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617 Phil. 45

THIRD DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 164435, September 29, 2009 ]

VICTORIA S. JARILLO, PETITIONER, VS. PEOPLE OF THE


PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENT.

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

This resolves the Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court,
praying that the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA), dated July 21, 2003, and its
Resolution[2] dated July 8, 2004, be reversed and set aside.

On May 31, 2000, petitioner was charged with Bigamy before the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Pasay City, Branch 117 under the following Information in Criminal Case No.
00-08-11:

INFORMATION

The undersigned Assistant City Prosecutor accuses VICTORIA S. JARILLO of


the crime of BIGAMY, committed as follows:

That on or about the 26th day of November 1979, in Pasay City, Metro
Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
above-named accused, Victoria S. Jarillo, being previously united in lawful
marriage with Rafael M. Alocillo, and without the said marriage having been
legally dissolved, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously
contract a second marriage with Emmanuel Ebora Santos Uy which marriage
was only discovered on January 12, 1999.

Contrary to law.

On July 14, 2000, petitioner pleaded not guilty during arraignment and, thereafter, trial
proceeded.

The undisputed facts, as accurately summarized by the CA, are as follows.

On May 24, 1974, Victoria Jarillo and Rafael Alocillo were married in a civil
wedding ceremony solemnized by Hon. Monico C. Tanyag, then Municipal
Mayor of Taguig, Rizal (Exhs. A, A-1, H, H-1, H-2, O, O-1, pp. 20-21, TSN

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dated November 17, 2000).

On May 4, 1975, Victoria Jarillo and Rafael Alocillo again celebrated marriage
in a church wedding ceremony before Rev. Angel Resultay in San Carlos City,
Pangasinan (pp. 25-26, TSN dated November 17, 2000). Out of the marital
union, appellant begot a daughter, Rachelle J. Alocillo on October 29, 1975
(Exhs. F, R, R-1).

Appellant Victoria Jarillo thereafter contracted a subsequent marriage with


Emmanuel Ebora Santos Uy, at the City Court of Pasay City, Branch 1, before
then Hon. Judge Nicanor Cruz on November 26, 1979 (Exhs. D, J, J-1, Q, Q-
1, pp. 15-18, TSN dated November 22, 2000).

On April 16, 1995, appellant and Emmanuel Uy exchanged marital vows


anew in a church wedding in Manila (Exh. E).

In 1999, Emmanuel Uy filed against the appellant Civil Case No. 99-93582
for annulment of marriage before the Regional Trial Court of Manila.

Thereafter, appellant Jarillo was charged with bigamy before the Regional
Trial Court of Pasay City x x x.

xxxx

Parenthetically, accused-appellant filed against Alocillo, on October 5, 2000,


before the Regional Trial Court of Makati, Civil Case No. 00-1217, for
declaration of nullity of their marriage.

On July 9, 2001, the court a quo promulgated the assailed decision, the
dispositive portion of which states:

WHEREFORE, upon the foregoing premises, this court hereby


finds accused Victoria Soriano Jarillo GUILTY beyond reasonable
doubt of the crime of BIGAMY.

Accordingly, said accused is hereby sentenced to suffer an


indeterminate penalty of SIX (6) YEARS of prision correccional,
as minimum, to TEN (10) YEARS of prision mayor, as
maximum.

This court makes no pronouncement on the civil aspect of this


case, such as the nullity of accused's bigamous marriage to Uy
and its effect on their children and their property. This aspect is
being determined by the Regional Trial Court of Manila in Civil
Case No. 99-93582.

Costs against the accused.

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The motion for reconsideration was likewise denied by the same court in
that assailed Order dated 2 August 2001.[3]

For her defense, petitioner insisted that (1) her 1974 and 1975 marriages to Alocillo
were null and void because Alocillo was allegedly still married to a certain Loretta
Tillman at the time of the celebration of their marriage; (2) her marriages to both
Alocillo and Uy were null and void for lack of a valid marriage license; and (3) the
action had prescribed, since Uy knew about her marriage to Alocillo as far back as
1978.

On appeal to the CA, petitioner's conviction was affirmed in toto. In its Decision dated
July 21, 2003, the CA held that petitioner committed bigamy when she contracted
marriage with Emmanuel Santos Uy because, at that time, her marriage to Rafael
Alocillo had not yet been declared null and void by the court. This being so, the
presumption is, her previous marriage to Alocillo was still existing at the time of her
marriage to Uy. The CA also struck down, for lack of sufficient evidence, petitioner's
contentions that her marriages were celebrated without a marriage license, and that Uy
had notice of her previous marriage as far back as 1978.

