Jose and I got married in 2006. The following year, I discovered that he was also married to another woman in 2003, and this was the reason of our separation. Jose continues to meddle with my private life even though we are now separated-in-fact; hence, I would like to file a case for bigamy against him. I relayed to him that I will be filing a case against him for bigamy if he will not stop meddling with my life. Jose just laughed at me when he heard my statement, and he said that such case will not prosper, because his first marriage is allegedly void for lack of a marriage license. What will happen to the criminal case for bigamy if he can prove that he contracted his first marriage without a marriage license?
Jose’s claim that the case of bigamy will not prosper, because his first marriage is void for lack of marriage license, has no legal basis. This is pursuant to Article 40 of the Family Code of the Philippines, which states that “the absolute nullity of a previous marriage may be invoked for purposes of remarriage on the basis solely of final judgement declaring such previous marriage void.” Your marriage with Jose is bigamous, because he contracted the said marriage without any court order/decision declaring his first marriage as void.
Bigamy is punishable under Article 350 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines. Under the said provision of law, it is stated that “the penalty of prision mayor shall be imposed upon 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 judgement rendered in the proper proceedings.”
In the case of Mercado vs. Tan (G.R. No. 137110, August 1, 2000), Honorable former Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban said that:
“The elements of bigamy are the following:
1. That the offender has been legally married;
2. That the marriage has not been legally dissolved or, in case his or her spouse is absent, the absent spouse could not yet be presumed dead according to the Civil Code;
3. That he contracts a second or subsequent marriage;
4. That the second or subsequent marriage has all the essential requisites for validity.”
Jose committed the crime of bigamy, because all the elements mentioned above are present. He contracted his first marriage with his first wife in 2003, and he again entered into another marriage contract in 2006, without any court decision declaring his previous marriage void or annulled.
Please be guided also by the decision of the court in the case of Vitangcol vs. People of the Philippines (G.R. No. 207406, January 13, 2016), where the Supreme Court through Honorable Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, ruled that:
“Assuming without conceding that petitioner’s first marriage was solemnized without a marriage license, petitioner remains liable for bigamy. Petitioner’s first marriage was not judicially declared void. Nor was his first wife Gina judicially declared presumptively dead under the Civil Code. The second element of the crime of bigamy is, therefore, present in this case.
As early as 1968, this court held in Landicho v. Relova, et al. that 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.”
Applying the abovementioned decision in your case, Jose’s claim that his first marriage is void for lack of marriage license cannot absolve him from the crime of bigamy. He is still liable, because he contracted a second marriage without his first marriage annulled or declared void by the court.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.