The House Committee on Revision of Laws conducted a virtual meeting Thursday, Sept. 2 to approve a bill that will legalize marriages solemnized under virtual proceedings.
Chaired by Zambales Rep. Cheryl Deloso-Montalla, the House panel unanimously adopted the substitute bill to House Bill 7042 or the proposed Virtual Marriage Act.
The House body also approved bills granting congressmen and governors to solemnize marriages.
A substitute bill to HB 8672 was also unanimously approved. Authored by Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, HB 8672 provides for the regime of conjugal partnership of gains as the governing regime in the absence of a marriage settlement or when the regime agreed is void.
The virtual marriage proposal was filed by Kabayan Partylist Rep. Ron Salo who also headed the technical working group that endorse committee approval.
A lawyer, Salo said that under the Family Code the presence of the two parties contracting marriage is mandatory before the solemnizing officer and that they are required to declare that they accept each other as husband and wife in the presence of not less than two witnesses of legal age.
However, with the current public health danger caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many marriages have to either be cancelled or postponed due to restrictions against mass gatherings, observance of physical distancing and the health risks that those personally attending face.
“Anecdotally, many couples opted to live together without the benefit of marriage,” Salo stated.
Salo said videoconferencing has become the new norm in most government hearings and meetings, including plenary sessions held by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“Thus, it is now opportune time to amend the essential and formal requisites of a valid marriage as provided under the Family Code, particularly the requirement that the contracting parties must physically give their consent before a solemnizing officer,” he stated.
Salo stressed: “Thus, the legal meaning of presence or personal appearance must now be liberally construed to include virtual presence or presence through videoconferencing.”
HB 7402 will amend Articles 2, 3 6 and 10 of the Family Code of the Philippines by allowing the validity of marriages in either physical or virtual ceremony.
However, in cases of virtual marriages, the physical presence of the couple in the same location is required.
“For the purpose of this Code, virtual refers to the use of video, audit and data transmission devices that allow people from different physical locations to simultaneously communicate, see and hear each other,” the amendment stated.
The legislative proposal also provides that when marriage is performed virtually, the certificate of marriage must be notarized prior to its registration with the local Civil Registrar “to ensure its authenticity and due execution and to properly ascertain the identity of the contracting parties.”
Filipino citizens who are abroad may also be allowed to marry virtually by officers authorized by law on the condition that Further, marriage conducted virtually by Filipino citizens provided that the marriage license will be issued by the Philippine consulate and the marriage certificate will be acknowledged by the contracting parties.