• Proof of marriage in the absence of a marriage contract

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    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    My grandmother, who is living with me, would like to recover certain pieces of property bought by my deceased grandfather. These pieces of property are now in the possession of his mistress, so my grandmother talked to the latter regarding the matter. But the mistress claimed that she is the legal wife. She presented a marriage contract, dated March 19, 1980.

    My grandmother would like the second marriage to be nullified. She intends to prove that she is legally married to my grandfather prior to the second marriage. My grandparents’ marriage certificate, however, cannot be found in the records of the Philippine Statistics Authority because it was included in all of the records of the office that were destroyed during World War II. How can we prove that my grandparents were legally married if we cannot produce the copy of their marriage contract?
    Alen

    Dear Alen,
    The existence of a marriage between a man and a woman can be proven by their marriage contract that is registered with the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). However, if the marriage contract cannot be produced because it was destroyed during World War II, the existence of the marriage can still be proven by testimonial and other documentary evidence.

    In a similar case entitled, Peregrina Macua Vda. De Avenido vs. Tecla Hoybia Avenido (G.R. No. 173540, January 22, 2014), the Supreme Court, through the former Associate Justice Jose Perez ruled:

    “In the case at bench, the celebration of marriage between [Tecla] and EUSTAQUIO was established by the testimonial evidence furnished by [Adelina] who appears to be present during the marriage ceremony, and by [Tecla] herself as a living witness to the event. The loss was shown by the certifications issued by the NSO [National Statistics Office] and LCR [Local Civil Registrar] of Talibon, Bohol. These are relevant, competent and admissible evidence. Since the due execution and the loss of the marriage contract were clearly shown by the evidence presented, secondary evidence – testimonial and documentary – may be admitted to prove the fact of marriage. In PUGEDA v. TRIAS, the Supreme Court held that “marriage may be proven by any competent and relevant evidence. The testimony by one of the parties to the marriage or by one of the witnesses to the marriage has been held to be admissible to prove the fact of marriage. The person who officiated at the solemnization is also competent to testify as an eyewitness to the fact of marriage.”

    x x x x

    The court a quo committed a reversible error when it disregarded (1) the testimonies of [Adelina], the sister of EUSTAQUIO who testified that she personally witnessed the wedding celebration of her older brother EUSTAQUIO and [Tecla] on 30 September 1942 at Talibon, Bohol; [Climaco], the eldest son of EUSTAQUIO and [Tecla], who testified that his mother [Tecla] was married to his father, EUSTAQUIO, and [Tecla] herself; and (2) the documentary evidence mentioned at the outset. It should be stressed that the due execution and the loss of the marriage contract, both constituting the condition sine qua non for the introduction of secondary evidence of its contents, were shown by the very evidence the trial court has disregarded.”

    Applying the above-mentioned decision in your case, your grandparents’ marriage can still be proven by testimonial evidence or other documents if their marriage contract cannot be produced. It is necessary first to establish the due execution of the marriage contract and its loss as prerequisites for the introduction of secondary evidence like testimonies of persons who witnessed the marriage.

    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 dearpao@manilatimes.net

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