My brother found out that his recent marriage was conducted by a person who pretended to be authorized to celebrate their marriage. We want to know if we can file a case against this person considering that he is not licensed to officiate a marriage ceremony. We hope for your advice. Thanks!
The person who officiated a marriage despite lack of proper authority to do so may be held criminally liable for such action. However, his liability will depend on the extent of his misrepresentation. This is because a different crime is committed by a person who can officiate a marriage but with a lapsed authority and a person who is merely pretending to be a priest or minister.
If your brother was married before a priest of any religious denomination who was not licensed or authorized by his sect, his liability is for the crime of performance of illegal marriage. This is according to Article 352 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) of the Philippines which states that:
Art. 352. Performance of illegal marriage ceremony.—Priests or ministers of any religious denomination or sect, or civil authorities who shall perform or authorize any illegal marriage ceremony shall be punished in accordance with the provisions of the Marriage Law.
Since one of the formal requisites of a valid marriage is the authority of the solemnizing officer, the lack of proper authority by the priest makes the wedding irregular and renders the marriage void ab initio. Furthermore, any of the contracting parties who is aware of the fact of the lack of proper authority of the solemnizing officer will also be criminally liable. (Leonor D. Boado, Notes and Cases on the Revised Penal Code, 2008)
On the other hand, if the person who solemnized your brother’s marriage merely pretended to be a solemnizing officer, his liability will not be for the aforementioned crime but for the crime of usurpation of public function because of his illegal assumption of such authority (Ibid.)
However, please take note that despite the lack of proper authority of the person who officiated your brother’s wedding, their marriage can still be considered legal if either or both of the parties believe in good faith that the solemnizing officer was legally authorized to officiate their marriage (Article 35, Family Code of the Philippines).
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