G.R. No. 137590, 26 March 2001
This is a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage due to psychological incapacity.
Florence, the petitioner, was married with Philipp, a Portuguese citizen in January 1987. Florence filed in September 1994, a complaint for the declaration of nullity of their marriage. Trial ensued and the parties presented their respective documentary and testimonial evidence. In June 1995, trial court dismissed Florence’s petition and throughout its trial, the State did not participate in the proceedings. While Fiscal Jabson filed with the trial court a manifestation dated November 1994 stating that he found no collusion between the parties, he did not actively participated therein. Other than having appearance at certain hearings, nothing more was heard of him.
Whether the declaration of nullity may be declared even with the absence of the participation of the State in the proceedings.
No. The trial court must order the prosecuting attorney or fiscal and the Solicitor General to appear as counsel for the state. No decision shall be handed down unless the Solicitor General issues a certification, which will be quoted in the decision, briefly stating therein his reasons for his agreement or opposition as the case may be, to the petition.
Article 48 of the Family Code states that “in all cases of annulment or declaration of absolute nullity of marriage, the Court shall order the prosecuting attorney or fiscal assigned to it to appear on behalf of the state to take steps to prevent collusion between the parties and to take care that evidence is not fabricated or suppressed”. A declaration of nullity of marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code requires the application of procedural and substantive guidelines. While compliance with these requirements mostly devolves upon the petitioner, the State is likewise mandated to actively intervene in the procedure. Should there be non-compliance by the State with its statutory duty, there is a need to remand the case to the lower court for proper trial.
In this case, it can be argued that since the lower court dismissed the petition, the evil sought to be prevented (i.e., dissolution of the marriage) did not come about, hence, the lack of participation of the State was not preserved. The task of protecting marriage as an inviolable social institution requires vigilant and zealous participation and not mere pro-forma compliance. The protection of marriage as a sacred institution requires not just the defense of a true and genuine union but the exposure of an invalid one as well.The records are bereft of evidence that the State participated in the prosecution of the case thus; the case is remanded for proper trial.
* Case digest by Vera L. Nataa, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018