Article 76 is precise. The minimum requisite of five years of cohabitation is an
indispensability carved in the language of the law. For a marriage celebrated under Article 76 to be valid, this material fact cannot be
dispensed with. It is embodied in the law not as a directory requirement, but as one that partakes of a mandatory character. It is worthy to
mention that Article 76 also prescribes that the contracting parties shall state the requisite facts42 in an affidavit before any person
authorized by law to administer oaths; and that the official, priest or minister who solemnized the marriage shall also state in an affidavit
that he took steps to ascertain the ages and other qualifications of the contracting parties and that he found no legal impediment to the
marriage.
It is indubitably established that Jose and Felisa have not lived together for five years at the time they executed their sworn affidavit and
contracted marriage. The Republic admitted that Jose and Felisa started living together only in June 1986, or barely five months before the
celebration of their marriage.43 The Court of Appeals also noted Felisas testimony that Jose was introduced to her by her neighbor,
Teresita Perwel, sometime in February or March 1986 after the EDSA Revolution.44 The appellate court also cited Felisas own testimony
that it was only in June 1986 when Jose commenced to live in her house.45
Moreover, it is noteworthy that the question as to whether they satisfied the minimum five-year requisite is factual in nature. A question of
fact arises when there is a need to decide on the truth or falsehood of the alleged facts. 46Under Rule 45, factual findings are ordinarily not
subject to this Courts review.47 It is already well-settled that:
The general rule is that the findings of facts of the Court of Appeals are binding on this Court. A recognized exception to this rule is when
the Court of Appeals and the trial court, or in this case the administrative body, make contradictory findings. However, the exception does
not apply in every instance that the Court of Appeals and the trial court or administrative body disagree. The factual findings of the Court of
Appeals remain conclusive on this Court if such findings are supported by the record or based on substantial evidence. 48
Therefore, the falsity of the affidavit dated 24 November 1986, executed by Jose and Felisa to exempt them from the requirement of a
marriage license, is beyond question.
We cannot accept the insistence of the Republic that the falsity of the statements in the parties affidavit will not affect the validity of
marriage, since all the essential and formal requisites were complied with. The argument deserves scant merit. Patently, it cannot be
denied that the marriage between Jose and Felisa was celebrated without the formal requisite of a marriage license. Neither did Jose and
Felisa meet the explicit legal requirement in Article 76, that they should have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years, so
as to be excepted from the requirement of a marriage license.
Anent petitioners reliance on the presumption of marriage, this Court holds that the same finds no applicability to the case at bar.
Essentially, when we speak of a presumption of marriage, it is with reference to the prima facie presumption that a man and a woman
deporting themselves as husband and wife have entered into a lawful contract of marriage. 49 Restated more explicitly, persons dwelling
together in apparent matrimony are presumed, in the absence of any counter-presumption or evidence special to the case, to be in fact
married.50 The present case does not involve an apparent marriage to which the presumption still needs to be applied. There is no question
that Jose and Felisa actually entered into a contract of marriage on 24 November 1986, hence, compelling Jose to institute a Complaint for
Annulment and/or Declaration of Nullity of Marriage, which spawned the instant consolidated Petitions.
In the same vein, the declaration of the Civil Code 51 that every intendment of law or fact leans towards the validity of marriage will not
salvage the parties marriage, and extricate them from the effect of a violation of the law. The marriage of Jose and Felisa was entered into
without the requisite marriage license or compliance with the stringent requirements of a marriage under exceptional circumstance. The
solemnization of a marriage without prior license is a clear violation of the law and would lead or could be used, at least, for the
perpetration of fraud against innocent and unwary parties, which was one of the evils that the law sought to prevent by making a prior
license a prerequisite for a valid marriage.52 The protection of marriage as a sacred institution requires not just the defense of a true and
genuine union but the exposure of an invalid one as well.53 To permit a false affidavit to take the place of a marriage license is to allow an
abject circumvention of the law. If this Court is to protect the fabric of the institution of marriage, we must be wary of deceptive schemes
that violate the legal measures set forth in our laws.
Similarly, we are not impressed by the ratiocination of the Republic that as a marriage under a license is not invalidated by the fact that the
license was wrongfully obtained, so must a marriage not be invalidated by a fabricated statement that the parties have cohabited for at
least five years as required by law. The contrast is flagrant. The former is with reference to an irregularity of the marriage license, and not
to the absence of one. Here, there is no marriage license at all. Furthermore, the falsity of the allegation in the sworn affidavit relating to
the period of Jose and Felisas cohabitation, which would have qualified their marriage as an exception to the requirement for a marriage
license, cannot be a mere irregularity, for it refers to a quintessential fact that the law precisely required to be deposed and attested to by
the parties under oath. If the essential matter in the sworn affidavit is a lie, then it is but a mere scrap of paper, without force and effect.
Hence, it is as if there was no affidavit at all.
In its second assignment of error, the Republic puts forth the argument that based on equity, Jose should be denied relief because he
perpetrated the fabrication, and cannot thereby profit from his wrongdoing. This is a misplaced invocation. It must be stated that equity
finds no room for application where there is a law.54 There is a law on the ratification of marital cohabitation, which is set in precise terms
under Article 76 of the Civil Code. Nonetheless, the authorities are consistent that the declaration of nullity of the parties marriage is
without prejudice to their criminal liability.55
The Republic further avers in its third assignment of error that Jose is deemed estopped from assailing the legality of his marriage for lack
of a marriage license. It is claimed that Jose and Felisa had lived together from 1986 to 1990, notwithstanding Joses subsequent marriage
to Rufina Pascual on 31 August 1990, and that it took Jose seven years before he sought the declaration of nullity; hence, estoppel had set
in.
This is erroneous. An action for nullity of marriage is imprescriptible.56 Jose and Felisas marriage was celebrated sans a marriage license.
No other conclusion can be reached except that it is void ab initio. In this case, the right to impugn a void marriage does not prescribe, and
may be raised any time.
Lastly, to settle all doubts, jurisprudence has laid down the rule that the five-year common-law cohabitation period under Article 76 means
a five-year period computed back from the date of celebration of marriage, and refers to a period of legal union had it not been for the
absence of a marriage.57 It covers the years immediately preceding the day of the marriage, characterized by exclusivity - meaning no third
party was involved at any time within the five years - and continuity that is unbroken.58
WHEREFORE, the Petitions are DENIED. The Amended Decision of the Court of Appeals, dated 7 November 2006 in CA-G.R. CV No. 68759,
declaring the marriage of Jose Dayot to Felisa Tecson-Dayot void ab initio, is AFFIRMED, without prejudice to their criminal liability, if any.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.
CASE NO.15
G.R. No. 160172 February 13, 2008
REINEL ANTHONY B. DE CASTRO, petitioner,
vs.
ANNABELLE ASSIDAO-DE CASTRO, respondent.
DECISION
TINGA, J.:
This is a petition for review of the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-GR CV. No. 69166,2 declaring that (1) Reianna Tricia A. De Castro
is the legitimate child of the petitioner; and (2) that the marriage between petitioner and respondent is valid until properly nullified by a
competent court in a proceeding instituted for that purpose.
The facts of the case, as culled from the records, follow.
Petitioner and respondent met and became sweethearts in 1991. They planned to get married, thus they applied for a marriage license
with the Office of the Civil Registrar of Pasig City in September 1994. They had their first sexual relation sometime in October 1994, and had
regularly engaged in sex thereafter. When the couple went back to the Office of the Civil Registrar, the marriage license had already
expired. Thus, in order to push through with the plan, in lieu of a marriage license, they executed an affidavit dated 13 March 1995 stating
that they had been living together as husband and wife for at least five years. The couple got married on the same date, with Judge Jose C.
Bernabe, presiding judge of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Pasig City, administering the civil rites. Nevertheless, after the ceremony,
petitioner and respondent went back to their respective homes and did not live together as husband and wife.
On 13 November 1995, respondent gave birth to a child named Reinna Tricia A. De Castro. Since the childs birth, respondent has been the
one supporting her out of her income as a government dentist and from her private practice.
On 4 June 1998, respondent filed a complaint for support against petitioner before the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City (trial court.3 In her
complaint, respondent alleged that she is married to petitioner and that the latter has "reneged on his responsibility/obligation to
financially support her "as his wife and Reinna Tricia as his child."4
Petitioner denied that he is married to respondent, claiming that their marriage is void ab initio since the marriage was facilitated by a fake
affidavit; and that he was merely prevailed upon by respondent to sign the marriage contract to save her from embarrassment and possible
administrative prosecution due to her pregnant state; and that he was not able to get parental advice from his parents before he got
married. He also averred that they never lived together as husband and wife and that he has never seen nor acknowledged the child.
In its Decision dated 16 October 2000,5 the trial court ruled that the marriage between petitioner and respondent is not valid because it
was solemnized without a marriage license. However, it declared petitioner as the natural father of the child, and thus obliged to give her
support. Petitioner elevated the case to the Court of Appeals, arguing that the lower court committed grave abuse of discretion when, on
the basis of mere belief and conjecture, it ordered him to provide support to the child when the latter is not, and could not have been, his
own child.
The Court of Appeals denied the appeal. Prompted by the rule that a marriage is presumed to be subsisting until a judicial declaration of
nullity has been made, the appellate court declared that the child was born during the subsistence and validity of the parties marriage. In
addition, the Court of Appeals frowned upon petitioners refusal to undergo DNA testing to prove the paternity and filiation, as well as his
refusal to state with certainty the last time he had carnal knowledge with respondent, saying that petitioners "forgetfulness should not be
used as a vehicle to relieve him of his obligation and reward him of his being irresponsible." 6 Moreover, the Court of Appeals noted the
affidavit dated 7 April 1998 executed by petitioner, wherein he voluntarily admitted that he is the legitimate father of the child.
The appellate court also ruled that since this case is an action for support, it was improper for the trial court to declare the marriage of
petitioner and respondent as null and void in the very same case. There was no participation of the State, through the prosecuting attorney
or fiscal, to see to it that there is no collusion between the parties, as required by the Family Code in actions for declaration of nullity of a
marriage. The burden of proof to show that the marriage is void rests upon petitioner, but it is a matter that can be raised in an action for
declaration of nullity, and not in the instant proceedings. The proceedings before the trial court should have been limited to the obligation
of petitioner to support the child and his wife on the basis of the marriage apparently and voluntarily entered into by petitioner and
respondent.7 The dispositive portion of the decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision dated 16 October 2000, of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, National Capital Judicial
Region, Brach 70, in JDRC No. 4626, is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATIONS (1) declaring Reianna Tricia A. De Castro, as the legitimate child
of the appellant and the appellee and (2) declaring the marriage on 13 March 1995 between the appellant and the appellee valid until
properly annulled by a competent court in a proceeding instituted for that purpose. Costs against the appellant. 8
Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, but the motion was denied by the Court of Appeals.9 Hence this petition.
Before us, petitioner contends that the trial court properly annulled his marriage with respondent because as shown by the evidence and
admissions of the parties, the marriage was celebrated without a marriage license. He stresses that the affidavit they executed, in lieu of a
marriage license, contained a false narration of facts, the truth being that he and respondent never lived together as husband and wife. The
false affidavit should never be allowed or admitted as a substitute to fill the absence of a marriage license. 10 Petitioner additionally argues
that there was no need for the appearance of a prosecuting attorney in this case because it is only an ordinary action for support and not
an action for annulment or declaration of absolute nullity of marriage. In any case, petitioner argues that the trial court had jurisdiction to
determine the invalidity of their marriage since it was validly invoked as an affirmative defense in the instant action for support. Citing
several authorities,11 petitioner claims that a void marriage can be the subject of a collateral attack. Thus, there is no necessity to institute
another independent proceeding for the declaration of nullity of the marriage between the parties. The refiling of another case for
declaration of nullity where the same evidence and parties would be presented would entail enormous expenses and anxieties, would be
time-consuming for the parties, and would increase the burden of the courts. 12 Finally, petitioner claims that in view of the nullity of his
marriage with respondent and his vigorous denial of the childs paternity and filiation, the Court of Appeals gravely erred in declaring the
child as his legitimate child.
In a resolution dated 16 February 2004, the Court required respondent and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to file their respective
comments on the petition.13
In her Comment,14 respondent claims that the instant petition is a mere dilatory tactic to thwart the finality of the decision of the Court of
Appeals. Echoing the findings and rulings of the appellate court, she argues that the legitimacy of their marriage cannot be attacked
collaterally, but can only be repudiated or contested in a direct suit specifically brought for that purpose. With regard to the filiation of her
child, she pointed out that compared to her candid and straightforward testimony, petitioner was uncertain, if not evasive in answering
questions about their sexual encounters. Moreover, she adds that despite the challenge from her and from the trial court, petitioner
strongly objected to being subjected to DNA testing to prove paternity and filiation.15
For its part, the OSG avers that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that it was improper for the trial court to declare null and void the
marriage of petitioner and respondent in the action for support. Citing the case of Nial v. Bayadog,16 it states that courts may pass upon
the validity of a marriage in an action for support, since the right to support from petitioner hinges on the existence of a valid marriage.
