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Philippines nears recognition of church annulment of marriage

Currently there is no divorce for non-Muslims in the country

Joe Torres, Manila

Joe Torres, Manila

Updated: January 29, 2018 07:13 AM GMT
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Philippines nears recognition of church annulment of marriage

A Catholic priest solemnizes a wedding mass in the northern Philippine province of Cagayan. Under the proposed law, whenever a marriage solemnized by a priest is annulled, the annulment should have the same effect as a court-decreed annulment. (Photo by Jimmy Domingo)

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The Philippines' Lower House of Congress is fast-tracking a bill that seeks the civil recognition of church-decreed annulment of marriage to allow Filipino couples a cheaper way of dissolving their union.

The House of Representatives has approved on second reading on Jan. 24 a proposed measure that will recognize as legal and binding the nullification and annulment of marriages by the Catholic Church.

At present, Philippine laws only recognize divorce under the Code of Muslim Personal Laws, which is based on Islamic law. There is no divorce for non-Muslims in the country.

Once the proposed measure becomes law a declaration of nullity decreed by the Catholic Church will hold as much weight and have the same effect as a civil annulment.

Rep. Yedda Marie Kittilstvedt-Romualdez of Leyte province, one of the authors of the law, said the law will "remove the burden of undergoing the civil annulment process.

The legislator said that by recognizing the civil effects of church annulment couples "will have the benefit of a more efficient and affordable procedure" to get out of a "truly irreparable relationship."

Romualdez said her proposed measure is inspired by Pope Francis' statement to simplify the procedures for the annulment of marriage in the Catholic Church.

"While he reaffirmed traditional teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, he streamlined annulment procedures which many considered cumbersome, lengthy, outdated and expensive to make it affordable and accessible to Catholics," said Romualdez.

She said that the pope's introduction of a "briefer annulment process" that involves the local bishop and only requires a will be useless if the state will not recognize the church's process.

Under the proposed law, whenever a marriage solemnized by a church leader is annulled in accordance with church laws, the annulment should have the same effect as a court-decreed annulment.

The measure also provides that the status of children of marriages subject of the church annulment decree shall be determined in accordance with the provisions of the Family Code of the Philippines.

In the case that the grounds for church annulment is not similar to any of the grounds provided in Philippine laws, children born or conceived before the issuance of the church annulment shall be considered legitimate.

Under the bill, either of the former spouses may marry again after complying with the requirements of the Family Code of the Philippines, otherwise, the subsequent marriage shall be null and void.

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