Always presumed

A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Atty. Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - January 8, 2021 - 12:00am

This is another case about marriage, which is considered as the “basis of human society throughout the civilized world.” Verily, in our jurisdiction, marriage is “not only a civil contract but… a new relation, an institution in the maintenance of which the public is deeply interested”…. so that every intendment of the law leans toward legalizing it. Consequently, “a man and a woman dwelling together in apparent matrimony are presumed to be in fact married in the absence of any counter-presumption or evidence special to the case.” This is illustrated in the case of Tessie and Eddie.

Tessie and Eddie got married on Sept. 30, 1942 in rites officiated by the parish priest of their town. During their union, they begot four children, namely Cardo, born on March 3, 1943; Andy, born on Aug. 2, 1948; Millie, born on July 6, 1950, and Jun, born on Dec. 5, 1952. About 12 years after they got married, Eddie left his family and his whereabouts was not known until four years later, when Tessie and her children learned that he was in a city down south, living with another woman, Vangie, who later died without leaving any children.

About 25 years after Eddie left his family, Tessie learned that Eddie got married to another woman, Gina, on March 30, 1979 at a parish church of the city where he transferred. Eventually, after the death of Eddie, Tessie decided to file a complaint against Gina for the Declaration of Nullity of the latter’s marriage to the late Eddie on the ground that it is bigamous and void. She filed the petition to protect the rights of her children over the properties acquired by Eddie.

At the trial, Tessie herself testified about her marriage to Eddie in a wedding ceremony officiated by the parish priest of their town. Lina, the sister of Eddie who personally witnessed the marriage ceremony, also testified. The eldest son Cardo likewise testified and declared that his mother was married to his father. Documentary evidence, particularly the birth certificate of their children, were also presented to prove the fact of marriage but the marriage certificate was not presented because the records of the local civil registrar were destroyed during World War II.

On the other hand, Gina testified about her marriage to Eddie that took place on March 23, 1979; about her life as a wife and how she took care of Eddie when he was already in poor health, and her knowledge that Tessie is not the legal, but only the common law wife of Eddie. She also submitted documentary evidence to substantiate her allegation like their marriage contract, the affidavit of Eddie declaring himself as single and had only common law relations with Tessie, as well as the certificate issued by the local civil registrar of their place of marriage.

After trial the RTC rendered a decision denying Tessie’s petition to declare Gina’s marriage to Eddie null and void. It also dismissed Gina’s counterclaim. This decision was reversed by the Court of Appeals (CA), which declared the validity of Tessie’s marriage to Eddie while pronouncing on the other hand the marriage between Gina and Eddie to be bigamous and thus null and void. Was the CA correct?

Yes, said the Supreme Court (SC). According to the SC, while a marriage certificate is considered as the primary evidence of a marital union, it is not regarded as the sole and exclusive evidence of marriage. Hence, even a person’s birth certificate may be recognized as competent evidence of the marriage between his parents.

It is error for the RTC to rule that without the marriage certificate, no other proof of the fact of marriage can be accepted. In this case, the due execution of the marriage contract was established by the testimony of Lina, the sister of Eddie, who was present during the marriage ceremony, and of Tessie herself as a party to the event. The subsequent loss of said marriage certificate was shown by the testimony and the affidavit of the officiating priest which is relevant, competent and admissible evidence. Since the due execution and the loss of the marriage contract were clearly shown by the certifications issued by the National Statistics Office (NSO) and the Local Civil Registrar (LCR) of the place where the marriage was celebrated, secondary evidence – testimonial and documentary – may be admitted to prove the fact of marriage.

In this case the fact of marriage has been established by the testimonies of Lina, Cardo and Tessie; the unrebutted fact of the birth within the cohabitation of Tessie and Eddie of four children as shown by the children’s birth certificates and baptism and the certification of marriage issued by the parish priest. Besides, a man and a woman deporting themselves as husband and wife is presumed to have entered into a lawful contract of marriage under the Code of Civil Procedure, (Section 334 No. 28). (Macua Vda de Avenido vs. Avenido, G.R. 173540, Jan. 22, 2014)

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Email: js0711192@gmail.com

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