The Supreme Court was acting on the case of Marelyn Tanedo Manalo who sought for the recognition of divorce from her Japanese husband.
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SC: Philippine courts now recognize divorce obtained by Filipino from foreign spouse
Kristine Joy Patag ( - April 24, 2018 - 6:07pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that a divorce obtained by a Filipino from a foreign spouse is deemed valid in the Philippines.

SC spokesperson Theodore Te said that 10 justices ruled that “a foreign divorce secured by a Filipino is also considered valid in the Philippines, even if it is the Filipino spouse files for divorce abroad.”

Associate Justices Mariano Del Castrillo, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Alfred Benjamin Caguioa dissented from the ruling, while Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza took no part in the decision. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno also did not take part in the decision as she is on leave from her office.

The SC was acting on the case of Marelyn Tanedo Manalo who sought for the recognition of divorce from her Japanese husband.

Te said that the court based its decision on its interpretation of Article 26 (2) of the Family Code. The said provision states that when a foreigner spouse obtains divorce allowing him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse “shall likewise have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.”

The case has been remanded or sent back to trial court “for further reception of evidence as to the relevant laws of Japan on divorce.”

A full copy of the decision has yet to be released by the SC Public Information Office.

Manalo case

Manalo sought the Philippine court’s recognition of a Japanese court's judgment that granted her motion for divorce on Dec. 6, 2011. She filed a petition for the cancelation of her marriage in the civil registry of San Juan.

The Dagupan City Regional Trial Court Branch 43, in a Oct. 15, 2012 decision, denied Manalo’s plea, citing that the Philippines only recognizes divorce filed by foreign spouse.

Manalo elevated her case to the Court of Appeals. The CA's Tenth Division granted her appeal and ordered the cancelation of the entry of her marriage from the civil registry.

The CA said: “The recognition of a foreign judgment serves as the basis for the correction or cancellation of entry in the civil registry. The said recognition is a subsequent event that establishes a news status, right and fact that needs to be reflected in the civil registry.”

The appellate court added that non-recognition of a divorce filed by a Filipino spouse will result in “inconsistency between the recognition of the effectivity of the foreign judgment and public records in the Philippines.”

The CA ruling was penned by Associate Justice Jane Aurora Lantion. Concurring are Associate Justice Nina Antonio-Valenzuela, and Rep. Vicente Veloso, who retired from the judiciary on Jan. 7, 2015.

Philippines and divorce

The SC landmark ruling comes amid a noticeable traction of the divorce bill in the Philippine Congress.

The lower house of the Congress, on March 19, approved on third and final reading House Bill 7303 or “An Act Instituting Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage in the Philippines.”

READ: Legalizing divorce in the Philippines: What you need to know

The bill saw the marriage of stance between two unlikely allies: opposition lawmaker Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay), the main sponsor of the bill, and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, one of its co-authors.

The Senate, currently on break, is set to receive the bill approved by the lower house. But the divorce bill is expected to face a tougher passage at the upper house where several senators have publicly stated their reservation against the bill.

President Rodrigo Duterte, a man who has separated from his estranged wife through annulment, has already voiced his opposition to the proposed measure. He said that his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, is against divorce in the Philippines.

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