Dissolution of marriage by a religious sect does not bind the state
"I married Juan in 1999 and we separated after two years. I never heard from him since then, until I met Jake. I filed a petition for the dissolution of my marriage with Juan before the religious sect, in which we both belong, and the same was granted in 2004. In 2006, I married Jake in a simple ceremony held by the same religious sect. Jake died in 2018 and I tried to claim his death benefits with one of the social insurance offices of the government, but the same was denied. According to the agency concerned, my marriage with Jake was bigamous hence, I am disqualified as his beneficiary. I presented to them the certification from my religious sect that my marriage with Juan was already dissolved in 2004, so I was single when I married Jake in 2006, but the said document is allegedly immaterial because what they need is a court order. Is my marriage with Jake bigamous?
Your marriage with Jake is bigamous, considering that you contracted a second marriage without filing a petition in court for the declaration of nullity of your marriage with Juan. This is in consonance with Article 40 of the Family Code of the Philippines, which states that “the absolute nullity of a previous marriage may be invoked for purposes of remarriage on the basis solely of final judgment declaring such previous marriage void.” A second marriage contracted prior to the issuance of this declaration of nullity is thus considered bigamous and void (Castillo vs Castillo, GR. 189607, April 18, 2016, ponente: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno).Regarding your social insurance benefits, you are not qualified as Jake’s beneficiary because your marriage with him is void. This is in accordance with Article 35 (4) of the Family Code of the Philippines, which states that those bigamous or polygamous marriages not falling under Article 41 of the said law are void marriages.
It is important to emphasize that your marriage with Juan was dissolved in accordance with the process adopted by the religious sect, where you and Juan belong. That is not, however, the annulment that is required by law. You still need to file a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage, which should have been filed before the appropriate civil court. Please be guided by the decision in the case of Tilar vs Tilar (GR 214529, July 12, 2017), where the Supreme Court, through Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, stated that:“x x x. Notably, the proceedings for church annulment which is in accordance with the norms of Canon Law is not binding upon the State as the couple is still considered married to each other in the eyes of the civil law. xxx”
Applying the above-cited decision in your situation, the dissolution of your marriage with Juan through the religious sect is not binding upon the state. Thus, you remained to be married with Juan, and your marriage with Jake in 2006 is void ab initio for the simple reason that it is bigamous. You are not qualified as Jake’s legal beneficiary, so the denial of your claim with the social insurance is correct. Finally, “xxx a marriage that is void ab initio is considered as having never to have taken place and cannot be the source of rights” (Niñal vs Bayadog, GR 133778, March 14, 2000, ponente: Associate Justice Consuelo Ynares Santiago).This opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or further elaborated. We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to "
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"Dissolution of marriage by a religious sect does not bind the state"
was written by Mary
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and updated on 15 September 2021