Lex Rex Ph

Norberto Vitangcol vs. People

G.R. No. 207406, Jan. 13, 2016

Lesson: “Marriage License cannot be found” issued by Civil Registrar is not sufficient to invalidate the first marriage and exculpate Vitangcol from the crime of Bigamy.

Facts

On December 4, 1994, Norberto married Alice G. Eduardo (Alice) at the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros.  She eventually discovered that Norberto was previously married to a certain Gina M. Gaerlan (Gina) on July 17, 1987, as evidenced by a marriage contract registered with the National Statistics Office. Alice subsequently filed a criminal Complaint for bigamy against Norberto.

Petitioner’s first marriage was solemnized on July 17, 1987. This was before the Family Code of the Philippines became effective on August 3,1988. He presents as evidence a Certification which states that the Office of Civil Registrar has no record of the marriage license allegedly issued in his favor and his first wife, Gina. He argues that the first marriage was void because there is no proof of existence of its marriage license. Hence, he is not guilty of bigamy.

Issues and Ruling

Is Norberto guilty of bigamy because his first marriage has a certificate that “the marriage license cannot be found”?

No. “Cannot be found” does not mean “does not exist.” The document with greater credence is the signed Marriage Contract bearing the marriage license number. The latter have greater weight. Hence, the certification of “cannot be found” will not exculpate him from bigamy.

What else are present in this case that established the crime of bigamy?

  • Norberto failed to file a Judicial Declaration of Nullity of the first marriage. In contrast, such document is not needed in People vs. Mendoza. The basis of this is Article 40 of the Family Code (only applicable starting Aug. 8, 1988);
  • The wife (Gina) clearly identified that the marriage license 8683519 is not spurious;
  • In Nicdao vs. Cariño, the marriage contract had no license number but it was still valid;
  • Marriage contract was signed with the license number.

How is this case different from Republic vs. Castro?

  • In Castro, the validity of the Marriage was directly attacked by the wife. In Vitangcol, there is a criminal case against Vitangcol, and he indirectly attacked the validity of his first marriage to evade his conviction of bigamy. 
  • In Castro, the certificate by the Civil Registrar that the marriage license 3196182 does not exist was admissible evidence. In Vitangcol, the certificate by the C.R. that it “cannot be found” is not enough to invalidate the first marriage.
  • In Castro, there is reasonable ground that the husband obtained a spurious marriage license; In Vitangcol, the wife herself clearly testified that the marriage license was not spurious.

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