My cousin married his first wife in Saudi Arabia sometime in 2001. During his vacation, in the same year, he married another woman in the Philippines. He has been a Muslim convert since 1995. The rites in both marriages were based on the religions of his wives, who are both non-Muslim. May he be prosecuted for bigamy because of this?
The case of Atilano O. Nollora Jr. vs. People of the Philippines (G.R. No. 191425, September 7, 2011) and Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code clearly define the elements of the crime of bigamy:
“1. That the offender has been legally married.
2. That 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.
4. That the second or subsequent marriage has all the essential requisites for validity.”
In this case , penned by Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, the Muslim convert was adjudged guilty of the crime of bigamy because:
“Article 13(2) of the Code of Muslim Personal Laws states that [i]n case of a marriage between a Muslim and a non-Muslim, solemnized not in accordance with Muslim law or this code, the [Family Code of the Philippines, or Executive Order 209, in lieu of the Civil Code of the Philippines] shall apply. Nollora’s religious affiliation is not an issue here. Neither is the claim that Nollora’s marriages were solemnized according to Muslim law. Thus, regardless of his professed religion, Nollora cannot claim exemption from liability for the crime of bigamy.” [Emphasis supplied]
Considering that the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision on the matter, the latter’s wisdom in its decision is quoted below for your information:
“The principle in Islam is that monogamy is the general rule and polygamy is allowed only to meet urgent needs. Only with the permission of the court can a Muslim be permitted to have a second wife subject to certain requirements. This is because having plurality of wives is merely tolerated, not encouraged, under certain circumstances (Muslim Law on Personal Status in the Philippines by Amer M. Bara-acal and Abdulmajid J. Astir, 1998 First Edition, Pages 64-65). Arbitration is necessary. Any Muslim husband desiring to contract subsequent marriages, before so doing, shall notify the Sharia Circuit Court of the place where his family resides. The clerk of court shall serve a copy thereof to the wife or wives. Should any of them objects [sic]; an Agama Arbitration Council shall be constituted. If said council fails to secure the wife’s consent to the proposed marriage, the court shall, subject to Article 27, decide whether on [sic]not to sustain her objection (Art. 162, Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines).
Accused Atilano Nollora Jr., in marrying his second wife, co-accused Rowena P. Geraldino, did not comply with the above-mentioned provision of the law. In fact, he did not even declare that he was a Muslim convert in both marriages, indicating his criminal intent. In his converting to the Muslim faith, said accused entertained the mistaken belief that he can just marry anybody again after marrying the private complainant. What is clear, therefore, is [that]a Muslim is not given an unbridled right to just marry anybody the second, third or fourth time. There are requirements that the Sharia law imposes, that is, he should have notified the Sharia Court where his family resides so that copy of said notice should be furnished to the first wife. The argument that notice to the first wife is not required since she is not a Muslim is of no moment. This obligation to notify the said court rests upon accused Atilano Nollora Jr. It is not for him to interpret the Sharia law. It is the Sharia Court that has this authority.” [Emphasis supplied, citations omitted.]
Verily, your cousin’s mere being a Muslim convert shall not entitle him to marry many wives as he can. He needs to comply with the above-requirements of law, first. Most of all, since he did not marry either of his two wives in the appropriate Muslim ritual, the existing Civil Law on the matter applies in his case. His marriage is considered illegal and bigamous. He may aptly be prosecuted for the crime of bigamy.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.