G.R. No. 83598, 7 March 1997
Ramonito and Generoso Balogbog filed an action for partition and accounting against their Aunt Leoncia and Uncle Gaudioso for partition and accounting of their grandparents’ estate at the Court of First Instance of Cebu City which was granted by the latter. Leoncia and Gaudioso appealed to the Court of Appeals but the latter affirmed the lower court’s decision.
Basilio Balogbog and Genoveva Arnibal died intestate in 1951 and 1961 respectively. They have three children, Leoncia, Gaudioso and Gavino, their older brother who died in 1935. Ramoncito and Generoso was claiming that they were the legitimate children of Gavino by Catalina Ubas and that, as such they were entitled to the one-third share in the estate of their grandparents. However, Leoncia and Gaudioso claimed they are not aware that their brother has 2 sons and that he was married. They started to question the validity of the marriage between their brother Gavino and Catalina despite how Gaudioso himself admitted during a police investigation proceeding that indeed Ramonito is his nephew as the latter is the son of his elder brother Gavino.
In the efforts of Ramoncito and Generoso to prove the validity of their parent’s marriage, they presented Priscilo Trazo, 81 years old then mayor of Asturias from 1928 to 1934 and Matias Pogoy who both testified that he knew Gavino and Catalina to be husband and wife and that they have three children. Catalina herself testified that she was handed a “receipt” presumably the marriage certificate by Fr. Jomao-as but it was burned during the war.
On the other hand,Leoncia claimed that her brother Gavino died single at the family residence in Asturias. She obtained a certificate from the local Civil Registrar of Asturias to the effect that the office did not have a record of the names of Gavino and Catalina which was prepared by Assistant Municipal Treasurer Juan Maranga who testified in the hearing as well.
Leoncia and Gaudioso contended that the marriage of Gavino and Catalina should have been proven in accordance with Arts. 53 and 54 of the Civil Code of 1889 because this was the law in force at the time of the alleged marriage was celebrated.
Art. 53 provides that “marriages celebrated under the Civil Code of 1889 should be proven only by a certified copy of the memorandum in the Civil Registry, unless the books thereof have not been kept or have been lost, or unless they are questioned in the courts, in which case any other proof, such as that of the continuous possession by parents of the status of husband and wife, may be considered, provided that the registration of the birth of their children as their legitimate children is also submitted in evidence”.
Whether or not Gavino and Catalina’s marriage is valid.
Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the trial court and Court of Appeals in rendering Gavino and Catalina’s marriage as valid and thus entitles Ramonito and Generoso one third of their grandparents’ estate.
The court further states that Arts. 42 to 107 of the Civil Code of 889 of Spain did not take effect, having been suspended by the Governor General of the Philippines shortly after the extension of that code of this country. Therefore, Arts. 53 and 54 never came into force. Since this case was brought in the lower court in 1968, the existence of the marriage must be determined in accordance with the present Civil Code, which repealed the provisions of the former Civil Code, except as they related to vested rights, and the rules of evidence. Under the Rules of Court, the presumption is that a man and a woman conducting themselves as husband and wife are legally married.
Albeit, a marriage contract is considered primary evidence of marriage, failure to present it would not mean that marriage did not take place. Other evidence may be presented where in this case evidence consisting of the testimonies of witnesses was held competent to prove the marriage of Gavino and Catalina in 1929, that they have three children, one of whom, Petronilo, died at the age of six and that they are recognized by Gavino’s family and by the public as the legitimate children of Gavino.
* Case digest by Jason S. Olasiman, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018