A BILL has been filed at the House of Representatives seeking to hasten the dissolution and annulment of marriage by taking the process out of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).
Under House Bill 9774 or the Family Law Reform Act of 2021, filed on July 5, the roles of the OSG in such family law cases will be transferred to the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).
Bohol Rep. Kristine Alexie B. Tutor, the bill’s author, said once signed into law, all marriage annulment cases with the OSG will be transferred to the PAO and the DSWD.
The department will be required to create a Family Relations Welfare Office to serve as staff support to the PAO to immediately cover the social services aspect of the cases.
The PAO, meanwhile, will create a Special Branch for Family Law to handle the cases.
The bill “sets a timeline of up to 360 working days for the hearing and resolution of annulment and other Family Law cases: 180 days at the Family Court and 180 days on appeal,” Ms. Tutor explained in a news release on Tuesday.
It also sets “fifteen days for the religious authorities, the office of the civil registrar, and the Philippine Statistics Authority to record the annulment or dissolution of marriage in the official government records.”
It further authorizes an agreement between the PAO and IBP to allow the lawyers’ group to assign members who will work for free in such cases to address the PAO’s lack of manpower.
Two Catholic bishops of Talibon and Tagbilaran, both in Bohol, have expressed support for the Family Law Reform Act of 2021, acknowledging the “painful reality of invalid marriages” and the “advantages” of church annulment being recognized.”
The religious leaders said the three main advantages of the bill are providing mercy for victims of marriages that are invalid from the start, access to annulment and marriage dissolution for poor couples, and avoidance of unnecessary procedural duplication. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago