Tenebro v. Court of Appeals

G.R. No. 150758, 18 February 2004

FACTS:

Veronico Tenebro contracted marriage with Leticia Ancajas in 1990. The two lived together continuously and without interruption until the later part of 1991, when Tenebro informed Ancajas that he had been previously married to a certain Hilda Villareyes in 1986. Petitioner thereafter left the conjugal dwelling which he shared with Ancajas, stating that he was going to cohabit with Villareyes. In 1993, petitioner contracted yet another marriage with a certain Nilda Villegas. Ancajas thereafter filed a complaint for bigamy against petitioner. Villegas countered that his marriage with Villareyes cannot be proven as a fact there being no record of such. He further argued that his second marriage, with Ancajas, has been declared void ab initio due to psychological incapacity. Hence he cannot be charged for bigamy.

ISSUE:

Whether or not Tenebro can use psychological incapacity as ground for absolution of bigamy case against him.

RULING:

No. In invoking Article 36 of the Family Code, petitioner failed to realize that a declaration of the nullity of the second marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity is of absolutely no moment insofar as the State’s penal laws are concerned

The subsequent judicial declaration of nullity of marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity does not retroact to the date of the celebration of the marriage insofar as the Philippines’ penal laws are concerned. As such, an individual who contracts a second or subsequent marriage during the subsistence of a valid marriage is criminally liable for bigamy, notwithstanding the subsequent declaration that the second marriage is void ab initio on the ground of psychological incapacity.

The prosecution was able to establish the validity of the first marriage. As a second or subsequent marriage contracted during the subsistence of petitioner’s valid marriage to Villareyes, petitioner’s marriage to Ancajas would be null and void ab initio completely regardless of petitioner’s psychological capacity or incapacity. Since a marriage contracted during the subsistence of a valid marriage is automatically void, the nullity of this second marriage is not per se an argument for the avoidance of criminal liability for bigamy. Pertinently, Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code criminalizes “any person who shall contract a second or subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been legally dissolved, or before the absent spouse has been declared presumptively dead by means of a judgment rendered in the proper proceedings”. A plain reading of the law, therefore, would indicate that the provision penalizes the mere act of contracting a second or a subsequent marriage during the subsistence of a valid marriage.

* Case digest by Frillin M. Lomosad, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018

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