By: Gregorio M. Batiller, Jr.

Last week, I discussed the amorous exploits of SPO4 Santiago who married two (2) women both first named – Susan. The first marriage to Susan 1 was declared null and void because it was sufficiently established that the marriage was solemnized without the requisite marriage license and it was not one of the marriages exempt from the marriage license requirement.

However, his marriage to Susan 2 was likewise null and void because having been conducted during the effectivity of Family Code, it become necessary that there be a prior judicial declaration of the nullity of the deceased’s previous marriage. The second marriage having been solemnized without first obtaining a judicial decree declaring the first marriage null and void was likewise void.

Who then as between the two (2) “wives” was entitled to received the deceased’s death benefits.

The Supreme Court applied Article 148 of the Family Code to the second marriage, the same being bigamous in character:

Under Article 148 of the Family Code, which refers to the property regime of bigamous marriages, adulterous relationships, relationships in a state of concubine, relationships where both man and woman are married to other persons, multiple alliances of the same married man,

“…Only the properties acquired by both of the
parties through their actual joint contribution of money,
property, or industry shall be owned by them in common
in proportion to their respective contributions… ”

In this property regime, the properties acquired by the parties through their actual joint contribution shall belong to the co-ownership. Wages and salaries earned by each party belong to him or her exclusively. Then too, contributions in the form of care of the home, children and household, or spiritual or moral inspiration, are excluded in this regime.

The disputed death benefits are clearly renumerations, incentives and benefits from governmental agencies earned by the deceased as a police officer. Unless respondent Susan 2 presents proof to the contrary, it could not be said that she contributed money, property or industry in the acquisition of these monetary benefits. Hence, they are not owned in common by respondent and the deceased, but belong to the deceased alone and respondent has no right whatsoever to claim the same. By the intestate succession, the said “death benefits” of the deceased shall pass to his legal heirs. And, Susan 2, not being the legal wife of the deceased is not one of them.

As to the marriage of deceased to Susan 1, the Supreme Court applied Article 147 of the Family Code:

“Art. 147. When a man and a woman who are
capacitated to marry each other, live exclusively with
each other as husband and wife without the benefit of
marriage or under a void marriage, their wages and
salaries shall be owned by them in equal shares and the
property acquired by both of them through their work or
industry shall be governed by the rules on co-ownership.
In the absence of proof to the contrary, properties
acquired while they lived together shall be presumed to
have been obtained by their joint efforts, work or
industry, and shall be owned by them in equal shares.
For the purposes of this Article, a party who did not
participate in the acquisition by the other party of any
property shall be deemed to have contributed jointly in
the acquisition thereof if the former’s efforts consisted in
the care and maintenance of the family and of the

When only one of the parties to void marriage is in
good faith, the share of the party in bad faith in the coownership
shall be forfeited in favor of their common
children. In case of default of or waiver by any or all of
the common children or their descendants, each
vacant share shall belong to the respective surviving
descendants. In the absence of descendants, such
share shall belong to the innocent party. In all cases,
their forfeiture shall take place upon termination of the

In contrast to Article 148, under the foregoing article, wages and salaries earned by either party during the cohabitation shall be owned by the parties in equal shares and will be divided equally between them, even if only one party earned the wages and the other did not contribute thereto. Conformably, even if the disputed “death benefits” were earned by the deceased alone as a government employee, Article 147 creates a co-ownership in respect thereto, entitling the petitioner to share one-half thereof. As there is no allegation of bad faith in the present case, both parties of the first marriage are presumed to be in good faith. Thus, one-half of the subject “death benefits” under scrutiny shall go to Susan 1 as her share in the property regime, and the other half pertaining to the deceased shall pass by, intestate succession, to his legal heirs, namely his children with Susan 1.

So the Supreme Court granted Susan 1’s petition and reversed the RTC’s and Court of Appeals’ decisions.

(Susan Nicdao Cariño vs. Susan Yee Cariño, Supreme Court, G.R. No. 132529, February 2, 2001)