G.R. No. 136467, 6 April 2000
Teodorico Calisterio died intestate, leaving several parcels of land with an estimated value of P604,750.00. Teodorico was survived by his wife Marietta Calisterio. Teodorico was the second husband of Marietta who had previously been married to James William Bounds. James Bounds disappeared without a trace on 11 February 1947. Teodorico and Marietta were married eleven years later without Marietta having priorly secured a court declaration that James was presumptively dead.
Petitioner Antonia Armas y Calisterio, a surviving sister of Teodorico, filed a petition entitled, “In the Matter of Intestate Estate of the Deceased Teodorico Calisterio y Cacabelos, Antonia Armas, Petitioner,” claiming to be inter alia, the sole surviving heir of Teodorico Calisterio and the marriage between the latter and respondent Marietta Espinosa Calisterio being allegedly bigamous and thereby null and void. She prayed that her son Sinfroniano C. Armas, Jr., be appointed administrator, without bond, of the estate of the deceased and that the inheritance be adjudicated to her after all the obligations of the estate would have been settled.
Respondent Marietta opposed the petition. Marietta stated that her first marriage with James Bounds had been dissolved due to the latter’s absence, his whereabouts being unknown, for more than eleven years before she contracted her second marriage with Teodorico. Contending to be the surviving spouse of Teodorico, she sought priority in the administration of the estate of the decedent.
Whether the marriage between Teodorico and Marietta is valid.
The marriage between the deceased Teodorico and respondent Marietta was solemnized on 08 May 1958. The law in force at that time was the Civil Code, not the Family Code which took effect only on 03 August 1988. Article 256 of the Family Code itself limited its retroactive governance only to cases where it thereby would not prejudice or impair vested or acquired rights in accordance with the Civil Code or other laws.
Verily, the applicable specific provision in the instant controversy is Article 83 of the New Civil Code which provides:
Art. 83. Any marriage subsequently contracted by any person during the lifetime of the first spouse of such person with any person other than such first spouse shall be illegal and void from its performance, unless:
(1) The first marriage was annulled or dissolved; or
(2) The first spouse had been absent for seven consecutive years at the time of the second marriage without the spouse present having news of the absentee being alive, or if the absentee, though he has been absent for less than seven years, is generally considered as dead and believed to be so by the spouse present at the time of contracting such subsequent marriage, or if the absentee is presumed dead according to articles 390 and 391. The marriage so contracted shall be valid in any of the three cases until declared null and void by a competent court.
For the subsequent marriage referred to in the three exceptional cases therein provided, to be held valid, the spouse present (not the absentee spouse) so contracting the later marriage must have done so in good faith. Bad faith imports a dishonest purpose or some moral obliquity and conscious doing of wrong — it partakes of the nature of fraud, a breach of a known duty through some motive of interest or ill will. The Court does not find these circumstances to be here extant.
Judicial declaration of absence of the absentee spouse is not necessary as long as the prescribed period of absence is met. It is equally noteworthy that the marriage in these exceptional cases is, by the explicit mandate of Article 83, to be deemed valid “until declared null and void by a competent court.” It follows that the burden of proof would be, in these cases, on the party assailing the second marriage.
It remained undisputed that respondent Marietta’s first husband, James William Bounds, had been absent or had disappeared for more than eleven years before she entered into a second marriage in 1958 with the deceased Teodorico Calisterio. This second marriage, having been contracted during the regime of the Civil Code, should thus be deemed valid notwithstanding the absence of a judicial declaration of presumptive death of James Bounds.
The conjugal property of Teodorico and Marietta, no evidence having been adduced to indicate another property regime between the spouses, pertains to them in common. Upon its dissolution with the death of Teodorico, the property should rightly be divided in two equal portions — one portion going to the surviving spouse and the other portion to the estate of the deceased spouse. The successional right in intestacy of a surviving spouse over the net estate of the deceased, concurring with legitimate brothers and sisters or nephews and nieces (the latter by right of representation), is one-half of the inheritance, the brothers and sisters or nephews and nieces, being entitled to the other half.
* Case digest by Paula Bianca B. Eguia, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018