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PARTIES FOR DECLARATION OF NULLITY OF MARRIAGE

ENRICO vs. HEIRS OF MEDINACELI


G.R. No. 173614

September 28, 2007

Facts:
Spouses Uelogio Medinaceli and Trinidad Catli-medicani were married on June 14 1962. They had
seven children, herein respondents. Trinidad died on may 1 2004 and on august 26 2004, Eulogio
marries petitioner Lolita Enrico on february 10 2005. respondent filed an action for declaration of
nullity of marriage between Eulogio and Lolita on two grounds:
1) that the marriage was entered into without the requisite marriage license and
2) lack of a marriage ceremony due to Eulogio's illness.
Enrico contended that she has been living with Eulogio for 21 years hence exempt from getting a
marriage license under Art. 34 of the Family Code. More importantly, she sought the dismissal of
his action on the ground that it is only the contracting parties while living who can file an action
for the declaration of nullity of marriage pursuant to AM 02-11-10 SC which provides in sec. 2 (a)
that the petition for declaration of absolute nullity of a void marriage may be filled solely by the
husband or the wife. The heirs invoked the ruling in the case of Ninal vs. Bayadog.
Issue:
a)
Whether or not the marriage between Eulogio and Enrico is exempt from securing
marriage license.
b)
Whether or not the respondent heirs can assail the validity of said marriage after the
death of Eulogio.
Ruling:
Petition is dismissed.
Under Art. 34 of the family code, a man and a woman who have been living together for at least
five years without any legal impediments are exempt from securing a marriage license. The said
exemption cannot possibly apply because the second marriage contracted by Eulogio with Enrico
took place barely 3 months after Trinidad dies. Moreover, the respondent heirs have no standing
to assail the validity of the second marriage even after te death of their father, Eulogio.
While it is true that Ninal vs. Bayadog allowed the heirs therein to file a petition for the
declaration of nullity of the Father's 2nd marriage after the death, the court held that the same
rule cannot be applied for the reason that the impugned marriage therein was solemnized prior
to the effectivity of the family code.

Nonetheless, the heirs are not left without remedy. They can still protect their successional rights
as compulsory or intestate heirs of Eulogio by questioning the validity of his second marriage
with Enrico, not in a proceeding for declaration of nullity, but in a proceeding for the settlement
of the estate deceased father filed in the regular courts.

PARTIES FOR DECLARATION OF NULLITY OF MARRIAGE


CATALAN vs. COURT OF APPEALS
G.R. No. 167109

February 6, 2007

Facts:
Petitioner Felicitas Amor-Catalan married respondent Orlando on June 4, 1950 in Mabini,
Pangasinan. Thereafter, they migrated to the United States of America and allegedly became
naturalized citizens thereof. After 38 years of marriage, Felicitas and Orlando divorced in April
1988. On June 16, 1988, Orlando married respondent Merope in Calasiao, Pangasinan.
Petitioner contends that said marriage was bigamous since Merope had a prior subsisting
marriage with Eusebio Bristol. She filed a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage with
damages in the RTC of Dagupan City against Orlando and Merope.

Issue:
Whether or not petitioner has the personality to file a petition for the declaration of nullity of
marriage of the respondents on the ground of bigamy?

Ruling:
A petition to declare the nullity of marriage, like any other actions, must be prosecuted or
defended in the name of the real party in interest and must be based on a cause of action. A
petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be filed solely by the husband or
the wife. Petitioners personality to file the petition to declare the nullity of marriage cannot be
ascertained because of the absence of the divorce decree and the foreign law allowing it. After
all, she may have the personality to file the petition if the divorce decree obtained was a limited
divorce or a mensa et thoro; or the foreign law may restrict remarriage even after the divorce
decree becomes absolute. We note that it was the petitioner who alleged in her complaint that
they acquired American citizenship and that respondent Orlando obtained a judicial divorce
decree. It is settled rule that one who alleges a fact has the burden of proving it and mere
allegation is not evidence

Hence, a remand of the case to the trial court for reception of additional evidence is necessary to
determine whether respondent Orlando was granted a divorce decree and whether the foreign
law which granted the same allows or restricts remarriage. If it is proved that a valid divorce
decree was obtained and the same did not allow respondent Orlandos remarriage, then the trial
court should declare respondents marriage as bigamous and void ab initio.

