Civil Law

Rodolfo Navarro vs Judge Hernando Domagtoy

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A.M. No. MTJ-96-1088 – 259 SCRA 129 – Civil Law – Family Code – Law on Marriage – Presumptive Death; Absent Spouse – A lower court judge cannot solemnize marriage outside his jurisdiction

Rodolfo Navarro was the Municipal Mayor of Dapa, Surigao del Norte. He submitted evidence in relation to two specific acts committed by Municipal Circuit Trial Court Judge Hernando Domagtoy, which, he contends, exhibits gross misconduct as well as inefficiency in office and ignorance of the law. First, on September 27, 1994, said judge solemnized the wedding between Gaspar Tagadan and Arlyn Borga, despite the knowledge that the groom is merely separated from his first wife. On his part, Domagtoy claimed that he merely relied on an affidavit acknowledged before him attesting that Tagadan’s wife has been absent for seven years. The said affidavit was alleged to have been sworn to before another judge. Second, it is alleged that he performed a marriage ceremony between Floriano Dador Sumaylo and Gemma G. del Rosario outside his court’s jurisdiction on October 27, 1994. Domagtoy counters that he solemnized the marriage outside of his jurisdiction upon the request of the parties.

ISSUE: Whether or not Domagtoy acted without jurisdiction.

HELD: Yes. Domagtoy’s defense is not tenable and he did display gross ignorance of the law.  Tagadan did not institute a summary proceeding for the declaration of his first wife’s presumptive death. Absent this judicial declaration, he remains married to Ihis former wife. Whether wittingly or unwittingly, it was manifest error on the part of Domagtoy to have accepted the joint affidavit submitted by the groom. Such neglect or ignorance of the law has resulted in a bigamous, and therefore void, marriage. On the second issue, the request to hold the wedding outside Domagtoy’s jurisdiction was only done by one party, the bride, NOT by both parties. More importantly, the elementary principle underlying this provision is the authority of the solemnizing judge. Under Article 3, one of the formal requisites of marriage is the “authority of the solemnizing officer.” Under Article 7, marriage may be solemnized by, among others, “any incumbent member of the judiciary within the court’s jurisdiction.” Article 8, which is a directory provision, refers only to the venue of the marriage ceremony and does not alter or qualify the authority of the solemnizing officer as provided in the preceding provision. Non-compliance herewith will not invalidate the marriage.

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