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Irregularity in the Authority of the Solemnizing Officer

According to Article 7 of the Family Code, the Marriage may be solemnized by:

(1) Any incumbent member of the judiciary within the court's jurisdiction;

(2) Any priest, rabbi, imam, or minister of any church or religious sect duly authorized by his
church or religious sect and registered with the civil registrar general, acting within the limits of
the written authority granted by his church or religious sect and provided that at least one of the
contracting parties belongs to the solemnizing officer's church or religious sect;

(3) Any ship captain or airplane chief only in the case mentioned in Article 31;

(4) Any military commander of a unit to which a chaplain is assigned, in the absence of the
latter, during a military operation, likewise only in the cases mentioned in Article 32;

(5) Any consul-general, consul or vice-consul in the case provided in Article 10.(56a)

(1) Any incumbent member of the judiciary within the court's jurisdiction

The elementary principle underlying this provision is the authority of the solemnizing
judge. Under Article 3, one of the formal requisites of marriage is the "authority of the
solemnizing officer." While Article 7 states that marriage may be solemnized by, among others,
"any incumbent member of the judiciary within the court's jurisdiction." In Navarro vs.
Dumagtoy1, the court ruled that “where a judge solemnizes a marriage outside his court’s
jurisdiction, there is a resultant irregularity in the formal requisite laid down in Article 3,
which while it may not affect the validity of the marriage, may subject the officiating
official to administrative liability.”

Article 7 (1) of the Family Code emphasized that judges, must be incumbent and not retired
judges,2 can solemnize marriage only within their courts’ jurisdiction.

As cited in the Arranes vs Occiano3, under the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, or B.P.
129, the authority of the regional trial court judges and judges of inferior courts to solemnize
marriages is confined to their territorial jurisdiction as defined by the Supreme Court. The
jurisdiction of the Court of Tax Appeals, Sandiganbayan, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme
Court is national in scope.4

1
Navarro v. Domagtoy, A.M. No. MTJ 96-1088, July 19, 1996, 72 SCAD 328
2
Sta. Maria, Melencio Jr., Persons and Family Relations Law, 2010, Rex Printing Company, Inc.
3
A.M. No. MTJ-02-1390, April 11, 2002
4
Navarro v. Domagtoy, A.M. No. MTJ 96-1088, July 19, 1996, 72 SCAD 328
In the case of Navarro vs. Dumagtoy, it is alleged petitioner Judge Dumagtoy performed a
marriage ceremony between Floriano Dador Sumaylo and Gemma G. del Rosario outside his
court's jurisdiction on October 27, 1994.Respondent judge holds office and has jurisdiction in the
Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Sta. Monica-Burgos, Surigao del Norte. The wedding was
solemnized at the respondent judge's residence in the municipality of Dapa, which does not fall
within his jurisdictional area of the municipalities of Sta. Monica and Burgos, located some 40 to
45 kilometers away from the municipality of Dapa, Surigao del Norte. In as much as respondent
judge's jurisdiction covers the municipalities of Sta. Monica and Burgos, he was not clothed with
authority to solemnize a marriage in the municipality of Dapa, Surigao del Norte.

In the aforementioned case, the court ruled that judges, who are appointed to specific
jurisdictions, may officiate in weddings only within said areas and not beyond. Where a judge
solemnizes a marriage outside his court's jurisdiction, there is a resultant irregularity in the
formal requisite laid down in Article 3, which while it may not affect the validity of the
marriage, may subject the officiating official to administrative liability.

However, if a marriage is solemnized by a judge of the Regional Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial
Court, or Municipal Court beyond his jurisdiction, there is absence of a formal requisite in such a
marriage, namely, the authority of the solemnizing officer. Hence, the marriage is void unless
either of the parties believed in good faith that such solemnizing officer has authority to conduct
such marriage.

(2) Any priest, rabbi, imam, or minister of any church or religious sect duly authorized
by his church or religious sect and registered with the civil registrar general, acting
within the limits of the written authority granted by his church or religious sect and
provided that at least one of the contracting parties belongs to the solemnizing
officer's church or religious sect;

The case of Adong vs Cheong cited various jurisprudences5 defining some elements of Article
7(2) of the Family Code. "Priest," according to the lexicographers, means one especially
consecrated to the service of a divinity and considered as the medium through whom worship,
prayer, sacrifice, or other service is to be offered to the being worshipped, and pardon, blessing,
deliverance, etc., obtained by the worshipper, as a priest of Baal or of Jehovah; a Buddhist priest.
"Minister of the Gospel" means all clergymen of every denomination and faith. A
"denomination" is a religious sect having a particular name.6

On one hand, Sta. Maria in his book mentioned that for a priest, rabbi, imam, or minister of any
church or religious sect to be able to validly solemnize a marriage, the following four essential
requisites must concur: he or she 1) must be duly authorized by his or her church or religious
sect; 2) must act within the limits of the written authority granted to him or her by the church or

5
Haggin vs. Haggin [1892], 35 Neb., 375; In reReinhart, 9 O. Dec., 441; Hale vs. Everett [1868], 53 N. H. 9. As
cited in Adong v. Cheong Seng Gee, 43 Phil. 43
6
43 Phil. 43
religious sect; 3) must be registered with the civil registrar general; and 4) at least one of the
contracting parties whose marriage he or she is to solemnize belongs to his or her church or
religious sect. The written authority granted to a priest by his sect may impose a limitation as to
the place where he could solemnize a marriage (p. 136).

