By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The House Committee on Population and Family Relations has endorsed the plenary approval of a bill seeking to legally recognize the civil effects of Church annulment decrees.
The panel, chaired by Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones sought the approval of House Bill 6779, principally authored by Deputy Speaker and Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia and Leyte Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez.
“The bill provides for the civil recognition of Church annulment decrees and provides for the determination of the legal status of children of spouses who have acquired Church annulment decrees, ” Aragones, one of the authors of the substitute bill, said.
HB 6779 provides that whenever a marriage, duly and legally solemnized by a priest, minister, rabbi or presiding elder of any church or religious sect in the Philippines is subsequently annulled or dissolved in a final judgment or decree in accordance with the canons or precepts of the church or religious sect, the said annulment or dissolution shall have the same effect as a decree of annulment or dissolution issued by a competent court.
The measure provides that the status of children of marriages subject to the Church annulment decree shall be determined in accordance with the provisions of Executive Order No. 209, otherwise known as the Family Code of the Philippines. In case the ground for Church annulment decree is not similar to any of the grounds provided in the Family Code of the Philippines, their common children born or conceived before the issuance of the Church annulment shall be considered legitimate.
Garcia said marriage is not only an institution, but is also a religious act.
“Marriage is an element in the exercise of religious freedom,” she said.
“So logically, if the marriage, insofar as the contracting parties are concerned, is validated by the laws of the Church, then it necessarily follows that by the same laws, such marriage can also be invalidated or annulled,” she pointed out.
The deputy speaker noted that ever since the adoption of the New Civil Code, the State recognizes Muslim divorces or dissolutions of marriages in accordance with Muslim law.
“Under the principle of equality before the law, if Muslim divorces are legalized, there could be no serious objections to recognizing the annulment of a marriage by a church or by any other established and duly recognized religious denomination,” Garcia said.
Romualdez said the Family Code of the Philippines recognizes as valid a marriage solemnized under the laws of the Church.
“If marriages so solemnized are recognized by the State, it is only proper that the very church that solemnized the marriage should also have the power to rule that attendant infirmity that rendered a marriage null, and its effects binding on the State. This is also same to all other established churches and religions,” she said.
HB 6779 provides that the liquidation, partition and distribution of the properties of the spouses, the custody and support of the common children, and the delivery of their presumptive legitimes, shall be agreed upon by the spouses, and embodied in a public document. In the absence of an agreement, the provisions of the Family Code of the Philippines shall be in force.
Under the bill, either of the former spouses may marry again after complying with the requirements of the preceding paragraph and Article 52 of Executive Order No. 209 or the Family Code of the Philippines, otherwise, the subsequent marriage shall be null and void.
In securing a marriage license, the spouse involved must present a certified true copy of the said final judgment or decree of declaration of nullity, annulment or dissolution of marriage registered with the appropriate civil registry, the bill provides.
HB 6779 further provides that the final judgment or decree of annulment or dissolution issued by the proper church or religious sect shall be recorded in the appropriate civil registry within 30 days from issuance of the said final judgment or decree of annulment or dissolution.
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