By: Atty. Eduardo T. Reyes III
Evolution of jurisprudence from Republic v. Orbecido III, G.R. No. 154380, October 5, 2005 to the most recent case of Edna S. Kondo, represented by Attorney-in-fact, Luzviminda S. Pineda Vs. Civil Registrar General, G.R. No. 223628. March 4, 2020
The original intent of this provision of law (Article 26, New Family Code) which was introduced as an innovation by the New Family Code when it took effect in 1988, was to address the injustice in an “originally mixed-marriage” where the foreigner spouse, being allowed to extricate himself/ herself out of the marriage through a divorce which is sanctioned by his/ her own country, leaves the Filipino spouse ‘helpless’ as we do not recognize divorce in Philippine jurisdiction. Therefore, in order to provide a remedy to what would otherwise be a legal and factual absurdity whereby the Filipino spouse remains ‘married’ to a foreigner spouse who was already emancipated through divorce by his own National law, in such peculiar situation only, the Filipino spouse will also be allowed to get out of such kind of marriage, and the dissolution is through a DIVORCE which will be recognized in our country, but only, again, for emphasis, is being allowed as an exception.
Thus, as originally intended, Article 26 presupposes that the marriage must be an “originally mixed-marriage between a Foreigner spouse and a Filipino spouse” and it is the foreigner spouse who seeks divorce abroad. It is also evident that the original intendment was only for divorce to be the ground for the dissolution of the marriage and it should be the Foreigner spouse who should be proactive in terms of securing it abroad while the Filipino spouse can only wait in passivity.
As jurisprudence has evolved, it will be noted that Article 26 was made to apply as well to: a. a marriage between two (2) Filipinos one of whom later on embraces foreign citizenship which allows him/ her to divorce his/ her Filipino spouse; b. A Filipina who sought for dissolution of her marriage on account of BIGAMY in Japan; c. A Filipina who filed for Divorce abroad; and now the latest, d. A divorce secured by MUTUAL AGREEMENT of the Filipino spouse and the foreigner spouse.
– RECKONING POINT. “For purposes of Article 26 therefore, the DETERMINATIVE POINT when the foreigner is such, is at THE TIME OF THE DIVORCE and not at the time of marriage”. P. 181, Prof. Sta Maria, Id. , citing Republic v. Orbecido III, G.R. No. 154380, October 5, 2005
– Dual Citizen. “In the event that the former Filipino spouse who has been naturalized as a foreign citizen decides to return to the Philippines and reacquire Philippine citizenship, the divorce decree will still be recognized here because at the time of the issuance of the decree of divorce and at the time of the issuance of the decree of divorce, he or she was not a citizen of the Philippines”, Sta. Maria, ibid.
May the foreigner spouse avail of the benefits of the 2nd paragraph of Article 26?
1) X, an American; and Y, a Filipino, got married. If X obtains a divorce decree abroad which capacities him to remarry, may X file a petition to dissolve his marriage in the Philippine courts?
2) A and B, both Filipinos, are spouses. They emigrated from the Philippines to the US, embraced US citizenship and there obtained a Divorce decree. A, the husband, returns to the Philippines and meets and falls in love with a Filipino. When he wanted to marry the Filipina, he presented the divorce decree to the local civil registrar who refused to accept it and required him to present a court order from a Philippine court which dissolves his marriage with B before a marriage license will be issued. Is the Local Civil Registrar correct?
Answer: Corpus v Sto. Tomas, G.R. No. 186571, August 11, 2010
Scenario 1. Foreigner spouse files for petition for judicial recognition of divorce
The resolution of the issue requires a review of the legislative history and intent behind the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code.
The Family Code recognizes only two types of defective marriages void and voidable marriages. In both cases, the basis for the judicial declaration of absolute nullity or annulment of the marriage exists before or at the time of the marriage. Divorce, on the other hand, contemplates the dissolution of the lawful union for cause arising after the marriage. Our family laws do not recognize absolute divorce between Filipino citizens.
Recognizing the reality that divorce is a possibility in marriages between a Filipino and an alien, President Corazon C. Aquino, in the exercise of her legislative powers under the Freedom Constitution, enacted Executive Order No. (EO) 227, amending Article 26 of the Family Code to its present wording, as follows:
Art. 26. 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 likewise have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.
Through the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, EO 227 effectively incorporated into the law this Courts holding in Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. and Pilapil v. Ibay-Somera. In both cases, the Court refused to acknowledge the alien spouses assertion of marital rights after a foreign courts divorce decree between the alien and the Filipino. The Court, thus, recognized that the foreign divorce had already severed the marital bond between the spouses. The Court reasoned in Van Dorn v. Romillo that:
To maintain x x x that, under our laws, [the Filipino spouse] has to be considered still married to [the alien spouse] and still subject to a wife’s obligations x x x cannot be just. [The Filipino spouse] should not be obliged to live together with, observe respect and fidelity, and render support to [the alien spouse]. The latter should not continue to be one of her heirs with possible rights to conjugal property. She should not be discriminated against in her own country if the ends of justice are to be served.
Additionally, an action based on the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code is not limited to the recognition of the foreign divorce decree. If the court finds that the decree capacitated the alien spouse to remarry, the courts can declare that the Filipino spouse is likewise capacitated to contract another marriage. No court in this jurisdiction, however, can make a similar declaration for the alien spouse (other than that already established by the decree), whose status and legal capacity are generally governed by his national law.
Given the rationale and intent behind the enactment, and the purpose of the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, the RTC was correct in limiting the applicability of the provision for the benefit of the Filipino spouse. In other words, only the Filipino spouse can invoke the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code; the alien spouse can claim no right under this provision.
But what about the civil status of the foreigner spouse who may have been once a Filipino who got married in the Phls but had later emigrated to the US and became a citizen thereof, and obtained a divorce decree? If he cannot rectify his status of still being “married” in the Phls, there would be implications on Family rights and duties.
We qualify our above conclusion i.e., that the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code bestows no rights in favor of aliens with the complementary statement that this conclusion is not sufficient basis to dismiss Gerberts petition before the RTC. In other words, the unavailability of the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code to aliens does not necessarily strip Gerbert of legal interest to petition the RTC for the recognition of his foreign divorce decree. The foreign divorce decree itself, after its authenticity and conformity with the aliens national law have been duly proven according to our rules of evidence, serves as a presumptive evidence of right in favor of Gerbert, pursuant to Section 48, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court which provides for the effect of foreign judgments. This Section states:
SEC. 48. Effect of foreign judgments or final orders.The effect of a judgment or final order of a tribunal of a foreign country, having jurisdiction to render the judgment or final order is as follows:
(a) In case of a judgment or final order upon a specific thing, the judgment or final order is conclusive upon the title of the thing; and
(b) In case of a judgment or final order against a person, the judgment or final order is presumptive evidence of a right as between the parties and their successors in interest by a subsequent title.
In either case, the judgment or final order may be repelled by evidence of a want of jurisdiction, want of notice to the party, collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact.
Considerations beyond the recognition of the foreign divorce decree
As a matter of housekeeping concern, we note that the Pasig City Civil Registry Office has already recorded the divorce decree on Gerbert and Daisylyns marriage certificate based on the mere presentation of the decree. We consider the recording to be legally improper; hence, the need to draw attention of the bench and the bar to what had been done.
Article 407 of the Civil Code states that [a]cts, events and judicial decrees concerning the civil status of persons shall be recorded in the civil register. The law requires the entry in the civil registry of judicial decrees that produce legal consequences touching upon a persons legal capacity and status, i.e., those affecting all his personal qualities and relations, more or less permanent in nature, not ordinarily terminable at his own will, such as his being legitimate or illegitimate, or his being married or not.