The case of Navarro vs Dumagtoy stated that a priest, who is commissioned and allowed by his
local ordinary to marry the faithful, is authorized to do so only within the area of the diocese or
the place allowed by his Bishop7.

In the case of The People of the Philippines vs. Leon Fabillar, where the accused, the parish
priest of Independent Church in Maayon, Pontevedra, Capiz wherein he was authorized to
solemnize marriages, has never renewed this authorization after its expiration. Likewise, he was
suspended from the performance of his apostolic functions and notice of such suspension was
given him by the bishop of the church as well as by the vicar-general for the Provinces of Capiz
and Romblon. The suspension continued until it was lifted on October 3, 1936. On January 13,
February 9, and March 25, 1936, he solemnized the marriages. The trial court found the accused
guilty of the offenses charged and condemned him to pay, in each case, a fine of two hundred
pesos with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. The accused appealed. The court
ruled that as far as the authority to solemnize marriages is concerned, the authorization, once
issued, continues in force and that the requirement for its renewal is intended solely for revenue
purposes. This contention is not in accord with either the spirit or the letter of the law. In the
first place, the required fee for the issuance of the certificate of authority to solemnize marriages
is, by its nominal character, intended purely for regulation and not for revenue. In the second
place, renewal, as required by law, presupposes expiration of the authorization. And expiration
means that the authorization has ceased to exist. In the third place, after the authorization has
expired, the accused was suspended from the performance of his apostolic functions and,
therefore, he had absolutely no authority to solemnize the marriages in question8.

Marriages solemnized by the priest who does not have the authority is considered void, except
when the parties or one of the parties believed in good faith that the priest had the authority to
solemnize their marriage. Belief in good faith makes the marriage valid.

(3) Any ship captain or airplane chief only in the case mentioned in Article 31;

Sta. Maria in his book enumerated the requisites for a ship captain or airplane chief to be able to
validly solemnize a marriage. The following must concur: 1) the marriage must be in articulo
mortis (at least one of the parties is at the point of death); 2) the marriage must be between
passengers or crew members; and 3) generally, the ship must be at sea or the plane must be in
flight. Hence, an assistant pilot has no authority to solemnize a marriage.

7
Navarro v. Domagtoy, A.M. No. MTJ 06-1088, July 19, 1996, 72 SCAD 328
8
The People of the Philippines vs.Leon Fabillar, G.R. Nos. L-46553-46555, September 27, 1939
Marriages on airplanes or ships are valid only if performed by ship captain or airplane chief on
voyage9, during stopovers at ports of call10 and as stated and under the circumstance of in
articulo mortis.

Tolentino stated in his book that the controlling designation who is authorized to solemnize
marriage in airplane is “airplane chief,” who happens to be the head of the crew and who has the
command of the airplane. If the airplane chief dies during the trip, the assistant pilot who
assumes command of the airplane cannot solemnize a marriage as there is no law allowing such
assumption of authority for the purpose of solemnizing a marriage (Sta. Maria, p. 136).

The ship captain or the airplane chief is authorized to solemnize and marry only the passengers
and crew members11.

(4) Any military commander of a unit to which a chaplain is assigned, in the absence of the
latter, during a military operation, likewise only in the cases mentioned in Article 32;

On the other hand, Sta. Maria cited the following requisites for a military commander to be able
to solemnize a marriage: 1) he or she must be a military commander of a unit; 2) he or she must
be a commissioned officer; 3) a chaplain must be assigned to such unit; 4) the said chaplain must
be absent at the time of the marriage; 5) the marriage must be one in articulo mortis; 6) the
contracting parties, whether members of the armed forces or civilians, must be within the zone of
military operation.

Article 7(2) proceeds that the chaplain is if present, he must be the one who should solemnize the
marriage. But if the chaplain is absent and cannot solemnize a marriage, the military commander
can solemnize the marriage.

Legarda noted in her book that the Committee agreed that in articulo mortis, “the main idea in
the provision is in times of emergency and the Item shall include situations like maneuvers,
police actions, declared and undeclared wars, civil wars, rebellions and the like and that
jurisprudence can define the application of this phrase more clearly.

