More couples in urban centers like Metro Manila are seeking to nullify their marriages, but overall, a drop in annulment cases in the country has been observed this year, according to Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz.
Cruz, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal, estimated that the number of marriage cases that the Church had recorded for nullity had decreased over the years by at least 10 percent to 15 percent.
“As far as our cases here are concerned, it’s less than 10 to 15 percent, but there are also cases that go directly to Rome and no longer pass us,” Cruz told reporters on Monday.
He said the tribunal was handling not more than 100 cases every year and out of this number, only about 9 to 10 cases got an affirmative decision.
In 2011, the Office of the Solicitor General released data showing that annulment cases had risen by 40 percent in the last 10 years, with at least 22 cases filed every day. It also reported that the number of cases had risen to 8,282 in 2010 from 4,520 in 2001.
Cruz acknowledged that while the Church might be observing a declining trend in annulments, it could not be true with respect to the courts since those who married civilly would need to go to the courts to obtain annulments.
He also pointed out that in order to dissolve a bond formalized in Church, a couple must not only seek to nullify their marriage in the Church but must also file an annulment in the civil court.
To avoid the hassles of the proceedings, Cruz said, some would rather separate on their own—referred to by the Church as “canonical separation.”
Metro Manila and Cebu
According to Cruz, the majority of Filipino couples seeking annulments come from the urban areas, where the influences of Western countries are more present and felt than in the rural areas.
He said among the urban centers where the number of annulment cases were still high were Metro Manila and Cebu.
“Marriage is more difficult in an urban setting precisely because of the influence of the First World countries, which [allow] divorce and same-sex marriage, among others,” the prelate said.
He also said couples residing in these bustling cities were more preoccupied with matters like “questions of property and support of children.”
“They have more concerns than those who are in the rural areas,” he added.
Cruz also noted that fewer annulment cases were being filed in the Church because many couples were opting to practice “cohabitation,” or living together without marriage.
“It’s becoming more and more common … there are fewer cases than before precisely because of the trend that they just live together. So if they do that, they could also part whatever time they like,” Cruz said.
But this does not mean that fewer Filipino couples are tying the knot in church, Cruz was quick to add.
In fact, new data collected by the CBCP showed a jump in the number of couples getting married in church, he said.
Based on the Catholic Directory of the Philippines, 186,367 couples sought the blessings of the Church from 2012 to 2013—a 12-percent increase from the 165,100 recorded in 2010 to 2011.
The Archdiocese of Caceres in Naga City recorded the highest number of church weddings with 23,235.