Alien: lover, husband, foe
AS EASY AS ABC (The Philippine Star) - February 12, 2017 - 10:01pm

They are neither extraterrestrials nor illegals, but we technically call them aliens. In real life, they are expats in the Philippines who have learned to love the country for more reasons than one. After their official assignments, some (or many) return here or simply stay because they’ve connected the dots with someone – making the country worth returning to, or staying in as a home. If you think this is a Valentine’s Day piece, you are not far off.

Whether in nightspots in Manila or in resorts out of town, wherever the expats are, business would flourish. A foreigner in search of a Filipina girlfriend would almost certainly be able to find one. Then it would be bliss, the time of his life, and it can only get better. Or it can only get worse.

Legalized land grabbing?

When an expat decides to tie the knot, more often than not, he does so for himself – not for convenience, but because he feels the deep connection with a Filipina, the culture and the country. So he decides to try the life here. He knows he cannot own land but decides to buy one anyway, even if that means putting the land title under the name of his Filipina wife. But then after a while, the marriage sours.

Since the expat spent for the land and the house built on that, could he recover half of that as co-owner of the community property? Surprisingly, the Supreme Court (SC) in Beumer vs. Amores (1980) said no, because he knew from the start that he couldn’t own land, so that weakened his proof that he owned part of it.

I do not fully subscribe to that SC ruling because it’s not the physical half of the land that’s being recovered, but just half of the value (it can be in cash) that was contributed to the community asset. It seems though that the lesson here is that if you are a foreigner, even if for the meantime you are enamored, do not buy land. Buy instead condominium units that can be placed under your name.

Is failure to support criminal?

It was a solid marriage between a Filipina and a Dutch, with their wedding celebrated in the Netherlands. They eventually divorced, and the Filipina and their son went back to the Philippines. So did he, but he remarried another Filipina. The Filipina ex-wife demanded support since their son is still a minor. He refused, saying that under Dutch laws, he is no longer obligated because their marriage is dissolved. A criminal case was filed against him for his refusal to give support. Is it criminal?

A special law, Republic Act 9262, includes the refusal to provide financial support legally due to the wife and children as an act of “violence” (against women and their children) and is thus a criminal act. The SC in Socorro vs. Wilson (2014) said that there is no obligation to support one who is no longer legally the wife. However, support for the child, especially a minor, is a legal obligation even if the national law of the foreigner says otherwise. It would be a grave injustice to apply that foreign law here. I believe, however, that if there was confusion caused by the conflict between the laws of the foreigner’s country and that of the Philippines, and if the foreigner makes good on his obligation to support, these will show good faith rather than criminal intent.

Is marriage in jest for real?

A Filipina and an American married for convenience before a judge so that the Filipina can obtain US citizenship. The Filipina was supposed to pay P10,000 for this arrangement, but apparently the cash payment was not delivered, so the US citizenship application was not filed. She is now suing for nullity of the marriage (maybe she wants to marry someone else), calling the earlier marriage a sham as they never intended to live together as husband and wife. This seems straightforward, but is it?

The SC in Republic of the Philippines vs. Albios said that this is not a marriage in jest because she needs the legal ties of marriage to proceed with her application for US citizenship. Thus, the parties are meant to be legally bound by marriage. The SC said it would not go into the very private motives of marriage – on whether they married for money, companionship, social status, a child’s legitimation, or in this case, for immigration purposes. The Court said that love, while the ideal consideration for marriage, is not the only cause.

This decision, however, appears not so much about what a marriage in jest is all about. The decision seems to be more of the SC punishing those who trivialize marriage. The SC said that the petitioner already misused the judicial institution to validate a marriage, and she should not again be allowed to use the courts to get out of her inconvenient situation.

Do you remember when you were younger – when a romantic relationship between two friends can destroy their friendship? Well, in the above cases, romantic relationships were destroyed by marriage. Perhaps the only marriages that do not destroy the romance are the ones meant to last. They save a lot of exit miseries and litigation costs, too.

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Alexander B. Cabrera is the chairman and senior partner of Isla Lipana & Co./PwC Philippines. He also chairs the Tax Committee of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP). Email your comments and questions to This content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.

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