Elements making a marriage bigamous

Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I married my husband five years ago. Sometime last week, we received a subpoena from another woman. Apparently, we are being sued for bigamy! When I confronted my husband, he admitted that he was married to another woman almost ten years ago. He said it was a shotgun wedding and that they never lived together. What must I do? Can he have his first marriage annulled? Will this stop the bigamy case? Thank you.

Dear Shirley,
Bigamy, as defined by Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, has the following elements: (1) One or both of the parties are legally married, (2) The first or prior marriage has not been legally dissolved or there is no declaration of presumptive death issued by the court, (3) He or she subsequently marries another.

According to you, your husband admitted that he was indeed married ten (10) years ago or five (5) years before he married you. You did not state in your letter whether he had his marriage annulled although you stated that it was a “shotgun wedding” and they never lived together. If he did not have his prior marriage annulled, then your marriage is bigamous and both of you can be prosecuted for bigamy.

Unfortunately, even if he has his marriage annulled now, it will not stop the bigamy case. The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that a judicial declaration of nullity of the first marriage will not prevent prosecution for bigamy. In Marbella-Bobis vs. Bobis, 336 SCRA 753 (2000), the Supreme Court citing Landicho vs. Relova, 22 SCRA 735 (1968) said, “Parties to a marriage should not be permitted to judge for themselves its nullity, only competent courts having such authority. Prior to such declaration of nullity, the validity of the first marriage is beyond question. A party who contracts a second marriage then assumes the risk of being prosecuted for bigamy.”

The fact remains that when he married you, he was still married to his first wife. If the elements of bigamy are proven, then he may be prosecuted for bigamy. In your case, you may invoke the defense that you had no prior knowledge that he was previously married when you married him.

We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other 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 dearpao@manilatimes.net


Please follow our commenting guidelines.

1 Comment

  1. I believe the CENOMAR requirement when you applied for license is already in effect by the time you get married. If IT WAS CERTIFIED IN THE CENOMAR that your (husband?) is not married to anyone then you have a good defense. Otherwise verbal explanation that you have no knowledge that your partner is previously married is hard to prove.