A judgment of divorce is a judicial decree, although a foreign one, affecting a person’s legal capacity and status that must be recorded. In fact, Act No. 3753 or the Law on Registry of Civil Status specifically requires the registration of divorce decrees in the civil registry:
But while the law requires the entry of the divorce decree in the civil registry, the law and the submission of the decree by themselves do not ipso facto authorize the decrees registration. The law should be read in relation with the requirement of a judicial recognition of the foreign judgment before it can be given res judicata effect. In the context of the present case, no judicial order as yet exists recognizing the foreign divorce decree. Thus, the Pasig City Civil Registry Office acted totally out of turn and without authority of law when it annotated the Canadian divorce decree on Gerbert and Daisylyns marriage certificate, on the strength alone of the foreign decree presented by Gerbert.
Another point we wish to draw attention to is that the recognition that the RTC may extend to the Canadian divorce decree does not, by itself, authorize the cancellation of the entry in the civil registry. A petition for recognition of a foreign judgment is not the proper proceeding, contemplated under the Rules of Court, for the cancellation of entries in the civil registry.
Article 412 of the Civil Code declares that no entry in a civil register shall be changed or corrected, without judicial order. The Rules of Court supplements Article 412 of the Civil Code by specifically providing for a special remedial proceeding by which entries in the civil registry may be judicially cancelled or corrected. Rule 108 of the Rules of Court sets in detail the jurisdictional and procedural requirements that must be complied with before a judgment, authorizing the cancellation or correction, may be annotated in the civil registry. It also requires, among others, that the verified petition must be filed with the RTC of the province where the corresponding civil registry is located; that the civil registrar and all persons who have or claim any interest must be made parties to the proceedings; and that the time and place for hearing must be published in a newspaper of general circulation. As these basic jurisdictional requirements have not been met in the present case, we cannot consider the petition Gerbert filed with the RTC as one filed under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court.
We hasten to point out, however, that this ruling should not be construed as requiring two separate proceedings for the registration of a foreign divorce decree in the civil registry one for recognition of the foreign decree and another specifically for cancellation of the entry under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court. The recognition of the foreign divorce decree may be made in a Rule 108 proceeding itself, as the object of special proceedings (such as that in Rule 108 of the Rules of Court) is precisely to establish the status or right of a party or a particular fact. Moreover, Rule 108 of the Rules of Court can serve as the appropriate adversarial proceeding by which the applicability of the foreign judgment can be measured and tested in terms of jurisdictional infirmities, want of notice to the party, collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact.
In question No. 1, if it is Y, the Filipino spouse, who will file the petition, what legal provision should she invoke? In which court should she file her petition?
Scenario 2. Filipino spouse files the petition
~Bayot v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 155635/ 163979, November 7, 2008
The divorce decree in question also brings into play the second paragraph of Art. 26 of the Family Code, providing as follows:
Art. 26. x x x x
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 likewise have capacity to remarry under Philippine law. (As amended by E.O. 227)
In Republic v. Orbecido III, we spelled out the twin elements for the applicability of the second paragraph of Art. 26, thus:
x x x [W]e state the twin elements for the application of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 as follows:
1. There is a valid marriage that has been celebrated between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner; and
2. A valid divorce is obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry.
The reckoning point 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.
Breaking down the requisites under Art. 26 par.2
W]e state the twin elements for the application of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 as follows:
1. There is a valid marriage that has been celebrated between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner; and
2. A valid divorce is obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry.
- a. There is a valid mixed-marriage (not reckoned at the time of marriage but at the time of divorce)
- b. A divorce is validly obtained abroad (by the foreigner spouse,- although this was qualified by recent jurisprudence to include the Filipino spouse)
- c. As a result of the divorce, the foreigner spouse becomes capacitated by his/ her national law to remarry
- d. The Filipino spouse shall be deemed capacitated to remarry in the Phls
- Far- reaching legal consequences of REQUISITES
- As a result of the divorce, the foreigner spouse becomes capacitated by his/ her national law to remarry
- Note: This requisite applies only when the nature of the petition is such that it invokes the 2nd par of Art 26 of the Family Code or one filed by the Filipino spouse.
- If the petition is one filed by the alien spouse which under current jurisprudence must be filed pursuant to Rule 108 in rel. to Rule 48 of the Rules of Court, the divorce decree must be recognised by Phl courts even without proof of capacity to remarry by the alien spouse
- As far as the capacity to remarry of the alien spouse, it is none of the business of Phl courts because he is governed by his own national law pursuant to Art 15 of the Civil Code. The Phl courts are only being asked to recognise the divorce decree
- The requirement of proof of capacity to remarry by the foreigner spouse is only required if it is the Filipino spouse who seeks for the divorce decree to be recognised by Phl courts
- In other words, the proof of capacity to remarry by the foreigner spouse on account of the divorce shall be the TRIGGERING MECHANISM that will likewise capacitate the Filipino spouse to remarry
In question No. 2, where will the foreigner spouse file his petition? And what procedure will be applied by the court once such petition is filed?
- Ans: 1)If it is the foreigner spouse who files the petition for judicial recognition, Rule 108 in real. to Rule 48 of the Rules of Court govern thus the petition must be filed in the RTC of the place where the marriage was celebrated (as it is the place where the office of the civil registrar which registered the marriage, is situated)
- The RTC need not be a Family court as the Family Code is not involved
- 2) If it is the Filipino spouse who files the petition, he/ she must invoke Art 26 par. 2 of the Family Code and must file it in the Family Court
- (NOTE: A.M. No. 15-02-10-SC , October 18, 2016
- A. Recognition of Foreign Judgment, Order or Decree of Divorce
Pursuant to Rule 39, Section 48 of the Rules of Court’ on “Effect of foreign judgments or final orders”, the Regional Trial Courts shall hear and decide all petitions for Recognition of Foreign Judgment, Order or Decree of Divorce, regardless of any prayer by the petitioner for a court declaration of his/her capacity to remarry under Article 26, paragraph 2 of the Family Code.
The above-mentioned petitions shall be raffled to the regular Regional Trial Courts and not to the designated or regular Family Courts.
The Regional Trial Courts shall be guided by the procedure provided in (a) Rule 108 of the Rules of Court on the “Cancellation or Correction of Entries in the Civil Registry” and (b) as to proof Rule 39, Section 48 (b) on **Effect of foreign judgments or final orders” and Rule 132, Sections 24 and 25 on “Proof of official record” and “What attestation of copy must state, * in accordance with Fujiki v. Marinay (G.R. No. 196049, June 26, 2013) and Corpus v. Sto. Tomas (G.R. No. G.R. No. 185571, Aug. 11, 2010).
Roehr v. Rodriguez ( G.R. No. 142820, June 20, 2003)
Interestingly, it bears asking, what would be the legal ramifications of a decision of a foreign court on two (2) aspects, namely: a. Issuing a Decree of Divorce between a German national and his Filipina spouse; and, b. awarding custody of their minor children to the German husband? Can such decision of the Family Court in Germany be binding, let alone, enforceable in Philippine jurisdiction? What comes to the fore is Section 48 of Rule 39 of the 1997 Rules on Civil Procedure. Kindly try to find out why the SC upheld the foreign judgment in so far as the judicial recognition of the divorce decree is concerned but did not accord the same in so far as the judgment of the German court awarding custody to the minor children.
Petitioner Wolfgang O. Roehr, a German citizen and resident of Germany, married private respondent Carmen Rodriguez, a Filipina, on December 11, 1980 in Hamburg, Germany. Their marriage was subsequently ratified on February 14, 1981 in Tayasan, Negros Oriental. Out of their union were born Carolynne and Alexandra Kristine on November 18, 1981 and October 25, 1987, respectively.
