• First, second spouses can file case of bigamy

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    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    I got married several months ago. While eating in a restaurant, a girl approached me and said that my husband is already married to her. My husband denied it when I confronted him, but I found out that it is true after conducting an investigation. May I ask if I could be charged with bigamy? Also, can I file a bigamy case against my husband?
    Cheska

    Dear Cheska,
    Bigamy is a crime committed by a person who contracts a second or subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been legally dissolved, or before the absent spouse has been judicially declared as presumptively dead (Article 349, Revised Penal Code). In a Bigamy case, our Supreme Court already ruled that the person who contracted the subsequent marriage can be punished as principal, while the second spouse may be held criminally responsible as accomplice (People vs. Santiago, G.R. No. 200233, July 15, 2015). Thus, it is possible that you may be impleaded as accomplice should a Bigamy case be initiated against your husband.

    Nonetheless, it does not necessarily follow that you will be found guilty of the crime. To be punished as accomplice in the crime of Bigamy, it is necessary to establish that the second spouse knew that the person he or she married has a prior subsisting marriage. As explained by our Supreme Court in the case of People vs. Nepomuceno, a cursory reading of the law shows that the crime of Bigamy does not entail the joint liability of two persons who marry each other. Rather, it is the person who contracts a subsequent marriage during the subsistence of a previous marriage that is principally responsible for the crime. It is possible that both the first and second spouses may be the offended parties depending on the circumstances, as when the second spouse married the accused without being aware of his previous marriage. Only if the second spouse had knowledge of the previous undissolved marriage of the accused could he or she be included in the information as a co-accused (G.R. No. L-40624 June 27, 1975). Hence, it is a defense on the part of the second spouse in a prosecution for Bigamy that he or she does not know that the other spouse has a prior subsisting marriage.

    Based on your narration, it appears to us that you are oblivious of the fact that your husband is already married to another woman at the time you married him. Hence, you may avail of the defense of lack of knowledge concerning his first marriage in case you are charged with Bigamy.

    With regard to your query as to whether you may file a case for Bigamy against your husband notwithstanding the fact that you are the second wife, the Supreme Court affirmed such right in the cases of Garcia vs. Court of Appeals (266 SCRA 678) and People vs. Capili (700 SCRA 443), where the second spouse was allowed to file a criminal complaint for Bigamy against the person they married who turned out to be married to someone else. Indeed, Bigamy is committed as long as it can be proved that a person contracted a second or subsequent marriage before his or her former marriage is terminated.

    We hope you find this opinion enlightening. Please bear in mind that this opinion is based on the facts you narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary if 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

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