The crime of bigamy is committed by any person who shall contract a second or subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been legally dissolved.
Bigamy is punishable under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code
Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code states:
“ARTICLE 349. Bigamy. — The penalty of prisión mayor shall be imposed upon any person who shall contract a second or subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been legally dissolved, or before the absent spouse has been declared presumptively dead by means of a judgment rendered in the proper proceedings.”
In the case of Marbella-Bobis vs. Bobis (G.R. No. 138509, 31 July 2000), the Supreme Court laid down the elements of bigamy:
(1) the offender has been legally married;
(2) the first marriage has not been legally dissolved, or in case his or her spouse is absent, the absent spouse has not been judicially declared presumptively dead;
(3) he contracts a subsequent marriage; and
(4) the subsequent marriage would have been valid had it not been for the existence of the first.
The first marriage must be valid in order for a bigamy case to prosper.
Bigamy requires that the offender has been legally married. The existence and the validity of the first marriage being an essential element of the crime of bigamy, it is but logical that a conviction for said offense cannot be sustained where there is no first marriage to speak of (Morigo vs. People, G.R. No. 145226, 06 February 2004).
One who contracts a subsequent marriage before having the first one declared void or annulled is still guilty of bigamy.
However, it bears noting that in the case of Mercado vs. Tan (G.R. No. 137110, 01 August 2000), the Supreme Court enunciated that a judicial declaration of nullity of a previous marriage is necessary before a subsequent one can be legally contracted. It added that one who enters into a subsequent marriage without first obtaining such judicial declaration is guilty of bigamy. This principle applies even if the earlier union is characterized by statute as void.
The rationale behind this is that Article 40 of the Family Code expressly states that “the absolute nullity of a previous marriage may be invoked for purposes of remarriage on the basis solely of a final judgment declaring such marriage void”. Verily, the parties cannot presume that their marriage is void and raise the same as a defense when they contract a subsequent marriage. They must first secure a court ruling annulling or voiding their marriage before marrying another.
The subsequent marriage must have all the requisites for validity except for the fact that there is a prior marriage. However, the Supreme Court has held that the nullity of the second marriage is immaterial to the prosecution for the criminal case of bigamy.
For a bigamy case to prosper, the second marriage must be valid were it not for the existence of the first marriage. However, in the case of Tenebro vs. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 150758, 18 February 2004), the Supreme Court strongly held that the crime of bigamy penalizes the mere act of contracting a second or a subsequent marriage during the subsistence of a valid marriage. The Supreme Court ratiocinated that since a marriage contracted during the subsistence of a valid marriage is automatically void, the nullity of this second marriage is not per se an argument for the avoidance of criminal liability for bigamy.
In bigamy, both the first and second spouses can be offended parties and can file the case.
In the case of People vs. Nepomuceno (G.R. No. L-40624, 27 June 1975), the Supreme Court had the occasion to discuss that in the crime of bigamy, both the first and second spouses may be the offended parties depending on the circumstances, as when the second spouse married the accused without being aware of his previous marriage. It is only if the second spouse had knowledge of the previous undissolved marriage of the accused could she be included in the information as a co-accused.
If the second spouse married the accused despite knowledge of the previous marriage, she can be held liable as an accomplice in the crime of bigamy.
A person, whether man or woman, who knowingly consents or agrees to be married to another already bound in lawful wedlock is guilty as an accomplice in the crime of bigamy (Santiago vs. People, G.R. No. 200233, 15 July 2015). Since the second spouse is merely an accomplice, the punishment is one degree lower or prison correctional equivalent to imprisonment with a duration of six months and 1 day to six years.
Bigamy is punishable by imprisonment.
Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code imposes the penalty of prison mayor for the crime of bigamy. Thus, the accused, if found guilty of bigamy, shall be sentenced to imprisonment within the range of six years and 1 day to twelve years.
A word to the wise. Do not get married if you are still legally married to another. It is hardly doubtful that true love can justify twelve years behind bars.
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