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House panel okay of bill on marriage annulment hailed

  • Written by Ryan Ponce Pacpaco
  • Published in Top Stories
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LEYTE Rep. Yedda Marie Kittilstvedt-Romualdez yesterday lauded the House committee on population and
family relations for approving a substitute bill which seeks to recognize the civil effects of
church-decreed annulment.

Romualdez was referring to the unnumbered bill that consolidated House Bill (HB) No. HB 3705
that she principally authored titled “Recognizing The Civil Effects Of Church Declaration Of Nullity,
Annulment, And Dissolution Of Marriages” and HB No. 1629 authored by Deputy Speaker and Cebu Rep.
Gwendolyn Garcia titled “Legalizing Church Annulment Or Dissolution Of Certain Marriages.”
      
Romualdez, a registered nurse and a vice chairperson of the House committee on government
enterprises and privatization, 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,” said Romualdez, wife of Philippine Constitution
Association (Philconsa) President Martin Romualdez who was a former House Independent Bloc leader of
the 16th Congress and a three-term Leyte congressman.
    
Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones, the chairperson of the panel, is one of the authors of the
substitute measure.
        
Romualdez said the bill, also known as the “Church Decreed Annulment,” provides that
whenever a marriage, duly and legally solemnized by a priest, minister, imam, 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.
    
It 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 said final judgment or decree of annulment or dissolution.
    
Moreover, either of the former spouses may marry again after complying with the requirements
of the preceding paragraph and Article 52 of Executive Order (EO) 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.
    
During the hearing, Fr. Jerome Secillano of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the
Philippines (CBCP) said that church annulment is no longer a strictly judicial process but can be an
administrative decree as contained in a decree that Pope Francis signed three years ago.        
“Ang ibig sabihin ng judicial process sa annulment sa simbahan ay may presence ng husgado, a canon
lawyer who is the judge and meron din mga canon lawyers – one defending the dignity of marriage and
the other one defending the rights of the couple to help them in the annulment of their marriage,”
Secillano explained.
    
The annulment process of church marriage under an administrative decree is that the couple
files for the annulment of their church marriage and submits their case history.
    
Secillano said the canon lawyers would evaluate the case history of the couple, and if they
would find merit on the petition for the annulment, they would submit to the archbishop their finding
that there are grounds to annul the marriage. Once the archbishop signs the petition, the church
marriage is annulled.
    
He said the procedure is ongoing and petition for church annulment is filed before the
marriage tribunal of the diocese.
    
Garcia said although marriage is an institution that the State is interested in, it is also a
religious act.
       
“For the predominant Catholics of our country, it is a sacrament and marriage is not
considered valid insofar as Catholics are concerned unless celebrated in accordance with the
solemnities of the church. Marriage, therefore, is an element in the exercise of religious freedom,”
Garcia explained.
        
“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 said.
       
In this connection, it is noteworthy that ever since the adoption of the New Civil Code,
the state recognizes Muslim divorces or dissolutions of marriages in accordance with Muslim law, said
Garcia.
 
“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.(RPP)