Republic v. Olaybar (G.R. No. 189538; February 10, 2014)


FACTS: Respondent requested from the National Statistics Office (NSO) a Certificate of No Marriage (CENOMAR) as one of the requirements for her marriage with her boyfriend of five years. Upon receipt thereof, she discovered that she was already married to a certain Ye Son Sune, a Korean National. She denied having contracted said marriage and claimed that she did not know the alleged husband; She, thus, filed a Petition for Cancellation of Entries in the Marriage Contract, especially the entries in the wife portion thereof.
During trial, She completely denied having known the supposed husband, but she revealed that she recognized the named witnesses to the marriage as she had met them while she was working as a receptionist in Tadel's Pension House. She believed that her name was used by a certain Johnny Singh, who owned a travel agency, whom she gave her personal circumstances in order for her to obtain a passport. A document examiner testified that the signature appearing in the marriage contract was forged. The RTC decided in favor of the petitioner, Merlinda L. Olaybar.

Petitioner, however, moved for the reconsideration of the assailed Decision on the grounds that: (1) there was no clerical spelling, typographical and other innocuous errors in the marriage contract for it to fall within the provisions of Rule 108 of the Rules of Court; and (2) granting the cancellation of all the entries in the wife portion of the alleged marriage contract is, in effect, declaring the marriage void ab initio.

Contrary to petitioners stand, the RTC held that it had jurisdiction to take cognizance of cases for correction of entries even on substantial errors under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court being the appropriate adversary proceeding required. Considering that respondents identity was used by an unknown person to contract marriage with a Korean national, it would not be feasible for respondent to institute an action for declaration of nullity of marriage since it is not one of the void marriages under Articles 35 and 36 of the Family Code.

ISSUE: May the cancellation of entries in the marriage contract which, in effect, nullifies the marriage, be undertaken in a Rule 108 proceeding?

HELD: Rule 108 of the Rules of Court provides the procedure for cancellation or correction of entries in the civil registry. The proceedings may either be summary or adversary. If the correction is clerical, then the procedure to be adopted is summary. If the rectification affects the civil status, citizenship or nationality of a party, it is deemed substantial, and the procedure to be adopted is adversary.

Since the promulgation of Republic v. Valencia 225 Phil. 408 the Court has repeatedly ruled that "even substantial errors in a civil registry may be corrected through a petition filed under Rule 108, with the true facts established and the parties aggrieved by the error availing themselves of the appropriate adversarial proceeding."An appropriate adversary suit or proceeding is one where the trial court has conducted proceedings where all relevant facts have been fully and properly developed, where opposing counsel have been given opportunity to demolish the opposite partys case, and where the evidence has been thoroughly weighed and considered.

It is true that in special proceedings, formal pleadings and a hearing may be dispensed with, and the remedy [is] granted upon mere application or motion. However, a special proceeding is not always summary. The procedure laid down in Rule 108 is not a summary proceeding per se. It requires publication of the petition; it mandates the inclusion as parties of all persons who may claim interest which would be affected by the cancellation or correction; it also requires the civil registrar and any person in interest to file their opposition, if any; and it states that although the court may make orders expediting the proceedings, it is after hearing that the court shall either dismiss the petition or issue an order granting the same. Thus, as long as the procedural requirements in Rule 108 are followed, it is the appropriate adversary proceeding to effect substantial corrections and changes in entries of the civil register.

To be sure, a petition for correction or cancellation of an entry in the civil registry cannot substitute for an action to invalidate a marriage. A direct action is necessary to prevent circumvention of the substantive and procedural safeguards of marriage under the Family Code, A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC and other related laws. Among these safeguards are the requirement of proving the limited grounds for the dissolution of marriage, support pendente lite of the spouses and children, the liquidation, partition and distribution of the properties of the spouses and the investigation of the public prosecutor to determine collusion. A direct action for declaration of nullity or annulment of marriage is also necessary to prevent circumvention of the jurisdiction of the Family Courts under the Family Courts Act of 1997 (Republic Act No. 8369), as a petition for cancellation or correction of entries in the civil registry may be filed in the Regional Trial Court where the corresponding civil registry is located. In other words, a Filipino citizen cannot dissolve his marriage by the mere expedient of changing his entry of marriage in the civil registry. Minoru Fujiki v. Maria Paz Galela Marinay, Shinichi Maekara, Local Civil Registrar of Quezon City, and the Administrator and Civil Registrar General of the National Statistics Office G.R.No. 196049, June 26, 2013.

While we maintain that Rule 108 cannot be availed of to determine the validity of marriage, we cannot nullify the proceedings before the trial court where all the parties had been given the opportunity to contest the allegations of respondent; the procedures were followed, and all the evidence of the parties had already been admitted and examined. Respondent indeed sought, not the nullification of marriage as there was no marriage to speak of, but the correction of the record of such marriage to reflect the truth as set forth by the evidence. Otherwise stated, in allowing the correction of the subject certificate of marriage by cancelling the wife portion thereof, the trial court did not, in any way, declare the marriage void as there was no marriage to speak of. DENIED.

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