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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT FIRST DIVISION G.R. No.

154380 October 5, 2005 REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, vs. CIPRIANO ORBECIDO III, Respondent. DECISION QUISUMBING, J.: Given a valid marriage between two Filipino citizens, where one party is later naturalized as a foreign citizen and obtains a valid divorce decree capacitating him or her to remarry, can the Filipino spouse likewise remarry under Philippine law? Before us is a case of first impression that behooves the Court to make a definite ruling on this apparently novel question, presented as a pure question of law. In this petition for review, the Solicitor General assails 1 the Decision dated May 15, 2002, of the Regional Trial Court of Molave, Zamboanga del Sur, Branch 23 and 2 its Resolution dated July 4, 2002 denying the motion for reconsideration. The court a quo had declared that herein respondent Cipriano Orbecido III is capacitated to remarry. The fallo of the impugned Decision reads: WHEREFORE, by virtue of the provision of the second paragraph of Art. 26 of the Family Code and by reason of the divorce decree obtained against him by his American wife, the petitioner is given the capacity to remarry under the Philippine Law. IT IS SO ORDERED.
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In this petition, the OSG raises a pure question of law: WHETHER OR NOT RESPONDENT CAN REMARRY UNDER 4 ARTICLE 26 OF THE FAMILY CODE The OSG contends that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code is not applicable to the instant case because it only applies to a valid mixed marriage; that is, a marriage celebrated between a Filipino citizen and an alien. The proper remedy, according to the OSG, is to file a petition for 5 annulment or for legal separation. Furthermore, the OSG argues there is no law that governs respondents situation. The OSG posits that this is a matter of legislation and not of judicial 6 determination. For his part, respondent admits that Article 26 is not directly applicable to his case but insists that when his naturalized alien wife obtained a divorce decree which capacitated her to remarry, he is likewise capacitated by operation of law 7 pursuant to Section 12, Article II of the Constitution. At the outset, we note that the petition for authority to remarry filed before the trial court actually constituted a petition for declaratory relief. In this connection, Section 1, Rule 63 of the Rules of Court provides: RULE 63 DECLARATORY RELIEF AND SIMILAR REMEDIES Section 1. Who may file petitionAny person interested under a deed, will, contract or other written instrument, or whose rights are affected by a statute, executive order or regulation, ordinance, or other governmental regulation may, before breach or violation thereof, bring an action in the appropriate Regional Trial Court to determine any question of construction or validity arising, and for a declaration of his rights or duties, thereunder. ... The requisites of a petition for declaratory relief are: (1) there must be a justiciable controversy; (2) the controversy must be between persons whose interests are adverse; (3) that the party seeking the relief has a legal interest in the controversy; 8 and (4) that the issue is ripe for judicial determination. This case concerns the applicability of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 to a marriage between two Filipino citizens where one later acquired alien citizenship, obtained a divorce decree, and remarried while in the U.S.A. The interests of the parties are also adverse, as petitioner representing the State asserts its duty to protect the institution of marriage while respondent, a private citizen, insists on a declaration of his capacity to remarry. Respondent, praying for relief, has legal interest in the controversy. The issue raised is also ripe for judicial determination inasmuch as when respondent remarries, litigation ensues and puts into question the validity of his second marriage. Coming now to the substantive issue, does Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code apply to the case of respondent? Necessarily, we must dwell on how this provision had come about in the first place, and what was the intent of the legislators in its enactment?

The factual antecedents, as narrated by the trial court, are as follows. On May 24, 1981, Cipriano Orbecido III married Lady Myros M. Villanueva at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Lam-an, Ozamis City. Their marriage was blessed with a son and a daughter, Kristoffer Simbortriz V. Orbecido and Lady Kimberly V. Orbecido. In 1986, Ciprianos wife left for the United States bringing along their son Kristoffer. A few years later, Cipriano discovered that his wife had been naturalized as an American citizen. Sometime in 2000, Cipriano learned from his son that his wife had obtained a divorce decree and then married a certain Innocent Stanley. She, Stanley and her child by him currently live at 5566 A. Walnut Grove Avenue, San Gabriel, California. Cipriano thereafter filed with the trial court a petition for authority to remarry invoking Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code. No opposition was filed. Finding merit in the petition, the court granted the same. The Republic, herein petitioner, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), sought reconsideration but it was denied.

Brief Historical Background On July 6, 1987, then President Corazon Aquino signed into law Executive Order No. 209, otherwise known as the "Family Code," which took effect on August 3, 1988. Article 26 thereof states: All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35, 37, and 38. On July 17, 1987, shortly after the signing of the original Family Code, Executive Order No. 227 was likewise signed into law, amending Articles 26, 36, and 39 of the Family Code. A second paragraph was added to Article 26. As so amended, it now provides: ART. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35(1), (4), (5) and (6), 36, 37 and 38. Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law. (Emphasis supplied) On its face, the foregoing provision does not appear to govern the situation presented by the case at hand. It seems to apply only to cases where at the time of the celebration of the marriage, the parties are a Filipino citizen and a foreigner. The instant case is one where at the time the marriage was solemnized, the parties were two Filipino citizens, but later on, the wife was naturalized as an American citizen and subsequently obtained a divorce granting her capacity to remarry, and indeed she remarried an American citizen while residing in the U.S.A. Noteworthy, in the Report of the Public Hearings on the Family Code, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) registered the following objections to Paragraph 2 of Article 26: 1. The rule is discriminatory. It discriminates against those whose spouses are Filipinos who divorce them abroad. These spouses who are divorced will not be able to re-marry, while the spouses of foreigners who validly divorce them abroad can. 2. This is the beginning of the recognition of the validity of divorce even for Filipino citizens. For those whose foreign spouses validly divorce them abroad will also be considered to be validly divorced here and can re-marry. We propose that this be deleted and made into law only after more widespread consultation. (Emphasis supplied.) Legislative Intent Records of the proceedings of the Family Code deliberations showed that the intent of Paragraph 2 of Article 26, according to Judge Alicia Sempio-Diy, a member of the Civil Code Revision Committee, is to avoid the absurd situation where the
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Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce, is no longer married to the Filipino spouse. Interestingly, Paragraph 2 of Article 26 traces its origin to the 10 1985 case of Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. The Van Dorn case involved a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner. The Court held therein that a divorce decree validly obtained by the alien spouse is valid in the Philippines, and consequently, the Filipino spouse is capacitated to remarry under Philippine law. Does the same principle apply to a case where at the time of the celebration of the marriage, the parties were Filipino citizens, but later on, one of them obtains a foreign citizenship by naturalization? The jurisprudential answer lies latent in the 1998 case of Quita 11 v. Court of Appeals. In Quita, the parties were, as in this case, Filipino citizens when they got married. The wife became a naturalized American citizen in 1954 and obtained a divorce in the same year. The Court therein hinted, by way of obiter dictum, that a Filipino divorced by his naturalized foreign spouse is no longer married under Philippine law and can thus remarry. Thus, taking into consideration the legislative intent and applying the rule of reason, we hold that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 should be interpreted to include cases involving parties who, at the time of the celebration of the marriage were Filipino citizens, but later on, one of them becomes naturalized as a foreign citizen and obtains a divorce decree. The Filipino spouse should likewise be allowed to remarry as if the other party were a foreigner at the time of the solemnization of the marriage. To rule otherwise would be to sanction absurdity and injustice. Where the interpretation of a statute according to its exact and literal import would lead to mischievous results or contravene the clear purpose of the legislature, it should be construed according to its spirit and reason, disregarding as far as necessary the letter of the law. A statute may therefore be extended to cases not within the literal meaning of its terms, so 12 long as they come within its spirit or intent. If we are to give meaning to the legislative intent to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce is no longer married to the Filipino spouse, then the instant case must be deemed as coming within the contemplation of Paragraph 2 of Article 26. In view of the foregoing, we state the twin elements for the application of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 as follows: 1. There is a valid marriage that has been celebrated between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner; and 2. A valid divorce is obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry. The reckoning point is not the citizenship of the parties at the time of the celebration of the marriage, but their citizenship at the time a valid divorce is obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating the latter to remarry. In this case, when Ciprianos wife was naturalized as an American citizen, there was still a valid marriage that has been celebrated between her and Cipriano. As fate would have it,

the naturalized alien wife subsequently obtained a valid divorce capacitating her to remarry. Clearly, the twin requisites for the application of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 are both present in this case. Thus Cipriano, the "divorced" Filipino spouse, should be allowed to remarry. We are also unable to sustain the OSGs theory that the proper remedy of the Filipino spouse is to file either a petition for annulment or a petition for legal separation. Annulment would be a long and tedious process, and in this particular case, not even feasible, considering that the marriage of the parties appears to have all the badges of validity. On the other hand, legal separation would not be a sufficient remedy for it would not sever the marriage tie; hence, the legally separated Filipino spouse would still remain married to the naturalized alien spouse. However, we note that the records are bereft of competent evidence duly submitted by respondent concerning the divorce decree and the naturalization of respondents wife. It is settled rule that one who alleges a fact has the burden of proving it 13 and mere allegation is not evidence. Accordingly, for his plea to prosper, respondent herein must prove his allegation that his wife was naturalized as an American citizen. Likewise, before a foreign divorce decree can be recognized by our own courts, the party pleading it must prove the divorce as a fact and demonstrate its 14 conformity to the foreign law allowing it. Such foreign law must also be proved as our courts cannot take judicial notice of foreign laws. Like any other fact, such laws must be alleged 15 and proved. Furthermore, respondent must also show that the divorce decree allows his former wife to remarry as specifically required in Article 26. Otherwise, there would be no evidence sufficient to declare that he is capacitated to enter into another marriage. Nevertheless, we are unanimous in our holding that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code (E.O. No. 209, as amended by E.O. No. 227), should be interpreted to allow a Filipino citizen, who has been divorced by a spouse who had acquired foreign citizenship and remarried, also to remarry. However, considering that in the present petition there is no sufficient evidence submitted and on record, we are unable to declare, based on respondents bare allegations that his wife, who was naturalized as an American citizen, had obtained a divorce decree and had remarried an American, that respondent is now capacitated to remarry. Such declaration could only be made properly upon respondents submission of the aforecited evidence in his favor. ACCORDINGLY, the petition by the Republic of the Philippines is GRANTED. The assailed Decision dated May 15, 2002, and Resolution dated July 4, 2002, of the Regional Trial Court of Molave, Zamboanga del Sur, Branch 23, are hereby SET ASIDE. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING

HILARIO G. DAVIDE, JR. Chief Justice Chairman CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO, ANTONIO T. CARPIO Associate Justice Associate Justice ADOLFO S. AZCUNA Associate Justice CERTIFICATION Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division. HILARIO G. DAVIDE, JR. Chief Justice Footnotes
1

Rollo, pp. 20-22. Id. at 27-29. Id. at 21-22. Id. at 105. Id. at 106-110. Id. at 110.