Moreover, the evidence presented during the proceedings in the trial court showed that the marriage between petitioner and respondent
was solemnized without a marriage license, and that their affidavit (of a man and woman who have lived together and exclusively with
each other as husband and wife for at least five years) was false. Thus, it concludes the trial court correctly held that the marriage between
petitioner and respondent is not valid.17 In addition, the OSG agrees with the findings of the trial court that the child is an illegitimate child
of petitioner and thus entitled to support.18
Two key issues are presented before us. First, whether the trial court had the jurisdiction to determine the validity of the marriage between
petitioner and respondent in an action for support and second, whether the child is the daughter of petitioner.
Anent the first issue, the Court holds that the trial court had jurisdiction to determine the validity of the marriage between petitioner and
respondent. The validity of a void marriage may be collaterally attacked.19 Thus, in Nial v. Bayadog, we held:
However, other than for purposes of remarriage, no judicial action is necessary to declare a marriage an absolute nullity. For other
purposes, such as but not limited to determination of heirship, legitimacy or illegitimacy of a child, settlement of estate, dissolution of
property regime, or a criminal case for that matter, the court may pass upon the validity of marriage even in a suit not directly instituted to
question the same so long as it is essential to the determination of the case. This is without prejudice to any issue that may arise in the
case. When such need arises, a final judgment of declaration of nullity is necessary even if the purpose is other than to remarry. The clause
"on the basis of a final judgment declaring such previous marriage void" in Article 40 of the Family Code connotes that such final judgment
need not be obtained only for purpose of remarriage.20
Likewise, in Nicdao Cario v. Yee Cario,21 the Court ruled that it is clothed with sufficient authority to pass upon the validity of two
marriages despite the main case being a claim for death benefits. Reiterating Nial, we held that the Court may pass upon the validity of a
marriage even in a suit not directly instituted to question the validity of said marriage, so long as it is essential to the determination of the
case. However, evidence must be adduced, testimonial or documentary, to prove the existence of grounds rendering such a marriage an
absolute nullity.22
Under the Family Code, the absence of any of the essential or formal requisites shall render the marriage void ab initio, whereas a defect in
any of the essential requisites shall render the marriage voidable.23 In the instant case, it is clear from the evidence presented that
petitioner and respondent did not have a marriage license when they contracted their marriage. Instead, they presented an affidavit stating
that they had been living together for more than five years. 24 However, respondent herself in effect admitted the falsity of the affidavit
when she was asked during cross-examination, thus
ATTY. CARPIO:
Q But despite of (sic) the fact that you have not been living together as husband and wife for the last five years on or before March 13,
1995, you signed the Affidavit, is that correct?
A Yes, sir.25
The falsity of the affidavit cannot be considered as a mere irregularity in the formal requisites of marriage. The law dispenses with the
marriage license requirement for a man and a woman who have lived together and exclusively with each other as husband and wife for a
continuous and unbroken period of at least five years before the marriage. The aim of this provision is to avoid exposing the parties to
humiliation, shame and embarrassment concomitant with the scandalous cohabitation of persons outside a valid marriage due to the
publication of every applicants name for a marriage license. 26 In the instant case, there was no "scandalous cohabitation" to protect; in
fact, there was no cohabitation at all. The false affidavit which petitioner and respondent executed so they could push through with the
marriage has no value whatsoever; it is a mere scrap of paper. They were not exempt from the marriage license requirement. Their failure
to obtain and present a marriage license renders their marriage void ab initio.
Anent the second issue, we find that the child is petitioners illegitimate daughter, and therefore entitled to support.
Illegitimate children may establish their illegitimate filiation in the same way and on the same evidence as legitimate children. 27 Thus, one
can prove illegitimate filiation through the record of birth appearing in the civil register or a final judgment, an admission of legitimate
filiation in a public document or a private handwritten instrument and signed by the parent concerned, or the open and continuous
possession of the status of a legitimate child, or any other means allowed by the Rules of Court and special laws.28
The Certificate of Live Birth29 of the child lists petitioner as the father. In addition, petitioner, in an affidavit waiving additional tax
exemption in favor of respondent, admitted that he is the father of the child, thus stating:
1. I am the legitimate father of REIANNA TRICIA A. DE CASTRO who was born on November 3, 1995 at Better Living, Paraaque, Metro
Manila;30
We are likewise inclined to agree with the following findings of the trial court:
That Reinna Tricia is the child of the respondent with the petitioner is supported not only by the testimony of the latter, but also by
respondents own admission in the course of his testimony wherein he conceded that petitioner was his former girlfriend. While they were
sweethearts, he used to visit petitioner at the latters house or clinic. At times, they would go to a motel to have sex. As a result of their
sexual dalliances, petitioner became pregnant which ultimately led to their marriage, though invalid, as earlier ruled. While respondent
claims that he was merely forced to undergo the marriage ceremony, the pictures taken of the occasion reveal otherwise (Exhs. "B," "B-1,"
to "B-3," "C," "C-1" and "C-2," "D," "D-1" and "D-2," "E," "E-1" and "E-2," "F," "F-1" and "F-2," "G," "G-1" and "G-2" and "H," "H-1" to "H-3").
In one of the pictures (Exhs. "D," "D-1" and "D-2"), defendant is seen putting the wedding ring on petitioners finger and in another picture
(Exhs. "E," "E-1" and "E-2") respondent is seen in the act of kissing the petitioner.31
WHEREFORE, the petition is granted in part. The assailed Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-GR CV No. 69166 are SET
ASIDE and the decision of the Regional Trial Court Branch 70 of Pasig City in JDRC No. 4626 dated 16 October 2000 is hereby REINSTATED.
SO ORDERED
CASE NO. 16
G.R. No. 200233 JULY 15, 2015
LEONILA G. SANTIAGO, Petitioner,
vs.
PEOPLEOF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
DECISION
SERENO, CJ:
We resolve the Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by petitioner Leonila G. Santiago from the Decision and Resolution of the Court of
Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 33566.1 The CA affirmed the Decision and Order of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Criminal Case No.
7232 2 convicting her of bigamy.
THE FACTS
Four months after the solemnization of their marriage on 29 July 1997, 3 Leonila G. Santiago and Nicanor F. Santos faced an
Information 4 for bigamy. Petitioner pleaded "not guilty," while her putative husband escaped the criminal suit. 5
The prosecution adduced evidence that Santos, who had been married to Estela Galang since 2 June 1974, 6 asked petitioner to marry him.
Petitioner, who 'was a 43-year-old widow then, married Santos on 29 July 1997 despite the advice of her brother-in-law and parents-in-law
that if she wanted to remarry, she should choose someone who was "without responsibility." 7
Petitioner asserted her affirmative defense that she could not be included as an accused in the crime of bigamy, because she had been
under the belief that Santos was still single when they got married. She also averred that for there to be a conviction for bigamy, his second
marriage to her should be proven valid by the prosecution; but in this case, she argued that their marriage was void due to the lack of a
marriage license.
Eleven years after the inception of this criminal case, the first wife, Estela Galang, testified for the prosecution.1wphi1 She alleged that
she had met petitioner as early as March and April 1997, on which occasions the former introduced herself as the legal wife of Santos.
Petitioner denied this allegation and averred that she met Galang only in August and September 1997, or after she had already married
Santos.
THE RTC RULING
The RTC appreciated the undisputed fact that petitioner married Santos during the subsistence of his marriage to Galang. Based on the
more credible account of Galang that she had already introduced herself as the legal wife of Santos in March and April 1997, the trial court
rejected the affirmative defense of petitioner that she had not known of the first marriage. It also held that it was incredible for a learned
person like petitioner to be easily duped by a person like Santos. 8
The RTC declared that as indicated in the Certificate of Marriage, "her marriage was celebrated without a need for a marriage license in
accordance with Article 34 of the Family Code, which is an admission that she cohabited with Santos long before the celebration of their
marriage." 9Thus, the trial court convicted petitioner as follows: 10
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the court finds the accused Leonila G. Santiago GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of
Bigamy, defined and penalized under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code and imposes against her the indeterminate penalty of six ( 6)
months and one (1) day of Prision Correctional as minimum to six ( 6) years and one (1) day of Prision Mayor as maximum.
No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
Petitioner moved for reconsideration. She contended that her marriage to Santos was void ab initio for having been celebrated without
complying with Article 34 of the Family Code, which provides an exemption from the requirement of a marriage license if the parties have
actually lived together as husband and wife for at least five years prior to the celebration of their marriage. In her case, petitioner asserted
that she and Santos had not lived together as husband and wife for five years prior to their marriage. Hence, she argued that the absence
of a marriage license effectively rendered their marriage null and void, justifying her acquittal from bigamy.
The RTC refused to reverse her conviction and held thus: 11
Accused Santiago submits that it is her marriage to her co-accused that is null and void as it was celebrated without a valid marriage license
x x x. In advancing that theory, accused wants this court to pass judgment on the validity of her marriage to accused Santos, something this
court cannot do. The best support to her argument would have been the submission of a judicial decree of annulment of their marriage.
Absent such proof, this court cannot declare their marriage null and void in these proceedings.
THE CA RULING
On appeal before the CA, petitioner claimed that her conviction was not based on proof beyond reasonable doubt. She attacked the
credibility of Galang and insisted that the former had not known of the previous marriage of Santos.
Similar to the RTC, the CA gave more weight to the prosecution witnesses' narration. It likewise disbelieved the testimony of Santos. Anent
the lack of a marriage license, the appellate court simply stated that the claim was a vain attempt to put the validity of her marriage to
Santos in question. Consequently, the CA affirmed her conviction for bigamy. 12
THE ISSUES
Before this Court, petitioner reiterates that she cannot be a co-accused in the instant case, because she was not aware of Santos's previous
marriage. But in the main, she argues that for there to be a conviction for bigamy, a valid second marriage must be proven by the
prosecution beyond reasonable doubt.
Citing People v. De Lara, 13 she contends that her marriage to Santos is void because of the absence of a marriage license. She elaborates
that their marriage does not fall under any of those marriages exempt from a marriage license, because they have not previously lived
together exclusively as husband and wife for at least five years. She alleges that it is extant in the records that she married Santos in 1997,
or only four years since she met him in 1993. Without completing the five-year requirement, she posits that their marriage without a
license is void.
In the Comment 14 filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), respondent advances the argument that the instant Rule 45 petition
should be denied for raising factual issues as regards her husband's subsequent marriage. As regards petitioner's denial of any knowledge
of Santos' s first marriage, respondent reiterates that credible testimonial evidence supports the conclusion of the courts a quo that
petitioner knew about the subsisting marriage.
The crime of bigamy under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code provides:
The penalty of prision mayor shall be imposed upon any person who shall contract a second or subsequent marriage before the former
marriage has been legally dissolved, or before the absent spouse has been declared presumptively dead by means of a judgment rendered
in the proper proceedings.
In Montanez v. Cipriano, 15 this Court enumerated the elements of bigamy as follows:
The elements of the crime of bigamy are: (a) the offender has been legally married; (b) the marriage has not been legally dissolved x x x; (c)
that he contracts a second or subsequent marriage; and (d) the second or subsequent marriage has all the essential requisites for validity.
The felony is consummated on the celebration of the second marriage or subsequent marriage. It is essential in the prosecution for bigamy
that the alleged second marriage, having all the essential requirements, would be valid were it not for the subsistence of the first marriage.
(Emphasis supplied)
For the second spouse to be indicted as a co-accused in the crime, People v. Nepomuceno, Jr. 16 instructs that she should have had
knowledge of the previous subsisting marriage. People v. Archilla 17 likewise states that the knowledge of the second wife of the fact of her
spouse's existing prior marriage constitutes an indispensable cooperation in the commission of bigamy, which makes her responsible as an
accomplice.
THE RULING OF THE COURT
The penalty for bigamy and petitioner's knowledge of Santos's first marriage
The crime of bigamy does not necessary entail the joint liability of two persons who marry each other while the previous marriage of one of
them is valid and subsisting. As explained in Nepomuceno: 18
In the crime of bigamy, both the first and second spouses may be the offended parties depending on the circumstances, as when the
second spouse married the accused without being aware of his previous marriage. Only if the second spouse had knowledge of the
previous undissolved marriage of the accused could she be included in the information as a co-accused. (Emphasis supplied)
Therefore, the lower courts correctly ascertained petitioner's knowledge of Santos's marriage to Galang. Both courts consistently found
that she knew of the first marriage as shown by the totality of the following circumstances: 19 (1) when Santos was courting and visiting
petitioner in the house of her in-laws, they openly showed their disapproval of him; (2) it was incredible for a learned person like petitioner
to not know of his true civil status; and (3) Galang, who was the more credible witness compared with petitioner who had various
inconsistent testimonies, straightforwardly testified that she had already told petitioner on two occasions that the former was the legal
wife of Santos.
After a careful review of the records, we see no reason to reverse or modify the factual findings of the R TC, less so in the present case in
which its findings were affirmed by the CA. Indeed, the trial court's assessment of the credibility of witnesses deserves great respect, since
it had the important opportunity to observe firsthand the expression and demeanor of the witnesses during the trial. 20
Given that petitioner knew of the first marriage, this Court concurs with the ruling that she was validly charged with bigamy. However, we
disagree with the lower courts' imposition of the principal penalty on her. To recall, the RTC, which the CA affirmed, meted out to her the
penalty within the range of prision correctional as minimum to prision mayor as maximum.
