No returning cash gift

Dear Atty. Kathy,

I was engaged to be married to X. For our marriage license, we were required to get the latest CENOMAR or Certificate of No Marriage since the CENOMAR of X was dated four years ago. When I followed this up with her, she confessed that she married Y three years ago, and that she is still married to Y, who now lives in a faraway province with his new partner and two children.
I felt betrayed and devastated that I immediately broke off the engagement with X. X claimed she felt humiliated since we already announced our engagement, and she even gave my parents a cash gift for the renovation of our house. Now, X is demanding payment for damages, including the cash gift she gave to my parents. Is X entitled to damages, when she was the one who gave cause for me to break off the engagement?



Dear Elijah,

In the recent case of Guevarra, et al. vs Banach (G.R. 214016, 24 November 2021; “Guevarra Case”), the Supreme Court ruled that a mere breach of a promise to marry is not an actionable wrong, as long as it is not of such extent as would palpably and unjustifiably contradict good customs. In said Guevarra case, the groom gave the bride P500,000 to buy a lot for their conjugal home. However, the bride broke up with the groom after the former found out that the latter lied about his marital status and was still married.
The groom then sued the bride and her parents for moral damages, and the return of the P500,000. The Supreme Court noted that the groom’s actions were in bad faith and tainted with fraud and deceit, and that he did not have the purest intentions in marrying the bride, considering that he lied about his marital status, which suffices to justify the wedding’s cancellation. Since the groom did not act in good faith, he cannot claim damages under the New Civil Code. Further, the Supreme Court explained that the groom gave the money as a gift to help the bride and her parents with their possible eviction from their home. The money being a gift, the bride cannot be compelled to return the same.
Based solely on your narration, it appears that similar to the groom in the Guevarra Case, X is in bad faith for agreeing to marry you, despite the fact that she is still married to Y and did not disclose such fact during your relationship, even when you got engaged and were already preparing your marriage requirements. You were, therefore, justified in breaking off the engagement since X did not act in good faith. With regard to the cash gift, as ruled in the Guevarra case, by its very nature as a gift, X cannot compel you to return the same. In view of the foregoing, X is not entitled to damages from you for breaking off the engagement, nor to the return of the cash gift that she gave to your parents.

Atty. Kathy Larios

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