Sec. 12. The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.
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Office of the Ombudsman v. Ibay, G.R. No. 137538, 3 September 2001, 364 SCRA 281, 286, citingGalarosa v. Valencia, G.R. No. 109455, 11 November 1993, 227 SCRA 729, 737.
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Held on January 27 and 28, 1988 and February 3, 1988.


10

No. L-68470, 8 October 1985, 139 SCRA 139.

11

Associate Justice WE CONCUR:

G.R. No. 124862, 22 December 1998, 300 SCRA 406.

12

Lopez & Sons, Inc. v. Court of Tax Appeals, No. L9274, 1 February 1957, 100 Phil. 850, 855.
13

Cortes v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 121772, 13 January 2003, 395 SCRA 33, 38.
14

Garcia v. Recio, G.R. No. 138322, 2 October 2001, 366 SCRA 437, 447.
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On June 20, 1974, Felicisimo married respondent Felicidad San Luis, then surnamed Sagalongos, before Rev. Fr. William Meyer, Minister of the United Presbyterian at Wilshire 7 Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. He had no children with respondent but lived with her for 18 years from the time of their marriage up to his death on December 18, 1992. Thereafter, respondent sought the dissolution of their conjugal partnership assets and the settlement of Felicisimos estate. On December 17, 1993, she filed a petition for letters of 8 administration before the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, docketed as SP. Proc. No. M-3708 which was raffled to Branch 146 thereof. Respondent alleged that she is the widow of Felicisimo; that, at the time of his death, the decedent was residing at 100 San Juanico Street, New Alabang Village, Alabang, Metro Manila; that the decedents surviving heirs are respondent as legal spouse, his six children by his first marriage, and son by his second marriage; that the decedent left real properties, both conjugal and exclusive, valued at P30,304,178.00 more or less; that the decedent does not have any unpaid debts. Respondent prayed that the conjugal partnership assets be liquidated and that letters of administration be issued to her. On February 4, 1994, petitioner Rodolfo San Luis, one of the children of Felicisimo by his first marriage, filed a motion to 9 dismiss on the grounds of improper venue and failure to state a cause of action. Rodolfo claimed that the petition for letters of administration should have been filed in the Province of Laguna because this was Felicisimos place of residence prior to his death. He further claimed that respondent has no legal personality to file the petition because she was only a mistress of Felicisimo since the latter, at the time of his death, was still legally married to Merry Lee. On February 15, 1994, Linda invoked the same grounds and 10 joined her brother Rodolfo in seeking the dismissal of the petition. On February 28, 1994, the trial court issued an 11 Order denying the two motions to dismiss. Unaware of the denial of the motions to dismiss, respondent 12 filed on March 5, 1994 her opposition thereto. She submitted documentary evidence showing that while Felicisimo exercised the powers of his public office in Laguna, he regularly went home to their house in New Alabang Village, Alabang, Metro Manila which they bought sometime in 1982. Further, she presented the decree of absolute divorce issued by the Family Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii to prove that the marriage of Felicisimo to Merry Lee had already been dissolved. Thus, she claimed that Felicisimo had the legal 13 capacity to marry her by virtue of paragraph 2, Article 26 of the Family Code and the doctrine laid down in Van Dorn v. 14 Romillo, Jr. Thereafter, Linda, Rodolfo and herein petitioner Edgar San Luis, separately filed motions for reconsideration from the 15 Order denying their motions to dismiss. They asserted that paragraph 2, Article 26 of the Family Code cannot be given retroactive effect to validate respondents bigamous marriage with Felicisimo because this would impair vested rights in 16 derogation of Article 256 of the Family Code. On April 21, 1994, Mila, another daughter of Felicisimo from his first marriage, filed a motion to disqualify Acting Presiding Judge Anthony E. Santos from hearing the case.

Id. at 451.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila THIRD DIVISION G.R. No. 133743 February 6, 2007

EDGAR SAN LUIS, Petitioner, vs. FELICIDAD SAN LUIS, Respondent. x ---------------------------------------------------- x G.R. No. 134029 February 6, 2007

RODOLFO SAN LUIS, Petitioner, vs. FELICIDAD SAGALONGOS alias FELICIDAD SAN LUIS, Respondent. DECISION YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.: Before us are consolidated petitions for review assailing the 1 February 4, 1998 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 52647, which reversed and set aside the September 2 3 12, 1995 and January 31, 1996 Resolutions of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 134 in SP. Proc. No. M4 3708; and its May 15, 1998 Resolution denying petitioners motion for reconsideration. The instant case involves the settlement of the estate of Felicisimo T. San Luis (Felicisimo), who was the former governor of the Province of Laguna. During his lifetime, Felicisimo contracted three marriages. His first marriage was with Virginia Sulit on March 17, 1942 out of which were born six children, namely: Rodolfo, Mila, Edgar, Linda, Emilita and Manuel. On August 11, 1963, Virginia predeceased Felicisimo. Five years later, on May 1, 1968, Felicisimo married Merry Lee Corwin, with whom he had a son, Tobias. However, on October 15, 1971, Merry Lee, an American citizen, filed a 5 Complaint for Divorce before the Family Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii, United States of America (U.S.A.), which issued a Decree Granting Absolute Divorce and 6 Awarding Child Custody on December 14, 1973.

On October 24, 1994, the trial court issued an Order denying the motions for reconsideration. It ruled that respondent, as widow of the decedent, possessed the legal standing to file the petition and that venue was properly laid. Meanwhile, the motion for disqualification was deemed moot and 18 academic because then Acting Presiding Judge Santos was substituted by Judge Salvador S. Tensuan pending the resolution of said motion. Mila filed a motion for inhibition against Judge Tensuan on November 16, 1994. On even date, Edgar also filed a motion 20 for reconsideration from the Order denying their motion for reconsideration arguing that it does not state the facts and law on which it was based. On November 25, 1994, Judge Tensuan issued an 21 Order granting the motion for inhibition. The case was reraffled to Branch 134 presided by Judge Paul T. Arcangel. On April 24, 1995, the trial court required the parties to submit their respective position papers on the twin issues of venue and legal capacity of respondent to file the petition. On 23 May 5, 1995, Edgar manifested that he is adopting the arguments and evidence set forth in his previous motion for reconsideration as his position paper. Respondent and Rodolfo 24 25 filed their position papers on June 14, and June 20, 1995, respectively. On September 12, 1995, the trial court dismissed the petition for letters of administration. It held that, at the time of his death, Felicisimo was the duly elected governor and a resident of the Province of Laguna. Hence, the petition should have been filed in Sta. Cruz, Laguna and not in Makati City. It also ruled that respondent was without legal capacity to file the petition for letters of administration because her marriage with Felicisimo was bigamous, thus, void ab initio. It found that the decree of absolute divorce dissolving Felicisimos marriage to Merry Lee was not valid in the Philippines and did not bind Felicisimo who was a Filipino citizen. It also ruled that paragraph 2, Article 26 of the Family Code cannot be retroactively applied because it would impair the vested rights of Felicisimos legitimate children. Respondent moved for reconsideration and for the 27 disqualification of Judge Arcangel but said motions were 28 denied. Respondent appealed to the Court of Appeals which reversed and set aside the orders of the trial court in its assailed Decision dated February 4, 1998, the dispositive portion of which states: WHEREFORE, the Orders dated September 12, 1995 and January 31, 1996 are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE; the Orders dated February 28 and October 24, 1994 are REINSTATED; and the records of the case is REMANDED to 29 the trial court for further proceedings. The appellante court ruled that under Section 1, Rule 73 of the Rules of Court, the term "place of residence" of the decedent, for purposes of fixing the venue of the settlement of his estate, refers to the personal, actual or physical habitation, or actual residence or place of abode of a person as distinguished from legal residence or domicile. It noted that although Felicisimo discharged his functions as governor in Laguna, he actually
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resided in Alabang, Muntinlupa. Thus, the petition for letters of administration was properly filed in Makati City. The Court of Appeals also held that Felicisimo had legal capacity to marry respondent by virtue of paragraph 2, Article 26 of the Family Code and the rulings in Van Dorn v. Romillo, 30 31 Jr. and Pilapil v. Ibay-Somera. It found that the marriage between Felicisimo and Merry Lee was validly dissolved by virtue of the decree of absolute divorce issued by the Family Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii. As a result, under paragraph 2, Article 26, Felicisimo was capacitated to contract a subsequent marriage with respondent. Thus With the well-known rule express mandate of paragraph 2, Article 26, of the Family Code of the Philippines, the doctrines in Van Dorn, Pilapil, and the reason and philosophy behind the enactment of E.O. No. 227, there is no justiciable reason to sustain the individual view sweeping statement of Judge Arc[h]angel, that "Article 26, par. 2 of the Family Code, contravenes the basic policy of our state against divorce in any form whatsoever." Indeed, courts cannot deny what the law grants. All that the courts should do is to give force and effect to the express mandate of the law. The foreign divorce having 32 been obtained by the Foreigner on December 14, 1992, the Filipino divorcee, "shall x x x have capacity to remarry under Philippine laws". For this reason, the marriage between the deceased and petitioner should not be denominated as "a bigamous marriage. Therefore, under Article 130 of the Family Code, the petitioner as the surviving spouse can institute the judicial proceeding for 33 the settlement of the estate of the deceased. x x x Edgar, Linda, and Rodolfo filed separate motions for 34 reconsideration which were denied by the Court of Appeals. On July 2, 1998, Edgar appealed to this Court via the instant 35 petition for review on certiorari. Rodolfo later filed a manifestation and motion to adopt the said petition which was 36 granted. In the instant consolidated petitions, Edgar and Rodolfo insist that the venue of the subject petition for letters of administration was improperly laid because at the time of his death, Felicisimo was a resident of Sta. Cruz, Laguna. They 37 contend that pursuant to our rulings in Nuval v. Guray and 38 Romualdez v. RTC, Br. 7, Tacloban City, "residence" is synonymous with "domicile" which denotes a fixed permanent residence to which when absent, one intends to return. They claim that a person can only have one domicile at any given time. Since Felicisimo never changed his domicile, the petition for letters of administration should have been filed in Sta. Cruz, Laguna. Petitioners also contend that respondents marriage to Felicisimo was void and bigamous because it was performed during the subsistence of the latters marriage to Merry Lee. They argue that paragraph 2, Article 26 cannot be retroactively applied because it would impair vested rights and ratify the void bigamous marriage. As such, respondent cannot be considered the surviving wife of Felicisimo; hence, she has no legal capacity to file the petition for letters of administration. The issues for resolution: (1) whether venue was properly laid, and (2) whether respondent has legal capacity to file the subject petition for letters of administration.

