The Civil Code governs the marriage of Zorayda and the late Sen. Tamano; their marriage was never invalidated by PD 1083. Sen. Tamano’s subsequent marriage to Estrellita is void ab initio.
The marriage between the late Sen. Tamano and Zorayda was celebrated in 1958, solemnized under civil and Muslim rites. The only law in force governing marriage relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims alike was the Civil Code of 1950, under the provisions of which only one marriage can exist at any given time. Under the marriage provisions of the Civil Code, divorce is not recognized except during the effectivity of Republic Act No. 394 which was not availed of during its effectivity.
As far as Estrellita is concerned, Sen. Tamano’s prior marriage to Zorayda has been severed by way of divorce under PD 1083, the law that codified Muslim personal laws. However, PD 1083 cannot benefit Estrellita. Firstly, Article 13(1) thereof provides that the law applies to “marriage and divorce wherein both parties are Muslims, or wherein only the male party is a Muslim and the marriage is solemnized in accordance with Muslim law or this Code in any part of the Philippines.” But we already ruled in G.R. No. 126603 that “Article 13 of PD 1083 does not provide for a situation where the parties were married both in civil and Muslim rites.”
Moreover, the Muslim Code took effect only on February 4, 1977, and this law cannot retroactively override the Civil Code which already bestowed certain rights on the marriage of Sen. Tamano and Zorayda. The former explicitly provided for the prospective application of its provisions unless otherwise provided:
Art. 186 (1). Effect of code on past acts. —Acts executed prior to the effectivity of this Code shall be governed by the laws in force at the time of their execution, and nothing herein except as otherwise specifically provided, shall affect their validity or legality or operate to extinguish any right acquired or liability incurred thereby.
It has been held that:
The foregoing provisions are consistent with the principle that all laws operate prospectively, unless the contrary appears or is clearly, plainly and unequivocably expressed or necessarily implied; accordingly, every case of doubt will be resolved against the retroactive operation of laws. Article 186 aforecited enunciates the general rule of the Muslim Code to have its provisions applied prospectively, and implicitly upholds the force and effect of a pre-existing body of law, specifically, the Civil Code – in respect of civil acts that took place before the Muslim Code’s enactment.
An instance of retroactive application of the Muslim Code is Article 186(2) which states:
A marriage contracted by a Muslim male prior to the effectivity of this Code in accordance with non-Muslim law shall be considered as one contracted under Muslim law provided the spouses register their mutual desire to this effect.
Even granting that there was registration of mutual consent for the marriage to be considered as one contracted under the Muslim law, the registration of mutual consent between Zorayda and Sen. Tamano will still be ineffective, as both are Muslims whose marriage was celebrated under both civil and Muslim laws. Besides, as we have already settled, the Civil Code governs their personal status since this was in effect at the time of the celebration of their marriage. In view of Sen. Tamano’s prior marriage which subsisted at the time Estrellita married him, their subsequent marriage is correctly adjudged by the CA as void ab initio.