CASE BRIEF NO. 2019-0062


“The letter of the law (Art. 26 par. 2 of the Family Court) does not demand that the alien spouse should be the one who initiated the proceeding wherein the divorce decree was granted.


CASE: Marlyn Monton Nullada vs. The Hon. Civil Registrar of Manila, Akira Ito, Shin Ito and all persons who have claim or claim any interest. [G.R. No. 224548, January 23, 2019]

PONENTE: Justice Jose C. Reyes, Jr.

SUBJECT:
A.       CIVIL LAW:
          i.        Article 26 of the Family Code

B.       REMEDIAL LAW:
          i.        Rule 108 – Petitionfor registration and/or recognition of foreign divorce decree and cancellation of entry of marriage
          ii.       Rules on proof of foreign law
          iii.      Direct recourse to the Supreme Court from the decisions of the RTC

FACTS:        In 1997, Marlyn and Akira (a Japanese national) got married in Japan. The document was registered with both the Office of the Local Civil Registry of Manila and the then National Statistics Office, Civil Registry Division.

The union of Marlyn and Akira resulted in the birth of a child, Shin Ito. Their relationship, however, eventually turned sour and so they later decided to obtain a divorce by mutual agreement. In 2009, Akira and Marlyn secured a divorce decree in Japan. The Divorce Certificate that was issued by the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines.

Marlyn and Akira’s acceptance of the notification of divorce by agreement was supported by an Acceptance Certificatethat was issued by the Head of Katsushika-ku in Japan.

Hence, Marlyn sought a recognition of the divorce decree in the Philippines by filing a Petitionfor registration and/or recognition of foreign divorce decree and cancellation of entry of marriage that was filed under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court, in relation to Article 26 of the Family Code.

Akira did not file an Answer to the petition, notwithstanding summons by publication. The Republic also did not offer any evidence to rebut the case of Marlyn.

The RTC rendered its Decision denying the petition. According to the RTC, the fact that Marlyn also agreed to the divorce and jointly filed for it with Akira barred the application of the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, which would have otherwise allowed a Filipino spouse to remarry after the alien spouse had validly obtained a divorce. While the intent of the law is to equalize Filipinos with their foreigner spouses who are free to marry again after the divorce, the Filipino spouse cannot invoke the intention of equity behind the law when he or she is an initiator or active participant in procuring the divorce.

Dissatisfied, Marlyn moved for reconsideration but her motion was denied by the trial court. This prompted Marlyn to file the present petition for review on certiorari directly to the Supreme Court (this Court).


ISSUES:
A.       Whether Marlyn’s direct recourse to the Supreme Court from the decision of RTC is proper.

B.       Whether or not Article 26, paragraph 2 of the Family Code has a restrictive application so as to apply only in cases where it is the alien spouse who sought the divorce, and not where the divorce was mutually agreed upon by the spouses.

C.       Whether there is a need to prove the foreign divorce decree despite the lack of opposition from the OSG.


RULING:
A.      
The direct recourse is proper. This Court explains that it allows the direct recourse from the decision of the RTC on the ground that the petition raises a pure question of law on the proper application of Article 26 of the Family Code. “Direct recourse to this Court from the decisions and final orders of the RTC may be taken where only questions of law are raised or involved” [Rep. of the Phils. v. Olaybar, 726 Phil. 378, 384 (2014)]. In this case, the RTC’s resolve to dismiss the petition filed before it delved solely on its application of the statutory provision to the facts undisputed before it.


B.      
The legal provision that is pertinent to the case is Article 26 of the Family Code, which states:

Art. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines, in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35 (1), (4), (5) and (6), [36, 37] and 38.

Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law. 

The facts in Rep. of the Phils. v. Marelyn Tanedo Manalo [G.R. No. 221029, April 24, 2018], are similar to the circumstances in this case. It was held that Article 26 of the Family Code should apply even if it was Manalo (a Filipino) who filed for divorce. The decree made the Japanese spouse no longer married to Manalo; he then had the capacity to remarry. It would be unjust to still deem Manalo married to the Japanese who, in turn, was no longer married to her. The fact that it was Manalo who filed the divorce was inconsequential.

Applying the same legal considerations and considering the similar factual milieu that attended in Manalo, the present case warrants a reversal of the RTC’s decision that refused to recognize the divorce decree that was mutually obtained by Marlyn and her foreigner spouse in Japan solely on the ground that the divorce was jointly initiated by the spouses.

When this Court recognized a foreign divorce decree that was initiated and obtained by the Filipino spouse and extended its legal effects on the issues of child custody and property relation, it should not stop short in likewise acknowledging that one of the usual and necessary consequences of absolute divorce is the right to remarry. Indeed, there is no longer a mutual obligation to live together and observe fidelity. When the marriage tie is severed and ceased to exist, the civil status and the domestic relation of the former spouses change as both of them are freed from the marital bond.

