Republic of the
[G.R. No. 150758. February 18, 2004]
VERONICO TENEBRO, petitioner, vs. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS,
D E C I S I O N
We are called on to decide the novel issue concerning the effect of the
judicial declaration of the nullity of a second or subsequent marriage, on
the ground of psychological incapacity, on an individual’s criminal
liability for bigamy. We hold that the subsequent judicial declaration of
nullity of marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity does not
retroact to the date of the celebration of the marriage insofar as the
Philippines’ penal laws are concerned. As such, an individual who contracts
a second or subsequent marriage during the subsistence of a valid marriage
is criminally liable for bigamy, notwithstanding the subsequent declaration
that the second marriage is void ab initio on the ground of
Petitioner in this case, Veronico Tenebro, contracted marriage with private
complainant Leticia Ancajas on April 10, 1990. The two were wed by Judge
Alfredo B. Perez, Jr. of the City Trial Court of Lapu-lapu City. Tenebro and
Ancajas lived together continuously and without interruption until the
latter part of 1991, when Tenebro informed Ancajas that he had been
previously married to a certain Hilda Villareyes on November 10, 1986.
Tenebro showed Ancajas a photocopy of a marriage contract between him and
Villareyes. Invoking this previous marriage, petitioner thereafter left the
conjugal dwelling which he shared with Ancajas, stating that he was going to
cohabit with Villareyes.
On January 25, 1993, petitioner contracted yet another marriage, this one
with a certain Nilda Villegas, before Judge German Lee, Jr. of the Regional
Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch 15.
When Ancajas learned of this third marriage, she verified from Villareyes
whether the latter was indeed married to petitioner. In a handwritten
Villareyes confirmed that petitioner, Veronico Tenebro, was indeed her
Ancajas thereafter filed a complaint for bigamy against petitioner.
which was docketed as Criminal Case No. 013095-L, reads:
That on the 10th
day of April 1990, in the City of Lapu-lapu, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the aforenamed accused, having been
previously united in lawful marriage with Hilda Villareyes, and without the
said marriage having been legally dissolved, did then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously contract a second marriage with LETICIA ANCAJAS,
which second or subsequent marriage of the accused has all the essential
requisites for validity were it not for the subsisting first marriage.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
When arraigned, petitioner entered a plea of “not guilty”.
During the trial, petitioner admitted having cohabited with Villareyes from
1984-1988, with whom he sired two children. However, he denied that he and
Villareyes were validly married to each other, claiming that no marriage
ceremony took place to solemnize their union.
He alleged that he signed a marriage contract merely to enable her to get
the allotment from his office in connection with his work as a seaman.
He further testified that he requested his brother to verify from the Civil
Register in Manila whether there was any marriage at all between him and
Villareyes, but there was no record of said marriage.
On November 10, 1997, the Regional Trial Court of Lapu-lapu City, Branch 54,
rendered a decision finding the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
the crime of bigamy under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, and
sentencing him to four (4) years and two (2) months of prision
correccional, as minimum, to eight (8) years and one (1) day of
prision mayor, as maximum.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court.
Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration was denied for lack of merit.
Hence, the instant petition for review on the following assignment of
I. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED, AND THIS ERROR IS
CORRECTIBLE IN THIS APPEAL – WHEN IT AFFIRMED THE DECISION OF THE HONORABLE
COURT A QUO CONVICTING THE ACCUSED FOR (sic) THE CRIME OF
BIGAMY, DESPITE THE NON-EXISTENCE OF THE FIRST MARRIAGE AND INSUFFICIENCY OF
II. THE COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED FOR (sic) THE CRIME OF
BIGAMY DESPITE CLEAR PROOF THAT THE MARRIAGE BETWEEN THE ACCUSED AND PRIVATE
COMPLAINANT HAD BEEN DECLARED NULL AND VOID AB INITIO AND WITHOUT
LEGAL FORCE AND EFFECT.
After a careful review of the evidence on record, we find no cogent reason
to disturb the assailed judgment.
Under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, the elements of the crime of
(1) that the offender has been legally married;
(2) that the first marriage has not been legally dissolved
or, in case his or her spouse is absent, the absent spouse could not yet be
presumed dead according to the Civil Code;
(3) that he contracts a second or subsequent marriage; and
(4) that the second or subsequent marriage has all the essential
requisites for validity.
Petitioner’s assignment of errors presents a two-tiered defense, in which he
(1) denies the existence of his first marriage to Villareyes, and (2) argues
that the declaration of the nullity of the second marriage on the ground of
psychological incapacity, which is an alleged indicator that his marriage to
Ancajas lacks the essential requisites for validity, retroacts to the date
on which the second marriage was celebrated.
Hence, petitioner argues that all four of the elements of the crime of
bigamy are absent, and prays for his acquittal.