Military commander of a unit may solemnize marriages of all persons, whether military people
or civilians, within the zones of his military operations. The phrase “within the zone of military
operation” implies a widespread military activity over an area and does not refer to a simulated
exercise because it requires absence of civilian authorities12

9
Minutes, May 23, 1983, p. 3
10
Sta. Maria, Melencio Jr., Persons and Family Relations Law, 2010, , p. 136, Rex Printing Company, Inc.
11
Tolentino, p. 243
12
Minutes of the 147th Joint Meeting of the Civil Code and Family Law committees held on July 19, 1986, page 13
But military commander requires one to be a commissioned officer whose rank should start from
a second lieutenant, ensign and above13. Failure to comply with such authority invalidates
marriage.

(5) Any consul-general, consul or vice-consul in the case provided in Article 10.(56a)

The Family Code expressly authorized the consul general, consul and vice-consul of the
Republic of the Philippines to solemnize marriage. They can solemnize marriage abroad only
when the contracting parties are both Filipino citizens. When the marriage, which in itself is a
special type of contract, is to be solemnized by the consul-general, consul, or vice-consul abroad
or, specifically in his place of assignment, the solemnities established by Philippine laws shall be
observed in their execution (Article 17 of the Civil Code).

The authority of the consul-general, consul, or vice-consul to solemnize marriage is limited to


Filipino citizens. They do not have any authority to solemnize marriage between a foreigner and
a Filipino. Such marriage, according to Sta. Maria, is wanting of one of the formal requirements
of a valid marriage provided in Article 3(1), which is the authority of the solemnizing officer.
Hence, by virtue with Article 4, such absence makes the marriage void ab initio.

However, pursuant to Article 26 of the Family Code, if the marriage between the foreigner and
the Filipino citizen abroad solemnized by a Philippine consul assigned in that country is
recognized as valid in the host country, then such marriage shall be considered valid in the
Philippines. Likewise, Article 10 clearly refers to marriages “abroad.” Thus, a consul-general,
consul, and vice-consul have no authority to solemnize a marriage within the territory of the
Philippines.

Ambassadors have no authority to solemnize marriages14.

Mayors of a City or Municipality as Solemnizing Officer


Pursuant to the Chapter 3, Article 1, Section 444[xviii] of the Local Government Code which
took effect on January 1, 1992, the mayor of a city or municipality is now empowered to
solemnize a marriage, any provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding. But based on
Section 46 in relation to Section 445[4] of the 1991 Local Government Code, when the mayor is
temporarily incapacitated to perform his duties for physical or legal reasons such as, but not
limited to, leave of absence, travel abroad, and suspension from office, the vice mayor or the
highest ranking sangguniang bayan member shall automatically exercise the powers and perform
the duties of the local chief executive concerned, except the power to appoint, suspend, dismiss
employees which can only be exercised if the period of temporary incapacity exceeds thirty days.

The vice mayor of a municipality acting as Acting Mayor has the authority to solemnize
marriages, because according to People v. Bustamante, citing Laxamana v. Baltazar, if the vice

13
Webster Dictionary, 1991 edition
14
Tolentino,
mayor assumes the powers and duties of the office of the mayor, when proper, it is immaterial
whether he is the Acting Mayor or merely acting as mayor, for in both cases, he discharges all
the duties and wields the powers appurtenant to said office15

Marriages solemnized by any person not legally authorized to perform marriages, “unless such
marriages were contracted with either or both parties believing in good faith that the solemnizing
officer had the legal authority to do so,” are considered void ab initio. However, cases like that of
Navarro vs. Dumagtoy, where there is authority vested to the solemnizing officer but solemnized
not in his or her authorized jurisdiction is considered a mere irregularity of the formal requisite
of marriage, and thus does not invalidate the marriage.

Means to Verify Authorized Solemnizing Officer

On August 3, 1988, pursuant to Article 7 of the Family Code of the Philippines, the duty to
register the authority to solemnize marriages and issuance of Certificate of Registration of
Authority to Solemnize Marriage (CRASM) was transferred to the OCRG. The Office of the
Civil Registrar General (OCRG) uses the software tool called Solemnizing Officers Information
System (SOIS) to maintain the repository of solemnizing officers in the Philippines.
For the OCRG, it is used to add a new applicant, renew previous registrations, and assist in
validating records of current registrants. Aside from the issued Certificate of Authority to
Solemnize Marriage (CRASM), Solemnizing Officers may check the validity of their license and
also keep track of the status of their authority to solemnize marriage. SOIS serves as query
system for the public. They may verify within the SOIS website the data of the solemnizing
officers such as religious sects, effectivity of the license and jurisdiction.
The current version of the SOIS took advantage of the internet to provide online data for all
regions within the Philippines. Part of this development includes public access to the basic
registry information of the Solemnizing Officers (SOs)16.

15
People v. Bustamante, 105 Phil. 64, citing Laxamana v. Baltazar, 92 Phil. 32
16
https://sois.psa.gov.ph/