Friday, November 19, 2021

Republic of the Philippines vs. Cipriano Orbecido III



G.R. No. 154380 

October 5, 2005


Cipriano Orbecido III and Lady Myros M. Villanueva were married on May 24, 1981.

In 1986, Cipriano’s wife left for the United States. Cipriano later discovered that his wife had been naturalized as an American citizen. In 2000, Cipriano learned that his wife had obtained a divorce decree and then married a certain Innocent Stanley. Cipriano thereafter filed with the trial court a petition for authority to remarry invoking Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code which the court granted. The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), sought reconsideration but it was denied. Hence the instant petition.


Whether the respondent can remarry under Article 26 of the Family Code. 



ART. 26. States that "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."

The SC said that 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.

The SC delved into the legislative intent of Art. 26 which  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.

The case of Quita vs. CA was cited wherein 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.

The reckoning point, the court said 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.

The SC unanimously held 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,  there was no sufficient evidence submitted and recorded, and the SC was then unable to declare, based on respondent’s bare allegations that his wife, who was naturalized as an American citizen, had obtained a divorce decree and had remarried an American.

The respondent can only be declared as capacitated to remarry upon  submission of the aforecited evidence in his favor.

Respondent 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 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 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.

The petition was granted. 

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