SC: No need to declare void if actually NO marriage

Rule 108 of the Rules of Court provides the procedure for cancellation or correction of entries in the civil registry. The proceedings may either be summary or adversary. If the correction is clerical, then the procedure to be adopted is summary. If the rectification affects the civil status, citizenship or nationality of a party, it is deemed substantial, and the procedure to be adopted is adversary.

Rule 108 of the Rules of Court sets forth the rules on cancellation or correction of entries in the civil registry, to wit:

SEC. 1. Who may file petition. – Any person interested in any act, event, order or decree concerning the civil status of persons which has been recorded in the civil register, may file a verified petition for the cancellation or correction of any entry relating thereto, with the Regional Trial Court of the province where the corresponding civil registry is located.

SEC. 2. Entries subject to cancellation or correction. – Upon good and valid grounds, the following entries in the civil register may be cancelled or corrected: (a) births; (b) marriages; (c) deaths; (d) legal separations; (e) judgments of annulments of marriage; (f) judgments declaring marriages void from the beginning; (g) legitimations; (h) adoptions; (i) acknowledgments of natural children; (j) naturalization; (k) election, loss or recovery of citizenship; (l) civil interdiction; (m) judicial determination of filiation; (n) voluntary emancipation of a minor; and (o) changes of name.

SEC. 3. Parties. – When cancellation or correction of an entry in the civil register is sought, the civil registrar and all persons who have or claim any interest which would be affected thereby shall be made parties to the proceeding.

SEC. 4. Notice and Publication. – Upon the filing of the petition, the court shall, by an order, fix the time and place for the hearing of the same, and cause reasonable notice thereof to be given to the persons named in the petition. The court shall also cause the order to be published once a week for three (3) consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the province.

SEC. 5. Opposition. – The civil registrar and any person having or claiming any interest under the entry whose cancellation or correction is sought may, within fifteen (15) days from notice of the petition, or from the last date of publication of such notice, file his opposition thereto.SEC. 6. Expediting proceedings. – The court in which the proceedings is brought may make orders expediting the proceedings, and may also grant preliminary injunction for the preservation of the rights of the parties pending such proceedings.

SEC. 7. Order. – After hearing, the court may either dismiss the petition or issue an order granting the cancellation or correction prayed for. In either case, a certified copy of the judgment shall be served upon the civil registrar concerned who shall annotate the same in his record.

Since the promulgation of Republic v. Valencia[1] in 1986, the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that "even substantial errors in a civil registry may be corrected through a petition filed under Rule 108, with the true facts established and the parties aggrieved by the error availing themselves of the appropriate adversarial proceeding."[2] An appropriate adversary suit or proceeding is one where the trial court has conducted proceedings where all relevant facts have been fully and properly developed, where opposing counsel have been given opportunity to demolish the opposite party’s case, and where the evidence has been thoroughly weighed and considered.[3]

It is true that, in special proceedings, formal pleadings and a hearing may be dispensed with, and the remedy is granted upon mere application or motion. However, a special proceeding is not always summary. The procedure laid down in Rule 108 is not a summary proceeding per se. It requires publication of the petition; it mandates the inclusion as parties of all persons who may claim interest which would be affected by the cancellation or correction; it also requires the civil registrar and any person in interest to file their opposition, if any; and it states that although the court may make orders expediting the proceedings, it is after hearing that the court shall either dismiss the petition or issue an order granting the same. Thus, as long as the procedural requirements in Rule 108 are followed, it is the appropriate adversary proceeding to effect substantial corrections and changes in entries of the civil register.[4]

In the case of REPUBLIC v. OLAYBAR (G.R. No. 189538, February 10, 2014), when respondent tried to obtain a CENOMAR from the NSO, it appeared that she was married to a certain Ye Son Sune. She then sought the cancellation of entries in the wife portion of the marriage certificate. The Court said that the entries made in the wife portion of the certificate of marriage are admittedly the personal circumstances of respondent. The latter, however, claims that her signature was forged and she was not the one who contracted marriage with the purported husband. In other words, she claims that no such marriage was entered into or if there was, she was not the one who entered into such contract.

In filing the petition for correction of entry under Rule 108, respondent Olaybar made the Local Civil Registrar of Cebu City, as well as her alleged husband Ye Son Sune, as parties-respondents. It is likewise undisputed that the procedural requirements set forth in Rule 108 were complied with. The Office of the Solicitor General was likewise notified of the petition which in turn authorized the Office of the City Prosecutor to participate in the proceedings. More importantly, trial was conducted where respondent herself, the stenographer of the court where the alleged marriage was conducted, as well as a document examiner, testified. Several documents were also considered as evidence. With the testimonies and other evidence presented, the trial court found that the signature appearing in the subject marriage certificate was different from respondent’s signature appearing in some of her government issued identification cards.

The court thus made a categorical conclusion that respondent’s signature in the marriage certificate was not hers and, therefore, was forged. Clearly, it was established that, as she claimed in her petition, no such marriage was celebrated.

Indeed, the Surpreme Court made a pronouncement in the recent case of Minoru Fujiki 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[5] that:
To be sure, a petition for correction or cancellation of an entry in the civil registry cannot substitute for an action to invalidate a marriage. A direct action is necessary to prevent circumvention of the substantive and procedural safeguards of marriage under the Family Code, A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC and other related laws. Among these safeguards are the requirement of proving the limited grounds for the dissolution of marriage, support pendente lite of the spouses and children, the liquidation, partition and distribution of the properties of the spouses and the investigation of the public prosecutor to determine collusion. A direct action for declaration of nullity or annulment of marriage is also necessary to prevent circumvention of the jurisdiction of the Family Courts under the Family Courts Act of 1997 (Republic Act No. 8369), as a petition for cancellation or correction of entries in the civil registry may be filed in the Regional Trial Court where the corresponding civil registry is located. In other words, a Filipino citizen cannot dissolve his marriage by the mere expedient of changing his entry of marriage in the civil registry.[6]
Aside from the certificate of marriage, no such evidence was presented to show the existence of marriage. Rather, respondent showed by overwhelming evidence that no marriage was entered into and that she was not even aware of such existence. The testimonial and documentary evidence clearly established that the only “evidence” of marriage which is the marriage certificate was a forgery.[7]

While the Court maintains that Rule 108 cannot be availed of to determine the validity of marriage, the proceedings before the trial court cannot be nullified where all the parties had been given the opportunity to contest the allegations of respondent; the procedures were followed, and all the evidence of the parties had already been admitted and examined. Respondent Olaybar indeed sought, not the nullification of marriage as there was no marriage to speak of, but the correction of the record of such marriage to reflect the truth as set forth by the evidence. Otherwise stated, in allowing the correction of the subject certificate of marriage by cancelling the wife portion thereof, the trial court did not, in any way, declare the marriage void as there was no marriage to speak of.[8]

[1] 225 Phil. 408 (1986).

[2] Barco v. Court of Appeals, 465 Phil. 39, 58 (2004).

[3] Republic of the Philippines v. Lim, 464 Phil. 151, 157 (2004); Eleosida v. Local Civil Registrar of Quezon City, 431 Phil. 612, 619 (2002).

[4] Lee v. Court of Appeals, 419 Phil. 392, 410 (2001).

[5] G.R. No. 196049, June 26, 2013.

[6] Minoru Fujiki 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, G.R. No. 196049, June 26, 2013.

[7] G.R. No. 189538, February 10, 2014.

[8] G.R. No. 189538, February 10, 2014.

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