[G.R. NO. 164435 : September 29, 2009]
VICTORIA S. JARILLO, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
DEL CASTILLO, J.:
This resolves the Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, praying that the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA), dated July 21, 2003, and its Resolution2 dated July 8, 2004, be reversed and set aside.
On May 31, 2000, petitioner was charged with Bigamy before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasay City, Branch 117 under the following Information in Criminal Case No. 00-08-11:
The undersigned Assistant City Prosecutor accuses VICTORIA S. JARILLO of the crime of BIGAMY, committed as follows:
That on or about the 26th day of November 1979, in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, Victoria S. Jarillo, being previously united in lawful marriage with Rafael M. Alocillo, and without the said marriage having been legally dissolved, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously contract a second marriage with Emmanuel Ebora Santos Uy which marriage was only discovered on January 12, 1999.
Contrary to law.
On July 14, 2000, petitioner pleaded not guilty during arraignment and, thereafter, trial proceeded.
The undisputed facts, as accurately summarized by the CA, are as follows.
On May 24, 1974, Victoria Jarillo and Rafael Alocillo were married in a civil wedding ceremony solemnized by Hon. Monico C. Tanyag, then Municipal Mayor of Taguig, Rizal (Exhs. A, A-1, H, H-1, H-2, O, O-1, pp. 20-21, TSN dated November 17, 2000).
On May 4, 1975, Victoria Jarillo and Rafael Alocillo again celebrated marriage in a church wedding ceremony before Rev. Angel Resultay in San Carlos City, Pangasinan (pp. 25-26, TSN dated November 17, 2000). Out of the marital union, appellant begot a daughter, Rachelle J. Alocillo on October 29, 1975 (Exhs. F, R, R-1).
Appellant Victoria Jarillo thereafter contracted a subsequent marriage with Emmanuel Ebora Santos Uy, at the City Court of Pasay City, Branch 1, before then Hon. Judge Nicanor Cruz on November 26, 1979 (Exhs. D, J, J-1, Q, Q-1, pp. 15-18, TSN dated November 22, 2000).
On April 16, 1995, appellant and Emmanuel Uy exchanged marital vows anew in a church wedding in Manila (Exh. E).
In 1999, Emmanuel Uy filed against the appellant Civil Case No. 99-93582 for annulment of marriage before the Regional Trial Court of Manila.
Thereafter, appellant Jarillo was charged with bigamy before the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City x x x.
x x x
Parenthetically, accused-appellant filed against Alocillo, on October 5, 2000, before the Regional Trial Court of Makati, Civil Case No. 00-1217, for declaration of nullity of their marriage.
On July 9, 2001, the court a quo promulgated the assailed decision, the dispositive portion of which states:
WHEREFORE, upon the foregoing premises, this court hereby finds accused Victoria Soriano Jarillo GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of BIGAMY.
Accordingly, said accused is hereby sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of SIX (6) YEARS of prision correccional, as minimum, to TEN (10) YEARS of prision mayor, as maximum.
This court makes no pronouncement on the civil aspect of this case, such as the nullity of accused's bigamous marriage to Uy and its effect on their children and their property. This aspect is being determined by the Regional Trial Court of Manila in Civil Case No. 99-93582.
Costs against the accused.
The motion for reconsideration was likewise denied by the same court in that assailed Order dated 2 August 2001.3
For her defense, petitioner insisted that (1) her 1974 and 1975 marriages to Alocillo were null and void because Alocillo was allegedly still married to a certain Loretta Tillman at the time of the celebration of their marriage; (2) her marriages to both Alocillo and Uy were null and void for lack of a valid marriage license; and (3) the action had prescribed, since Uy knew about her marriage to Alocillo as far back as 1978.
On appeal to the CA, petitioner's conviction was affirmed in toto. In its Decision dated July 21, 2003, the CA held that petitioner committed bigamy when she contracted marriage with Emmanuel Santos Uy because, at that time, her marriage to Rafael Alocillo had not yet been declared null and void by the court. This being so, the presumption is, her previous marriage to Alocillo was still existing at the time of her marriage to Uy. The CA also struck down, for lack of sufficient evidence, petitioner's contentions that her marriages were celebrated without a marriage license, and that Uy had notice of her previous marriage as far back as 1978.
In the meantime, the RTC of Makati City, Branch 140, rendered a Decision dated March 28, 2003, declaring petitioner's 1974 and 1975 marriages to Alocillo null and void ab initio on the ground of Alocillo's psychological incapacity. Said decision became final and executory on July 9, 2003. In her motion for reconsideration, petitioner invoked said declaration of nullity as a ground for the reversal of her conviction. However, in its Resolution dated July 8, 2004, the CA, citing Tenebro v. Court of Appeals,4 denied reconsideration and ruled that "[t]he subsequent declaration of nullity of her first marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity, while it retroacts to the date of the celebration of the marriage insofar as the vinculum between the spouses is concerned, the said marriage is not without legal consequences, among which is incurring criminal liability for bigamy."5
Hence, the present Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court where petitioner alleges that:
V.1. THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN PROCEEDING WITH THE CASE DESPITE THE PENDENCY OF A CASE WHICH IS PREJUDICIAL TO THE OUTCOME OF THIS CASE.
