I DO…I DON’T THINK SO…In the Philippines, marriage has been a part of every Filipino family’s good customs. It has been considered as a much awaited event for couples especially the women.
Just when you started to believe that miracles do happen and that fairy tales do come true, --- you have finally found the person to whom you will share the rest of your life with; to whom you will build a family with; to whom you will complete your dreams with --- but as you wait for that someone to come in what supposed to be the most important day of your life, your world crumbles down as you realize that that person, who promised you forever, has decided to pull back. Your greatest dream now turns out to be your worst nightmare. Most often than not, this scenario is commonly seen in Filipino soap operas. I believe you are even familiar with runaway brides. But, how about runaway grooms?
What if as said, the man, who promises you forever, turns his back on you one or two days prior to the wedding or worst on the day of the ceremony? Is there any remedy which the bride-to-be can avail of in exchange of the shame or humiliation that this traumatic experience may bring?
The answer is a big YES.
Under Art. 21 of the Civil Code ” Any person who willfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage."
It is a paramount rule that breach of promise to marry is contrary to good customs, hence deemed considered an actionable wrong. But let us qualify so as to give clarifications as to when a breach of promise to marry becomes an actionable wrong and when it is not.
Under the law, if it is simply a breach of promise to marry per se without any attending circumstance, the rule is that the man will not be liable for simply breaking his promise to marry the woman. The reason is that it is the policy of the state. It is the intention of the Congress. Why is that so?
It is worth note taking that when the draft of the Civil Code was presented by the drafters to the Congress, it included that the breach of promise to marry is an actionable wrong. However, this was frowned upon by the Congressmen which resulted to the omission of the said provision from the draft. Such act manifested the intent of the congress not to make the breach of promise to marry an actionable wrong. The reason is one cannot seek specific performance to compel marriage.
On the contrary, the breach of promise to marry becomes an actionable wrong if there is moral seduction. Here, there is moral seduction if the promise of marriage will serve as the proximate cause why a woman surrenders her virginity to the man; where on the outset, the man has no intention of fulfilling the promise for the reason that he is married at the time he made the promise.
In other words, where a man’s promise to marry was the proximate cause of giving herself to him in sexual congress and there is proof he had no intention of marrying her, the promise being a deceptive device, damages may be awarded pursuant to Art 21 NCC because of the fraud and deceit behind it and the wilful injury to her honour and reputation (Baksh vs. C.A. G.R No. 97336, February 19, 1993). But, if it is a case of mutual attraction, mutual love, and mutual lust then the promise of marriage could not be the proximate cause. Hence, there will be no liability for breach of promise of marriage.
Furthermore, sex is not an element for someone to be liable for moral damages under ART 21 in case of breach of promise to marry.
Just like in the case of Wassmer vs. Velez. The facts that culminated in this case started with dreams and hopes, followed by appropriate planning and serious endeavors, but terminated in frustration and, what is worse, complete public humiliation.
In this case, the groom let the wife believe that the marriage will push through. Preparations were made and invitations were sent. Two days prior to the marriage, the groom copped out and informed the wife by simply writing the latter a whimsical note stating that he could no longer marry her. The Court ruled that the act of the groom was palpably and unjustifiably contrary to good customs. He was then made liable for damages pursuant to Article 21 of the Civil Code.
There is also one case where a marriage is supposed to be celebrated. The parties were already right before the priest but when the priest asked the public if there was any objection to the marriage someone from the audience stood up and publicly declared her affection to the groom. Unfortunately, the groom went with her not minding the priest’s reprimand. Out of shame, the bride sought for damages for such humiliation. Applying the case of Wassmer v. Velez , the Court ruled in favor of the wife.
In sum, the beach of promise to marry is not by itself an actionable wrong. To be actionable, there must be another act independent of the breach of promise to marry which gives rise to liability as where there was financial damage, social humiliation and moral seduction.
(The author, Beverly Caboteja, is a graduating law student at the University of Mindanao in Davao City, Philippines. She is a faculty lecturer at ACLC, a top computer school in Davao City)