G.R. No. 159031, June 23, 2014
NOEL A. LASANAS, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
He was married to the defendant on February 16, 1968 which marriage was officiated by Hon. Carlos B. Salazar, Municipal Judge of San Miguel, Iloilo. Machine copy of the Marriage Contract is herewith attached as Exhibit “A” and made part hereof; which marriage was ratified by a wedding at San Jose Church, Iloilo City on August 27, 1980 and registered at the office of Iloilo City Registrar. Machine copy of the Marriage Contract is herewith attached as Annex “B”;
Plaintiff and defendant have no children and have no properties except some personal belongings;
Plaintiff met the defendant sometime in the middle of 1967 at the house of Mr. Raul L. Cataloctocan in Burgos Street, Lapaz, Iloilo City wherein the purpose of their meeting was for the plaintiff to consult and seek treatment by the defendant because the latter was a “babaylan”:
Plaintiff was treated by the defendant and the subsequent treatments were performed by the defendant at her residence in Barangay, Banga, Mina, Iloilo, the treatment made being on a continuing basis;
x x x x
On February 16, 1968, defendant asked the plaintiff to come with her to Iloilo City. They went to Dainty Restaurant at J.M. Basa Street. Plaintiff saw several persons therein. After eating plaintiff was made to sign the marriage contract, which was null and void for lack of marriage license and based on a false affidavit of cohabitation. After their marriage, they went home to Barangay Bangac, Mina, Iloilo, which marked the start of a married life rocked with marital differences, quarrels and incompatibilities, without love, but under the uncontrollable fear of harm that should befall him should he not follow her;
x x x x
During the period the parties are living together defendant would nag the plaintiff, fabricate stories against him and displayed her fit of jealousy, neglect her marital obligations even committed infidelity, which psychological incompatibilities and marital breaches have forced the petitioner to live separately from defendant since 1982 up to the present.12
That on or about the 27th day of December, 1993 in the City of Iloilo, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Court, said accused, Noel Lasanas being previously united in a lawful marriage with Socorro Patingo and without the said marriage having been legally dissolve (sic) or annulled, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously contract a second or subsequent marriage with Josefa Eslaban.
CONTRARY TO LAW. 14
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered dismissing the complaint filed by the plaintiff Noel Arenga Lasanas against the defendant, Socorro Patingo, considering that the marriage between them is valid and legal.
The plaintiff Noel Lasanas is hereby ordered to give monthly support to his wife, the defendant in this case, Ma. Socorro Patingo in the amount of P3,000.00 a month, from the time that she filed her answer with counterclaim on February 3, 1997, pursuant to Article 203 of the Family Code and every month thereafter. Costs against the plaintiff.
WHEREFORE, finding accused NOEL LASANAS guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the offense of BIGAMY punishable under Art. 349 of the Revised Penal Code, judgment is hereby entered ordering him to serve an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of two (2) years and four (4) months of prision correccional, as minimum, to eight (8) years and one (1) day of prision mayor as maximum.
The accused is entitled to the privileges extended to him under Art. 29 of the Revised Penal Code.
WHEREFORE, for lack of merit, the Court DISMISSES the appeal and AFFIRMS the appealed Decision.
Article 349. Bigamy. — The penalty of prision mayor shall be imposed upon any person who shall contract a second or subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been legally dissolved, or before the absent spouse has been declared presumptively dead by means of a judgment rendered in the proper proceedings.
This Court concedes that the marriage between accused-appellant Lasanas and private complainant Patingo was void because of the absence of a marriage license or of an affidavit of cohabitation. The ratificatory religious wedding ceremony could not have validated the void marriage. Neither can the church wedding be treated as a marriage in itself for to do so, all the essential and formal requisites of a valid marriage should be present. One of these requisites is a valid marriage license except in those instances when this requirement may be excused. There having been no marriage license nor affidavit of cohabitation presented to the priest who presided over the religious rites, the religious wedding cannot be treated as a valid marriage in itself.
But then, as the law and jurisprudence say, petitioner should have first secured a judicial declaration of the nullity of his void marriage to private complainant Patingo before marrying Josefa Eslaban. Actually, he did just that but after his marriage to Josefa Eslaban. Consequently, he violated the law on bigamy.
Accused’s reliance on the cases of People v. Mendoza, 95 Phil. 845 and People v. Aragon, 100 Phil. 1033 is misplaced because the ruling in these cases have already been abandoned per Relova v. Landico, supra, and Wiegel v. Sempio-Diy, 143 SCRA 499. The petitioner also cited Yap v. Court of Appeals, 145 SCRA 229 which resurrected the Aragon and Mendoza doctrine but Yap’s ruling too had been overtaken by Art. 40 of the Family Code and by Domingo v. Court of Appeals and Te v. Court of Appeals, supra.
