G.R. No. 184621; December 10, 2013
Sometime in January 1998, Jerry F. Cantor left his wife Maria Fe Espinosa Cantor after a violent quarrel. After more than four years of not seeing or hearing from Jerry, Maria Fe filed a petition for the declaration of presumptive death of her husband. She alleged that she conducted a diligent search for her husband and exerted earnest efforts to find him. The RTC granted her petition. Dissatisfied with the ruling, the OSG filed the present petition for review on certiorari.
Did Maria Fe have a well-founded belief that Jerry was dead in pursuant to Article 41 of the Family Code?
Whether or not one has a “well-founded belief” that his or her spouse is dead depends on the unique circumstance of each case and that there is no set standard or procedure in determining the same. Maria Fe’s alleged “well-founded” belief arose when: 1) Jerry’s relatives and friends could not give her any information on his whereabouts; and 2) she did not find Jerry’s name in the patient’s directory whenever she went to a hospital. It appears that Maria Fe did not actively look for her husband in hospitals and it may be sensed that her search was not intentional or planned. Her search for Jerry was far from diligent. Were it not for the finality of the RTC ruling, the declaration of presumptive death should have been recalled and set aside for utter lack of factual basis.