Rhodora Racho and Seiichi Tanaka were married on April 20, 2001 in Las Piñas City, Metro Manila. They lived together for nine years in Japan and did not have any children.
Racho alleged that Tanaka filed for divorce and the divorce was granted. She secured a Divorce Certificate issued by Consul Takayama of the Japanese Consulate in the Philippines and had it authenticated by an authentication officer of the DFA.
Back in the Philippines, she tried to have the Divorce Certificate registered with the Civil Registry of Manila but was refused by the City Registrar since there was no court order recognizing it.
Thus, her divorce could only be annotated in the Certificate of Marriage if there was a court order capacitating her to remarry.
Racho filed a Petition for Judicial Determination and Declaration of Capacity to Marry.
The RTC ruled that Racho failed to prove that Tanaka legally obtained a divorce. It stated that while she was able to prove Tanaka’s national law, the Divorce Certificate was not competent evidence since it was not the divorce decree itself.
Racho filed a Motion for Reconsideration, arguing that under Japanese law, a divorce by agreement becomes effective by oral notification, or by a document signed by both parties and by two or more witnesses.
Racho’s MR was denied.
Hence, this Petition for Review on Certiorari.
Whether or not the divorce obtained by petitioner and respondent was valid.
Judicial recognition of a foreign divorce requires that the national law of the foreign spouse and the divorce decree be pleaded and proved as a fact before the Regional Trial Court.
The Filipino spouse may be granted the capacity to remarry once our courts find that the foreign divorce was validly obtained by the foreign spouse according to his or her national law, and that the foreign spouse’s national law considers the dissolution of the marital relationship to be absolute.
Recent jurisprudence holds that a foreign divorce may be recognized in this jurisdiction as long as it is validly obtained, regardless of who among the spouses initiated the divorce proceedings.
Here, the national law of the foreign spouse states that the matrimonial relationship is terminated by divorce. The Certificate of Acceptance of the Report of Divorce does not state any qualifications that would restrict the remarriage of any of the parties. There can be no other interpretation than that the divorce procured by petitioner and respondent is absolute and completely terminates their marital tie.
Even under our laws, the effect of the absolute dissolution of the marital tie is to grant both parties the legal capacity to remarry. Thus, Article 40 of the Family Code provides:
Article 40. The absolute nullity of a previous marriage may be invoked for purposes of remarriage on the basis solely of a final judgment declaring such previous marriage void.
To insist, as the Office of the Solicitor General does, that under our laws, petitioner is still married to respondent despite the latter’s newfound companionship with another cannot be just. Justice is better served if she is not discriminated against in her own country. As much as petitioner is free to seek fulfilment in the love and devotion of another, so should she be free to pledge her commitment within the institution of marriage.