MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines’ House of Representatives passed a bill that would legally recognize Church-decreed declarations of nullity, or annulments.
The legislation was approved Jan. 29. Out of 293 representatives, 203 voted in favor of the bill.
The law would “remove the burden of undergoing the civil annulment process,” and couples “will have the benefit of a more efficient and affordable procedure,” Rep. Yedda Marie Kittilstvedt-Romualdez, the bill’s author and principal sponsor, told UCA News.
Filipino Muslims may divorce under the Code of Muslim Personal Law. Divorces are not an option for non-Muslims in the Philippines, though civil annulments are available through a costly judicial processes.
The proposed law says that “whenever a marriage, duly and legally solemnized by a priest, minister, rabbi or presiding elder of any church or religious sect in the Philippines is subsequently annulled in accordance with the canons or precepts of the church or religious sect, the said annulment shall have the same effect as a decree of annulment issued by a competent court.”
An ecclesiastical decree of nullity would need to be registered with the Filipino government before a citizen was eligible to be remarried.
Catholic ecclesiastical tribunals consider the validity of marriages according to several criteria: whether a marriage was celebrated according to ceremonial requirements, whether parties to the marriage had the psychological capacity to make an act of consent, and whether the parties withheld some essential good or property of marriage from their consent, among others. A marriage cannot be judged invalid solely because of acts of infidelity, the use of contraception or because of a premarital pregnancy.
Romualdez said she was influenced by Pope Francis to provide Catholics a simpler and more efficient means to resolve “irreparable marriages.”
“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on the indissolubility of marriage, he streamlined annulment procedures which many considered cumbersome, lengthy, outdated and expensive to make it affordable and accessible to Catholics.”
Romualdez and House Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia sponsored the bill. The law was also endorsed by the House Committee on Population and Family Relations and co-authored by the committee’s head, Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones. The bill will now be considered by the Philippine Senate.
Romualdez expressed gratitude for the bill’s passage, which she said provided a more efficient annulment process for Filipinos, while respecting the sanctity of marriage.
“From the bottom of my heart, I thank my colleagues for the swift passage of the bill without jeopardizing the indissolubility of marriage.”