• Ship captain has limited authority to solemnize marriage

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    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    My aunt is already 45 years old, but this will be her first time to get married. She met her fiancé on board a cruise ship. He is a seaman by profession and hails from Cagayan Valley. They have been planning their simple marriage ceremony. Her future husband wants his ship captain to officiate their marriage, but my aunt wants it to be done before their church. They already spoke with his captain and were told that he cannot celebrate their marriage, because it is only limited to urgent situations where a party is about to pass away. Despite this, her fiancé still wants him to officiate.

    I just want to know, in behalf of my aunt’s fiancé, if a ship captain is empowered to solemnize marriages in our country. What will be the effect if ever they pursue such marriage? Please advise.
    Baby Girl 001

    Dear Baby Girl 001,
    Under Article 7 of the Family Code of the Philippines, the following persons are authorized to solemnize marriages: (1) Any incumbent member of the judiciary within the court’s jurisdiction; (2) Any priest, rabbi, imam or minister of any church or religious sect duly authorized by his church or religious sect and registered with the civil registrar general, acting within the limits of the written authority granted by his church or religious sect and provided that at least one of the contracting parties belongs to the solemnizing officer’s church or religious sect; (3) Any ship captain or airplane chief only in the case mentioned in Article 31; (4) Any military commander of a unit to which a chaplain is assigned, in the absence of the latter, during a military operation, likewise only in the cases mentioned in Article 32; (5) Any consul-general, consul or vice-consul in the case provided in Article 10.

    Insofar as ship captains are concerned, the following requisites must concur in order for them to lawfully solemnize marriages: (1) The marriage must be in articulo mortis or when at least one of the contracting parties is at the point of death; (2) It must be between passengers or crew members of the ship where such captain has control or supervision; and,(3) It must be done while the ship is at sea or the plane is in flight or during stopovers at ports of call (Article 31, Ibid.).

    In the situation you have presented before us, the first requisite mentioned above appears to be lacking as it does not seem that your aunt and/or her fiancé are at the point of death. Thus, it can be concluded that the latter’s ship captain has no authority to solemnize their intended marriage. If they pursue the celebration of their marriage by the ship captain, it will be considered as void ab initio or void from the very beginning because of the absence of the authority of the solemnizing officer (Article 4 in relation to Article 3, Id.).

    It is worth mentioning that while Article 35 (2) of the Family Code, provides for an exception, such cannot be made to apply in your aunt and her fiancé’s case because their “good faith” is negated by the fact that the latter’s captain has already informed them of his limited authority to solemnize marriage. To be specific, the law provides that: “The following marriages shall be void from the beginning: x x x (2) Those solemnized by any person not legally authorized to perform marriages unless such marriages were contracted with either or both parties believing in good faith that the solemnizing officer had the legal authority to do so; x x x”

    We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

    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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