Her punishment as a principal to the crime is wrong. Archilla 21 holds that the second spouse, if indicted in the crime of bigamy, is liable
only as an accomplice. In referring to Viada, Justice Luis B. Reyes, an eminent authority in criminal law, writes that "a person, whether man
or woman, who knowingly consents or agrees to be married to another already bound in lawful wedlock is guilty as an accomplice in the
crime of bigamy." 22 Therefore, her conviction should only be that for an accomplice to the crime.
Under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, the penalty for a principal in the crime of bigamy is prision mayor, which has a
duration of six years and one day to twelve years. Since the criminal participation of petitioner is that of an accomplice, the sentence
imposable on her is the penalty next lower in degree, 23 prision correctional, which has a duration of six months and one day to six years.
There being neither aggravating nor mitigating circumstance, this penalty shall be imposed in its medium period consisting of two years,
four months and one day to four years and two months of imprisonment. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, 24 petitioner shall be
entitled to a minimum term, to be taken from the penalty next lower in degree, arresto mayor, which has a duration of one month and one
day to six months imprisonment.
The criminal liability of petitioner resulting from her marriage to Santos
Jurisprudence clearly requires that for the accused to be convicted of bigamy, the second or subsequent marriage must have all the
essential requisites for validity. 25 If the accused wants to raise the nullity of the marriage, he or she can do it as a matter of defense during
the presentation of evidence in the trial proper of the criminal case. 26 In this case, petitioner has consistently 27 questioned below the
validity of her marriage to Santos on the ground that marriages celebrated without the essential requisite of a marriage license are void ab
initio. 28
Unfortunately, the lower courts merely brushed aside the issue. The RTC stated that it could not pass judgment on the validity of the
marriage.1wphi1 The CA held that the attempt of petitioner to attack her union with Santos was in vain.
On the basis that the lower courts have manifestly overlooked certain issues and facts, 29 and given that an appeal in a criminal case throws
the whole case open for review, 30 this Court now resolves to correct the error of the courts a quo.
After a perusal of the records, it is clear that the marriage between petitioner and Santos took place without a marriage license. The
absence of this requirement is purportedly explained in their Certificate of Marriage, which reveals that their union was celebrated under
Article 34 of the Family Code. The provision reads as follows:
No license shall be necessary for the marriage of a man and a woman who have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years
and without any legal impediment to marry each other. The contracting parties shall state the foregoing facts in an affidavit before any
person authorized by law to administer oaths. The solemnizing officer shall also state under oath that he ascertained the qualifications of
the contracting parties are found no legal impediment to the marriage.31
Here, respondent did not dispute that petitioner knew Santos in more or less in February 1996 32 and that after six months of
courtship,33 she married him on 29 July 1997. Without any objection from the prosecution, petitioner testified that Santos had frequently
visited her in Castellano, Nueva Ecija, prior to their marriage. However, he never cohabited with her, as she was residing in the house of her
in-laws,34 and her children from her previous marriage disliked him.35 On cross examination, respondent did not question the claim of
petitioner that sometime in 1993, she first met Santos as an agent who sold her piglets.36
All told, the evidence on record shows that petitioner and Santos had only known each other for only less than four years. Thus, it follows
that the two of them could not have cohabited for at least five years prior to their marriage.
Santiago and Santos, however, reflected the exact opposite of this demonstrable fact. Although the records do not show that they
submitted an affidavit of cohabitation as required by Article 34 of the Family Code, it appears that the two of them lied before the
solemnizing officer and misrepresented that they had actually cohabited for at least five years before they married each other.
Unfortunately, subsequent to this lie was the issuance of the Certificate of Marriage, 37 in which the solemnizing officer stated under oath
that no marriage license was necessary, because the marriage was solemnized under Article 34 of the Family Code.
The legal effects in a criminal case of a deliberate act to put a flaw in the marriage
The Certificate of Marriage, signed by Santos and Santiago, contained the misrepresentation perpetrated by them that they were eligible to
contract marriage without a license. We thus face an anomalous situation wherein petitioner seeks to be acquitted of bigamy based on her
illegal actions of (1) marrying Santos without a marriage license despite knowing that they had not satisfied the cohabitation requirement
under the law; and (2) falsely making claims in no less than her marriage contract.
We chastise this deceptive scheme that hides what is basically a bigamous and illicit marriage in an effort to escape criminal prosecution.
Our penal laws on marriage, such as bigamy, punish an individual's deliberate disregard of the permanent and sacrosanct character of this
special bond between spouses.38 In Tenebro v. Court of Appeals,39 we had the occasion to emphasize that the State's penal laws on bigamy
should not be rendered nugatory by allowing individuals "to deliberately ensure that each marital contract be flawed in some manner, and
to thus escape the consequences of contracting multiple marriages, while beguiling throngs of hapless women with the promise of futurity
and commitment."
Thus, in the case at bar, we cannot countenance petitioner's illegal acts of feigning a marriage and, in the same breath, adjudge her
innocent of the crime. For us, to do so would only make a mockery of the sanctity of marriage. 40
Furthermore, it is a basic concept of justice that no court will "lend its aid to x x x one who has consciously and voluntarily become a party
to an illegal act upon which the cause of action is founded." 41 If the cause of action appears to arise ex turpi causa or that which involves a
transgression of positive law, parties shall be left unassisted by the courts. 42 As a result, litigants shall be denied relief on the ground that
their conduct has been inequitable, unfair and dishonest or fraudulent, or deceitful as to the controversy in issue. 43
Here, the cause of action of petitioner, meaning her affirmative defense in this criminal case of bigamy, is that her marriage with Santos
was void for having been secured without a marriage license. But as elucidated earlier, they themselves perpetrated a false Certificate of
Marriage by misrepresenting that they were exempted from the license requirement based on their fabricated claim that they had already
cohabited as husband and wife for at least five years prior their marriage. In violation of our law against illegal marriages,44 petitioner
married Santos while knowing full well that they had not yet complied with the five-year cohabitation requirement under Article 34 of the
Family Code. Consequently, it will be the height of absurdity for this Court to allow petitioner to use her illegal act to escape criminal
conviction.
The applicability of People v. De Lara
Petitioner cites De Lara as the relevant jurisprudence involving an acquittal for bigamy on the ground that the second marriage lacked the
requisite marriage license. In that case, the Court found that when Domingo de Lara married his second wife, Josefa Rosales, on 18 August
1951, the local Civil Registrar had yet to issue their marriage license on 19 August 1951. Thus, since the marriage was celebrated one day
before the issuance of the marriage license, the Court acquitted him of bigamy.
Noticeably, Domingo de Lara did not cause the falsification of public documents in order to contract a second marriage. In contrast,
petitioner and Santos fraudulently secured a Certificate of Marriage, and petitioner later used this blatantly illicit act as basis for seeking
her exculpation. Therefore, unlike our treatment of the accused in De Lara, this Court cannot regard petitioner herein as innocent of the
crime.
No less than the present Constitution provides that "marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be
protected by the State." 45 It must be safeguarded from the whims and caprices of the contracting parties. 46 in keeping therefore with this
fundamental policy, this Court affirms the conviction of petitioner for bigamy
WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by petitioner Leonila G. Santiago is DENIED. The Decision and Resolution of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 33566 is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. As modified, petitioner Leonila G. Santiago is hereby found
guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of bigamy as an accomplice. She is sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of six
months of arresto mayor as minimum to four years of prision correctional as maximum plus accessory penalties provided by law.
SO ORDERED.
CASE NO. 17
G.R. No. 173614 September 28, 2007
LOLITA D. ENRICO, Petitioner,
vs.
HEIRS OF SPS. EULOGIO B. MEDINACELI AND TRINIDAD CATLI-MEDINACELI, REPRESENTED BY VILMA M. ARTICULO, Respondents.
DECISION
CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:
The instant Petition for Certiorari filed under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure assails the Order, 1 dated 3 May 2006 of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Aparri, Cagayan, Branch 6, in Civil Case No. II-4057, granting reconsideration of its Order,2 dated 11 October
2005, and reinstating respondents Complaint for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage.
On 17 March 2005, respondents, heirs of Spouses Eulogio B. Medinaceli (Eulogio) and Trinidad Catli-Medinaceli (Trinidad) filed with the
RTC, an action for declaration of nullity of marriage of Eulogio and petitioner Lolita D. Enrico. Substantially, the complaint alleged, inter alia,
that Eulogio and Trinidad were married on 14 June 1962, in Lal-lo, Cagayan.3 They begot seven children, herein respondents, namely:
Eduardo, Evelyn, Vilma, Mary Jane, Haizel, Michelle and Joseph Lloyd. 4 On 1 May 2004, Trinidad died.5 On 26 August 2004, Eulogio married
petitioner before the Municipal Mayor of Lal-lo, Cagayan.6 Six months later, or on 10 February 2005, Eulogio passed away.7
In impugning petitioners marriage to Eulogio, respondents averred that the same was entered into without the requisite marriage license.
They argued that Article 348 of the Family Code, which exempts a man and a woman who have been living together for at least five years
without any legal impediment from securing a marriage license, was not applicable to petitioner and Eulogio because they could not have
lived together under the circumstances required by said provision. Respondents posited that the marriage of Eulogio to Trinidad was
dissolved only upon the latters death, or on 1 May 2004, which was barely three months from the date of marriage of Eulogio to
petitioner. Therefore, petitioner and Eulogio could not have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years. To further their
cause, respondents raised the additional ground of lack of marriage ceremony due to Eulogios serious illness which made its performance
impossible.
In her Answer, petitioner maintained that she and Eulogio lived together as husband and wife under one roof for 21 years openly and
publicly; hence, they were exempted from the requirement of a marriage license. From their union were born Elvin Enrico and Marco
Enrico, all surnamed Medinaceli, on 28 October 1988 and 30 October 1991, respectively. She further contended that the marriage
ceremony was performed in the Municipal Hall of Lal-lo, Cagayan, and solemnized by the Municipal Mayor. As an affirmative defense, she
sought the dismissal of the action on the ground that it is only the contracting parties while living who can file an action for declaration of
nullity of marriage.
On 11 October 2005, the RTC issued an Order,9 granting the dismissal of the Complaint for lack of cause of action. It cited A.M. No. 02-11-
10-SC,10 dated 7 March 2003, promulgated by the Supreme Court En Banc as basis. The RTC elucidated on its position in the following
manner:
The Complaint should be dismissed.
1) Administrative Matter No. 02-11-10-SC promulgated by the Supreme Court which took effect on March 15, 2003 provides in Section 2,
par. (a)11 that a petition for Declaration of Absolute Nullity of a Void Marriage may be filed solely by the husband or the wife. The language
of this rule is plain and simple which states that such a petition may be filed solely by the husband or the wife. The rule is clear and
unequivocal that only the husband or the wife may file the petition for Declaration of Absolute Nullity of a Void Marriage. The reading of
this Court is that the right to bring such petition is exclusive and this right solely belongs to them. Consequently, the heirs of the deceased
spouse cannot substitute their late father in bringing the action to declare the marriage null and void.12 (Emphasis supplied.)
The dispositive portion of the Order, thus, reads:
WHEREFORE, [the] Motion to Dismiss raised as an affirmative defense in the answer is hereby GRANTED. Accordingly, the Complaint filed
by the [respondents] is hereby DISMISSED with costs de officio. 13
Respondents filed a Motion for Reconsideration thereof. Following the filing by petitioner of her Comment to the said motion, the RTC
rendered an Order14 dated 3 May 2006, reversing its Order of 11 October 2005. Hence, the RTC reinstated the complaint on the
ratiocination that the assailed Order ignored the ruling in Nial v. Bayadog, 15 which was on the authority for holding that the heirs of a
deceased spouse have the standing to assail a void marriage even after the death of the latter. It held that Section 2(a) of A.M. No. 02-11-
20-SC, which provides that a petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be filed solely by the husband or the wife,
applies only where both parties to a void marriage are still living.16 Where one or both parties are deceased, the RTC held that the heirs
may file a petition to declare the marriage void. The RTC expounded on its stance, thus:
The questioned Order disregarded the case of Nial vs. Bayadog, 328 SCRA 122 (March 14, 2000) in which the Supreme Court, First Division,
held that the heirs of a deceased person may file a petition for the declaration of his marriage after his death. The Order subject of this
motion for reconsideration held that the case of Nial vs. Bayadog is now superseded by the new Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of
Marriages (hereinafter referred to as the Rule) because the Supreme Court has rejected the case of Nial vs. Bayadog by approving the Rule
on Nullity of Void Marriages. The Order further held that it is only the husband or the wife who is (sic) the only parties allowed to file an
action for declaration of nullity of their marriage and such right is purely personal and is not transmissible upon the death of the parties.
It is admitted that there seems to be a conflict between the case of Nial vs. Bayadog and Section 2(a) of the Rule. In view of this, the Court
shall try to reconcile the case of Nial vs. Bayadog and the Rule. To reconcile, the Court will have to determine [the] basic rights of the
parties. The rights of the legitimate heirs of a person who entered into a void marriage will be prejudiced particularly with respect to their
successional rights. During the lifetime of the parent[,] the heirs have only an inchoate right over the property of the said parents. Hence,
during the lifetime of the parent, it would be proper that it should solely be the parent who should be allowed to file a petition to declare
his marriage void. However, upon the death of the parent his heirs have already a vested right over whatever property left by the parent.
