Second, it is imperative to note that at the time the bigamy case in Crim. Case No. 2699-A was dismissed, we had already ruled that under the principles of comity, our jurisdiction recognizes a valid divorce obtained by a spouse of foreign nationality. This doctrine was established as early as 1985 in Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. wherein we said:
It is true that owing to the nationality principle embodied in Article 15 of the Civil Code, only Philippine nationals are covered by the policy against absolute divorces[,] the same being considered contrary to our concept of public policy and morality. However, aliens may obtain divorces abroad, which may be recognized in the Philippines, provided they are valid according to their national law. In this case, the divorce in Nevada released private respondent from the marriage from the standards of American law, under which divorce dissolves the marriage. xxx
We reiterated this principle in Llorente v. Court of Appeals, to wit:
In Van Dorn v. Romillo, Jr. we held that owing to the nationality principle embodied in Article 15 of the Civil Code, only Philippine nationals are covered by the policy against absolute divorces, the same being considered contrary to our concept of public policy and morality. In the same case, the Court ruled that aliens may obtain divorces abroad, provided they are valid according to their national law.
Citing this landmark case, the Court held in Quita v. Court of Appeals, that once proven that respondent was no longer a Filipino citizen when he obtained the divorce from petitioner, the ruling in Van Dorn would become applicable and petitioner could “very well lose her right to inherit” from him.
In Pilapil v. Ibay-Somera, we recognized the divorce obtained by the respondent in his country, the Federal Republic of Germany. There, we stated that 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.
For failing to apply these doctrines, the decision of the Court of Appeals must be reversed. We hold that the divorce obtained by Lorenzo H. Llorente from his first wife Paula was valid and recognized in this jurisdiction as a matter of comity. xxx
Nonetheless, the fact of divorce must still first be proven as we have enunciated inGarcia v. Recio, to wit:
Respondent is getting ahead of himself. 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.
The divorce decree between respondent and Editha Samson appears to be an authentic one issued by an Australian family court. However, appearance is not sufficient;compliance with the aforementioned rules on evidence must be demonstrated.
Fortunately for respondent's cause, when the divorce decree of May 18, 1989 was submitted in evidence, counsel for petitioner objected, not to its admissibility, but only to the fact that it had not been registered in the Local Civil Registry of Cabanatuan City. The trial court ruled that it was admissible, subject to petitioner's qualification. Hence, it was admitted in evidence and accorded weight by the judge. Indeed, petitioner's failure to object properly rendered the divorce decree admissible as a written act of the Family Court of Sydney, Australia.
Compliance with the quoted articles (11, 13 and 52) of the Family Code is not necessary; respondent was no longer bound by Philippine personal laws after he acquired Australian citizenship in 1992. Naturalization is the legal act of adopting an alien and clothing him with the political and civil rights belonging to a citizen. Naturalized citizens, freed from the protective cloak of their former states, don the attires of their adoptive countries. By becoming an Australian, respondent severed his allegiance to the Philippines and the vinculum juris that had tied him to Philippine personal laws.
Burden of Proving Australian Law
Respondent contends that the burden to prove Australian divorce law falls upon petitioner, because she is the party challenging the validity of a foreign judgment. He contends that petitioner was satisfied with the original of the divorce decree and was cognizant of the marital laws of Australia, because she had lived and worked in that country for quite a long time. Besides, the Australian divorce law is allegedly known by Philippine courts; thus, judges may take judicial notice of foreign laws in the exercise of sound discretion.
We are not persuaded. 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. Since the divorce was a defense raised by respondent, the burden of proving the pertinent Australian law validating it falls squarely upon him.
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. Australian marital laws are not among those matters that judges are supposed to know by reason of their judicial function. The power of judicial notice must be exercised with caution, and every reasonable doubt upon the subject should be resolved in the negative. (Emphasis supplied)
It appears that the trial court no longer required petitioner to prove the validity of Orlando’s divorce under the laws of the United States and the marriage between petitioner and the deceased. Thus, there is a need to remand the proceedings to the trial court for further reception of evidence to establish the fact of divorce.
Should petitioner prove the validity of the divorce and the subsequent marriage, she has the preferential right to be issued the letters of administration over the estate. Otherwise, letters of administration may be issued to respondent, who is undisputedly the daughter or next of kin of the deceased, in accordance with Sec. 6 of Rule 78 of the Revised Rules of Court.
This is consistent with our ruling in San Luis v. San Luis, in which we said:
Applying the above doctrine in the instant case, the divorce decree allegedly obtained by Merry Lee which absolutely allowed Felicisimo to remarry, would have vested Felicidad with the legal personality to file the present petition as Felicisimo's surviving spouse. However, the records show that there is insufficient evidence to prove the validity of the divorce obtained by Merry Lee as well as the marriage of respondent and Felicisimo under the laws of the U.S.A. In Garcia v. Recio, the Court laid down the specific guidelines for pleading and proving foreign law and divorce judgments. It held that presentation solely of the divorce decree is insufficient and that proof of its authenticity and due execution must be presented. Under Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132, 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.
With regard to respondent's marriage to Felicisimo allegedly solemnized in California, U.S.A., she submitted photocopies of the Marriage Certificate and the annotated text of the Family Law Act of California which purportedly show that their marriage was done in accordance with the said law. As stated in Garcia, however, the Court cannot take judicial notice of foreign laws as they must be alleged and proved.
Therefore, this case should be remanded to the trial court for further reception of evidence on the divorce decree obtained by Merry Lee and the marriage of respondent and Felicisimo. (Emphasis supplied)
Thus, it is imperative for the trial court to first determine the validity of the divorce to ascertain the rightful party to be issued the letters of administration over the estate of Orlando B. Catalan.
x x x."