G.R. No. L-30977, 31 January 1972
Carmen Lapuz-Sy filed a petition for legal separation against Eufemio Eufemio on August 1953. They were married civilly on September 21, 1934 and canonically after nine days. They had lived together as husband and wife continuously without any children until 1943 when her husband abandoned her. They acquired properties during their marriage. Petitioner then discovered that her husband cohabited with a Chinese woman named Go Hiok on or about 1949. She prayed for the issuance of a decree of legal separation, which among others, would order that the defendant Eufemio should be deprived of his share of the conjugal partnership profits.
Eufemio counterclaimed for the declaration of nullity of his marriage with Lapuz-Sy on the ground of his prior and subsisting marriage with Go Hiok. Trial proceeded and the parties adduced their respective evidence. However, before the trial could be completed, respondent already scheduled to present surrebuttal evidence, petitioner died in a vehicular accident on May 1969. Her counsel duly notified the court of her death. Eufemio moved to dismiss the petition for legal separation on June 1969 on the grounds that the said petition was filed beyond the one-year period provided in Article 102 of the Civil Code and that the death of Carmen abated the action for legal separation. Petitioner’s counsel moved to substitute the deceased Carmen by her father, Macario Lapuz.
Whether the death of the plaintiff, before final decree in an action for legal separation, abates the action and will it also apply if the action involved property rights.
As to the petition of respondent-appellee Eufemio for a declaration of nullity ab initio of his marriage to Carmen Lapuz, it is apparent that such action became moot and academic upon the death of the latter, and there could be no further interest in continuing the same after her demise, that automatically dissolved the questioned union. Any property rights acquired by either party as a result of Article 144 of the Civil Code of the Philippines could be resolved and determined in a proper action for partition by either the appellee or by the heirs of the appellant.
In fact, even if the bigamous marriage had not been void ab initio but only voidable under Article 83, paragraph 2, of the Civil Code, because the second marriage had been contracted with the first wife having been an absentee for seven consecutive years, or when she had been generally believed dead, still the action for annulment became extinguished as soon as one of the three persons involved had died, as provided in Article 87, paragraph 2, of the Code, requiring that the action for annulment should be brought during the lifetime of any one of the parties involved. And furthermore, the liquidation of any conjugal partnership that might have resulted from such voidable marriage must be carried out “in the testate or intestate proceedings of the deceased spouse”, as expressly provided in Section 2 of the Revised Rule 73, and not in the annulment proceeding.
* Case digest by Daisy Mae O. Tambolero, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018