On August 28, 1996, private respondent filed a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati City. On February 6, 1997, petitioner filed a motion to dismiss, but it was denied by the trial court in its order dated May 28, 1997.
On June 5, 1997, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, but was also denied in an order dated August 13, 1997. On September 5, 1997, petitioner filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals. On November 27, 1998, the appellate court denied the petition and remanded the case to the RTC.
Meanwhile, petitioner obtained a decree of divorce from the Court of First Instance of Hamburg-Blankenese, promulgated on December 16, 1997.
The decree provides in part:
[T]he Court of First Instance, Hamburg-Blankenese, Branch 513, has ruled through Judge van Buiren of the Court of First Instance on the basis of the oral proceedings held on 4 Nov. 1997:
The marriage of the Parties contracted on 11 December 1980 before the Civil Registrar of Hamburg-Altona is hereby dissolved.
The parental custody for the children
Carolynne Roehr, born 18 November 1981
Alexandra Kristine Roehr, born on 25 October 1987
is granted to the father.
The litigation expenses shall be assumed by the Parties.
Anent the second issue, petitioner claims that respondent judge committed grave abuse of discretion when she partially set aside her order dated July 14, 1999, despite the fact that petitioner has already obtained a divorce decree from the Court of First Instance of Hamburg, Germany.
In Garcia v. Recio, Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr., and Llorente v. Court of Appeals, we consistently held that a divorce obtained abroad by an alien may be recognized in our jurisdiction, provided such decree is valid according to the national law of the foreigner. Relevant to the present case is Pilapil v. Ibay-Somera, where this Court specifically recognized the validity of a divorce obtained by a German citizen in his country, the Federal Republic of Germany. We held in Pilapil that a foreign divorce and its legal effects may be recognized in the Philippines insofar as respondent is concerned in view of the nationality principle in our civil law on the status of persons.
In this case, the divorce decree issued by the German court dated December 16, 1997 has not been challenged by either of the parties. In fact, save for the issue of parental custody, even the trial court recognized said decree to be valid and binding, thereby endowing private respondent the capacity to remarry. Thus, the present controversy mainly relates to the award of the custody of their two children, Carolynne and Alexandra Kristine, to petitioner.
As a general rule, divorce decrees obtained by foreigners in other countries are recognizable in our jurisdiction, but the legal effects thereof, e.g. on custody, care and support of the children, must still be determined by our courts. Before our courts can give the effect of res judicata to a foreign judgment, such as the award of custody to petitioner by the German court, it must be shown that the parties opposed to the judgment had been given ample opportunity to do so on grounds allowed under Rule 39, Section 50 of the Rules of Court (now Rule 39, Section 48, 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure), to wit:
SEC. 50. Effect of foreign judgments. – The effect of a judgment of a tribunal of a foreign country, having jurisdiction to pronounce the judgment is as follows:
(a) In case of a judgment upon a specific thing, the judgment is conclusive upon the title to the thing;
(b) In case of a judgment against a person, the judgment is presumptive evidence of a right as between the parties and their successors in interest by a subsequent title; but the judgment may be repelled by evidence of a want of jurisdiction, want of notice to the party, collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact.
It is essential that there should be an opportunity to challenge the foreign judgment, in order for the court in this jurisdiction to properly determine its efficacy. In this jurisdiction, our Rules of Court clearly provide that with respect to actions in personam, as distinguished from actions in rem, a foreign judgment merely constitutes prima facie evidence of the justness of the claim of a party and, as such, is subject to proof to the contrary.
In the present case, it cannot be said that private respondent was given the opportunity to challenge the judgment of the German court so that there is basis for declaring that judgment as res judicata with regard to the rights of petitioner to have parental custody of their two children. The proceedings in the German court were summary. As to what was the extent of private respondent’s participation in the proceedings in the German court, the records remain unclear. The divorce decree itself states that neither has she commented on the proceedings nor has she given her opinion to the Social Services Office. Unlike petitioner who was represented by two lawyers, private respondent had no counsel to assist her in said proceedings. More importantly, the divorce judgment was issued to petitioner by virtue of the German Civil Code provision to the effect that when a couple lived separately for three years, the marriage is deemed irrefutably dissolved. The decree did not touch on the issue as to who the offending spouse was. Absent any finding that private respondent is unfit to obtain custody of the children, the trial court was correct in setting the issue for hearing to determine the issue of parental custody, care, support and education mindful of the best interests of the children. This is in consonance with the provision in the Child and Youth Welfare Code that the child’s welfare is always the paramount consideration in all questions concerning his care and custody.
On the matter of property relations, petitioner asserts that public respondent exceeded the bounds of her jurisdiction when she claimed cognizance of the issue concerning property relations between petitioner and private respondent. Private respondent herself has admitted in Par. 14 of her petition for declaration of nullity of marriage dated August 26, 1996 filed with the RTC of Makati, subject of this case, that: “[p]etitioner and respondent have not acquired any conjugal or community property nor have they incurred any debts during their marriage.” Herein petitioner did not contest this averment. Basic is the rule that a court shall grant relief warranted by the allegations and the proof. Given the factual admission by the parties in their pleadings that there is no property to be accounted for, respondent judge has no basis to assert jurisdiction in this case to resolve a matter no longer deemed in controversy.
Scenario 4. Read: Fujiki v Marinay- BIGAMY as ground NOT DIVORCE; Filipina spouse initiates declaration of nullity
G.R. No. 196049 June 26, 2013~ Here, the Filipina Spouse with the assistance of her first Japanese husband collaborated and obtained a decree of dissolution of her marriage with her second Japanese husband on the ground of Bigamy in the Japanese Family Court.
– The Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages (A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC) does not apply in a petition to recognize a foreign judgment relating to the status of a marriage where one of the parties is a citizen of a foreign country. Moreover, in Juliano-Llave v. Republic, this Court held that the rule in A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC that only the husband or wife can file a declaration of nullity or annulment of marriage “does not apply if the reason behind the petition is bigamy.”
– For Philippine courts to recognize a foreign judgment relating to the status of a marriage where one of the parties is a citizen of a foreign country, the petitioner only needs to prove the foreign judgment as a fact under the Rules of Court. To be more specific, a copy of the foreign judgment may be admitted in evidence and proven as a fact under Rule 132, Sections 24 and 25, in relation to Rule 39, Section 48(b) of the Rules of Court. Petitioner may prove the Japanese Family Court judgment through (1) an official publication or (2) a certification or copy attested by the officer who has custody of the judgment. If the office which has custody is in a foreign country such as Japan, the certification may be made by the proper diplomatic or consular officer of the Philippine foreign service in Japan and authenticated by the seal of office.
– To hold that A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC applies to a petition for recognition of foreign judgment would mean that the trial court and the parties should follow its provisions, including the form and contents of the petition, the service of summons, the investigation of the public prosecutor, the setting of pre-trial, the trial and the judgment of the trial court. This is absurd because it will litigate the case anew. It will defeat the purpose of recognizing foreign judgments, which is “to limit repetitive litigation on claims and issues.” The interpretation of the RTC is tantamount to relitigating the case on the merits. In Mijares v. Rañada, this Court explained that “[i]f every judgment of a foreign court were reviewable on the merits, the plaintiff would be forced back on his/her original cause of action, rendering immaterial the previously concluded litigation.”
– Thus, Philippine courts can only recognize the foreign judgment as a fact according to the rules of evidence.
