Will virtual marriages be allowed in the Philippines?

Published June 30, 2020, 6:00 PM

by Ben Rosario

With social distancing and quarantine regulations still in place, almost everything is now going virtual.

(PIXABAY / MANILA BULLETIN)

Virtual conferences, virtual religious services, virtual press conferences, and so forth.

Now, an administration congressman wants to make virtual marriage legal.

Kabayan Party-list Rep. Ron Salo has filed House Bill 7042, which proposes to legalize marriage made by couples in cyberspace.

He said the proposed legalization of virtual marriage is expected to address public health problems faced by couples with scheduled weddings, but which have been postponed due to the  coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

He explained that HB 7042 seeks to allow the use of video, audio, and data transmission devices for virtual wedding ceremonies.

Under the bill, only the physical absence of the solemnizing officer will be allowed. The couple to be wed will have to be together in one venue, with the priest or any other authorized solemnizing officer being granted the license to officiate remotely.

“The essence of the marriage ceremony is the personal appearance of the parties before the solemnizing officer and their declaration that they freely and willingly take each other as husband and wife,” Salo explained.

“It is respectfully proposed that the term presence and personal appearance provided in the Family Code be broadly construed to include virtual presence,” he added.

The party-list solon noted that many schedule wedding ceremonies have either been cancelled or rescheduled due to the social distancing restrictions imposed in a bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The health risks posed on the couple, their relatives, and well-wishers are quite dangerous if they are allowed to be in a single venue.

Salo noted that COVID-19 infection is likely to threaten more the solemnizing officers, who are “oftentimes senior citizens.”

HB 7042 will amend the Family Code that took effect over three decades ago “when analog means of communication was the prevalent norm and virtual presence is just a figment of imagination.”

He said requiring the personal appearance of all important characters in a marriage is no longer practical since this provision of the Family Code has already “been overtaken by advancements in technology.”

“The legal meaning of presence or personal appearance must now be liberally construed to include virtual presence or presence through videoconferencing,” Salo said.

“Virtual marriages between Filipino citizens abroad may be solemnized by the Consul-General, Consul or Vice-Consul of the Philippines. It may also be officiated by priests or religious leaders of the church they belong even when the religious leaders are based in the Philippines,” Salo said.

 
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