In cases involving the recognition of foreign decrees to Filipinos in mixed marriages, procedural rules may be relaxed to secure substantial justice.
Case Title: Kondo v. Civil Registrar General
Date of Promulgation: G.R. No. 223628 | March 4, 2020
FACTS: Petitioner Edna Kondo (Edna) and Katsuhiro Kondo (Katsuhiro), a Filipina and Japanese national, respectively, were married in Japan in March 1991. They registered their Marriage Certificate of even date with the National Statistics Office in the Philippines. In July 2000, they obtained a divorce by agreement in Japan for which they were issued a Report of Divorce. In November 2012, Edna, through her sister and Attorney-in-Fact filed a petition for judicial recognition of the divorce decree, citing Article 26 (2) of the Family Code.
The trial court denied the petition. It noted that under Article 26 (2) of the Family Code, the foreign divorce should have been obtained by the alien spouse, not by mutual agreement, as here. More, the provisions of the Japanese Civil Code, as presented to the trial court, did not show that Katsuhiro was allowed to remarry upon obtaining a divorce. Edna filed a Motion for New Trial, alleging she had newly discovered evidence which could alter the result of the case - a copy of Katsuhiro' s Report of Divorce, allegedly indicating that he had already married. She emphasized that an absurd situation would occur if the trial court would not admit the second Report of Divorce to prove Katsuhiro's second marriage. For she would still be deemed married to Katsuhiro even though he had already remarried on May 30, 2001. The trial court held, among others, that the Report of Divorce was not sufficient to establish that Katsuhiro contracted a subsequent marriage, unauthenticated as it was.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court. It did not consider the second Report of Divorce as newly discovered evidence as Edna could have easily presented it during the trial. However, it disagreed with the trial court's ruling on the supposed inapplicability of Article 26 (2) of the Family Code.
ISSUE: May petitioner be allowed to present additional evidence before the RTC?
RULING: Yes. The Divorce Report could not be deemed as newly discovered evidence as it was already existing during the proceedings. However, what is at stake is not merely Edna's status, but also her actual marital and family life. Indeed, the Court has time and again granted liberality in cases involving the recognition of foreign decrees to Filipinos in mixed marriages and free them from a marriage in which they are the sole remaining party. In the aforementioned cases, the Court has emphasized that procedural rules are designed to secure and not override substantial justice, especially here where what is involved is a matter affecting lives of families. The Court sees no reason why the same treatment should not be applied here.
First. Edna presented an Authenticated Report of Divorce in Japanese Language; an English translation of the Report of Divorce; and an Authenticated Original copy of the Family Register of Katsuhiro. Too, she actively participated throughout the proceedings through her sister and attorney-in-fact, despite financial and logistical constraints. She also showed willingness to provide the final document the trial court needed to prove Katsuhiro' s capacity to remarry.
Second. As the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) noted, the present case concerns Edna's status. Hence, res judicata [bar by prior judgment] shall not apply and Edna could simply refile the case if dismissed. This process though would be a waste of time and resources, not just for both parties, but the trial court as well.
Third. In its Comment, the OSG did not object to Edna's prayer to have the case remanded to the RTC for presentation in evidence of the pertinent Japanese law on divorce and the document proving Katsuhiro was recapacitated to marry.
Finally. The present case stands on meritorious grounds, as petitioner had actually presented certified documents establishing the fact of divorce and relaxation of the rules will not prejudice the State.
Verily, a relaxation of procedural rules is in order.