Such vested right should not be frustrated by any rules of procedure such as the Rule. Rules of Procedure cannot repeal rights granted by
substantive law. The heirs, then, have a legal standing in Court.
If the heirs are prohibited from questioning the void marriage entered by their parent, especially when the marriage is illegal and
feloniously entered into, it will give premium to such union because the guilty parties will seldom, if ever at all, ask for the annulment of the
marriage. Such void marriage will be given a semblance of validity if the heirs will not be allowed to file the petition after the death of the
parent.
For these reasons, this Court believes that Sec. 2(a) of the Rules on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Marriage is applicable only when both
parties to a (sic) void marriage are still living. Upon the death of anyone of the guilty party to the void marriage, his heirs may file a petition
to declare the the (sic) marriage void, but the Rule is not applicable as it was not filed b the husband or the wife. It shall be the ordinary rule
of civil procedure which shall be applicable.17
Perforce, the decretal portion of the RTC Order of 3 May 2006 states:
In view of the foregoing, the Court grants the motion for reconsideration dated October 31, 2005 and reinstate this case. 18
Aggrieved, petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the foregoing Order; however, on 1 June 2006, the RTC denied the said motion
on the ground that no new matter was raised therein.19
Hence, the instant Petition under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure on the sole question of whether the case law as embodied in
Nial, or the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages, as specified in A.M. No. 02-
11-10-SC of the Supreme Court applies to the case at bar.
At the outset, we note that petitioner took an abbreviated route to this Court, countenancing the hierarchy of courts.
We have earlier emphasized that while the Supreme Court has the concurrent jurisdiction with the Court of Appeals and the RTCs (for writs
enforceable within their respective regions), to issue writs of mandamus, prohibition or certiorari, the litigants are well advised against
taking a direct recourse to this Court.20 Instead, they should initially seek the proper relief from the lower courts. As a court of last resort,
this Court should not be burdened with the task of dealing with causes in the first instance. Where the issuance of an extraordinary writ is
concurrently within the competence of the Court of Appeals or the RTC, litigants must observe the principle of hierarchy of
courts.21However, it cannot be gainsaid that this Court has the discretionary power to brush aside procedural lapses if compelling reasons,
or the nature and importance of the issues raised, warrant the immediate exercise of its jurisdiction. 22 Moreover, notwithstanding the
dismissibility of the instant Petition for its failure to observe the doctrine on the hierarchy of courts, this Court will proceed to entertain the
case grounded as it is on a pure question of law.
Petitioner maintains that A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC governs the instant case. A contrario, respondents posit that it is Nial which is applicable,
whereby the heirs of the deceased person were granted the right to file a petition for the declaration of nullity of his marriage after his
death.
We grant the Petition.
In reinstating respondents Complaint for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage, the RTC acted with grave abuse of discretion.
While it is true that Nial in no uncertain terms allowed therein petitioners to file a petition for the declaration of nullity of their fathers
marriage to therein respondent after the death of their father, we cannot, however, apply its ruling for the reason that the impugned
marriage therein was solemnized prior to the effectivity of the Family Code. The Court in Nial recognized that the applicable law to
determine the validity of the two marriages involved therein is the Civil Code, which was the law in effect at the time of their
celebration.23 What we have before us belongs to a different milieu, i.e., the marriage sought to be declared void was entered into during
the effectivity of the Family Code. As can be gleaned from the facts, petitioners marriage to Eulogio was celebrated in 2004.1wphi1
The Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages as contained in A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC
is explicit in its scope, to wit:
Section 1. Scope. This Rule shall govern petitions for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages and annulment of voidable
marriages under the Family Code of the Philippines.
The Rules of Court shall apply suppletorily. (Emphasis supplied.)
The categorical language of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC leaves no room for doubt. The coverage extends only to those marriages entered into
during the effectivity of the Family Code which took effect on 3 August 1988.24
Moreover, A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC took effect on 15 March 2003, following its publication in a newspaper of general circulation. Thus,
contrary to the opinion of the RTC, there is no need to reconcile the provisions of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC with the ruling in Nial, because
they vary in scope and application. As has been emphasized, A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC covers marriages under the Family Code of the
Philippines, and is prospective in its application. The marriage of petitioner to Eulogio was celebrated on 26 August 2004, and it squarely
falls within the ambit of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC.
Hence, in resolving the issue before us, we resort to Section 2(a) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC, which provides:
Section 2. Petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages.
(a) Who may file. A petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be filed solely by the husband or the wife. (n)
(Emphasis supplied.)
There is no ambiguity in the Rule. Absolute sententil expositore non indiget. When the language of the law is clear, no explanation of it is
required. Section 2(a) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC, makes it the sole right of the husband or the wife to file a petition for declaration of
absolute nullity of void marriage.
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.25 (Emphasis supplied.)
Respondents clearly have no cause of action before the court a quo. Nonetheless, all is not lost for respondents. While A.M. No. 02-11-10-
SC declares that a petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be filed solely by the husband or the wife, it does not
mean that the compulsory or intestate heirs are already without any recourse under the law. They can still protect their successional right,
for, as stated in the Rationale of the Rules on Annulment of Voidable Marriages and Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages, Legal
Separation and Provisional Orders, compulsory or intestate heirs can still question the validity of the marriage of the spouses, not in a
proceeding for declaration of nullity, but upon the death of a spouse in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased
spouse filed in the regular courts.
WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED. Civil Case No. II-4057 filed before the Regional Trial Court of Aparri, Cagayan, Branch 6, is ORDERED
DISMISSED without prejudice to challenging the validity of the marriage of Lolita D. Enrico to Eulogio B. Medinaceli in a proceeding for the
settlement of the estate of the latter. No costs.
SO ORDERED.
CASE NO. 18
G.R. No. 179922 December 16, 2008
JUAN DE DIOS CARLOS, petitioner,
vs.
FELICIDAD SANDOVAL, also known as FELICIDAD S. VDA. DE CARLOS or FELICIDAD SANDOVAL CARLOS or FELICIDAD SANDOVAL VDA. DE
CARLOS, and TEOFILO CARLOS II, respondents.
DECISION
REYES, R.T., J.:
ONLY a spouse can initiate an action to sever the marital bond for marriages solemnized during the effectivity of the Family Code, except
cases commenced prior to March 15, 2003. The nullity and annulment of a marriage cannot be declared in a judgment on the pleadings,
summary judgment, or confession of judgment.
We pronounce these principles as We review on certiorari the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) which reversed and set aside the
summary judgment2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in an action for declaration of nullity of marriage, status of a child, recovery of
property, reconveyance, sum of money, and damages.
The Facts
The events that led to the institution of the instant suitare unveiled as follows:
Spouses Felix B. Carlos and Felipa Elemia died intestate. They left six parcels of land to their compulsory heirs, Teofilo Carlos and petitioner
Juan De Dios Carlos. The lots are particularly described as follows:
Parcel No. 1
Lot No. 162 of the MUNTINLUPA ESTATE SUBDIVISION, Case No. 6137 of the Court of Land Registration.
Exemption from the provisions of Article 567 of the Civil Code is specifically reserved.
Area: 1 hectare, 06 ares, 07 centares.
Parcel No. 2
A parcel of land (Lot No. 159-B), being a portion of Lot 159, situated in the Bo. of Alabang, Municipality of Muntinlupa, Province of Rizal, x x
x containing an area of Thirteen Thousand Four Hundred Forty One (13,441) square meters.
Parcel No. 3
A parcel of land (Lot 159-B-2 of the subd. plan [LRC] Psd-325903, approved as a non-subd. project), being a portion of Lot 159-B [LRC] Psd-
Alabang, Mun. of Muntinlupa, Metro Manila, Island of Luzon. Bounded on the NE, points 2 to 4 by Lot 155, Muntinlupa Estate; on the SE,
point 4 to 5 by Lot 159-B-5; on the S, points 5 to 1 by Lot 159-B-3; on the W, points 1 to 2 by Lot 159-B-1 (Road widening) all of the subd.
plan, containing an area of ONE HUNDRED THIRTY (130) SQ. METERS, more or less.
PARCEL No. 4
A parcel of land (Lot 28-C of the subd. plan Psd-13-007090, being a portion of Lot 28, Muntinlupa Estate, L.R.C. Rec. No. 6137), situated in
the Bo. of Alabang, Mun. of Muntinlupa, Metro Manila. Bounded on the NE, along lines 1-2 by Lot 27, Muntinlupa Estate; on the East & SE,
along lines 2 to 6 by Mangangata River; and on the West., along line 6-1, by Lot 28-B of the subd. plan x x x containing an area of ONE
THUSAND AND SEVENTY-SIX (1,076) SQUARE METERS.
PARCEL No. 5
PARCELA DE TERRENO No. 50, Manzana No. 18, de la subd. de Solocan. Linda por el NW, con la parcela 49; por el NE, con la parcela 36; por
el SE, con la parcela 51; y por el SW, con la calle Dos Castillas. Partiendo de un punto marcado 1 en el plano, el cual se halla a S. gds. 01'W,
72.50 mts. Desde el punto 1 de esta manzana, que es un mojon de concreto de la Ciudad de Manila, situado on el esquina E. que forman las
Calles Laong Laan y Dos. Castillas, continiendo un extension superficial de CIENTO CINCUENTA (150) METROS CUADRADOS.
PARCEL No. 6
PARCELA DE TERRENO No. 51, Manzana No. 18, de la subd. De Solocon. Linda por el NW, con la parcela 50; por el NE, con la parcela 37; por
el SE, con la parcela 52; por el SW, con la Calle Dos Castillas. Partiendo de un punto Marcado 1 en el plano, el cual se halla at S. 43 gds. 01'E,
82.50 mts. Desde el punto 1 de esta manzana, que es un mojon de concreto de la Ciudad de Manila, situado on el esquina E. que forman las
Calles Laong Laan y Dos. Castillas, continiendo una extension superficial de CIENTO CINCUENTA (150) METROS CUADRADOS. 3
During the lifetime of Felix Carlos, he agreed to transfer his estate to Teofilo. The agreement was made in order to avoid the payment of
inheritance taxes. Teofilo, in turn, undertook to deliver and turn over the share of the other legal heir, petitioner Juan De Dios Carlos.
Eventually, the first three (3) parcels of land were transferred and registered in the name of Teofilo. These three (3) lots are now covered
by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 234824 issued by the Registry of Deeds of Makati City; TCT No. 139061 issued by the Registry of
Deeds of Makati City; and TCT No. 139058 issued by the Registry of Deeds of Makati City.
Parcel No. 4 was registered in the name of petitioner. The lot is now covered by TCT No. 160401 issued by the Registry of Deeds of Makati
City.
On May 13, 1992, Teofilo died intestate. He was survived by respondents Felicidad and their son, Teofilo Carlos II (Teofilo II). Upon Teofilo's
death, Parcel Nos. 5 & 6 were registered in the name of respondent Felicidad and co-respondent, Teofilo II. The said two (2) parcels of land
are covered by TCT Nos. 219877 and 210878, respectively, issued by the Registry of Deeds of Manila.
In 1994, petitioner instituted a suit against respondents before the RTC in Muntinlupa City, docketed as Civil Case No. 94-1964. In the said
case, the parties submitted and caused the approval of a partial compromise agreement. Under the compromise, the parties acknowledged
their respective shares in the proceeds from the sale of a portion of the first parcel of land. This includes the remaining 6,691-square-meter
portion of said land.
On September 17, 1994, the parties executed a deed of extrajudicial partition, dividing the remaining land of the first parcel between them.
Meanwhile, in a separate case entitled Rillo v. Carlos,4 2,331 square meters of the second parcel of land were adjudicated in favor of
plaintiffs Rillo. The remaining 10,000-square meter portion was later divided between petitioner and respondents.
The division was incorporated in a supplemental compromise agreement executed on August 17, 1994, with respect to Civil Case No. 94-
1964. The parties submitted the supplemental compromise agreement, which was approved accordingly.
Petitioner and respondents entered into two more contracts in August 1994. Under the contracts, the parties equally divided between
them the third and fourth parcels of land.
In August 1995, petitioner commenced an action, docketed as Civil Case No. 95-135, against respondents before the court a quo with the
following causes of action: (a) declaration of nullity of marriage; (b) status of a child; (c) recovery of property; (d) reconveyance; and (e)
sum of money and damages. The complaint was raffled to Branch 256 of the RTC in Muntinlupa.
In his complaint, petitioner asserted that the marriage between his late brother Teofilo and respondent Felicidad was a nullity in view of
the absence of the required marriage license. He likewise maintained that his deceased brother was neither the natural nor the adoptive
father of respondent Teofilo Carlos II.
Petitioner likewise sought the avoidance of the contracts he entered into with respondent Felicidad with respect to the subject real
properties. He also prayed for the cancellation of the certificates of title issued in the name of respondents. He argued that the properties
covered by such certificates of title, including the sums received by respondents as proceeds, should be reconveyed to him.
Finally, petitioner claimed indemnification as and by way of moral and exemplary damages, attorney's fees, litigation expenses, and costs of
suit.
On October 16, 1995, respondents submitted their answer. They denied the material averments of petitioner's complaint. Respondents
contended that the dearth of details regarding the requisite marriage license did not invalidate Felicidad's marriage to Teofilo. Respondents
declared that Teofilo II was the illegitimate child of the deceased Teofilo Carlos with another woman.
