Converting to Muslim and remarrying – Katrina Legarda


Posted at May 20 2009 12:16 AM | Updated as of May 20 2009 08:16 AM

I received a letter regarding a labor problem. I referred the matter to one of the best labor lawyers in town. So I hope this answers the question posed by “Joselito.” Joselito is currently working at a multinational company which he thinks is about to close shop. Sigh, this financial whirlpool is causing many problems for countries around the world. Let me continue by quoting Joselito’s letter:

“I had a back injury related to work as per evaluation of my doctor (I'm medically operated) but site investigation is not on my side (results is not work related). I try to escalate my case to NLRC but they told me that my case is not labor related but rather civil case related.”

Dear Joselito,

I am afraid I do not handle labor at all, not in the 30 years I have been in the practice of law. So, please go to your IBP chapter and get referrals for a LABOR lawyer. You must ensure that the lawyer has been in the practice of labor law for at least three years, ok? Once you see the lawyer, he will need to know: 1. Your position in the company, and your duties and responsibilities; 2. The terms of your engagement or employment; 3. The primary business of the company employing you; 4. The complete medical file and findings on your injury; and 5. The circumstances under which you got injured.

The lawyer may give you the following options:

(a) You may file a case in the SSS or the ECSIF (viz., Employers Compensation Commission) for compensation of work-related injury. Note that the injury must be proven to be work-related before it is made compensable. It is correct that NLRC does not have jurisdiction over that.

(b) You may also file a case for tort against the employer, if at all.

(c) Third option, although this really depends on the circumstances of your case/injury, is that under Article 284 of the Labor Code, where you may be terminated for authorized cause, e.g., disease.

(d) Last option: voluntary retrenchment or wait for the separation package in the company, especially so that it will be closing in the near future. If the company does not pay, then you can file a case in the NLRC for non-payment of separation pay.

Next is a letter from a kababayan working in Saudi Arabia.

“To start with, I came here in Saudi Arabia since year 2006. Year after, my legal wife had an affair with other man (they're now living together and have 1 kid), thus, I took my 2 children. My sister is now looking after them. In Aug.2008, I converted to Muslim. In Nov.2008, I went home (Philippines) for a vacation and was able to talk to my legal wife and confirmed about what she did. In Dec.2008, I came back here to Saudi Arabia and met a Filipina woman who became my girlfriend. After a month, or in Mar.17, 2009, we decided to get married as Muslim (I was able to convince her to convert to Muslim). In this regard, I would like to know please if our marriage in Muslim valid and could be registered in NSO if in case I file in our country? What will happen to my first marriage, which is also registered in the NSO? Am I liable for any legal suits?”

Dear “Ahmed,”

I am afraid that there are certain things you need to do vis-à-vis your first wife. Because you converted to Muslim only to remarry, you are not covered by Presidential Decree No. 1083, the “Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines," which was promulgated in 1977. My reading of various Supreme Court decisions tell me that since your first marriage was celebrated under the Civil or Family Code, then you are governed by that law – not the Muslim Code.

In the case of Tamano, the Supreme Court said that the shari’a law is applicable only in marriages that are celebrated under Muslim laws. In that Tamano case, Mamintal Tamano married Zorayda in civil rites in 1958. A year before he died, he married a woman called Estrellita. Later, Tamano’s first wife sought to have the second marriage declared void for being bigamous. Zorayda said that Tamano and Estrellita misrepresented themselves as divorced and single, respectively, thus making the entries in the marriage contract false and fraudulent. She also said that Tamano never divorced Zorayda and that Estrellita was not single when she married Tamano as the decision annulling her previous marriage with Romeo C. Llave never became final and executory for non-compliance with publication requirements. The Supreme Court agreed with Zorayda, and the case for nullity of the second marriage was returned to the lower court for proceedings.

This means, Ahmed, that you need to find out whether you can divorce your first wife under the Muslim Code in Saudi Arabia. If not, you need to file a petition for the declaration of nullity of your first marriage. In either case, should you be successful, you will need to remarry your second wife to ensure its legality. I would not worry about any legal suits as both you and your first wife are “guilty”: your first wife, for adultery, and you, for bigamy and/or concubinage. A person who goes to court must do so with “clean hands.” Please go and see a lawyer: perhaps the Philippine Embassy in Saudi Arabia can refer one to you.