I’ve been married to my husband for almost a decade already. These past few months have been really rough for both us. We are having arguments regularly and to make matters worse, I have been hearing allegations that my husband is having an affair. The last straw came when I learned from a friend that my husband was already married before he married me. He did not tell me about this fact.
I was able to get an official document that shows and confirms that my husband was already married five years before we got married. I am unaware of this fact and I was both surprised and insulted by this revelation since it appears now that I am merely a second wife. All the while I thought that I was the only wife!
Considering this, I want to know if I can file a case for bigamy against my own husband. Can I sue him for this even though it appears now that I am the second wife? I hope you can advice me about this. Thank you!
It appears from your narration that you are accusing your husband of committing the crime of bigamy and that you intend to file a formal charge against him for it. To know if your husband can be charged of bigamy, it is important that we discuss the nature of the crime of bigamy as defined by Philippine laws.
Bigamy is defined under the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines as the act of contracting a second or subsequent marriage before a 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 (Art. 349). The elements of bigamy are: the offender has been legally married; the marriage has not been legally dissolved; the offender contracts a subsequent marriage; and that the subsequent marriage has all the essential requisites for a valid marriage (Leonor D. Boado, Notes and Cases on the Revised Penal Code, 2008).
Simply put, bigamy is the crime committed by a person who enters in a new marriage despite the existence of a previous marriage. A married person cannot legally contract a second marriage as long as that person’s previous marriage has not been legally terminated, either through a judicial declaration or a death of the other spouse. The party spouse who contracts such marriage can be prosecuted for committing bigamy.
With regard to your query as to whether you yourself may file a case for bigamy against your husband notwithstanding the fact that you are the second wife, the Supreme Court ruled that:
“It is settled that in bigamy, both the first and the second spouses may be the offended parties depending on the circumstances” (Garcia vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 119063 January 27, 1997).
It is immaterial therefore that you turned out to be the second wife. What is material in your situation is the existence of the elements of the crime of bigamy and that you as the offended party, did not know that your husband was already married to another person at the time you were married. Therefore, you may file the appropriate criminal complaint for bigamy against your own husband.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org