My parents got married while they were living in Aklan. My father is a foreigner, while my mother is a Filipina. They met when my father was on vacation here in the Philippines. But they had so many differences that they ended up separating. My mother lived in Florida, USA, while my father moved back to England. My mother met another foreigner and got married there. Can my mother be held guilty of bigamy? She and her second husband also ended up separating and she is set to come here next year. I hope you can respond and advise soon. Thank you and more power.
Dear Winter Apple,
Under the Revised Penal Code (RPC), the crime of bigamy is committed by 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 (Article 349).
In the situation that you have presented before us, it is apparent that your mother has contracted two (2) marriages. But this alone will not warrant the conclusion that she has indeed committed the crime of bigamy. First and foremost, it cannot be gleaned from your letter whether any of your parents secured the declaration of absolute nullity of their marriage or whether their marriage was annulled by a court of competent jurisdiction. If either of them had, during the time they were separated, then it cannot be said that your mother unlawfully entered into the second marriage. Consequently, there is no bigamous relationship to speak of.
And even assuming that her first marriage with your father was not legally dissolved prior to the celebration of her second marriage, we believe that she may not be held criminally liable for bigamy under Philippine laws considering that her second marriage was not contracted while she was here in the Philippines, rather it was entered into in the United States of America, specifically in Florida. Under the principle of territoriality, a well-established rule in our criminal laws, a person may not be held liable for a crime if the acts constituting the same were committed in a foreign country or outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Philippines. Accordingly, your mother may not be held criminally accountable if her second marriage was celebrated in a foreign country.
Nevertheless, we do not discount the possibility that she may be held criminally responsible for bigamy if she has violated the criminal laws of the country where her second marriage was contracted. Should this be the case, then she may be indicted before the foreign courts.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org