The petition lacks merit. Under Section 1, Rule 73 of the Rules of Court, the petition for letters of administration of the estate of Felicisimo should be filed in the Regional Trial Court of the province "in which he resides at the time of his death." In the case of Garcia Fule v. 40 Court of Appeals, we laid down the doctrinal rule for determining the residence as contradistinguished from domicile of the decedent for purposes of fixing the venue of the settlement of his estate: [T]he term "resides" connotes ex vi termini "actual residence" as distinguished from "legal residence or domicile." This term "resides," like the terms "residing" and "residence," is elastic and should be interpreted in the light of the object or purpose of the statute or rule in which it is employed. In the application of venue statutes and rules Section 1, Rule 73 of the Revised Rules of Court is of such nature residence rather than domicile is the significant factor. Even where the statute uses the word "domicile" still it is construed as meaning residence and not domicile in the technical sense. Some cases make a distinction between the terms "residence" and "domicile" but as generally used in statutes fixing venue, the terms are synonymous, and convey the same meaning as the term "inhabitant." In other words, "resides" should be viewed or understood in its popular sense, meaning, the personal, actual or physical habitation of a person, actual residence or place of abode. It signifies physical presence in a place and actual stay thereat. In this popular sense, the term means merely residence, that is, personal residence, not legal residence or domicile. Residence simply requires bodily presence as an inhabitant in a given place, while domicile requires bodily presence in that place and also an intention to make it ones domicile. No particular length of time of residence is required though; however, the residence must be more than 41 temporary. (Emphasis supplied) It is incorrect for petitioners to argue that "residence," for purposes of fixing the venue of the settlement of the estate of Felicisimo, is synonymous with "domicile." The rulings in Nuval and Romualdez are inapplicable to the instant case because they involve election cases. Needless to say, there is a distinction between "residence" for purposes of election laws and "residence" for purposes of fixing the venue of actions. In election cases, "residence" and "domicile" are treated as synonymous terms, that is, the fixed permanent residence to which when absent, one has the intention of 42 returning. However, for purposes of fixing venue under the Rules of Court, the "residence" of a person is his personal, actual or physical habitation, or actual residence or place of abode, which may not necessarily be his legal residence or domicile provided he resides therein with continuity and 43 consistency. Hence, it is possible that a person may have his residence in one place and domicile in another. In the instant case, while petitioners established that Felicisimo was domiciled in Sta. Cruz, Laguna, respondent proved that he also maintained a residence in Alabang, Muntinlupa from 1982 up to the time of his death. Respondent submitted in evidence 44 the Deed of Absolute Sale dated January 5, 1983 showing that the deceased purchased the aforesaid property. She also 45 presented billing statements from the Philippine Heart Center and Chinese General Hospital for the period August to December 1992 indicating the address of Felicisimo at "100 San Juanico, Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa." Respondent also presented proof of membership of the deceased in the Ayala 46 Alabang Village Association and Ayala Country Club, 47 48 Inc., letter-envelopes from 1988 to 1990 sent by the
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deceaseds children to him at his Alabang address, and the 49 deceaseds calling cards stating that his home/city address is at "100 San Juanico, Ayala Alabang Village, Muntinlupa" while his office/provincial address is in "Provincial Capitol, Sta. Cruz, Laguna." From the foregoing, we find that Felicisimo was a resident of Alabang, Muntinlupa for purposes of fixing the venue of the settlement of his estate. Consequently, the subject petition for letters of administration was validly filed in the Regional Trial 50 Court which has territorial jurisdiction over Alabang, Muntinlupa. The subject petition was filed on December 17, 1993. At that time, Muntinlupa was still a municipality and the branches of the Regional Trial Court of the National Capital Judicial Region which had territorial jurisdiction over Muntinlupa were then seated in Makati City as per Supreme 51 Court Administrative Order No. 3. Thus, the subject petition was validly filed before the Regional Trial Court of Makati City. Anent the issue of respondent Felicidads legal personality to file the petition for letters of administration, we must first resolve the issue of whether a Filipino who is divorced by his alien spouse abroad may validly remarry under the Civil Code, considering that Felicidads marriage to Felicisimo was solemnized on June 20, 1974, or before the Family Code took effect on August 3, 1988. In resolving this issue, we need not retroactively apply the provisions of the Family Code, particularly Art. 26, par. (2) considering that there is sufficient jurisprudential basis allowing us to rule in the affirmative. The case of Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. involved a marriage between a foreigner and his Filipino wife, which marriage was subsequently dissolved through a divorce obtained abroad by the latter. Claiming that the divorce was not valid under Philippine law, the alien spouse alleged that his interest in the properties from their conjugal partnership should be protected. The Court, however, recognized the validity of the divorce and held that the alien spouse had no interest in the properties acquired by the Filipino wife after the divorce. Thus: In this case, the divorce in Nevada released private respondent from the marriage from the standards of American law, under which divorce dissolves the marriage. As stated by the Federal Supreme Court of the United States in Atherton vs. Atherton, 45 L. Ed. 794, 799: "The purpose and effect of a decree of divorce from the bond of matrimony by a competent jurisdiction are to change the existing status or domestic relation of husband and wife, and to free them both from the bond. The marriage tie, when thus severed as to one party, ceases to bind either. A husband without a wife, or a wife without a husband, is unknown to the law. When the law provides, in the nature of a penalty, that the guilty party shall not marry again, that party, as well as the other, is still absolutely freed from the bond of the former marriage." Thus, pursuant to his national law, private respondent is no longer the husband of petitioner. He would have no standing to sue in the case below as petitioners husband entitled to exercise control over conjugal assets. As he is bound by the Decision of his own countrys Court, which validly exercised jurisdiction over him, and whose decision he does not repudiate, he is estopped by his own representation before said Court from asserting his right over the alleged conjugal 53 property.
52

As to the effect of the divorce on the Filipino wife, the Court ruled that she should no longer be considered married to the alien spouse. Further, she should not be required to perform her marital duties and obligations. It held: To maintain, as private respondent does, that, under our laws, petitioner has to be considered still married to private respondent and still subject to a wife's obligations under Article 109, et. seq. of the Civil Code cannot be just. Petitioner should not be obliged to live together with, observe respect and fidelity, and render support to private respondent. The latter should not continue to be one of her heirs with possible rights to conjugal property. She should not be discriminated against in her own country if 54 the ends of justice are to be served. (Emphasis added) This principle was thereafter applied in Pilapil v. Ibay55 Somera where the Court recognized the validity of a divorce obtained abroad. In the said case, it was held that the alien spouse is not a proper party in filing the adultery suit against his Filipino wife. The Court stated that " the severance of the marital bond had the effect of dissociating the former spouses from each other, hence the actuations of one would not affect 56 or cast obloquy on the other." Likewise, in Quita v. Court of Appeals, the Court stated that where a Filipino is divorced by his naturalized foreign spouse, 58 the ruling in Van Dorn applies. Although decided on December 22, 1998, the divorce in the said case was obtained in 1954 when the Civil Code provisions were still in effect. The significance of the Van Dorn case to the development of limited recognition of divorce in the Philippines cannot be denied. The ruling has long been interpreted as severing marital ties between parties in a mixed marriage and capacitating the Filipino spouse to remarry as a necessary consequence of upholding the validity of a divorce obtained abroad by the alien spouse. In his treatise, Dr. Arturo M. Tolentino cited Van Dorn stating that "if the foreigner obtains a valid foreign divorce, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to 59 60 remarry under Philippine law." In Garcia v. Recio, the Court likewise cited the aforementioned case in relation to 61 Article 26. In the recent case of Republic v. Orbecido III, the historical background and legislative intent behind paragraph 2, Article 26 of the Family Code were discussed, to wit: Brief Historical Background On July 6, 1987, then President Corazon Aquino signed into law Executive Order No. 209, otherwise known as the "Family Code," which took effect on August 3, 1988. Article 26 thereof states: All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35, 37, and 38. On July 17, 1987, shortly after the signing of the original Family Code, Executive Order No. 227 was likewise signed into law, amending Articles 26, 36, and 39 of the Family Code. A second paragraph was added to Article 26. As so amended, it now provides:
62 57

ART. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35(1), (4), (5) and (6), 36, 37 and 38. Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law. (Emphasis supplied) x Legislative Intent x x x

