Civil Law

Arañes v. Occiano A.M. No. MTJ-02-1390 April 11, 2002 Authority of a Judge in Solemnizing a Marriage Ceremony

FACTS:

Petitioner Mercedita Mata Arañes charged respondent judge with Gross Ignorance of the Law. Respondent Judge Salvador M. Occiano, is the Presiding Judge of the MTC of Balatan, Camarines Sur. Petitioner alleges that respondent judge solemnized her marriage to her late groom Dominador B. Orobia without the requisite marriage license and at Nabua, Camarines Sur which is outside his territorial jurisdiction.

They lived together as husband and wife on the strength of this marriage until her husband passed away. However, since the marriage was a nullity, petitioner’s right to inherit the “vast properties” left by Orobia was not recognized. She was likewise deprived of receiving the pensions of Orobia, a retired Commodore of the Philippine Navy. 

The case was referred to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA).

In his Comment, respondent judge averred that on the day of the wedding, he was requested to solemnize the marriage elsewhere, particularly in Nabua, Camarines Sur, because Orobia is having difficulty in walking. Thus, he is unable to travel. ‘

Respondent judge acceded to the request.

Respondent judge further averred that when he discovered that the parties did not possess the requisite marriage license, he refused to solemnize the marriage and suggested its resetting to another date. 

However, due to the earnest pleas of the parties, the influx of visitors, and the delivery of provisions for the occasion, he proceeded to solemnize the marriage out of human compassion; that petitioner and Orobia assured respondent judge that they would give the license to him in the afternoon of that same day. However, they failed to comply.

The OCA found the respondent judge guilty of solemnizing a marriage without a duly issued marriage license and for doing so outside his territorial jurisdiction. A fine of P5,000.00 was recommended to be imposed on respondent judge.

ISSUE:

Whether or not respondent judge should be held administratively liable.

RULING:

We agree.

Under the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, or B.P. 129, the authority of the regional trial court judges and judges of inferior courts to solemnize marriages is confined to their territorial jurisdiction as defined by the Supreme Court.

In the case at bar, the territorial jurisdiction of respondent judge is limited to the municipality of Balatan, Camarines Sur. His act of solemnizing the marriage of petitioner and Orobia in Nabua, Camarines Sur therefore is contrary to law and subjects him to administrative liability. 

His act may not amount to gross ignorance of the law for he allegedly solemnized the marriage out of human compassion but nonetheless, he cannot avoid liability for violating the law on marriage.

Respondent judge should also be faulted for solemnizing a marriage without the requisite marriage license. 

In People vs. Lara, we held that a marriage which preceded the issuance of the marriage license is void, and that the subsequent issuance of such license cannot render valid or even add an iota of validity to the marriage. Except in cases provided by law, it is the marriage license that gives the solemnizing officer the authority to solemnize a marriage. 

Respondent judge did not possess such authority when he solemnized the marriage of petitioner. In this respect, respondent judge acted in gross ignorance of the law.

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