Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Heirs and inheritance (Part 13): When a man is married to or living in with several women successively or simultaneously, which woman has the right to inherit from him?

The Cariňo vs. Cariňo case decided by the Supreme Court involved two Susans (one surnamed Nicdao and the other one Yee) who were married to the same man, SPO4 Santiago S. Cariño, and who between the two Susans was entitled to the death benefits of the deceased. This decision, however, applies to situations where a man (or woman, for that matter) may be married to or cohabiting with several persons, successively or simultaneously, and who among the parties may be entitled to inherit from the man when he dies.


The marriage between Susan Nicdao and SPO4 Cariño is void for having been solemnized without the necessary marriage license.Their property relations are governed by Article 147 of the Family Code.

Susan Yee’s marriage to SPO4 Cariño is likewise void because it was solemnized without first obtaining a judicial decree declaring his marriage to Nicdao void. Their property relations are governed by Article 148 of the Family Code.

Susan Yee is not entitled to any of the death benefits that Susan Nicdao was able to collect.

Susan Nicdao, under Article 147 of the Family Code, is entitled to only one half of the death benefits. The other half goes to her children with SPO4 Cariño (Sahlee and Sandee) as their inheritance. Under the rules on intestate succession, Susan Nicdao is not an heir of SPO4 Cariño.
Facts of the case:

1. During his lifetime, SPO4 Santiago S. Cariño contracted two marriages:
  • First marriage on June 20, 1969, with Susan Nicdao Cariño (Susan Nicdao or Nicdao, for brevity), with whom he had two offsprings, namely, Sahlee and Sandee Cariño;
  • Second marriage on November 10, 1992, with Susan Yee Cariño (Susan Yee or Yee, for brevity), with whom he had no children in their almost ten year cohabitation starting way back in 1982.
2. In 1988, SPO4 Santiago S. Cariño became ill and bedridden due to diabetes complicated by pulmonary tuberculosis. He passed away on November 23, 1992, under the care of Susan Yee, who spent for his medical and burial expenses.

3. Both Susan Nicdao and Susan Yee filed claims for monetary benefits and financial assistance pertaining to the deceased from various government agencies. Susan Nicdao was able to collect a total of Php146,000.00 from “MBAI, PCCUI, Commutation, NAPOLCOM, [and] Pag-ibig,” while Susan Yee received a total of Php 21,000.00 from “GSIS Life, Burial (GSIS) and burial (SSS).”

4. On December 14, 1993, Susan Yee filed a case for collection of sum of money against Susan Nicdao asking her to return at least one-half of the one hundred forty-six thousand pesos (Php 146,000.00) collectively denominated as “death benefits” which Nicdao received from “MBAI, PCCUI, Commutation, NAPOLCOM, [and] Pag-ibig.” Despite service of summons, Nicdao failed to file her answer, prompting the trial court to declare her in default.

5. Susan Yee admitted that her marriage to SPO4 Santiago S. Cariño took place during the subsistence of, and without first obtaining a judicial declaration of nullity of, the marriage between Susan Nicdao and SPO4 Cariño. She, however, claimed that she had no knowledge of the previous marriage and that she became aware of it only at the funeral of SPO4 Cariño, where she met Nicdao who introduced herself as the wife of the deceased.

To bolster her action for collection of sum of money, Susan Yee contended that the marriage of Susan Nicdao and SPO4 Cariño is void ab initio because it was solemnized without the required marriage license. In support, she presented 1) the marriage certificate of the deceased and the petitioner which bears no marriage license number; and 2) a certification dated March 9, 1994, from the Local Civil Registrar of San Juan, Metro Manila, which reads –
This is to certify that this Office has no record of marriage license of the spouses SANTIAGO CARINO (sic) and SUSAN NICDAO, who are married in this municipality on June 20, 1969. Hence, we cannot issue as requested a true copy or transcription of Marriage License number from the records of this archives.

This certification is issued upon the request of Mrs. Susan Yee Cariño for whatever legal purpose it may serve.
6. On August 28, 1995, the trial court ruled in favor of Susan Yee, holding as follows:
WHEREFORE, the defendant is hereby ordered to pay the plaintiff the sum of P73,000.00, half of the amount which was paid to her in the form of death benefits arising from the death of SPO4 Santiago S. Cariño, plus attorney’s fees in the amount of P5,000.00, and costs of suit.
7. On appeal by Susan Nicdao to the Court of Appeals, the CA affirmed in whole the decision of the trial court. Nicdao then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s ruling

1. The marriage between Susan Nicdao and SPO4 Cariño is void for having been solemnized without the necessary marriage license. Their property relations are governed by Article 147 of the Family Code. This article applies to unions of parties who are legally capacitated and not barred by any impediment to contract marriage, but whose marriage is nonetheless void for other reasons, like the absence of a marriage license.

2. Susan Yee’s marriage to SPO4 Cariño is likewise void because it was solemnized without first obtaining a judicial decree declaring his marriage to Nicdao void. Their property relations are governed by Article 148 of the Family Code. This article covers the property regime of bigamous marriages, adulterous relationships, relationships in a state of concubine, relationships where both man and woman are married to other persons, multiple alliances of the same married man.

