No ceremony = no semblance of a valid marriage

If there was no marriage ceremony and the parties merely signed the marriage contract without such a ceremony, there is no semblance of a valid marriage.

In the case of Morigo v. People (G.R. No. 145226, February 06, 2004), no marriage ceremony at all was performed by a duly authorized solemnizing officer. The man and the woman merely signed a marriage contract on their own. The mere private act of signing a marriage contract bears no semblance to a valid marriage and thus, needs no judicial declaration of nullity. Such act alone, without more, cannot be deemed to constitute an ostensibly valid marriage for which petitioner might be held liable for bigamy unless he first secures a judicial declaration of nullity before he contracts a subsequent marriage.

In the case cited above, the husband married twice without getting a judicial decree nullifying or declaring the nullity of the first marriage. He was sued for bigamy which is the crime of entering into a contract of marriage while another marriage still subsists.

The summary of the facts of the case is as follows:

Appellant Lucio Morigo and Lucia Barrete were boardmates at the house of Catalina Tortor at Tagbilaran City, Province of Bohol, for a period of four (4) years (from 1974-1978).

After school year 1977-78, Lucio Morigo and Lucia Barrete lost contact with each other.

In 1984, Lucio Morigo was surprised to receive a card from Lucia Barrete from Singapore. The former replied and after an exchange of letters, they became sweethearts.

In 1986, Lucia returned to the Philippines but left again for Canada to work there. While in Canada, they maintained constant communication.

In 1990, Lucia came back to the Philippines and proposed to petition appellant to join her in Canada. Both agreed to get married, thus they were married on August 30, 1990 at the Iglesia de Filipina Nacional at Catagdaan, Pilar, Bohol.

On September 8, 1990, Lucia reported back to her work in Canada leaving appellant Lucio behind.On August 19, 1991, Lucia filed with the Ontario Court (General Division) a petition for divorce against appellant which was granted by the court on January 17, 1992 and to take effect on February 17, 1992.

On October 4, 1992, appellant Lucio Morigo married Maria Jececha Lumbago at the Virgen sa Barangay Parish, Tagbilaran City, Bohol.

On September 21, 1993, accused filed a complaint for judicial declaration of nullity of marriage in the Regional Trial Court of Bohol, docketed as Civil Case No. 6020. The complaint sought among others, the declaration of nullity of accused’s marriage with Lucia, on the ground that no marriage ceremony actually took place.

On October 19, 1993, appellant was charged with Bigamy in an Information filed by the City Prosecutor of Tagbilaran [City], with the Regional Trial Court of Bohol.

Meanwhile, on October 23, 1997, or while CA-G.R. CR No. 20700 was pending before the appellate court, the trial court rendered a decision in Civil Case No. 6020 declaring the marriage between Lucio and Lucia void ab initio since no marriage ceremony actually took place. No appeal was taken from this decision, which then became final and executory.

The court found that there was no actual marriage ceremony performed between Lucio and Lucia by a solemnizing officer. Instead, what transpired was a mere signing of the marriage contract by the two, without the presence of a solemnizing officer. The court thus held that the marriage is void ab initio, in accordance with Articles 3 and 4 of the Family Code. As the dissenting opinion in CA-G.R. CR No. 20700, correctly puts it, "This simply means that there was no marriage to begin with; and that such declaration of nullity retroacts to the date of the first marriage. In other words, for all intents and purposes, reckoned from the date of the declaration of the first marriage as void ab initio to the date of the celebration of the first marriage, the accused was, under the eyes of the law, never married." The records show that no appeal was taken from the decision of the court in Civil Case No. 6020, hence, the decision had long become final and executory.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The assailed decision, dated October 21, 1999 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 20700, as well as the resolution of the appellate court dated September 25, 2000, denying herein petitioner’s motion for reconsideration, is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The petitioner Lucio Morigo y Cacho is ACQUITTED from the charge of BIGAMY on the ground that his guilt has not been proven with moral certainty. SO ORDERED.