By Ellson Quismorio
A lady lawmaker from Mindanao wants to make it easier for Filipinos who were validly divorced by their foreign spouses overseas to change their civil status upon their return to the country.
Bukidnon 1st Rep. Maria Lourdes Acosta-Alba filed House Bill (HB) No. 96, the proposed “Foreign Divorce Recognition Act,” which would fast track the validation of the civil status of Filipinos validly divorced by their foreign spouses.
Acosta-Alba said the Philippines has no divorce law, but when a divorce is validly obtained abroad by a foreign spouse terminating his or her marriage to the Filipino spouse, the Filipino spouse shall have the capacity to remarry under Philippine law.
She noted that Article 26 of Executive Order (EO) No. 209, as amended, also known as the “Family Code of the Philippines,” provides that: “Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have the capacity to remarry under the Philippine law.”
However, the solon said this foreign judgment must be passed upon judicially by a Philippine Court to prove its validity. The decision of the court then becomes the basis for the annotation of the divorce in the civil registry documents, she said.
“This bill aims to do away with this long and tedious judicial process by expanding further the authority of the city or municipal registrar or the consul general to administratively update the civil status of the person appearing in the Civil Register without need of a judicial order,” explained Acosta-Alba.
She said as the foreign spouse is already freed from his or her marital obligation, the same right must also be accorded to the Filipino spouse without the costs and burden of a tedious judicial process.
The bill provides that notwithstanding the prohibition in Article 412 of Republic Act (RA) No. 386, as amended, otherwise known as the “Civil Code of the Philippines,” the city or municipal registrar, or the consul general, is hereby authorized to update, in accordance with the provisions of the Act, an entry in the Civil Register involving the civil status of a Filipino spouse whose marriage with a foreign spouse was annulled by way of foreign judgment, decree or record.
It further provides that the Filipino spouse may, in person, file a petition to update his/her civil status with the local registry office of the city or municipality where the record being sought to change is kept. Filipinos residing abroad may file the petition before the consul general who has jurisdiction over their person.
No petition shall be accepted and granted by the city or municipal registrar, or the consul general, unless it complies with the following requirements: 1) the petition is in the form of an affidavit, subscribed and sworn to before any person authorized by the law to administer oaths, and setting forth facts necessary to establish its merits; and 2) it must include annexes of an official copy of the foreign divorce law and an official copy of the foreign decree or record of divorce, attested by the officer having its legal custody, or by the officer’s deputy, and accompanied with a certificate that such officer has the custody, which the certificate may be made by a secretary of the embassy or legation, consul general, consul, vice consul, or consular agent or by any officer in the foreign service of the Philippines stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept, and authenticated by the seal of such office.
The attestation must state in substance, that the copy is a correct copy of the original, or a specific part thereof, as the case may be. The attestation must be under the official seal of the attesting officer, if there be any, or if the officer be the clerk of a court having a seal, under the seal of such court.
The petition shall be filed in three copies to be distributed as follows: first copy to the concerned city or municipal civil registrar, or the consul general; second copy to the Office of the Civil Registrar General; and third copy for the petitioner.
The city or municipal registrar, or the consul general shall collect reasonable fees as a condition for accepting the petition. An indigent petitioner, upon certification issued by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, shall be exempted from payment of said fee.
Any person who states falsehood or falsifies any document to misrepresent compliance with the provisions of the Act shall, upon conviction, be punished by imprisonment of six to 12 years or a fine of P10,000 to P100,000, or both, at the discretion of the court.
Article 412 of the Civil Code and all other laws, decrees, orders, rules and regulations, other issuances, or parts thereof inconsistent with the provisions of the Act shall hereby be repealed or modified accordingly, the Acosta-Alba bill said.
The Civil Registrar General shall, in consultation with the Secretary of Justice, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the Office of the Supreme Court Administrator, the University of the Philippines Law Center, and the Philippine Association of Civil Registrars, issue the necessary rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the Act not later than three months from its enactment.