Petitioner’s defense must fail on both counts.
First, the prosecution presented sufficient evidence, both documentary and
oral, to prove the existence of the first marriage between petitioner and
Villareyes. Documentary evidence presented was in the form of: (1) a copy of
a marriage contract between Tenebro and Villareyes, dated November 10, 1986,
which, as seen on the document, was solemnized at the Manila City Hall
before Rev. Julieto Torres, a Minister of the Gospel, and certified to by
the Office of the Civil Registrar of Manila;
and (2) a handwritten letter from Villareyes to Ancajas dated July 12, 1994,
informing Ancajas that Villareyes and Tenebro were legally married.
To assail the veracity of the marriage contract, petitioner presented (1) a
certification issued by the National Statistics Office dated October 7,
and (2) a certification issued by the City Civil Registry of Manila, dated
February 3, 1997.
Both these documents attest that the respective issuing offices have no
record of a marriage celebrated between Veronico B. Tenebro and Hilda B.
Villareyes on November 10, 1986.
To our mind, the documents presented by the defense cannot adequately assail
the marriage contract, which in itself would already have been sufficient to
establish the existence of a marriage between Tenebro and Villareyes.
All three of these documents fall in the category of public documents,
and the Rules of Court provisions relevant to public documents are
applicable to all. Pertinent to the marriage contract, Section 7 of Rule 130
of the Rules of Court reads as follows:
Sec. 7. Evidence admissible when original document is a public record.
– When the original of a document is in the custody of a public officer
or is recorded in a public office, its contents may be proved by a
certified copy issued by the public officer in custody thereof (Emphasis
This being the case, the certified copy of the marriage contract, issued by
a public officer in custody thereof, was admissible as the best evidence of
its contents. The marriage contract plainly indicates that a marriage was
celebrated between petitioner and Villareyes on November 10, 1986, and it
should be accorded the full faith and credence given to public documents.
Moreover, an examination of the wordings of the certification issued by the
National Statistics Office on October 7, 1995 and that issued by the City
Civil Registry of Manila on February 3, 1997 would plainly show that
neither document attests as a positive fact that there was no marriage
celebrated between Veronico B. Tenebro and Hilda B. Villareyes on
November 10, 1986. Rather, the documents merely attest that the respective
issuing offices have no record of such a marriage. Documentary
evidence as to the absence of a record is quite different from
documentary evidence as to the absence of a marriage ceremony, or
documentary evidence as to the invalidity of the marriage between Tenebro
The marriage contract presented by the prosecution serves as positive
evidence as to the existence of the marriage between Tenebro and Villareyes,
which should be given greater credence than documents testifying merely as
to absence of any record of the marriage, especially considering that
there is absolutely no requirement in the law that a marriage contract needs
to be submitted to the civil registrar as a condition precedent for the
validity of a marriage. The mere fact that no record of a marriage exists
does not invalidate the marriage, provided all requisites for its validity
There is no evidence presented by the defense that would indicate that the
marriage between Tenebro and Villareyes lacked any requisite for validity,
apart from the self-serving testimony of the accused himself. Balanced
against this testimony are Villareyes’ letter, Ancajas’ testimony that
petitioner informed her of the existence of the valid first marriage, and
petitioner’s own conduct, which would all tend to indicate that the first
marriage had all the requisites for validity.
Finally, although the accused claims that he took steps to verify the
non-existence of the first marriage to Villareyes by requesting his brother
to validate such purported non-existence, it is significant to note that the
certifications issued by the National Statistics Office and the City Civil
Registry of Manila are dated October 7, 1995 and February 3, 1997,
respectively. Both documents, therefore, are dated after the
accused’s marriage to his second wife, private respondent in this case.
As such, this Court rules that there was sufficient evidence presented by
the prosecution to prove the first and second requisites for the crime of
The second tier of petitioner’s defense hinges on the effects of the
subsequent judicial declaration
of the nullity of the second marriage on the ground of psychological
Petitioner argues that this subsequent judicial declaration retroacts to the
date of the celebration of the marriage to Ancajas. As such, he argues that,
since his marriage to Ancajas was subsequently declared void ab initio,
the crime of bigamy was not committed.
This argument is not impressed with merit.
Petitioner makes much of the judicial declaration of the nullity of the
second marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity, invoking Article
36 of the Family Code. What petitioner fails to realize is that a
declaration of the nullity of the second marriage on the ground of
psychological incapacity is of absolutely no moment insofar as the State’s
penal laws are concerned.
As a second or subsequent marriage contracted during the subsistence of
petitioner’s valid marriage to Villareyes, petitioner’s marriage to Ancajas
would be null and void ab initio completely regardless of
petitioner’s psychological capacity or incapacity.
