G.R. No. 237540. July 09, 2018

SECOND DIVISION: [G.R. No. 237540, July 09, 2018] CARLOS R. VILLANUEVA III VS. CIVIL REGISTRAR GENERAL, DULY REPRESENTED BY LISA GRACE S. BERSALES, PH.D AND/OR LOCAL CIVIL REGISTRAR OF MABALACAT, PAMPANGA.

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari[1] pursuant to Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, as amended, seeking to reverse and set aside the Resolutions dated August 30, 2017[2] and February 9, 2018[3] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 151893. This petition likewise prays for the issuance of an order reinstating Carlos R. Villanueva III's (petitioner) Petition for Declaration of Foreign Divorce.

The Facts

The facts, as summarized, read as follows:

The petitioner alleged among others that: 1) the petitioner and Herminia R. Ilagan (Herminia) got married on September 17, 1982 before Hon. Wilfredo C. Halili of Mabalacat, Pampanga;[4] 2) On September 27, 1998 a judgment was issued dissolving the marriage of petitioner and Herminia by the Court of Queen's Bench Manitoba in Canada;[5] and 3) Herminia applied for and obtained Canadian Citizenship in 1999.[6]

In 2017, the petitioner filed a Petition for Judicial Recognition of Divorce (Petition for Recognition) with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Angeles, Pampanga. He impleaded the Civil Registrar General and/or the Local Civil Registrar of Mabalacat, Pampanga for correction of entries (marital status) pursuant to Rule 108 of the Rules of Court upon recognition of the foreign judgment of divorce.

In an Order[7] dated January 26, 2017, the RTC of Angeles City, Branch 60, in Spec. Proc. No. R-ANG-17-00182-SP, dismissed the Petition for Recognition filed by the petitioner on the ground that the same is insufficient in form and substance, to wit:
Apparent from the allegations of the petitioner is that the marriage between petitioner and [Herminia] was dissolved by virtue of a Certificate of Divorce obtained in Canada when [Herminia] is still a Filipino citizen. Henceforth, paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code is not applicable in this case.
In view of such, the petition is insufficient in form and substance and the same is hereby dismissed. 
SO ORDERED.[8]
The petitioner moved for reconsideration but the same was denied by the RTC in an Order[9] dated April 11, 2017. The order was received by the petitioner on June 6, 2017.
The petitioner thereafter elevated the case to the CA via Petition for Certiorari. In a Resolution[10] dated August 30, 2017, the CA dismissed the petition on the ground that the petitioner availed of the wrong remedy. Appeal being the correct remedy, the petitioner should have appealed within 15 days from the date of his receipt of the RTC denial of his motion for reconsideration. Since the petition was not filed within the reglementary period, it cannot also properly treated as an appeal. The dispositive portion reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, the Petition for Certiorari is hereby outrightly DENIED DUE COURSE and ordered DISMISSED. 
SO ORDERED.[11]
The petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration but the same was denied by the CA in its Resolution[12] dated February 9, 2018 for lack of merit.

Hence, this petition.

The Issues

Whether the CA committed a serious error of law in dismissing the Petition for Certiorari on the ground that the assailed orders of the RTC judge were not interlocutory orders and as such, the proper legal remedy is not a Petition for Certiorari but an appeal.[13]

Ruling of the Court

The petition is bereft of merit.

The petitioner received the RTC Order denying his Motion of Reconsideration on June 6, 2017. Applying the fresh 15-day period in appeals, the petitioner had until June 21, 2017 to file an appeal with the CA. Since the petitioner only filed his petition with the CA only on August 3, 2017 or beyond the reglementary period, the ruling of the RTC stands. Moreover, what the petitioner filed with the CA was a Petition forCertiorari. The petitioner posits that the RTC orders, being interlocutory, were proper subjects of a certiorari petition.

The Court disagrees.

Contrary to the petitioner's stance, the RTC orders were not mere interlocutory orders. They were final orders which ultimately dismissed the Petition for Recognition. Being final orders, they were proper subjects of an Ordinary Appeal under Rule 41 of the Rules of Court. Section 3 of Rule 41 of the Rules of Court expressly provides:
Sec. 3. Period of ordinary appeal. — The appeal shall be taken within fifteen (15) days from notice of the judgment or final order appealed from. Where a record on appeal is required, the appellant shall file a notice of appeal and a record on appeal within thirty (30) days from notice of the judgment or final order. 
The period of appeal shall be interrupted by a timely motion for new trial or reconsideration. No motion for extension of time to file a motion for new trial or reconsideration shall be allowed. (Emphasis and underscoring Ours)
Although the Court has, in some cases, allowed certiorari petitions to be treated as ordinary appeals, the same cannot be applied in the case at bench because the petition was not even filed within the reglementary 15-day period.