Records of the proceedings of the Family Code deliberations showed that the intent of Paragraph 2 of Article 26, according to Judge Alicia Sempio-Diy, a member of the Civil Code Revision Committee, is to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce, is no longer married to the Filipino spouse. Interestingly, Paragraph 2 of Article 26 traces its origin to the 1985 case of Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. TheVan Dorn case involved a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner. The Court held therein that a divorce decree validly obtained by the alien spouse is valid in the Philippines, and consequently, the Filipino spouse is 63 capacitated to remarry under Philippine law. (Emphasis added) As such, the Van Dorn case is sufficient basis in resolving a situation where a divorce is validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse. With the enactment of the Family Code and paragraph 2, Article 26 thereof, our lawmakers codified the law already established through judicial precedent. 1awphi1.net Indeed, when the object of a marriage is defeated by rendering its continuance intolerable to one of the parties and productive of no possible good to the community, relief in some way 64 should be obtainable. Marriage, being a mutual and shared commitment between two parties, cannot possibly be productive of any good to the society where one is considered released from the marital bond while the other remains bound to it. Such is the state of affairs where the alien spouse obtains a valid divorce abroad against the Filipino spouse, as in this case. Petitioners cite Articles 15 and 17 of the Civil Code in stating that the divorce is void under Philippine law insofar as Filipinos are concerned. However, in light of this Courts rulings in the cases discussed above, the Filipino spouse should not be discriminated against in his own country if the ends of 67 justice are to be served. In Alonzo v. Intermediate Appellate 68 Court, the Court stated: But as has also been aptly observed, we test a law by its results; and likewise, we may add, by its purposes. It is a cardinal rule that, in seeking the meaning of the law, the first concern of the judge should be to discover in its provisions the intent of the lawmaker. Unquestionably, the law should never be interpreted in such a way as to cause injustice as this is never within the legislative intent. An indispensable part of that intent, in fact, for we presume the good motives of the legislature, is to render justice.
65 66

Thus, we interpret and apply the law not independently of but in consonance with justice. Law and justice are inseparable, and we must keep them so. To be sure, there are some laws that, while generally valid, may seem arbitrary when applied in a particular case because of its peculiar circumstances. In such a situation, we are not bound, because only of our nature and functions, to apply them just the same, in slavish obedience to their language. What we do instead is find a balance between the word and the will, that justice may be done even as the law is obeyed. As judges, we are not automatons. We do not and must not unfeelingly apply the law as it is worded, yielding like robots to the literal command without regard to its cause and consequence. "Courts are apt to err by sticking too closely to the words of a law," so we are warned, by Justice Holmes again, "where these words import a policy that goes beyond them." xxxx More than twenty centuries ago, Justinian defined justice "as the constant and perpetual wish to render every one his due." That wish continues to motivate this Court when it assesses the facts and the law in every case brought to it for decision. Justice is always an essential ingredient of its decisions. Thus when the facts warrants, we interpret the law in a way that will render justice, presuming that it was the intention of the lawmaker, to begin with, that the law be dispensed with 69 justice. Applying the above doctrine in the instant case, the divorce decree allegedly obtained by Merry Lee which absolutely allowed Felicisimo to remarry, would have vested Felicidad with the legal personality to file the present petition as Felicisimos surviving spouse. However, the records show that there is insufficient evidence to prove the validity of the divorce obtained by Merry Lee as well as the marriage of respondent and Felicisimo under the laws of the U.S.A. In Garcia v. 70 Recio, the Court laid down the specific guidelines for pleading and proving foreign law and divorce judgments. It held that presentation solely of the divorce decree is insufficient and that proof of its authenticity and due execution must be presented. Under Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132, a writing or document may be proven as a public or official record of a foreign country by either (1) an official publication or (2) a copy thereof attested by the officer having legal custody of the document. If the record is not kept in the Philippines, such copy must be (a) accompanied by a certificate issued by the proper diplomatic or consular officer in the Philippine foreign service stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept and (b) authenticated by the seal of 71 his office. With regard to respondents marriage to Felicisimo allegedly solemnized in California, U.S.A., she submitted photocopies of 72 the Marriage Certificate and the annotated text of the Family Law Act of California which purportedly show that their marriage was done in accordance with the said law. As stated in Garcia, however, the Court cannot take judicial notice of 73 foreign laws as they must be alleged and proved. Therefore, this case should be remanded to the trial court for further reception of evidence on the divorce decree obtained by Merry Lee and the marriage of respondent and Felicisimo.

Even assuming that Felicisimo was not capacitated to marry respondent in 1974, nevertheless, we find that the latter has the legal personality to file the subject petition for letters of administration, as she may be considered the co-owner of Felicisimo as regards the properties that were acquired through their joint efforts during their cohabitation. Section 6, Rule 78 of the Rules of Court states that letters of administration may be granted to the surviving spouse of the decedent. However, Section 2, Rule 79 thereof also provides in part: SEC. 2. Contents of petition for letters of administration. A petition for letters of administration must be filed by an interested person and must show, as far as known to the petitioner: x x x. An "interested person" has been defined as one who would be benefited by the estate, such as an heir, or one who has a claim against the estate, such as a creditor. The interest must 75 be material and direct, and not merely indirect or contingent. In the instant case, respondent would qualify as an interested person who has a direct interest in the estate of Felicisimo by virtue of their cohabitation, the existence of which was not denied by petitioners. If she proves the validity of the divorce and Felicisimos capacity to remarry, but fails to prove that her marriage with him was validly performed under the laws of the U.S.A., then she may be considered as a co-owner under 76 Article 144 of the Civil Code. This provision governs the property relations between parties who live together as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage, or their marriage is void from the beginning. It provides that the property acquired by either or both of them through their work or industry or their wages and salaries shall be governed by the rules on co-ownership. In a co-ownership, it is not necessary that the property be acquired through their joint labor, efforts and industry. Any property acquired during the union is prima facie presumed to have been obtained through their joint efforts. Hence, the portions belonging to the coowners shall be presumed equal, unless the contrary is 77 proven. Meanwhile, if respondent fails to prove the validity of both the divorce and the marriage, the applicable provision would be Article 148 of the Family Code which has filled the hiatus in Article 144 of the Civil Code by expressly regulating the property relations of couples living together as husband and 78 wife but are incapacitated to marry. In Saguid v. Court of 79 Appeals, we held that even if the cohabitation or the acquisition of property occurred before the Family Code took 80 effect, Article 148 governs. The Court described the property regime under this provision as follows: The regime of limited co-ownership of property governing the union of parties who are not legally capacitated to marry each other, but who nonetheless live together as husband and wife, applies to properties acquired during said cohabitation in proportion to their respective contributions. Co-ownership will only be up to the extent of the proven actual contribution of money, property or industry. Absent proof of the extent thereof, their contributions and corresponding shares shall be presumed to be equal. xxxx
74

In the cases of Agapay v. Palang, and Tumlos v. Fernandez, which involved the issue of co-ownership of properties acquired by the parties to a bigamous marriage and an adulterous relationship, respectively, we ruled that proof of actual contribution in the acquisition of the property is essential. x x x As in other civil cases, the burden of proof rests upon the party who, as determined by the pleadings or the nature of the case, asserts an affirmative issue. Contentions must be proved by competent evidence and reliance must be had on the strength of the partys own evidence and not upon the weakness of the 81 opponents defense. x x x In view of the foregoing, we find that respondents legal capacity to file the subject petition for letters of administration may arise from her status as the surviving wife of Felicisimo or as his co-owner under Article 144 of the Civil Code or Article 148 of the Family Code. WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals reinstating and affirming the February 28, 1994 Order of the Regional Trial Court which denied petitioners motion to dismiss and its October 24, 1994 Orde r which dismissed petitioners motion for reconsideration is AFFIRMED. Let this case be REMANDED to the trial court for further proceedings. SO ORDERED.

Footnotes
1

Rollo of G.R. No. 133743, pp. 45-66. Penned by Associate Justice Artemon D. Luna and concurred in by Associate Justices Godardo A. Jacinto and Roberto A. Barrios.
2

Records, pp. 335-338. Penned by Judge Paul T. Arcangel.


3

Id. at 391-393.

Rollo of G.R. No. 133743, p. 68. Penned by Associate Justice Artemon D. Luna and concurred in by Associate Justices Demetrio G. Demetria and Roberto A. Barrios.
5

Records, p. 125. Id. at 137. Id. at 116. Id. at 1-5. Id. at 10-24. Id. at 30-35. Id. at 38. Id. at 39-138.

10

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO Associate Justice WE CONCUR: MA. ALICIA AUSTRIAMARTINEZ Associate Justice ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR. Asscociate Justice

11

12

13

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO Associate Justice ATTESTATION I attest that the conclusions in the above decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division. CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO Associate Justice Chairperson, Third Division CERTIFICATION

When a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.
14

G.R. No. L-68470, October 8, 1985, 139 SCRA 139.


15

See Records, pp. 155-158, 160-170 and 181-192.

16

This Code shall have retroactive effect insofar as it does not prejudice or impair vested rights or acquired rights in accordance with the Civil Code or other laws.
17

Records, p. 259. Id. at 260. Id. at 262-267. Id. at 270-272. Id. at 288. Id. at 301. Id. at 302-303.

18

19

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairpersons Attestation, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division. REYNATO S. PUNO Chief Justice

20

21

22

23

24

Id. at 306-311. Id. at 318-320. Id. at 339-349. Id. at 350-354. Id. at 391-393. Rollo of G.R. No. 133743, p. 66. Supra note 14. G.R. No. 80116, June 30, 1989, 174 SCRA 653.

45

Id. at 60-75. Id. at 79. Id. at 80. Id. at 81-83. Id. at 84.

25

46

26

47

27

48

28

49

29

50

30

The Regional Trial Court and not the Municipal Trial Court had jurisdiction over this case because the value of Gov. San Luis estate exceeded P200,000.00 as provided for under B.P. Blg 129, Section 19(4).
51

31

32

Parenthetically, it appears that the Court of Appeals proceeded from a mistaken finding of fact because the records clearly show that the divorce was obtained on December 14, 1973 (not December 14, 1992) and that the marriage of Gov. San Luis with respondent was celebrated on June 20, 1974. These events both occurred before the effectivity of the Family Code on August 3, 1988.
33

SC Administrative Order No. 3 dated January 19, 1983 states in part: Pursuant to the provisions of Section 18 of B.P. Blg. 129, and Section 4 of the Executive Order issued by the President of the Philippines on January 17, 1983, declaring the reorganization of the Judiciary, the territorial jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts in the National Capital Judicial Region are hereby defined as follows: xxxx 5. Branches CXXXII to CL, inclusive, with seats at Makati over the municipalities of Las Pinas, Makati, Muntinlupa and Paraaque. x x x
52

Rollo of G.R. No. 133743, p. 65. See CA rollo, pp. 309-322, 335-340, and 362-369. Rollo of G.R. No. 133743, pp. 8-42. Id. at 75. 52 Phil. 645 (1928).

