G.R. No. 220149, July 27, 2021
Pulido married Arcon on September 5, 1983. Thereafter, he contracted a second marriage with Baleda on July 31, 1995 without having his first marriage with Arcon legally dissolved. Pulido was charged of Bigamy.
During the pendency of the bigamy case, Pulido obtained a judicial declaration of absolute nullity of his first marriage with Arcon. Pulido insisted that he could not be held criminally liable for bigamy because both his marriages were null and void. He claimed that his marriage with Arcon in 1983 is null and void for lack of a valid marriage license while his marriage with Baleda is null and void for lack of a marriage ceremony.
The CA sustained the conviction of Pulido. It found that all the elements of bigamy were present since Pulido entered into a second marriage with Baleda while his prior marriage with Arcon was subsisting, and without first having obtained a judicial declaration of the nullity of the prior marriage with Arcon.
Article 349 of RPC, the prosecution must proved the following (a) that the offender has been legally married; (b) that the first marriage has not been legally dissolved, or in case his or her spouse is absent, the absent spouse could not yet be presumed dead according to the Civil Code; (c) that he or she contracts a second or subsequent marriage; and (d) that the second or subsequent marriage has all die essential requisites for validity.
Whether securing a judicial declaration of absolute nullity is a valid defense in the criminal prosecution for bigamy.
YES. In this case, the SC abandons and now holds that a void ab initio marriage is a valid defense in the prosecution for bigamy even without a judicial declaration of absolute nullity. Hence, the absence of a “prior valid marriage” and the subsequent judicial declaration of absolute nullity of his first marriage, Pulido is hereby acquitted from the crime of Bigamy charged against him.
A judicial declaration of absolute nullity is not necessary to prove a void ab initio prior and subsequent marriages in a bigamy case. Consequently, a judicial declaration of absolute nullity of the first and/or second marriages presented by the accused in the prosecution for bigamy is a valid defense, irrespective of the time within which they are secured.
However, if the first marriage is merely voidable, the accused cannot interpose an annulment decree as a defense in the criminal prosecution for bigamy since the voidable first marriage is considered valid and subsisting when the second marriage was contracted. The crime of bigamy, therefore, is consummated when the second marriage was celebrated during the subsistence of the voidable first marriage. The same rule applies if the second marriage is merely considered as voidable.
Before Family Code: When both the prior and subsequent marriages were contracted prior to the effectivity of the Family Code, a void ab initio marriage can be raised as a defense in a bigamy case even without a judicial declaration of its nullity. Nonetheless, the Court recognized that an action for nullity of the second marriage is a prejudicial question to the criminal prosecution for bigamy.
Family Code: A judicial declaration of the absolute nullity of a prior void ab initio marriage is required prior to remarriage, before a prior void ab initio marriage may be considered a valid defense in the prosecution of bigamy.
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