My father and mother had been separated since 2000. He cohabited with another woman in the same year, and they lived somewhere in Batangas. Last week, we learned that my father suffered from a heart ailment and died in the hospital. My mother called the live-in partner of my father through the help of some friends regarding burial arrangements for him in our province in Isabela, but the latter insisted that my father should be buried in Batangas. Whose decision should be followed on disposition of the remains of my father? Is it that of my mother or his live-in partner?
The prevailing law with respect to funerals of a relative is Article 305 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines that states:
“The duty and the right to make arrangements for the funeral of a relative shall be in accordance with the order established for support, under Article 294. In case of descendants of the same degree, or of brothers and sisters, the oldest shall be preferred. In case of ascendants, the paternal shall have a better right.”
In relation thereto, Article 199 of the Family Code of the Philippines provides:
“Whenever two or more persons are obliged to give support, the liability shall devolve upon the following persons, in the order herein provided:
(1) The spouse;
(2) The descendants in the nearest degree;
(3) The ascendants in the nearest degree;
(4) The brothers and sisters.”
In Valino vs. Adriano (G.R. No. 182894, April 22, 2014), Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Mendoza said:
“It is generally recognized that the corpse of an individual is outside the commerce of man. However, the law recognizes that a certain right of possession over the corpse exists, for the purpose of a decent burial, and for the exclusion of the intrusion by third persons who have no legitimate interest in it. This quasi-property right, arising out of the duty of those obligated by law to bury their dead, also authorizes them to take possession of the dead body for purposes of burial to have it remain in its final resting place, or to even transfer it to a proper place where the memory of the dead may receive the respect of the living. This is a family right. There can be no doubt that persons having this right may recover the corpse from third persons”.
The above-mentioned provisions of law and jurisprudence clearly provide that the legal wife had a better right compared to the live-in partner as to matters involving the funeral of her husband. The live-in partner or common law wife is considered as a third person and not classified as a relative within the contemplation of the law enumerated under Article 199 of the Family Code of the Philippines.
With respect to the decision involving the funeral arrangement or burial of your deceased father, your mother being the legal wife shall be followed provided, when he was still alive, he did not express some wishes that should be followed as to his burial.
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.