Legal spouse declared as beneficiary prior to the declaration of the second “wife” with SSS does not lose her entitlement to the SSS benefits absent any proof that such marriage was extinguished.

The second “wife” has to establish by substantial evidence that she is the “legal spouse” for purposes of entitlement to benefits.

The Supreme Court held as follows:

Social Security Commission vs. Edna A. Azote
G.R. No. 209741, April 15, 2015


On June 19, 1992, respondent Edna and Edgardo, a member of the Social Security System (SSS), were married in civil rites.

Their union produced six children. On April 27, 1994, Edgardo submitted Form E-4 to the SSS with Edna and their three older children as designated beneficiaries. Thereafter or on September 7, 2001, Edgardo submitted another Form E-4 to the SSS designating his three younger children as additional beneficiaries.

On January 13, 2005, Edgardo passed away. Shortly thereafter, Edna filed her claim for death benefits with the SSS as the wife of a deceased-member. It appeared, however, from the SSS records that Edgardo had earlier submitted another Form E-4 on November 5, 1982 with a different set of beneficiaries, namely: Rosemarie Azote (Rosemarie), as his spouse; and Elmer Azote (Elmer), as dependent, born on October 9, 1982.

SSS Ruling:

Edna filed her claim for death benefits with the SSS as the wife of a deceased-member. Edna’s claim was denied. Her children were adjudged as beneficiaries and she was considered as the legal guardian of her minor children. The benefits, however, would be stopped once a child would attain the age of 21.

On March 13, 2007, Edna filed a petition with the SSC to claim the death benefits, lump sum and monthly pension of Edgardo. She insisted that she was the legitimate wife of Edgardo. In its answer, the SSS averred that there was a conflicting information in the forms submitted by the deceased.

Summons was published in a newspaper of general circulation directing Rosemarie to file her answer. Despite the publication, no answer was filed and Rosemarie was subsequently declared in default.

SSC Ruling:

In the Resolution, the SSC dismissed Edna’s petition for lack of merit. Citing Section 24(c) of the SS Law, it explained that although Edgardo filed the Form E-4 designating Edna and their six children as beneficiaries, he did not revoke the designation of Rosemarie as his wife-beneficiary, and Rosemarie was still presumed to be his legal wife.

The SSC further wrote that the National Statistics Office (NSO) records revealed that the marriage of Edgardo to one Rosemarie Teodora Sino was registered on July 28, 1982. Consequently, it opined that Edgardo’s marriage to Edna was not valid as there was no showing that his first marriage had been annulled or dissolved. The SSC stated that there must be a judicial determination of nullity of a previous marriage before a party could enter into a second marriage.

The SSC denied Edna’s motion for reconsideration. It explained that it was incumbent upon Edna to prove that her marriage to the deceased was valid, which she failed to do. It further opined that Rosemarie could not be merely presumed dead, and that death benefits under the SSS could not be considered properties which may be disposed of in a holographic will.

CA Ruling:

The CA reversed and set aside the resolution and the order of the SSC. It held that the SSC could not make a determination of the validity or invalidity of the marriage of Edna to Edgardo considering that no contest came from either Rosemarie or Elmer.

The CA explained that Edna had established her right to the benefits by substantial evidence, namely, her marriage certificate and the baptismal certificates of her children. It ruled that Edgardo made a deliberate change of his wife-beneficiary in his 1994 E-4 form, as such was clearly his voluntary act manifesting his intention to revoke his former declaration in the 1982 E-4 form. The 1994 E-4 form submitted by Edgardo, designating Edna as his wife, superseded his former declaration in his 1982 E-4 form.

The CA denied the SSC’s motion for reconsideration.


Whether or not between two marriages declared with SSS, the legal spouse has the right to the benefits

Whether or not the updated E-Form providing another wife as beneficiary is determinative of the entitlement to SSS benefits over the legal spouse

Whether or not the ruling of SSC is a determination of validity of marriage which it has no jurisdiction

SC Ruling;

The SC found merit in the petition.

As a social security program of the government, RA 8282, as amended by RA 1161, expressly provides who would be entitled to receive benefits from its deceased-member. One of which is the legal spouse.

It is clear that only the legal spouse of the deceased-member is qualified to be the beneficiary of the latter’s SS benefits. In this case, there is a concrete proof that Edgardo contracted an earlier marriage with another individual as evidenced by their marriage contract. Edgardo even acknowledged his married status when he filled out the 1982 Form E-4 designating Rosemarie as his spouse.

It is undisputed that the second marriage of Edgardo with Edna was celebrated at the time when the Family Code was already in force which provides that a marriage contracted by any person during subsistence of a previous marriage shall be null and void.

Using the parameters outlined in Article 41 of the Family Code, Edna, without doubt, failed to establish that there was no impediment or that the impediment was already removed at the time of the celebration of her marriage to Edgardo. Settled is the rule that “whoever claims entitlement to the benefits provided by law should establish his or her right thereto by substantial evidence.” Edna could not adduce evidence to prove that the earlier marriage of Edgardo was either annulled or dissolved or whether there was a declaration of Rosemarie’s presumptive death before her marriage to Edgardo. What is apparent is that Edna was the second wife of Edgardo. Considering that Edna was not able to show that she was the legal spouse of a deceased-member, she would not qualify under the law to be the beneficiary of the death benefits of Edgardo.

The updated Form E-4 of Edgardo was determinative of Edna’s status and eligibility to claim the death benefits of deceased-member. Although an SSS member is free to designate a beneficiary, the designation must always conform to the statute. To blindly rely on the form submitted by the deceased-member would subject the entire social security system to the whims and caprices of its members and would render the SS Law inutile.

Although the SSC is not intrinsically empowered to determine the validity of marriages, it is required by Section 4(b) (7) of R.A. No. 828229 to examine available statistical and economic data to ensure that the benefits fall into the rightful beneficiaries. The SSC determined Edna’s eligibility on the basis of available statistical data and documents on their database as expressly permitted by Section 4(b) (7) of R.A. No. 8282.

It is of no moment that the first wife, Rosemarie, did not participate or oppose Edna’s claim. Rosemarie’s non-participation or her subsequent death on November 11, 2004 did not cure or legitimize the status of Edna.

error: Content is protected !!