Pastor B. Tenchavez, vs. Vicenta F. Escaño

No. L-19671. November 29, 1965.

REYES, J.B.L., J.:


On Feburary 24, 1948, 27 years old Vicenta Escano who belong to a prominent Filipino Family of Spanish ancestry got secretly married with Pastor Tenchavez, 32 years old engineer, and ex-army officer. Parents of Vicenta were disgusted because of the great scandal that the clandestine marriage would provoke so they decided for re-celebration to validate what he believed to be an invalid marriage, from the standpoint of the Church. A letter was handed disclosing an amorous relationship between Pastor Tenchavez and Pacita Noel; Vicenta translated the letter to her father, and thereafter would not agree to a new marriage. June 1948, the newlyweds were already estranged Vicenta had gone to Misamis Occidental, to escape from the scandal that her marriage stirred in Cebu society. There, a lawyer filed for her a petition to annul her marriage. She did not sign the petition and was dismissed without prejudice because of her non-appearance at the hearing.

Vicenta applied for a passport indicating that she was single and when it was approved she left for the United States and filed a complaint for divorce against Pastor which was later on approved and issued by the Second Judicial Court of the State of Nevada.  She then sought for the annulment of her marriage to the Archbishop of Cebu.  Vicenta married Russell Leo Moran, an American, in Nevada and has begotten children.  She acquired citizenship on August 8, 1958.  Petitioner filed a complaint against Vicenta and her parents whom he alleged to have dissuaded Vicenta from joining her husband.


Whether the divorce sought by Vicenta Escano is valid and binding upon courts of the Philippines.


Civil Code of the Philippines does not admit divorce.  Philippine courts cannot give recognition on foreign decrees of absolute divorce between Filipino citizens because it would be a violation of the Civil Code.  Such grant would arise to discrimination in favor of rich citizens who can afford divorce in foreign countries.  The adulterous relationship of Escano with her American husband is enough grounds for the legal separation prayed by Tenchavez.  In the eyes of Philippine laws, Tenchavez and Escano are still married.  A foreign divorce between Filipinos sought and decreed is not entitled to recognition neither is the marriage of the divorcee entitled to validity in the Philippines.  Thus, the desertion and securing of an invalid divorce decree by one spouse entitled the other for damages.