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First Look on House Bill 6779: Coverage and Limitations

By: Jennidy S. Tambor

On 29 January 2018, House Bill 6779 or “An Act Recognizing the Civil Effects of Church
Annulment Decrees” was approved on its third and final reading in the House of
Representatives where 203 out of 292 members of the House voted in its favor.

Basically, the bill intends that an annulment decree issued by a church or religious sect
in the Philippines to have the same effect as that annulment decree issued by a competent
court. This bill however does not only cover the recognition of the civil effects of church
annulment decrees but also discusses the status of the child born or conceived before the
issuance of the church annulment decree as well as the liquidation, partition and
distribution of the conjugal properties, among others.

Section 1 thereof provides that “[w]henever 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, dissolved or declared a nullity in a final judgment
or decree in accordance with the canons and precepts of the church or religious sect, the
said 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.”

Thus, under Section 1 of HB 6779, the following requisites must be complied with:
First, the marriage must be duly and legally solemnized by a priest, minister, rabbi or presiding
elder of any church or religious sect.

This means that the marriages solemnized by: (1) any incumbent member of the judiciary
within the court’s jurisdiction; (2) any ship captain or airplane chief only in the case
mentioned in Article 31 of the Family Code; (3) any military commander of a unit to
which a chaplain is assigned, in the absence of the latter, during a military operation,
likewise only in the cases mentioned in Article 32 of the Family; (4) any consul-general,
consul or vice-consul in the case provided in Article 10 of the Family Code are excluded
from its coverage.

Section 1 of HB 6779 when juxtaposed with Section 7 paragraph 2 of the Family Code
raises multiple questions: By saying that the marriage be duly and legally solemnized, is it
referring to the requirements mentioned in the Family Code on the essential and formal
requisites of a valid marriage? Does it include the requirements stated in Section 7 Par. 2
which states that any priest, rabbi, imam, or minister of any church or religious sect (1)
duly authorized by his church or religious sect, (2) registered with the civil registrar
general, (3) acting within the limits of the written authority granted by his church or
religious sect, and (4) provided that at least one of the contracting parties belongs to the
solemnizing officer's church or religious sect? If yes, then why doesn’t the bill simply
refer to those marriages solemnized under Section 7, paragraph 2 of the Family Code?
Why is the word “imam” not reflected in the bill? Was it purposely done? Is the HB 6679
in mentioning “presiding elder of any church or religious sect” adding another
solemnizing officer to the enumeration? Basically, is HB 6779 amending/repealing
Paragraph 2 Section 7 of the Family Code?
Second, the marriage was celebrated in the Philippines.

Quite obviously, marriages celebrated abroad even by a priest, minister, rabbi or


presiding elder of any church or religious sect are excluded.

However, another question arises: what is considered as in the Philippines, will it include
or exclude all other territories over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction?
As for example, if the marriage is solemnized by a priest, minister, rabbi or presiding
elder of any church or religious sect in a consulate or embassy outside of the Philippines,
will that be considered as in the Philippines? If so, wouldn’t it be clearer if the HB 6779
state within the Philippine Territory instead?

Finally, the marriage is 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.

A lot of questions can arise from this but I think the most important one is on regulation.
How will the Government make sure the absence of corruption and/or connivance
between the spouses in availing a church decreed annulment?

Furthermore, given that all requisites are present, will the church annulment decree
obtained abroad be recognized in the Philippines? Will said decree suffice or does it need
to be judicially recognized as foreign judgment first?

These are just some of the observations and questions that our legislators may want to
consider as the bill progresses into a law as this proposed law is radical and may greatly
affect the lives of Filipinos. This can be seen in as a positive response to domestic abuse
and may also have grave negative consequences as to the stability of marriage as an
institution. In any case, this bill still has a long and arduous process to go through. We
just have to wait and see.