Remember Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370?
This was the flight that mysteriously disappeared back in 2014 while on its way to China.
It was then carrying 227 passengers with different nationalities and 12 members of the crew.
Immediately after it disappeared, officials from Malaysia and some other countries began to search for the missing aircraft.
But every effort exerted to locate it proved futile even with the use of the best science available and cutting edge technology.
While debris believed to be from the aircraft were found, there are still no clear signs that it will be located anytime soon.
Of course, until it is found, we will never know what really happened to the aircraft and the people on board.
And why it disappeared without a trace.
Four consecutive years
But let us say one of the passengers is married to a Filipino, who in turn later met and fell in love with another.
Given the facts in Flight MH370, can the Filipino spouse marry again legally?
The answer is YES.
Our laws allow a married individual to marry again if his spouse has been absent for four consecutive years and he has a well-founded belief that his absent spouse is already dead.
Two consecutive years
But if you will take a second look at the facts in Flight MH370, you will notice that the absent spouse has been missing for only three years.
Does it mean then that the Filipino spouse still has to wait for the fourth year before he can marry again?
The answer is NO.
Why? Because his case falls squarely within one of the instances when the four-year period may be reduced to two years.
And these are as follows:
(1) A person on board a vessel lost during a sea voyage, or an aeroplane which is missing, who has not been heard of for two years since the loss of the vessel or aeroplane;
(2) A person in the armed forces who has taken part in a war, and has been missing for two years; and,
(3) A person who has been in danger of death under other circumstances and his existence has not been known for two years.
Judicial declaration of presumptive death
But remember that before the Filipino spouse can marry again, our laws require him to go to court and ask for the declaration of presumptive death of his absent spouse.
This means he can marry again only after the court declares his absent spouse presumptively dead.
Of course, this is without prejudice to the effect of reappearance of the absent spouse.
If the Filipino spouse fails to do so, his second marriage will be deemed void.
Worse, he and his other spouse may even be held criminally liable for bigamy.
In summary, the following are the essential requisites in order for the Filipino spouse of one of the passengers in Flight MH370 can marry again legally:
(1) The prior spouse has been absent for four consecutive years (or two consecutive years if it falls within any of the instances when the four-year period may be reduced to two years);
(2) The spouse present has a well-founded belief that the absent spouse is already dead;
(3) There must be a summary proceeding for the declaration of presumptive death of the absent spouse; and,
(4) There is a court declaration of presumptive death of the absent spouse.
[References: Article 41 of the Family Code, Article 391 of the Civil Code, Article 42 of the Family Code, Article 35 (4) of the Family Code, Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, Social Security System vs. Teresita Jarque Vda. De Bailon, G.R. No. 165545, March 24, 2006, and Celerina J. Santos vs. Ricardo T. Santos, G.R. No. 187061, October 8, 2014]