– Section 48(b), Rule 39 of the Rules of Court provides that a foreign judgment or final order against a person creates a “presumptive evidence of a right as between the parties and their successors in interest by a subsequent title.” Moreover, Section 48 of the Rules of Court states that “the judgment or final order may be repelled by evidence of a want of jurisdiction, want of notice to the party, collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact.” Thus, Philippine courts exercise limited review on foreign judgments. Courts are not allowed to delve into the merits of a foreign judgment. Once a foreign judgment is admitted and proven in a Philippine court, it can only be repelled on grounds external to its merits, i.e. , “want of jurisdiction, want of notice to the party, collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact.” The rule on limited review embodies the policy of efficiency and the protection of party expectations, as well as respecting the jurisdiction of other states.
– Since 1922 in Adong v. Cheong Seng Gee, Philippine courts have recognized foreign divorce decrees between a Filipino and a foreign citizen if they are successfully proven under the rules of evidence. Divorce involves the dissolution of a marriage, but the recognition of a foreign divorce decree does not involve the extended procedure under A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC or the rules of ordinary trial. While the Philippines does not have a divorce law, Philippine courts may, however, recognize a foreign divorce decree under the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, to capacitate a Filipino citizen to remarry when his or her foreign spouse obtained a divorce decree abroad.
– Since the recognition of a foreign judgment only requires proof of fact of the judgment, it may be made in a special proceeding for cancellation or correction of entries in the civil registry under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court. Rule 1, Section 3 of the Rules of Court provides that “[a] special proceeding is a remedy by which a party seeks to establish a status, a right, or a particular fact.” Rule 108 creates a remedy to rectify facts of a person’s life which are recorded by the State pursuant to the Civil Register Law or Act No. 3753. These are facts of public consequence such as birth, death or marriage, which the State has an interest in recording. As noted by the Solicitor General, in Corpuz v. Sto. Tomas this Court declared that “[t]he recognition of the foreign divorce decree may be made in a Rule 108 proceeding itself, as the object of special proceedings (such as that in Rule 108 of the Rules of Court) is precisely to establish the status or right of a party or a particular fact.”
– Rule 108, Section 1 of the Rules of Court states:
– Sec. 1. Who may file petition. — Any person interested in any act, event, order or decree concerning the civil status of persons which has been recorded in the civil register, may file a verified petition for the cancellation or correction of any entry relating thereto, with the Regional Trial Court of the province where the corresponding civil registry is located. (Emphasis supplied)
– Fujiki has the personality to file a petition to recognize the Japanese Family Court judgment nullifying the marriage between Marinay and Maekara on the ground of bigamy because the judgment concerns his civil status as married to Marinay. For the same reason he has the personality to file a petition under Rule 108 to cancel the entry of marriage between Marinay and Maekara in the civil registry on the basis of the decree of the Japanese Family Court.
– There is no doubt that the prior spouse has a personal and material interest in maintaining the integrity of the marriage he contracted and the property relations arising from it. There is also no doubt that he is interested in the cancellation of an entry of a bigamous marriage in the civil registry, which compromises the public record of his marriage. The interest derives from the substantive right of the spouse not only to preserve (or dissolve, in limited instances) his most intimate human relation, but also to protect his property interests that arise by operation of law the moment he contracts marriage. These property interests in marriage include the right to be supported “in keeping with the financial capacity of the family”and preserving the property regime of the marriage.
– Property rights are already substantive rights protected by the Constitution, but a spouse’s right in a marriage extends further to relational rights recognized under Title III (“Rights and Obligations between Husband and Wife”) of the Family Code. A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC cannot “diminish, increase, or modify” the substantive right of the spouse to maintain the integrity of his marriage. In any case, Section 2(a) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC preserves this substantive right by limiting the personality to sue to the husband or the wife of the union recognized by law.
– Section 2(a) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC does not preclude a spouse of a subsisting marriage to question the validity of a subsequent marriage on the ground of bigamy. On the contrary, when Section 2(a) states that “[a] petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be filed solely by the husband or the wife“—it refers to the husband or the wife of the subsisting marriage. Under Article 35(4) of the Family Code, bigamous marriages are void from the beginning. Thus, the parties in a bigamous marriage are neither the husband nor the wife under the law. The husband or the wife of the prior subsisting marriage is the one who has the personality to file a petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage under Section 2(a) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC.
– Article 35(4) of the Family Code, which declares bigamous marriages void from the beginning, is the civil aspect of Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, which penalizes bigamy. Bigamy is a public crime. Thus, anyone can initiate prosecution for bigamy because any citizen has an interest in the prosecution and prevention of crimes. If anyone can file a criminal action which leads to the declaration of nullity of a bigamous marriage, there is more reason to confer personality to sue on the husband or the wife of a subsisting marriage. The prior spouse does not only share in the public interest of prosecuting and preventing crimes, he is also personally interested in the purely civil aspect of protecting his marriage.
– When the right of the spouse to protect his marriage is violated, the spouse is clearly an injured party and is therefore interested in the judgment of the suit. Juliano-Llave ruled that the prior spouse “is clearly the aggrieved party as the bigamous marriage not only threatens the financial and the property ownership aspect of the prior marriage but most of all, it causes an emotional burden to the prior spouse.” Being a real party in interest, the prior spouse is entitled to sue in order to declare a bigamous marriage void. For this purpose, he can petition a court to recognize a foreign judgment nullifying the bigamous marriage and judicially declare as a fact that such judgment is effective in the Philippines. Once established, there should be no more impediment to cancel the entry of the bigamous marriage in the civil registry.
Scenario 4. Filipino spouse initiates the divorce abroad
And the significant recent development is that the Filipino spouse herself may file for divorce abroad as taught by the Supreme Court in Republic v. Manalo (24 April 2018). When reading this case, try to recall the discussion in Lecture No. 1 on “sociological jurisprudence”, and on our courts being courts both of “law and equity”.
Summary of Rules on Art. 26 par. 2 FC
Divorce, the legal dissolution of a lawful union for a cause arising after marriage, are of two types: (1) absolute divorce or a vinculo matrimonii, which terminates the marriage, and (2) limited divorce or a mensa et thoro, which suspends it and leaves the bond in full force. In this jurisdiction, the following rules exist:
1. Philippine law does not provide for absolute divorce; hence, our courts cannot grant it.
2. Consistent with Articles 15 and 17 of the New Civil Code, the marital bond between two Filipinos cannot be dissolved even by an absolute divorce obtained abroad.
3. An absolute divorce obtained abroad by a couple, who are both aliens, may be recognized in the Philippines, provided it is consistent with their respective national laws.
4. In mixed marriages involving a Filipino and a foreigner, the former is allowed to contract a subsequent marriage in case the absolute divorce is validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry.
Now, the Court is tasked to resolve whether, under the same provision, a Filipino citizen has the capacity to remarry under Philippine law after initiating a divorce proceeding abroad and obtaining a favorable judgment against his or her alien spouse who is capacitated to remarry. Specifically, Manalo pleads for the recognition and enforcement of the divorce decree rendered by the Japanese court and for the cancellation of the entry of marriage in the local civil registry “in order that it would not appear anymore that [she] is still married to the said Japanese national who is no longer her husband or is no longer married to her; [and], in the event that [she] decides to be remarried, she shall not be bothered and disturbed by said entry of marriage,” and to return and to use her maiden surname.
We rule in the affirmative.
“The purpose and effect of a decree of divorce from the bond of matrimony by a court of competent jurisdiction are to change the existing status or domestic relation of husband and wife, and to free them both from the bond. The marriage tie, when thus severed as to one party, ceases to bind either. A husband without a wife, or a wife without a husband, is unknown to the law. When the law provides, in the nature of a penalty, that the guilty party shall not marry again, that party, as well as the other, is still absolutely freed from the bond of the former marriage.”