Regarding accused-appellant’s defense of good faith, the same is unavailing pursuant to Mañozca v. Domagas, 248 SCRA 625.
This Court, therefore concludes that the appealed Decision is correct in all respect.28
Article 40. The absolute nullity of a previous marriage may be invoked for purposes of remarriage on the basis solely of a final judgment declaring such previous marriage void. (n)
x x x The Family Code has settled once and for all the conflicting jurisprudence on the matter. A declaration of the absolute nullity of a marriage is now explicitly required either as a cause of action or a ground for defense. Where the absolute nullity of a previous marriage is sought to be invoked for purposes of contracting a second marriage, the sole basis acceptable in law for said projected marriage to be free from legal infirmity is a final judgment declaring the previous marriage void.
The Family Law Revision Committee and the Civil Code Revision Committee which drafted what is now the Family Code of the Philippines took the position that 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.
In fact, the requirement for a declaration of absolute nullity of a marriage is also for the protection of the spouse who, believing that his or her marriage is illegal and void, marries again. With the judicial declaration of the nullity of his or her marriage, the person who marries again cannot be charged with bigamy.
In numerous cases, this Court has consistently held that a judicial declaration of nullity is required before a valid subsequent marriage can be contracted; or else, what transpires is a bigamous marriage, reprehensible and immoral.
If petitioner’s contention would be allowed, a person who commits bigamy can simply evade prosecution by immediately filing a petition for the declaration of nullity of his earlier marriage and hope that a favorable decision is rendered therein before anyone institutes a complaint against him. We note that in petitioner’s case the complaint was filed before the first marriage was declared a nullity. It was only the filing of the Information that was overtaken by the declaration of nullity of his first marriage. Following petitioner’s argument, even assuming that a complaint has been instituted, such as in this case, the offender can still escape liability provided that a decision nullifying his earlier marriage precedes the filing of the Information in court. Such cannot be allowed. To do so would make the crime of bigamy dependent upon the ability or inability of the Office of the Public Prosecutor to immediately act on complaints and eventually file Informations in court. Plainly, petitioner’s strained reading of the law is against its simple letter.
x x x is when he contracts a second or subsequent marriage during the subsistence of a valid marriage. Parties to the marriage should not be permitted to judge for themselves its nullity, for the same must be submitted to the judgment of competent courts and only when the nullity of the marriage is so declared can it be held as void, and so long as there is no such declaration, the presumption is that the marriage exists. Therefore, he who contracts a second marriage before the judicial declaration of nullity of the first marriage assumes the risk of being prosecuted for bigamy.
x x x Nollora may not impugn his [subsequent] marriage to Geraldino in order to extricate himself from criminal liability; otherwise, we would be opening the doors to allowing the solemnization of multiple flawed marriage ceremonies. As we stated in Tenebro v. Court of Appeals:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibraryThere is therefore a recognition written into the law itself that such a marriage, although void ab initio, may still produce legal consequences. Among these legal consequences is incurring criminal liability for bigamy. To hold otherwise would render the State’s penal laws on bigamy completely nugatory, and allow 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.
1Rollo, pp. 17-24; penned by Associate Justice Hilarion L. Aquino (retired), with Associate Justice Edgardo P. Cruz (retired) and Associate Justice Regalado E. Maambong (retired/deceased) concurring.
2 Records, p. 6.
3 Id. at 197.
4Rollo, p. 20.
6 Records, p. 198.
7Rollo, p. 21.
8 Records, pp. 197-198, 200, 205.
9Rollo, p. 21.
10 Records, p. 199.
11 Id. at 6-12.
12 Id. at 6-9.
13Rollo, p. 21.
14 Records, p. 1.
15 Id. at 38.
16 Id. at 235-236.
17 Id. at 453.
18 Id. at 455.
19Rollo, pp. 22-23.
20 Id. at 24.
21 Id. at 8-16.
22 Id. at 10.
23 Id. at 11-12.
24 Id. at 13.
26 Id. at 14.
27Tenebro v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 150758, February 18, 2004, 423 SCRA 272, 279, citing Reyes, L.B., The Revised Penal Code, Book II, 14th Ed., 1998, p. 907.
28Rollo, pp. 23-24.
29 G.R. No. 188775, August 24, 2011, 656 SCRA 307, 313-314.
30 See Jarillo v. People, G.R. No. 164435, September 29, 2009, 601 SCRA 236, 246.
31 G.R. No. 191566, July 17, 2013, 701 SCRA 506, 515.
32 Supra note 27.
33 Id. at 282.
34 G.R. No. 191425, September 7, 2011, 657 SCRA 330, 348.
35 Article 64(1), Revised Penal Code.