On the grounds of lack of cause of action and lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, respondents prayed for the dismissal of the case
before the trial court. They also asked that their counterclaims for moral and exemplary damages, as well as attorney's fees, be granted.
But before the parties could even proceed to pre-trial, respondents moved for summary judgment. Attached to the motion was the
affidavit of the justice of the peace who solemnized the marriage. Respondents also submitted the Certificate of Live Birth of respondent
Teofilo II. In the certificate, the late Teofilo Carlos and respondent Felicidad were designated as parents.
On January 5, 1996, petitioner opposed the motion for summary judgment on the ground of irregularity of the contract evidencing the
marriage. In the same breath, petitioner lodged his own motion for summary judgment. Petitioner presented a certification from the Local
Civil Registrar of Calumpit, Bulacan, certifying that there is no record of birth of respondent Teofilo II.
Petitioner also incorporated in the counter-motion for summary judgment the testimony of respondent Felicidad in another case. Said
testimony was made in Civil Case No. 89-2384, entitled Carlos v. Gorospe, before the RTC Branch 255, Las Pias. In her testimony,
respondent Felicidad narrated that co-respondent Teofilo II is her child with Teofilo.5
Subsequently, the Office of the City Prosecutor of Muntinlupa submitted to the trial court its report and manifestation, discounting the
possibility of collusion between the parties.
RTC and CA Dispositions
On April 8, 1996, the RTC rendered judgment, disposing as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, defendant's (respondent's) Motion for Summary Judgment is hereby denied. Plaintiff's (petitioner's)
Counter-Motion for Summary Judgment is hereby granted and summary judgment is hereby rendered in favor of plaintiff as follows:
1. Declaring the marriage between defendant Felicidad Sandoval and Teofilo Carlos solemnized at Silang, Cavite on May 14, 1962,
evidenced by the Marriage Certificate submitted in this case, null and void ab initio for lack of the requisite marriage license;
2. Declaring that the defendant minor, Teofilo S. Carlos II, is not the natural, illegitimate, or legally adopted child of the late Teofilo E.
Carlos;
3. Ordering defendant Sandoval to pay and restitute to plaintiff the sum of P18,924,800.00 together with the interest thereon at the legal
rate from date of filing of the instant complaint until fully paid;
4. Declaring plaintiff as the sole and exclusive owner of the parcel of land, less the portion adjudicated to plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 11975,
covered by TCT No. 139061 of the Register of Deeds of Makati City, and ordering said Register of Deeds to cancel said title and to issue
another title in the sole name of plaintiff herein;
5. Declaring the Contract, Annex "K" of complaint, between plaintiff and defendant Sandoval null and void, and ordering the Register of
Deeds of Makati City to cancel TCT No. 139058 in the name of Teofilo Carlos, and to issue another title in the sole name of plaintiff herein;
6. Declaring the Contract, Annex M of the complaint, between plaintiff and defendant Sandoval null and void;
7. Ordering the cancellation of TCT No. 210877 in the names of defendant Sandoval and defendant minor Teofilo S. Carlos II and ordering
the Register of Deeds of Manila to issue another title in the exclusive name of plaintiff herein;
8. Ordering the cancellation of TCT No. 210878 in the name of defendant Sandoval and defendant Minor Teofilo S. Carlos II and ordering
the Register of Deeds of Manila to issue another title in the sole name of plaintiff herein.
Let this case be set for hearing for the reception of plaintiff's evidence on his claim for moral damages, exemplary damages, attorney's fees,
appearance fees, and litigation expenses on June 7, 1996 at 1:30 o'clock in the afternoon.
SO ORDERED.6
Dissatisfied, respondents appealed to the CA. In the appeal, respondents argued, inter alia, that the trial court acted without or in excess of
jurisdiction in rendering summary judgment annulling the marriage of Teofilo, Sr. and Felicidad and in declaring Teofilo II as not an
illegitimate child of Teofilo, Sr.
On October 15, 2002, the CA reversed and set aside the RTC ruling, disposing as follows:
WHEREFORE, the summary judgment appealed from is REVERSED and SET ASIDE and in lieu thereof, a new one is entered REMANDING the
case to the court of origin for further proceedings.
SO ORDERED.7
The CA opined:
We find the rendition of the herein appealed summary judgment by the court a quo contrary to law and public policy as ensconced in the
aforesaid safeguards. The fact that it was appellants who first sought summary judgment from the trial court, did not justify the grant
thereof in favor of appellee. Not being an action "to recover upon a claim" or "to obtain a declaratory relief," the rule on summary
judgment apply (sic) to an action to annul a marriage. The mere fact that no genuine issue was presented and the desire to expedite the
disposition of the case cannot justify a misinterpretation of the rule. The first paragraph of Article 88 and 101 of the Civil Code expressly
prohibit the rendition of decree of annulment of a marriage upon a stipulation of facts or a confession of judgment. Yet, the affidavits
annexed to the petition for summary judgment practically amount to these methods explicitly proscribed by the law.
We are not unmindful of appellee's argument that the foregoing safeguards have traditionally been applied to prevent collusion of spouses
in the matter of dissolution of marriages and that the death of Teofilo Carlos on May 13, 1992 had effectively dissolved the marriage herein
impugned. The fact, however, that appellee's own brother and appellant Felicidad Sandoval lived together as husband and wife for thirty
years and that the annulment of their marriage is the very means by which the latter is sought to be deprived of her participation in the
estate left by the former call for a closer and more thorough inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the case. Rather that the summary
nature by which the court a quo resolved the issues in the case, the rule is to the effect that the material facts alleged in the complaint for
annulment of marriage should always be proved. Section 1, Rule 19 of the Revised Rules of Court provides:
"Section 1. Judgment on the pleadings. - Where an answer fails to tender an issue, or otherwise admits the material allegations of the
adverse party's pleading, the court may, on motion of that party, direct judgment on such pleading. But in actions for annulment of
marriage or for legal separation, the material facts alleged in the complaint shall always be proved." (Underscoring supplied)
Moreover, even if We were to sustain the applicability of the rules on summary judgment to the case at bench, Our perusal of the record
shows that the finding of the court a quo for appellee would still not be warranted. While it may be readily conceded that a valid marriage
license is among the formal requisites of marriage, the absence of which renders the marriage void ab initio pursuant to Article 80(3) in
relation to Article 58 of the Civil Code the failure to reflect the serial number of the marriage license on the marriage contract evidencing
the marriage between Teofilo Carlos and appellant Felicidad Sandoval, although irregular, is not as fatal as appellee represents it to be.
Aside from the dearth of evidence to the contrary, appellant Felicidad Sandoval's affirmation of the existence of said marriage license is
corroborated by the following statement in the affidavit executed by Godofredo Fojas, then Justice of the Peace who officiated the
impugned marriage, to wit:
"That as far as I could remember, there was a marriage license issued at Silang, Cavite on May 14, 1962 as basis of the said marriage
contract executed by Teofilo Carlos and Felicidad Sandoval, but the number of said marriage license was inadvertently not placed in the
marriage contract for the reason that it was the Office Clerk who filled up the blanks in the Marriage Contract who in turn, may have
overlooked the same."
Rather than the inferences merely drawn by the trial court, We are of the considered view that the veracity and credibility of the foregoing
statement as well as the motivations underlying the same should be properly threshed out in a trial of the case on the merits.
If the non-presentation of the marriage contract - the primary evidence of marriage - is not proof that a marriage did not take place,
neither should appellants' non-presentation of the subject marriage license be taken as proof that the same was not procured. The burden
of proof to show the nullity of the marriage, it must be emphasized, rests upon the plaintiff and any doubt should be resolved in favor of
the validity of the marriage.
Considering that the burden of proof also rests on the party who disputes the legitimacy of a particular party, the same may be said of the
trial court's rejection of the relationship between appellant Teofilo Carlos II and his putative father on the basis of the inconsistencies in
appellant Felicidad Sandoval's statements. Although it had effectively disavowed appellant's prior claims regarding the legitimacy of
appellant Teofilo Carlos II, the averment in the answer that he is the illegitimate son of appellee's brother, to Our mind, did not altogether
foreclose the possibility of the said appellant's illegitimate filiation, his right to prove the same or, for that matter, his entitlement to
inheritance rights as such.
Without trial on the merits having been conducted in the case, We find appellee's bare allegation that appellant Teofilo Carlos II was
merely purchased from an indigent couple by appellant Felicidad Sandoval, on the whole, insufficient to support what could well be a
minor's total forfeiture of the rights arising from his putative filiation. Inconsistent though it may be to her previous statements, appellant
Felicidad Sandoval's declaration regarding the illegitimate filiation of Teofilo Carlos II is more credible when considered in the light of the
fact that, during the last eight years of his life, Teofilo Carlos allowed said appellant the use of his name and the shelter of his household.
The least that the trial court could have done in the premises was to conduct a trial on the merits in order to be able to thoroughly resolve
the issues pertaining to the filiation of appellant Teofilo Carlos II.8
On November 22, 2006, petitioner moved for reconsideration and for the inhibition of the ponente, Justice Rebecca De Guia-Salvador. The
CA denied the twin motions.
Issues
In this petition under Rule 45, petitioner hoists the following issues:
1. That, in reversing and setting aside the Summary Judgment under the Decision, Annex A hereof, and in denying petitioner's Motion for
reconsideration under the Resolution, Annex F hereof, with respect to the nullity of the impugned marriage, petitioner respectfully submits
that the Court of Appeals committed a grave reversible error in applying Articles 88 and 101 of the Civil Code, despite the fact that the
circumstances of this case are different from that contemplated and intended by law, or has otherwise decided a question of substance not
theretofore decided by the Supreme Court, or has decided it in a manner probably not in accord with law or with the applicable decisions
of this Honorable Court;
2. That in setting aside and reversing the Summary Judgment and, in lieu thereof, entering another remanding the case to the court of
origin for further proceedings, petitioner most respectfully submits that the Court of Appeals committed a serious reversible error in
applying Section 1, Rule 19 (now Section 1, Rule 34) of the Rules of Court providing for judgment on the pleadings, instead of Rule 35
governing Summary Judgments;
3. That in reversing and setting aside the Summary Judgment and, in lieu thereof, entering another remanding the case to the court of
origin for further proceedings, petitioner most respectfully submits that the Court of Appeals committed grave abuse of discretion,
disregarded judicial admissions, made findings on ground of speculations, surmises, and conjectures, or otherwise committed
misapplications of the laws and misapprehension of the facts.9 (Underscoring supplied)
Essentially, the Court is tasked to resolve whether a marriage may be declared void ab initio through a judgment on the pleadings or a
summary judgment and without the benefit of a trial. But there are other procedural issues, including the capacity of one who is not a
spouse in bringing the action for nullity of marriage.
Our Ruling
I. The grounds for declaration of absolute nullity of marriage must be proved. Neither judgment on the pleadings nor summary
judgment is allowed. So is confession of judgment disallowed.
Petitioner faults the CA in applying Section 1, Rule 1910 of the Revised Rules of Court, which provides:
SECTION 1. Judgment on the pleadings. - Where an answer fails to tender an issue, or otherwise admits the material allegations of the
adverse party's pleading, the court may, on motion of that party, direct judgment on such pleading. But in actions for annulment of
marriage or for legal separation, the material facts alleged in the complaint shall always be proved.
He argues that the CA should have applied Rule 35 of the Rules of Court governing summary judgment, instead of the rule on judgment on
the pleadings.
Petitioner is misguided. The CA did not limit its finding solely within the provisions of the Rule on judgment on the pleadings. In disagreeing
with the trial court, the CA likewise considered the provisions on summary judgments, to wit:
Moreover, even if We are to sustain the applicability of the rules on summary judgment to the case at bench, Our perusal of the record
shows that the finding of the court a quo for appellee would still not be warranted. x x x11
But whether it is based on judgment on the pleadings or summary judgment, the CA was correct in reversing the summary judgment
rendered by the trial court. Both the rules on judgment on the pleadings and summary judgments have no place in cases of declaration of
absolute nullity of marriage and even in annulment of marriage.
With the advent of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC, known as "Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable
Marriages," the question on the application of summary judgments or even judgment on the pleadings in cases of nullity or annulment of
marriage has been stamped with clarity. The significant principle laid down by the said Rule, which took effect on March 15, 200312 is found
in Section 17, viz.:
SEC. 17. Trial. - (1) The presiding judge shall personally conduct the trial of the case. No delegation of evidence to a commissioner shall be
allowed except as to matters involving property relations of the spouses.
(2) The grounds for declaration of absolute nullity or annulment of marriage must be proved. No judgment on the pleadings, summary
judgment, or confession of judgment shall be allowed. (Underscoring supplied)
Likewise instructive is the Court's pronouncement in Republic v. Sandiganbayan.13 In that case, We excluded actions for nullity or
annulment of marriage from the application of summary judgments.
Prescinding from the foregoing discussion, save for annulment of marriage or declaration of its nullity or for legal separation, summary
judgment is applicable to all kinds of actions.14 (Underscoring supplied)
By issuing said summary judgment, the trial court has divested the State of its lawful right and duty to intervene in the case. The
participation of the State is not terminated by the declaration of the public prosecutor that no collusion exists between the parties. The
State should have been given the opportunity to present controverting evidence before the judgment was rendered. 15
Both the Civil Code and the Family Code ordain that the court should order the prosecuting attorney to appear and intervene for the State.
