Being a predominantly Catholic country, many Filipinos are still deeply conservative when it comes to marriage. It is the only country in the world, aside from the Vatican, where divorce is still illegal.
But a latest bill, which seeks to legalize Church-decreed annulment, may be one step to changing this.
The bill has recently been approved by the House Committee on population and family relations, reports Inquirer. net.
Once enacted into law, the Church-decreed annulment bill will allow the dissolution or annulment of any marriage that has been legally performed by any church or religious organization, whether the union was solemnized by a priest, pastor, minister, rabbi, or imam.
Under the proposed bill, the corresponding church shall issue the “final judgment of annulment” and record it within a month with the civil registry concerned.
The bills states that both parties involved must present a certified true copy of the decree of declaration of dissolution or annulment of marriage when obtaining a marriage license.
How the separation of Church and State will affect Church-decreed annulment
Grounds for annulment require proof that there has been failure on the part of one spouse to fulfill his or her marital duties and obligations.
In some cases, there must be clear psychological incapacity, such as failure to support family, drug addiction, absence, or alcoholism. These specifications are largelt informed by the fact that the law was written based on Catholic Canon Law.
Because the separation of Church and State still stands, civil annulment and Church annulment have been two different processes. But once this bill becomes a law, Church-decreed annulment will hold as much weight and have the same effect as a civil annulment.
Church-decreed annulment will have the same effects as a Civil annulment under the proposed bill
“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,” the bill’s principal author, Deputy Speaker and Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia tells Manila Bulletin.
“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.”
Pope Francis’ views on Annulment
In late 2015, Pope Francis declared major changes in the process of Church annulment worldwide, including making it free of charge, dropping automatic appeals, and giving local bishops more of a role in the process, to make the process easier and quicker.
In the Philippines, the entire process takes about 1 to 2 years. In some cases, even more. The cost ranges from 200,000 to 250,000 pesos.
But this still left the issue of whether a Church-decreed annulment can dissolve a marriage and allow both former spouse to legally remarry.
The aforementioned bill hopes to change all of this, making the effects Church-decreed annulment similar to a civil annulment.
sources: Inquirer.net, Los Angeles Times, DeborjaLaw.com, Manila Bulletin
READ: Pope Francis changes annulment process of Catholic church worldwide