Republic v. Manalo (G.R. No. 221029, April 24, 2018): Filipino wife obtains divorce abroad

FAMILY CODE: Article 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), 3637 and 38. (17a)

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. (As amended by Executive Order 227)

In previous rulings of the Supreme Court, such as Republic v. Orbecido III (G.R. No. 154380, October 5, 2005), it has been held that the foreign spouse is the one who should acquire the divorce decree abroad. In this case, either the Filipino spouse or the other may file a petition for recognition of the foreign divorce decree. If successful, judgment may be obtained recognizing the divorce issued by a foreign court, capacitating the Filipino spouse to remarry.

Things have changed. The Supreme Court, in Republic of the Philippines vs. Marelyn T. Manalo (G.R. No. 221029, April 24, 2018), has recently held that it does not matter if it is the Filipino spouse who acquired the decree of divorce abroad. "With this ruling, the state now recognizes the divorce obtained by the Filipino, and couples of the same circumstances of mixed-marriage will be considered not married to each other under Philippine law." (Lian Buan @lianbuan Published 3:45 PM, April 24, 2018)
RAPPLER:  Marelyn Tanedo Manalo who was married to Japanese national Minoru Yoshino. Manalo filed for and was granted divorce in Japan in 2011.

Manalo went to court in Dagupan in the Philippines to have her divorce recognized here. The trial court in Dagupan denied her petition. She then went to the Court of Appeals (CA), where she scored a victory in 2014.

The CA ruled that Manalo should have the right to remarry. It applied the amended Article 26(2) of the Family Code. Former president Corazon Aquino issued an executive order that amended the provision so that it included this:

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 likewise have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.

The Philippine government, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), went to the SC to try to reverse the CA's ruling. Manalo won at the SC level, hence this landmark ruling.

GMA NEWS:  The provision states that "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 likewise have the capacity to remarry under Philippine law."

The Court of Appeals, however, overturned the lower court's decision, saying Article 26 of the Family Code applies even if it was the Filipino spouse who filed for divorce against the foreign spouse because the decree obtained makes the foreigner no longer married to the Filipino, enabling the foreigner to remarry.

The Supreme Court sided with the CA.

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