SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The enactment into law this 16th Congress of the proposed “Anti-Mail Order Spouse Act” became imminent after the House of Representatives and the Senate recently agreed on the final version of the measure.
The House approved on third and final reading on May 19, 2015 House Bill 5572 or the proposed “Anti-Mail Order Spouse Act” and subsequently referred it to the Senate for concurrence. The Senate on May 23, 2016 approved Senate Bill 3209 in substitution of HB 5572. On the same day, the House adopted SB 3209 as an amendment to HB 5572.
The adopted measure will now be referred to President Aquino for his approval and signature as a new law.
The proposed “Anti-Mail Order Spouse Act” provides for stronger measures against unlawful practices, businesses, and schemes of matching and offering Filipinos to foreign nationals for purposes of marriage of common law partnership, repealing for the purpose Republic Act No. 6955, also referred to as the “Anti-Mail Order Bride Law.”
The bill declares it is the State policy to protect and guarantee the individual rights of the Filipino people. Towards this end, the State shall prevent the exploitation of Filipinos, and protect them from unlawful practices, businesses, and schemes, which offer Filipinos for marriage to unscrupulous foreign nationals and expose them to abuse, exploitation, prostitution, and violent situations.
It shall be unlawful for any person, whether natural or juridical, to commit, directly or indirectly, engage in any business or scheme for money, profit, material, economic or other consideration which has for its purpose the matching or offering of a Filipino to foreign national for the purpose of marriage or common law partnership on a mail-order basis or through personal introduction, email, or websites in the internet.
It is also unlawful to exhibit, advertise, publish, print or distribute, or cause the exhibition, advertisement, publication, printing, or distribution of brochures, flyers or propaganda materials which are calculated to promote the prohibited acts in the preceding paragraph, or to post, advertise or upload such materials through a website in the internet.
Moreover, it is unlawful to solicit, enlist or in any manner attract or induce any Filipino to become a member in any club or association whose objective is to match Filipino nationals to foreign nationals for the purpose of marriage or common law partnership whether for free or for a fee.
Lastly, it is unlawful to use the postal service or any website in the Internet to promote the abovementioned prohibited acts.
The above notwithstanding, legitimate dating websites, which have for their purpose connecting individuals with shared interests in order to cultivate personal and dating relationships, are not covered by the Act.
Any person found guilty by the court to have committed any of the prohibited acts shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment for 15 years and a fine of P500,000 to P1 million.
Any person who shall abet or cooperate in the execution of the prohibited acts by previous or simultaneous acts shall suffer the same penalty.
If the prohibited act is committed by a syndicate or committed on a large scale, the offender shall suffer the penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a fine of P2 million to P5 million.
The prohibited act is deemed committed by a syndicate if carried out by a group of three or more persons conspiring or confederating with one another. The prohibited act is deemed committed on a large scale if committed against three or more persons, individually or as a group.
Any person who has knowledge of the commission of the unlawful acts and profits from it, assists the offender to profit from it, without having participated therein, either as principal or as accomplice, shall be punished as an accessory, to the offense committed and shall suffer the penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of P100,000 to P500,000.
If the offender is a foreigner, the offender shall be immediately be deported after serving the sentence and payment of fine and shall be barred forever from entering the country.
If the offender is a corporation, partnership, association, club, establishment, or any juridical person, the penalty shall be imposed upon the owner, president, partner, manager, or any responsible officer who participated in the commission of the prohibited acts or who shall have knowingly permitted or failed to prevent its commission.
The court may also suspend or revoke the license or permit to operate in the Philippines of the advertising agency, newspaper and magazine publisher, television or radio station, Internet websites, or other entities who commit any of the prohibited acts.
Within 90 days from the approval of the Act, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs shall, in coordination with the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Commission of Filipino Overseas (CFO), Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), and non-government organizations (NGOs) which are engaged in assisting victims of mail-order marriages and other schemes, promulgate the necessary rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the Act.
Senate Bill 3209 was prepared by the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, with Senator Pia Cayetano as author thereof.
Meanwhile, House Bill 5572 is authored by Reps. Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales, Alfred Vargas III, Xavier Jesus Romualdo, Erlinda Santiago, Luzviminda Ilagan, Maria Leonor “Leni” Gerona-Robredo, Emmi de Jesus, Marie Ann Pernes, Josephine Veronique Lacson-Noel, Linabelle Ruth Villarica, Eileen Ermita-Buhain, and Gina de Venecia.