Law proposed to recognize church annulments

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The Senate in Manila

MANILA—-So that Filipinos would be spared from paying steep lawyers’ fees, a proposed law was filed in the Senate that would amend the Family Code and recognize annulments decreed by churches and other religious groups.

Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino said Senate Bill 1815 would help indigent Filipinos who cannot afford to pay for an annulment process, which could cost at least P100,000 and drag on for more than a year.

“With the process of annulment being both tedious and expensive, it has become a privilege for the rich rather than the right of every Filipino citizen,” Aquino said.

“Acceptance fees alone cost at least P80,000, while pleading fees, appearance fees and psychological fees can be even more expensive. Not to mention, the cost for legal counsel,” he added.

Aquino said the bill would help may poor Filipinos especially after the Catholic Church streamlined its annulment process and Pope Francis declared that it would be free.

The House of Representatives had already passed on third reading its version of the proposed law and is only waiting for the Senate to act on SB 1815, which is still pending in the committee level.

“While the sanctity of marriage should be respected, and a loving and healthy family environment remains a priority, we must ensure that none of our laws discriminate against our underprivileged countrymen,” Aquino said.

Under the bill, only a competent court is allowed to recognize a marriage to be annulled by a religious sect or church which either spouse belonged to at the time of the marriage.

“Only the existence of annulment laws of the church or religious sect and the validity of obtaining such decree by an authorized church or religious sect shall be proven in courts in order for a recognition to be granted,” it said.

Currently, the Philippines only recognizes divorce for Muslim Filipinos under the Code of Muslim Personal Laws. Divorce is not allowed for other Filipinos.

On the other hand, the number of marriages in the Philippines has declined since 2008. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the number of marriages dropped from 486,514 in 2008 to 434,932 in 2017.