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[G.R. No. L-10016. February 28, 1957. ]

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. PROCESO S. ARAGON, Defendant-Appellant.

Solicitor General Ambrosio Padilla and Solicitor Adolfo Brillantes for Appellee.

Prospero V. Manuel, Fernando Moncada and Antonio Abad Tornis, for Defendant-Appellant.


1. MARRIAGE LAW NULL AND VOID MARRIAGES; JUDICIAL DECREE TO ESTABLISH INVALIDITY, NOT NECESSARY. — A subsequent marriage contracted by any person during the lifetime of his first spouse is illegal and void from its performance, and no judicial decree is necessary to establish its invalidity as dis tinguished from mere annuable marriage. (People v. Mendoza, L-5877, September 28, 1954.)



Appeal from a judgment of the Court of First Instance of Cebu finding appellant guilty of bigamy. The facts are not disputed and, as found by the trial court, are as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"On September 28, 1925, the accused, under the name of Proceso Rosima, contracted marriage with a certain Maria Gorrea in the Philippine Independent Church in Cebu (Exhibits "1" and "1-A). While his marriage with Maria Gorrea was subsisting, the accused, under the name of Proceso Aragon, contracted a canonical marriage with Maria Faicol on August 27, 1934, in the Santa Teresita church in Iloilo City.

"The sponsors of the accused and Maria Faicol were Eulogio Giroy, who was then an employee of the Office of the Municipal Treasurer of Iloilo, and a certain Emilio Tomera, a clerk in the said office (Exhibit "A", and testimonies of Eulogio Giroy and complainant Maria Faicol). After the said marriage, the accused and Maria Faicol established residence in Iloilo. As the accused was then a traveling salesman, he commuted between Iloilo where he maintained Maria Faicol, and Cebu where he maintained his first wife, Maria Gorrea. Maria Gorrea died in Cebu City on August 5, 1939 (Exhibit "2"). After Maria Gorrea’s death, and seeing that the coast was clear in Cebu, the accused brought Maria Faicol to Cebu City in 1940, where she worked as a teacher-nurse.

"It would seem that the accused and Maria Faicol did not live a happy marital life in Cebu, for it appears that in 1949 and 1950, Maria Faicol suffered injuries to her eyes because of physical maltreatment in the hands of the accused. On January 22, 1953, the accused sent Maria Faicol to Ilioilo, allegedly for the purpose of undergoing treatment of her eyesight. During her absence, the accused contracted a third marriage with a certain Jesusa C. Magsalang on October 3, 1953, in Sibonga, Cebu. (See Exhibits "C", "D", "E" and "F").

"The accused admitted having contracted marriage with Jesusa C. Magsalang in Sibonga, Cebu, on October 3, 1953. Although the accused made an attempt to deny his previous marriage with Maria Faicol, the Court, however, believes the attempt is futile for the fact of the said second marriage was fully established not only by the certificate of the said marriage, but also by the testimony of Maria Faicol and of Eulogio Giroy, one of the sponsors of the wedding, and the identification of the accused made by Maria Faicol. (See Exhibits "A" and "B" ; t.s.n. pp. 32-33, 40, 41, hearing of April 27, 1954)."cralaw virtua1aw library

The Court of First Instance of Cebu held that even in he absence of an express provision in Act No. 3613 authorizing the filing of an action for judicial declaration of nullity of a marriage void ab initio, defendant could not legally contract marriage with Jesusa C. Magsalang without the dissolution of his marriage to Maria Faicol, either by the death of the latter or by the judicial declaration of the nullity of such marriage, at the instance of the latter. Authorities given for his ruling are 5 iada, 5th edition, 651; 35 American Jurisprudence, Marriage, Sec. 46, p. 212; Bickford vs, Bickford, 74 N.H. 466, A. 579.

Appellant in this court relies on the case of People v. Mendoza, (95 Phil., 845; 50 Off. Gaz., [10] 4767). In this case the majority of this Court declared:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"The statutory provision (section 29 of the Marriage Law of Act 3613) plainly makes a subsequent marriage contracted by any person during the lifetime of his first spouse illegal and void from its performance, and no judicial decree is necessary to establish its validity, as distinguished from mere annuable marriages. There is here no pretense that appellant’s second marriage with Olga Lema was contracted in the belief that the first spouse, Jovita de Asis, had been absent for seven consecutive years or generally considered as dead, so as to render said marriage valid until declared null and void by a subsequent court."cralaw virtua1aw library

We are aware of the very weighty reasons expressed by Justice Alex Reyes in his dissent in the case above-quoted. But these weighty reasons notwithstanding, the very fundamental principle of strict construction of penal laws in favor of the accused, which principle we may not ignore, seems to justify our stand in the above-cited case of People v. Mendoza. Our Revised Penal Code is of recent enactment and had the rule enunciated in Spain and in America requiring judicial declaration of nullity of ab initio void marriages been within the contemplation of the legislature, an express provision to that effect would or should have been inserted in the law. In its absence, we are bound by said rule of strict interpretation already adverted to.

It is to be noted that the action was instituted upon complaint of the second wife, whose marriage with the appellant was not renewed after the death of the first wife and before the third marriage was entered into. Hence, the last marriage was a valid one and appellant’s prosecution for contracting this marriage can not prosper.

For the foregoing considerations, the judgment appealed from is hereby reversed and the defendant-appellant acquitted, with costs de oficio, without prejudice to his prosecution for having contracted the second bigamous marriage. So ordered.

Paras, C.J., Bengzon, Bautista Angelo, Reyes, J.B.L., Endencia and Felix, JJ., concur.

Separate Opinions

REYES, A., J., dissenting:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

I dissent.

Dissenting in the case of People v. Mendoza, replied on by the majority, I there said"

"Article 349 of the Revised Code punishes with prision mayor ’any person who shall contract a second or subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been legally dissolved.’

"Though the logician may say that where the former marriage was void there would be nothing to dissolve, still it is not for the spouses to judge whether that marriage was void or not. That judgment is reserved to the courts. As Viada says, ’La satidad e importancia del matrimonio no permite que los casados juzguen por si mismos de su nulidad; esta ha de someterse precisamente al juico del Tribunal competente, y cuando este declare la nulidad del matrimonio, y solo entonces, se tendra por nulo; mientras no existta esta declaracion, la presuncion esta siempre a favor de la validez del matrimonio, y de consiguiente, el que contrae otro segundo antes de este articulo.’ (3 Viada, Codigo Penal, p. 275.)

"‘This is a sound opinion.,’ says Mr. Justice Tuason in the case of People v. Jose Cotas, (CA), 40 Off. Gaz., 3145, ’and is in line with the well-known rule established in cases of adultery, that until be competent authority in a final judgment the marriage contract is set aside, the offense to the vows taken and the attack in the family exists.’"

I may add that the construction placed by the majority upon the law penalizing bigamy would frustrate the legislative intent rather than give effect thereto.

Padilla and Montemayor, JJ., concur.

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