Conclusively presumed
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - June 12, 2019 - 12:00am

The best documentary evidence of a marriage is the marriage contract itself freely and voluntarily signed by the parties after obtaining a marriage license. The marriage license and marriage certificate are official and public documents, so their validity cannot be successfully assailed except by strong, clear and convincing oral testimony as to the incapacity of one of the parties. What is the test of incapacity of one of the parties? Is old age, or physical infirmities feeblemindedness, weakness of memory, or other eccentricities enough to show that incapacity? What is the effect of the marriage on the legitimacy of the children born before or after its celebration? These are the questions answered in this case of Mario and Ella.

Mario is a rich, old man who is already 76 years old when he started cohabiting with Ella, a young woman about half his age. During their cohabitation, they begot a son who was later baptized as Nathan. Four years thereafter, Mario and Ella decided to get married. Each of them obtained a marriage license, got married before a priest according to the rites of the Roman Catholic Church then signed their marriage contract. A few weeks after their marriage however, Mario died already, although another son, MJ was still subsequently born about seven months after Mario’s death.

It turned out that Mario executed a Last Will and Testament about four years before he died wherein he named Leslie as Executrix of said Will and Tristan as the universal heir. And during the probate of said Will, Ella, in her behalf and in behalf of her sons Nathan and MJ, filed an Action for Declaration as Heirs of Mario for being his widow while her two sons are their legitimate children. To support her claim Ella testified and presented their marriage license and marriage certificate. The officiating priest likewise testified as to the capacity of both parties to get married.

In Answer to said suit filed by Ella, Leslie and Tristan alleged that the marriage between Ella and Mario was not valid because Mario was already suffering from senile dementia which became worse a few weeks before said marriage when their province was bombarded. They further alleged that the deceased Mario was deprived of his free will due to his age and sickness such that he could not even talk coherently and intelligibly and that Ella took advantage of his condition by intrigue and threat of abandoning him, thus forcing Mario to marry her by means of deceit. They also claimed that Mario was congenitally sterile, unable to procreate and impotent.

The lower court however ruled that the marriage between Mario and Ella was valid as shown by their marriage licenses and marriage contract. It likewise declared that Mario was not impotent and that Nathan and MJ are his sons with Ella but only MJ is legitimate because Nathan has not been acknowledged as a natural child and thus could not be legitimized by the subsequent marriage of Mario and Ella.

This ruling was affirmed by the Supreme Court. According to the SC the marriage licenses and the marriage certificate of Mario and Ella are the best evidence of their marriage. They are official and public documents and their validity can be successfully assailed only by strong, convincing and clear oral testimony. In this case, the oral evidence of Paz and Tristan is too sweeping because they refer to a general, not a specific period of time. The old man Mario although somewhat weak had a clear mind as testified by the officiating priest which is corroborated by the marriage contract and marriage certificate where Mario’s signatures could not have been written by a man who is almost unconscious and physically and intellectually incapacitated. Besides, neither old age, physical infirmities, feebleness of mind, weakness of memory, being under guardianship nor eccentricities are sufficient jointly or singly to show that a person is incapacitated to contract marriage.

But only MJ is their legitimate son because he was born more than 180 days after the marriage but less than 300 days after the death of Mario and thus conclusively presumed to be legitimate under Rule 123 Section 68 of the Rules of Court. With regards to Nathan, the lower court ruling that he cannot be legitimized by the subsequent marriage of his parents since he has not been acknowledged as a natural child cannot be reviewed anymore because Ella did not appeal it. So the judgment of the lower court is affirmed in all its parts. (Probate of the Will of the late Faustino Neri San Jose, Paz Neri San Jose, Petitioner, Matilde Menciano etc, plaintiffs appellees, vs. Paz Neri San Jose and Rodolfo Pelaez, defendants-appellants, G.R. L-1767, May 28, 1951)

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