IN Philippine society, it is neither illegal nor immoral for a widow to remarry after her husband dies. The same goes true with a widower. This is because death legally terminates a marriage and, if the surviving spouse remarries, he cannot be accused of bigamy or polygamy.
Our society does not demean a widow or a widower who remarries. In fact, society is happy that she or he will not be as lonely as before and it hopes that she or he will find life worth living again. Society wishes the new couple good luck and expects them to live happily ever after.
A song written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen and popularized by Frank Sinatra tells us, “Love is lovelier the second time around, Just as wonderful with both feet on the ground….” On the other hand, the Four Aces singing Chopin and Morris Stoloff’s work croons, “And if we should lose love, We have the right to love again….”
Section 8 (k) of the SSS law, or Republic Act 8282, lists the qualified beneficiaries to a member’s death benefits:
“Section 8 (k) Beneficiaries—The dependent spouse until he or she remarries, the dependent legitimate, legitimated or legally adopted and illegitimate children, who shall be the primary beneficiaries of the member: Provided, that the dependent illegitimate children shall be entitled to 50 percent of the share of the legitimate, legitimated or legally adopted children: Provided, further, that in the absence of the dependent legitimate, legitimated children of the member, his or her dependent illegitimate children shall be entitled to 100 percent of the benefits. In their absence, the dependent parents shall be the secondary beneficiaries of the member. In the absence of all the foregoing, any other person designated by the member as his/her secondary beneficiary.
Please note that under the quoted provision, the dependent spouse qualifies as beneficiary “until he or she remarries”. Needless to say, if the surviving spouse remarries, his or her pension is cut off by the SSS and can be given to other qualified beneficiaries, if there be any.
A surviving spouse who enters into a live-in or common law relationship is covered by the legal prohibition. He or she loses the right to the pension just the same as if he or she remarries.
In this connection, former SSS President Emilio S. de Quiros Jr., in an Office Order dated February 11, 2010, enumerated six circumstances that the SSS would consider as substantial evidence of cohabitation, which will disqualify the surviving spouse from further enjoying the death-benefits pension.
- a) A final judgment by a competent court or an admission in a judicial or quasi-judicial forum.
- b) Birth of a child or children by the surviving spouse with the live-in partner.
- c) Use of the surviving spouse’s surname by the paramour.
- d) Barangay Certification attesting to the relationship.
- e) Living as husband and wife for at least a year.
- f) Affidavits of credible persons attesting to the relationship.
The reason behind the prohibition against a remarriage or a live-in relationship by the surviving spouse may arguably be due to the respect accorded by law to the deceased spouse and the kids who may not want the surviving spouse to be enjoying life and his or her money with another person, or it may be due to the need of the state to lessen the claims against the SSS funds, the better to extend its fund life. Or it may be for other noble reasons.
However, some people hold the view that the prohibition is basically illegal, as it violates the surviving spouse’s Constitutional right to pursuit of happiness. They say that it may also violate his or her human right to enjoy the loving and intimate company that only a spouse can provide. They opine that the surviving spouse needs the pension to pay for his or her basic necessities: food, clothing, shelter and medicine. Why deprive him or her of the pension and make his or her life miserable just because he or she falls in love again? Is he or she marrying a millionaire who can pay for his or her basic needs?
In the meantime, while the prohibition subsists and while Congress has not yet seen it fit to amend Section 8 (k) of the SSS law, surviving spouses, if they do not want to lose their right to the pension arising from the death of their spouses, should remain sadly or happily celibate.
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