Bill on virtual wedding filed in Congress

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A lawmaker has filed a bill seeking to allow virtual marriage with the use of video, audio, and data transmission devices. The male and female spouses to be wed would be together in the same location but their presence before the solemnizing officer would be remote or virtual.

Kabayan party-list representative Ron P. Salo said the provisions on presence or personal appearance during a wedding ceremony in the Family Code have already been overtaken by advancements in technology.

Kabayan party-list representative Ron P. Salo filed House Bill 7042 on Tuesday, June 30.

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

Salo cites how the current Covid-19 pandemic has caused the postponement and cancellation of many wedding ceremonies because of the prohibition on mass gatherings, observance of physical distancing and the health risks posed to everyone, particularly to the solemnizing officers who are oftentimes senior citizens. Anecdotally, many couples opted to live together without the benefit of marriage.

He also notes that the Family Code took effect in 1988 or more than two decades ago when analog means of communication was the prevalent norm and virtual presence is just a figment of imagination.

“Its provisions have already been overtaken by advancements in technology,” Salo said. “The legal meaning of presence or personal appearance must now be liberally construed to include virtual presence or presence through videoconferencing.”

The lawmaker likened a virtual marriage to the videoconferencing done now in most government hearings and meetings. He also cited how both chambers of Congress now conduct their sessions and committee hearings virtually.

HB-7042-Virtual-Marriage-Act

Salo also noted that on June 25, 2019, the Supreme Court issued A.M. No. 19-05-05-SC or the Proposed Guidelines on the Use of Videoconferencing Technology or the Remote Appearance or Testimony of Certain Persons Deprived of Liberty in Jails and National Penitentiaries.

“The Supreme Court also allowed the oath-taking ceremony of the 2019 Bar examination passers via online videoconference. Overseas, technology allowed couples to tie the knot online. As reported, these were done in the States of New York and Colorado, among others,” the lawmaker 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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