NEWSFLASH

EASY MARRIAGE ANNULMENTS IN RP SOON

Manila, Jan. 17, 2003 (Star) - Judicial officials are mulling reforms that will make it easier for estranged couples to have their church marriages annulled, Solicitor General Alfredo Benipayo said yesterday.

Under the proposal, special family courts handling annulment cases would no longer be required to gain the consent of the solicitor-general's office before voiding a marital union, Benipayo said.

Divorce is banned in the Philippines, where the Constitution states that "marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State."

But the family courts are empowered to invalidate marriages on certain grounds, such as "psychological incapacity".

Benipayo said he favored the proposal from a judicial reform committee created by the Supreme Court that his office stop representing the state at annulment cases.

"The OSG (office of the solicitor-general) agrees with the proposal that the certification required of the solicitor-general as a condition for the rendition of judgment in nullity cases be dispensed with," Benipayo said in a letter to the committee.

The lawyer said this was placing an "unnecessary" burden on his office's 150 lawyers who are swamped with a mammoth workload of about 220,000 other criminal and civil cases.

On top of these, the solicitor-general receives 412 annulment suits every week, he said.

Benipayo said the special court judges are "already properly guided by the law and by the pronouncements and interpretations" of the Supreme Court on the disposition of marriage annulment cases.

The proposed reforms "will not only unburden the litigants but the OSG as well".


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