It is at this stage when the public prosecutor sees to it that there is no suppression of evidence. Concomitantly, even if there is no
suppression of evidence, the public prosecutor has to make sure that the evidence to be presented or laid down before the court is not
fabricated.
To further bolster its role towards the preservation of marriage, the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages reiterates the
duty of the public prosecutor, viz.:
SEC. 13. Effect of failure to appear at the pre-trial. - (a) x x x
(b) x x x If there is no collusion, the court shall require the public prosecutor to intervene for the State during the trial on the merits to
prevent suppression or fabrication of evidence. (Underscoring supplied)
Truly, only the active participation of the public prosecutor or the Solicitor General will ensure that the interest of the State is represented
and protected in proceedings for declaration of nullity of marriages by preventing the fabrication or suppression of evidence.16
II. A petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be filed solely by the husband or wife. Exceptions: (1) Nullity of
marriage cases commenced before the effectivity of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC; and (2) Marriages celebrated during the effectivity of the Civil
Code.
Under the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages, the petition for declaration of
absolute nullity of marriage may not be filed by any party outside of the marriage. The Rule made it exclusively a right of the spouses by
stating:
SEC. 2. Petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages. -
(a) Who may file. - A petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be filed solely by the husband or the wife.
(Underscoring supplied)
Section 2(a) of the Rule makes it the sole right of the husband or the wife to file a petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void
marriage. The rationale of the Rule is enlightening, viz.:
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.17 (Underscoring supplied)
The new Rule recognizes that the husband and the wife are the sole architects of a healthy, loving, peaceful marriage. They are the only
ones who can decide when and how to build the foundations of marriage. The spouses alone are the engineers of their marital life. They
are simultaneously the directors and actors of their matrimonial true-to-life play. Hence, they alone can and should decide when to take a
cut, but only in accordance with the grounds allowed by law.
The innovation incorporated in A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC sets forth a demarcation line between marriages covered by the Family Code and
those solemnized under the Civil Code. The Rule extends only to marriages entered into during the effectivity of the Family Code which
took effect on August 3, 1988.18
The advent of the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages marks the beginning of the end of the right of the heirs of the
deceased spouse to bring a nullity of marriage case against the surviving spouse. But the Rule never intended to deprive the compulsory or
intestate heirs of their successional rights.
While A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC declares that a petition for declaration of absolute nullity of marriage may be filed solely by the husband or the
wife, it does not mean that the compulsory or intestate heirs are without any recourse under the law. They can still protect their
successional right, for, as stated in the Rationale of the Rules on Annulment of Voidable Marriages and Declaration of Absolute Nullity of
Void Marriages, compulsory or intestate heirs can still question the validity of the marriage of the spouses, not in a proceeding for
declaration of nullity but upon the death of a spouse in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased spouse filed in the
regular courts.19
It is emphasized, however, that the Rule does not apply to cases already commenced before March 15, 2003 although the marriage
involved is within the coverage of the Family Code. This is so, as the new Rule which became effective on March 15, 2003 20 is prospective in
its application. Thus, the Court held in Enrico v. Heirs of Sps. Medinaceli,21 viz.:
As has been emphasized, A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC covers marriages under the Family Code of the Philippines, and is prospective in its
application.22 (Underscoring supplied)
Petitioner commenced the nullity of marriage case against respondent Felicidad in 1995. The marriage in controversy was celebrated on
May 14, 1962. Which law would govern depends upon when the marriage took place.23
The marriage having been solemnized prior to the effectivity of the Family Code, the applicable law is the Civil Code which was the law in
effect at the time of its celebration.24 But the Civil Code is silent as to who may bring an action to declare the marriage void. Does this mean
that any person can bring an action for the declaration of nullity of marriage?
We respond in the negative. The absence of a provision in the Civil Code cannot be construed as a license for any person to institute a
nullity of marriage case. Such person must appear to be the party who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, or the
party entitled to the avails of the suit. 25 Elsewise stated, plaintiff must be the real party-in-interest. For it is basic in procedural law that
every action must be prosecuted and defended in the name of the real party-in-interest.26
Interest within the meaning of the rule means material interest or an interest in issue to be affected by the decree or judgment of the case,
as distinguished from mere curiosity about the question involved or a mere incidental interest. One having no material interest to protect
cannot invoke the jurisdiction of the court as plaintiff in an action. When plaintiff is not the real party-in-interest, the case is dismissible on
the ground of lack of cause of action.27
Illuminating on this point is Amor-Catalan v. Court of Appeals,28 where the Court held:
True, under the New Civil Code which is the law in force at the time the respondents were married, or even in the Family Code, there is no
specific provision as to who can file a petition to declare the nullity of marriage; however, only a party who can demonstrate "proper
interest" can file the same. A petition to declare the nullity of marriage, like any other actions, must be prosecuted or defended in the name
of the real party-in-interest and must be based on a cause of action. Thus, in Nial v. Badayog, the Court held that the children have the
personality to file the petition to declare the nullity of marriage of their deceased father to their stepmother as it affects their successional
rights.
xxxx
In fine, petitioner's personality to file the petition to declare the nullity of marriage cannot be ascertained because of the absence of the
divorce decree and the foreign law allowing it. Hence, a remand of the case to the trial court for reception of additional evidence is
necessary to determine whether respondent Orlando was granted a divorce decree and whether the foreign law which granted the same
allows or restricts remarriage. If it is proved that a valid divorce decree was obtained and the same did not allow respondent Orlando's
remarriage, then the trial court should declare respondent's marriage as bigamous and void ab initio but reduced the amount of moral
damages from P300,000.00 to P50,000.00 and exemplary damages from P200,000.00 to P25,000.00. On the contrary, if it is proved that a
valid divorce decree was obtained which allowed Orlando to remarry, then the trial court must dismiss the instant petition to declare nullity
of marriage on the ground that petitioner Felicitas Amor-Catalan lacks legal personality to file the same.29 (Underscoring supplied)
III. The case must be remanded to determine whether or not petitioner is a real-party-in-interest to seek the declaration of nullity of the
marriage in controversy.
In the case at bench, the records reveal that when Teofilo died intestate in 1992, his only surviving compulsory heirs are respondent
Felicidad and their son, Teofilo II. Under the law on succession, successional rights are transmitted from the moment of death of the
decedent and the compulsory heirs are called to succeed by operation of law. 30
Upon Teofilo's death in 1992, all his property, rights and obligations to the extent of the value of the inheritance are transmitted to his
compulsory heirs. These heirs were respondents Felicidad and Teofilo II, as the surviving spouse and child, respectively.
Article 887 of the Civil Code outlined who are compulsory heirs, to wit:
(1) Legitimate children and descendants, with respect to their legitimate parents and ascendants;
(2) In default of the foregoing, legitimate parents and ascendants, with respect to their legitimate children and descendants;
(3) The widow or widower;
(4) Acknowledged natural children, and natural children by legal fiction;
(5) Other illegitimate children referred to in Article 287 of the Civil Code.31
Clearly, a brother is not among those considered as compulsory heirs. But although a collateral relative, such as a brother, does not fall
within the ambit of a compulsory heir, he still has a right to succeed to the estate. Articles 1001 and 1003 of the New Civil Code provide:
ART. 1001. Should brothers and sisters or their children survive with the widow or widower, the latter shall be entitled to one-half of the
inheritance and the brothers and sisters or their children to the other half.
ART. 1003. If there are no descendants, ascendants, illegitimate children, or a surviving spouse, the collateral relatives shall succeed to the
entire estate of the deceased in accordance with the following articles. (Underscoring supplied)
Indeed, only the presence of descendants, ascendants or illegitimate children excludes collateral relatives from succeeding to the estate of
the decedent. The presence of legitimate, illegitimate, or adopted child or children of the deceased precludes succession by collateral
relatives.32 Conversely, if there are no descendants, ascendants, illegitimate children, or a surviving spouse, the collateral relatives shall
succeed to the entire estate of the decedent.33
If respondent Teofilo II is declared and finally proven not to be the legitimate, illegitimate, or adopted son of Teofilo, petitioner would then
have a personality to seek the nullity of marriage of his deceased brother with respondent Felicidad. This is so, considering that collateral
relatives, like a brother and sister, acquire successional right over the estate if the decedent dies without issue and without ascendants in
the direct line.
The records reveal that Teofilo was predeceased by his parents. He had no other siblings but petitioner. Thus, if Teofilo II is finally found
and proven to be not a legitimate, illegitimate, or adopted son of Teofilo, petitioner succeeds to the other half of the estate of his brother,
the first half being allotted to the widow pursuant to Article 1001 of the New Civil Code. This makes petitioner a real-party-interest to seek
the declaration of absolute nullity of marriage of his deceased brother with respondent Felicidad. If the subject marriage is found to be
void ab initio, petitioner succeeds to the entire estate.
It bears stressing, however, that the legal personality of petitioner to bring the nullity of marriage case is contingent upon the final
declaration that Teofilo II is not a legitimate, adopted, or illegitimate son of Teofilo.
If Teofilo II is proven to be a legitimate, illegitimate, or legally adopted son of Teofilo, then petitioner has no legal personality to ask for the
nullity of marriage of his deceased brother and respondent Felicidad. This is based on the ground that he has no successional right to be
protected, hence, does not have proper interest. For although the marriage in controversy may be found to be void from the beginning,
still, petitioner would not inherit. This is because the presence of descendant, illegitimate, 34 or even an adopted child35 excludes the
collateral relatives from inheriting from the decedent.
Thus, the Court finds that a remand of the case for trial on the merits to determine the validity or nullity of the subject marriage is called
for. But the RTC is strictly instructed to dismiss the nullity of marriage case for lack of cause of action if it is proven by evidence that
Teofilo II is a legitimate, illegitimate, or legally adopted son of Teofilo Carlos, the deceased brother of petitioner.
IV. Remand of the case regarding the question of filiation of respondent Teofilo II is proper and in order. There is a need to vacate the
disposition of the trial court as to the other causes of action before it.
Petitioner did not assign as error or interpose as issue the ruling of the CA on the remand of the case concerning the filiation of respondent
Teofilo II. This notwithstanding, We should not leave the matter hanging in limbo.
This Court has the authority to review matters not specifically raised or assigned as error by the parties, if their consideration is necessary
in arriving at a just resolution of the case.36
We agree with the CA that without trial on the merits having been conducted in the case, petitioner's bare allegation that respondent
Teofilo II was adopted from an indigent couple is insufficient to support a total forfeiture of rights arising from his putative filiation.
However, We are not inclined to support its pronouncement that the declaration of respondent Felicidad as to the illegitimate filiation of
respondent Teofilo II is more credible. For the guidance of the appellate court, such declaration of respondent Felicidad should not be
afforded credence. We remind the CA of the guaranty provided by Article 167 of the Family Code to protect the status of legitimacy of a
child, to wit:
ARTICLE 167. The child shall be considered legitimate although the mother may have declared against its legitimacy or may have been
sentenced as an adulteress. (Underscoring supplied)
It is stressed that Felicidad's declaration against the legitimate status of Teofilo II is the very act that is proscribed by Article 167 of the
Family Code. The language of the law is unmistakable. An assertion by the mother against the legitimacy of her child cannot affect the
legitimacy of a child born or conceived within a valid marriage.37
Finally, the disposition of the trial court in favor of petitioner for causes of action concerning reconveyance, recovery of property, and sum
of money must be vacated. This has to be so, as said disposition was made on the basis of its finding that the marriage in controversy was
null and void ab initio.
WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision is MODIFIED as follows:
1. The case is REMANDED to the Regional Trial Court in regard to the action on the status and filiation of respondent Teofilo Carlos II and
the validity or nullity of marriage between respondent Felicidad Sandoval and the late Teofilo Carlos;
2. If Teofilo Carlos II is proven to be the legitimate, or illegitimate, or legally adopted son of the late Teofilo Carlos, the RTC is
strictly INSTRUCTED to DISMISS the action for nullity of marriage for lack of cause of action;
3. The disposition of the RTC in Nos. 1 to 8 of the fallo of its decision is VACATED AND SET ASIDE.
The Regional Trial Court is ORDERED to conduct trial on the merits with dispatch and to give this case priority in its calendar.
No costs.
CASE NO. 19
G.R. No. 158298 August 11, 2010
ISIDRO ABLAZA, Petitioner,
vs.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
DECISION
BERSAMIN, J.:
Whether a person may bring an action for the declaration of the absolute nullity of the marriage of his deceased brother solemnized under
the regime of the old Civil Code is the legal issue to be determined in this appeal brought by the petitioner whose action for that purpose
has been dismissed by the lower courts on the ground that he, not being a party in the assailed marriage, had no right to bring the action.
Antecedents
On October 17, 2000, the petitioner filed in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Cataingan, Masbate a petition for the declaration of the
absolute nullity of the marriage contracted on December 26, 1949 between his late brother Cresenciano Ablaza and Leonila Honato.1 The
case was docketed as Special Case No. 117 entitled In Re: Petition for Nullification of Marriage Contract between Cresenciano Ablaza and
Leonila Honato; Isidro Ablaza, petitioner.
