G.R. No. 138509, 31 July 2000
On October 21, 1985, respondent contracted a first marriage with one Maria Dulce B. Javier. Without the said marriage been annulled, nullified or terminated, the same respondent contracted a second marriage with petitioner Imelda Marbella-Bobis on January 25, 1996 and allegedly a third marriage with a certain Julia Sally Hernandez. Based on petitioner’s complaint- affidavit, information for bigamy was filed against respondent. Sometime thereafter, respondent initiated a civil action for the judicial declaration of absolute nullity of his first marriage on the ground that it was celebrated without a marriage license.
Whether the subsequent filing of a civil action for declaration of nullity of a previous marriage constitutes a prejudicial question to a criminal case for bigamy
No. The subsequent filing of a civil action for declaration of nullity of a previous marriage does not constitute a prejudicial question to a criminal case for bigamy.
A prejudicial question is one which arises in a case the resolution of which is a logical antecedent of the issue involved therein. It is a question based on a fact distinct and separate from the crime but so intimately connected with it that it determines the guilt or innocence of the accused. Its two essential elements are: (a) the civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue raised in the criminal action; and (b) the resolution of such issue determines whether or not the criminal action may proceed.
In Article 40 of the Family Code, respondent, without first having obtained the judicial declaration of nullity of the first marriage, cannot be said to have validly entered into the second marriage. In the current jurisprudence, a marriage though void still needs a judicial declaration of such fact before any party can marry again; otherwise the second marriage will also be void. The reason is that, without a judicial declaration of its nullity, the first marriage is presumed to be subsisting. In the case at bar, respondent was for all legal intents and purposes regarded as a married man at the time he contracted his second marriage with petitioner. Any decision in the civil action for nullity would not erase the fact that respondent entered into a second marriage during the subsistence of a first marriage. Thus, a decision in the civil case is not essential to the determination of the criminal charge. It is, therefore, not a prejudicial question.
* Case digest by Cherrie Mae E. Aguila-Granada, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018