V.2. THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN AFFIRMING THE CONVICTION OF PETITIONER FOR THE CRIME OF BIGAMY DESPITE THE SUPERVENING PROOF THAT THE FIRST TWO MARRIAGES OF PETITIONER TO ALOCILLO HAD BEEN DECLARED BY FINAL JUDGMENT NULL AND VOID AB INITIO.
V.3. THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT CONSIDERING THAT THERE IS A PENDING ANNULMENT OF MARRIAGE AT THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT BRANCH 38 BETWEEN EMMANUEL SANTOS AND VICTORIA S. JARILLO.
V.4. THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT CONSIDERING THAT THE INSTANT CASE OF BIGAMY HAD ALREADY PRESCRIBED.
V.5. THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT CONSIDERING THAT THE MARRIAGE OF VICTORIA JARILLO AND EMMANUEL SANTOS UY HAS NO VALID MARRIAGE LICENSE.
V.6. THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT ACQUITTING THE PETITIONER BUT IMPOSED AN ERRONEOUS PENALTY UNDER THE REVISED PENAL CODE AND THE INDETERMINATE SENTENCE LAW.
The first, second, third and fifth issues, being closely related, shall be discussed jointly. It is true that right after the presentation of the prosecution evidence, petitioner moved for suspension of the proceedings on the ground of the pendency of the petition for declaration of nullity of petitioner's marriages to Alocillo, which, petitioner claimed involved a prejudicial question. In her appeal, she also asserted that the petition for declaration of nullity of her marriage to Uy, initiated by the latter, was a ground for suspension of the proceedings. The RTC denied her motion for suspension, while the CA struck down her arguments. In Marbella-Bobis v. Bobis,6 the Court categorically stated that:
x x x as ruled in Landicho v. Relova, he who contracts a second marriage before the judicial declaration of nullity of the first marriage assumes the risk of being prosecuted for bigamy, and in such a case the criminal case may not be suspended on the ground of the pendency of a civil case for declaration of nullity. x x x
x x x
x x x The reason is that, without a judicial declaration of its nullity, the first marriage is presumed to be subsisting. In the case at bar, respondent was for all legal intents and purposes regarded as a married man at the time he contracted his second marriage with petitioner. Against this legal backdrop, any decision in the civil action for nullity would not erase the fact that respondent entered into a second marriage during the subsistence of a first marriage. Thus, a decision in the civil case is not essential to the determination of the criminal charge. It is, therefore, not a prejudicial question. x x x7
The foregoing ruling had been reiterated in Abunado v. People,8 where it was held thus:
The subsequent judicial declaration of the nullity of the first marriage was immaterial because prior to the declaration of nullity, the crime had already been consummated. Moreover, petitioner's assertion would only delay the prosecution of bigamy cases considering that an accused could simply file a petition to declare his previous marriage void and invoke the pendency of that action as a prejudicial question in the criminal case. We cannot allow that.
The outcome of the civil case for annulment of petitioner's marriage to [private complainant] had no bearing upon the determination of petitioner's innocence or guilt in the criminal case for bigamy, because all that is required for the charge of bigamy to prosper is that the first marriage be subsisting at the time the second marriage is contracted.
Thus, under the law, a marriage, even one which is void or voidable, shall be deemed valid until declared otherwise in a judicial proceeding. In this case, even if petitioner eventually obtained a declaration that his first marriage was void ab initio, the point is, both the first and the second marriage were subsisting before the first marriage was annulled.9
For the very same reasons elucidated in the above-quoted cases, petitioner's conviction of the crime of bigamy must be affirmed. The subsequent judicial declaration of nullity of petitioner's two marriages to Alocillo cannot be considered a valid defense in the crime of bigamy. The moment petitioner contracted a second marriage without the previous one having been judicially declared null and void, the crime of bigamy was already consummated because at the time of the celebration of the second marriage, petitioner's marriage to Alocillo, which had not yet been declared null and void by a court of competent jurisdiction, was deemed valid and subsisting. Neither would a judicial declaration of the nullity of petitioner's marriage to Uy make any difference.10 As held in Tenebro, "[s]ince a marriage contracted during the subsistence of a valid marriage is automatically void, the nullity of this second marriage is not per se an argument for the avoidance of criminal liability for bigamy. x x x A plain reading of [Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code], therefore, would indicate that the provision penalizes the mere act of contracting a second or subsequent marriage during the subsistence of a valid marriage."11
Petitioner's defense of prescription is likewise doomed to fail.
Under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, bigamy is punishable by prision mayor, which is classified under Article 25 of said Code as an afflictive penalty. Article 90 thereof provides that "[c]rimes punishable by other afflictive penalties shall prescribe in fifteen years," while Article 91 states that "[t]he period of prescription shall commence to run from the day on which the crime is discovered by the offended party, the authorities, or their agents x x x ."