Thus, pursuant to his national law, private respondent is no longer the husband of petitioner. He would have no standing to sue in the case below as petitioner’s husband entitled to exercise control over conjugal assets. As he is bound by the Decision of his own country’s Court, which validly exercised jurisdiction over him, and whose decision he does not repudiate, he is estopped by his own representation before said Court from asserting his right over the alleged conjugal property.
To maintain, as private respondent does, that, under our laws, petitioner has to be considered still married to private respondent and still subject to a wife’s obligations under Article 109, et. seq. of the Civil Code cannot be just. Petitioner should not be obliged to live together with, observe respect and fidelity, and render support to private respondent. The latter should not continue to be one of her heirs with possible rights to conjugal property. She should not be discriminated against in her own country if the ends of justice are to be served.
In addition, the fact that a validly obtained foreign divorce initiated by the Filipino spouse can be recognized and given legal effects in the Philippines is implied from Our rulings in Fujiki v. Marinay, et al. and Medina v. Koike.
In Fujiki, the Filipino wife, with the help of her first husband, who is a Japanese national, was able to obtain a judgment from Japan’s family court, which declared the marriage between her and her second husband, who is a Japanese national, void on the ground of bigamy. In resolving the issue of whether a husband or wife of a prior marriage can file a petition to recognize a foreign judgment nullifying the subsequent marriage between his or her spouse and a foreign citizen on the ground of bigamy, We ruled:
Fujiki has the personality to file a petition to recognize the Japanese Family Court judgment nullifying the marriage between Marinay and Maekara on the ground of bigamy because the judgment concerns his civil status as married to Marinay. For the same reason he has the personality to file a petition under Rule 108 to cancel the entry of marriage between Marinay and Maekara in the civil registry on the basis of the decree of the Japanese Family Court.
There is no doubt that the prior spouse has a personal and material interest in maintaining the integrity of the marriage he contracted and the property relations arising from it. There is also no doubt that he is interested in the cancellation of an entry of a bigamous marriage in the civil registry, which compromises the public record of his marriage. The interest derives from the substantive right of the spouse not only to preserve (or dissolve, in limited instances) his most intimate human relation, but also to protect his property interests that arise by operation of law the moment he contracts marriage. These property interests in marriage include the right to be supported “in keeping with the financial capacity of the family” and preserving the property regime of the marriage.
On the other hand, in Medina, the Filipino wife and her Japanese husband jointly filed for divorce, which was granted. Subsequently, she filed a petition before the RTC for judicial recognition of foreign divorce and declaration of capacity to remarry pursuant to Paragraph 2 of Article 26. The RTC denied the petition on the ground that the foreign divorce decree and the national law of the alien spouse recognizing his capacity to obtain a divorce decree must be proven in accordance with Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132 of the Revised Rules on Evidence. This Court agreed and ruled that, consistent with Corpuz v. Sto. Tomas, et al. and Garcia v. Recio, the divorce decree and the national law of the alien spouse must be proven. Instead of dismissing the case, We referred it to the CA for appropriate action including the reception of evidence to determine and resolve the pertinent factual issues.
There is no compelling reason to deviate from the above-mentioned rulings. When this Court recognized a foreign divorce decree that was initiated and obtained by the Filipino spouse and extended its legal effects on the issues of child custody and property relation, it should not stop short in likewise acknowledging that one of the usual and necessary consequences of absolute divorce is the right to remarry. Indeed, there is no longer a mutual obligation to live together and observe fidelity. When the marriage tie is severed and ceased to exist, the civil status and the domestic relation of the former spouses change as both of them are freed from the marital bond.
The dissent is of the view that, under the nationality principle, Manalo’s personal status is subject to Philippine law, which prohibits absolute divorce. Hence, the divorce decree which she obtained under Japanese law cannot be given effect, as she is, without dispute, a national not of Japan, but of the Philippines. It is said that a contrary ruling will subvert not only the intention of the framers of the law, but also that of the Filipino people, as expressed in the Constitution. The Court is, therefore, bound to respect the prohibition until the legislature deems it fit to lift the same.
We beg to differ.
Paragraph 2 of Article 26 speaks of “a divorce x x x validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry. ” Based on a clear and plain reading of the provision, it only requires that there be a divorce validly obtained abroad. The letter of the law does not demand that the alien spouse should be the one who initiated the proceeding wherein the divorce decree was granted. It does not distinguish whether the Filipino spouse is the petitioner or the respondent in the foreign divorce proceeding. The Court is bound by the words of the statute; neither can We put words in the mouths of the lawmakers. “The legislature is presumed to know the meaning of the words, to have used words advisedly, and to have expressed its intent by the use of such words as are found in the statute. Verba legis non est recedendum, or from the words of a statute there should be no departure.”
Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the word “obtained” should be interpreted to mean that the divorce proceeding must be actually initiated by the alien spouse, still, the Court will not follow the letter of the statute when to do so would depart from the true intent of the legislature or would otherwise yield conclusions inconsistent with the general purpose of the act. Laws have ends to achieve, and statutes should be so construed as not to defeat but to carry out such ends and purposes. As held in League of Cities of the Phils., et al. v. COMELEC, et al.:
The legislative intent is not at all times accurately reflected in the manner in which the resulting law is couched. Thus, applying a verba legis or strictly literal interpretation of a statute may render it meaningless and lead to inconvenience, an absurd situation or injustice. To obviate this aberration, and bearing in mind the principle that the intent or the spirit of the law is the law itself, resort should be to the rule that the spirit of the law controls its letter.
To reiterate, the purpose of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 is to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after a foreign divorce decree that is effective in the country where it was rendered, is no longer married to the Filipino spouse. The provision is a corrective measure to address an anomaly where the Filipino spouse is tied to the marriage while the foreign spouse is free to marry under the laws of his or her country. Whether the Filipino spouse initiated the foreign divorce proceeding or not, a favorable decree dissolving the marriage bond and capacitating his or her alien spouse to remarry will have the same result: the Filipino spouse will effectively be without a husband or wife. A Filipino who initiated a foreign divorce proceeding is in the same place and in “like circumstance as a Filipino who is at the receiving end of an alien initiated proceeding. Therefore, the subject provision should not make a distinction. In both instance, it is extended as a means to recognize the residual effect of the foreign divorce decree on Filipinos whose marital ties to their alien spouses are severed by operation of the latter’s national law.
A prohibitive view of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 would do more harm than good. If We disallow a Filipino citizen who initiated and obtained a foreign divorce from the coverage of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 and still require him or her to first avail of the existing “mechanisms” under the Family Code, any subsequent relationship that he or she would enter in the meantime shall be considered as illicit in the eyes of the Philippine law. Worse, any child born out of such “extra-marital” affair has to suffer the stigma of being branded as illegitimate. Surely, these are just but a few of the adverse consequences, not only to the parent but also to the child, if We are to hold a restrictive interpretation of the subject provision. The irony is that the principle of inviolability of marriage under Section 2, Article XV of the Constitution is meant to be tilted in favor of marriage and against unions not formalized by marriage, but without denying State protection and assistance to live-in arrangements or to families formed according to indigenous customs.
This Court should not turn a blind eye to the realities of the present time. With the advancement of communication and information technology, as well as the improvement of the transportation system that almost instantly connect people from all over the world, mixed marriages have become not too uncommon. Likewise, it is recognized that not all marriages are made in heaven and that imperfect humans more often than not create imperfect union Living in a flawed world, the unfortunate reality for some is that the attainment of the individual’s full human potential and self-fulfillment is not found and achieved in the context of a marriage. Thus, it is hypocritical to safeguard the quantity of existing marriages and, at the same time, brush aside the truth that some of them are of rotten quality.
