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Salvador Abunado et al. V. People of the Philippines G.R. No. 159218, 30 March 2004, First Division, (Ynares-Santiago, J.)
The outcome of the civil case for annulment of petitioners marriage to Narcisa had no hearing upon the determination of petitioners innocence or guilt in the criminal case for bigamy, because all that is required fro the charge of bigamy to prosper is that the first marriage be subsisting at the time the second marriage is contracted Thus, under the law, a marriage even one which is void or voidable, shall be deemed valid until declared otherwise in a judicial proceeding. In this case, even if petitioner eventually obtained a declaration that his first marriage was void ab ignition, the point is, both the first and the second marriage were subsisting before the first marriage was annulled. Salvador Abunado married Zenaida Bias on December 24, 1955. In 1966, Salvador separated from Zenaida. On September 18, 1967, Salvador married Narcisa Arcea. Several years later in 1988, Narcisa left the country to work in Japan. On January 10, 1989, Salvador contracted a second marriage with Zenaida. When Narcisa returned in 1992, she discovered that Salvador left their conjugal home and now has an extramarital affair with a certain Fe Corazon Palto. Narcisa also learned of Salvadors marriage to Zenaida in 1989. On January 19, 1995, Salvador filed an annulment case against Narcisa. That same year, on May 18, 1995, Narcisa filed a complaint for bigamy against Salvador and Zenaida. Salvador, however, claimed he cannot be liable for bigamy since Narcisa has consented to his marriage with Zenaida. Salvador moreover, argued that his petition for annulment was a prejudicial question hence, proceedings in the bigamy case should first be suspended to give way to the civil case for annulment. ISSUE: Whether or not the subsequent judicial declaration of the nullity of the first marriage was immaterial to the case HELD: First Issue: Subsequent Judicial Declaration Of the Nullity Of the First Marriage Was Immaterial Salvador cannot invoke the benefit of a prejudicial question nor the order of the trial court annulling his marriage with Narcisa since the offense had already been consummated even before he instituted the civil case for annulment which preceded Narcisas complaint for bigamy. A prejudicial question has been defined as one based on a fact distinct and separate from the crime but so intimately connected with it that it determines the guilt or innocence of the accused, and for it to suspend the criminal action, it must appear not only that said case involves facts intimately related to those upon which the criminal prosecution would be based but also that in the resolution of the issue or issues raised in the civil case, the guilt or innocence of the accused would necessarily be determined. The rationale behind the principle of suspending a criminal case in view of a prejudicial question is to avoid two conflicting decisions. The subsequent judicial declaration of the nullity of the first marriage was immaterial because prior to the declaration of nullity, the crime had already been consummated. Moreover, petitioners assertion would only delay the prosecution of bigamy cases considering that an accused could simply file a petition to

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declare his previous marriage void and invoke the pendency of that action as a prejudicial question in the criminal case. We cannot allow that. The outcome of the civil case for annulment of petitioners marriage to Narcisa had no bearing upon the determination of petitioners innocence or guilt in the criminal case for bigamy, because all that is required for the charge of bigamy to prosper is that the first marriage be subsisting at the time the second marriage is contracted. Thus, under the law, a marriage, even one which is void or voidable, shall be deemed valid until declared otherwise in a judicial proceeding. In this case, even if petitioner eventually obtained a declaration that his first marriage was void ab initio, the point is, both the first and the second marriage were subsisting before the first marriage was annulled. Salvadors conviction is affirmed.

Concurring Opinion of J. Carpio Void marriages, as a rule, are ipso facto void. As an exception, however, Article 40 of the Family Code considers a void marriage valid for purposes remarriage until a judicial declaration of nullity is obtained before contracting a subsequent marriage. Under Article 40 of the family Code, the marital vinculum of a previous marriage that is void ab initio subsists only for purposes of remarriage. For purposes other than remarriage, marriages that are void ab initio, such as those falling under Articles 35 and 36 of the Family Code, are void even without a judicial declaration of nullity. As the Court held in Cario v. Cario [226 SCRA 572]: Under Article 40 of the Family Code, the absolute nullity of a previous marriage may be invoked for purposes of remarriage on the basis solely of a final judgment declaring such previous marriage void. Meaning, where the absolute nullity of a previous marriage is sought to be invoked for purposes of contracting a second marriage, the sole basis acceptable in law, for said projected marriage to be free from legal infirmity, is a final judgment declaring the previous marriage void. However, for purposes other than remarriage, no judicial action is necessary to declare a marriage an absolute nullity. Cario, penned by Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago herselg, contradicts the statement in her present ponencia that under the law, a marriage, even one which is void or voidable shall be deemed valid until declared other wise in a judicial proceeding. I believe the ruling in Cario is correct and should not be disturbed. As Justice Jose C. Vitug explained in his recent textbook on Civil law (Volume I): The phrase for purposes of remarriage is not at all insignificant. Void marriages, like void contracts, are inexistent for the very beginning. It is only by way of exception that the family Code requires a judicial declaration of nullity of the previous marriage before a subsequent marriage is contracted. Thus, the general rule is if the marriage is void ab initio, it is ipso facto void without need of any judicial declaration of nullity. The only recognized exception under existing law is Article 40 of the Family Code where marriage void ab initio is deemed valid for purposes of remarriage, hence necessitating a judicial declaration of nullity before one can contract a subsequent marriage. Article 40 of the Family Code applies only to a situation where the previous marriage suffers from nullity while the second marriage does not. Under Article 40, what requires a judicial declaration of nullity is the

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previous marriage, not the subsequent marriage. Article 40 does not apply to a situation where the first marriage does not suffer from any defect while the second is void.