SC: Marriage certificate NOT the only proof

Quite recently, in Añonuevo v. Intestate Estate of Rodolfo G. Jalandoni,[1] the Supreme Court said, citing precedents, that:
While a marriage certificate is considered the primary evidence of a marital union, it is not regarded as the sole and exclusive evidence of marriage. Jurisprudence teaches that the fact of marriage may be proven by relevant evidence other than the marriage certificate. Hence, even a person’s birth certificate may be recognized as competent evidence of the marriage between his parents.
The error of the trial court in ruling that without the marriage certificate, no other proof of the fact can be accepted, has been aptly delineated in Vda de Jacob v. Court of Appeals.[2] Thus:
It should be stressed that the due execution and the loss of the marriage contract, both constituting the conditio sine qua non for the introduction of secondary evidence of its contents, were shown by the very evidence they have disregarded. They have thus confused the evidence to show due execution and loss as “secondary” evidence of the marriage. In Hernaez v. Mcgrath, the Court clarified this misconception thus:
x x x [T]he court below was entirely mistaken in holding that parol evidence of the execution of the instrument was barred. The court confounded the execution and the contents of the document. It is the contents, x x x which may not be prove[n] by secondary evidence when the instrument itself is accessible. Proofs of the execution are not dependent on the existence or non-existence of the document, and, as a matter of fact, such proofs of the contents: due execution, besides the loss, has to be shown as foundation for the inroduction of secondary evidence of the contents.

x x x x

Evidence of the execution of a document is, in the last analysis, necessarily collateral or primary. It generally consists of parol testimony or extrinsic papers. Even when the document is actually produced, its authencity is not necessarily, if at all, determined from its face or recital of its contents but by parol evidence. At the most, failure to produce the document, when available, to establish its execution may effect the weight of the evidence presented but not the admissibility of such evidence.
The Court of Appeals, as well as the trial court, tried to justify its stand on this issue by relying on Lim Tanhu v. Ramolete. But even there, the High Court said that “marriage may be prove[n] by other competent evidence.

Truly, the execution of a document may be proven by the parties themselves, by the swearing officer, by witnesses who saw and recognized the signatures of the parties; or even by those to whom the parties have previously narrated the execution thereof. The Court has also held that “[t]he loss may be shown by any person who [knows] the fact of its loss, or by any one who ha[s] made, in the judgment of the court, a sufficient examination in the place or places where the document or papers of similar character are usually kept by the person in whose custody the document lost was, and has been unable to find it; or who has made any other investigation which is sufficient to satisfy the court that the instrument [has] indeed [been] lost.”

In the present case, due execution was established by the testimonies of Adela Pilapil, who was present during the marriage ceremony, and of petitioner herself as a party to the event. The subsequent loss was shown by the testimony and the affidavit of the officiating priest, Monsignor Yllana, as relevant, competent and admissible evidence. Since the due execution and the loss of the marriage contract were clearly shown by the evidence presented, secondary evidence–testimonial and documentary–may be admitted to prove the fact of marriage.[3]

[1] G.R. No. 178221, 1 December 2010, 636 SCRA 420, 429-430.
[2] 371 Phil. 693 (1999).
[3] Id. at 705-707.

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