34

35

36

37

Supra note 14. Id. at 139, 143-144. Id. at 144. Supra note 31. Id. at 664.

38

G.R. No. 104960, September 14, 1993, 226 SCRA 408.


39

53

54

SECTION 1. Where estate of deceased persons be settled. If the decedent is an inhabitant of the Philippines at the time of his death, whether a citizen or an alien, his will shall be proved, or letters of administration granted, and his estate settled, in the Court of First Instance in the province in which he resides at the time of his death, x x x. (Underscoring supplied)
40

55

56

57

G.R. No. 124862, December 22, 1998, 300 SCRA 406.


58

G.R. Nos. L-40502 & L-42670, November 29, 1976, 74 SCRA 189.
41

Id. at 414; See also Republic v. Orbecido III, G.R. No. 154380, October 5, 2005, 472 SCRA 114, 121.
59

Id. at 199-200.

42

Romualdez v. RTC, Br. 7, Tacloban City, supra note 38 at 415.


43

Tolentino, Arturo M., Commentaries and Jurisprudence on the Civil Code of the Philippines, Vol. I, 1990 ed., p. 263.
60

G.R. No. 138322, October 2, 2001, 366 SCRA 437. Id. at 447. Supra note 58. Id. at 119-121.

See Boleyley v. Villanueva, 373 Phil. 141, 146 (1999); Dangwa Transportation Co. Inc. v. Sarmiento, G.R. No. L-22795, January 31, 1977, 75 SCRA 124, 128-129.
44

61

62

Records, pp. 76-78.

63

64

Goitia v. Campos Rueda, 35 Phil. 252, 254-255 (1916).


65

81

Id. at 679, 686-687.

ART. 15. Laws relating to family rights and duties, or to the status, condition and legal capacity of persons are binding upon citizens of the Philippines, even though living abroad.
66

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila THIRD DIVISION G.R. No. 186571 August 11, 2010

Art. 17. x x x Prohibitive laws concerning persons, their acts or property, and those which have for their object public order, public policy and good customs shall not be rendered ineffective by laws or judgments promulgated, or by determinations or conventions agreed upon in a foreign country.
67

Supra note 14 at 144. G.R. No. L-72873, May 28, 1987, 150 SCRA 259.

GERBERT R. CORPUZ, Petitioner, vs. DAISYLYN TIROL STO. TOMAS and The SOLICITOR GENERAL, Respondents. DECISION

68

69

Id. at 264-265, 268. BRION, J.: Supra note 60. Id. at 448-449. Records, pp. 118-124. Supra note 60 at 451.

70

71

72

Before the Court is a direct appeal from the decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Laoag City, Branch 11, elevated 2 via a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court (present petition). Petitioner Gerbert R. Corpuz was a former Filipino citizen who acquired Canadian citizenship through naturalization on 3 November 29, 2000. On January 18, 2005, Gerbert married respondent Daisylyn T. Sto. Tomas, a Filipina, in Pasig 4 City. Due to work and other professional commitments, Gerbert left for Canada soon after the wedding. He returned to the Philippines sometime in April 2005 to surprise Daisylyn, but was shocked to discover that his wife was having an affair with another man. Hurt and disappointed, Gerbert returned to Canada and filed a petition for divorce. The Superior Court of Justice, Windsor, Ontario, Canada granted Gerberts petition for divorce on December 8, 2005. The divorce decree took 5 effect a month later, on January 8, 2006. Two years after the divorce, Gerbert has moved on and has found another Filipina to love. Desirous of marrying his new Filipina fiance in the Philippines, Gerbert went to the Pasig City Civil Registry Office and registered the Canadian divorce decree on his and Daisylyns marriage certificate. Despite the registration of the divorce decree, an official of the National Statistics Office (NSO) informed Gerbert that the marriage between him and Daisylyn still subsists under Philippine law; to be enforceable, the foreign divorce decree must first be judicially recognized by a competent Philippine court, pursuant 6 to NSO Circular No. 4, series of 1982. Accordingly, Gerbert filed a petition for judicial recognition of foreign divorce and/or declaration of marriage as dissolved (petition) with the RTC. Although summoned, Daisylyn did not file any responsive pleading but submitted instead a notarized letter/manifestation to the trial court. She offered no opposition to Gerberts petition and, in fact, alleged her desire to file a similar case herself but was prevented by financial and personal circumstances. She, thus, requested that she be considered as a party-in-interest with a similar prayer to Gerberts. In its October 30, 2008 decision, the RTC denied Gerberts petition. The RTC concluded that Gerbert was not the proper
7

73

74

SEC. 6. When and to whom letters of administration granted. If x x x a person dies intestate, administration shall be granted: (a) To the surviving husband or wife, as the case may be, or next of kin, or both, in the discretion of the court, or to such person as such surviving husband or wife, or next of kin, requests to have appointed, if competent and willing to serve; x x x.
75

Saguinsin v. Lindayag,116 Phil. 1193, 1195 (1962). Article 144 of the Civil Code reads in full: When a man and a woman live together as husband and wife, but they are not married, or their marriage is void from the beginning, the property acquired by either or both of them through their work or industry or their wages and salaries shall be governed by the rules on co-ownership.

76

77

Valdes v. RTC, Br. 102, Quezon City, 328 Phil. 1289, 1297 (1996).
78

Francisco v. Master Iron Works & Construction Corporation, G.R. No. 151967, February 16, 2005, 451 SCRA 494, 506.
79

G.R. No. 150611, June 10, 2003, 403 SCRA 678. Id. at 686.

80

party to institute the action for judicial recognition of the foreign divorce decree as he is a naturalized Canadian citizen. It ruled that only the Filipino spouse can avail of the remedy, under the 8 second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, in order for him or her to be able to remarry under Philippine 9 law. Article 26 of the Family Code reads: Art. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines, in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35(1), (4), (5) and (6), 36, 37 and 38. Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall likewise have capacity to remarry under Philippine law. This conclusion, the RTC stated, is consistent with the legislative intent behind the enactment of the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, as determined by 10 the Court in Republic v. Orbecido III; the provision was enacted to "avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce, is no longer married to the Filipino 11 spouse." THE PETITION From the RTCs ruling,
12

The Family Code recognizes only two types of defective 15 16 marriages void and voidable marriages. In both cases, the basis for the judicial declaration of absolute nullity or annulment of the marriage exists before or at the time of the marriage. Divorce, on the other hand, contemplates the dissolution of the lawful union for cause arising after the 17 marriage. Our family laws do not recognize absolute divorce 18 between Filipino citizens. Recognizing the reality that divorce is a possibility in marriages between a Filipino and an alien, President Corazon C. Aquino, in the exercise of her legislative powers under the Freedom 19 Constitution, enacted Executive Order No. (EO) 227, amending Article 26 of the Family Code to its present wording, as follows: Art. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines, in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35(1), (4), (5) and (6), 36, 37 and 38. Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall likewise have capacity to remarry under Philippine law. Through the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, EO 227 effectively incorporated into the law this Courts 20 holding in Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. and Pilapil v. Ibay21 Somera. In both cases, the Court refused to acknowledge the alien spouses assertion of marital rights after a foreign courts divorce decree between the alien and the Filipino. The Court, thus, recognized that the foreign divorce had already severed the marital bond between the spouses. The Court reasoned in Van Dorn v. Romillo that: To maintain x x x that, under our laws, [the Filipino spouse] has to be considered still married to [the alien spouse] and still subject to a wife's obligations x x x cannot be just. [The Filipino spouse] should not be obliged to live together with, observe respect and fidelity, and render support to [the alien spouse]. The latter should not continue to be one of her heirs with possible rights to conjugal property. She should not be discriminated against in her own country if the ends of justice 22 are to be served. As the RTC correctly stated, the provision was included in the law "to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after obtaining a 23 divorce, is no longer married to the Filipino spouse." The legislative intent is for the benefit of the Filipino spouse, by clarifying his or her marital status, settling the doubts created by the divorce decree. Essentially, the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code provided the Filipino spouse a substantive right to have his or her marriage to the alien spouse considered as dissolved, capacitating him or her to 24 remarry. Without the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, the judicial recognition of the foreign decree of divorce, whether in a proceeding instituted precisely for that purpose or as a related issue in another proceeding, would be of no significance to the Filipino spouse since our laws do not recognize divorce as a mode of severing the marital 25 bond; Article 17 of the Civil Code provides that the policy against absolute divorces cannot be subverted by judgments promulgated in a foreign country. The inclusion of the second

Gerbert filed the present petition.