Since 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. Pertinently,
Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code criminalizes “any person who shall
contract a second or subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been
legally dissolved, or before the absent spouse has been declared
presumptively dead by means of a judgment rendered in the proper
proceedings”. A plain reading of the law, therefore, would indicate that the
provision penalizes the mere act of contracting a second or a subsequent
marriage during the subsistence of a valid marriage.
Thus, as soon as the second marriage to Ancajas was celebrated on April 10,
1990, during the subsistence of the valid first marriage, the crime of
bigamy had already been consummated. To our mind, there is no cogent
reason for distinguishing between a subsequent marriage that is null and
void purely because it is a second or subsequent marriage, and a
subsequent marriage that is null and void on the ground of psychological
incapacity, at least insofar as criminal liability for bigamy is concerned.
The State’s penal laws protecting the institution of marriage are in
recognition of the sacrosanct character of this special contract between
spouses, and punish an individual’s deliberate disregard of the permanent
character of the special bond between spouses, which petitioner has
Moreover, the declaration of the nullity of the second marriage on the
ground of psychological incapacity is not an indicator that
petitioner’s marriage to Ancajas lacks the essential requisites for
validity. The requisites for the validity of a marriage are classified by
the Family Code into essential (legal capacity of the contracting parties
and their consent freely given in the presence of the solemnizing officer)
and formal (authority of the solemnizing officer, marriage license, and
marriage ceremony wherein the parties personally declare their agreement to
marry before the solemnizing officer in the presence of at least two
Under Article 5 of the Family Code, any male or female of the age of
eighteen years or upwards not under any of the impediments mentioned in
may contract marriage.
In this case, all the essential and formal requisites for the validity of
marriage were satisfied by petitioner and Ancajas. Both were over eighteen
years of age, and they voluntarily contracted the second marriage with the
required license before Judge Alfredo B. Perez, Jr. of the City Trial Court
of Lapu-lapu City, in the presence of at least two witnesses.
Although the judicial declaration of the nullity of a marriage on the ground
of psychological incapacity retroacts to the date of the celebration of the
marriage insofar as the vinculum between the spouses is concerned, it
is significant to note that said marriage is not without legal effects.
Among these effects is that children conceived or born before the judgment
of absolute nullity of the marriage shall be considered legitimate.
There is therefore a recognition written into the law itself that
such a marriage, although void ab initio, may still produce legal
consequences. Among these legal consequences is incurring criminal liability
for bigamy. To hold otherwise would render the State’s penal laws on bigamy
completely nugatory, and allow individuals to deliberately ensure that each
marital contract be flawed in some manner, and to thus escape the
consequences of contracting multiple marriages, while beguiling throngs of
hapless women with the promise of futurity and commitment.
As such, we rule that the third and fourth requisites for the crime of
bigamy are present in this case, and affirm the judgment of the Court of
As a final point, we note that based on the evidence on record, petitioner
contracted marriage a third time, while his marriages to Villareyes
and Ancajas were both still subsisting. Although this is irrelevant
in the determination of the accused’s guilt for purposes of this particular
case, the act of the accused displays a deliberate disregard for the
sanctity of marriage, and the State does not look kindly on such activities.
Marriage is a special contract, the key characteristic of which is its
permanence. When an individual manifests a deliberate pattern of flouting
the foundation of the State’s basic social institution, the State’s criminal
laws on bigamy step in.
Under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, the penalty for the
crime of bigamy is prision mayor, which has a duration of six (6)
years and one (1) day to twelve (12) years. There being neither aggravating
nor mitigating circumstance, the same shall be imposed in its medium period.
Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, petitioner shall be entitled to a
minimum term, to be taken from the penalty next lower in degree, i.e.,
prision correccional which has a duration of six (6) months and one
(1) day to six (6) years. Hence, the Court of Appeals correctly affirmed the
decision of the trial court which sentenced petitioner to suffer an
indeterminate penalty of four (4) years and two (2) months of prision
correccional, as minimum, to eight (8) years and one (1) day of
prision mayor, as maximum.
in view of all the foregoing, the instant petition for review is DENIED.
The assailed decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 21636,
convicting petitioner Veronico Tenebro of the crime of Bigamy and sentencing
him to suffer the indeterminate penalty of four (4) years and two (2) months
of prision correccional, as minimum, to eight (8) years and one (1)
day of prision mayor, as maximum, is AFFIRMED in toto.
Davide, Jr., C.J. (Chairman), Panganiban, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Corona,
and Azcuna, JJ., concur.
join the opinion of J. Vitug.
see separate opinion.
join the dissent in view of void nuptia.
see dissenting opinion.
join the dissent of J. Carpio.
join the dissent of J. Carpio.
join the dissent of J. Carpio.
see separate dissent.