My wife has been an OFW (overseas Filipino worker) for almost 12 years in Europe. For unknown reasons, she stopped communicating with me and my children for three years now. I heard from a relative who is working in the same country where my wife has been deployed that she is already a citizen of that country. Allegedly, she also obtained a divorce decree and married a foreigner. If this is true, can I file a case for bigamy against her? Can I marry also since she is already married?
One characteristic of our criminal law is that it is territorial in nature, which means that we can only punish crimes committed within the Philippine jurisdiction. Thus, your wife cannot be criminally liable for acts or omissions, which are punishable under our Revised Penal Code (RPC), but were committed abroad unless such acts/omissions fall under Article 2 of the same code.
The general rule is that you cannot remarry, because you remain to be married to your wife who became a citizen of another country. If, however, you can prove that your wife is already a citizen abroad, and she had obtained a divorce decree there, your legal remedy is to file a petition for recognition of foreign divorce before the court of appropriate jurisdiction. If the petition is granted by the court, then that is the time that you can marry somebody. Please be guided by the pronouncement of the Supreme Court in the case of Medina vs. Koike (G.R. No. 215723, July 27, 2016), where the SC Associate Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe cited another decision of the tribunal:
“In Corpuz v. Sta. Tomas, the court had the occasion to rule:
The starting point in any recognition of a foreign divorce judgment is the acknowledgment that our courts do not take judicial notice of foreign judgments and laws. Justice Herrera explained that, as a rule, no sovereign is bound to give effect within its dominion to a judgment rendered by a tribunal of another country. This means that the foreign judgment and its authenticity must be proven as facts under our rules on evidence, together with the alien’s applicable national law to show the effect of the judgment on the alien himself or herself. The recognition may be made in an action instituted specifically for the purpose or in another action where a party invokes the foreign decree as an integral aspect of his claim or defense (Emphasis and underscoring supplied; citation omitted).”
Thus, it is essential to prove in your petition as a fact the foreign judgment (divorce decree), its authenticity and the national law of your spouse governing her status.
We hope that we have substantially answered your queries. The legal opinion was based on the facts narrated by the letter sender and our appreciation of the same. Opinions may vary if the facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com