WHEN he promised to love his wife until death parted them, John, 30, never thought he would be forced to end his marriage after only two years.

The seaman (real name withheld), said that while he worked outside the country, he found out from his relatives that his wife constantly entertained a man in their own house.

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At first, he refused to believe his relatives’ allegations, but later confirmed them when he caught the man in his house, in bed with his wife.

He had no choice but to call it quits, and move on.

Unfortunately for John, ending his marriage is easier said than done, considering that he has to seek annulment twice, in the civil courts and the Catholic Church, if he wants to remarry in church rites.

That’s why he favors a proposal that veteran Rep. Pablo Garcia (Cebu Province, 2nd district) plans to file again, which if approved will bind the government to honor annulments granted by the Catholic Church. It will save him a lot of money.

But for a Catholic priest that judges annulment cases, the cons of the bill may overpower its pros.

While he agrees that the bill will be convenient for separating couples, as their church annulment will be recognized by both the Church and State, Fr. Raul Go said such a law will be prone to abuse, if the restrictions are not clearly stated.

Go, one of three judicial vicars who handle annulment cases in the Metropolitan Matrimonial Tribunal, said the proposal may be used by non-Catholic groups as an alternative to divorce. These groups, he said, may even profit from the practice by offering to help couples seek annulments, for a fee.

The church has consistently opposed divorce.

To improve this proposal, Go suggested that the law follow Roman Catholic doctrine.

In nullifying marriages, the Family Code of the Philippines follows the same principles as that of the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church.

Both the Family Code and Canon Law state a marriage cannot be annulled unless it’s proven that defects existed before the marriage took place.

Valid grounds for annulment include marriages that are not formally solemnized by a church authority; those where either party is still married to another person at the time of the rites; and “defects of consent” or cases where either party “simulated consent but had no intention to contract a lifelong relationship or to have children.”

Go said it takes two years, on average, for a church annulment to be granted,

depending on decisions of the Archdio-cesan Tribunal and the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal in Manila headed by retired Linga-yen Archbishop Oscar Cruz.

If the local archdiocese approves the petition but the Appellate Tribunal assesses it as weak, the case could go as far as Vatican City for another study, or the petitioner will have to present stronger issues in the case, added Go.

Every year, the Metropolitan Matrimonial Tribunal in Cebu receives more than a hundred petitions for nullity, but only about 20 petitioners get to push on with their appeal.

If Garcia’s bill is approved, Go said annulment cases could go up. Garcia first filed the bill in 2007, but the House of Representatives failed to approve it.