Republic vs Jose Dayot

November 19, 2010
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Article 39 – Prescription

Jose was introduced to Felisa in 1986.  He later came to live as a boarder in Felisa’s house, the latter being his landlady.  Later, Felisa requested him to accompany her to the Pasay City Hall, so she could claim a package sent to her by her brother from Saudi.  At the PCH, upon a pre-arranged signal from Felisa, a man bearing three folded pieces of paper approached them.  They were told that Jose needed to sign the papers so that the package could be released to Felisa.  He initially refused to do so.  However, Felisa cajoled him, and told him that his refusal could get both of them killed by her brother who had learned about their relationship.  Reluctantly, he signed the pieces of paper, and gave them to the man who immediately left.  It was in February 1987 when he discovered that he had contracted marriage with Felisa.  He alleged that he saw a piece of paper lying on top of the table at the sala of Felisa’s house.  When he perused the same, he discovered that it was a copy of his marriage contract with Felisa.  When he confronted Felisa, she said she does not know of such. Felisa denied Jose’s allegations and defended the validity of their marriage.  She declared that they had maintained their relationship as man and wife absent the legality of marriage in the early part of 1980, but that she had deferred contracting marriage with him on account of their age difference.  In her pre-trial brief, Felisa expounded that while her marriage to Jose was subsisting, the latter contracted marriage with a certain Rufina Pascual (Rufina) on 31 August 1990.  On 3 June 1993, Felisa filed an action for bigamy against Jose.  Subsequently, she filed an administrative complaint against Jose with the Office of the Ombudsman, since Jose and Rufina were both employees of the National Statistics and Coordinating Board. The Ombudsman found Jose administratively liable for disgraceful and immoral conduct, and meted out to him the penalty of suspension from service for one year without emolument. The RTC ruled against Jose claiming that his story is impossible and that his action of fraud has already prescribed. It cited Article 87 of the New Civil Code which requires that the action for annulment of marriage must be commenced by the injured party within four years after the discovery of the fraud.

ISSUE: Whether or not the action to file an action to nullify a marriage due to fraud is subject to prescription.

HELD: The OSG avers that Jose is deemed estopped from assailing the legality of his marriage for lack of a marriage license.  It is claimed that Jose and Felisa had lived together from 1986 to 1990, notwithstanding Jose’s subsequent marriage to Rufina Pascual on 31 August 1990, and that it took Jose seven years before he sought the declaration of nullity; hence, estoppel had set in.This is erroneous. An action for nullity of marriage is imprescriptible.  Jose and Felisa’s marriage was celebrated sans a marriage license.  No other conclusion can be reached except that it is void ab initio. In this case, the right to impugn a void marriage does not prescribe, and may be raised any time.

 

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