Second spouse not always liable in bigamy cases
"m I married my husband, Nick, on December 25, 2007. After almost ten years of being together, I found out that he had been married since June 3, 1989. My husband’s first wife went to our house and threatened to file a criminal case against me and my husband. I told her that I was not aware that Nick had been married since 1989. She told me that I and my husband will be charged and convicted for bigamy. I am so shocked and scared. How can an innocent person like me be charged with bigamy? I am also a victim here. Please enlighten me.
Dear Elle,To address your concern, we shall refer to Art. 349 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) of the Philippines which punishes bigamy.
Art. 349 of the RPC provides, thus:“Art 349.Bigamy. — The penalty of prision mayor shall be imposed upon any person who shall contract a second or subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been legally dissolved, or before the absent spouse has been declared presumptively dead by means of a judgment rendered in the proceedings.”
The Supreme Court, in the case of Santiago vs. People (G.R. No. 200233, July 15, 2015, Ponente: Honorable former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno) elucidated:“The crime of bigamy does not entail the joint liability of two persons who marry each other while the previous marriage of one of them is valid and subsisting. As explained in Nepomuceno, in the crime of bigamy, both the first and second spouses may be the offended parties depending on the circumstances, as when the second spouse married the accused without being aware of his previous marriage. Only if the second spouse had knowledge of the previous undissolved marriage of the accused could she be included in the information as a co-accused.” (Emphasis supplied)It is thus clear that for the second spouse to be indicted as a co-accused in the crime, he/she should have had knowledge of the previous subsisting marriage of his/her spouse. The knowledge of the second spouse of his/her spouse’s existing prior marriage constitutes an indispensable element in the commission of bigamy.The crime of bigamy is punishable under the RPC hence, good faith and lack of criminal intent are allowed as defense. Applying the abovementioned decision in your case, you must adduce evidence to support your claim that you were not aware of your husband’s previous marriage at the time that you married him. Thus, you may not be held criminally liable for the crime of bigamy.
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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"Second spouse not always liable in bigamy cases"
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and updated on 15 September 2021