Petitioner asserts that Uy had known of her previous marriage as far back as 1978; hence, prescription began to run from that time. Note that the party who raises a fact as a matter of defense has the burden of proving it. The defendant or accused is obliged to produce evidence in support of its defense; otherwise, failing to establish the same, it remains self-serving.12 Thus, for petitioner's defense of prescription to prosper, it was incumbent upon her to adduce evidence that as early as the year 1978, Uy already obtained knowledge of her previous marriage.
A close examination of the records of the case reveals that petitioner utterly failed to present sufficient evidence to support her allegation. Petitioner's testimony that her own mother told Uy in 1978 that she (petitioner) is already married to Alocillo does not inspire belief, as it is totally unsupported by any corroborating evidence. The trial court correctly observed that:
x x x She did not call to the witness stand her mother - the person who allegedly actually told Uy about her previous marriage to Alocillo. It must be obvious that without the confirmatory testimony of her mother, the attribution of the latter of any act which she allegedly did is hearsay.13
As ruled in Sermonia v. Court of Appeals,14 "the prescriptive period for the crime of bigamy should be counted only from the day on which the said crime was discovered by the offended party, the authorities or their [agents]," as opposed to being counted from the date of registration of the bigamous marriage.15 Since petitioner failed to prove with certainty that the period of prescription began to run as of 1978, her defense is, therefore, ineffectual.Ï‚Î·Î±Ã±rÎ¿blÎµÅ¡ Î½Î¹râ€ Ï…Î±l lÎ±Ï‰ lÎ¹brÎ±rÃ¿
Finally, petitioner avers that the RTC and the CA imposed an erroneous penalty under the Revised Penal Code. Again, petitioner is mistaken.
The Indeterminate Sentence Law provides that the accused shall be sentenced to an indeterminate penalty, the maximum term of which shall be that which, in view of the attending circumstances, could be properly imposed under the Revised Penal Code, and the minimum of which shall be within the range of the penalty next lower than that prescribed by the Code for the offense, without first considering any modifying circumstance attendant to the commission of the crime. The Indeterminate Sentence Law leaves it entirely within the sound discretion of the court to determine the minimum penalty, as long as it is anywhere within the range of the penalty next lower without any reference to the periods into which it might be subdivided. The modifying circumstances are considered only in the imposition of the maximum term of the indeterminate sentence.16
Applying the foregoing rule, it is clear that the penalty imposed on petitioner is proper. Under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, the imposable penalty for bigamy is prision mayor. The penalty next lower is prision correccional, which ranges from 6 months and 1 day to 6 years. The minimum penalty of six years imposed by the trial court is, therefore, correct as it is still within the duration of prision correccional. There being no mitigating or aggravating circumstances proven in this case, the prescribed penalty of prision mayor should be imposed in its medium period, which is from 8 years and 1 day to 10 years. Again, the trial court correctly imposed a maximum penalty of 10 years.
However, for humanitarian purposes, and considering that petitioner's marriage to Alocillo has after all been declared by final judgment17 to be void ab initio on account of the latter's psychological incapacity, by reason of which, petitioner was subjected to manipulative abuse, the Court deems it proper to reduce the penalty imposed by the lower courts. Thus, petitioner should be sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment from Two (2) years, Four (4) months and One (1) day of prision correccional, as minimum, to 8 years and 1 day of prision mayor, as maximum.
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the petition is PARTLY GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated July 21, 2003, and its Resolution dated July 8, 2004 are hereby MODIFIED as to the penalty imposed, but AFFIRMED in all other respects. Petitioner is sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment from Two (2) years, Four (4) months and One (1) day of prision correccional, as minimum, to Eight (8) years and One (1) day of prision mayor, as maximum.
1 Penned by Associate Justice Bernardo P. Abesamis, with Associate Justices Jose L. Sabio, Jr. and Jose C. Mendoza, concurring; rollo, pp. 8-21.
2 Penned by Associate Justice Jose L. Sabio, Jr., with Associate Justices Mariano C. del Castillo and Jose C. Mendoza, concurring; rollo, pp. 22-23.
3 Rollo, pp. 9-10.
4 467 Phil. 723 (2004).
5 CA rollo, p. 404.
6 391 Phil. 648 (2000).
7 Id. at 655-657. (Emphasis supplied.)
8 G.R. No. 159218, March 30, 2004, 426 SCRA 562.
9 Id. at 567-568. (Emphasis supplied.)
10 Abunado v. People, supra note 8; Tenebro v. Court of Appeals, supra note 4, at 752.
11 Tenebro v. Court of Appeals, supra, at 742.
12 Prudential Guarantee and Assurance, Inc. v. Trans-Asia Shipping Lines, Inc., G.R. No. 151890, June 20, 2006, 491 SCRA 411, 433.
13 Records, p. 383.
14 G.R. No. 109454, June 14, 1994, 233 SCRA 155.
15 Id. at 161.
16 Abunado v. People, supra note 8, at 568.
17 See Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City in Civil Case No. 00-1217, CA rollo, pp. 343-347.