The petitioner alleged that the marriage between Cresenciano and Leonila had been celebrated without a marriage license, due to such
license being issued only on January 9, 1950, thereby rendering the marriage void ab initio for having been solemnized without a marriage
license. He insisted that his being the surviving brother of Cresenciano who had died without any issue entitled him to one-half of the real
properties acquired by Cresenciano before his death, thereby making him a real party in interest; and that any person, himself included,
could impugn the validity of the marriage between Cresenciano and Leonila at any time, even after the death of Cresenciano, due to the
marriage being void ab initio.2
Ruling of the RTC
On October 18, 2000, 3 the RTC dismissed the petition, stating:
Considering the petition for annulment of marriage filed, the Court hereby resolved to DISMISS the petition for the following reasons: 1)
petition is filed out of time (action had long prescribed) and 2) petitioner is not a party to the marriage (contracted between Cresenciano
Ablaza and Leonila Nonato on December 26, 1949 and solemnized by Rev. Fr. Eusebio B. Calolot).
SO ORDERED.
The petitioner seasonably filed a motion for reconsideration, but the RTC denied the motion for reconsideration on November 14, 2000.
Ruling of the Court of Appeals
The petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals (CA), assigning the lone error that:
The trial court erred in dismissing the petition for being filed out of time and that the petitioner is not a party to the marriage.
In its decision dated January 30, 2003,4 however, the CA affirmed the dismissal order of the RTC, thus:
While an action to declare the nullity of a marriage considered void from the beginning does not prescribe, the law nonetheless requires
that the same action must be filed by the proper party, which in this case should be filed by any of the parties to the marriage. In the
instant case, the petition was filed by Isidro Ablaza, a brother of the deceased-spouse, who is not a party to the marriage contracted by
Cresenciano Ablaza and Leonila Honato. The contention of petitioner-appellant that he is considered a real party in interest under Section
2, Rule 3 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as he stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, is simply misplaced.
Actions for annulment of marriage will not prosper if persons other than those specified in the law file the case.
Certainly, a surviving brother of the deceased spouse is not the proper party to file the subject petition. More so that the surviving wife,
who stands to be prejudiced, was not even impleaded as a party to said case.
WHEREFORE, finding no reversible error therefrom, the Orders now on appeal are hereby AFFIRMED. Costs against the petitioner-
appellant.
SO ORDERED.5
Hence, this appeal.
Issues
The petitioner raises the following issues:
I.
WHETHER OR NOT THE DECISION OF THIS HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS IN CA-G.R. CV. NO. 69684 AFFIRMING THE ORDER OF
DISMISSAL OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 49 AT CATAINGAN, MASBATE IN SPECIAL PROCEEDING NO. 117 IS IN ACCORDANCE
WITH APPLICABLE LAWS AND JURISPRUDENCE;
II.
WHETHER OR NOT THE DECISION OF THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS IN CA-G.R. CV NO. 69684 (SHOULD) BE REVERSED BASED ON
EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 209 AND EXISTING JURISPRUDENCE.
The issues, rephrased, boil down to whether the petitioner is a real party in interest in the action to seek the declaration of nullity of the
marriage of his deceased brother.
Ruling
The petition is meritorious.
A valid marriage is essential in order to create the relation of husband and wife and to give rise to the mutual rights, duties, and liabilities
arising out of such relation. The law prescribes the requisites of a valid marriage. Hence, the validity of a marriage is tested according to the
law in force at the time the marriage is contracted.6 As a general rule, the nature of the marriage already celebrated cannot be changed by
a subsequent amendment of the governing law.7 To illustrate, a marriage between a stepbrother and a stepsister was void under the Civil
Code, but is not anymore prohibited under the Family Code; yet, the intervening effectivity of the Family Code does not affect the void
nature of a marriage between a stepbrother and a stepsister solemnized under the regime of the Civil Code. The Civil Code marriage
remains void, considering that the validity of a marriage is governed by the law in force at the time of the marriage ceremony.8
Before anything more, the Court has to clarify the impact to the issue posed herein of Administrative Matter (A.M.) No. 02-11-10-SC (Rule
on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages), which took effect on March 15, 2003.
Section 2, paragraph (a), of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC explicitly provides the limitation that a petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void
marriage may be filed solely by the husband or wife. Such limitation demarcates a line to distinguish between marriages covered by the
Family Code and those solemnized under the regime of the Civil Code. 9 Specifically, A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC extends only to marriages
covered by the Family Code, which took effect on August 3, 1988, but, being a procedural rule that is prospective in application, is confined
only to proceedings commenced after March 15, 2003.10
Based on Carlos v. Sandoval,11 the following actions for declaration of absolute nullity of a marriage are excepted from the limitation, to
wit:
1. Those commenced before March 15, 2003, the effectivity date of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC; and
2. Those filed vis--vis marriages celebrated during the effectivity of the Civil Code and, those celebrated under the regime of the Family
Code prior to March 15, 2003.
Considering that the marriage between Cresenciano and Leonila was contracted on December 26, 1949, the applicable law was the old Civil
Code, the law in effect at the time of the celebration of the marriage. Hence, the rule on the exclusivity of the parties to the marriage as
having the right to initiate the action for declaration of nullity of the marriage under A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC had absolutely no application to
the petitioner.
The old and new Civil Codes contain no provision on who can file a petition to declare the nullity of a marriage, and when. Accordingly,
in Nial v. Bayadog,12 the children were allowed to file after the death of their father a petition for the declaration of the nullity of their
fathers marriage to their stepmother contracted on December 11, 1986 due to lack of a marriage license. There, the Court distinguished
between a void marriage and a voidable one, and explained how and when each might be impugned, thuswise:
Jurisprudence under the Civil Code states that no judicial decree is necessary in order to establish the nullity of a marriage. "A void
marriage does not require a judicial decree to restore the parties to their original rights or to make the marriage void but though no
sentence of avoidance be absolutely necessary, yet as well for the sake of good order of society as for the peace of mind of all concerned, it
is expedient that the nullity of the marriage should be ascertained and declared by the decree of a court of competent jurisdiction." "Under
ordinary circumstances, the effect of a void marriage, so far as concerns the conferring of legal rights upon the parties, is as though no
marriage had ever taken place. And therefore, being good for no legal purpose, its invalidity can be maintained in any proceeding in which
the fact of marriage may be material, either direct or collateral, in any civil court between any parties at any time, whether before or after
the death of either or both the husband and the wife, and upon mere proof of the facts rendering such marriage void, it will be disregarded
or treated as non-existent by the courts." It is not like a voidable marriage which cannot be collaterally attacked except in direct proceeding
instituted during the lifetime of the parties so that on the death of either, the marriage cannot be impeached, and is made good ab initio.
But Article 40 of the Family Code expressly provides that there must be a judicial declaration of the nullity of a previous marriage, though
void, before a party can enter into a second marriage and such absolute nullity can be based only on a final judgment to that effect. For the
same reason, the law makes either the action or defense for the declaration of absolute nullity of marriage imprescriptible. Corollarily, if
the death of either party would extinguish the cause of action or the ground for defense, then the same cannot be considered
imprescriptible.
However, other than for purposes of remarriage, no judicial action is necessary to declare a marriage an absolute nullity. For other
purposes, such as but not limited to determination of heirship, legitimacy or illegitimacy of a child, settlement of estate, dissolution of
property regime, or a criminal case for that matter, the court may pass upon the validity of marriage even in a suit not directly instituted to
question the same so long as it is essential to the determination of the case. This is without prejudice to any issue that may arise in the
case. When such need arises, a final judgment of declaration of nullity is necessary even if the purpose is other than to remarry. The clause
"on the basis of a final judgment declaring such previous marriage void" in Article 40 of the Family Code connotes that such final judgment
need not be obtained only for purpose of remarriage.13
It is clarified, however, that the absence of a provision in the old and new Civil Codes cannot be construed as giving a license to just any
person to bring an action to declare the absolute nullity of a marriage. According to Carlos v. Sandoval,14 the plaintiff must still be the party
who stands to be benefited by the suit, or the party entitled to the avails of the suit, for it is basic in procedural law that every action must
be prosecuted and defended in the name of the real party in interest.15 Thus, only the party who can demonstrate a "proper interest" can
file the action.16Interest within the meaning of the rule means material interest, or an interest in issue to be affected by the decree or
judgment of the case, as distinguished from mere curiosity about the question involved or a mere incidental interest. One having no
material interest to protect cannot invoke the jurisdiction of the court as plaintiff in an action. When the plaintiff is not the real party in
interest, the case is dismissible on the ground of lack of cause of action.17
Here, the petitioner alleged himself to be the late Cresencianos brother and surviving heir. Assuming that the petitioner was as he claimed
himself to be, then he has a material interest in the estate of Cresenciano that will be adversely affected by any judgment in the suit.
Indeed, a brother like the petitioner, albeit not a compulsory heir under the laws of succession, has the right to succeed to the estate of a
deceased brother under the conditions stated in Article 1001 and Article 1003 of the Civil Code, as follows:
Article 1001. Should brothers and sisters or their children survive with the widow or widower, the latter shall be entitled to one half of the
inheritance and the brothers and sisters or their children to the other half.
Article 1003. If there are no descendants, ascendants, illegitimate children, or a surviving spouse, the collateral relatives shall succeed to
the entire estate of the deceased in accordance with the following articles.
Pursuant to these provisions, the presence of descendants, ascendants, or illegitimate children of the deceased excludes collateral relatives
like the petitioner from succeeding to the deceaseds estate.18 Necessarily, therefore, the right of the petitioner to bring the action hinges
upon a prior determination of whether Cresenciano had any descendants, ascendants, or children (legitimate or illegitimate), and of
whether the petitioner was the late Cresencianos surviving heir. Such prior determination must be made by the trial court, for the inquiry
thereon involves questions of fact.
As can be seen, both the RTC and the CA erroneously resolved the issue presented in this case. We reverse their error, in order that the
substantial right of the petitioner, if any, may not be prejudiced.
Nevertheless, we note that the petitioner did not implead Leonila, who, as the late Cresencianos surviving wife, 19stood to be benefited or
prejudiced by the nullification of her own marriage. It is relevant to observe, moreover, that not all marriages celebrated under the old Civil
Code required
a marriage license for their validity;20 hence, her participation in this action is made all the more necessary in order to shed light on
whether the marriage had been celebrated without a marriage license and whether the marriage might have been a marriage excepted
from the requirement of a marriage license. She was truly an indispensable party who must be joined herein:
xxx under any and all conditions, [her] presence being a sine qua non for the exercise of judicial power.1avvphi1 It is precisely "when an
indispensable party is not before the court [that] the action should be dismissed." The absence of an indispensable party renders all
subsequent actions of the court null and void for want of authority to act, not only as to the absent parties but even as to those present.21
We take note, too, that the petitioner and Leonila were parties in C.A.-G.R. CV No. 91025 entitled Heirs of Cresenciano Ablaza, namely:
Leonila G. Ablaza and Leila Ablaza Jasul v. Spouses Isidro and Casilda Ablaza, an action to determine who between the parties were the
legal owners of the property involved therein. Apparently, C.A.-G.R. CV No. 91025 was decided on November 26, 2009, and the petitioners
motion for reconsideration was denied on June 23, 2010. As a defendant in that action, the petitioner is reasonably presumed to have
knowledge that the therein plaintiffs, Leonila and Leila, were the wife and daughter, respectively, of the late Cresenciano. As such, Leila was
another indispensable party whose substantial right any judgment in this action will definitely affect. The petitioner should likewise
implead Leila.
The omission to implead Leonila and Leila was not immediately fatal to the present action, however, considering that Section 11,22 Rule 3,
Rules of Court, states that neither misjoinder nor non-joinder of parties is a ground for the dismissal of an action. The petitioner can still
amend his initiatory pleading in order to implead her, for under the same rule, such amendment to implead an indispensable party may be
made "on motion of any party or on (the trial courts) own initiative at any stage of the action and on such terms as are just."
WHEREFORE, the petition for review on certiorari is granted.
We reverse and set aside the decision dated January 30, 2003 rendered by the Court of Appeals.
Special Case No. 117 entitled In Re: Petition for Nullification of Marriage Contract between Cresenciano Ablaza and Leonila Honato; Isidro
Ablaza, petitioner, is reinstated, and its records are returned to the Regional Trial Court, Branch 49, in Cataingan, Masbate, for further
proceedings, with instructions to first require the petitioner to amend his initiatory pleading in order to implead Leonila Honato and her
daughter Leila Ablaza Jasul as parties-defendants; then to determine whether the late Cresenciano Ablaza had any ascendants,
descendants, or children (legitimate or illegitimate) at the time of his death as well as whether the petitioner was the brother and surviving
heir of the late Cresenciano Ablaza entitled to succeed to the estate of said deceased; and thereafter to proceed accordingly.
No costs of suit.
SO ORDERED.
CASE NO.20
G.R. No. 186400 October 20, 2010
CYNTHIA S. BOLOS, Petitioner,
vs.
DANILO T. BOLOS, Respondent.
DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:
This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court seeking a review of the December 10, 2008 Decision 1 of the
Court of Appeals (CA) in an original action for certiorari under Rule 65 entitled "Danilo T. Bolos v. Hon. Lorifel Lacap Pahimna and Cynthia S.
Bolos," docketed as CA-G.R. SP. No. 97872, reversing the January 16, 2007 Order of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch
69 (RTC), declaring its decision pronouncing the nullity of marriage between petitioner and respondent final and executory.