Going back, We hold that marriage, being a mutual and shared commitment between two parties, cannot possibly be productive of any good to the society where one is considered released from the marital bond while the other remains bound to i In reiterating that the Filipino spouse should not be discriminated against in his or her own country if the ends of justice are to be served, San Luis v. San Luis quoted:
x x x In Alonzo v. Intermediate Appellate Court, the Court stated:
But as has also been aptly observed, we test a law by its results; and likewise, we may add, by its purposes. It is a cardinal rule that, in seeking the meaning of the law, the first concern of the judge should be to discover in its provisions the intent of the lawmaker. Unquestionably, the law should never be interpreted in such a way as to cause injustice as this is never within the legislative intent. An indispensable part of that intent, in fact, for we presume the good motives of the legislature, is to render justice.
Thus, we interpret and apply the law not independently of but in consonance with justice. Law and justice are inseparable, and we must keep them so. To be sure, there are some laws that, while generally valid, may seem arbitrary when applied in a particular case because of its peculiar circumstances. In such a situation, we are not bound, because only of our nature and functions, to apply them just the same, in slavish obedience to their language. What we do instead is find a balance between the word and the will, that justice may be done even as the law is obeyed.
As judges, we are not automatons. We do not and must not unfeelingly apply the law as it is worded, yielding like robots to the literal command without regard to its cause and consequence. “Courts are apt to err by sticking too closely to the words of a law,” so we are warned, by Justice Holmes again, “where these words import a policy that goes beyond them.”
In granting Manalo’s petition, the CA noted:
In this case, Petitioner was able to submit before the court a quo the 1) Decision of the Japanese Court allowing the divorce; 2) the Authentication/Certificate issued by the Philippine Consulate General in Osaka, Japan of the Decree of Divorce; and 3) Acceptance of Certificate of Divorce by Petitioner and the Japanese national. Under Rule 132, Sections 24 and 25, in relation to Rule 39, Section 48 (b) of the Rules of Court, these documents sufficiently prove the subject Divorce Decree as a fact. Thus, We are constrained to recognize the Japanese Court’s judgment decreeing the divorce.
If the opposing party fails to properly object, as in this case, the divorce decree is rendered admissible as a written act of the foreign court. As it appears, the existence of the divorce decree was not denied by the OSG; neither was the jurisdiction of the divorce court impeached nor the validity of its proceedings challenged on the ground of collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of fact or law, albeit an opportunity to do so.
Nonetheless, the Japanese law on divorce must still be proved.
x x x The burden of proof lies with the “party who alleges the existence of a fact or thing necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action.” In civil cases, plaintiffs have the burden of proving the material allegations of the complaint when those are denied by the answer; and defendants have the burden of proving the material allegations in their answer when they introduce new matters. x x x
It is well-settled in our jurisdiction that our courts cannot take judicial notice of foreign laws. Like any other facts, they must be alleged and proved. x x x The power of judicial notice must be exercised with caution, and every reasonable doubt upon the subject should be resolved in the negative.
Since the divorce was raised by Manalo, the burden of proving the pertinent Japanese law validating it, as well as her former husband’s capacity to remarry, fall squarely upon her. Japanese laws on persons and family relations are not among those matters that Filipino judges are supposed to know by reason of their judicial function.
WHEREFORE, the petition for review on certiorari is DENIED. The September 18, 2014 Decision and October 12, 2015 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 100076, are AFFIRMED IN PART. The case is REMANDED to the court of origin for further proceedings and reception of evidence as to the relevant Japanese law on divorce.
Scenario 5. Next is Racho v, Tanaka (G.R. No. 199515), June 25, 2018, where the Supreme Court held that The national law of Japan does not prohibit the Filipino spouse from initiating or participating in the divorce proceedings. would be inherently unjust for a Filipino woman to be prohibited by her own national laws from something that a foreign law may allow. Parenthetically, the prohibition on Filipinos from participating in divorce proceedings will not be protecting our own nationals
. It would be inherently unjust for a Filipino woman to be prohibited by her own national laws from something that a foreign law may allow. Parenthetically, the prohibition on Filipinos from participating in divorce proceedings will not be protecting our own nationals, to wit:
Judicial recognition of a foreign divorce requires that the national law of the foreign spouse and the divorce decree be pleaded and proved as a fact before the Regional Trial Court. The Filipino spouse may be granted the capacity to remarry once our courts find that the foreign divorce was validly obtained by the foreign spouse according to his or her national law, and that the foreign spouse’s national law considers the dissolution of the marital relationship to be absolute.
X x x
Under Rule 132, Section 24 of the Rules of Court, the admissibility of official records that are kept in a foreign country requires that it must be accompanied by a certificate from a secretary of an embassy or legation, consul general, consul, vice consul, consular agent or any officer of the foreign service of the Philippines stationed in that foreign country:
Section 24. Proof of official record. – The record of public documents referred to in paragraph (a) of Section 19, when admissible for any purpose, may be evidenced by an official publication thereof or by a copy attested by the officer having the legal custody of the record, or by his deputy, and accompanied, if the record is not kept in the Philippines, with a certificate that such officer has the custody. If the office in which the record is kept is in a foreign country, the certificate may be made by a secretary of the embassy or legation, consul general, consul, vice consul, or consular agent or by any officer in the foreign service of the Philippines stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept, and authenticated by the seal of his office.
The Certificate of Acceptance of the Report of Divorce was accompanied by an Authentication issued by Consul Bryan Dexter B. Lao of the Embassy of the Philippines in Tokyo, Japan, certifying that Kazutoyo Oyabe, Consular Service Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan was an official in and for Japan. The Authentication further certified that he was authorized to sign the Certificate of Acceptance of the Report of Divorce and that his signature in it was genuine. Applying Rule 132, Section 24, the Certificate of Acceptance of the Report of Divorce is admissible as evidence of the fact of divorce between petitioner and respondent.
The Regional Trial Court established that according to the national law of Japan, a divorce by agreement “becomes effective by notification.” Considering that the Certificate of Acceptance of the Report of Divorce was duly authenticated, the divorce between petitioner and respondent was validly obtained according to respondent’s national law.
In 2009, Congress enacted Republic Act No. 9710 or the Magna Carta for Women, which provides that the State “shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations.” This necessarily includes the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code. Thus, Article 26 should be interpreted to mean that it is irrelevant for courts to determine if it is the foreign spouse that procures the divorce abroad. Once a divorce decree is issued, the divorce becomes “validly obtained” and capacitates the foreign spouse to marry. The same status should be given to the Filipino spouse.
The national law of Japan does not prohibit the Filipino spouse from initiating or participating in the divorce proceedings. It would be inherently unjust for a Filipino woman to be prohibited by her own national laws from something that a foreign law may allow. Parenthetically, the prohibition on Filipinos from participating in divorce proceedings will not be protecting our own nationals.
The Solicitor General’s narrow interpretation of Article 26 disregards any agency on the part of the Filipino spouse. It presumes that the Filipino spouse is incapable of agreeing to the dissolution of the marital bond. It perpetuates the notion that all divorce proceedings are protracted litigations fraught with bitterness and drama. Some marriages can end amicably, without the parties harboring any ill will against each other. The parties could forgo costly court proceedings and opt for, if the national law of the foreign spouse allows it, a more convenient out-of-court divorce process. This ensures amity between the former spouses, a friendly atmosphere for the children and extended families, and less financial burden for the family.
