By: Emme Rose Santiagudo
THE alleged fake marriages uncovered at the Iloilo City Local Civil Registrar’s Office (LCRO) might be the handiwork of a judge who was previously terminated from the judiciary but continued to solemnize weddings in violation of the law.
This was disclosed by City Legal Officer Atty. Edgar Gil in an interview on Tuesday.
According to Gil, a lawyer identified only as “Judge Artuz” has been solemnizing marriages despite being terminated as a judge in 2017.
“Kun kaisa sa sagwa ginasolemnize, si Judge Artuz, gin-terminate na siya sa service as a judge sang August 29, 2017. Even if she is not authorized, sige pa siya gihapon solemnize sang marriage,” he said.
Gil emphasized that marriages formalized by unauthorized solemnizing officers are considered null and void.
Also, weddings officiated by judges must be held in his or her court or sala.
“Subong kun wala authority ang nag-solemnize, fake na ang marriage, null and void gid na ya from the beginning. Pero sige lang solemnize and process sa dalum (LCRO) so nag-continue until later na sa 2018, kadamo gid sang nabiktima,” he lamented.
In 2017, the Supreme Court (SC) ordered the dismissal from service of Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) Branch 5 Judge Ofelia M.D. Artuz for grave misconduct, dishonesty and falsification of official documents.
Former councilor Plaridel Nava filed the complaint against Artuz in 2006.
Artuz cannot be reached for comment.
Aside from unauthorized solemnizing officers, Gil said they received complaints of marriage fixing at City Hall.
According to Gil, some couples are paying fixers between P10,000 and P20,000 to hasten the processing of their marriage licenses.
“May isa ka inmate nga naghimo sang affidavit of complaint, ginspecify and ginpatpat ang process nga nagakatabo kun may gapakasal kapin pa kun overseas. For example, kun magpakasal ka, may seminar ka, may tree planting. Ang mga nagadali, nagabayad na lang sila para matagaan sila permit and license so amo na gakatabo. Along the way, damo ang naga-intercept sa opisina sa LCR, may P10,000 and P20,000, gin-fake nila ang marriage license,” he revealed.
Mayor Jerry Treñas announced on Monday that he will seek the help of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to probe the alleged fake marriages at the LCRO.
The mayor said that he received complaints on 180 fake marriages. Initially, the matter was referred to the City Legal Office (CLO), but Gil confirmed that they already endorsed the issue to the NBI for investigation.
Local Civil Registrar Office head Romeo Caesar Manikan Jr. clarified in previous interviews that the role of their office on the processing of marriage contracts is purely ministerial.
Manikan reiterated that their role is to only register the document, hence it is beyond the duty of the office to check and look into the other details, particularly the solemnizing officer.
Before the marriage, a couple who wish to wed either in a church or civil wedding must first apply for a wedding license, he explained.
The couple will have to apply for that license from the Local Civil Registrar of the place where either or both of them reside.
Some of the requirements are personal appearance of both parties before the LCRO, birth certificates, parental consent for couples between 18-21 years old, parental advice for 21-25 years old, and legal capacity to contract marriage for foreigners.
The couple are also required to attend a pre-marriage counselling.
If the wedding ceremony will be solemnized by a judge or an incumbent mayor or “civil wedding,” a tree planting will be required, Manikan explained.
After complying with the requirements, the parties will have to pay the fees and the LCRO shall enter all applications for marriage license.
The license is valid for 120 days from the date of issuance.
Under the law, mayors, members of the judiciary, and any priest or rabbi are authorized to solemnize marriages within their jurisdictions. In certain instances, ship captains or airplane chiefs, as well as military commanders and consul-generals or vice consuls are also given the authority.
Manikan said the LCR is only involved if the rite will be held within its jurisdiction.
He emphasized that it is the obligation of the solemnizing officers to register the marriage contract with the LCR through their representatives or the contracting parties.
Manikan added that only the court can determine if the marriage contract is fake or otherwise.
Meanwhile, Manikan said he welcomes the NBI investigation into the matter.