House bill seeks to allow “virtual” wedding amid COVID-19 pandemic

A lawmaker has filed a bill pushing to allow “virtual” marriage with the use of video, audio, and data transmission devices amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

House Bill 7042, filed by Kabayan party-list representative Ron P. Salo, said that 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.

“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 in a statement.

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

According to Salo, the current 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.

Meanwhile, virtual marriages between Filipino citizens abroad may be solemnized by the Consul-General, Consul or Vice-Consul of the Philippines.

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.

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 stated.

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