G.R. No. 109975 February 9, 2001
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,
ERLINDA MATIAS DAGDAG, respondent.
For review on certiorari is the decision1 of the Court of Appeals dated April 22, 1993, in CA-G.R. CY No. 34378, which affirmed the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Olongapo City in Civil Case No. 380-0-90 declaring the marriage of Erlinda Matias Dagdag and Avelino Dagdag void under Article 36 of the Family Code. On September 7, 1975, Erlinda Matias, 16 years old, married Avelino Parangan Dagdag, 20 years old, at the Iglesia Filipina Independent Church in Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija.2 The marriage certificate was issued by the Office of the Local Civil Registrar of the Municipality of Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija, on October 20, 1988. Erlinda and Avelino begot two children, namely: Avelyn M. Dagdag, born on January 16, 1978; and Eden M. Dagdag, born on April 21, 1982.3 Their birth certificates were issued by the Office of the Local Civil Registrar of the Municipality of Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija, also on October 20, 1988. Erlinda and Avelino lived in a house in District 8, Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija, located at the back of the house of their in-laws.4 A week after the wedding, Avelino started leaving his family without explanation. He would disappear for months, suddenly reappear for a few months, then disappear again. During the times when he was with his family, he indulged in drinking sprees with friends and would return home drunk. He would force his wife to submit to sexual intercourse and if she refused, he would inflict physical injuries on her.5 On October 1993, he left his family again and that was the last they heard from him. Erlinda was constrained to look for a job in Olongapo City as a manicurist to support herself and her children. Finally, Erlinda learned that Avelino was imprisoned for some crime,6 and that he escaped from jail on October 22, 1985.7 A certification therefor dated February 14, 1990, was issued by Jail Warden Orlando S. Limon. Avelino remains at-large to date. On July 3, 1990, Erlinda filed with the Regional Trial Court of Olongapo City a petition for judicial declaration of nullity of marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the Family Code.8 Since Avelino could not be located, summons was served by publication in the Olongapo News, a newspaper of general circulation, on September 3, 10, and 17, 1990.9 Subsequently, a hearing was conducted to establish jurisdictional facts. Thereafter, on December 17, 1990, the date set for presentation of evidence, only Erlinda and her counsel appeared. Erlinda testified and presented her sister-in-law, Virginia Dagdag, as her only witness. Virginia testified that she is married to the brother of Avelino. She and her husband live in Olongapo City but they spend their vacations at the house of Avelino's parents in Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija. She testified that Erlinda and Avelino always quarrelled, and that Avelino never stayed for long at the couple's house. She knew that Avelino had been gone for a long time now, and that she pitied Erlinda and the children.10 Thereafter, Erlinda rested her case. The trial court issued an Order giving the investigating prosecutor until January 2, 1991, to manifest in writing whether or not he would present controverting evidence, and stating that should he fail to file said manifestation, the case would be deemed submitted for decision. In compliance with the Order, the investigating prosecutor conducted an investigation and found that there was no collusion between the parties. However, he intended to intervene in the case to avoid fabrication of evidence.11 On December 27, 1990, without waiting for the investigating prosecutor's manifestation dated December 5, 1990, the trial court rendered a decision12 declaring the marriage of Erlinda and Avelino void under Article 36 of the Family Code, disposing thus: "WHEREFORE, and viewed from the...