SC rules foreign divorce valid in PH

The Philippines now recognizes a divorce obtained by a Filipino citizen against a foreign spouse outside the country, according to the Supreme Court (SC).

In a landmark ruling on Tuesday, April 24, the SC ruled “that a foreign divorce secured by a Filipino against a foreign spouse is also considered valid in the Philippines, even if it is the Filipino spouse who files for divorce abroad.”

According to SC spokesperson Theodore Te, ten justices upheld the CA ruling, while three dissented: Associate Justices Mariano Del Castillo, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa.

Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, meanwhile, took no part in the decision as he was solicitor-general when the case was brought to the SC.

Te said the SC based its ruling on Article 26 (2) of the Family Code, which provides that “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 likewise have the capacity to remarry under Philippine law.”

The SC was acting on the case of Marelyn Tanedo Manalo, who was married in the Philippines to Japanese national Minoru Yoshino. The Japanese court granted her motion for divorce on Dec. 6, 2011.

The Dagupan City Regional Trial Court, however, denied having her divorce recognized in an Oct. 15, 2012 decision due to “lack of merit.” 

“The court a quo ratiocinated that the kind of divorce recognized here in the Philippines are those validly obtained by the alien spouse abroad, not by the Filipino spouse, pursuant to Article 26 of the Family Code,” it ruled.

Manalo filed an appeal but was denied. She then elevated her case to the Court of Appeals (CA), where she scored a victory in 2014.

“Considering that the said Japanese is already free to remarry, petitioner (Manalo) must likewise be allowed to remarry under the Philippine law,” the appeals court ruled.

It added that non-recognition of a divorce filed by a Filipino spouse will result in “inconsistency between the recognition of the effectivity of the foreign judgment and public records in the Philippines.”

The Philippines and the Vatican are the only two countries that have no divorce law.

Last month, the House of Representatives approved on the third and final reading House Bill 7303, which seeks the legalization of divorce and dissolution of marriage in the country.

The divorce bill, however, may have a hard time getting approval in the Senate as several senators have already expressed opposition to the measure. President Rodrigo Duterte also declared that he will not support the bill.

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