CASE BrieF NO. 2017-0499

CASE: Jerrysus L. Tilar vs. Elizabeth A. Tilar and the Republic of the Philippines [G.R. No. 214529 July 12, 2017]

PONENTE: Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta

SUBJECT:

  1. 1987 Constitution
    i. Separation of Church and State
  2. Family Code
    i. Marriage; defined

Although, marriage is considered a sacrament in the Catholic church, it has civil and legal consequences which are governed by the Family Code.”


FACTS:        Jerrysus L. Tilar filed with the RTC a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage on the ground of his wife’s (Elizabeth) psychological incapacity based on Article 36 of the Family Code.

Elizabeth failed to file her Answer despite being served with summons. The RTC then required the Public Prosecutor to conduct an investigation whether collusion existed. In his Manifestation and Compliance, the Public Prosecutor certified as to the absence of collusion between the parties. Trial, thereafter, ensued with Jerrysus and his witness testifying.

The RTC issued its assailed Decision dismissing the case for lack of jurisdiction.

In so ruling, the RTC ratiocinated:

“Marriage is a sacrament according to the teaching of the Catholic Church. Being a sacrament, the same is purely religious. Declaration of nullity, which is commonly called an annulment in the Catholic Church, is a judgment rendered by an ecclesiastical tribunal determining that the sacrament of marriage was invalidly contracted. The procedure is governed by the Church’s Canon Law not by the civil law observed by the State in nullity cases involving civil marriages. Ergo, the principle of separation of Church and State finds application in this case.

Clearly, the State cannot encroach into the domain of the Church, thus, resolving the validity of the church marriage is outside the province of its authority. Although the Family Code did not categorize the marriage subject of the petition for nullity or annulment, the Constitution as the fundamental law of the State laid down the principle of separation, ergo, it is beyond cavil that nullity of a church marriage cannot be taken out of the church jurisdiction. The court being an entity of the State is bereft of any jurisdiction to take cognizance of the case.”

Jerrysus filed a petition for review directly to the Supreme Court.

ISSUE:

Whether the courts have jurisdiction to rule on the validity of marriage pursuant to the provision of the Family Code.

RULING:

Yes.

Marriage in this jurisdiction is not only a civil contract, but it is a new relation, an institution the maintenance of which the public is deeply interested. The State is mandated to protect marriage, being the foundation of the family, which in turn is the foundation of the nation.

Our law on marriage, particularly the Family Code, restates the constitutional provision to protect the inviolability of marriage and the family relations.

Accordingly, Article 1 of the Family Code pertinently provides:

Art. 1. Marriage is a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman entered into in accordance with law for the establishment of conjugal and family life. It is the foundation of the family and an inviolable social institution whose nature, consequences, and incidents are governed by law and not subject to stipulation, except that marriage settlements may fix the property relations during the marriage within the limits provided by this Code.

As marriage is a special contract, their terms and conditions are not merely subject to the stipulations of the contracting parties but are governed by law. The Family Code provides for the essential as well as formal requisites for the validity of marriage.

The contract of marriage is entered into by complying with the requirements and formalities prescribed by law. The marriage of Jerrysus and Elizabeth which was solemnized by a Catholic priest and was held in a church was in accordance with the above-quoted provisions. Although, marriage is considered a sacrament in the Catholic church, it has civil and legal consequences which are governed by the Family Code. As Jerrysus correctly pointed out, the instant petition only seeks to nullify the marriage contract between the parties as postulated in the Family Code of the Philippines; and the declaration of nullity of the parties’ marriage in the religious and ecclesiastical aspect is another matter. Notably, the proceedings for church annulment which is in accordance with the norms of Canon Law is not binding upon the State as the couple is still considered married to each other in the eyes of the civil law. Thus, the principle of separation of the church and state finds no application in this case.

As marriage is a lifetime commitment which the parties cannot just dissolve at whim, the Family Code has provided for the grounds for the termination of marriage. These grounds may be invoked and proved in a petition for annulment of voidable marriage or in a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage, which can be decided upon only by the court exercising jurisdiction over the matter. Section 19 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended, otherwise known as the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980 provides:

Section 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases. – Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction:

x x x x

(15) In all actions involving the contract of marriage and marital relations;

Hence, a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage, which Jerrysus filed before the RTC falls within its exclusive jurisdiction; thus, the RTC erred in dismissing the petition for lack of jurisdiction.

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THINGS DECIDED:

A) Marriage in this jurisdiction is not only a civil contract, but it is a new relation, an institution the maintenance of which the public is deeply interested.

B) As marriage is a special contract, their terms and conditions are not merely subject to the stipulations of the contracting parties but are governed by law.

C) Although, marriage is considered a sacrament in the Catholic church, it has civil and legal consequences which are governed by the Family Code.

D) The proceedings for church annulment which is in accordance with the norms of Canon Law is not binding upon the State as the couple is still considered married to each other in the eyes of the civil law.


‘Stand by things decided’ ~ Stare Decisis


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