Anaban v. Anaban-Alfiler

G.R. No. 249011; March 15, 2021.


The Court may pass upon the validity of a marriage even in a suit not directly instituted to question the validity of said marriage, so long as it is essential to the determination of the case.


In 1942, Pedrito Anaban (Pedrito) and Virginia Erasmo (Virginia) got married in accordance with the native customs of the lbaloi Tribe to which they both belonged. They had three (3) children, i.e., respondents Betty Anaban-Alfiler, Mercedes Anaban, and Marcelo Anaban. In 1947, however, the council of tribe elders took notice of Virginia’s insanity and based thereon approved the couple’s divorce and allowed Pedrito to remarry. In 1952, Pedrito got married to fellow lbaloi Pepang still in accordance with their tribe’s customs. They begot eight (8) children.

Upon Pedrito’s death respondents sued for summary settlement or judicial partition of the intestate estate of their father Pedrito. They averred that the petitioners are illegitimate children of Pedrito.

Petitioners, on the other hand, argued that they are the legitimate children of their father Pedrito with their mother Pepang. Since the celebration of marriage pursuant to a tribe’s customs was recognized under the Old Civil Code of the Philippines, then its dissolution in accordance with that tribe’s customs must also be recognized. Thus, both the marriage and the subsequent divorce between Pedrito and Virginia are valid.


Whether Pedrito Anaban’ s divorce from Virginia Erasmo claimed to have been decreed in accordance with the Ibaloi customs be recognized under our laws.


NO. The action is for partition of Pedrito’s estate. In determining who should succeed to the estate, the court may pass upon the validity of the subsequent marriage between Pedrito and Pepang. In De Castro,  However, other than for purposes of remarriage, no judicial action is necessary to declare a marriage an absolute nullity. For other purposes, such as but not limited to the determination of heirship, legitimacy or illegitimacy of a child, settlement of estate, dissolution of property regime, or a criminal case for that matter, the court may pass upon the validity of marriage even in a suit not directly instituted to question the same so long as it is essential to the determination of the case.

When Pedrito and Virginia got married and even when they later on supposedly divorced, the old Civil Code was not yet in effect. It took effect on June 18, 1949, or two (2) years after the divorce decree was purportedly handed down by the Ibaloi Council of elders. The law in effect prior thereto was still the Spanish Civil Code of 1889, Article 5 of which stated: 

Article 5. Laws are abrogated only by other subsequent laws, and the disuse or any custom or practice to the contrary shall not prevail against their observance. 

For purposes of determining whether divorce was contrary to law, public order or public policy at the time Pedrito and Virginia allegedly obtained their own divorce, we trace back the history of divorce or dissolution of marriage starting from the Spanish regime. Divorce, then, can be granted only on two (2) grounds, i.e. , adultery and concubinage. This was the prevailing law when Pedrito and Virginia got married in 1942.

Since there was no legal and valid ground for the divorce of Pedrito and Virginia, in the eyes of the law, they were still married and their marriage was not dissolved as to permit Pedrito to remarry. Pedrito’s subsequent marriage to petitioners’ mother Pepang, therefore, is void for being bigamous. Verily, the RTC and the Court of Appeals did not err when they ruled so and declared petitioners as Pedrito’s illegitimate children.

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