By Iligan City Mayor Frederick Siao
Barangays, who are at the frontlines of responding to incidents of domestic violence and provision of basic welfare services and law enforcement, do not have records on who among the couples in their jurisdiction are married, common law, or cohabiting.
Many of the spousal conflicts and incidents of domestic violence are between couples who are not married, though there are also a few between married couples. Caught in the middle are the children and other household members.
At the barangay level, their knowledge is limited only to word of mouth rather than based on actual records. The public policy, planning, and development gap we seek to address is the lack of any comprehensive and modern registry or database on households and household members at the barangay level.
To reinforce our Family Code implementation efforts, I will study, together with the barangay councils of the city, ways to register cohabiting couples, such couples with children, so they can also avail of some services and benefits usually given to those who are married and for barangay intervention in domestic violence and abuse situations, while those who plan to get married can start making the documentation preparations.
Our current civil registries are still in the 19th century and 20th century. Records are still paper-based. Few local governments have computerized and digitized their records.
Registering cohabiting couples can be established through an ordinance. I would like to note that spousal conflicts are of three kinds: (1) between married couples of either gender; (2) between common-law couples; (3) between cohabiting couples not yet of common-law status.
To encourage the poor and low-income to register, there should even be a cash incentive of at least P1,000 for each person because the cost of travel and lost income for a day’s work can be disincentives and hindrances to voluntary and timely registration. The cash incentive should be disbursed to the registrant upon completion of registration.