A.M. No. MTJ-02- 1309, 11 April 2002
Petitioner Mercedita Mata Aranes charged respondent Judge Occiano with gross ignorance of the law. Occiano is the presiding judge in Court of Balatan, Camarines Sur. However, he solemnized the marriage of Aranes and DominadorOrobia on February 17, 2000 at the couple’s residence in Nabua, Camarines Sur which is outside his territorial jurisdiction and without the requisite of marriage license.
It appeared in the records that petitioner and Orobia filed their application of marriage license on January 5, 2000 and was stamped that it will be issued on January 17, 2000 but neither of them claimed it. In addition, no record also appeared with the Office of the Civil Registrar General for the alleged marriage.
Before Judge Occiano started the ceremony, he carefully examined the documents and first refused to conduct the marriage and advised them to reset the date considering the absence of the marriage license. However, due to the earnest pleas of the parties, the influx of visitors and fear that the postponement of the wedding might aggravate the physical condition of Orobia who just suffered from stroke, he solemnized the marriage on the assurance of the couple that they will provide the license that same afternoon. Occiano denies that he told the couple that their marriage is valid.
Whether Judge Occiano is guilty of solemnizing a marriage without a duly issued marriage license and conducting it outside his territorial jurisdiction.
Yes. The Court held that Occiano is guilty of solemnizing a marriage without a duly issued marriage license and conducting it outside his territorial jurisdiction. The territorial jurisdiction of respondent judge is limited to the municipality of Balatan, Camarines Sur.
Article 7 of the Family Code provides that marriage may be solemnized by: (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.
Previous jurisprudence (Navarro v. Domagtoy) established that a priest who is commissioned and allowed by his local ordinance to marry the faithful is authorized to do so only within the area or diocese or place allowed by his Bishop. An appellate court Justice or a Justice of this Court has jurisdiction over the entire Philippines to solemnize marriages, regardless of the venue, as long as the requisites of the law are complied with. However, judges who are appointed to specific jurisdictions may officiate in weddings only within said areas and not beyond. Where a judge solemnizes a marriage outside his court’s jurisdiction, there is a resultant irregularity in the formal requisite laid down in Article 3, which while it may not affect the validity of the marriage, may subject the officiating official to administrative liability.
His act of solemnizing the marriage of petitioner and Orobia in Nabua, Camarines Sur therefore is contrary to law and subjects him to administrative liability. His act may not amount to gross ignorance of the law for he allegedly solemnized the marriage out of human compassion but nonetheless, he cannot avoid liability for violating the law on marriage.
* Case digest by Cherrie Mae E. Aguila-Granada, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018