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9/23/2018 SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED VOLUME 514

318 SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Recognition of Partial Divorce under the Family Code
(A Reexamination of Republic vs. Obrecido III Ruling)

ANNOTATION

RECOGNITION OF PARTIAL DIVORCE


UNDER THE FAMILY CODE
(A Reexamination of Republic vs. Obrecido, III Ruling)
By *
JORGE R. COQUIA

_________________

§ I. Introductory, p. 318
§ II. Recognition of Partial Divorce in the
Family Code, p. 320
§ III. The Legislative Intent of the Second
Paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code
Already Found in Previous Supreme Court
Decisions, p. 320
§ IV. The Application of the Van Dorn vs.
Romillo Ruling, p. 321
§ V. The Pilapil vs. Ibay-Somera Case, p. 322
§ VI. The Issue in the Quito Case, p. 322
§ VII. Ruling in the Obrecido Case must be
Reexamined, p. 323
               

_________________

§ I. Introductory

Since the effectivity of the New Civil Code, absolute divorce


by Philippine nationals even obtained outside the
Philippines is null and void. Unhappily married couples
attempt to evade the policy set in the New Civil Code and
Philippine Jurispru-

_______________

* Member, Board of Editorial Consultants, Supreme Court Reports


Annotated (SCRA).

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dence by going abroad and secure divorce decrees. Such


divorces are considered null and void as long as they
remain Philippine nationals.
Several problems arose especially with Philippine
nationals married to foreign spouses. It is very often that
such marriages do not last as usually the foreign spouses
secure a divorce in foreign countries. The situation occurs
when the foreign spouse marries another individual while
the Filipino spouse remains married to the divorced foreign
spouse.
The problem was resolved by the Civil Code Revision
Committee by the second paragraph of Article 26 of the
Family Code, which reads:

“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.”

In two consolidated petitions for review, the Supreme


Court sustained a retroactive application of paragraph 2 of
the Family Code (Edgar San Luis vs. Felicidad San Luis,
G.R. No. 133743; Rodolfo San Luis vs. Felicidad
Sagalongos alias Felicidad San Luis, G.R. 134029,
February 6, 2007). The case concerned the administration
of the Estate of Felicisimo San Luis, former Governor of
Laguna, who entered into three marriages.
Felicisimo San Luis was first married to Virgini Sulit by
whom he had six children. After the death of Virginia,
Felicisimo married Merry Lee Corwin, an American citizen.
Merry divorced Felicisimo in the United States on
December 14, 1973. On June 30, 1974, Felicisimo married
Felicidad Sagalongos in Los Angeles, California.
The family dispute arose when Felicidad, the third wife,
filed a petition for letters of administration for the estate of
Felicisimo.
Rodolfo San Luis, one of the children by the first
marriage questioned the personality of Felicidad, alleging
her marriage

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Recognition of Partial Divorce under the Family Code
(A Reexamination of Republic vs. Obrecido III Ruling)

to Felicisimo is null and void as he remained married to


Merry Lee Corwin. The divorce obtained by Merry is null
and void as to Felicisimo.
Several procedural issues were raised. This annotation
is limited on the effect of divorce obtained in a foreign
country of the Filipino spouses.

§ II. Recognition of Partial Divorce in the Family


Code

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In spite of the basic public policy of not allowing absolute


divorce by Philippine nationals, the second paragraph of
Article 26 of the Family Code provides an exception if a
Filipino citizen is married to a foreigner of a country which
allows absolute divorce.
The main legal issue in the case under annotation is
whether the marriage of Felicisimo San Luis to Merry Lee
and the subsequent divorce is covered under Art. 26 of the
Family Code. Felicisimo San Luis married Merry Lee
Corwin, an American national on May 1, 1968 and the
divorced was secured on October 15, 1971. The Family
Code took effect only on August 3, 1988.

