By Charissa Luci-Atienza
House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, and his wife, Tingog Sinirangan partylist Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez have filed a bill seeking to recognize the civil effects of Church annulment, declaration of nullity, dissolution of marriages.
Under House Bill 1157, they proposed that the Church annulment, dissolution or declaration of nullity “shall have the same effect” as a decree of annulment, dissolution or declaration of nullity issued by a competent court.
“A marriage solemnized by the Church, therefore, should have not only canonical but civil effects as well. Priests, pastors, imams, and rabbis who solemnize marriage must have the authority to solemnize granted by the State. Therefore, if a marriage can be legitimately contracted under the laws of the Church, then it follows that under the same laws, such marriage can also be nullified or annulled,” they said in the bill’s explanatory note.
The Romualdezes noted that Pope Francis has introduced significant reforms in the canonical procedure in marriage nullity cases have been introduced in the Catholic Church. These include the elimination of an automatic second review by an appellate tribunal, concession to the diocesan bishops in granting the annulment themselves in certain circumstances, such as spousal abuse or when extramarital affairs has occurred and ensuring that the process should be free except for a minimal administrative cost, they 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,” they said.
They also noted that Presidential Decree 1083 recognizes the nullity of marriage and divorce under the Shari’ah law, according to the Qur’an.
“Under the principle of equality before the law, if a Muslim divorce is recognized, there can be no serious objections towards the recognition of the civil effects of a marriage by an established and duly recognized religious denomination,” they said.
HB 1157 or the proposed “Church Nullity Act of 2019” provides that whenever a marriage, duly and legally solemnized by a priest, imam, rabbi or presiding elder of an established church or religion in the Philippines is subsequently annulled, dissolved or declared a nullity in a final judgment or decree in accordance with the canons and precepts of the church or religious sect, such annulment, dissolution or declaration of nullity shall have the same effect as a decree of annulment, dissolution or declaration of nullity issued by a competent court.
It proposed that the status of children of marriages subject of a decree of annulment or declaration of nullity by the church or religious sect shall be determined in accordance with the provisions of Executive Order No. 209, otherwise known as the “Family Code of the Philippines”.
“In case the grounds for the church annulment or declaration of nullity are not similar to any of the grounds provided in the Family Code of the Philippines, their common children born or conceived before the issuance of the decree of annulment or declaration of nullity shall be considered legitimate,” the bill said.
The measure states that the liquidation, partition and distribution of the properties of the spouses, the custody and support of the common children, and the delivery of their presumptive legitimes shall be agreed upon by the spouses and embodied in a public document.
In case no agreement is met, the provisions of the Family Code of the Philippines shall be in force, it said.
The proposed “Church Nullity Act of 2019” provides that the decree of annulment or declaration of nullity issued by the church or religious sect shall be recorded in the appropriate civil registry, together with the agreement of the spouses within 30 days from issuance of the final judgment or decree of annulment or declaration of nullity, subject to the conditions that may be imposed by the church or religious sect.
“Without prejudice to the conditions set forth by the church or religious sect, either of the former spouses may marry again after complying with the requirements of the preceding paragraph and Article 52 of the Family Code of the Philippines; otherwise the subsequent marriage shall be null and void,” the bill said.
“In securing a marriage license, the spouse involved must present a true certified copy of the decree of annulment or declaration of nullity issued by the church or religious sect and registered with the appropriate civil registry,” it added.