On July 10, 2003, petitioner Cynthia Bolos (Cynthia) filed a petition for the declaration of nullity of her marriage to respondent Danilo
Bolos (Danilo) under Article 36 of the Family Code, docketed as JDRC No. 6211.
After trial on the merits, the RTC granted the petition for annulment in a Decision, dated August 2, 2006, with the following disposition:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered declaring the marriage between petitioner CYNTHIA S. BOLOS and respondent DANILO T. BOLOS
celebrated on February 14, 1980 as null and void ab initio on the ground of psychological incapacity on the part of both petitioner and
respondent under Article 36 of the Family Code with all the legal consequences provided by law.
Furnish the Local Civil Registrar of San Juan as well as the National Statistics Office (NSO) copy of this decision.
SO ORDERED.2
A copy of said decision was received by Danilo on August 25, 2006. He timely filed the Notice of Appeal on September 11, 2006.
In an order dated September 19, 2006, the RTC denied due course to the appeal for Danilos failure to file the required motion for
reconsideration or new trial, in violation of Section 20 of the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of
Voidable Marriages.
On November 23, 2006, a motion to reconsider the denial of Danilos appeal was likewise denied.
On January 16, 2007, the RTC issued the order declaring its August 2, 2006 decision final and executory and granting the Motion for Entry of
Judgment filed by Cynthia.
Not in conformity, Danilo filed with the CA a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 seeking to annul the orders of the RTC as they were
rendered with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or in excess of jurisdiction, to wit: 1) the September 19, 2006 Order which
denied due course to Danilos appeal; 2) the November 23, 2006 Order which denied the motion to reconsider the September 19, 2006
Order; and 3) the January 16, 2007 Order which declared the August 2, 2006 decision as final and executory. Danilo also prayed that he be
declared psychologically capacitated to render the essential marital obligations to Cynthia, who should be declared guilty of abandoning
him, the family home and their children.
As earlier stated, the CA granted the petition and reversed and set aside the assailed orders of the RTC. The appellate court stated that the
requirement of a motion for reconsideration as a prerequisite to appeal under A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC did not apply in this case as the
marriage between Cynthia and Danilo was solemnized on February 14, 1980 before the Family Code took effect. It relied on the ruling of
this Court in Enrico v. Heirs of Sps. Medinaceli3 to the effect that the "coverage [of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC] extends only to those marriages
entered into during the effectivity of the Family Code which took effect on August 3, 1988."
Cynthia sought reconsideration of the ruling by filing her Manifestation with Motion for Extension of Time to File Motion for
Reconsideration and Motion for Partial Reconsideration [of the Honorable Courts Decision dated December 10, 2008]. The CA, however, in
its February 11, 2009 Resolution,4 denied the motion for extension of time considering that the 15-day reglementary period to file a motion
for reconsideration is non-extendible, pursuant to Section 2, Rule 40, 1997 Rules on Civil Procedure citing Habaluyas v. Japson, 142 SCRA
208. The motion for partial reconsideration was likewise denied.
Hence, Cynthia interposes the present petition via Rule 45 of the Rules of Court raising the following
ISSUES
I
THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN ISSUING THE QUESTIONED DECISION DATED DECEMBER 10, 2008 CONSIDERING THAT:
A. THE PRONOUNCEMENT OF THE HONORABLE COURT IN ENRICO V. SPS. MEDINACELI IS NOT APPLICABLE TO THE INSTANT CASE
CONSIDERING THAT THE FACTS AND THE ISSUE THEREIN ARE NOT SIMILAR TO THE INSTANT CASE.
B. ASSUMING ARGUENDO THAT THE PRONOUNCEMENT OF THE HONORABLE COURT IS APLLICABLE TO THE INSTANT CASE, ITS RULING IN
ENRICO V. SPS. MEDINACELI IS PATENTLY ERRONEOUS BECAUSE THE PHRASE "UNDER THE FAMILY CODE" IN A.M. NO. 02-11-10-SC
PERTAINS TO THE WORD "PETITIONS" RATHER THAN TO THE WORD "MARRIAGES."
C. FROM THE FOREGOING, A.M. NO. 02-11-10-SC ENTITLED "RULE ON DECLARATION OF ABSOLUTE NULLITY OF VOID MARRIAGES AND
ANNULMENT OF VOIDABLE MARRIAGES" IS APPLICABLE TO MARRIAGES SOLEMNIZED BEFORE THE EFFECTIVITY OF THE FAMILY CODE.
HENCE, A MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION IS A PRECONDITION FOR AN APPEAL BY HEREIN RESPONDENT.
D. CONSIDERING THAT HEREIN RESPONDENT REFUSED TO COMPLY WITH A PRECONDITION FOR APPEAL, A RELAXATION OF THE RULES ON
APPEAL IS NOT PROPER IN HIS CASE.
II
THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN ISSUING THE QUESTIONED RESOLUTION DATED FEBRUARY 11, 2009 CONSIDERING THE
FOREGOING AND THE FACTUAL CIRCUMSTANCES OF THIS CASE.
III
THE TENETS OF JUSTICE AND FAIR PLAY, THE NOVELTY AND IMPORTANCE OF THE ISSUE AND THE SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES IN THIS CASE
JUSTIFY AND WARRANT A LIBERAL VIEW OF THE RULES IN FAVOR OF THE PETITIONER. MOREOVER, THE INSTANT PETITION IS
MERITORIOUS AND NOT INTENDED FOR DELAY.5
From the arguments advanced by Cynthia, the principal question to be resolved is whether or not A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC entitled "Rule on
Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages," is applicable to the case at bench.
Petitioner argues that A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC is also applicable to marriages solemnized before the effectivity of the Family Code. According
to Cynthia, the CA erroneously anchored its decision to an obiter dictum in the aforecited Enrico case, which did not even involve a
marriage solemnized before the effectivity of the Family Code.
She added that, even assuming arguendo that the pronouncement in the said case constituted a decision on its merits, still the same
cannot be applied because of the substantial disparity in the factual milieu of the Enrico case from this case. In the said case, both the
marriages sought to be declared null were solemnized, and the action for declaration of nullity was filed, after the effectivity of both the
Family Code in 1988 and of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC in 2003. In this case, the marriage was solemnized before the effectivity of the Family
Code and A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC while the action was filed and decided after the effectivity of both.
Danilo, in his Comment,6 counters that A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC is not applicable because his marriage with Cynthia was solemnized on
February 14, 1980, years before its effectivity. He further stresses the meritorious nature of his appeal from the decision of the RTC
declaring their marriage as null and void due to his purported psychological incapacity and citing the mere "failure" of the parties who were
supposedly "remiss," but not "incapacitated," to render marital obligations as required under Article 36 of the Family Code.
The Court finds the petition devoid of merit.
Petitioner insists that A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC governs this case. Her stance is unavailing. The Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void
Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages as contained in A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC which the Court promulgated on March 15, 2003, is
explicit in its scope. Section 1 of the Rule, in fact, reads:
Section 1. Scope This Rule shall govern petitions for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages and annulment of voidable
marriages under the Family Code of the Philippines.
The Rules of Court shall apply suppletorily.
The categorical language of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC leaves no room for doubt. The coverage extends only to those marriages entered into
during the effectivity of the Family Code which took effect on August 3, 1988. 7 The rule sets a demarcation line between marriages covered
by the Family Code and those solemnized under the Civil Code.8
The Court finds Itself unable to subscribe to petitioners interpretation that the phrase "under the Family Code" in A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC
refers to the word "petitions" rather than to the word "marriages."
A cardinal rule in statutory construction is that when the law is clear and free from any doubt or ambiguity, there is no room for
construction or interpretation. There is only room for application.9 As the statute is clear, plain, and free from ambiguity, it must be given
its literal meaning and applied without attempted interpretation. This is what is known as the plain-meaning rule or verba legis. It is
expressed in the maxim, index animi sermo, or "speech is the index of intention." Furthermore, there is the maxim verba legis non est
recedendum, or "from the words of a statute there should be no departure."10
There is no basis for petitioners assertion either that the tenets of substantial justice, the novelty and importance of the issue and the
meritorious nature of this case warrant a relaxation of the Rules in her favor. Time and again the Court has stressed that the rules of
procedure must be faithfully complied with and should not be discarded with the mere expediency of claiming substantial merit.11 As a
corollary, rules prescribing the time for doing specific acts or for taking certain proceedings are considered absolutely indispensable to
prevent needless delays and to orderly and promptly discharge judicial business. By their very nature, these rules are regarded as
mandatory.12
The appellate court was correct in denying petitioners motion for extension of time to file a motion for reconsideration considering that
the reglementary period for filing the said motion for reconsideration is non-extendible. As pronounced in Apex Mining Co., Inc. v.
Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 13
The rule is and has been that the period for filing a motion for reconsideration is non-extendible. The Court has made this clear as early as
1986 in Habaluyas Enterprises vs. Japzon. Since then, the Court has consistently and strictly adhered thereto.1avvphil
Given the above, we rule without hesitation that the appellate courts denial of petitioners motion for reconsideration is justified, precisely
because petitioners earlier motion for extension of time did not suspend/toll the running of the 15-day reglementary period for filing a
motion for reconsideration. Under the circumstances, the CA decision has already attained finality when petitioner filed its motion for
reconsideration. It follows that the same decision was already beyond the review jurisdiction of this Court.
In fine, the CA committed no reversible error in setting aside the RTC decision which denied due course to respondents appeal and denying
petitioners motion for extension of time to file a motion for reconsideration.
Appeal is an essential part of our judicial system. Its purpose is to bring up for review a final judgment of the lower court. The courts
should, thus, proceed with caution so as not to deprive a party of his right to appeal. 14 In the recent case of Almelor v. RTC of Las Pinas City,
Br. 254,15 the Court reiterated: While the right to appeal is a statutory, not a natural right, nonetheless it is an essential part of our judicial
system and courts should proceed with caution so as not to deprive a party of the right to appeal, but rather, ensure that every party-
litigant has the amplest opportunity for the proper and just disposition of his cause, free from the constraints of technicalities.
In the case at bench, the respondent should be given the fullest opportunity to establish the merits of his appeal considering that what is at
stake is the sacrosanct institution of marriage.
No less than the 1987 Constitution recognizes marriage as an inviolable social institution. This constitutional policy is echoed in our Family
Code. Article 1 thereof emphasizes its permanence and inviolability, thus:
Article 1. Marriage is a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman entered into in accordance with law for the
establishment of conjugal and family life. It is the foundation of the family and an inviolable social institution whose nature, consequences,
and incidents are governed by law and not subject to stipulation, except that marriage settlements may fix the property relations during
the marriage within the limits provided by this Code.
This Court is not unmindful of the constitutional policy to protect and strengthen the family as the basic autonomous social institution and
marriage as the foundation of the family.16
Our family law is based on the policy that marriage is not a mere contract, but a social institution in which the State is vitally interested. The
State finds no stronger anchor than on good, solid and happy families. The break up of families weakens our social and moral fabric and,
hence, their preservation is not the concern alone of the family members. 17
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED.
CASE NO. 21
G.R. No. 169766 March 30, 2011
ESTRELLITA JULIANO-LLAVE, Petitioner,
vs.
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-Llaves (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. Tamanos civil status was indicated as divorced.
Since then, Estrellita has been representing herself to the whole world as Sen. Tamanos 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. Tamanos 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 complaint 6 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 Dismiss 11 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 latters 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 Philippines (Muslim Code), questions and issues involving Muslim marriages and
divorce fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of sharia courts.
The trial court denied Estrellitas 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 Estrellitas turn to adduce evidence, the hearings set for such purpose 15 were postponed
mostly at her instance until the trial court, on March 22, 1996, suspended the proceedings16 in view of the CAs 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 courts 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 sharia 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
Estrellitas motion for reconsideration27 with finality.
A few days before this resolution, or on August 18, 1998, the RTC rendered the aforementioned judgment declaring Estrellitas 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. Tamanos 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
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
Zoraydas 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 Estrellitas 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. Tamanos wife and, hence, the injured party in the senators
subsequent bigamous marriage with Estrellita.
In its September 13, 2005 Resolution,33 the CA denied Estrellitas 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 prosecutors report on the
existence of collusion in violation of both Rule 9, Section 3(e) of the Rules of Court 34 and Article 48 of the Family Code35 will not invalidate
the trial courts 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 Estrellitas refusal to file an answer. Lastly, the CA disregarded
Estrellitas 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
Estrellitas 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. Macias 36laid 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 courts assurance that the proceedings will be without prejudice to whatever action the High Court will take
on her petition questioning the RTCs 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
Refuting the arguments, the Solicitor General (Sol Gen) defends the CAs 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 Estrellitas 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 courts judgment, even though the latter was rendered prematurely because: a) the judgment
was rendered without waiting for the Supreme Courts 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 Estrellitas marriage declared void ab initio.
Our Ruling
Estrellitas 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 Estrellitas 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 because after it denied the wifes 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 CAs 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.
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. Tamanos
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. Tamanos 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 Codes 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 Code governs their personal status since this was
in effect at the time of the celebration of their marriage. In view of Sen. Tamanos 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 Estrellitas
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.1wphi1 But in the 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
Zorayda and Adib filed the case for declaration of nullity of Estrellitas 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.
CASE NO. 23

CASE NO. 23