James Capili vs People of the Philippines

May 1, 2014
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700 SCRA 443 – Civil Law – Family Code – Void Marriages – A Void 2nd Marriage is not a Defense in Bigamy

Criminal Law – Bigamy – Elements

In September 1999, James Capili married Karla Medina. But then, just three months later in December 1999, he married another woman named Shirley Tismo.

In 2004, Karla Medina filed an action for declaration of nullity of the second marriage between Capili and Tismo. In June 2004, Tismo filed a bigamy case against Capili.

Before a decision can be had in the bigamy case, the action filed by Karla Medina was granted and Capili’s marriage with Tismo was declared void by reason of the subsisting marriage between Medina and Capili. Thereafter, Capili filed a motion to dismiss in the bigamy case. He alleged that since the second marriage was already declared void ab initio that marriage never took place and that therefore, there is no bigamy to speak of.

The trial court agreed with Capili and it dismissed the bigamy case. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal and remanded the case to the trial court.

ISSUE: Whether or not a declaration of nullity of the second marriage avoids a prosecution for bigamy.

HELD: No. The elements of bigamy are:

1. That the offender has been legally married;

2. That the first marriage has not been legally dissolved or, in case his or her spouse is absent, the absent spouse could not yet be presumed dead according to the Civil Code;

3. That he contracts a second or subsequent marriage;

4. That the second or subsequent marriage has all the essential requisites for validity.

When Capili married Tismo, all the above elements are present. The crime of bigamy was already consummated. It is already immaterial if the second (or first marriage, see Mercado vs Tan) was subsequently declared void. The outcome of the civil case filed by Karla Medina had no bearing to the determination of Capili’s guilt or innocence in the bigamy case because all that is required for the charge of bigamy to prosper is that the first marriage be subsisting at the time the second marriage is contracted. He who contracts a second marriage before the judicial declaration of the first marriage assumes the risk of being prosecuted for bigamy.

The Supreme Court also notes that even if a party has reason to believe that his first marriage is void, he cannot simply contract a second marriage without having such first marriage be judicially declared as void. The parties to the marriage should not be permitted to judge for themselves its nullity, for the same must be submitted to the judgment of competent courts and only when the nullity of the marriage is so declared can it be held as void, and so long as there is no such declaration the presumption is that the marriage exists.

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