Teofilo Carlos and petitioner Juan De Dios Carlos were brothers who each had three parcels of land by virtue of inheritance. Later Teofilo died intestate. He was survived by his wife Felicidad Sandoval and their son, Teofilo Carlos II. Upon Teofilo’s death, two parcels of land were registered in the name of Felicidad and Teofilo II. In August 1995, Carlos commenced an action for the annulment of the marriage between Teofilo and Felicidad. In his complaint, Carlos asserted that the marriage between his late brother and Felicidad was a nullity in view of the absence of the required marriage license. He likewise maintained that his deceased brother was neither the natural nor the adoptive father of Teofilo Carlos II. He argued that the properties covered by such certificates of title, including the sums received by respondents as proceeds, should be reconveyed to him.
ISSUE: Who may file an action for annulment of marriage?
HELD: A petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be filed solely by the husband or wife. Exceptions: (1) Nullity of marriage cases commenced before the effectivity of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC; and (2) Marriages celebrated during the effectivity of the Civil Code. Under the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages, the petition for declaration of absolute nullity of marriage may not be filed by any party outside of the marriage. A petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage may be filed solely by the husband or the wife. Only an aggrieved or injured spouse may file a petition for annulment of voidable marriages or declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages. Such petition cannot be filed by compulsory or intestate heirs of the spouses or by the State. The Committee is of the belief that they do not have a legal right to file the petition. Compulsory or intestate heirs have only inchoate rights prior to the death of their predecessor, and, hence, can only question the validity of the marriage of the spouses upon the death of a spouse in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased spouse filed in the regular courts. On the other hand, the concern of the State is to preserve marriage and not to seek its dissolution. The Rule extends only to marriages entered into during the effectivity of the Family Code which took effect on August 3, 1988.
The advent of the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages marks the beginning of the end of the right of the heirs of the deceased spouse to bring a nullity of marriage case against the surviving spouse. But the Rule never intended to deprive the compulsory or intestate heirs of their successional rights.
While A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC declares that a petition for declaration of absolute nullity of marriage may be filed solely by the husband or the wife, it does not mean that the compulsory or intestate heirs are without any recourse under the law. They can still protect their successional right, for, as stated in the Rationale of the Rules on Annulment of Voidable Marriages and Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages, compulsory or intestate heirs can still question the validity of the marriage of the spouses, not in a proceeding for declaration of nullity but upon the death of a spouse in a proceeding for the settlement of the estate of the deceased spouse filed in the regular courts.
It is emphasized, however, that the Rule does not apply to cases already commenced before March 15, 2003 although the marriage involved is within the coverage of the Family Code. This is so, as the new Rule which became effective on March 15, 2003 is prospective in its application.
Carlos commenced the nullity of marriage case against Felicidad in 1995. The marriage in controversy was celebrated on May 14, 1962. Which law would govern depends upon when the marriage took place.
The marriage having been solemnized prior to the effectivity of the Family Code, the applicable law is the Civil Code which was the law in effect at the time of its celebration. But the Civil Code is silent as to who may bring an action to declare the marriage void. Does this mean that any person can bring an action for the declaration of nullity of marriage?
True, under the New Civil Code which is the law in force at the time the respondents were married, or even in the Family Code, there is no specific provision as to who can file a petition to declare the nullity of marriage; however, only a party who can demonstrate “proper interest” can file the same. A petition to declare the nullity of marriage, like any other actions, must be prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party-in-interest and must be based on a cause of action. Thus, in Ninal v. Badayog, the Court held that the children have the personality to file the petition to declare the nullity of marriage of their deceased father to their stepmother as it affects their successional rights.