In any case, the Solicitor General’s argument has already been resolved in Republic v. Manalo, where this Court held:
Paragraph 2 of Article 26 speaks of “a divorce . . . validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry.” Based on a clear and plain reading of the provision, it only requires that there be a divorce validly obtained abroad. The letter of the law does not demand that the alien spouse should be the one who initiated the proceeding wherein the divorce decree was granted. It does not distinguish whether the Filipino spouse is the petitioner or the respondent in the foreign divorce proceeding. The Court is bound by the words of the statute; neither can We put words in the mouths of the lawmakers. “The legislature is presumed to know the meaning of the words, to have used words advisedly, and to have expressed its intent by the use of such words as are found in the statute. Verba legis non est recedendum, or from the words of a statute there should be no departure.”
Scenario 6. Foreign Divorce Decree may be proved not only for purposes of remarriage or correction of entries but also as defence in Bigamy or other marital-related cases like support or viol. of provisions of RA 9262
Foreign Decree of Divorce May Be Proven In An Action Specifically Filed for the Purpose or as a Claim or Defense. This is implicit in the Resolution of the Supreme Court which was issued on the heels of a petition for certiorari assailing the decision of the trial court which denied the omnibus motion to quash filed by the foreigner Jacek claiming that his marriage with his Filipina spouse had been already terminated by divorce abroad by way of his defense to a charge for concubinage, viz:
The judicial determination of probable cause is one made by the judge to ascertain whether a warrant of arrest should be issued against the accused. The judge must satisfy himself that based on the evidence submitted, there is necessity for placing the accused under custody in order not to frustrate the ends of justice. If the judge finds no probable cause, he cannot be forced to issue the arrest warrant. Conversely, if he finds probable cause, he cannot be compelled to quash it. Hence, in this case, while it is true that Article 267 of the Family Code does not apply to Jacek, being a foreigner, it must nonetheless be shown first in our jurisdiction that the divorce decree that he obtained is valid according to his national law, i.e., Polish law. In Medina v. Koike, the Court emphasized that since our courts do not take judicial notice of foreign laws and judgment, our law on evidence requires that both the divorce decree and the national law of the alien must be alleged and proven like any other fact. These matters being essentially factual and, necessarily, evidentiary in nature, they are thus better threshed out in a full-blown trial. (emphasis supplied, citations omitted).
~Jacek Chmielewski and Hilda U. Chmielewski Vs. People of the Philippines and Mary Jane Fernandez Chmielewski, G.R. No. 240474. July 1, 2019
Foreign Decree of Divorce May Be Proven In An Action Specifically Filed for the Purpose or as a Claim or DefenseThe starting point in any recognition of a foreign divorce judgment is the acknowledgment that our courts do not take judicial notice of foreign judgments and laws. Justice Herrera explained that, as a rule, “no sovereign is bound to give effect within its dominion to a judgment rendered by a tribunal of another country.” This means that the foreign judgment and its authenticity must be proven as facts under our rules on evidence, together with the alien’s applicable national law to show the effect of the judgment on the alien himself or herself. The recognition may be made in an action instituted specifically for the purpose or in another action where a party invokes the foreign decree as an integral aspect of his [ or her] claim or defense. (Citations omitted) Both the foreign divorce decree and the foreign spouse’s national law, purported to be official acts of a sovereign authority, can be established by complying with the mandate of Rule 132, Sections 24 and 25 of the Rules of Court:
Under Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132, on the other hand, a writing or document may be proven as a public or official record of a foreign country by either (1) an official publication or (2) a copy thereof attested by the officer having legal custody of the document. If the record is not kept in the Philippines, such copy must be (a) accompanied by a certificate issued by the proper diplomatic or consular officer in the Philippine foreign service stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept and (b) authenticated by the seal of his office. (Citations omitted) Here, the Regional Trial Court ruled that the documents petitioner submitted to prove the divorce decree have complied with the demands of Rule 132, Sections 24 and 25. However, it found the copy of the Japan Civil Code and its English translation insufficient to prove Japan’s law on divorce. It noted that these documents were not duly authenticated by the Philippine Consul in Japan, the Japanese Consul in Manila, or the Department of Foreign Affairs. (emphasis supplied, citations omitted).
~Genevieve Rosal Arreza, a.k.a. “Genevieve Arreza Toyo” Vs. Tetsushi Toyo, Local Civil Registrar of Quezon City and The Administrator and Civil Registrar General of the National Statistics Office, G.R. No. 213198. July 1, 2019
It is my humble submission that although the foreign judgment may be recognised in an action by way of defence, if the recognition is made not thru a Rule 108 petition in the RTC, but in the Family Court in a defence for viol. of RA 9262, for instance, then the recognition will only be effective in such criminal case but not as to effect the cancellation of entry in the Civil Registrar, unless the proceeding in the criminal case complies with all the requirements of Sec 48, Rule 39, in rel. to Rule 108 of the Rules of Court
Is the Divorce Decree Indispensable To Prove a Foreign Divorce? Will A Divorce Report Suffice?
Records show that the Divorce Report is what the Government of Japan issued to petitioner and her husband when they applied for divorce. There was no “divorce judgment” to speak of because the divorce proceeding was not coursed through Japanese Courts but through the office of the Mayor of Fukuyama City in Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan. In any event, since the Divorce Report was issued by the Office of the Mayor of Fukuyama City, the same is deemed an act of an official body in Japan. By whatever have it is called, the Divorce Report is clearly the equivalent of the “Divorce Decree” in Japan, hence, the best evidence of the fact of divorce obtained by petitioner and her former husband. X x x
Racho v. Tanaka further enunciated that the prohibition on Filipinos from participating in divorce proceedings will not be protecting our own nationals. Verily therefore, even though it was petitioner herself or jointly with her husband who applied for and obtained the divorce decree in the case, the same may be recognized in our jurisdiction. So must it be.
X x x
More, petitioners submitted below a duly-authenticated copy of the Divorce Certificate issued by the Japanese Government. The fact alone that the document was submitted to the trial court without anyone identifying it on the stand or making a formal offer thereof in evidence does not all for dismissal of the petition.
For one, the state did not question the existence of the Divorce Report, Divorce Certificate and more importantly the fact of divorce between petitioner and her husband as Republic v. Manalo pronounced, if the opposing party fails to properly object, as in this case, the existence of the divorce report and divorce certificate decree us rendered admissible as a written act of a foreign body.
For another, petitioner explained that despite repeated prompt requests from the Japanese Embassy, the latter released the Divorce Certificate quite belatedly after petitioner had already terminated her testimony and returned to Japan to care for her children.
Still another, the Divorce Report, Certificate of All Matters and Divorce Certificate were all authenticated by the Japanese Embassy. These are proofs of official records which are admissible in evidence under Sections 19 and 24, Rule 132 of the Rules on Evidence. X x xIn re: Petition for judicial recognition of divorce between Minuro Takahashi and Juliet Rendora Moraña Vs. Republic of the Philippines,G.R. No. 227605. December 5, 2019
Would Printouts of Japanese Law on Divorce with English Translation Suffice To Prove Japan’s Law of Divorce?
Here what petitioner offered in evidence were mere printouts of pertinent portions of the Japanese law on divorce and its English Translation. There was no proof at all that these printouts reflected existing law on divorce in Japan and its correct English translation.
