Senator Robin Padilla has filed a bill seeking to institutionalize civil unions of same-sex couples.
In filing Senate Bill 449 or the proposed Civil Unions Act, Padilla noted that the 1987 Constitution did not explicitly mention Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) but it does not prohibit or exclude civil partnerships or unions of same-sex couples.
"This proposed measure therefore seeks to recognize the civil union between two persons of the same or opposite sex to be able to enjoy the rights, protection, and privileges afforded in this bill," Padilla said in his explanatory note.
"This representation firmly believes It is high time that the Philippines provides equal rights and recognition for couples of the same sex with no prejudice as to sexual relationships are protected and recognized and given access to basic social protection and security," he said.
"Providing equal rights and privileges for same-sex couples will in no way diminish or trample on the rights granted to married couples," he went on.
Padilla mentioned that same-sex marriage or civil unions have been legalized in 31 countries, either through legislation or court decisions as of December 2021.
However, the neophyte senator said the Philippines still lacks legislative measures to "afford equal rights and privileges for same-sex couples that is enjoyed by different-sex couples."
Under SB 449, the following are the requisites for civil union:
- Legal capacity of the contracting parties:
- At least 18 years of age;
- Not prohibited to enter into civil union by reason of public policy;
- Free from any previous bond of marriage or civil union.
- Consent freely given in the presence of the administering officer;
- Authority of the administering officer;
- A valid license to contract or enter into a civil union issued by and obtained from the local civil registrar of the city or municipality where either party habitually resides; and
- A civil union ceremony which takes place with the personal appearance of the contracting parties before the administering officer and their personal declaration, that they take each other as legal partners in the presence of not less than two witnesses of legal age.
The bill provided that no specific religious rite or form shall be required for purposes of this requirement.
SB 449 also enumerated benefits, protections and responsibilities of civil union couples. These include:
- All benefits and protections that are granted to spouses in a marriage under existing laws, administrative orders, court rulings, or those derived as a matter of public policy, or any other source of civil law;
- Laws on marital relations, including donations by reason of marriage, legal separation, adoption, child custody and support, property division and maintenance, and spousal support;
- Rights of civil union couples with respect to a child of whom both become the parents of during the terms of the civil union, shall be the same as those of a married couples with respect to their child;
- Laws relating to intestate succession, survivorship, or other incidents of the acquisition, ownership or transfer, inter vivos or at death, of real or personal property, as affecting parties to a marriage, shall likewise be applicable;
- Couples shall automatically have insurable interest over their respective partners and may avail of benefits relating to insurance, health and pension benefits provided to married couples;
- Labor standard benefits, privileges, restriction and prohibition accorded to employees based on marital status shall likewise be accorded;
- Benefits under tax laws relating to marital status shall be applicable;
- Coverage of laws relating to immunity from being compelled to testify against the other and bound by the marital communication privilege;
- Hospital visitation rights and the authority to give consent to any medical treatment in behalf of his/her civil partner whenever required;
- Visitation rights in detention facilities; and
- Decision making in burial arrangements.
Padilla's proposed law also gives civil union couples rights to inherit, adopt, and receive the privileges granted to married couples with regard to social security and other private insurance membership.
While there are no laws yet on dissolution of marriage in the Philippines, Padilla had included a provision for the dissolution of civil unions.
"The grounds procedures and effects, whenever applicable, for legal separation, annulment and declaration of nullity of marriages under the Family Code of the Philippines, as amended, shall be applicable
in civil unions," Section 18 of SB 449 read.
Padilla also wanted to penalize any person who knowingly or willfully refuses to issue civil union licenses or certificates despite being authorized to do so; any person who denies the rights and benefits entitled to civil union couples; any person who commits unlawful, discriminatory employment practice; or any person who commits discriminatory practices to children of civil union couples.
Individuals who were found liable for the abovementioned acts may face a fine ranging from 500,000 to P1 million or imprisonment of 10 years.
Any person who is not authorized to administer civil union ceremonies will also be penalized by a fine ranging from P500,000 to P1 million or imprisonment of 10 years. — BM, GMA News