Wife’s bigamous marriage

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Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I met my wife in the province when I was assigned there to work for a multinational company. We were not young when we got married but we were certainly happy and confident as a couple then. Years into our marriage, I transferred to another company where I met a woman who I became close with. I invited her to a family gathering where she met my wife. The week after that, my officemate told me in private that she thinks my wife is the wife of her other friend in another province. At first I didn’t believe it, but when my friend contacted her friend and showed me pictures of my wife with another man years before I met her, I started to worry.

My worst fear became a reality when I was able to get a document from a local civil registrar and the Philippine Statistics Authority or PSA (formerly known as the National Statistics Office or NSO), that shows that my wife is indeed married to another man before and there is nothing there that says that their marriage was dissolved already. I angrily confronted my wife about it, and she eventually told me the truth. She was once married, and they were not able to legally nullify her first marriage. Now I want to ask if this is indeed bigamy. And if so, can I file a case for bigamy against my wife, or should that be the obligation of her first husband? I am confused, but I am certain that I want a bigamy case filed against my wife for fooling me and deceiving me. Please advise me. More power!
Nestor

Dear Nestor,
According to the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, bigamy is 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).

In other words, 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.

Based on your narration, your wife may have indeed committed the crime of Bigamy. It is clear from the documents you obtained from the Philippine Statistics Authority and local civil registrar that your wife has an existing marriage considering that there is nothing to suggest that legal action was made to formally annul or nullify her first marriage. Because of this, your marriage to your wife is bigamous and she may be charged with the crime of bigamy.

As to who–between you and the first husband–may file a case for bigamy against your wife, a decision from the Supreme Court states:

“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; ponente, former Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr.).

Therefore, notwithstanding the fact that you are the second husband, you may still file a complaint against your wife for bigamy. What is important 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 wife was already married to another person at the time you were married. Therefore, you may rightfully file the appropriate criminal complaint for bigamy against your wife.

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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