13

Gerbert asserts that his petition before the RTC is essentially for declaratory relief, similar to that filed in Orbecido; he, thus, similarly asks for a determination of his rights under the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code. Taking into account the rationale behind the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, he contends that the provision applies as well to the benefit of the alien spouse. He claims that the RTC ruling unduly stretched the doctrine in Orbecido by limiting the standing to file the petition only to the Filipino spouse an interpretation he claims to be contrary to the essence of the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code. He considers himself as a proper party, vested with sufficient legal interest, to institute the case, as there is a possibility that he might be prosecuted for bigamy if he marries his Filipina fiance in the Philippines since two marriage certificates, involving him, would be on file with the Civil Registry Office. The Office of the Solicitor General and 14 Daisylyn, in their respective Comments, both support Gerberts position. Essentially, the petition raises the issue of whether the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code extends to aliens the right to petition a court of this jurisdiction for the recognition of a foreign divorce decree. THE COURTS RULING The alien spouse can claim no right under the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code as the substantive right it establishes is in favor of the Filipino spouse The resolution of the issue requires a review of the legislative history and intent behind the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code.

paragraph in Article 26 of the Family Code provides the direct exception to this rule and serves as basis for recognizing the dissolution of the marriage between the Filipino spouse and his or her alien spouse. Additionally, an action based on the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code is not limited to the recognition of the foreign divorce decree. If the court finds that the decree capacitated the alien spouse to remarry, the courts can declare that the Filipino spouse is likewise capacitated to contract another marriage. No court in this jurisdiction, however, can make a similar declaration for the alien spouse (other than that already established by the decree), whose status and legal 26 capacity are generally governed by his national law. Given the rationale and intent behind the enactment, and the purpose of the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, the RTC was correct in limiting the applicability of the provision for the benefit of the Filipino spouse. In other words, only the Filipino spouse can invoke the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code; the alien spouse can claim no right under this provision. The foreign divorce decree is presumptive evidence of a right that clothes the party with legal interest to petition for its recognition in this jurisdiction We qualify our above conclusion i.e., that the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code bestows no rights in favor of aliens with the complementary statement that this conclusion is not sufficient basis to dismiss Gerberts petition before the RTC. In other words, the unavailability of the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code to aliens does not necessarily strip Gerbert of legal interest to petition the RTC for the recognition of his foreign divorce decree. The foreign divorce decree itself, after its authenticity and conformity with the aliens national law have been duly proven according to our rules of evidence, serves as a presumptive evidence of right in favor of Gerbert, pursuant to Section 48, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court which provides for the effect of foreign judgments. This Section states: SEC. 48. Effect of foreign judgments or final orders. The effect of a judgment or final order of a tribunal of a foreign country, having jurisdiction to render the judgment or final order is as follows: (a) In case of a judgment or final order upon a specific thing, the judgment or final order is conclusive upon the title of the thing; and (b) In case of a judgment or final order against a person, the judgment or final order is presumptive evidence of a right as between the parties and their successors in interest by a subsequent title. In either case, the judgment or final order may be repelled by evidence of a want of jurisdiction, want of notice to the party, collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact. To our mind, direct involvement or being the subject of the foreign judgment is sufficient to clothe a party with the requisite interest to institute an action before our courts for the recognition of the foreign judgment. In a divorce situation, we have declared, no less, that the divorce obtained by an alien

abroad may be recognized in the Philippines, provided the 27 divorce is valid according to his or her national law. The starting point in any recognition of a foreign divorce judgment is the acknowledgment that our courts do not take judicial notice of foreign judgments and laws. Justice Herrera explained that, as a rule, "no sovereign is bound to give effect within its dominion to a judgment rendered by a tribunal of 28 another country." This means that the foreign judgment and its authenticity must be proven as facts under our rules on evidence, together with the aliens applicable national law to show the effect of the judgment on the alien himself or 29 herself. The recognition may be made in an action instituted specifically for the purpose or in another action where a party invokes the foreign decree as an integral aspect of his claim or defense. In Gerberts case, since both the foreign divorce decree and the national law of the alien, recognizing his or her capacity to obtain a divorce, purport to be official acts of a sovereign authority, Section 24, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court comes into play. This Section requires proof, either by (1) official publications or (2) copies attested by the officer having legal custody of the documents. If the copies of official records are not kept in the Philippines, these must be (a) accompanied by a certificate issued by the proper diplomatic or consular officer in the Philippine foreign service stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept and (b) authenticated by the seal of his office. The records show that Gerbert attached to his petition a copy of the divorce decree, as well as the required certificates 30 proving its authenticity, but failed to include a copy of the 31 Canadian law on divorce. Under this situation, we can, at this point, simply dismiss the petition for insufficiency of supporting evidence, unless we deem it more appropriate to remand the case to the RTC to determine whether the divorce decree is consistent with the Canadian divorce law. We deem it more appropriate to take this latter course of action, given the Article 26 interests that will be served and the Filipina wifes (Daisylyns) obvious conformity with the petition. A remand, at the same time, will allow other interested parties to oppose the foreign judgment and overcome a petitioners presumptive evidence of a right by proving want of jurisdiction, want of notice to a party, collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact. Needless to state, every precaution must be taken to ensure conformity with our laws before a recognition is made, as the foreign judgment, once recognized, shall have 32 the effect of res judicata between the parties, as provided in 33 Section 48, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court. In fact, more than the principle of comity that is served by the practice of reciprocal recognition of foreign judgments between nations, the res judicata effect of the foreign judgments of divorce serves as the deeper basis for extending judicial recognition and for considering the alien spouse bound by its terms. This same effect, as discussed above, will not obtain for the Filipino spouse were it not for the substantive rule that the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code provides. Considerations beyond the recognition of the foreign divorce decree As a matter of "housekeeping" concern, we note that the Pasig City Civil Registry Office has already recorded the divorce decree on Gerbert and Daisylyns marriage certificate based

on the mere presentation of the decree. We consider the recording to be legally improper; hence, the need to draw attention of the bench and the bar to what had been done. Article 407 of the Civil Code states that "[a]cts, events and judicial decrees concerning the civil status of persons shall be recorded in the civil register." The law requires the entry in the civil registry of judicial decrees that produce legal consequences touching upon a persons legal capacity and status, i.e., those affecting "all his personal qualities and relations, more or less permanent in nature, not ordinarily terminable at his own will, such as his being legitimate or 35 illegitimate, or his being married or not." A judgment of divorce is a judicial decree, although a foreign one, affecting a persons legal capacity and status that must be recorded. In fact, Act No. 3753 or the Law on Registry of Civil Status specifically requires the registration of divorce decrees in the civil registry: Sec. 1. Civil Register. A civil register is established for recording the civil status of persons, in which shall be entered: (a) births; (b) deaths; (c) marriages; (d) annulments of marriages; (e) divorces; (f) legitimations; (g) adoptions; (h) acknowledgment of natural children; (i) naturalization; and (j) changes of name. xxxx Sec. 4. Civil Register Books. The local registrars shall keep and preserve in their offices the following books, in which they shall, respectively make the proper entries concerning the civil status of persons: (1) Birth and death register; (2) Marriage register, in which shall be entered not only the marriages solemnized but also divorces and dissolved marriages. (3) Legitimation, acknowledgment, adoption, change of name and naturalization register. But while the law requires the entry of the divorce decree in the civil registry, the law and the submission of the decree by themselves do not ipso facto authorize the decrees

34

registration. The law should be read in relation with the requirement of a judicial recognition of the foreign judgment before it can be given res judicata effect. In the context of the present case, no judicial order as yet exists recognizing the foreign divorce decree. Thus, the Pasig City Civil Registry Office acted totally out of turn and without authority of law when it annotated the Canadian divorce decree on Gerbert and Daisylyns marriage certificate, on the strength alone of the foreign decree presented by Gerbert. Evidently, the Pasig City Civil Registry Office was aware of the requirement of a court recognition, as it cited NSO Circular No. 36 4, series of 1982, and Department of Justice Opinion No. 37 181, series of 1982 both of which required a final order from a competent Philippine court before a foreign judgment, dissolving a marriage, can be registered in the civil registry, but it, nonetheless, allowed the registration of the decree. For being contrary to law, the registration of the foreign divorce decree without the requisite judicial recognition is patently void and cannot produce any legal effect.1avvphi1 Another point we wish to draw attention to is that the recognition that the RTC may extend to the Canadian divorce decree does not, by itself, authorize the cancellation of the entry in the civil registry. A petition for recognition of a foreign judgment is not the proper proceeding, contemplated under the Rules of Court, for the cancellation of entries in the civil registry. Article 412 of the Civil Code declares that "no entry in a civil register shall be changed or corrected, without judicial order." The Rules of Court supplements Article 412 of the Civil Code by specifically providing for a special remedial proceeding by which entries in the civil registry may be judicially cancelled or corrected. Rule 108 of the Rules of Court sets in detail the jurisdictional and procedural requirements that must be complied with before a judgment, authorizing the cancellation or correction, may be annotated in the civil registry. It also requires, among others, that the verified petition must be filed with the RTC of the province where the corresponding civil 38 registry is located; that the civil registrar and all persons who have or claim any interest must be made parties to the 39 proceedings; and that the time and place for hearing must be 40 published in a newspaper of general circulation. As these basic jurisdictional requirements have not been met in the present case, we cannot consider the petition Gerbert filed with the RTC as one filed under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court. We hasten to point out, however, that this ruling should not be construed as requiring two separate proceedings for the registration of a foreign divorce decree in the civil registry one for recognition of the foreign decree and another specifically for cancellation of the entry under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court. The recognition of the foreign divorce decree may be made in a Rule 108 proceeding itself, as the object of special proceedings (such as that in Rule 108 of the Rules of Court) is precisely to establish the status or right of a party or a particular fact. Moreover, Rule 108 of the Rules of Court can 41 serve as the appropriate adversarial proceeding by which the applicability of the foreign judgment can be measured and tested in terms of jurisdictional infirmities, want of notice to the party, collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact. WHEREFORE, we GRANT the petition for review on certiorari, and REVERSE the October 30, 2008 decision of the Regional Trial Court of Laoag City, Branch 11, as well as its February 17, 2009 order. We order the REMAND of the case to the trial

court for further proceedings in accordance with our ruling above. Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Civil Registrar General. No costs. SO ORDERED. ARTURO D. BRION Associate Justice WE CONCUR:
9 7

It would therefore be premature to register the decree of annulment in the Register of Annulment of Marriages in Manila, unless and until final order of execution of such foreign judgment is issued by competent Philippine court. Supra note 1. Executive Order No. 209, enacted on July 6, 1987. Rollo, p. 31. G.R. No. 154380, October 5, 2005, 472 SCRA 114. Id. at 121.

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES Associate Justice LUCAS P. BERSAMIN Associate Justice MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR. Associate Justice ATTESTATION I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division. CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES Associate Justice Chairperson CERTIFICATION Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairpersons Attestation, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division. RENATO Chief Justice Footnotes
*

10

ROBERTO A. ABAD Associate Justice

11

12

Gerberts motion for reconsideration of the RTCs October 30, 2008 decision was denied in an order dated February 17, 2009; rollo, p. 32.
13

Supra note 2. Rollo, pp. 79-87 and 125-142, respectively.

