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LEGAL OPINION

PRESCRIPTION OF CRIMES


October 22, 2012

Respectfully returned to Mrs. Rojas of Davao City, the within request for comment and legal opinion on
whether a person who married for the second time in 1990, which marriage was duly registered with the Office of
the Civil Register, but his first wife discovered it only in 2010, may still be prosecuted for bigamy despite the lapse
of 20 years.

Before I proceed on discussing how criminal liability is totally extinguished, let me discuss to you the
definition and penalties of bigamy.

Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code states that:

Bigamy is an illegal marriage committed by contracting a second or subsequent
marriage before the first marriage has been legally dissolved, or before the absent spouse has
been declared presumptively dead by means of a judgment rendered in the proper proceedings.

X X X

Article xxx of the Revised Penal Code further states:

Bigamy carries with it the imposable penalty of prision mayor.

X X X

The question that arises is whether the action for the prosecution of your husband for the crime of bigamy
is barred due to prescription. By prescription, the State or the People losses the right to prosecute the crime or to
demand the service of the penalty imposed. (Santos v. Superintendent, 55 Phil. 345)

Under Article 89 of the Revised Penal Code, extinction of criminal liability can be probable through
prescription of crime. Prescription of crime is the forfeiture or loss of the right of the State to prosecute the offender
after the lapse of a certain time. (Luis B. Reyes Revised Penal Code 867 (2012).

Article 90, par 3, of the Revised Penal Code states:

Crimes punishable by an afflictive penalty shall prescribe in fifteen (15) years.

Article 91 of the Revised Penal Code further discussed that:

The period of prescription shall commence to run from the day on which the crime is
discovered by the offended party, the authorities, or their agents, and shall be interrupted by the
filing of the complaint or information, and shall commence to run again when such proceedings
terminate without the accused being convicted or acquitted, or are unjustifiably stopped for any
reason not imputable by him.

The term of prescription shall not run when the offender is absent from the Philippine
Archipelago.

X X X

The crime of bigamy, as the law defined, being penalized with prision mayor, an afflictive penalty,
prescribes in fifteen years. The prosecution of your husband for bigamy is not time-barred from the time the
document evidencing the subsequent marriage was registered with the Civil Registry but pivots from the time the
offended party actually knew of the second marriage.

As cited in Sermonia vs. Court of Appeals, 52 SCAD 258, 262 (1994)

Considering such concealment of the bigamous marriage by the offender, if the prescriptive period for the
offense of bigamy were to be counted from the date of registration thereof, the prosecution of the violators of the
said offense would almost be impossible. The interpretation urged by the petitioner would encourage fearless
violations of a social institution cherished and protected by law.

In light of the foregoing, it is my opinion that the action for the prosecution of your husband for the crime
of bigamy can proceed notwithstanding that 20 years have lapsed from the time the marriage was duly registered
and that such action shall prescribed fifteen years from the time the second marriage was known by you which was
sometime in the year 2010.

Very Sincerely,

Arbie Mae R. Magale