Enrico v. Heirs
DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:
The instant Petition for Certiorari filed under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure assails
the Order,[1] dated 3 May 2006 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Aparri, Cagayan, Branch 6, in
Civil Case No. II-4057, granting reconsideration of its Order,[2] dated 11 October 2005, and
reinstating respondents Complaint for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage.

On 17 March 2005, respondents, heirs of Spouses Eulogio B. Medinaceli (Eulogio) and Trinidad
Catli-Medinaceli (Trinidad) filed with the RTC, an action for declaration of nullity of marriage of
Eulogio and petitioner Lolita D. Enrico. Substantially, the complaint alleged, inter alia, that
Eulogio and Trinidad were married on 14 June 1962, in Lal-lo, Cagayan.[3] They begot seven
children, herein respondents, namely: Eduardo, Evelyn, Vilma, Mary Jane, Haizel, Michelle and
Joseph Lloyd.[4] On 1 May 2004, Trinidad died.[5] On 26 August 2004, Eulogio married petitioner
before the Municipal Mayor of Lal-lo, Cagayan.[6] Six months later, or on 10 February 2005,
Eulogio passed away.[7]

In impugning petitioners marriage to Eulogio, respondents averred that the same was entered
into without the requisite marriage license. They argued that Article 34[8] of the Family Code,
which exempts a man and a woman who have been living together for at least five years without
any legal impediment from securing a marriage license, was not applicable to petitioner and
Eulogio because they could not have lived together under the circumstances required by said
provision. Respondents posited that the marriage of Eulogio to Trinidad was dissolved only upon
the latters death, or on 1 May 2004, which was barely three months from the date of marriage of
Eulogio to petitioner. Therefore, petitioner and Eulogio could not have lived together as husband
and wife for at least five years. To further their cause, respondents raised the additional ground
of lack of marriage ceremony due to Eulogios serious illness which made its performance
impossible.

In her Answer, petitioner maintained that she and Eulogio lived together as husband and wife
under one roof for 21 years openly and publicly; hence, they were exempted from the
requirement of a marriage license. From their union were born Elvin Enrico and Marco Enrico, all
surnamed Medinaceli, on 28 October 1988 and 30 October 1991, respectively. She further
contended that the marriage ceremony was performed in the Municipal Hall of Lal-lo, Cagayan,
and solemnized by the Municipal Mayor. As an affirmative defense, she sought the dismissal of
the action on the ground that it is only the contracting parties while living who can file an action
for declaration of nullity of marriage.

On 11 October 2005, the RTC issued an Order,[9] granting the dismissal of the Complaint for lack
of cause of action. It cited A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC,[10] dated 7 March 2003, promulgated by the
Supreme Court En Banc as basis. The RTC elucidated on its position in the following manner:

The Complaint should be dismissed.

1) Administrative Matter No. 02-11-10-SC promulgated by the Supreme Court which took effect
on March 15, 2003 provides in Section 2, par. (a)[11] that a petition for Declaration of Absolute
Nullity of a Void Marriage may be filed solely by the husband or the wife. The language of this
rule is plain and simple which states that such a petition may be filed solely by the husband or
the wife. The rule is clear and unequivocal that only the husband or the wife may file the petition
for Declaration of Absolute Nullity of a Void Marriage. The reading of this Court is that the right to
bring such petition is exclusive and this right solely belongs to them. Consequently, the heirs of
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the deceased spouse cannot substitute their late father in bringing the action to declare the
marriage null and void.[12] (Emphasis supplied.)

