In vote of 10-3-1 (ten in favor, three against, and one abstain), the Supreme Court (SC) ruled "that a foreign divorce secured by a Filipino against a foreign spouse is also considered valid in the Philippines, even if it is the Filipino spouse who files for divorce abroad," CNN Philippines tweeted.
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According to a report by Rappler, the landmark ruling was served on the case of Marelyn Tanedo Manalo.
Manalo was married to a Japanese national. She filed for divorce and was granted one in Japan in 2011. Manalo then went to a court in Dagupan, Pangasinan, to have her divorce recognized in the Philippines, but her petition was denied. She went to the Court of Appeals (CA), which overturned the local court's ruling.
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The CA ruled in Manolo's favor "to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce, is no longer married to the Filipino spouse." It also cited a previous case where a Filipino spouse was not "not be discriminated against in her own country," according to a report by Inquirer.
Article 26 of the Family Code recognizes that all legal marriages between a Filipino citizen and a foreign national solemnized outside the country is valid here. But divorce is valid only if the foreign spouse applies for it, and his or her home country legally granted it. Only then can the termination of marriage be recognized in the Philippines even if the marriage was solemnized here. Like other legal proceedings, the process to legally recognize a divorce obtained in a foreign country can take years, but it is only then that a Filipino spouse can remarry.
The SC's landmark ruling changes that, and it now becomes jurisprudence (it is now recognized as law) that a divorce applied for by, and granted to, a Filipino who got married to a foreigner in another country is also recognized here in the Philippines.
"Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall likewise have capacity to remarry under Philippine law," the law states.
Last month, the House of Representatives (HOR) approved House Bill No. 7185, a proposal to recognize divorce obtained in foreign countries, regardless of who filed for it. The only requirement is that the Philippine consul of the country where the divorce decree was obtained must first authenticate the divorce document, reports the Manila Bulletin.
Divorce in the country is a hotly debated topic. The Philippines is the only country in the world, aside from The Vatican, that does not allow it. However, in February, the HOR approved a consolidated House Bill No. 7303. It's the first-ever proposal that seeks to legalize divorce in the country to move past the committee and plenary levels.
Similar to House Bill No. 7185, however, it was approved in the Lower House but is yet to gain progress in the Senate. For the proposal to be enacted into law, both houses of Congress must approve their respective versions, reconcile their provisions through a bicameral committee, and have it signed by the president.