Law in a vacuum is straightforward. Life complicates it. To illustrate, the law says that the proper petition (annulment, declaration of nullity, or recognition of foreign divorce decree) must be filed to change the marital status of a person. The whole universe of complications include two interesting variations: (a) a fake marriage that is not supposed to be registered; and (b) a real marriage that is not registered.
The first has been discussed in other posts. This covers “secret marriages” or “for show” marriages to produce documents, with the “assurance” that the documents will not be registered with the NSO. In essence, a marriage — even if “fake” — is presumed to be valid when documents are filed with the NSO. This is why the NSO would not amend or revise (technically, annotate on) the Marriage Certificate unless there’s a court order saying that the marriage is indeed “fake” (or valid/void for the reasons provided by law). The proper petition must be filed in court and the proceedings completed. It’s not exactly an inexpensive process, but there’s no other way.
The second scenario is a bit tricky. Can you annul a marriage when there is no Marriage Certificate filed with the NSO? This is illustrated in the query in the other post (“Annulment in the Philippines: Questions and Answers Part 5, OFW Edition“):
“My friend was undergoing annullment proceedings when they discovered that their marriage does not even exist in NSO records. They both don’t know who was supposed to be in charge of filing the lisences they signed during the ceremony so they suspect their marriage was never filed. Does this mean their marriage “did not happen” and therefore there is no need to go through with the annulment proceedings?“
So, let’s address this query in general (no legal advice here). This is an interesting topic for academic discussion. Feel free to express your take on the matter through the comment section below. Here’s my take on the matter.
It’s difficult to imagine going through annulment proceedings without first securing an authentic copy, using security paper (SECPA) from the NSO, of the Marriage Certificate, which is then attached to the petition for annulment/declaration of nullity.
Anyway, considering that there’s no record with the NSO, the more convenient way is to simply act like there was no marriage. Strictly speaking, however, the absence of a Marriage Certificate on file with the NSO does not mean that the marriage does not exist. For one, the spouses signed a Marriage Certificate during the marriage ceremony and it is not uncommon that the certificate of marriage, while filed with the local civil registrar, has not been properly transmitted to the NSO. By way of background, the Marriage Certificate is registered with the local civil registrar (of the place where the marriage was solemnized) and the local civil registrar is tasked to transmit it to NSO. There’s a copy filed with the local civil registrar, so check there (of course, extraordinary events may supervene that would destroy the local civil registrar copy, like, in some of the cases we’ve handled, the destruction of documents during Typhoon Ondoy or a fire).
More importantly, the non-existence of a Marriage Certificate with the NSO does not erase the fact that the marriage was celebrated. The certificate is an evidence of the marriage, which can be proved by other evidence.