In the meantime, the RTC of Makati City, Branch 140, rendered a Decision dated March
28, 2003, declaring petitioner's 1974 and 1975 marriages to Alocillo null and void ab
initio on the ground of Alocillo's psychological incapacity. Said decision became final and
executory on July 9, 2003. In her motion for reconsideration, petitioner invoked said
declaration of nullity as a ground for the reversal of her conviction. However, in its
Resolution dated July 8, 2004, the CA, citing Tenebro v. Court of Appeals,[4] denied
reconsideration and ruled that "[t]he subsequent declaration of nullity of her first
marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity, while it retroacts to the date of the
celebration of the marriage insofar as the vinculum between the spouses is concerned,
the said marriage is not without legal consequences, among which is incurring criminal
liability for bigamy."[5]

Hence, the present petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court
where petitioner alleges that:

V.1. THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN


PROCEEDING WITH THE CASE DESPITE THE PENDENCY OF A CASE WHICH
IS PREJUDICIAL TO THE OUTCOME OF THIS CASE.

V.2. THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN


AFFIRMING THE CONVICTION OF PETITIONER FOR THE CRIME OF BIGAMY
DESPITE THE SUPERVENING PROOF THAT THE FIRST TWO MARRIAGES OF
PETITIONER TO ALOCILLO HAD BEEN DECLARED BY FINAL JUDGMENT NULL
AND VOID AB INITIO.

V.3. THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT

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CONSIDERING THAT THERE IS A PENDING ANNULMENT OF MARRIAGE AT


THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT BRANCH 38 BETWEEN EMMANUEL SANTOS
AND VICTORIA S. JARILLO.

V.4. THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT


CONSIDERING THAT THE INSTANT CASE OF BIGAMY HAD ALREADY
PRESCRIBED.

V.5. THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT


CONSIDERING THAT THE MARRIAGE OF VICTORIA JARILLO AND EMMANUEL
SANTOS UY HAS NO VALID MARRIAGE LICENSE.

V.6. THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT


ACQUITTING THE PETITIONER BUT IMPOSED AN ERRONEOUS PENALTY
UNDER THE REVISED PENAL CODE AND THE INDETERMINATE SENTENCE
LAW.

The first, second, third and fifth issues, being closely related, shall be discussed jointly.
It is true that right after the presentation of the prosecution evidence, petitioner moved
for suspension of the proceedings on the ground of the pendency of the petition for
declaration of nullity of petitioner's marriages to Alocillo, which, petitioner claimed
involved a prejudicial question. In her appeal, she also asserted that the petition for
declaration of nullity of her marriage to Uy, initiated by the latter, was a ground for
suspension of the proceedings. The RTC denied her motion for suspension, while the CA
struck down her arguments. In Marbella-Bobis v. Bobis,[6] the Court categorically
stated that:

x x x as ruled in Landicho v. Relova, he who contracts a second marriage


before the judicial declaration of nullity of the first marriage assumes the
risk of being prosecuted for bigamy, and in such a case the criminal case
may not be suspended on the ground of the pendency of a civil case
for declaration of nullity. x x x

xxxx

x x x The reason is that, without a judicial declaration of its nullity, the


first marriage is presumed to be subsisting. In the case at bar,
respondent was for all legal intents and purposes regarded as a married
man at the time he contracted his second marriage with petitioner. Against
this legal backdrop, any decision in the civil action for nullity would
not erase the fact that respondent entered into a second marriage
during the subsistence of a first marriage. Thus, a decision in the
civil case is not essential to the determination of the criminal
charge. It is, therefore, not a prejudicial question. x x x[7]

The foregoing ruling had been reiterated in Abunado v. People,[8] where it was held
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thus:

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, petitioner's assertion would only delay the prosecution
of bigamy cases considering that an accused could simply file a petition to 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 petitioner's marriage


to [private complainant] had no bearing upon the determination of
petitioner's 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.[9]

For the very same reasons elucidated in the above-quoted cases, petitioner's conviction
of the crime of bigamy must be affirmed. The subsequent judicial declaration of nullity
of petitioner's two marriages to Alocillo cannot be considered a valid defense in the
crime of bigamy. The moment petitioner contracted a second marriage without the
previous one having been judicially declared null and void, the crime of bigamy was
already consummated because at the time of the celebration of the second marriage,
petitioner's marriage to Alocillo, which had not yet been declared null and void by a
court of competent jurisdiction, was deemed valid and subsisting. Neither would a
judicial declaration of the nullity of petitioner's marriage to Uy make any difference.[10]
As held in Tenebro, "[s]ince a marriage contracted during the subsistence of a valid
marriage is automatically void, the nullity of this second marriage is not per se an
argument for the avoidance of criminal liability for bigamy. x x x A plain reading of
[Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code], therefore, would indicate that the provision
penalizes the mere act of contracting a second or subsequent marriage during the
subsistence of a valid marriage."[11]

Petitioner's defense of prescription is likewise doomed to fail.

Under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, bigamy is punishable by prision mayor,
which is classified under Article 25 of said Code as an afflictive penalty. Article 90
thereof provides that "[c]rimes punishable by other afflictive penalties shall prescribe
in fifteen years," while Article 91 states that "[t]he period of prescription shall
commence to run from the day on which the crime is discovered by the offended party,
the authorities, or their agents x x x ."

