G.R. No. 165545 – 485 SCRA 376 – Civil Law – Persons and Family Relations – Family Code – Article 41-42; Reappearance of Absent Spouse
In 1955 Clemente Bailon and Alice Diaz married in Barcelona, Sorsogon. Some 15 years later, Clemente filed an action to declare the presumptive death of Alice she being an absentee. The petition was granted in 1970. In 1983, Clemente married Teresita Jarque. The two live together until Clemente’s death in 1998. Jarque then sought to claim her husband’s SSS benefits and the same were granted her. On the other hand, a certain Cecilia Bailon-Yap who claimed that she is the daughter of Bailon to a certain Elisa Jayona petitioned before the SSS that they be given the reimbursement for the funeral spending for it was actually them who shouldered the burial expenses of Clemente. They further claim that Clemente contracted three marriages; one with Alice, another with Elisa and the other with Jarque. Cecilia also averred that Alice is alive and kicking and Alice subsequently emerged; Cecilia claimed that Clemente obtained the declaration of Alice’s presumptive death in bad faith for he was aware of the whereabouts of Alice or if not he could have easily located her in her parents’ place. She was in Sorsogon all along in her parents’ place. She went there upon learning that Clemente had been having extra-marital affairs. SSS then directed Jarque to reimburse what had been granted her and to return the same to Cecilia since she shouldered the burial expenses and that the benefits should go to Alice because her reappearance had terminated Clemente’s marriage with Harque. Further, SSS ruled that the RTC’s decision in declaring Alice to be presumptively death is erroneous. Teresita appealed the decision of the SSS before the Social Security Commission and the SSC affirmed SSS. Jarque appealed to the Court of Appeals and the latter ruled in her favor.
ISSUE: Whether or not the mere appearance of the absent spouse declared presumptively dead automatically terminates the subsequent marriage.
HELD: No. There is no previous marriage to restore for it is terminated upon Clemente’s death. Likewise there is no subsequent marriage to terminate for the same is terminated upon Clemente’s death. SSS is correct in ruling that it is futile for Alice to pursue the recording of her reappearance before the local civil registrar through an affidavit or a court action. But it is not correct for the SSS to rule upon the declaration made by the RTC. The SSC or the SSS has no judicial power to review the decision of the RTC. SSS is indeed empowered to determine as to who should be the rightful beneficiary of the benefits obtained by a deceased member in case of disputes but such power does not include the appellate power to review a court decision or declaration. In the case at bar, the RTC ruling is binding and Jarque’s marriage to Clemente is still valid because no affidavit was filed by Alice to make known her reappearance legally. Alice reappeared only after Clemente’s death and in this case she can no longer file such an affidavit; in this case the bad faith [or good faith] of Clemente can no longer be raised – the marriage herein is considered voidable and must be attacked directly not collaterally – it is however impossible for a direct attack since there is no longer a marriage to be attacked for the same has been terminated upon Clemente’s death.