§ III. The Legislative Intent of the Second Paragraph


of Article 26 of the Family Code Already Found in
Previous Supreme Court Decisions

The Philippine Supreme Court has been confronted with


problems of mixed marriages. The Court traced the origin
of the legislative intent of the second paragraph of Article
26 of the Family Code (See this Annotator’s comments
entitled “Some Legal Problems on Divorces Obtained by
Filipino Nationals Abroad,” 300 SCRA 417 [1998]).
The Court cited the cases of Van Dorn vs. Romillo, Jr.,
139 SCRA 139 [1985]; Pilapil vs. Hon. Somera-Ibay, 174
SCRA 653 [1974]; Quita vs. Court of Appeals, 300 SCRA
406 [1998] and Republic vs. Obrecido III, 472 SCRA 414
[2005]. Although

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no divorce was involved, I may add the case of Cheesman


vs. IAC, 193 SCRA 93 [1991] as to the property relations of
mixed marriages.

§ IV. The Application of the Van Dorn vs. Romillo


Ruling

The Supreme Court in the Quita case opined that if Quita


proved that she was no longer a Filipino citizen at the time
of the divorce from Arturo Padlan, the Van Dorn vs.
Romillo, Jr., 139 SCRA 139 [1985] ruling might be
applicable. With due respect, we disagree with said obiter
dictum. The Van Dorn case is quite different. In Van Dorn
vs. Romillo, Jr., 139 SCRA 139 [1985], Alice Reyes, a
Filipino citizen was married in Hongkong to Richard
Upton, a U.S. citizen, but established their residence in the
Philippines and begot two children. The couple acquired
properties in the Philippines. The couple went to Nevada to
obtain a divorce. Alice Reyes later married Theodore Van
Dorn.
Private respondent Richard Upton filed a suit against
Alice Reyes Van Dorn for an accounting of their conjugal
property and for a declaration that he should manage said
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property. Petitioner Van Dorn moved to dismiss the suit on


the ground that the cause of action was barred by the
judgment in the divorce proceedings in Nevada, upon
acknowledgment that he and the petitioner had no
community property.
Private respondent contended that the divorce decree
issued by the Nevada Court is contrary to public policy and
had no legal validity in the Philippines. The Nevada Court
proceedings divested the jurisdiction of the Philippine
Court.
The Supreme Court ruled that the Nevada District
Court which issued the divorce decree had obtained
jurisdiction over the private respondent when he gave his
address as No. 381 Bus Street, San Francisco, California
and authorized his attorney to agree to the divorce on the
ground of incompatibility in the understanding that there
were neither community

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property nor community obligations. The decree was,


therefore, binding on the private respondent as an
American citizen.
Unlike in the Quita case, both Fe D. Quita and Arturo
Padlan were Filipino citizens and were domiciled in the
Philippines. In the Van Dorn case, the husband was an
American citizen whose laws recognize divorce, hence, any
divorce decree was valid on him. Said private respondent
was no longer the husband of Alice Reyes. Upton had no
more legal standing to sue and claim on his conjugal
shares.

§ V. The Pilapil vs. Ibay-Somera Case

The issue of the legal standing of divorced persons to sue


was also raised in the case of Imelda Pilapil vs. Hon.
Corona Ibay-Somera, 174 SCRA 653 [1989].
Petitioner Imelda Pilapil, a Filipino citizen, was married
to Erich Geiling, a German national, in Germany. The
couple resided in the Philippines. The German husband
secured a divorce in a German court. After more than five
months from the divorce decree, Erich, the former husband,
filed two complaints for adultery before the City Fiscal of
Manila. The Supreme Court ruled that since Erich was no
longer the husband of Pilapil, he no longer had the legal
standing to sue for adultery. Under Article 344 of the
Revised Penal Code, the crime of adultery, as well as other
crimes against chastity can be prosecuted only upon the
complaint of the offended spouse.

