Civil Law, Criminal Law

DONATO vs. LUNA G.R. No. L-53642 April 15, 1988 BIGAMY, Prejudicial Question

FACTS:

Herein petitioner was charged with bigamy. Before the petitioner’s arraignment, private respondent filed a civil action for declaration of nullity of her marriage with petitioner on the ground that private respondent consented to entering into the marriage, which was petitioner Donato’s second one, since she had no previous knowledge that petitioner was already married to a certain Rosalinda R. Maluping.

Petitioner’s answer in the civil case for nullity interposed the defense that his second marriage was void since it was solemnized without a marriage license and that force, violence, intimidation and undue influence were employed by private respondent to obtain petitioner’s consent to the marriage. Prior to the solemnization of the subsequent or second marriage, petitioner and private respondent had lived together and deported themselves as husband and wife without the benefit of wedlock for a period of at least five years as evidenced by a joint affidavit, for which reason, the requisite marriage license was dispensed with pursuant to Article 76 of the New Civil Code pertaining to marriages of exceptional character.

Petitioner filed a motion to suspend the proceedings of said case contending that the annulment case of his second marriage filed by private respondent raises a prejudicial question which must first be determined or decided before the criminal case can proceed.

Respondent judge Luna denied the motion to suspend the proceedings for bigamy and directed that the proceedings in the criminal case can proceed as scheduled.

 

ISSUE:

Whether or not a pending criminal case for bigamy should be suspended in view of a civil case for annulment of marriage on the ground that the latter constitutes a prejudicial question.

 

RULING:

A prejudicial question has been defined to be one which arises in a case, the resolution of which question is a logical antecedent of the issue involved in said case, and the cognizance of which pertains to another tribunal. It is one based on a fact distinct and separate from the crime but so intimately connected with it that it determines the guilt or innocence of the accused, and for it to suspend the criminal action, it must appear not only that said case involves facts intimately related to those upon which the criminal prosecution would be based but also that in the resolution of the issue or issues raised in the civil case, the guilt or innocence of the accused would necessarily be determined. A prejudicial question usually comes into play in a situation where a civil action and a criminal action may proceed, because howsoever the issue raised in the civil action is resolved would be determinative juris et de jure of the guilt or innocence of the accused in a criminal case.

The requisites of a prejudicial question do not obtain in the case at bar. It must be noted that the issue touching upon the nullity of the second marriage is not determinative of petitioner Donato’s guilt or innocence in the crime of bigamy. Furthermore, it was petitioner’s second wife, the herein private respondent Abayan who filed the complaint for annulment of the second marriage on the ground that her consent was obtained through deceit.

The doctrine elucidated upon by the case of Landicho vs. Relova may be applied to the present case. Said case states that:

The mere fact that there are actions to annul the marriages entered into by the accused in a bigamy case does not mean that “prejudicial questions” are automatically raised in civil actions as to warrant the suspension of the case. In order that the case of annulment of marriage be considered a prejudicial question to the bigamy case against the accused, it must be shown that the petitioner’s consent to such marriage must be the one that was obtained by means of duress, force and intimidation to show that his act in the second marriage must be involuntary and cannot be the basis of his conviction for the crime of bigamy.

The situation in the present case is markedly different. At the time the petitioner was indicted for bigamy on February 27, 1963, the fact that two marriage ceremonies had been contracted appeared to be indisputable. And it was the second spouse, not the petitioner who filed the action for nullity on the ground of force, threats and intimidation.

Parties to the marriage should not be permitted to judge for themselves its nullity, for the same must be submitted to the judgment of the competent courts and only when the nullity of the marriage is so declared can it be held as void, and so long as there is no such declaration the presumption is that the marriage exists. Therefore, he who contracts a second marriage before the judicial declaration of nullity of the first marriage assumes the risk of being prosecuted for bigamy.

Pursuant to the doctrine discussed in Landicho vs. Relova, petitioner Donato cannot apply the rule on prejudicial questions since a case for annulment of marriage can be considered as a prejudicial question to the bigamy case against the accused only if it is proved that the petitioner’s consent to such marriage was obtained by means of duress, violence and intimidation in order to establish that his act in the subsequent marriage was an involuntary one and as such the same cannot be the basis for conviction. The preceding elements do not exist in the case at bar.

Obviously, petitioner merely raised the issue of prejudicial question to evade the prosecution of the criminal case.

Accordingly, there being no prejudicial question shown to exit the order of denial issued by the respondent judge dated April 14, 1980 should be sustained.

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