Court disqualifies abandoning spouse from SSS pension


Even if you are the legal spouse, if you abandon your husband or wife before he or she dies, thereby rendering you independent from him or her, you will not be legally entitled to social security benefits (pension) under the SSS law that would otherwise accrue to you.

CASE DIGEST: [G.R. No. 231317, August 16, 2017]. ESTRELLA MOMOG LATUMBO V. SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM (SSS).

Petitioner insists that she is a qualified primary beneficiary of her husband Jerry D. Latumbo (Jerry), a member of respondent Social Security System, under Section 8 (e) and (k) of the Social Security Law. She avers that she was never separated from Jerry. In fact, their whole family stayed in Caminawit, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro until Jerry's death on November 18, 1990. Petitioner also denies that she contracted a second marriage with a certain Nelson Mateo (Nelson) whom she claims she does not know and has never met. She points out that respondent failed to present concrete proof of her alleged illicit relationship with Nelson during the lifetime of Jerry or even after the latter's death; hence, she is deemed to have been continually dependent upon Jerry for support when the latter was still alive.

Moreover, petitioner argues that the Social Security Commission and the CA should not have given credence to the Marriage Certificate purportedly evidencing her marriage to Nelson because (1) her supposed signature appearing therein is not hers and, (2) the said document does not bear the signature of the solemnizing officer.

HELD: The Supreme Court resolved to DENY the same for failure to sufficiently show any reversible error on the part of the CA.

Suffice it to state, however, that petitioner's allegations essentially invite the Court's attention to questions of fact which are not within the ambit of the present petition for review on certiorari. :Settled is the rule that questions of fact are not reviewable in petitions for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. Section 1 of Rule 45 states that petitions for review on certiorari 'shall raise only questions of law which must be distinctly set forth."

Undeniably, the following are questions of facts: (1) whether petitioner and Jerry lived together until the latter's death; (2) whether petitioner was dependent upon Jerry for support; (3) whether petitioner contracted marriage with Nelson during the subsistence of her marriage with Jerry; and, (4) whether petitioner and Nelson's purported Marriage Certificate does not bear the signature of the solemnizing officer and that the supposed signature therein of petitioner was not hers. They are therefore not reviewable in this Petition under Rule 45.

In any case, the Court FOUND NO reversible error on the part of Social Security Commission in denying petitioner's Petition for Entitlement to Death Benefits and also, on the part of the CA in affirming the same. "A spouse who claims entitlement to death benefits as a primary beneficiary under the Social Security Law must establish two qualifying factors, to wit: (1) that he/she is the legitimate spouse; and (2) that he/she is dependent upon the member for support."

Here, while the Marriage Certificate of petitioner and Jerry showed that she was the legitimate spouse of Jerry, petitioner was not able to meet the second qualifying factor, i.e., that she was dependent upon Jerry for support. As held, "a wife who left her family until her husband died and lived with other men, was not dependent upon her husband for support, financial or otherwise, during the entire period." Also, as observed by the CA, "aside from petitioner's bare allegation in support of her claim, she has not presented sufficient evidence to discharge the burden of proving that she was dependent upon her deceased husband for support at the time of his death." In view of the above, the Court was therefore NOT inclined to depart from the rulings of the Social Security Commission and the CA.

SUGGESTED READINGS:
[1] SEC. 8. Terms Defined. - For purposes of this Act, the following terms shall, unless the context indicates otherwise, have the following meanings:
 x x x

 (e) Dependents - The dependents shall be the following:
 (1) The legal spouse entitled by law to receive support from the member;

 (2) The legitimate, legitimated or legally adopted, and illegitimate child who is unmarried, not gainfully employed, and has not reached twenty-one (21) years of age, or if over twenty-one (21) years of age, he is congenitally or while still a minor has been permanently incapacitated and incapable of self- support, physically or mentally; and

 (3) The parent who is receiving regular support from the member,

 xxx
(k) Beneficiaries - The dependent spouse until he or she remarries, the dependent legitimate, legitimated or legally adopted, and illegitimate children, who shall be the primary beneficiaries of the member: Provided, That the dependent illegitimate children shall be entitled to fifty percent (50%) of the share of the legitimate, legitimated or legally adopted children: Provided, further, That in the absence of the dependent legitimate, legitimated children of the member, his/her dependent illegitimate children shall be entitled to one hundred percent (100%) of the benefits. In their absence, the dependent parents who shall be the secondary beneficiaries of the member. In the absence of all the foregoing, any other person designated by the member as his/her secondary beneficiary.

[2]Abalos v. Heirs of Vicente, 678 SCRA 691, 699 (2011).

[3] Social Security Commission v. Favila, 662 Phil. 25, 30 (2011).

[4] Social Security System v. Delos Santos, 585 Phil. 684, 694 (2008).

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