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Petitioner asserts that Uy had known of her previous marriage as far back as 1978;
hence, prescription began to run from that time. Note that the party who raises a fact
as a matter of defense has the burden of proving it. The defendant or accused is
obliged to produce evidence in support of its defense; otherwise, failing to establish the
same, it remains self-serving.[12] Thus, for petitioner's defense of prescription to
prosper, it was incumbent upon her to adduce evidence that as early as the year 1978,
Uy already obtained knowledge of her previous marriage.

A close examination of the records of the case reveals that petitioner utterly failed to
present sufficient evidence to support her allegation. Petitioner's testimony that her
own mother told Uy in 1978 that she (petitioner) is already married to Alocillo does not
inspire belief, as it is totally unsupported by any corroborating evidence. The trial court
correctly observed that:

x x x She did not call to the witness stand her mother - the person who
allegedly actually told Uy about her previous marriage to Alocillo. It must be
obvious that without the confirmatory testimony of her mother, the
attribution of the latter of any act which she allegedly did is hearsay.[13]

As ruled in Sermonia v. Court of Appeals,[14] "the prescriptive period for the crime of
bigamy should be counted only from the day on which the said crime was
discovered by the offended party, the authorities or their [agents]," as opposed to
being counted from the date of registration of the bigamous marriage.[15] Since
petitioner failed to prove with certainty that the period of prescription began to run as
of 1978, her defense is, therefore, ineffectual.

Finally, petitioner avers that the RTC and the CA imposed an erroneous penalty under
the Revised Penal Code. Again, petitioner is mistaken.

The Indeterminate Sentence Law provides that the accused shall be sentenced to an
indeterminate penalty, the maximum term of which shall be that which, in view of the
attending circumstances, could be properly imposed under the Revised Penal Code, and
the minimum of which shall be within the range of the penalty next lower than that
prescribed by the Code for the offense, without first considering any modifying
circumstance attendant to the commission of the crime. The Indeterminate Sentence
Law leaves it entirely within the sound discretion of the court to determine the
minimum penalty, as long as it is anywhere within the range of the penalty next lower
without any reference to the periods into which it might be subdivided. The modifying
circumstances are considered only in the imposition of the maximum term of the
indeterminate sentence.[16]

Applying the foregoing rule, it is clear that the penalty imposed on petitioner is proper.
Under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, the imposable penalty for bigamy is
prision mayor. The penalty next lower is prision correccional, which ranges from 6
months and 1 day to 6 years. The minimum penalty of six years imposed by the trial

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court is, therefore, correct as it is still within the duration of prision correccional. There
being no mitigating or aggravating circumstances proven in this case, the prescribed
penalty of prision mayor should be imposed in its medium period, which is from 8 years
and 1 day to 10 years. Again, the trial court correctly imposed a maximum penalty of
10 years.

However, for humanitarian purposes, and considering that petitioner's marriage to


Alocillo has after all been declared by final judgment[17] to be void ab initio on account
of the latter's psychological incapacity, by reason of which, petitioner was subjected to
manipulative abuse, the Court deems it proper to reduce the penalty imposed by the
lower courts. Thus, petitioner should be sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of
imprisonment from Two (2) years, Four (4) months and One (1) day of prision
correccional, as minimum, to 8 years and 1 day of prision mayor, as maximum.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the petition is PARTLY GRANTED. The Decision of


the Court of Appeals dated July 21, 2003, and its Resolution dated July 8, 2004 are
hereby MODIFIED as to the penalty imposed, but AFFIRMED in all other respects.
Petitioner is sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment from Two
(2) years, Four (4) months and One (1) day of prision correccional, as minimum, to
Eight (8) years and One (1) day of prision mayor, as maximum.

SO ORDERED.

Ynares-Santiago, (Chairperson), Chico-Nazario, Velasco, Jr., and Nachura, JJ., concur.

[1] Penned by Associate Justice Bernardo P. Abesamis, with Associate Justices Jose L.

Sabio, Jr. and Jose C. Mendoza, concurring; rollo, pp. 8-21.

[2] Penned by Associate Justice Jose L. Sabio, Jr., with Associate Justices Mariano C. del

Castillo and Jose C. Mendoza, concurring; rollo, pp. 22-23.

[3] Rollo, pp. 9-10.

[4] 467 Phil. 723 (2004).

[5] CA rollo, p. 404.

[6] 391 Phil. 648 (2000).

[7] Id. at 655-657. (Emphasis supplied.)

[8] G.R. No. 159218, March 30, 2004, 426 SCRA 562.

[9] Id. at 567-568. (Emphasis supplied.)

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[10] Abunado v. People, supra note 8; Tenebro v. Court of Appeals, supra note 4, at

752.

[11] Tenebro v. Court of Appeals, supra, at 742.

[12] Prudential Guarantee and Assurance, Inc. v. Trans-Asia Shipping Lines, Inc., G.R.

No. 151890, June 20, 2006, 491 SCRA 411, 433.

[13] Records, p. 383.

[14] G.R. No. 109454, June 14, 1994, 233 SCRA 155.

[15] Id. at 161.

[16] Abunado v. People, supra note 8, at 568.

[17] See Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City in Civil Case No. 00-1217,

CA rollo, pp. 343-347.

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