Case Digest: Fujiki vs. Marinay

G.R. No. 196049 : June 26, 2013

MINORU FUJIKI, Petitioner,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, Respondents.

CARPIO, J.:

FACTS:

Petitioner Minoru Fujiki (Fujiki) is a Japanese national who married respondent Maria Paz Galela Marinay (Marinay) in the Philippines On 23 January 2004. The marriage did not sit well with petitioners parents. Thus, Fujiki could not bring his wife to Japan where he resides. Eventually, they lost contact with each other.

In 2008, Marinay met another Japanese, Shinichi Maekara (Maekara). Without the first marriage being dissolved, Marinay and Maekara were married on 15 May 2008 in Quezon City, Philippines. Maekara brought Marinay to Japan. However, Marinay allegedly suffered physical abuse from Maekara. She left Maekara and started to contact Fujiki.

Fujiki and Marinay met in Japan and they were able to reestablish their relationship. In 2010, Fujiki helped Marinay obtain a judgment from a family court in Japan which declared the marriage between Marinay and Maekara void on the ground of bigamy.On 14 January 2011, Fujiki filed a petition in the RTC for the Decree of Absolute Nullity of Marriage. Fujiki prayed that (1) the Japanese Family Court judgment be recognized; (2) that the bigamous marriage between Marinay and Maekara be declared voidab initiounder Articles 35(4) and 41 of the Family Code of the Philippines;and (3) for the RTC to direct the Local Civil Registrar of Quezon City to annotate the Japanese Family Court judgment on the Certificate of Marriage between Marinay and Maekara and to endorse such annotation to the Office of the Administrator and Civil Registrar General in the National Statistics Office (NSO).

A few days after the filing of the petition, the RTC immediately issued an Order dismissing the petition and withdrawing the case from its active civil docket.The RTC cited the following provisions of the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages.

The RTC ruled, without further explanation, that the petition was in "gross violation" of the provisions of the rule. Apparently, the RTC took the view that only "the husband or the wife," in this case either Maekara or Marinay, can file the petition to declare their marriage void, and not Fujiki.

Fujiki moved that the Order be reconsidered.

On 2 March 2011, the RTC resolved to deny petitioners motion for reconsideration. In its Resolution, the RTC stated that A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC applies because the petitioner, in effect, prays for a decree of absolute nullity of marriage.The trial court reiterated its two grounds for dismissal, i.e. lack of personality to sue and improper venue under Sections 2(a) and 4 of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC.

On 30 May 2011, the Court required respondents to file their comment on the petition for review.The public respondents, the Local Civil Registrar of Quezon City and the Administrator and Civil Registrar General of the NSO, participated through the Office of the Solicitor General. Instead of a comment, the Solicitor General filed a Manifestation and Motion.

The Solicitor General agreed with the petition. He prayed that the RTCs "pronouncement that the petitioner failed to comply with A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC be set aside" and that the case be reinstated in the trial court for further proceedings. The Solicitor General argued that Fujiki, as the spouse of the first marriage, is an injured party who can sue to declare the bigamous marriage between Marinay and Maekara void.

Moreover, the Solicitor General argued that there is no jurisdictional infirmity in assailing a void marriage under Rule 108, citing De Castro v. De Castroand Nil v. Bayadog which declared that "the validity of a void marriage may be collaterally attacked."

Marinay and Maekara individually sent letters to the Court to comply with the directive for them to comment on the petition.Maekara wrote that Marinay concealed from him the fact that she was previously married to Fujiki. Maekara also denied that he inflicted any form of violence on Marinay.On the other hand, Marinay wrote that she had no reason to oppose the petition.She would like to maintain her silence for fear that anything she say might cause misunderstanding between her and Fujiki.

ISSUES:

HELD: RTC decision is reversed.

REMEDIAL LAW: Proof of foreign judgments relating to the statues of a marriage where on of the parties is a citizen of a foreign country; AM 02-11-SC not applicable to petition for recognition of foreign judgment

The Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages (A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC) does not apply in a petition to recognize a foreign judgment relating to the status of a marriage where one of the parties is a citizen of a foreign country. Moreover, in Juliano-Llave v. Republic,this Court held that the rule in A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC that only the husband or wife can file a declaration of nullity or annulment of marriage "does not apply if the reason behind the petition is bigamy."

