A question arises whether or not a Filipino citizen who marries another Filipino citizen in the Philippines and subsequently marries an American citizen in the United States is guilty of bigamy. There are, however, two areas for discussion in this case : a) whether or not bigamy was committed and b) whether or not he can be pursued, tried and persecuted for such,
The Revised Penal Code provides for the following :
“Art. 349. Bigamy. — The penalty of prision 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. “
Furthermore, such person’s civil status as a married person does not change when he goes to another country, even when he files for divorce in the United States in regards to his marriage in the Philippines. Its legal basis is the following article in the Civil Code, to wit :
“Art. 15. Laws relating to family rights and duties, or to the status, condition and legal capacity of persons are binding upon citizens of the Philippines, even though living abroad.”
Bigamy is a crime that is committed when another person contracts another marriage aside from the first before it is legally severed. The law does not give any distinction where the second marriage was contracted. Therefore, there is no circumstance that can take reverse this except through an appropriate legal action. The legal process of terminating the marriage, in fact, has to be done in the Philippines, not anywhere else – except maybe if the person renounces his Filipino citizenship and becomes a citizen of the country where he currently lives. If divorce is allowed in such country, then he can legally end his marriage in the Philippines by filing for such, then he can contract a second marriage. It can therefore be concluded that the person who contract a second marriage in the US has committed the crime of bigamy.
The question on whether or not the Philippines has jurisdiction over such Filipino citizen, the Philippines has prescriptive jurisdiction over the person but not enforcement jurisdiction as he is not in the country. By the exercise of the prescriptive jurisdiction, the spouse may file a complaint in court. The court may proceed to investigate and find probably cause. It claims jurisdiction over the person by appropriate notice or summon. Then, it can try the person and convict him. The State may not, however, enforce the judgment not until the person goes home to the Philippines because it has no jurisdiction over the person when he is in another country.