SC recognizes divorce in marriage with foreigners

Lian Buan
SC recognizes divorce in marriage with foreigners
In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court says the State shall now recognize one form of divorce in a country that bans absolute divorce

BAGUIO, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) en banc issued a landmark ruling on Tuesday, April 24, recognizing divorce in marriages with foreigners.

Voting 10-3-1, the SC en banc ruled “that a foreign divorce secured by a Filipino against a foreign spouse is also considered valid in the Philippines, even if it is the Filipino spouse who files for divorce abroad.”

The particular case was that of Marelyn Tanedo Manalo who was married to Japanese national Minoru Yoshino. Manalo filed for and was granted divorce in Japan in 2011.

Manalo went to court in Dagupan in the Philippines to have her divorce recognized here. The trial court in Dagupan denied her petition. She then went to the Court of Appeals (CA), where she scored a victory in 2014.

The CA ruled that Manalo should have the right to remarry. It applied the amended Article 26(2) of the Family Code. Former president Corazon Aquino issued an executive order that amended the provision so that it included this:

Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall likewise have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.

The Philippine government, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), went to the SC to try to reverse the CA’s ruling. Manalo won at the SC level, hence this landmark ruling.

Landmark ruling

How does this change things?

With the amended Family Code, Filipinos who obtain divorce in the country of their foreign spouse get to remarry without fear of a bigamy suit. However, if the one who obtained the divorce was the Filipino spouse, the state still did not recognize it divorce because of the absence of absolute divorce in the country.

With this ruling, the state now recognizes the divorce obtained by the Filipino, and couples of the same circumstances of mixed-marriage will be considered not married to each other under Philippine law.

“The Court remanded the case to the trial court for further reception of evidence as to the relevant laws of Japan on divorce,” SC Spokesman Theodore Te said.

Manalo can now go to the Dagupan Trial Court and present to them this SC ruling, before the divorce can be final.

It opens up a window for Filipinos married to foreigners to get divorce in a predominantly Catholic country that is still ambivalent towards divorce. (READ: ‘Til divorce do us part?’ PH struggles to marry religion and reality)

The Philippines and the Vatican are the only two countries that ban divorce. Under the Duterte administration, the divorce bill has gained traction.

The House-approved bill seeks to grant absolute divorce of marriages under “limited grounds and well-defined procedures.”

This ruling comes after the SC set for oral arguments a petition seeking to legalize same-sex marriage. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.