For Philippine courts to recognize a foreign judgment relating to the status of a marriage where one of the parties is a citizen of a foreign country, the petitioner only needs to prove the foreign judgment as a fact under the Rules of Court. To be more specific, a copy of the foreign judgment may be admitted in evidence and proven as a fact under Rule 132, Sections 24 and 25, in relation to Rule 39, Section 48(b) of the Rules of Court.Petitioner may prove the Japanese Family Court judgment through (1) an official publication or (2) a certification or copy attested by the officer who has custody of the judgment. If the office which has custody is in a foreign country such as Japan, the certification may be made by the proper diplomatic or consular officer of the Philippine foreign service in Japan and authenticated by the seal of office.

To hold that A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC applies to a petition for recognition of foreign judgment would mean that the trial court and the parties should follow its provisions, including the form and contents of the petition,the service of summons,the investigation of the public prosecutor,the setting of pre-trial,the trialand the judgment of the trial court.This is absurd because it will litigate the case anew. It will defeat the purpose of recognizing foreign judgments, which is "to limit repetitive litigation on claims and issues."The interpretation of the RTC is tantamount to relitigating the case on the merits. InMijares v. Rada,this Court explained that "if every judgment of a foreign court were reviewable on the merits, the plaintiff would be forced back on his/her original cause of action, rendering immaterial the previously concluded litigation."

CIVIL LAW: remarriage of a Filipino citizen whose alien spouse divorces him or her

Article 26 of the Family Code confers jurisdiction on Philippine courts to extend the effect of a foreign divorce decree to a Filipino spouse without undergoing trial to determine the validity of the dissolution of the marriage. The second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code provides that "[w]here 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." In Republic v. Orbecido,this Court recognized the legislative intent of the second paragraph of Article 26 which is "to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce, is no longer married to the Filipino spouse"under the laws of his or her country. The second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code only authorizes Philippine courts to adopt the effects of a foreign divorce decree precisely because the Philippines does not allow divorce. Philippine courts cannot try the case on the merits because it is tantamount to trying a case for divorce.

The second paragraph of Article 26 is only a corrective measure to address the anomaly that results from a marriage between a Filipino, whose laws do not allow divorce, and a foreign citizen, whose laws allow divorce. The anomaly consists in the Filipino spouse being tied to the marriage while the foreign spouse is free to marry under the laws of his or her country. The correction is made by extending in the Philippines the effect of the foreign divorce decree, which is already effective in the country where it was rendered. The second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code is based on this Courts decision in Van Dorn v. Romillo which declared that the Filipino spouse "should not be discriminated against in her own country if the ends of justice are to be served."

The principle in Article 26 of the Family Code applies in a marriage between a Filipino and a foreign citizen who obtains a foreign judgment nullifying the marriage on the ground of bigamy. The Filipino spouse may file a petition abroad to declare the marriage void on the ground of bigamy. The principle in the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code applies because the foreign spouse, after the foreign judgment nullifying the marriage, is capacitated to remarry under the laws of his or her country. If the foreign judgment is not recognized in the Philippines, the Filipino spouse will be discriminated the foreign spouse can remarry while the Filipino spouse cannot remarry.

Under the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, Philippine courts are empowered to correct a situation where the Filipino spouse is still tied to the marriage while the foreign spouse is free to marry. Moreover, notwithstanding Article 26 of the Family Code, Philippine courts already have jurisdiction to extend the effect of a foreign judgment in the Philippines to the extent that the foreign judgment does not contravene domestic public policy. A critical difference between the case of a foreign divorce decree and a foreign judgment nullifying a bigamous marriage is that bigamy, as a ground for the nullity of marriage, is fully consistent with Philippine public policy as expressed in Article 35(4) of the Family Code and Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code. The Filipino spouse has the option to undergo full trial by filing a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage under A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC, but this is not the only remedy available to him or her. Philippine courts have jurisdiction to recognize a foreign judgment nullifying a bigamous marriage, without prejudice to a criminal prosecution for bigamy.

Comments

Popular Posts