Prior marriage must be present before a bigamy case can prosper

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Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My brother wants to know if he can file a bigamy case against his long-term partner. They have been together for eight years already when she decided to work in Manila. She goes back to our province to visit my brother thrice a year. But after two years, she cheated on my brother and worse, she even got married to another man. She even showed my brother their marriage certificat, because my brother did not believe her at first. Now my brother is depressed and angry because he believes that she wasted a decade of their living together as husband and wife. Although not officially married, they already had plans to get married since she was engaged to him, and they were already living together as husband and wife before she cheated on my brother. We would appreciate your advice.
Onna

Dear Onna,
To enlighten you and your brother, we need to refer to what the law states about the nature of the crime of bigamy. According to the Revised Penal Code:

“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” (Emphasis supplied).

Based on this law, a penalty of imprisonment with a period of six (6) years and one (1) day to twelve (12) years is imposed on anyone who is proven to have entered a second marriage before a first marriage was legally dissolved or before a court declares the other spouse to be presumptively dead. Simply put, bigamy is committed when a person entered a second marriage during the existence of his first marriage.

Considering the nature of the crime of bigamy that requires the existence of a prior marriage, it appears that your brother cannot file a bigamy complaint against his former partner. Since it was mentioned in your narration that your brother and his former partner were yet to be married, there is no prior marriage that would give rise to the illegality of her marriage to her new man. The mere failed promise of marriage and emotional stress brought by her decision to marry another man are not legal grounds to file a case for bigamy.

Thus, unless your brother’s former partner was previously married to another man aside from your brother, her current marriage to her new partner cannot be the basis of the crime of bigamy as the element of prior marriage in the offense is lacking.

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 dearpao@manilatimes.net

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