§ VI. The Issue in the Quito Case

The issue is whether petitioner Fe de Quito had the right to


inherit from Arturo Padlan as the surviving spouse. It
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appeared that private respondent Blandina Dandan and


Padlan were married on 22 July 1947, while there was a
prior marriage of Arturo and the petitioner. This was a
bigamous marriage. Consequently, Blandina was a
surviving spouse and cannot inherit from Arturo Padlan.

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In Cheesman vs. IAC, 193 SCRA 93 [1991], the Court ruled


that the American husband had no right to a conjugal
share in a real estate property sold by the Filipino wife,
citing Section 14, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution.

§ VII. Ruling in the Obrecido Case Must be


Reexamined

In Republic vs. Obrecido III, 472 SCRA 174 [2005], at the


time of the marriage, both husband and wife were Filipino
citizens. Later, the wife became a naturalized citizen of the
United States, and obtained a divorce decree and remarried
a certain Stanley.
The issue is whether the second paragraph of Article 26
of the Family Code applies.
The Supreme Court said the provision applies stating
that the reckoning period is not at the time when the
marriage was celebrated but at the time the divorce was
obtained. We beg to disagree.
With due respect, we have our reservations on the
court’s interpretation. This interpretation will open the
floodgates of Filipino citizens of evading the public policy
set in the Civil Code and affirmed in Philippine
jurisprudence. An unhappily married Filipino spouse can
go to a foreign country where divorce is allowed by being
naturalized in said country and divorces his spouse. The
spirit and intent of the second paragraph of Article 26 of
the Family Code is that one of the spouses was rightfully
an alien at the time of the marriage.
Usually, it is the husband who finds work overseas and
leaves the wife in the Philippines. The husband falls in love
with another woman. To marry her, he obtains a divorce
decree in a foreign court. Some States in the United States
simply notify the wife in the Philippines serving by
summons through mail to acquire jurisdiction and issues a
decree of divorce leaving the poor wife abandoned. This is
what hap-
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Recognition of Partial Divorce under the Family Code
(A Reexamination of Republic vs. Obrecido III Ruling)

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pened in the Obrecido case, although it was the Filipino


wife who obtained the divorce.
There should be a reexamination of the ruling in the
Obrecido case.
In Tenchavez vs. Escaño, 15 SCRA 356 [1960], the
ponente, Justice J.B.L. Reyes precisely set the principle
that if one of the Filipino spouses goes abroad and
naturalized in the foreign state for the purpose of divorcing
his spouse, such decree of divorce cannot be recognized in
the Philippines citing Article 17 of the New Civil Code,
Justice Reyes said:

“Even more, the grant of effectivity in this jurisdiction to such


foreign divorce decrees would, in effect, give rise to an irritating
and scandalous discrimination in favor of wealthy citizens, to the
detriment of those members of our polity whose means do not
permit them to sojourn abroad and obtain absolute divorces
outside the Philippines. (Coquia, Conflict of Laws, p. 278)”

Summarizing, the Court ruled:

(1) That a foreign divorce between Filipino citizens,


sought and decreed after the effectivity of the
present Civil Code (Rep. Act 396), is not entitled to
recognition as valid in this jurisdiction; and neither
is the marriage contracted with another party by
the divorced consort, subsequently to the foreign
decree of divorce, entitled to validity in the country;
(2) That the remarriage of divorced wife and her
cohabitation with a person other than the lawful
husband entitle the latter to a decree of legal
separation conformably to Philippine law;
(3) That the desertion and securing of an invalid
divorce decree by one consort entitled the other to
recover damages;
(4) That an action for alienation of affections against
the parents of one consort does not lie in the
absence of proof of malice or unworthy motives on
their part. (Coquia, Conflict of Laws, pp. 279280)

Accordingly, the intent of adding the second paragraph of


Article 26 of the Family Code as provided in Executive
Order No. 227, 17 July 1987, the Filipino national is
married to a

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foreigner. It does not cover a marriage of both Filipino


nationals and one of the spouses changes his or her
nationality by being naturalized in a foreign country.

——o0o——

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