Supreme Court E-Library
Information At Your Fingertips

  View printer friendly version

671 Phil. 825


[ G.R. No. 188775, August 24, 2011 ]




This Petition for Review seeks the reversal of the 21 January 2009 decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 31125 affirming in toto the decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 20, Malolos City in Criminal Case No. 2070-M-2006.  The RTC decision[2] found petitioner Cenon  R. Teves  guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Bigamy penalized under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code.


On 26 November 1992, a marriage was solemnized between Cenon Teves (Cenon) and Thelma Jaime-Teves (Thelma) at the Metropolitan Trial Court of Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila.[3]

After the marriage, Thelma left to work abroad.  She would only come home to the Philippines for vacations.  While on a vacation in 2002, she was informed that her husband had contracted marriage with a certain Edita Calderon (Edita).  To verify the information, she went to the National Statistics Office and secured a copy of the Certificate of Marriage[4] indicating that her husband and Edita contracted marriage on 10 December 2001 at the Divine Trust Consulting Services, Malhacan, Meycauayan, Bulacan.

On 13 February 2006, Danilo Bongalon, uncle of Thelma, filed before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Malolos City, Bulacan a complaint[5] accusing petitioner of committing bigamy.

Petitioner was charged on 8 June 2006 with bigamy defined and penalized under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, in an Information[6] which reads:

That on or about the 10th day of December, 2001 up to the present, in the municipality of Meycauayan, province of Bulacan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said Cenon R. Teves being previously united in lawful marriage on November 26, 1992 with Thelma B. Jaime and without the said marriage having legally dissolved, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously contract a second marriage with one Edita T. Calderon, who knowing of the criminal design of accused Cenon R. Teves to marry her and in concurrence thereof, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously cooperate in the execution of the offense by marrying Cenon R. Teves, knowing fully well of the existence of the marriage of the latter with Thelma B. Jaime.

During the pendency of the criminal case for bigamy, the Regional Trial Court , Branch 130, Caloocan City, rendered a decision[7]  dated 4 May 2006 declaring the marriage of petitioner and Thelma null and void on the ground that Thelma is physically incapacitated to comply with her essential marital obligations pursuant to Article 36 of the Family Code. Said decision became final by virtue of a Certification of Finality[8] issued on 27 June 2006.

On 15 August 2007, the trial court rendered its assailed decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding the accused Cenon R. Teves, also known as Cenon Avelino R. Teves, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Bigamy penalized under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, as charged in the Information dated June 8, 2006.  Pursuant to the provisions of the Indeterminate Sentence Law, he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment of four (4) years, two (2) months and one (1) day of prision correccional, as minimum, to six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as maximum.[9]

Refusing to accept such verdict, petitioner appealed the decision before the Court of Appeals contending that the court a quo erred in not ruling that his criminal action or liability had already been extinguished.  He also claimed that the trial court erred in finding him guilty of Bigamy despite the defective Information filed by the prosecution.[10]

On 21 January 2009, the CA promulgated its decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED and the Decision dated August 15, 2007 in Criminal Case No. 2070-M-2006 is AFFIRMED in TOTO.[11]

On 11 February 2009, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the decision.[12]  This however, was denied by the CA in a resolution issued on 2 July 2009.[13]

Hence, this petition.

Petitioner claims that since his previous marriage was declared null and void, "there is in effect no marriage at all, and thus, there is no bigamy to speak of."[14]  He differentiates a previous valid or voidable marriage from a marriage null and void ab initio, and posits that the former requires a judicial dissolution before one can validly contract a second marriage but a void marriage, for the same purpose, need not be judicially determined.

Petitioner further contends that the ruling of the Court in Mercado v. Tan[15] is inapplicable in his case because in the Mercado case the prosecution for bigamy was initiated before the declaration of nullity of marriage was filed.  In petitioner's case, the first marriage had already been legally dissolved at the time the bigamy case was filed in court.

We find no reason to disturb the findings of the CA.  There is nothing in the law that would sustain petitioner's contention.

Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code states:

The penalty of prision mayor shall be imposed upon any person who shall contract a second or subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been legally dissolved, or before the absent spouse has been declared presumptively dead by means of a judgment rendered in the proper proceedings.

The elements of this crime are as follows:

1. That the offender has been legally married;

2. That the 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;

3. That he contracts a second or subsequent marriage; and

4. That the second or subsequent marriage has all the essential requisites for validity.[16]

The instant case has all the elements of the crime of bigamy.  Thus, the CA was correct in affirming the conviction of petitioner.

