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House bill seeks to allow 'virtual' wedding ceremonies

A measure has been filed at the House of Representatives seeking to allow the conduct of "virtual" wedding ceremonies making use of video, audio, and data transmission devices amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In filing House Bill 7042, Kabayan party-list Representative Ron Salo cited how the COVID-19 pandemic has forced marrying couples to postpone or even cancel their wedding ceremonies due to the prohibition on mass gatherings and observance of physical distancing.

"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," he said.

"It is respectfully proposed that the term presence and personal appearance provided in the Family Code be broadly construed to include virtual presence," he added.

Salo's bill amends Articles 2, 3, 6 and 10 of the Family Code of the Philippines.

Under his proposal, the male and female spouses to be wed must be together in one location but their presence before the solemnizing officer may be remote or virtual.

"When the marriage was performed virtually, the certificate of marriage must be notarized prior to its registration with the local civil registrar to ensure its authenticity and due execution, and to properly ascertain the identity of the contracting parties," the bill read.

Virtual marriages between Filipino citizens abroad may be solemnized by the Consul-General, Consul or Vice-Consul of the Philippines, the bill said.

These marriages may also be officiated by priests or religious leaders of the church the marrying couple abroad belong even as these religious officials are based in the Philippines.

Salo likened his proposed virtual wedding ceremonies to many government hearings and meetings being done through videoconferencing.

"The Supreme Court also allowed the oath-taking ceremony of the 2019 Bar examination passers via online videoconference," he said.

"Overseas, technology allowed couples to tie the knot online. As reported, these were done in the States of New York and Colorado, among others," Salo added.

He pointed out that the Family Code took effect more than 30 years ago and its provisions have already been overtaken by technological advancements.

"The legal meaning of presence or personal appearance must now be liberally construed to include virtual presence or presence through videoconferencing," Salo said. —KBK, GMA News