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G.R. No. 133743 February 6, 2007

During his lifetime, Felicisimo San Luis contracted three marriages. His first marriage was with
Virginia Sulit on March 17, 1942 out of which were born six children. 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
Complaint for Divorce before the Family Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii, which issued a Decree
Granting Absolute Divorce and Awarding Child Custody on December 14, 1973. On June 20, 1974,
Felicisimo married Felicidad San Luis, then surnamed Sagalongos. He had no children with Felicidad but
lived with her for 18 years from the time of their marriage up to his death on December 18, 1992. Upon
death of his dad, Rodolfo sought the dissolution of their Felicisimo’s conjugal partnership assets and the
settlement of Felicisimo’s estate. On December 17, 1993, Felicidad filed a petition for letters of
administration before the Regional Trial Court of Makati City. Rodolfo claimed that Felicidad 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. Felicidad 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 capacity to marry
her by virtue of paragraph 2 Article 26 of the Family Code. Rodolfo asserted that paragraph 2, Article 26
of the Family Code cannot be given retroactive effect to validate Felicidad’s bigamous marriage with
Felicisimo because this would impair vested rights in derogation of Article 256.
Whether or not Felicidad may file for letters of administration over Felicisimo’s estate.
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 Felicidad 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 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 Felicidad’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. The 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.