• Bigamy committed abroad beyond reach of PH penal laws

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    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    I received news from a relative abroad that my husband who has been working in Italy married another Filipino woman there. My relative abroad works in the same company as my husband and she showed me proofs of my husband’s marriage and unfaithful acts abroad. I guess that explains why my husband rarely goes back here and insists that he immediately return to work abroad during the few times he goes home to us. Because of this, I really want to file a case against my husband for bigamy, I think. Please advise me on how I would go about in filing this case.  Thank you.
    Annalyza

    Dear Annalyza,
    Under Philippine jurisdiction, the act of contracting a second marriage while a first one still subsists is called bigamy and such act is penalized under our laws. In detail, bigamy is defined under the law as the act of contracting 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 (Art. 349, Revised Penal Code of the Philippines [RPC]). Therefore, if your husband really married another woman, then this case of bigamy applies to him.

    From your narration, however, it appears that your husband contracted his second marriage in a foreign country. Because of this, we have to consider the territorial limitations and characteristics of our laws. Generally, the territoriality of our criminal law simply means that Philippine law is applicable to all crimes committed or perpetrated within the limits of Philippine territory. Consequently, crimes committed outside the territory of the Philippines are not within the jurisdiction of Philippine authorities to prosecute, subject only to certain exceptions that are not related to your case. Because of this principle, you may not file a criminal case for bigamy against your husband in the Philippines since it was committed outside our country’s territorial jurisdiction.

    As penal laws of the Philippines are territorial in nature, it penalizes those acts defined as criminal acts committed within the Philippine territory. Crimes or felonies committed even by Filipinos outside of the Philippines do not come within the ambit of our criminal laws.  Thus, to reiterate, the act of your husband in contracting a second marriage in Italy cannot be prosecuted or tried in the Philippines, having been done outside of our country’s jurisdiction.

    Note, however, that if your husband returns to the Philippines with his second wife, and they live together as husband and wife, you may then file a criminal complaint for concubinage against them since their illegal cohabitation is committed within our country’s territory.

    Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

    We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

    Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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