14

15

The void marriages are those enumerated under Articles 35, 36, 37, 38, 40, 41, 44, and 53 in relation to Article 52 of the Family Code.
16

The voidable marriages are those enumerated under Article 45 of the Family Code.
17

Garcia v. Recio, G.R. No. 138322, October 2, 2001, 366 SCRA 437, 452.
18

C.

CORONA

Ibid. See A. Tolentino, Commentaries and Jurisprudence on the Civil Code of the Philippines, Volume One, with the Family Code of the Philippines (2004 ed.), p. 262.
19

Proclamation No. 3, issued on March 25, 1996.

20

Designated additional Member of the Third Division, in view of the retirement of Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, per Special Order No. 843 dated May 17, 2010.
1

G.R. No. L-68470, October 8, 1985, 139 SCRA 139.


21

G.R. No. 80116, June 30, 1989, 174 SCRA 653. Van Dorn v. Romillo, supra note 20 at 144. Republic v. Orbecido, supra note 10 at 121.

Dated October 30, 2008, penned by Judge Perla B. Querubin; rollo, pp. 24-31.
2

22

23

Id. at 3-20.
24

Id. at 27. Marriage Certificate, id. at 37. Certificate of Divorce, id. at 38.

The capacity of the Filipino spouse to remarry, however, depends on whether the foreign divorce decree capacitated the alien spouse to do so.
25

See Article 17 in relation to Article 15 of the Civil Code: Art. 15. Laws relating to family rights and duties, or to the status, condition and legal capacity of persons are binding upon citizens of the Philippines, even though living abroad.

Id. at 47-50; the pertinent portion of NSO Circular No. 4, series of 1982, states:

xxxx Art. 17. x x x Prohibitive laws concerning persons, their acts or property, and those which have for their object public order, public policy and good customs shall not be rendered ineffective by laws or judgments promulgated, or by determinations or conventions agreed upon in a foreign country.
26

party and, as such, is subject to proof to the contrary.


34

On the face of the marriage certificate, the word "DIVORCED" was written in big, bold letters; rollo, p. 37.
35

Silverio v. Republic, G.R. No. 174689, October 22, 2007, 537 SCRA 373, 390, citing Beduya v. Republic, 120 Phil. 114 (1964).
36

Parenthetically, we add that an aliens legal capacity to contract is evidenced by a certificate issued by his or her respective diplomatic and consular officials, which he or she must present to secure a marriage license (Article 21, Family Code). The Filipino spouse who seeks to remarry, however, must still resort to a judicial action for a declaration of authority to remarry.
27

Rollo, pp. 47-50. Id. at 51. Section 1, Rule 108, Rules of Court. Section 3, Rule 108, Rules of Court. Section 4, Rule 108, Rules of Court.

37

38

39

Garcia v. Recio, supra note 17 at 447; citing Van Dorn v. Romillo, supra note 20.
28

40

41

Remedial Law, Volume II, Rules 23-56 (2007 ed.), p. 529.


29

Republic v. Orbecido III, supra note 10 at 123 and Garcia v. Recio, supra note 17 at 448; see also Bayot v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 155635, November 7, 2008, 570 SCRA 472.
30

When the entry sought to be corrected is substantial (i.e., the civil status of a person), a Rule 108 proceeding is deemed adversarial in nature. See Co v. Civil Register of Manila, G.R. No. 138496, February 23, 2004, 423 SCRA 420, 430.

Rollo, pp. 38-41. Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION

31

The foreign divorce decree only stated that the marriage between Gerbert and Daisylyn was dissolved by the Canadian court. The full text of the courts judgment was not included.
32

Literally means "a thing adjudged," Blacks Law Dictionary (5th ed.), p. 1178; it establishes a rule that a final judgment or decree on the merits by a court of competent jurisdiction is conclusive of the rights of the parties or their privies in all later suits, on points and matters determined in the former. Supra note 28 at 462.
33

G. R. No. 183622

February 8, 2012

MEROPE ENRIQUEZ VDA. DE CATALAN, Petitioner, vs. LOUELLA A. CATALAN-LEE, Respondent. RESOLUTION SERENO, J.: Before us is a Petition for Review assailing the Court of 1 2 Appeals (CA) Decision and Resolution regarding the issuance of letters of administration of the intestate estate of Orlando B. Catalan. The facts are as follows: Orlando B. Catalan was a naturalized American citizen. After allegedly obtaining a divorce in the United States from his first wife, Felicitas Amor, he contracted a second marriage with petitioner herein. On 18 November 2004, Orlando died intestate in the Philippines.

See Philsec Investment Corporation v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 103493, June 19, 1997, 274 SCRA 102, 110, where the Court said: While this Court has given the effect of res judicata to foreign judgments in several cases, it was after the parties opposed to the judgment had been given ample opportunity to repel them on grounds allowed under the law. It is not necessary for this purpose to initiate a separate action or proceeding for enforcement of the foreign judgment. What is essential is that there is opportunity to challenge the foreign judgment, in order for the court to properly determine its efficacy. This is because in this jurisdiction, with respect to actions in personam, as distinguished from actions in rem, a foreign judgment merely constitutes prima facie evidence of the justness of the claim of a

Thereafter, on 28 February 2005, petitioner filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Dagupan City a Petition for the issuance of letters of administration for her appointment as administratrix of the intestate estate of Orlando. The case was docketed as Special Proceedings (Spec. Proc.) No. 228. On 3 March 2005, while Spec. Proc. No. 228 was pending, respondent Louella A. Catalan-Lee, one of the children of Orlando from his first marriage, filed a similar petition with the RTC docketed as Spec. Proc. No. 232. The two cases were subsequently consolidated. Petitioner prayed for the dismissal of Spec. Proc. No. 232 on the ground of litis pendentia, considering that Spec. Proc. No. 228 covering the same estate was already pending. On the other hand, respondent alleged that petitioner was not considered an interested person qualified to file a petition for the issuance of letters of administration of the estate of Orlando. In support of her contention, respondent alleged that a criminal case for bigamy was filed against petitioner before Branch 54 of the RTC of Alaminos, Pangasinan, and docketed as Crim. Case No. 2699-A. Apparently, Felicitas Amor filed a Complaint for bigamy, alleging that petitioner contracted a second marriage to Orlando despite having been married to one Eusebio Bristol on 12 December 1959. On 6 August 1998, the RTC had acquitted petitioner of 3 bigamy. The trial court ruled that since the deceased was a divorced American citizen, and since that divorce was not recognized under Philippine jurisdiction, the marriage between him and petitioner was not valid. Furthermore, it took note of the action for declaration of nullity then pending action with the trial court in Dagupan City filed by Felicitas Amor against the deceased and petitioner. It considered the pending action to be a prejudicial question in determining the guilt of petitioner for the crime of bigamy. Finally, the trial court found that, in the first place, petitioner had never been married to Eusebio Bristol. On 26 June 2006, Branch 70 of the RTC of Burgos, Pangasinan dismissed the Petition for the issuance of letters of administration filed by petitioner and granted that of private respondent. Contrary to its findings in Crim. Case No. 2699-A, the RTC held that the marriage between petitioner and Eusebio Bristol was valid and subsisting when she married Orlando. Without expounding, it reasoned further that her acquittal in the previous bigamy case was fatal to her cause. Thus, the trial court held that petitioner was not an interested party who may file a petition for the issuance of letters of 4 administration. After the subsequent denial of her Motion for Reconsideration, petitioner elevated the matter to the Court of Appeals (CA) via her Petition for Certiorari, alleging grave abuse of discretion on the part of the RTC in dismissing her Petition for the issuance of letters of administration. Petitioner reiterated before the CA that the Petition filed by respondent should have been dismissed on the ground of litis

pendentia. She also insisted that, while a petition for letters of administration may have been filed by an "uninterested person," the defect was cured by the appearance of a real party-in-interest. Thus, she insisted that, to determine who has a better right to administer the decedents properties, the RTC should have first required the parties to present their evidence before it ruled on the matter. On 18 October 2007, the CA promulgated the assailed Decision. First, it held that petitioner undertook the wrong remedy. She should have instead filed a petition for review rather than a petition for certiorari. Nevertheless, since the Petition for Certiorari was filed within the fifteen-day reglementary period for filing a petition for review under Sec. 4 of Rule 43, the CA allowed the Petition and continued to decide on the merits of the case. Thus, it ruled in this wise: As to the issue of litis pendentia, we find it not applicable in the case. For litis pendentia to be a ground for the dismissal of an action, there must be: (a) identity of the parties or at least such as to represent the same interest in both actions; (b) identity of rights asserted and relief prayed for, the relief being founded on the same acts, and (c) the identity in the two cases should be such that the judgment which may be rendered in one would, regardless of which party is successful, amount to res judicata in the other. A petition for letters of administration is a special proceeding. A special proceeding is an application or proceeding to establish the status or right of a party, or a particular fact. And, in contrast to an ordinary civil action, a special proceeding involves no defendant or respondent. The only party in this kind of proceeding is the petitioner of the applicant. Considering its nature, a subsequent petition for letters of administration can hardly be barred by a similar pending petition involving the estate of the same decedent unless both petitions are filed by the same person. In the case at bar, the petitioner was not a party to the petition filed by the private respondent, in the same manner that the latter was not made a party to the petition filed by the former. The first element of litis pendentia is wanting. The contention of the petitioner must perforce fail. Moreover, to yield to the contention of the petitioner would render nugatory the provision of the Rules requiring a petitioner for letters of administration to be an "interested party," inasmuch as any person, for that matter, regardless of whether he has valid interest in the estate sought to be administered, could be appointed as administrator for as long as he files his petition ahead of any other person, in derogation of the rights of those specifically mentioned in the order of preference in the appointment of administrator under Rule 78, Section 6 of the Revised Rules of Court, which provides: xxx xxx xxx

