I would like to inquire regarding bigamous marriage. My friend was married to a foreigner in 2000 abroad. He also married a Filipina in 2004 here in the Philippines. The first marriage was already dissolved in 2007.
Can you help me on the following:
1. Did he commit bigamy?
2. What is the penalty for bigamy?
Bigamy is defined and penalized under the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines. It is the act of contracting another marriage despite the subsistence of a previous marriage. Article 349 of the aforementioned law provides:
“Art. 349. Bigamy. — 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 judgment rendered in the proper proceedings.”
Clearly, a person convicted of the crime of bigamy shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor or imprisonment for six years and one day to twelve years.
Applying the foregoing to the situation of your friend, since he was still married to his first wife when he contracted a subsequent marriage, it appears that he may be held liable for bigamy. According to the Supreme Court, a judicial declaration of nullity of a previous marriage is necessary before a subsequent one can be legally contracted. One who enters into a subsequent marriage without first obtaining such judicial declaration is guilty of bigamy. This principle applies even if the earlier union is characterized by statute as “void.” (Vincent Paul G. Mercado vs. Consuelo Tan, G.R. No. 137110, August 1, 2000)
The dissolution of the first marriage—be it through the declaration of nullity or annulment of marriage or even through divorce abroad—does not erase the fact that bigamy was committed. In the case of People of Philippines vs. Edgardo V. Odtuhan (G.R. No. 191566, July 17, 2013), the Supreme Court enunciated the following:
“The Family Code has settled once and for all the conflicting jurisprudence on the matter. A declaration of the absolute nullity of a marriage is now explicitly required either as a cause of action or a ground for defense. It has been held in a number of cases that a judicial declaration of nullity is required before a valid subsequent marriage can be contracted; or else, what transpires is a bigamous marriage, reprehensible and immoral.
What makes a person criminally liable for bigamy is when he contracts a second or subsequent marriage during the subsistence of a valid marriage. 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 nullity of the first marriage assumes the risk of being prosecuted for bigamy. http://www.lawphil.net/judjuris/juri2013/jul2013/gr_191566_2013.html – fnt40 If we allow respondent’s line of defense and the CA’s ratiocination, a person who commits bigamy can simply evade prosecution by immediately filing a petition for the declaration of nullity of his earlier marriage and hope that a favorable decision is rendered therein before anyone institutes a complaint against him.” (Emphases supplied)
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 guide you with our opinion on the matter.