In Republic of the Philippines v. CA,[14] the Court held that "perfection of an appeal within the statutory or reglementary period is not only mandatory but also jurisdictional; failure to do so renders the questioned decision/final order final and executory, and deprives the appellate court of jurisdiction to alter the judgment or final order, much less to entertain the appeal."[15]

Assuming, for the sake of discussion, that the appeal was filed on time, it would still be denied based on the merits. The RTC is correct when it dismissed the Petition for Recognition filed by the petitioner. A divorce procured abroad by Filipino citizens is not recognized in our country. The exception that is found in paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code and specifically used by the petitioner as basis in filing his petition with the RTC is not applicable.Article 26 of the Family Code of the Philippines provides:
Art. 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), 36, 37 and 38. 
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) (Emphasis and underscoring Ours)
As correctly observed by the RTC, it was the petitioner himself who alleged in his petition that the divorce decree was applied for and issued prior to the application of his wife Herminia for Canadian citizenship. The pertinent portions of the said petition read as follows:
  1. Petitioner and Herminia's relationship turned sour due to the decision of Petitioner to stay and work in the Philippines. Petitioner and Herminia gave up on their marriage.
  2. Notably, Herminia applied for Canadian citizenship. Herminia obtained Canadian citizenship in 1999.
  3. Sometime in December 1997, Petitioner learned that Herminia filed a Petition for Divorce of their marriage in the Court of Queen's Bench, Winnipeg, Manitoba on the ground of their separation for 1.3 year/s which is one of the recognized grounds for divorce as provided under Divorce Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. 3, (2nd supp.).
  4. On 27 September 1998, a Judgment was issued dissolving the marriage of the Petitioner and Herminia. (Copy of the Certificate of Authentication with the Certificate of Divorce are hereto attached as Annexes "E", "E-1" and "F")
  5. After obtaining the divorce decree, Herminia re-married, such that she is now, Herminia I. Guinto. [16]
Article 26 of the Family Code applies to marriages involving a Filipino and a foreigner, whereby the foreigner spouse thereafter secures a decree of divorce abroad capacitating him/her to remarry. The second paragraph of Article 26 is a remedy to avoid the absurd situation wherein the Filipino spouse remains married to the foreigner notwithstanding the fact that the latter has already obtained a divorce decree capacitating him/her to remarry. The Court reasoned in Van Dorn vJudge Romillo, Jr.[17] that:
To maintain x x x that, under our laws, [the Filipino spouse] has to be considered still married to [the alien spouse] and still subject to a wife's obligations x x x cannot be just. [The Filipino spouse] should not be obliged to live together with, observe respect and fidelity, and render support to [the alien spouse]. The latter should not continue to be one of her heirs with possible rights to conjugal property. She should not be discriminated against in her own country if the ends of justice are to be served.[18](Emphasis Ours)
The Court, following its ruling in the landmark case of Republic v. Orbecido III,[19] likewise applied this doctrine to marriages wherein initially both parties were Filipino citizens and then later on one of them becomes a naturalized citizen of another country. If the naturalized spouse subsequently applies for a divorce and the same is granted in the country where she has been naturalized, paragraph 2 of Article 26 shall also apply and benefit the Filipino spouse. However, application of this provision presupposes that the Filipino spouse was already a citizen of a foreign country at the time she applied for divorce.[20] As the Court held, "the reckoning period is the citizenship of the former Filipino spouse at the time of the issuance of the judgment divorce."[21]

Since Herminia was still a Filipino citizen when she applied for and was subsequently issued a divorce decree under Canadian laws, Article 26 does not apply. Simply put, the divorce decree cannot be recognized in our country because as far as our laws and courts are concerned, both parties were Filipino citizens when the decree was issued.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is hereby DENIED. The Resolutions dated August 30, 2017 and February 9, 2018 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 151893 are AFFIRMED in toto.

SO ORDERED.

[1] Rollo, pp. 3-5.
[2] Penned by Associate Justice Priscilla J. Baltazar-Padilla, with Associate Justices Eduardo B. Peralta, Jr. and Pedro B. Corales, concurring; id. at 34-36.
[3] Id. at 11-12; 38-39.
[4] Id. at 110.
[5] Id.
[6] Id.
[7] Rendered by Presiding Judge Eda P. Dizon-Era; id. at 178-179
[8] Id.
[9] Id. at 147-148.
[10] Id. at 34-36.
[11] Id. at 36.
[12] Id. at 38-39.
[13] Id. at 22.
[14] 372 Phil. 259 (1999).
[15] Id. at 266.
[16] Rollo, p. 218.
[17] 223 Phil. 357 (1985).
[18] Id. at 363.
[19] 509 Phil. 108 (2005).
[20] Id. at 114-115.
[21] Id. at 115.

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