Zamoranos v. People (G.R. No. 193902; June 1, 2011)


FACTS: Zamoranos wed Jesus de Guzman, a Muslim convert, in Islamic rites. Prior thereto, Zamoranos was a Roman Catholic who had converted to Islam. Subsequently, the two wed again, this time, in civil rites before Judge Perfecto Laguio (Laguio) of the RTC, Quezon City.

A little after a year, Zamoranos and De Guzman obtained a divorce by talaq. The dissolution of their marriage was confirmedy theShari'aCircuitDistrictCourt,which issued a Decree of Divorce.

Now it came to pass that Zamoranos married anew. As she had previously done in her first nuptial to De Guzman, Zamoranos wed Samson Pacasum, Sr. (Pacasum), her subordinate at the Bureau of Customs where she worked, under Islamic rites in Balo-i, Lanao del Norte. Thereafter, in order to strengthen the ties of their marriage, Zamoranos and Pacasum renewed their marriage vows in a civil ceremony before Judge Valerio Salazar of the RTC, Iligan City. However, unlike in Zamoranos' first marriage to De Guzman, the union between her and Pacasum was blessed with progeny, namely: Samson, Sr., Sam Jean, and Sam Joon.

Despite their three children, the relationship between Zamoranos and Pacasum turned sour and the two were de facto separated. The volatile relationship of Zamoranos and Pacasum escalated into a bitter battle for custody of their minor children. Eventually, Zamoranos and Pacasum arrived at a compromise agreement which vested primary custody of the children in the former, with the latter retaining visitorial rights thereto.

As it turned out, the agreement rankled on Pacasum. He filed a flurry of cases against Zamoranos including a petition for annulment, a criminal complaint for bigamy and dismissal and disbarment from the civil service.

Meanwhile, on the criminal litigation front, the Office of the City Prosecutor, through Prosecutor Leonor Quiones, issued a resolution, finding prima facie evidence to hold Zamoranos liable for Bigamy. Consequently, an Information for Bigamy was filed against Zamoranos before the RTC.

On the other civil litigation front on the Declaration of a Void Marriage, the RTC, rendered a decision in favor of Zamoranos, dismissing the petition of Pacasum for lack of jurisdiction. The RTC, Branch 2, Iligan City, found that Zamoranos and De Guzman are Muslims, and were such at the time of their marriage, whose marital relationship was governed by Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1083, otherwise known as the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines.

ISSUE: Was the marriage of Zamoranos to Pacasum bigamous?

HELD: First, we dispose of the peripheral issue raised by Zamoranos on the conclusiveness of judgment made by the RTC, Branch 2, Iligan City, which heard the petition for declaration of nullity of marriage filed by Pacasum on the ground that his marriage to Zamoranos was a bigamous marriage. In that case, the decision of which is already final and executory, the RTC, Branch 2, Iligan City, dismissed the petition for declaration of nullity of marriage for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter by the regular civil courts. The RTC, Branch 2, Iligan City, declared that it was the Shari'a Circuit Court which had jurisdiction over the subject matter thereof. Nonetheless, the RTC, Branch 6, Iligan City, which heard the case for Bigamy, should have taken cognizance of the categorical declaration of the RTC, Branch 2, Iligan City, that Zamoranos is a Muslim, whose first marriage to another Muslim, De Guzman, was valid and recognized under Islamic law. In fact, the same court further declared that Zamoranos' divorce from De Guzman validly severed their marriage ties.

From the foregoing declarations of all three persons in authority, two of whom are officers of the court, it is evident that Zamoranos is a Muslim who married another Muslim, De Guzman, under Islamic rites. Accordingly, the nature, consequences, and incidents of such marriage are governed by P.D. No. 1083.

Nonetheless, it must be pointed out that even in criminal cases, the trial court must have jurisdiction over the subject matter of the offense. In this case, the charge of Bigamy hinges on Pacasum's claim that Zamoranos is not a Muslim, and her marriage to De Guzman was governed by civil law. This is obviously far from the truth, and the fact of Zamoranos' Muslim status should have been apparent to both lower courts, the RTC, Branch 6, Iligan City, and the CA.

The subject matter of the offense of Bigamy dwells on the accused contracting a second marriage while a prior valid one still subsists and has yet to be dissolved. At the very least, the RTC, Branch 6, Iligan City, should have suspended the proceedings until Pacasum had litigated the validity of Zamoranos and De Guzman's marriage before the Shari'a Circuit Court and had successfully shown that it had not been dissolved despite the divorce by talaq entered into by Zamoranos and De Guzman.

In a pluralist society such as that which exists in the Philippines, P.D. No. 1083, or the Code of Muslim Personal Laws, was enacted to "promote the advancement and effective participation of the National Cultural Communities x x x, [and] the State shall consider their customs, traditions, beliefs and interests in the formulation and implementation of its policies."

Trying Zamoranos for Bigamy simply because the regular criminal courts have jurisdiction over the offense defeats the purpose for the enactment of the Code of Muslim Personal Laws and the equal recognition bestowed by the State on Muslim Filipinos.

Moreover, the two experts, in the same book, unequivocally state that one of the effects of irrevocable talaq, as well as other kinds of divorce, refers to severance of matrimonial bond, entitling one to remarry.

It stands to reason therefore that Zamoranos' divorce from De Guzman, as confirmed by an Ustadz and Judge Jainul of the Shari'a Circuit Court, and attested to by Judge Usman, was valid, and, thus, entitled her to remarry Pacasum in 1989. Consequently, the RTC, Branch 6, Iligan City, is without jurisdiction to try Zamoranos for the crime of Bigamy. GRANTED.