Guma’ Hustisia Iimawal Aweewe’ House of Justice, where the Superior Court is located in Saipan. Photo: CNMI Judiciary

A Filipino woman has been denied the right to repatriate the body of the man she considered her husband from Saipan to the Philippines because a court declared that their marriage was invalid, and he had later legally married someone else.

In 1993, Virginia Bonifacio married a fellow Filipino, Gil Ramos Medina, in Saipan, the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands, a US territory in the Western Pacific. She later returned to the Philippines and gave birth to their first child while he stayed behind, the Saipan Tribune reported.

In 2001, Medina visited Bonifacio in the Philippines, after which they had a second child. But before that visit, Medina had married another woman named Antonia Reyes, a Chuukese national. Chuuk is a state in Micronesia.

Last December 19, Gil Medina committed suicide and left a note addressed to Reyes, her children and their grandchild. On January 8, just before the man’s funeral, Bonifacio claimed the right to take his body back to the Philippines.

At the Saipan Superior Court on January 30, the court declared that the marriage of Medina and Bonifacio was invalid as it was not officiated according to local laws. The couple also did not have a marriage license.

Antonia Reyes’ marriage to Medina, however, was declared valid, and therefore she was given the right to her husband’s remains.

Medina’s body was scheduled to be cremated in Saipan, but Bonifacio opposed this. She said she wanted the body to be buried in the Philippines by herself and the two children she had with him – even though they had been estranged for many years and he had wed another woman in 1997.