The dispositive portion of the Order, thus, reads:

WHEREFORE, [the] Motion to Dismiss raised as an affirmative defense in the answer is hereby
GRANTED. Accordingly, the Complaint filed by the [respondents] is hereby DISMISSED with costs
de officio. [13]

Respondents filed a Motion for Reconsideration thereof. Following the filing by petitioner of her
Comment to the said motion, the RTC rendered an Order[14] dated 3 May 2006, reversing its
Order of 11 October 2005. Hence, the RTC reinstated the complaint on the ratiocination that the
assailed Order ignored the ruling in Nial v. Bayadog,[15] which was on the authority for holding
that the heirs of a deceased spouse have the standing to assail a void marriage even after the
death of the latter. It held that Section 2(a) of A.M. No. 02-11-20-SC, which provides that a
petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be filed solely by the husband or
the wife, applies only where both parties to a void marriage are still living.[16] Where one or both
parties are deceased, the RTC held that the heirs may file a petition to declare the marriage void.
The RTC expounded on its stance, thus:

The questioned Order disregarded the case of Nial vs. Bayadog, 328 SCRA 122 (March 14, 2000)
in which the Supreme Court, First Division, held that the heirs of a deceased person may file a
petition for the declaration of his marriage after his death. The Order subject of this motion for
reconsideration held that the case of Nial vs. Bayadog is now superseded by the new Rule on
Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Marriages (hereinafter referred to as the Rule) because the
Supreme Court has rejected the case of Nial vs. Bayadog by approving the Rule on Nullity of Void
Marriages. The Order further held that it is only the husband or the wife who is (sic) the only
parties allowed to file an action for declaration of nullity of their marriage and such right is purely
personal and is not transmissible upon the death of the parties.

It is admitted that there seems to be a conflict between the case of Nial vs. Bayadog and Section
2(a) of the Rule. In view of this, the Court shall try to reconcile the case of Nial vs. Bayadog and
the Rule. To reconcile, the Court will have to determine [the] basic rights of the parties. The
rights of the legitimate heirs of a person who entered into a void marriage will be prejudiced
particularly with respect to their successional rights. During the lifetime of the parent[,] the heirs
have only an inchoate right over the property of the said parents. Hence, during the lifetime of
the parent, it would be proper that it should solely be the parent who should be allowed to file a
petition to declare his marriage void. However, upon the death of the parent his heirs have
already a vested right over whatever property left by the parent. Such vested right should not be
frustrated by any rules of procedure such as the Rule. Rules of Procedure cannot repeal rights
granted by substantive law. The heirs, then, have a legal standing in Court.

If the heirs are prohibited from questioning the void marriage entered by their parent, especially
when the marriage is illegal and feloniously entered into, it will give premium to such union
because the guilty parties will seldom, if ever at all, ask for the annulment of the marriage. Such
void marriage will be given a semblance of validity if the heirs will not be allowed to file the
petition after the death of the parent.

For these reasons, this Court believes that Sec. 2(a) of the Rules on Declaration of Absolute
Nullity of Marriage is applicable only when both parties to a (sic) void marriage are still living.
Upon the death of anyone of the guilty party to the void marriage, his heirs may file a petition to
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declare the the (sic) marriage void, but the Rule is not applicable as it was not filed b the
husband or the wife. It shall be the ordinary rule of civil procedure which shall be applicable.[17]

Perforce, the decretal portion of the RTC Order of 3 May 2006 states:

In view of the foregoing, the Court grants the motion for reconsideration dated October 31, 2005
and reinstate this case.[18]

Aggrieved, petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the foregoing Order; however, on 1
June 2006, the RTC denied the said motion on the ground that no new matter was raised therein.
[19]

Hence, the instant Petition under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure on the sole
question of whether the case law as embodied in Nial, or the Rule on Declaration of Absolute
Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages, as specified in A.M. No. 02-11-10SC of the Supreme Court applies to the case at bar.

At the outset, we note that petitioner took an abbreviated route to this Court, countenancing the
hierarchy of courts.

