AMID the limitations and restrictions posed by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, a bill seeking to allow marriage of couples through virtual or online video conferencing is currently being pushed at the House of Representatives.
House Bill 7042 or the “Virtual Marriage Act,” authored by Kabayan Party-list Rep. Ron Salo, was tackled in the hearing of the House Committee on Revision of Laws on Tuesday, along with other measures seeking to amend Executive Order 209 or the Family Code of the Philippines.
“The current Covid-19 pandemic has caused the postponement and cancellation of many wedding ceremonies because of the prohibition on mass gatherings and the health risks posed to everyone, including the parties themselves and to the solemnizing officer who is oftentimes of advanced age. Thus, I am fully convinced that now is the opportune time to reevaluate our laws in order for it to adapt to present realities and to fully utilize technological advances. Who would have imagined in 1987 when the Family Code was adopted that we will be conducting this congressional hearing via Zoom?,” Salo said in his sponsorship speech.
Salo noted that due to the implementation of physical distancing, virtual presence has become an accepted alternative and the “new norm” in meetings and other exercises in the Philippines and abroad, including legal proceedings, hearings in Congress, Supreme Court and other courts.
Salo said that his bill seeks to provide couples an alternative to the traditional marriage ceremonies conducted physically by expanding the meaning of “presence” and “appearance” to include virtual presence. He also noted that some states in the United States such as New York and Colorado and other countries had allowed couples to tie the knot virtually during the lockdowns.
Salo said that in a virtual ceremony, the bill requires the “contracting parties” or couples to be physically present in one place while the solemnizing officer and their witnesses may be present elsewhere but everyone must be connected either physically or virtually.
Salo also clarified that all the existing formal requisites such as seminars, marriage licenses, and notarization would still need to be fulfilled. He said these would also ensure that couples have given their free consent to the marriage, even though conducted virtually.
Panel Chairman Cheryl Deloso-Montalla ordered the creation of the technical working group to further thresh out details of the bill along with other proposed amendments to the Family Code. The other bills propose amendments on provisions regarding annulment, legal separation, legitimate or illegitimate children, property regime, foreign decree on the dissolution of marriage, and authority to solemnize marriage, among others.
In her opening remarks, Montalla stressed the need to revisit the 1987 Family Code to address changes in the dynamic society, saying “The process of globalization is catching up with the development of the Filipino family and change must occur if the family is to survive in this fast-changing world.”