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Property Regimes of Unions Without Marriage by: Ella Marie A.

Sanico

There was a case that involves the marriage and settlement of the estate of the deceased former governor of the Province of Laguna, Felicisimo T. San Luis. During his lifetime, Felicisimo contracted three (3) marriages. First, he married Virginia Sulit with whom he was blessed with six (6) children. Five years later, he married Merry Lee Corwin, an American citizen. He begot one son and later on obtained divorce before the Hawaiian court in 1973. For the third time, he married Felicidad Sagalongos in California, U.S.A. and lived together for 18 years until his death. When Felicisimo died, Felicidad filed a petition for dissolution of their conjugal partnership assets and settlement of his estate before the Regional Trial Court of Makati. Consequently, Rodolfo San Luis and another daughter of Felicisimo with his first wife, contested the petition on the ground that the venue was improperly laid and she has no legal personality to sue because she was only a mistress of their deceased father. The motion was denied but still the respondent filed an Opposition showing pieces of evidence against the motion to dismiss made by the former. The RTC Makati dismissed the herein petition. Subsequently, the appeal to the Court of Appeals was reversed and set aside. The trial court ruled that the place of residence should be understood as the personal, actual or physical habitation so petition was properly filed and in Article 26, par 2 of the Family Code should be given effect, allowing a Filipino to remarry under Philippine law. Rodolfo asserted that paragraph 2, Article 26 of the Family Code cannot be given retroactive effect to validate respondent’s bigamous marriage with Felicisimo because this would impair vested rights in derogation of Article 256 and that is why this case has gone higher to the Supreme Court. The latter ruled that Even if the Family Code is not applied retroactively, Van Dorn v. Romillo may invoke in this case which the SC said that the private respondent has no control over the conjugal assets. The aforementioned sufficiently provides as the legal basis for holding valid divorce obtained by an alien spouse against the Filipino spouse. And in this case, Merry Lee obtained a divorce giving Felicisimo the capacity to remarry. However, as the marriage between Felicidad and Felicisimo was not sufficiently proven, remanded the case to RTC. Felicidad’s petition in the dissolution of conjugal partnership assets and settlement of Felicisimo’s estate was affirmed by the Courts by invoking the said provision. But since the laws shall have no retroactive effect, since that their marriage was solemnized in 1974 wherein the old Civil Code was in use, the rulings in Van Dorn v. Romillo case was invoked by the Supreme Court.