3. Under Article 148, the disputed Php 146,000.00 from MBAI, NAPOLCOM, Commutation, Pag-ibig, and PCCUI, are clearly remunerations, incentives and benefits from governmental agencies earned by SPO4 Cariño as a police officer. They are not owned in common by Susan Yee and SPO4 Cariño, but belong to the deceased alone and Yee has no right whatsoever to claim the amount. By intestate succession, the said “death benefits” of the deceased shall pass to his legal heirs. And Yee, not being the legal wife of SPO4 Cariño, is not one of them.

Under Article 147, one-half of these “death benefits” belongs to Susan Nicdao as her share in the property regime. By intestate succession, the other half of the benefits belongs to his legal heirs, namely, his children with Susan Nicdao.

(Note: The narration of facts and the ruling above are from the Supreme Court decision, but was edited, with numbered paragraphs for example, for easier comprehension by laymen.)


myra said...

good day po atty galacio! forgive me if this is a bit out of topic but i have been researching if two unmarried couple cohabiting with each other is considered immoral. i have not found any philippine law stating that it is. may i know po your stand on this? we are currently contemplating if this can be included in the "immorality provision" in our code of conduct. thank you so much and more power!

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...


It has been said that cohabitation has all the headaches of marriage without any of the benefits. Levity aside, I am not aware of any law which penalizes two persons, both unmarried, living together as man and wife. The Supreme Court in the 2004 administrative case of Concerned Employee vs. Mayor A.M. No. P-02-1564 said that “not all forms of extra-marital relations are punishable under penal law”.

To avoid possible future labor problems with your employees, you should clarify this matter of your “immorality provision” with the Pubic Assistance and Complaints Unit (PACU) of the DOLE. In Metro Manila, the PACU is in the DOLE building in Intramuros, between the Bulletin and Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. Try the tel. no. 527-8000.

Your question deals with immorality and not legality. In law, we have a saying: “What is legal is not always moral, and what is moral is not always legal.” While some live-in relationships may not be considered as illegal, from the point of view of religion, social and cultural values, these relationships can be questioned. As to whether you can impose this in your company’s policies, that is doubtful legally. For example, as you may know, the recent RA 9710 Magna Carta for Women prohibits the termination of a female employee if she gets pregnant out of wedlock.

(Some 2.4 million Filipinos were reportedly cohabiting as of 2004, with the majority of these persons between the ages of 20-24. Poverty was often the main factor in decision to cohabit.) - continued -

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...

- continuation -

You should read the landmark decision of the Supreme Court in the case of “Estrada vs. Escritor” (look for the link in the sidebar) and even the dissenting opinion, of Justice Ynares-Santiago.

With regards government employees and officials, Justice Ynares-Santiago’s discuses the issue of what constitutes “immorality”:

The issue in this case is simple. What is the meaning or standard of "disgraceful and immoral conduct" to be applied by the Supreme Court in disciplinary cases involving court personnel?

The degree of morality required of every employee or official in the public service has been consistently high. The rules are particularly strict when the respondent is a Judge or a court employee. Even where the Court has viewed certain cases with human understanding and compassion, it has insisted that no untoward conduct involving public officers should be left without proper and commensurate sanction. The compassion is shown through relatively light penalties. Never, however, has this Court justified, condoned, or blessed the continuation of an adulterous or illicit relationship such as the one in this case, after the same has been brought to its attention.

Is it time to adopt a more liberal approach, a more "modern" view and a more permissive pragmatism which allow adulterous or illicit relations to continue provided the job performance of the court employee concerned is not affected and the place and order in the workplace are not compromised? When does private morality involving a court employee become a matter of public concern?

The Civil Service Law punishes public officers and employees for disgraceful and immoral conduct. Whether an act is immoral within the meaning of the statute is not to be determined by respondent's concept of morality. The law provides the standard; the offense is complete if respondent intended to perform, and did in fact perform, the act which it condemns.

The ascertainment of what is moral or immoral calls for the discovery of contemporary community standards. For those in the service of the Government, provisions of law wind court precedents also have to be considered. The task is elusive.
- continued -

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...

- continuation -

The layman's definition of what is "moral" pertains to excellence of character or disposition. It relates to the distinction between right and wrong; virtue and vice; ethical praise or blame. Moral law refers to the body of requirements in conformity to which virtuous action consists. Applied to persons, it is conformity to the rules of morality, being virtuous with regards to moral conduct.

That which is not consistent with or not conforming to moral law, opposed to or violating morality, and now, more often, morally evil or impure, is immoral. Immoral is the state of not being virtuous with regard to sexual conduct.
The term begs the definition. Hence, anything contrary to the standards of moral conduct is immoral. A grossly immoral act must be so corrupt and false as to constitute a criminal act or so unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high degree.

Anything plainly evil or dissolute is, of course, unchangingly immoral. However, at the fringes or boundary limits of what is morally acceptable and what is unacceptably wrong, the concept of immorality tends to shift according to circumstances of time, person, and place. When a case involving the concept of immorality comes to court, the applicable provisions of law and jurisprudence take center stage.