Paragraph 2 of Article 26 speaks of “a divorce x x x validly obtained abroad by the alien 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; neither can We put words in the mouths of the lawmakers. “The legislature is presumed to know that meaning of the words, to have used words advisedly, and to have expressed its intent by the use of such words as are found in the statute. Verba legis non est recedendum, or from the words of a statute there should be no departure.”

To reiterate, 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 foreing divorce decree on Filipinos whose marital ties to their alien spouses are severed by operation of the latter’s national law.


C.       While Marlyn and Akira’s divorce decree was not disputed by the OSG, a recognition of the divorce, however, could not extend as a matter of course. Under prevailing rules and jurisprudence, the submission of the decree should come with adequate proof of the foreign law that allows it. The Japanese law on divorce must then be sufficiently proved. “Because our courts do not take judicial notice of foreign laws and judgment, our law on evidence requires that both the divorce decree and the national law of the alien must be alleged and proven x x x like any other fact” [Ando v. Department of Foreign Affairs, 742 Phil. 37, 48 (2014)].

In ATCI Overseas Corp., et al. v. Echin, 647 Phil. 43 (2010), the Court reiterated the following rules on proof of foreign laws:

To prove a foreign law, the party invoking it must present a copy thereof and comply with Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132 of the Revised Rules of Court which read:

Sec. 24. Proof of official record. The record of public documents referred to in paragraph (a) of Section 19, when admissible for any purpose, may be evidenced by an official publication thereof or by a copy attested by the officer having the legal custody of the record, or by his deputy, and accompanied, if the record is not kept in the Philippines, with a certificate that such officer has the custody. If the office in which the record is kept is in a foreign country, the certificate may be made by a secretary of the embassy or legation, consul general, consul, vice consul, or consular agent or by any officer in the foreign service of the Philippines stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept, and authenticated by his seal of office.

Sec. 25. What attestation of copy must state. Whenever a copy of a document or record is attested for the purpose of the evidence, the attestation must state, in substance, that the copy is a correct copy of the original, if there be any, or if he be the clerk of court having a seal, under the seal of such court.

Marlyn failed to satisfy the foregoing requirements. The records only include a photocopy of excerpts of The Civil Code of Japan, merely stamped “LIBRARY, Japan Information and Culture Center, Embassy of Japan, 2627 Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City 1300”.This clearly does not constitute sufficient compliance with the rules on proof of Japan’s law on divorce. In any case, similar to the remedy that was allowed by the Court in Manalo to resolve such failure, a remand of the case to the RTC for further proceedings and reception of evidence on the laws of Japan on divorce is allowed, as it is hereby ordered by the Court.

The fallo:

WHEREFORE, the petition for review on certiorari is GRANTED. The Decision dated January 21, 2016 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 43 of Manila in Special Proceedings Case No. 14-132832 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The case is REMANDED to the court of origin for further proceedings and reception of evidence as to the relevant Japanese law on divorce.

SO ORDERED.


Related Case Briefs:
a)       Rep. of the Phils. v. Olaybar, 726 Phil. 378, 384 (2014)
b)       Rep. of the Phils. v. Marelyn Tanedo Manalo (G.R. No. 221029, April 24, 2018)
c)       Ando v. Department of Foreign Affairs, 742 Phil. 37, 48 (2014)
d)       ATCI Overseas Corp., et al. v. Echin [647 Phil. 43 (2010)
————————————————-

THINGS DECIDED:

A.       This Court explains that it allows the direct recourse from the decision of the RTC on the ground that the petition raises a pure question of law on the proper application of Article 26 of the Family Code. “Direct recourse to this Court from the decisions and final orders of the RTC may be taken where only questions of law are raised or involved” [Rep. of the Phils. v. Olaybar, 726 Phil. 378, 384 (2014)]. 

B.       When this Court recognized a foreign divorce decree that was initiated and obtained by the Filipino spouse and extended its legal effects on the issues of child custody and property relation, it should not stop short in likewise acknowledging that one of the usual and necessary consequences of absolute divorce is the right to remarry. Indeed, there is no longer a mutual obligation to live together and observe fidelity. When the marriage tie is severed and ceased to exist, the civil status and the domestic relation of the former spouses change as both of them are freed from the marital bond.

Paragraph 2 of Article 26 speaks of “a divorce x x x validly obtained abroad by the alien 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.

C.       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.

D.       Under prevailing rules and jurisprudence, the submission of the decree should come with adequate proof of the foreign law that allows it. The Japanese law on divorce must then be sufficiently proved. “Because our courts do not take judicial notice of foreign laws and judgment, our law on evidence requires that both the divorce decree and the national law of the alien must be alleged and proven x x x like any other fact” [Ando v. Department of Foreign Affairs, 742 Phil. 37, 48 (2014)].

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