PR 03170.290 Philippines

A. PR 88-031 Validity of Marriage in Philippines Without License or Contract Juan P~

DATE: November 7. 1988


DE FACTO MARRIAGE .... Good Faith Belief — Philippines

A marriage entered into with good faith belief in its validity, on the part of either party to it will not be declared invalid for want of a marriage license or contract. (P~, Juan. ~ - RAIX [M~] to Director, IPSC - 11/7/88)


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 Law.

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.