Petitioner was legally married to Thelma on 26 November 1992 at the Metropolitan Trial Court of Muntinlupa City.  He contracted a second or subsequent marriage with Edita on 10 December 2001 in Meycauayan, Bulacan.  At the time of his second marriage with Edita, his marriage with Thelma was legally subsisting.  It is noted that the finality of the decision declaring the nullity of his first marriage with Thelma was only on 27 June 2006 or about five (5) years after his second marriage to Edita.  Finally, the second or subsequent marriage of petitioner with Edita has all the essential requisites for validity.  Petitioner has in fact not disputed the validity of such subsequent marriage.[17]

It is evident therefore that petitioner has committed the crime charged.  His contention that he cannot be charged with bigamy in view of the declaration of nullity of his first marriage is bereft of merit.  The Family Code has settled once and for all the conflicting jurisprudence on the matter.  A declaration of the absolute nullity of a marriage is now explicitly required either as a cause of action or a ground for defense.  Where the absolute nullity of a previous marriage is sought to be invoked for purposes of contracting a second marriage, the sole basis acceptable in law for said projected marriage to be free from legal infirmity is a final judgment declaring the previous marriage void.[18]

The Family Law Revision Committee and the Civil Code Revision Committee which drafted what is now the Family Code of the Philippines took the position that parties to a marriage should not be allowed to assume that their marriage is void even if such be the fact but must first secure a judicial declaration of the nullity of their marriage before they can be allowed to marry again.[19]

In fact, the requirement for a declaration of absolute nullity of a marriage is also for the protection of the spouse who, believing that his or her marriage is illegal and void, marries again.  With the judicial declaration of the nullity of his or her marriage, the person who marries again cannot be charged with bigamy.[20]

In numerous cases,[21] this Court has consistently held that a judicial declaration of nullity is required before a valid subsequent marriage can be contracted; or else, what transpires is a bigamous marriage, reprehensible and immoral.

If petitioner's contention would be allowed, a person who commits bigamy can simply evade prosecution by immediately filing a petition for the declaration of nullity of his earlier marriage and hope that a favorable decision is rendered therein before anyone institutes a complaint against him.  We note that in petitioner's case the complaint was filed before the first marriage was declared a nullity.  It was only the filing of the Information that was overtaken by the declaration of nullity of his first marriage.  Following petitioner's argument, even assuming that a complaint has been instituted, such as in this case, the offender can still escape liability provided that a decision nullifying his earlier marriage precedes the filing of the Information in court.  Such cannot be allowed.  To do so would make the crime of bigamy dependent upon the ability or inability of the Office of the Public Prosecutor to immediately act on complaints and eventually file Informations in court.  Plainly, petitioner's strained reading of the law is against its simple letter.

Settled is the rule that criminal culpability attaches to the offender upon the commission of the offense, and from that instant, liability appends to him until extinguished as provided by law, and that the time of filing of the criminal complaint (or Information, in proper cases) is material only for determining prescription.[22] The crime of bigamy was committed by petitioner on 10 December 2001 when he contracted a second marriage with Edita. The finality on 27 June 2006 of the judicial declaration of the nullity of his previous marriage to Thelma cannot be made to retroact to the date of the bigamous marriage.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition for review is DENIED and the assailed Decision dated 21 January 2009 of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED in toto.

Costs against petitioner.


Carpio, (Chairperson), Brion Peralta* and Mendoza,** JJ., concur.

*  Per Special Order No. 1067 dated 23 August 2011.

** Per Special Order No. 1066 dated 23 August 2011.

[1] Penned by Associate Justice Ramon M. Bato. Jr., and Associate Justices Martin S. Villarama, Jr. (now a member of this Court) and Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe, concurring; CA rollo,  pp. 75-86.

[2] Records, pp. 156-162.

[3] Id. at 13.

[4] Id. at 11.

[5] Id. at  6.

[6] Id. at 2.

[7] Id. at 82-90.

[8] Id. at 91-92.

[9] Id. at 162.

[10] CA rollo, p. 25. Appellant's Brief.

[11] Id. at 85.

[12] Id. at 89-99.

[13] Id. at 114-115.

[14] Rollo, p. 24

[15] G.R. No. 137110, 1 August 2000, 337 SCRA 122.

[16] Tenebro v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 150758, 18 February 2004 423 SCRA,  272, 279 citing Reyes, L.B., the Revised Penal Code, Book  II, 14th Ed., 1998, p. 907.

[17] CA rollo, p. 62.

[18] Domingo v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 104818, 17 September 1993, 226 SCRA 572, 579.

[19] Id. at 579-580.

[20] Id. at 582, citing J.A.V. Sempio-Diy, Handbook of the Family Code of the Philippines, p. 46  (1988).

[21] A.M. No. 2008-20-SC, 15 March 2010, 615 SCRA 186, 198-199, Re: Complaint of Mrs. Corazon S. Salvador against Sps. Noel and Amelia Serafico citing Morigo v. People, G.R. No. 145226, 6  February 2004, 422 SCRA 376; Domingo v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 194818, 17 September  1993, 226 SCRA 572; Terre v. Terre, A.C. No. 2349, 3 July 1992, 211 SCRA 7; Wiegel v. Sempio-Diy, No. L-53703, 19 August 1986, 143 SCRA 499; Vda. De Consuegra v. Government Service Insurance System, No. L-28093, 30 January 1971, 37 SCRA 315; Gomez v. Lipana, No. L- 23214, 30 June 1970, 33 SCRA 614.

[22] De Jesus v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 101630, 24 August 1992, 212 SCRA 823, 830.

© Supreme Court E-Library 2019
This website was designed and developed, and is maintained, by the E-Library Technical Staff in collaboration with the Management Information Systems Office.