While my wife was in the United States, I had a one-night stand with my childhood friend and I got her pregnant. When my wife learned about it, she sought the nullity of our marriage that was granted by the court. Not long after, I met another woman, who is a Canadian and she decided to marry me so I could become a Canadian citizen. As part of the process, I was asked to submit a Certificate of No Marriage (Cenomar). I secured a copy and to my surprise, the certificate registered two marriages, which I supposedly contracted. First, with my ex-wife, and second, with my childhood friend. My childhood friend and I never had a wedding ceremony, or got a marriage license or signed a marriage contract. Upon verification, I learned that she submitted a copy of a marriage certificate, which I purportedly signed and which became the basis for the recording of my status as married. I intend to marry the woman I am with at present to get my Canadian citizenship. I wish to know if I need to go to court to nullify the supposed second marriage.
Our advice is based on the presumption that your first marriage, the validity of which you never assailed, was legally annulled considering that your only concern is the nullity of the second marriage you purportedly contracted with your childhood friend, and which appears in your Cenomar.
As a rule, parties to a marriage should not be allowed to assume that their marriage is void even if such be the fact, but must first secure a judicial declaration of the nullity of their marriage before they can be allowed to marry again (Domingo v. CA, G.R. No. 104818, September 17, 1993; ponente: Associate Justice Flerida Ruth Pineda-Romero). In this case, the party must file a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage on the basis of any of the following grounds under the Family Code: Articles 35, on void marriages for lack of or defect in the essential requisites of marriage; Article 36, on psychological incapacity; Article 37, on incestuous marriages; and, Article 38, on void marriages by reasons of public policy.
Based on the facts you mentioned, however, you never celebrated a marriage and that you were not even aware of the existence of a marriage between you and your childhood friend. In the case of Republic of the Philippines v. Merlinda L. Olaybar (G.R. No. 189538, February 10, 2014), the Supreme Court, through the writing of Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, allowed the correction of the marriage certificate by canceling the wife portion in the marriage certificate filed. It held that the trial court therein did commit error in giving due course to the petition for correction or cancelation of entry in the marriage certificate under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court.
According to the High Court, the trial court did not declare the marriage void as there was no marriage to speak of, viz:
“Since the promulgation of Republic v. Valencia in 1986, the court has repeatedly ruled that “even substantial errors in a civil registry may be corrected through a petition filed under Rule 108, with the true facts established and the parties aggrieved by the error availing themselves of the appropriate adversarial proceeding.” An appropriate adversary suit or proceeding is one where the trial court has conducted proceedings where all relevant facts have been fully and properly developed, where opposing counsels have been given opportunity to demolish the opposite party’s case, and where the evidence has been thoroughly weighed and considered.”
Applying the foregoing, you may file a petition for cancelation of entry in your marriage certificate. For this purpose, you will need to present overwhelming evidence to prove that no marriage was entered into and that you were never aware of its existence.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
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