We have earlier emphasized that while the Supreme Court has the concurrent jurisdiction with
the Court of Appeals and the RTCs (for writs enforceable within their respective regions), to issue
writs of mandamus, prohibition or certiorari, the litigants are well advised against taking a direct
recourse to this Court.[20] Instead, they should initially seek the proper relief from the lower
courts. As a court of last resort, this Court should not be burdened with the task of dealing with
causes in the first instance. Where the issuance of an extraordinary writ is concurrently within
the competence of the Court of Appeals or the RTC, litigants must observe the principle of
hierarchy of courts.[21] However, it cannot be gainsaid that this Court has the discretionary
power to brush aside procedural lapses if compelling reasons, or the nature and importance of
the issues raised, warrant the immediate exercise of its jurisdiction.[22] Moreover,
notwithstanding the dismissibility of the instant Petition for its failure to observe the doctrine on
the hierarchy of courts, this Court will proceed to entertain the case grounded as it is on a pure
question of law.

Petitioner maintains that A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC governs the instant case. A contrario, respondents
posit that it is Nial which is applicable, whereby the heirs of the deceased person were granted
the right to file a petition for the declaration of nullity of his marriage after his death.
We grant the Petition.
In reinstating respondents Complaint for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage, the RTC acted with
grave abuse of discretion.
While it is true that Nial in no uncertain terms allowed therein petitioners to file a petition for the
declaration of nullity of their fathers marriage to therein respondent after the death of their
father, we cannot, however, apply its ruling for the reason that the impugned marriage therein
was solemnized prior to the effectivity of the Family Code. The Court in Nial recognized that the
applicable law to determine the validity of the two marriages involved therein is the Civil Code,
which was the law in effect at the time of their celebration.[23] What we have before us belongs
to a different milieu, i.e., the marriage sought to be declared void was entered into during the
5

effectivity of the Family Code. As can be gleaned from the facts, petitioners marriage to Eulogio
was celebrated in 2004.
The Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable
Marriages as contained in A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC is explicit in its scope, to wit:
Section 1. Scope. This Rule shall govern petitions for declaration of absolute nullity of void
marriages and annulment of voidable marriages under the Family Code of the Philippines.
The Rules of Court shall apply suppletorily. (Emphasis supplied.)
The categorical language of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC leaves no room for doubt. The coverage
extends only to those marriages entered into during the effectivity of the Family Code which took
effect on 3 August 1988.[24]
Moreover, A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC took effect on 15 March 2003, following its publication in a
newspaper of general circulation. Thus, contrary to the opinion of the RTC, there is no need to
reconcile the provisions of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC with the ruling in Nial, because they vary in
scope and application. As has been emphasized, A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC covers marriages under
the Family Code of the Philippines, and is prospective in its application. The marriage of
petitioner to Eulogio was celebrated on 26 August 2004, and it squarely falls within the ambit of
A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC.
Hence, in resolving the issue before us, we resort to Section 2(a) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC, which
provides:

Section 2. Petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages.

(a) Who may file. A petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be filed solely
by the husband or the wife. (n) (Emphasis supplied.)

There is no ambiguity in the Rule. Absolute sententil expositore non indiget. When the language
of the law is clear, no explanation of it is required. Section 2(a) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC, makes it
the sole right of the husband or the wife to file a petition for declaration of absolute nullity of
void marriage.

The Rationale of the Rules on Annulment of Voidable Marriages and Declaration of Absolute
Nullity of Void Marriages, Legal Separation and Provisional Orders explicates on Section 2(a) in
the following manner, viz:

1. Only an aggrieved or injured spouse may file petitions for annulment of voidable marriages
and declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages. Such petitions cannot be filed by the
compulsory or intestate heirs of the spouses or by the State. [Section 2; Section 3, paragraph a]

Only an aggrieved or injured spouse may file a petition for annulment of voidable marriages or
declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages. Such petition cannot be filed by compulsory or
intestate heirs of the spouses or by the State. The Committee is of the belief that they do not
have a legal right to file the petition. Compulsory or intestate heirs have only inchoate rights
prior to the death of their predecessor, and hence can only question the validity of the marriage
of the spouses upon the death of a spouse in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the
deceased spouse filed in the regular courts. On the other hand, the concern of the State is to
preserve marriage and not to seek its dissolution.[25] (Emphasis supplied.)

