High court affirms ruling that marriage was invalid

Chuuk wife wants to cremate deceased husband, Philippine wife wants burial in PH

The CNMI Supreme Court has affirmed the ruling of the Superior Court that finds a marriage ceremony performed at a Philippine consulate on Saipan to be invalid and not enforceable by the local court.

In a ruling issued Friday, the CNMI Supreme Court found that the marriage between Virginia Bonifacio Medina and Gil Ramos Medina performed at the Philippine Consulate General on Saipan to be invalid because it failed to comply with the mandatory marriage requirements under CNMI law.

Chief Justice Alexandro C. Castro penned the high court’s decision. Associate Justices John A. Manglona and Perry B. Inos concurred with Castro’s ruling.

The justices said that even if they were to undertake a conflict of laws analysis as to which jurisdiction bears the most substantial relationship to the couple, they would still find that CNMI law controls, not Philippine law.

Tthe high court’s justices said that Gil Medina had a substantial relationship with the CNMI, not the Philippines, thereby affirming Superior Court Associate Judge Teresa K. Kim-Tenorio’s ruling.

The justices said to be sure, Virginia Medina and her children with Gil Medina spent the entirety of their lives in the Philippines. Gil Medina, on the other hand, spent the vast majority of his life on Saipan while married to Virginia Medina. Furthermore, the justices said, Gil Medina clearly sought to make Saipan his home. He filed his taxes here, citing at least one dependent in his tax returns.

Gil Medina worked on Saipan as a bus driver, had a social security number, and sought U.S. citizenship.

The justices said Gil Medina held himself out as being married to Antonia Reyes Medina, a Chuukese, and issued a note to her and their reared children upon his death.

“It is therefore evident that while Virginia Medina spent her life in the Philippines, Gil Medina spent his in the CNMI,” the justices said.

In her ruling in January 2018, Kim-Tenorio said that, under the Vienna Convention, U.S.-Philippine Treaties, and U.S. law, a legal marriage was required to be performed in accordance with local laws.

In finding the marriage between Virginia Medina and Gil Ramos Medina in 1993 on Saipan to be invalid, Kim-Tenorio said the ceremony was lacking a marriage license, and was not registered in the marriage register.

Kim-Tenorio, however, found the marriage between Gil Medina and Antonia Reyes Medina, a Chuukese, in 1997 in Chuuk to be valid.

Kim-Tenorio said Antonia Medina is the only wife of Gil Medina, and as such, she has the right to bury her husband as she sees fit.

According to court records, on Dec. 19, 2017, Gil Medina killed himself at their home on Saipan. He left a handwritten note addressed to Antonia Medina, her children, and their grandchild/reared son.

Arrangements were made for a funeral viewing and cremation with Borja Funeral Home to take place Jan. 9, 2018. A representative from the Philippine Consulate approached Antonia Medina on Jan. 8, 2018 and informed her about Gil Medina’s alleged marriage to Virginia Medina in 1993 on Saipan.

The consulate representative told Antonia Medina about Virginia Medina’s claim to Gil Medina’s body.

Virginia Medina was also against the cremation of the body. She would like the body to be repatriated back to the Philippines to be buried by herself and the two children she had with him.

Virginia Medina asserted she was validly married to Gil Medina and has a right to dispose of the body as she chooses.

Then-Philippine consul Renato L. Villapando officiated the marriage ceremony between Gil Medina and Virginia Medina at the Philippine Consulate General on Saipan in 1993.

Shortly thereafter, Virginia Medina returned to the Philippines and gave birth to their first child. Gil Medina remained in the CNMI.

Gil Medina visited the Philippines once in 2001 and once in September 2017. During his 2001 visit, Gil Medina conceived a second child with Virginia Medina.

Antonia Medina and Gil Medina were married in April 1997 in Chuuk. The two then lived together on Saipan.

At the time of the marriage, Antonia Medina had three children from a previous relationship.

Antonia Medina, through counsel Jane Mack and Christopher Heeb, filed a petition questioning the validity of marriage between Gil Medina and Virginia Medina.

Steven Pixley represented Virginia Medina at the hearing.

Antonia Medina’s argument is that because the CNMI statute was not followed, the marriage ceremony between Gil Medina and Virginia Medina did not create a valid marriage.

Pixley argued that Gil Medina and Virginia Medina were not required to comply with local law because the Philippine Consulate General is sovereign territory, and their marriage was presumptively legal in the Philippines.

In her ruling, Kim-Tenorio said while Gil Medina and Virginia Medina were over the age of 18, there is no evidence they were ever issued a license by the CNMI mayor or governor.

Virginia Medina appealed Kim-Tenorio’s order to the Supreme Court. In her appeal, Virginia Medina, through counsel, argues that Philippine law controls the validity of her marriage to Gil Medina and that the judge erred in finding her marriage invalid in both Commonwealth and Philippine law.

In affirming Kim-Tenorio’s ruling, the high court justices said where a couple fails to meet the mandatory marriage requirements, the marriage may be held invalid.

The justices said Virginia Medina does not demonstrate that the Philippine consul was duly authorized to solemnize marriages.

The justices said neither a marriage license application nor any fees were submitted by Gil Medina or Virginia Medina.

Consequently, the justices said, no marriage license application for Virginia Medina’s marriage to Gil Medina was ever submitted or recorded with the court.

The justice said Gil Medina and Virginia Medina failed to comply with the prescribed marriage requirements.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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