Sunday, July 22, 2018

Declaration of nullity of marriage - "In a recent landmark ruling in Republic of the Philippines v. Marelyn Tanedo Manalo (GR 221029, April 24, 2018), the Supreme Court held that a foreign divorce secured by a Filipino is also considered valid in the Philippines, even if it is the Filipino spouse who files for divorce abroad."

See -

"x x x.

Foreign divorce in mixed marriages
By Atty. Lorna Patajo-Kapunan
-July 15, 2018

In a recent landmark ruling in Republic of the Philippines v. Marelyn Tanedo Manalo (GR 221029, April 24, 2018), the Supreme Court held that a foreign divorce secured by a Filipino is also considered valid in the Philippines, even if it is the Filipino spouse who files for divorce abroad. With 10 Justices in favor, 3 Dissenting (Associate Justices del Castillo, Perlas-Bernabe, Caguioa) 1 Abstaining (Justice Jardeleza, then solicitor general) and former Chief Justice Sereno on leave, the Supreme Court affirmed the Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) Tenth Division that reversed a Dagupan Regional Trial Court (RTC) Decision, which ruled that “the kind of divorce recognized here in the Philippines are those validly obtained by the alien spouse abroad, not by the Filipino spouse pursuant to Article 26 of the Family Code.”

Petitioner was a certain Marelyn Tanedo Manalo who was married to a Japanese national, Minoru Yoshino. Manalo (not her Japanese husband) filed for and was granted divorce in Japan sometime in 2011. Manalo filed with a Dagupan RTC to have her Japanese divorce recognized in the Philippines. The RTC denied her Petition, which was subsequently reversed by the CA in 2014. The CA recognized the foreign divorce and ruled that Manalo had the right to remarry. The Supreme Court affirmed this CA Decision.

Excerpts from the Majority Decision penned by Justice Diosdado M. Peralta are herein quoted.

“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 xxx .”

“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.

“On the contrary, there is no real and substantial difference between a Filipino who initiated foreign divorce proceedings and a Filipino who obtained a divorce decree upon the instance of his or her alien spouse. In the eyes of the Philippine and foreign laws, both are considered as Filipinos who have the same rights and obligations in an alien land. The circumstances surrounding them are alike. Were it not for Paragraph 2 of Article 26, both are still married to their foreigner spouses who are no longer their wives/husbands. Hence, to make a distinction between them based merely on the superficial difference of whether they initiated the divorce proceedings or not is utterly unfair. Indeed, the treatment gives undue favor to one and unjustly discriminate against the other. x x x”

“To be sure, a good number of the Filipinos led by the Roman Catholic Church react adversely to any attempt to enact a law on absolute divorce, viewing it as contrary to our customs, morals and traditions that has looked upon marriage and family as an institution and their nature of permanence, inviolability and solidarity. However, none of our laws should be based on any religious law, doctrine or teaching; otherwise, the separation of Church and State will be violated.”

In a separate Concurring Opinion, Justice Marvic Leonen, underscored the reality that it is the Filipino wife who is prejudiced if Article 26 of our Family Code is given “an interpretation which capacitates and empowers the Japanese husband the option to divorce and how such choice has effects in our country while, at the same time, disallowing the Filipina wife from being able to do the same simply because she is a Filipina.”

“That interpretation may be unconstitutional. Article II, Section 14 of our Constitution provides:

Section 14. The State recognizes the role of women in nation-building, and shall ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men.

“This constitutional fiat advances the notion of gender equality from its passive formulation in Article III, Section 1 to its more active orientation.

Indeed, our laws were never intended for the Filipino to be at a disadvantage. In the words of Justice Leonen, “to say that one spouse may divorce and the other may not contribute to patriarchy. It fosters an unequal relationship prone to abuse in such intimate relationship. The law is far from rigid. It should passionately guarantee equality.”

I fully agree with Justice Leonen and the majority opinion of Justice Peralta. But still, no amount of judicial activism can be a real substitute for an Absolute Divorce Law that has long been advocated by countless suffering wives chained to the shackles of loveless marriages with philandering and abusive husbands!

x x x."