A “Marriage License,” writes Dean Ernesto L. Pineda (one of my civil law professors in the University of Santo Tomas [UST] Faculty of Civil Law in España, Manila, Philippines) in his book, titled The Family Code of the Philippines Annotated [2001 Edition], “is the written permission issued by the civil registrar to the contracting parties authorizing their marriage before any authorized solemnizing officer.”
A “valid marriage license” is one of the formal requisites of a valid marriage enumerated in Article 3 of the Family Code of the Philippines (Family Code). Being one of its formal requisites, the absence of this license, as a rule, will, in consonance with Article 4, in relation to Article 35 (3), of the Family Code, render the marriage void ab initio (from the beginning).
While it is beyond dispute that the absence of a valid marriage license will render the marriage void, there are, however, marriages, which the law exempts from this formal requirement, namely:
a. Marriage in articulo mortis (at the point of death) (Article 27 of the Family Code);
b. Marriage in remote or distant places (Article 28 of the Family Code);
c. Marriage in articulo mortis (at the point of death) between passengers or crew members in a ship or airplane (Article 31 of the Family Code);
d. Marriages in articulo mortis (at the point of death) between persons within the zone of military operation, whether members of the armed forces or civilians (Article 32 of the Family Code);
e. Marriages among Muslims or among members of the ethnic cultural communities (Article 33 of the Family Code); and,
f. Marriage between a man and a woman who have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years and without any legal impediment to marry each other (Article 34 of the Family Code).
The Family Code exempts these marriages from the marriage license requirement. Thus, the absence of this license will neither affect their validity nor render them void. But, in all other marriages, this formal requisite must be satisfied in order to be valid.
A marriage license, in accordance with Article 20 of the Family Code, is “valid in any part of the Philippines for a period of one hundred twenty days from the date of issue,” and it is “deemed automatically cancelled” if the contracting parties failed to use it within this period. Thus, a marriage solemnized beyond the 120-day period is void for lack of a valid marriage license.