The petitioner, armed with a marriage certificate, filed her petition for letters of administration. As a spouse, the petitioner would have been preferred to administer the estate of Orlando B. Catalan. However, a marriage certificate, like any other public document, is only prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein. The fact that the petitioner had been charged with bigamy and was acquitted has not been disputed by the petitioner. Bigamy is an illegal marriage committed by contracting a second or subsequent marriage before the first marriage has been dissolved or before the absent spouse has been declared presumptively dead by a judgment rendered in a proper proceedings. The deduction of the trial court that the acquittal of the petitioner in the said

case negates the validity of her subsequent marriage with Orlando B. Catalan has not been disproved by her. There was not even an attempt from the petitioner to deny the findings of the trial court. There is therefore no basis for us to make a contrary finding. Thus, not being an interested party and a stranger to the estate of Orlando B. Catalan, the dismissal of her petition for letters of administration by the trial court is in place. xxx xxx xxx

that aliens may obtain divorces abroad, provided they are valid according to their national law. Citing this landmark case, the Court held in Quita v. Court of Appeals, that once proven that respondent was no longer a Filipino citizen when he obtained the divorce from petitioner, the ruling in Van Dorn would become applicable and petitioner could "very well lose her right to inherit" from him. In Pilapil v. Ibay-Somera, we recognized the divorce obtained by the respondent in his country, the Federal Republic of Germany. There, we stated that divorce and its legal effects may be recognized in the Philippines insofar as respondent is concerned in view of the nationality principle in our civil law on the status of persons. For failing to apply these doctrines, the decision of the Court of Appeals must be reversed. We hold that the divorce obtained by Lorenzo H. Llorente from his first wife Paula was valid and recognized in this jurisdiction as a matter of comity. xxx Nonetheless, the fact of divorce must still first be proven as we 9 have enunciated in Garcia v. Recio, to wit: Respondent is getting ahead of himself. Before a foreign judgment is given presumptive evidentiary value, the document must first be presented and admitted in evidence. A divorce obtained abroad is proven by the divorce decree itself. Indeed the best evidence of a judgment is the judgment itself. The decree purports to be a written act or record of an act of an official body or tribunal of a foreign country. Under Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132, on the other hand, a writing or document may be proven as a public or official record of a foreign country by either (1) an official publication or (2) a copy thereof attested by the officer having legal custody of the document. If the record is not kept in the Philippines, such copy must be (a) accompanied by a certificate issued by the proper diplomatic or consular officer in the Philippine foreign service stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept and (b) authenticated by the seal of his office. The divorce decree between respondent and Editha Samson appears to be an authentic one issued by an Australian family court. However, appearance is not sufficient; compliance with the aforementioned rules on evidence must be demonstrated. Fortunately for respondent's cause, when the divorce decree of May 18, 1989 was submitted in evidence, counsel for petitioner objected, not to its admissibility, but only to the fact that it had not been registered in the Local Civil Registry of Cabanatuan City. The trial court ruled that it was admissible, subject to petitioner's qualification. Hence, it was admitted in evidence and accorded weight by the judge. Indeed, petitioner's failure to object properly rendered the divorce decree admissible as a written act of the Family Court of Sydney, Australia. Compliance with the quoted articles (11, 13 and 52) of the Family Code is not necessary; respondent was no longer bound by Philippine personal laws after he acquired Australian citizenship in 1992. Naturalization is the legal act of adopting an alien and clothing him with the political and civil rights belonging to a citizen. Naturalized citizens, freed from the

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. (Emphasis supplied) Petitioner moved for a reconsideration of this Decision. She alleged that the reasoning of the CA was illogical in stating, on the one hand, that she was acquitted of bigamy, while, on the other hand, still holding that her marriage with Orlando was invalid. She insists that with her acquittal of the crime of bigamy, the marriage enjoys the presumption of validity. On 20 June 2008, the CA denied her motion. Hence, this Petition. At the outset, it seems that the RTC in the special proceedings failed to appreciate the finding of the RTC in Crim. Case No. 2699-A that petitioner was never married to Eusebio Bristol. Thus, the trial court concluded that, because petitioner was acquitted of bigamy, it follows that the first marriage with Bristol still existed and was valid. By failing to take note of the findings of fact on the nonexistence of the marriage between petitioner and Bristol, both the RTC and CA held that petitioner was not an interested party in the estate of Orlando. Second, it is imperative to note that at the time the bigamy case in Crim. Case No. 2699-A was dismissed, we had already ruled that under the principles of comity, our jurisdiction recognizes a valid divorce obtained by a spouse of foreign nationality. This doctrine was established as early as 1985 in 7 Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. wherein we said: It is true that owing to the nationality principle embodied in Article 15 of the Civil Code, only Philippine nationals are covered by the policy against absolute divorces[,] the same being considered contrary to our concept of public policy and morality. However, aliens may obtain divorces abroad, which may be recognized in the Philippines, provided they are valid according to their national law. In this case, the divorce in Nevada released private respondent from the marriage from the standards of American law, under which divorce dissolves the marriage. xxx We reiterated this principle in Llorente v. Court of Appeals, to wit: In Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. we held that owing to the nationality principle embodied in Article 15 of the Civil Code, only Philippine nationals are covered by the policy against absolute divorces, the same being considered contrary to our concept of public policy and morality. In the same case , the Court ruled
8 6 5

protective cloak of their former states, don the attires of their adoptive countries. By becoming an Australian, respondent severed his allegiance to the Philippines and the vinculum juris that had tied him to Philippine personal laws. Burden of Proving Australian Law Respondent contends that the burden to prove Australian divorce law falls upon petitioner, because she is the party challenging the validity of a foreign judgment. He contends that petitioner was satisfied with the original of the divorce decree and was cognizant of the marital laws of Australia, because she had lived and worked in that country for quite a long time. Besides, the Australian divorce law is allegedly known by Philippine courts; thus, judges may take judicial notice of foreign laws in the exercise of sound discretion. We are not persuaded. The burden of proof lies with the "party who alleges the existence of a fact or thing necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action." In civil cases, plaintiffs have the burden of proving the material allegations of the complaint when those are denied by the answer; and defendants have the burden of proving the material allegations in their answer when they introduce new matters. Since the divorce was a defense raised by respondent, the burden of proving the pertinent Australian law validating it falls squarely upon him. It is well-settled in our jurisdiction that our courts cannot take judicial notice of foreign laws.1wphi1 Like any other facts, they must be alleged and proved. Australian marital laws are not among those matters that judges are supposed to know by reason of their judicial function. The power of judicial notice must be exercised with caution, and every reasonable doubt upon the subject should be resolved in the negative. (Emphasis supplied) It appears that the trial court no longer required petitioner to prove the validity of Orlandos divorce under the laws of the United States and the marriage between petitioner and the deceased. Thus, there is a need to remand the proceedings to the trial court for further reception of evidence to establish the fact of divorce. Should petitioner prove the validity of the divorce and the subsequent marriage, she has the preferential right to be issued the letters of administration over the estate. Otherwise, letters of administration may be issued to respondent, who is undisputedly the daughter or next of kin of the deceased, in accordance with Sec. 6 of Rule 78 of the Revised Rules of Court. This is consistent with our ruling in San Luis v. San Luis, which we said:
10

decree is insufficient and that proof of its authenticity and due execution must be presented. Under Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132, a writing or document may be proven as a public or official record of a foreign country by either (1) an official publication or (2) a copy thereof attested by the officer having legal custody of the document. If the record is not kept in the Philippines, such copy must be (a) accompanied by a certificate issued by the proper diplomatic or consular officer in the Philippine foreign service stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept and (b) authenticated by the seal of his office. With regard to respondent's marriage to Felicisimo allegedly solemnized in California, U.S.A., she submitted photocopies of the Marriage Certificate and the annotated text of the Family Law Act of California which purportedly show that their marriage was done in accordance with the said law. As stated in Garcia, however, the Court cannot take judicial notice of foreign laws as they must be alleged and proved. Therefore, this case should be remanded to the trial court for further reception of evidence on the divorce decree obtained by Merry Lee and the marriage of respondent and Felicisimo. (Emphasis supplied) Thus, it is imperative for the trial court to first determine the validity of the divorce to ascertain the rightful party to be issued the letters of administration over the estate of Orlando B. Catalan. WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Petition is hereby PARTIALLY GRANTED. The Decision dated 18 October 2007 and the Resolution dated 20 June 2008 of the Court of Appeals are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Let this case be REMANDED to Branch 70 of the Regional Trial Court of Burgos, Pangasinan for further proceedings in accordance with this Decision. SO ORDERED. MARIA LOURDES Associate Justice WE CONCUR: ANTONIO T. CARPIO Associate Justice Chairperson ARTURO D. BRION Associate Justice BIENVENIDO L. REYES Associate Justice ATTESTATION I attest that the conclusions in the above Resolution had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division. ANTONIO T. CARPIO Associate Justice Chairperson, Second Division JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ Associate Justice P. A. SERENO

in

Applying the above doctrine in the instant case, the divorce decree allegedly obtained by Merry Lee which absolutely allowed Felicisimo to remarry, would have vested Felicidad with the legal personality to file the present petition as Felicisimo's surviving spouse. However, the records show that there is insufficient evidence to prove the validity of the divorce obtained by Merry Lee as well as the marriage of respondent and Felicisimo under the laws of the U.S.A. In Garcia v. Recio, the Court laid down the specific guidelines for pleading and proving foreign law and divorce judgments. It held that presentation solely of the divorce

CERTIFICATION Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairpersons Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Resolution had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division. RENATO C. CORONA Chief Justice Footnotes
1

Penned by Associate Justice Amelita G. Tolentino, with Associate Justices Lucenito N. Tagle and Ramon R. Garcia concurring; rollo, pp. 20-30.
2

Id. at 49. Id. at 38-45; penned by Judge Jules A. Mejia.

As narrated by the Court of Appeals on p. 3 of its Decision.


5

Rollo, pp. 26-29. Id. at 31-36. 223 Phil. 357, 362 (1985). 399 Phil. 342, 355-356 (2000). 418 Phil. 723, 723-735 (2001).

10

G.R. Nos. 133743 & 134029, 6 February 2007, 514 SCRA 294, 313-314.