Friday, April 1, 2016
PEREGRINA MACUA VDA. DE AVENIDO, Petitioner, vs. TECLA HOYBIA AVENIDO, Respondent.
G.R. No. 173540, 22 January 22 2014.
This case involves a contest between two women both claiming to have been validly married to the same man, now deceased.
Tecla Hoybia Avenido (Tecla) instituted on 11 November 1998, a Complaint for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage against Peregrina Macua Vda. de Avenido (Peregrina) on the ground that Tecla is the lawful wife of the deceased Eustaquio Avenido (Eustaquio).
Tecla alleged that her marriage to Eustaquio was solemnized on 30 September 1942 in Talibon, Bohol in rites officiated by the Parish Priest of the said town. While the a marriage certificate was recorded with the local civil registrar, the records of the LCR were destroyed during World War II. Tecla and Eustaquio begot four children, but Eustaquio left his family in 1954.
In 1979, Tecla learned that Eustaquio got married to another woman by the name of Peregrina, which marriage she claims must be declared null and void for being bigamous. In support of her claim, Tecla presented eyewitnesses to the ceremony, the birth certificate of their children and certificates to the fact that the marriage certificate/records were destroyed.
Peregrina, on the other hand averred that she is the legal surviving spouse of Eustaquio who died on 22 September 1989, their marriage having been celebrated on 30 March 1979 and showed the marriage contract between her and Eustaquio.
RTC ruled in favor of Peregrina. It relied on Tecla’s failure to present her certificate of marriage to Eustaquio. Without such certificate, RTC considered as useless the certification of the Office of the Civil Registrar of Talibon over the lack of records.
The CA, on appeal, ruled in favor of Tecla. It held there was a presumption of lawful marriage between Tecla and Eustaquio as they deported themselves as husband and wife and begot four children. Such presumption, supported by documentary evidence consisting of the same Certifications disregarded by the RTC, and testimonial evidence created sufficient proof of the fact of marriage. The CA found that its appreciation of the evidence presented by Tecla is well in accord with Section 5, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court.
ISSUE: Between Tecla and Peregrina, who was the legal wife of Eustaquio?
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. 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.
It is an error on the part of the RTC to rule that without the marriage certificate, no other proof can be accepted.
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.
In this case, due execution was established by the eyewitness testimonies and of Tecla herself as a party to the event. The subsequent loss was shown by the testimony of the officiating priest. 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.
The starting point then, is the presumption of marriage.
Every intendment of the law leans toward legalizing matrimony. Persons dwelling together in apparent matrimony are presumed, in the absence of any counter-presumption or evidence special to the case, to be in fact married. The reason is that such is the common order of society, and if the parties were not what they thus hold themselves out as being, they would be living in the constant violation of decency and of law.