Estrellita Juliano-Llave vs Republic of the Philippines

June 2, 2015
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 646 SCRA 637 – Civil Law – Family Code – Article 35 – Nullity of Marriage – Bigamy

Annulment of Marriage – Collusion – Participation of the Solicitor General

Who may file an annulment case

In May 1993, Mamintal A.J. Tamano (a former senator) married Estrellita Juliano-Llave under a civil ceremony. In June 1993, both got married again to each other but this time under Muslim rites. Unfortunately, in less than a year, Tamano died.

In November 1994, mother and son Haja Putri Zorayda Tamano and  Adib Ahmad Tamano filed a complaint for the declaration of nullity of marriage between Estrellita and Tamano for being bigamous. It appears that Zorayda and Tamano were already married in 1958 under civil rites and Muslim rites.

In her defense, Estrellita averred that Tamano was already divorced when he married Estrellita in 1993. This was evidenced by Tamano’s declared status of “divorced” at the time of their marriage in 1993.

After a long and tedious process, the marriage between Estrellita and Tamano was finally declared void for being bigamous by the RTC and later the Court of Appeals.

Estrellita now questions the said ruling on the ground that:

a. Zorayda and Adib have no legal standing to question the marriage between Estrellita and Tamano because they were not parties to the marriage contract; that under A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC or the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages, an action to file the declaration of nullity of marriage is only limited to the husband or the wife;

b. The proceedings in the RTC and the CA are void because under Article 48 of the Family Code as well as A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC, the Solicitor General or the public prosecutor are required to appear or participate in the proceedings in order to determine collusion between the parties – this was not the case here, according to Estrellita;

c. The Muslim Code or PD 1083 was enacted in 1977 and that the marriage between Zorayda and Tamano happened in 1958; that Muslim Code provides for Muslim Divorce; that under said law, if Muslim divorce need not be registered.

ISSUE: Whether or not Estrellita’s arguments are correct.

HELD: No.

1. Zorayda and Adib have the legal personality to question the marriage between Estrellita and Tamano. A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC, which limits to only the husband or the wife the filing of a petition for nullity is prospective in application and does not shut out the prior spouse from filing suit if the ground is a bigamous subsequent marriage.

2. The participation of the Sol-Gen or the public prosecutor can be dispensed with. First of, the public prosecutor was actually ordered by the RTC at the onset of the case to make a report on whether or not there was a collusion between the parties. And as the records of the case would show, the prosecutor did submit a report finding no collusion. Second, the rationale behind the requirement for the Sol-Gen or public prosecutor to participate is to make sure that there’s no collusion between the parties. In this case, the lack of collusion between the parties (between Estrellita and Zorayda)  is apparent because of the vehement opposition of Estrellita to the petition filed by Zorayda.

3. The Muslim Code did not automatically cover all Muslim marriages already existing at the time of its enactment. Further, the Muslim Code finds no application to marriages celebrated under both civil and Muslim rites. Further still, the Muslim Code did not provide for retroactive application. It cannot retroactively override the Civil Code which already bestowed certain rights on the marriage of Tamano and Zorayda.

Thus, the law applicable on the marriage between Tamano and Zorayda is the Civil Code and nowhere in the Civil Code is divorce allowed. The declaration of Tamano that he was divorced is therefore without effect as to the validity of his earlier marriage with Zorayda. Hence, the ruling of the RTC and the CA is correct – the marriage between Tamano and Estrellita in 1993 is void for being bigamous.

 

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