Breach of promise to marry

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Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My now ex-boyfriend were together for eight years.

Two years ago, when he was still my boyfriend, he repeatedly promised me that he would marry me after his youngest sibling graduates from college and finds a stable job. He did not give me an engagement ring but his promise was enough for me. Last year, his youngest sibling graduated from college and found employment abroad. So, we started planning for our wedding. We had our clothes made, the church and the reception venues were reserved and paid for, and the invitations were already sent out to our family and friends. In fact, we also paid for the down payment of a townhouse where we could stay after we get married.

Three months before our wedding, however, my boyfriend told me that I need to call off the wedding because he is not yet decided if he is ready to spend the rest of his life with me. Then, he left and went to the United States. This caused me so much pain and humiliation because our family and friends have already been informed about our wedding. Also, the church and reception venues have already been paid in full. I want to know if I can file a complaint against my now ex-boyfriend for suddenly breaking his promise to marry me.
Marie

Dear Marie,
Yes. You can file a complaint for damages against your ex-boyfriend for calling off your wedding after all the preparations for the wedding have been made. As a general rule, “a breach of promise to marry per se is not an actionable wrong” (Baksh v. Court of Appeals; G. R. No. 9733 6; February 19, 1993; ponente, former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.). Article 21 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, however, also provides that “[a]ny person who willfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage.” Accordingly, acts, which are not contrary to law, cannot be perpetrated with impunity and may still give rise to a cause of action if it is in contravention of Article 21 of the the law.

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From the facts you presented, it seems that all the preparations pertaining to your wedding have already been planned and paid for, which is similar to the case of Wassmer vs. Velez (G. R. No. L-20089; December 26, 1964; ponente, former Chief Justice Cesar Bengzon) wherein the Supreme Court declared:

“As stated, mere breach of promise to marry is not an actionable wrong. But to formally set a wedding and go through all the above-described preparation and publicity, only to walk out of it when the matrimony is about to be solemnized, is quite different. This is palpably and unjustifiably contrary to good customs for which defendant must be held answerable in damages in accordance with Article 21 aforesaid.” [Emphasis supplied.]

From the above case, it is clear that calling off wedding plans when preparations have already been made is contrary to good customs that is proscribed in Article 21 of the Civil Code. Corollary, Article 2219 (10) of thelaw also provides that “[m]oral damages may be recovered in–acts and actions referred to in Article 21.” Therefore, even though the mere breach of promise to marry is not an actionable right, you may still claim damages from your ex-boyfriend for calling off your wedding after all the preparations have been made as the same is contrary to good customs, which is proscribed in Article 21 of the Civil Code.

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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