House panel okays church annulment bill

MANILA — The proposed measure seeking to recognize the civil effects of church annulment or dissolution of certain marriages by different religious sects in the country has hurdled the committee level in the House of Representatives.

According to a statement on Friday, the House committee on population and family relations approved an unnumbered substitute bill, otherwise known as the “Church Decreed Annulment.”

The bill provides that whenever a marriage, duly and legally solemnized by a priest, minister, imam, rabbi or presiding elder of any church or religious sect in the Philippines is subsequently annulled or dissolved in a final judgment or decree by said church or religion, the said annulment or dissolution shall have the same effect as a decree of annulment or dissolution issued by a competent court.

The bill also provides that the decree of annulment shall be recorded in the appropriate civil registry within 30 days from the issuance of the final judgment.

Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia, principal author of the bill, said while marriage is an institution that the State is interested in, it is also a religious act.

“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,” Garcia said.

“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,” she added.