By Anthony L. Po
In a previous article (January 2016), I wrote about the terrible state of securing a civil annulment from the courts in the Philippines:
“I received an interesting email from my former partner inviting me to look up the series of articles which appeared at Rappler.com last December 2015 on the various legal schemes and outright scams to secure an annulment of marriage in the Philippines.
The 5 part series cover “The Annulment Business” (Part 1); “Cotabato Court Issues Spurious Annulment Documents” (Part 2); “Cavite: Haven for Paid-Up Annulments” (Part 3); “Bribery in Annulment Mills” (Part 4); and “Annulment Scams” (Part 5).
The authors named judges of various courts in known annulment havens, clerks and officers of the courts, lawyers who styled themselves as “annulment specialists”, and favored court venues to file for annulment of marriages. There were revelations of the falsification of court decisions, bribery schemes of lawyers, judicial “facilitation fees” demanded by judges and court personnel, falsely voided marriage contracts manufactured by the notorious “C. M. Recto falsified documents factory”, and other scams that promise to cut the marital bond of spouses who seek an annulment.
Welcome to the “annulment legal cottage industry”.
This nefarious but highly profitable legal industry will continue to thrive for so long as the Philippine legislature and the judiciary continue to make it extremely expensive for married couples to opt out of marriages that have gone down the drain.”
(Legal Lang Po, Mabuhay Calgary issue of January 2016).
On December 15, 2017, the House of Representatives committee on population and family relations has approved an unnumbered bill (authored by Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia and Leyte 1st District Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez) which seeks to recognize the civil effects of church-decreed annulments.
In a nutshell, 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.
The lawmakers may have unwittingly killed off the immensely profitable “marriage annulment business” in the Philippines. It may be so but it is a welcome development. The bill is a positive step to further reasonable legislation to face the reality that marriage dissolution should be made an easier step for those who are trapped in marriages which have long deteriorated.
I have had my share of representing litigants in annulment cases before courts in the Philippines when I used to practice law more than 8 years ago in Manila. I have seen firsthand the hardships endured by couples in their struggle to legally get an annulment of their marriages. The civil annulment process is emotionally and financially draining.
I have also provided assistance to clients who sought an annulment from the Catholic Church. In my experience, securing a Catholic Church annulment is easier both in terms of emotional stress and financial considerations for Catholics who married under Catholic rites and wanted to get a church decree of annulment.
However, the “Church Decreed Annulment” is NOT limited to Catholic annulment of marriages. The bill cuts a much wider swath and provides for recognition by a competent court of all “annulment or dissolution” of marriages granted by any church or religious sect.
So, for those lucky couples whose marriages were celebrated by “Ministers” of the wayward “religious sects” recognized by the Philippine government to solemnize marriages (i.e. hint: a lot of these “religious Ministers” officiate marriages for people who want to marry quickly or in secret; and the ministers’ offices are usually found outside the various city halls of our cities and municipalities), it may be the easiest path to securing a “religious annulment” (i.e. a quickie annulment for a quickie marriage) from the same “religious minister and sect” which officiated the marriage.
It may be a sad day indeed for those who profit from the annulment legal cottage industry but it is certainly a boon for the various religious sects (i.e. albeit predominantly occupied by the Catholic Church) to have a major market share in the annulment of marriage business.
Concerned Filipinos must do their share and voice their support for the “Church Decreed Annulment” to be enacted into law. Those who are in Alberta, Canada may course their support through the Hon. Consul General Julius Torres of the Philippine Consulate of Alberta and Saskatchewan (Calgary Office).
I am more than willing to draft a petition addressed to the authors of the Church Decreed Annulment to be signed by the Filipino-Canadians in Alberta.