G.R. No. 138322, 2 October 2001
Rederick A. Recio, a Filipino, was married to Editha Samson, an Australian Citizen, in Malabon, Rizal. They lived as husband and wife in Australia. However, an Australian family court issued purportedly a decree of divorce, dissolving the marriage of Rederick and Editha.
Recio married Grace J. Garcia at Our lady of Perpetual Help Church, Cabanatuan City. Since October 22, 1995, the couple lived separately without prior judicial dissolution of their marriage. While they were still in Australia, their conjugal assets were divided in accordance with their Statutory Declarations secured in accordance with their Statutory Declarations secured in Australia.
Garcia filed a Complaint for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage on the ground of bigamy on March 3, 1998, claiming that she learned only in November 1997 of Rederick’s marriage with Editha Samson.
Whether the decree of divorce submitted by Recio is admissible as evidence to prove his legal capacity to marry petitioner and absolved him of bigamy.
Philippine law does not provide for absolute divorce; hence, our courts cannot grant it. A marriage between two Filipinos cannot be dissolved even by a divorce obtained abroad, because of Articles 15 and 17 of the Civil Code. In mixed marriages involving a Filipino and a foreigner, Article 26 of the Family Code allows the former to contract a subsequent marriage in case the divorce is validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry. A divorce obtained abroad by a couple, who are both aliens, may be recognized in the Philippines,provided it is consistent with the irrespective nation allows.
A comparison between marriage and divorce, as far as pleading and proof are concerned, can be made. Van Dorn v. Romillo Jr. decrees that aliens may obtain divorces abroad, which may be recognized in the Philippines, provided they are valid according to their national law.Therefore, before a foreign divorce decree can be recognized by our courts, the party pleading it must prove the divorce as a fact and demonstrate its conformity to the foreign law allowing it. Presentation solely ofthe divorce decree is insufficient.
Under Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132, on the other hand, a writing or document may be proven as a public or official record of a foreign country by either (1) an official publication or (2) a copy thereof attested by the officer having legal custody of the document. If the record is not kept in the Philippines, such copy must be (a) accompanied by a certificate issued by the proper diplomatic or consular officer in the Philippine Foreign Service stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept and (b) authenticated by the seal of his office.
The nullity of Rederick’s marriage with Editha as shown by the divorce decree issued was valid and recognized in the Philippines since the respondent is a naturalized Australian. However, there is absolutely no evidence that proves respondent’s legal capacity to marry petitioner though the former presented a divorce decree. The said decree, being a foreign document was inadmissible to court as evidence primarily because it was not authenticated by the consul/embassy of the country where it will be used.
Thus, the Supreme Court remands the case to the Regional Trial Court of Cabanatuan City to receive or trial evidence that will conclusively prove respondent’s legal capacityto marry petitionerand thus free him on the groundof bigamy.
* Case digest by Aisha Mie Faith M. Fernandez, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018