I was just 17 years of age when my husband and I contracted our marriage in 1998. We separated after three years of cohabitation. I filed a case in court to have our marriage annuled, but I also found out that he contracted a second marriage in 2002. Can I still file a complaint against him for bigamy even if I have already filed a case for annulment?
Bigamy is committed by any person who shall contract a second or subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been legally dissolved, or before the absent spouse has been declared presumptively dead by means of a judgment rendered in the proper proceedings (Article 349,Revised Penal Code of the Philippines).
Based on the facts you have provided, it is clear that your husband contracted a bigamous marriage in 2002 considering that he contracted a second marriage despite the existence of the previous valid marriage. The filing of the petition of annulment of marriage is not a bar for the filing of the complaint for bigamy. This is supported by the pronouncement of the Supreme Court in Capili vs People of the Philippines (G. R. No. 183805, July 3, 2013), where the court said:
“In like manner, the court recently upheld the ruling in the aforementioned case and ruled that what makes a person criminally liable for bigamy is when he contracts a second or subsequent marriage during the subsistence of a valid first marriage. It further held that the parties to the marriage should not be permitted to judge for themselves its nullity, for the same must be submitted to the judgment of competent courts and only when the nullity of the marriage is so declared can it be held as void, and so long as there is no such declaration the presumption is that the marriage exists.
Therefore, he who contracts a second marriage before the judicial declaration of the first marriage assumes the risk of being prosecuted for bigamy.
Finally, it is a settled rule that the criminal culpability attaches to the offender upon the commission of the offense, and from that instant, liability appends to him until extinguished as provided by law. It is clear then that the crime of bigamy was committed by petitioner from the time he contracted the second marriage with private respondent. Thus, the finality of the judicial declaration of nullity of petitioner’s second marriage does not impede the filing of a criminal charge for bigamy against him”. (Emphasis supplied)
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. 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 email@example.com