Wednesday, August 22, 2007

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) 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.

Summary:

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 vhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifoid 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 were edited, with numbered paragraphs for example, for easier comprehension by laymen.)