G.R. No. 159614, 9 December 2005
Alan Alegro, the petitioner, was married with Lea in January 1995. Lea arrived home late in February 1995 and Alan told her that if she enjoys life of a single person, it will be better for her to go back to her parents. Lea left after that fight. Allan checked if she went to her parents’ house but was not there and even inquired to her friends. He went back to the parents-in-law’s house and learned that Lea had been to their house but left without notice. He then sought help from the Barangay Captain. For some time, Alan decided to work as part-time taxi driver and during his free time he would look for Lea in the malls. In June 2001, Alan reported Lea’s disappearance to the local police station and an alarm notice was issued. He also reported the disappearance in NBI on July 2001. Alan filed a petition in March 2001 for the declaration of presumptive death of his wife.
Whether Alan has a well-founded belief that his wife is already dead.
The spouse present is, thus, burdened to prove that his spouse has been absent and that he has a well-founded belief that the absent spouse is already dead before the present spouse may contract a subsequent marriage. The law does not define what is meant by a well-grounded belief. Cuello Callon writes that es menester que su creencia sea firme se funde en motivos racionales.Belief is a state of the mind or condition prompting the doing of an overt act. It may be proved by direct evidence or circumstantial evidence which may tend, even in a slight degree, to elucidate the inquiry or assist to a determination probably founded in truth. Any fact or circumstance relating to the character, habits, conditions, attachments, prosperity and objects of life which usually control the conduct of men, and are the motives of their actions, was, so far as it tends to explain or characterize their disappearance or throw light on their intentions, competence evidence on the ultimate question of his death.
The belief of the present spouse must be the result of proper and honest to goodness inquiries and efforts to ascertain the whereabouts of the absent spouse and whether the absent spouse is still alive or is already dead. Whether or not the spouse present acted on a well-founded belief of death of the absent spouse depends upon the inquiries to be drawn from a great many circumstances occurring before and after the disappearance of the absent spouse and the nature and extent of the inquiries made by present spouse. Although testimonial evidence may suffice to prove the well-founded belief of the present spouse that the absent spouse is already dead, in Republic v. Nolasco,the Court warned against collusion between the parties when they find it impossible to dissolve the marital bonds through existing legal means. It is also the maxim that men readily bekieve what they wish to be true.
The court ruled that Alan failed to prove that he has a well-founded belief, before he filed his petition with RTC, that his spouse was dead. He failed to present a witness other than the Barangay Captain. He even failed to present those friends of Lea which he inquired to corroborate his testimony. He also failed to make inquiries from his parents-in-law regarding Lea’s whereabouts before filing his petition in the RTC. It could have enhanced his credibility had he made inquiries from his parents-in-law about Lea’s whereabouts considering that Lea’s father was the owner of Radio DYMS. He did report and seek help of the local police authorities and NBI to locate Lea but he did so only after the OSG file its notice to dismiss his petition in RTC.
* Case digest by Aisha Mie Faith M. Fernandez, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018