Indeed, our rules require more than a printout from a website to prove a foreign law. In Racho, the Japanese law on divorce was duly proved through a copy of the English Version of the Civil Code of Japan translated under the authorization of the Ministry of Justice and the Code of Translation Committee. At any rate, considering that the fact of divorce was duly proved in the case, the higher interest of substantial justice compels that petitioner be afforded the chance to properly prove the Japanese law on divorce, with the end in view that petitioner may eventually freed from a marriage in which she is the only remaining party. In Manalo, the Court, too did not dismiss the case, but simply remanded it to the local court for reception of evidence pertaining to the evidence of the Japanese law on Divorce.” In re: Petition for judicial recognition of divorce between Minuro Takahashi and Juliet Rendora Moraña Vs. Republic of the Philippines, G.R. No. 227605. December 5, 2019
SCENARIO 8. Divorce by “mutual agreement”
Edna S. Kondo, represented by Attorney-in-fact, Luzviminda S. Pineda Vs. Civil Registrar General, G.R. No. 223628. March 4, 2020
And just recently, or on March 04, 2020, the Supreme Court had again to tackle a case involving judicial recognition of foreign divorce, this time, the new fact that faced the SC was a divorce by “mutual agreement” of the parties. Petitioner Edna S. Kondo presented the following, among others: (1) Authenticated Report of Divorce in Japanese Language; (2) English translation of the Report of Divorce; (3) Authenticated Original copy of the Family Register of Katsuhiro; Authenticated copy of marriage certificate of petitioner and Katsuhiro”. The petition was denied by the RTC and the case dismissed on the ground that the divorce should be obtained by the foreigner spouse and not “by mutual agreement of the parties” and for failure on the part of petitioner to prove that the Japanese husband was capacitated to remarry after the divorce.
The CA affirmed the dismissal. The SC, in turn, citing People v Manalo, ruled to remand the case to the trial court. Here is the ruling:
Jurisprudence has set guidelines before Philippine courts recognize a foreign judgment relating to the status of a marriage where one of the parties is a citizen of a foreign country. Presentation solely of the divorce decree will not suffice. The fact of divorce must still first be proven. Before a foreign divorce decree can be recognized by our courts, the party pleading it must prove the divorce as a fact and demonstrate its conformity to the foreign law allowing it.
x x x Before a foreign judgment is given presumptive evidentiary value, the document must first be presented and admitted in evidence. A divorce obtained abroad is proven by the divorce decree itself. Indeed the best evidence of a judgment is the judgment itself. The decree purports to be a written act or record of an act of an official body or tribunal of a foreign country.
Under Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132, on the other hand, a writing or document may be proven as a public or official record of a foreign country by either (1) an official publication or (2) a copy thereof attested by the officer having legal custody of the document. If the record is not kept in the Philippines, such copy must be (a) accompanied by a certificate issued by the proper diplomatic or consular officer in the Philippine foreign service stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept and (b) authenticated by the seal of his office.
Eschewing technicalities, the SC had been consistent without any paradigm shift in adopting a liberal stance of allowing the Filipino spouse more opportunity to prove the requisites under Art. 26 par. 2, by remanding the case
Be that as it may, what is at stake is not merely Edna’s status, but also her actual marital and family life. In fact, Edna addressed a handwritten letter, dated April 22, 2017, to this Court stating she had been anxiously worried for years about the possible repercussions that Philippine laws may have on her because she, too, had remarried in Japan in November 2014. Considering the recent jurisprudence on mixed marriages under Article 26 of the Family Code, the trial court should have been more circumspect in strictly adhering to procedural rules. For these rules are meant to facilitate administration of fairness and may be relaxed when a rigid application hinders substantial justice. The landmark case of Republic v. Manalo is instructive. Respondent therein offered the following in evidence: 1) Decision of the Japanese Court allowing the divorce; 2) the Authentication/Certificate issued by the Philippine Consulate General in Osaka, Japan of the Decree of Divorce; and 3) Acceptance of Certificate of Divorce by Petitioner and the Japanese national. The Court found though that the Japanese law on divorce was not duly established. It noted, nonetheless, that the existence of the divorce decree was not denied, jurisdiction of the divorce court was not impeached, nor the validity of the foreign proceedings challenged. Thus, the Court exercised liberality and remanded the case for further proceedings, specifically for reception of evidence to prove the relevant Japanese law.
In Racho v. Tanaka, therein petitioner was divorced by her Japanese husband. She obtained an authenticated Divorce Certificate from the Japanese embassy which the trial court deemed insufficient to prove the divorce decree. The Court, nonetheless, ruled that the Filipino spouse may be granted the capacity to remarry once it is proven that the foreign divorce was validly obtained and that the foreign spouse’s national law considers the dissolution of the marital relationship to be absolute. For it would be unjust to insist, as the OSG did, that petitioner should still be considered married to her foreign husband. The Court noted that justice would not have been served if petitioner was discriminated against by her own country’s law. In the recent case of Moraña v. Republic of the Philippines, therein petitioner offered mere printouts of pertinent portions of the Japanese law on divorce and its English translation from a website, sans any proof of its correctness. The lower courts denied her action for recognition of divorce report because she did not present an authenticated Divorce Certificate issued by the Japanese government. The Court acknowledged that petitioner duly proved the fact of divorce but failed to prove the Japanese law on divorce. Relying on Racho and Manalo, the Court nonetheless relaxed procedural requirements and granted the petition. It likewise remanded the case to the trial court for presentation of the pertinent Japanese law on divorce for a new decision on the merits. In Garcia v. Recio, the Court could not determine if respondent, a naturalized Australian citizen, was legally recapacitated to remarry despite the evidence already offered which included: Family Law Act 1975 Decree Nisi of Dissolution of Marriage in the Family Court of Australia; Decree Nisi of Dissolution of Marriage in the Family Court of Australia; and Decree Nisi of Dissolution of Marriage in the Family Court of Australia Certificate, among others. Hence, the Court remanded the case to the trial court to receive evidence to show respondent’s legal capacity to remarry. Indeed, the Court has time and again granted liberality in cases involving the recognition of foreign decrees to Filipinos in mixed marriages and free them from a marriage in which they are the sole remaining party. In the aforementioned cases, the Court has emphasized that procedural rules are designed to secure and not override substantial justice, especially here where what is involved is a matter affecting lives of families.
The Court sees no reason why the same treatment should not be applied here. Consider: First. Edna presented an Authenticated Report of Divorce in Japanese Language; an English translation of the Report of Divorce; and an Authenticated Original copy of the Family Register of Katsuhiro. Too, she actively participated throughout the proceedings through her sister and attorney-in-fact, Luzviminda, despite financial and logistical constraints. She also showed willingness to provide the final document the trial court needed to prove Katsuhiro’ s capacity to remarry. Second. As the OSG noted, the present case concerns Edna’s status. Hence, res judicata shall not apply and Edna could simply refile the case if dismissed. This process though would be a waste of time and resources, not just for both parties, but the trial court as well. In RCBC v. Magwin Marketing Corp., the Court surmised that there was no substantial policy upheld had it simply dismissed the case and required petitioner to pay the docket fees again, file the same pleadings as it did in the proceedings with the trial court, and repeat the belabored process. This reenactment would have been a waste of judicial time, capital, and energy. Third. In its Comment, the OSG did not object to Edna’s prayer to have the case remanded, viz: Hence, the OSG interposes no objection if this Honorable Court remands this case to the trial court and allows petitioner to present evidence to prove her case bearing in mind that only this High Court can relax its own rules for compassionate justice. Finally. The present case stands on meritorious grounds, as petitioner had actually presented certified documents establishing the fact of divorce and relaxation of the rules will not prejudice the State. Verily, a relaxation of procedural rules is in order.
ACCORDINGLY, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated March 16, 2016 in CA-G.R. CV No. 103150 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The case is REMANDED to the Regional Trial Court – Branch 4, Manila for presentation in evidence of the pertinent Japanese law on divorce and the document proving Katsuhiro was recapacitated to marry. (Edna S. Kondo, represented by Attorney-in-fact, Luzviminda S. Pineda v. Civil Registrar General, G.R. No. 223628. March 4, 2020)