Juan P~ and Esperanza P~ were married in the Philippines on July 23, 1930. The ceremony
was performed by a priest; however, the couple neither secured a marriage license
nor entered into a marriage contract. They separated in 1944, but did not obtain a
divorce or annulment. Mr. ~ married Salvacion A~ in 1951.
Salvacion was awarded wife's benefits on Mr. P ~'s account effective March 1979. Esperanza
filed a rival application in 1983. Based on this application, Esperanza has been granted
benefits as Mr. P~'s legal spouse. Salvacion has challenged the award, contending
that Esperanza's marriage was invalid for lack of a marriage license and/or contract.
SSA's International Program Service Center has inquired "whether a valid marriage
could have been contracted between the wage earner and Esperanza without benefit of
a marriage license or marriage contract."
The law in effect at the time of the July 23, 1930 marriage was the revised Marriage
Law, Act No. 3613 of December 4, 1929, effective June 4, 1930. 1_/ Although the statute
provided for the execution of a marriage contract and the issuance of a marriage license,
these were treated as formalities rather than mandatory preconditions to a valid marriage.
Sections 3 and 7 of the Marriage Law; see
De Loria v. Apelan Felix, 104 Phil. 1, 5 (1958). Only the legal capacity and consent of the contracting parties
were considered essential to the creation of a valid marriage. Section I of the Marriage
Law. Thus, so long as the parties held a good faith belief in the validity of the
marriage, it will not be declared invalid for want of a marriage license or contract.
Section 27 of the Marriage Law ("no marriage shall be declared invalid because of
the absence of one or several formal requirements of this Act"); People
v. Lara, 51 O.G. 4079, 4082 (1955).
Accordingly, assuming that either Mr. P~ or Esperanza believed in the validity of
their marriage at the time of the solemnization, Esperanza should be considered to
have become Mr. P~'s legal spouse. Accord GC opinion re November 28, 1961. The subsequent
marriage to Salvacion would therefore be bigamous and, as such, void under Philippine
law. See GC opinion re Harry W. T~ July 6, 1951, citing section 29 of the Marriage
An attorney for Salvacion contends, inter alia, that even if Mr. P~ was validly married
to Esperanza, he was free to marry Salvacion in 1951 because he had lost all contact
with Esperanza seven years earlier and, therefore, did not know whether she was still
alive. It is true that the subsequent marriage of an individual whose prior spouse
had been absent during seven consecutive years preceding such marriage, and who was
not known to be living by the individual, or was generally reputed and believed by
the individual to be dead at the time of the remarriage, is valid unless and until
it is nullified by a court or, competent jurisdiction. GC opinion re Franklin T. R-,
September 28, 1955, citing section 29 of the Marriage Law. The evidence here is in
conflict. Mr. P~ claims that Esperanza abandoned their home in April 1944, that he
searched for her without success at the time, and that he knew nothing of her whereabouts
prior to his June 1951 marriage to Salvacion. His sister supports this version of
the facts. Esperanza tells a different story, asserting that she left her family in
March 1943 and was unable to make her way back due to wartime conditions in the Philippines.
She states, however, that upon her return in July 1945 she met with Mr. P~ and thereafter,
with his knowledge, maintained regular contact with their children. Two of the children
deny her assertions. This factual dispute must be resolved. If Mr. P~'s account is
credited, then his marriage to Salvacion should be recognized in the absence of a
judicial nullification. If, on the other hand, SSA accepts Esperanza's version of
events, Mr. P~ 's second marriage must be considered to have been null inito.
The additional arguments raised on behalf of Salvacion are specious. Whether or not
Esperanza lived with another man for 20 years has no bearing on the continuing validity
of her marriage to Mr. P~. 2_/ As noted above, this marriage was never terminated
by divorce or annulment. Nor do we see on these facts any basis for estopping Esperanza
from asserting the validity of this marriage.
1_/ Our discussion of Philippine law is based on information provided to this office
by the Library of Congress, Office of the Law Librarian.
2_/ A common law marriage cannot be contracted in the Philippines. GC opinion re Harry
T~ , supra.