Respondents clearly have no cause of action before the court a quo. Nonetheless, all is not lost
for respondents. While A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC declares that a petition for declaration of absolute
nullity of void marriage may be filed solely by the husband or the wife, it does not mean that the
compulsory or intestate heirs are already without any recourse under the law. They can still
protect their successional right, for, as stated in the Rationale of the Rules on Annulment of
Voidable Marriages and Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages, Legal Separation and
Provisional Orders, compulsory or intestate heirs can still question the validity of the marriage of
the spouses, not in a proceeding for declaration of nullity, but upon the death of a spouse in a
proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased spouse filed in the regular courts.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED. Civil Case No. II-4057 filed before the Regional Trial Court
of Aparri, Cagayan, Branch 6, is ORDERED DISMISSED without prejudice to challenging the
validity of the marriage of Lolita D. Enrico to Eulogio B. Medinaceli in a proceeding for the
settlement of the estate of the latter. No costs

Administrative Matter No. 02-11-10-SC


Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of the Court En Bank dated 08
July 2003

A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC. Re: rules on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages
and Annulment of Voidable Marriages and A.M. No. 02-11-11-SC. Rule on Legal
Separation. Acting on the letter dated 4 April 2003 of Executive Judge Paterno G.
Tiamson, RTC, Branch 69, Binangonan, Rizal; and upon recommendation of the Office
of the Court Administrator, the Court Resolved to AMEND the provisions on venue in
A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC and A.M. No. 02-11-11-SC.

Section 4 of the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marrages and


Annulment of Voidable Marriages (A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC) is amended as follows:

SEC. 4. Venue. The petition shall be filed in the Family Court of the province or city
where the petitioner or the respondent has been residing for at least six months prior
to the date of the filling, or in case of a non-resident respondent, where he may be
found in the Philippines, at the election of the petitioner. In stations where no
branches of the Regional Trial Courts are designated as Family Courts, the cases
falling within the jurisdiction of the Family Courts shall be raffled among the branches
of the Regional Trial Courts shall be raffled among the branches of the Regional Trial
Court within the same station which shall try and decide such cases according to
existing issuances.
and Section 2 (c) of the Rule on Legal Separation (A.M. No. 02-11-11-SC) is amended
as follows:
SEC. 2. Petition.
(c) Venue. The petition shall be filed in the Family Court of the province or city
where the petitioner of the respondent has been residing for at least six months prior
to the date of filling, or in case of a non-resident respondent, where he may be found
in the Philippines, at the election of the petitioner. In stations where no branches of
the Regional Trial Court are designated as Family Courts, the case filling within the
jurisdiction of the Family Court within the same station which shall try and decide
such cases according to existing issuances.
These amendments shall take effect on 15 August 2003 following the publication of
this resolution in a newspaper of general circulation not later than 10 August 2003.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION
G.R. No. 167109
February 6, 2007
FELICITAS AMOR-CATALAN, Petitioner,
COURT OF APPEALS, MANILA, ORLANDO B. CATALAN and MEROPE E. BRAGANZA, Respondents.
DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
This petition for review assails the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 69875
dated August 6, 2004, which reversed the Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Dagupan
City, Branch 44, in Civil Case No. D-10636, declaring the marriage between respondents Orlando
B. Catalan and Merope E. Braganza void on the ground of bigamy, as well as the Resolution3
dated January 27, 2005, which denied the motion for reconsideration.

Petitioner Felicitas Amor-Catalan married respondent Orlando on June 4, 1950 in Mabini,


Pangasinan.4 Thereafter, they migrated to the United States of America and allegedly became
naturalized citizens thereof. After 38 years of marriage, Felicitas and Orlando divorced in April
1988.5

Two months after the divorce, or on June 16, 1988, Orlando married respondent Merope in
Calasiao, Pangasinan.6 Contending that said marriage was bigamous since Merope had a prior
subsisting marriage with Eusebio Bristol, petitioner filed a petition for declaration of nullity of
marriage with damages in the RTC of Dagupan City7 against Orlando and Merope.

