G.R. No. 165545, 24 March 2006
In 1955, Clemente Bailon and Alice Diaz married in Barcelona, Sorsogon. More than 15 years later, Clemente filed an action to declare the presumptive death of Alice, she being an absentee. The petition was granted in 1970.
In 1983, Clemente married Jarque. The two live together until Clemente’s death in 1998. Jarque then sought to claim her husband’s SSS benefits and the same were granted her. On the other hand, a certain Cecilia Bailon-Yap who claimed that she is the daughter of Bailon to a certain Elisa Jayona petitioned before the SSS that they be given the reimbursement for the funeral spending for it was actually them who shouldered the burial expenses of Clemente.
They further claim that Clemente contracted three marriages; one with Alice, another with Elisa and the other with Jarque. Cecilia also averred that Alice is alive and kicking and Alice subsequently emerged. Cecilia claimed that Clemente obtained the declaration of Alice’s presumptive death in bad faith for he was aware of the whereabouts of Alice or if not he could have easily located her in her parent’s place. She was in Sorsogon all along in her parents’ place. She went there upon learning that Clemente had been having extra-marital affairs.
SSS then ruled that Jarque should reimburse what had been granted her and to return the same to Cecilia since she shouldered the burial expenses and that the benefits should go to Alice because her reappearance had terminated Clemente’s marriage with Harque. Further, SSS ruled that the RTC’s decision in declaring Alice to be presumptively death is erroneous. Teresita appealed the decision of the SSS before the Social Security Commission and the SSC affirmed SSS. The CA however ruled the contrary.
Whether or not the mere appearance of the absent spouse declared presumptively dead automatically terminates the subsequent marriage.
No. If the absentee reappears, but no step is taken to terminate the subsequent marriage, either by affidavit or by court action, such absentee’s mere reappearance, even if made known to the spouses in the subsequent marriage, will not terminate such marriage.
Since the second marriage has been contracted because of a presumption that the former spouse is dead, such presumption continues inspite of the spouse’s physical reappearance, and by fiction of law, he or she must still be regarded as legally an absentee until the subsequent marriage is terminated as provided by law.
If the subsequent marriage is not terminated by registration of an affidavit of reappearance or by judicial declaration but by death of either spouse as in the case at bar, the action for annulment became extinguished as provided in Article 87, paragraph 2, of the Civil Code, requiring that the action for annulment should be brought during the lifetime of any one of the parties involved.
Voidable marriage under Article 83, paragraph 2, of the Civil Code, cannot be assailed collaterally except in a direct proceeding. Consequently, such marriages can be assailed only during the lifetime of the parties and not after the death of either, in which case the parties and their offspring will be left as if the marriage had been perfectly valid.
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.
In the case at bar, as no step was taken to nullify, in accordance with law, Bailon’s and respondent’s marriage prior to the former’s death in 1998, respondent is rightfully the dependent spouse-beneficiary of Bailon.
* Case digest by Kristine Camille B. Gahuman, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018