Saturday, December 18, 2010

Divorce recognition expanded in PH

It is not correct to say there is an absolute ban on divorce in the Philippines.
Truth is, there are instances where divorce is recognized here.
The trend seems to expand divorce recgonition.
This is contained in Article 26 of the Family Code.
Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law”.
The family code justifies that if the foreigner is able to procure a divorce abroad, and as a consequence of the divorce the foreigner is allowed to re-marry, then it is only fair that the divorced Filipino spouse left behind should also be allowed to re-marry.
Lately, the Supreme Court has expanded and made this law applicable even to former Filipinos who become naturalized in another country and subsequently procures a divorce.
This was the ruling of the Supreme Court in Republic versus Cipriano Orbecido (G.R. 154380)
In that case, Cipriano and Lady Myros, both Filipinos were married in Ozamis City.
Later Lady Myros left for the United States.
While in the United States, Lady Myros became a naturalized American.
Thereafter, as an American, lady Myros procured a divorce from her marriage to Cipriano.
In this case, the Supreme Court said the Family Code provision on divorce can be applicable.
The point of reckoning is the citizenship of the divorcing spouse when the divorce was procured, and not the time of marriage.
Thus, the Supreme Court expanded the application of Article 26 of the Family Code, this time covering former Filipinos who are naturalized abroad.
If you look at the letter of the law, it only applies to foreigners who were such at the time of the marriage.
But the Supreme Court examined the spirit, not the letter of the law.
Let’s tweak the facts a little bit.
What if the divorce was obtained by the Filipino spouse abroad, BEFORE the Filipino spouse became naturalized abroad?
The answer to this question, applying simple logic, is that Article 26 will not apply.
Therefore, the Filipino spouse left behind cannot remarry, even if the Filipino spouse abroad obtained a divorce (before being naturalized), and then re-marries there.
The explanation is that since the divorce was obtained while the Filipino spouse was still a Filipino, then the spouse abroad is still subject to Philippine laws, which does not recognize the divorce.
But what if the Filipino spouse abroad, after obtaining a divorce and then re-marrying, subsequently becomes naturalized (becomes a foreigner) ?
Will the naturalization have a retroactive, and curative effect on the previously obtained divorce, such that the Filipino spouse left behind can also re-marry?
There is no case on this yet.
But if the Filipino spouse left behind is not allowed to re-marry, because the divorce procured by the Filipino spouse abroad cannot be recognized in the Philippines---having procured the divorce while still a Filipino---the same unfairness persists.
The Filipino spouse left behind will suffer eternally and cannot re-marry
It can be suggested that if a Filipino spouse abroad obtains a divorce there, such a divorce should be recognized once that Filipino spouse abroad becomes naturalized.
Otherwise, the Filipino spouse left behind cannot remarry and will be in an unfair situation.
Such unfairness is precisely what the Court has tried to remove.

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