The Dismal Rise of Multiple Marriages Among Filipinos Abroad 20 April 2012
Last week, an immigration judge made a side comment in court. She said that the reason she encounters multiple marriages and fraud among Filipinos in deportation cases is because there is no divorce in the Philippines. Of course, I just have to mention that majority of the Filipinos are still conservatives who believe in the sanctity of marriage. Instead of responding, she just smiled and looked at me with sarcasm. I understood that what she was trying to say was that it is not at all unusual for Filipino individuals to have multiple marriages.
An individual may indeed have multiple marriages but only one is considered a valid and legal marriage. In the area of immigration, confusing and quite obscure situations are created.
Consider the following case: Anna married James in 2002. Two children were born of the relationship. On the fifth year of her marriage, James left for the United States on a nonimmigrant tourist visa. After six months in the United States, James overstayed and decided not to return to the Philippines. He filed a divorce from his wife Anna with the Superior Court in California. After it was granted, James married Carla who is a U.S. citizen. Carla is his long time girlfriend from high school who is also divorced from her first husband.
Anna eventually had a suitor who is also a foreign national who wants to marry her. However, the divorce decree obtained by James who is still a Filipino citizen is not valid in the Philippines. Anna, therefore, had to file for annulment in a Philippine court but her petition was denied. The California divorce decree not being recognized in the Philippines and her annulment petition having failed, Anna is still considered legally married to James.
In the meantime, James who is now a green card holder wants to come back to the Philippines and visit his children from Anna. He knows that he is still validly married to Anna under Philippine law. This is a clear case of bigamy under Philippine law. However, he has a valid and legal marriage to Carla under US law.
NATURALIZED US CITIZEN SPOUSES
In the case of James above, being a Filipino citizen, he is confronted with a case of bigamous marriage under Philippine law. Should James eventually become a US citizen, however, he can actually re-file a new divorce petition with Anna. In such a case, the new divorce judgment will be valid under Philippine law as divorces between Filipino nationals and foreign nationals can be valid under our Philippine Family Code.
James as a green card holder and a Filipino citizen will be considered to have a bigamous marriage. If he, however, becomes a U.S. citizen and gets a divorce judgment, his foreign divorce can be valid in the Philippines. Now, what happens if he takes an oath back to becoming a Filipino citizen again under our Dual Citizenship law? Will his marriage to Anna remain valid and will he be in a bigamous marriage to Carla?
OTHER BIGAMOUS MARRIAGES
Even if there is no divorce law yet in the Philippines, there are legal ways to terminate a marriage. Annulment is one common option. Another option is when one of the spouses acquires a different citizenship and files for divorce in a foreign jurisdiction.
Notwithstanding the legal options, still multiple marriages may arise in different situations.
In a true-to-life case, Rissa had been having an affair with a married man named Paul. Despite being already married, Paul still managed to marry Rissa as his second wife. Thereafter, Paul migrated to the United States with his first (and legal) spouse. Rissa eventually was also able to obtain her tourist visa to visit the United States. In her visa application, she indicated she is married to Paul (even if she knew that this marriage is bigamous). She claimed that she was married in order to improve her chance of obtaining her visa. When Rissa arrived in the United States, she found out that Paul had already divorced his first wife. Thus, Paul and Rissa eventually remarried. However, in applying for her green card, Rissa only declared her second marriage to Paul and concealed the first marriage. Nevertheless, the misrepresentation was discovered and Rissa was put in removal/deportation proceedings.
‘MULTIPLE MARRIAGES’ MAY BE AVOIDED
Lack of divorce law in the Philippines has its adverse impact in the immigration area. There being no divorce, it is a reality that many Filipinos do jump from one marital relationship to another. It is a reality that some relationships do fail. Are we not better off then giving validity to divorce for deserving parties?
(Tancinco may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 887 7177 or 721 1963)