Respondents filed a motion to dismiss8 on the ground of lack of cause of action as petitioner was
allegedly not a real party-in-interest, but it was denied.9 Trial on the merits ensued.

On October 10, 2000, the RTC rendered judgment in favor of the petitioner, the dispositive
portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, judgment is declared in favor of plaintiff Felicitas Amor Catalan and against
defendants Orlando B. Catalan and Merope E. Braganza, as follows:

1) The subsequent marriage of Merope Braganza with Orlando B. Catalan is declared null and
void ab initio;

2) The defendants are ordered jointly and severally to pay plaintiff by way of moral damages the
amount of P300,000.00, exemplary damages in the amount of P200,000.00 and attorneys fees
in the amount of P50,000.00, including costs of this suit; and

3) The donation in consideration of marriage is ordered revoked and the property donated is
ordered awarded to the heirs of Juliana Braganza.

Furnish copies of this Decision to Atty. Napoleon B. Arenas, Jr. and Atty. Nolan Evangelista.

10

SO ORDERED.10

Respondents appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals, which reversed the decision of the
RTC, thus:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we hereby GRANT the appeal and consequently REVERSE and
SET ASIDE the appealed decision. We likewise DISMISS Civil Case No. D-10636, RTC, Branch 44,
Dagupan City. No costs.

SO ORDERED.11

After the motion for reconsideration was denied, petitioner filed the instant petition for review
raising the following issues:

I.

WHETHER PETITIONER HAS THE REQUIRED STANDING IN COURT TO QUESTION THE


NULLITY OF THE MARRIAGE BETWEEN RESPONDENTS;

II.

WHETHER THE FAILURE OF THE COURT OF APPEALS TO DECLARE THE QUESTIONED


MARRIAGE VOID CONSTITUTES REVERSIBLE ERROR.12

Petitioner contends that the bigamous marriage of the respondents, which brought
embarrassment to her and her children, confers upon her an interest to seek judicial remedy to
address her grievances and to protect her family from further embarrassment and humiliation.
She claims that the Court of Appeals committed reversible error in not declaring the marriage
void despite overwhelming evidence and the state policy discouraging illegal and immoral
marriages.13
The main issue to be resolved is whether petitioner has the personality to file a petition for the
declaration of nullity of marriage of the respondents on the ground of bigamy. However, this
issue may not be resolved without first determining the corollary factual issues of whether the
petitioner and respondent Orlando had indeed become naturalized American citizens and
whether they had actually been judicially granted a divorce decree.

While it is a settled rule that the Court is not a trier of facts and does not normally undertake the
re-examination of the evidence presented by the contending parties during the trial of the
case,14 there are, however, exceptions to this rule, like when the findings of facts of the RTC and
the Court of Appeals are conflicting, or when the findings are conclusions without citation of
specific evidence on which they are based.15

Both the RTC and the Court of Appeals found that petitioner and respondent Orlando were
naturalized American citizens and that they obtained a divorce decree in April 1988. However,
after a careful review of the records, we note that other than the allegations in the complaint and
the testimony during the trial, the records are bereft of competent evidence to prove their
naturalization and divorce.

The Court of Appeals therefore had no basis when it held:

In light of the allegations of Felicitas complaint and the documentary and testimonial evidence
she presented, we deem it undisputed that Orlando and Felicitas are American citizens and had
this citizenship status when they secured their divorce decree in April 1988. We are not therefore
11

dealing in this case with Filipino citizens whose marital status is governed by the Family Code
and our Civil Code, but with American citizens who secured their divorce in the U.S. and who are
considered by their national law to be free to contract another marriage. x x x16

