Lately, we have noticed a proliferation of search hits on annulment scams in the Philippines and the recent decision of the Philippine Supreme Court which allegedly did not allow the annulment of a marriage where the husband was gay. Just like anything else on the web, a piece of information must be filtered like coffee before it is swallowedr. I was on the plane from Los Angeles with my daughter after spending the Christmas holidays in recession-stricken America when I struck a conversation with an American on board the connecting flight to Manila from Japan. After I told him that I am a practicing lawyer with annulment clients in the States, he passionately narrated to me his sad experience with the annulment of the marriage of his girlfriend. It truns out that he had paid a lawyer a small fortune to take care of the annulment case, but that after two years nothing happened. This prompted his girfriend who resides somewhere in Mindanao to shop around for some help. She not only found help, but a judge to boot to take care of the annulment for a measly 50,000 pesos all in and guaranteed to be done in 2 weeks or so. It was at this point in the conversation when I told him that her girlfriend should have been careful about fixers and judges who have been investigated and/or disciplined by the Supreme Court. I also commented that the documents would not hold when his girlfriend attempts to get a Certificate of No Marriage and that I have been reading about sad and desperate stories on these scams and the efforts taken by the Office of the Court Administrator of the Philippine Supreme Court to weed out these judges.
In an Australian law blog no less (http://lgbtlawblog.blogspot.com/2008/09/philippines-annulment-cannot-happen), the headline reads “Philippines:Annulment Cannot Happen Merely Because a Man is Gay” citing the case of Almelor vs. Almelor. If the publicity holds, it would indeed be a landmark decision, not to mention a notch for gay rights….BUT HELLO….in the Philippines???
When you read cases for a living, reading another one (without getting paid for it) is a difficult task. But read the case, I did…. and like actress Susan Roces…..not once but twice.
To my mind, the decision did not actually say that the homosexuality of one spouse is not a ground for annulment. True, there are statements in the decision to the effect that what is actually a ground for annulment is the concealment thereof. These statements appear to be obiter though. To the layman, this means simply that the court’s statement should be taken within the context of the entire case most especially the facts threreof. On this score, the Court said that while the wife alleged the homosexuality of the husband she however was not able to prove it. There, effectively since it was not proven then it could not be used as a ground for the annulment. But what if it were proven. Woudl the court rule otherwise?? Most probably, because unless the Philippine Supreme Court makes a juridical quantum leap and overstep the legal controvery even in the United States on gay marriages, the Civil Code still states that a marriage must be between a man and a woman. But is that biologically or psychologically??…That deserves another post.