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Jurisdiction in bigamy case

Dear PAO,

Julia and I got married in 2004 in Quezon City. She left me in 2007 without any reason. I was
informed in 2011 that Julia contracted marriage in 2010. I obtained a copy of a Certificate of No
Marriage of Julia in order to verify the said information, and I discovered that she married a
certain Vic in Maguindanao. I confronted her regarding the matter and she threatened that
something worse will happen if I will continue to bother her, or if I will go to Maguindanao. Can
I file a case against her in Quezon City, since this is where our marriage was celebrated, and I
cannot go to Maguindanao due to security reasons?

Melindo

Dear Melindo,

For your information, bigamy is a crime punishable under the Revised Penal Code of the
Philippines. Article 349 of the said law provides:

“The penalty of prision mayor shall be imposed upon any person who shall contract a second or
subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been legally dissolved, or before the absent
spouse has been declared presumptively dead by means of a judgment rendered in the proper
proceedings.”

The elements of the crime of bigamy are stated in Capili vs. People of the Philippines (G.R. No.
183805, July 3, 2013, Ponente: Honorable Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta), and are
restated below:

“The elements of the crime of bigamy, therefore, are: (1) the offender has been legally married;
(2) the marriage has not been legally dissolved or, in case his or her spouse is absent, the absent
spouse could not yet be presumed dead according to the Civil Code; (3) that he contracts a
second or subsequent marriage; and (4) that the second or subsequent marriage has all the
essential requisites for validity.”
Julia is deemed to have committed the crime of bigamy because she contracted a second
marriage without having her first marriage annulled or declared null and void. However, the said
crime shall be filed before the courts where the elements or any of the elements of the crime has
been committed. This finds support under Section 15 (a), Rule 110 of the 1997 Revised Rules of
Court, which states:

“Subject to existing laws, the criminal action shall be instituted and tried in the court or
municipality or territory where the offense was committed or where any of its essential
ingredients occurred.”

Please be guided also by the decision of the court in the case of Ganchero vs. Judge Bellosillo
(GR L-26340, June 30, 1969, Ponente: Associate Justice Jose Benedicto Reyes), where the
Supreme Court stated:
“Bigamy being defined by Article 349 as the contracting “of 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 proceeding,” it is
self-evident that the place where the first marriage was celebrated is immaterial to the criminal
act, intent and responsibility of the accused. What is essential is that the first marriage be not
legally terminated, actually or by legal presumption, when the subsequent wedlock takes place;
and it is upon the celebration of that subsequent marriage that bigamy is committed, not before.
The continued existence of the first marriage is without definite locus.”

Applying the above cited decision in your situation, the criminal case for bigamy shall be filed
before the courts in Maguindanao, since this is the place where the second marriage of Julia was
contracted. The court in Quezon City is devoid of jurisdiction to try the case. The place where
your first marriage took place is immaterial in determining the jurisdiction of the court which
shall try the bigamy case. The only instance where change of venue may be allowed is found
under Section 5 (4), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution which provides that “the Court has the
power to order a change of venue or place of trial to avoid a miscarriage of justice” (Navaja vs.
De Castro, G.R. No. 182926, June 22, 2015, Ponente: Honorable Associate Justice Diosdado M.
Peralta).