Further, the Court of Appeals mistakenly considered the failure of the petitioner to refute or
contest the allegation in respondents brief, that she and respondent Orlando were American
citizens at the time they secured their divorce in April 1988, as sufficient to establish the fact of
naturalization and divorce.17 We note that it was the petitioner who alleged in her complaint that
they acquired American citizenship and that respondent Orlando obtained a judicial divorce
decree.18 It is settled rule that one who alleges a fact has the burden of proving it and mere
allegation is not evidence.19

Divorce means the legal dissolution of a lawful union for a cause arising after marriage. But
divorces are of different types. The two basic ones are (1) absolute divorce or a vinculo
matrimonii and (2) limited divorce or a mensa et thoro. The first kind terminates the marriage,
while the second suspends it and leaves the bond in full force.20 A divorce obtained abroad by
an alien may be recognized in our jurisdiction, provided such decree is valid according to the
national law of the foreigner.21 However, before it can be recognized by our courts, the party
pleading it must prove the divorce as a fact and demonstrate its conformity to the foreign law
allowing it, which must be proved considering that our courts cannot take judicial notice of
foreign laws.22

Without the divorce decree and foreign law as part of the evidence, we cannot rule on the issue
of whether petitioner has the personality to file the petition for declaration of nullity of marriage.
After all, she may have the personality to file the petition if the divorce decree obtained was a
limited divorce or a mensa et thoro; or the foreign law may restrict remarriage even after the
divorce decree becomes absolute.23 In such case, the RTC would be correct to declare the
marriage of the respondents void for being bigamous, there being already in evidence two
existing marriage certificates, which were both obtained in the Philippines, one in Mabini,
Pangasinan dated December 21, 1959 between Eusebio Bristol and respondent Merope,24 and
the other, in Calasiao, Pangasinan dated June 16, 1988 between the respondents.25

However, if there was indeed a divorce decree obtained and which, following the national law of
Orlando, does not restrict remarriage, the Court of Appeals would be correct in ruling that
petitioner has no legal personality to file a petition to declare the nullity of marriage, thus:

Freed from their existing marital bond, each of the former spouses no longer has any interest nor
should each have the personality to inquire into the marriage that the other might subsequently
contract. x x x Viewed from another perspective, Felicitas has no existing interest in Orlandos
subsequent marriage since the validity, as well as any defect or infirmity, of this subsequent
marriage will not affect the divorced status of Orlando and Felicitas. x x x26

True, under the New Civil Code which is the law in force at the time the respondents were
married, or even in the Family Code, there is no specific provision as to who can file a petition to
declare the nullity of marriage; however, only a party who can demonstrate "proper interest" can
file the same. A petition to declare the nullity of marriage, like any other actions, must be
prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party in interest27 and must be based on a
cause of action.28 Thus, in Nial v. Bayadog,29 the Court held that the children have the
personality to file the petition to declare the nullity of the marriage of their deceased father to
their stepmother as it affects their successional rights.1awphi1.net

Significantly, Section 2(a) of The Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and
Annulment of Voidable Marriages, which took effect on March 15, 2003, now specifically provides:
12

SECTION 2. Petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages.

(a) Who may file. A petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be filed
solely by the husband or the wife.
In fine, petitioners personality to file the petition to declare the nullity of marriage cannot be
ascertained because of the absence of the divorce decree and the foreign law allowing it. Hence,
a remand of the case to the trial court for reception of additional evidence is necessary to
determine whether respondent Orlando was granted a divorce decree and whether the foreign
law which granted the same allows or restricts remarriage. If it is proved that a valid divorce
decree was obtained and the same did not allow respondent Orlandos remarriage, then the trial
court should declare respondents marriage as bigamous and void ab initio but reduce the
amount of moral damages from P300,000.00 to P50,000.00 and exemplary damages from
P200,000.00 to P25,000.00. On the contrary, if it is proved that a valid divorce decree was
obtained which allowed Orlando to remarry, then the trial court must dismiss the instant petition
to declare nullity of marriage on the ground that petitioner Felicitas Amor-Catalan lacks legal
personality to file the same.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, let this case be REMANDED to the trial court for its proper
disposition. No costs.
SO ORDERED.
CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice

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