‘DEFECTIVE WEDDINGS’: PSA exec says powers of civil registrars are purely ministerial

CLIENTS of Philippine Statistics Authority process their documents at its office in Iloilo City. (DG file)

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

AN OFFICIAL of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in Western Visayas said the Local Civil Registrar Office (LCRO) has no power to question the authority of solemnizing officers in marriages due to its purely ministerial functions.

Mary Grace Dorilag, Registration Officer IV of the PSA- Regional Statistical Service Office-6, issued the statement amid the alleged fake marriages that were registered with the Iloilo City LCRO.

Mayor Jerry Treñas already asked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the issue.

Dorilag said the LCRO only processes the marriage licenses of couples before the wedding.

After the wedding and if the rite happened in its area of jurisdiction, the LCRO’s only duty is to register the marriage and check if all the requisites are complied such as the name of the husband and wife, witnesses, and the solemnizing officer.

Ang LCR upon processing marriage license, wala pa siya idea kun sin-o ang solemnizing officer sang duha ka couple then after sang kasal, ministerial lang ila function, i-check niya lang gid ang marriage contract and i-register so that may legal value na siya,” Dorilag explained in an interview on Friday.

Therefore, Dorilag emphasized the LCRO cannot question the authority of the solemnizing officer.

“No authority ang LCRO to question ang authority sang solemnizing officer kay ministerial lang ang ila function. Based sa procedure, wala man siya choice nga i-deny ang parties nga indi pag i-register,” she added.

The Iloilo City LCRO is in the spotlight following the complaints of alleged 180 fake marriages filed with Treñas’s office.

City Legal Office (CLO) head Edgar Gil had tagged a certain “Judge Artuz,” who was terminated from the judiciary in 2017, as the solemnizing officer of the alleged bogus wedding.

Gil also alleged that fixers operate at the LCRO to hasten the issuances of marriage licenses in exchange for money.

LCRO head Romeo Caesar Manikan Jr. has clarified in previous interviews that their office, too, was surprised by the “fake marriages” issue, emphasizing that their function is only ministerial.

According to Dorilag, the LCRO can be held liable when, for example, the office did not follow the required posting period or time for the registration of documents like marriage contracts.

Inang nag-register siya document without following the posting period, like instead of ten days posting, five days pa lang nag-issue na siya. Ina siya, one instance nga pwede mangin liable siya but kung nag-follow siya procedure nga ministerial, mabudlay siya i-accuse,” she added.




Dorilag said there is no such thing as a “fake marriage,” only “defective marriages.”

Under the Family Code, all marriages are deemed valid regardless of where the rite happened or how many times the person married, she stressed.

“Marriages are considered as sacred and maskin diin ka nagpakasal, gina-honor gid. There are marriages, however, nga may defect sa pag-conduct or ceremony or kulang ang parties, indi siya of legal age, or wala ka authority to solemnize sang isa ka kasal. Pwede man wala consent sang parents. Amo na ma-consider nga defects because wala na fulfill ang mga formal requisites of marriage,” she explained.

Dorilag also emphasized that only the court can nullify or annul a marriage.

“Sa court lang kay dapat may ara concerned party nga dapat mag-complain kay ang mga marriage nga ginakasal sang somebody nga solemnizing officer man is deemed valid unless ordered or declared by the court as void from the beginning or annulled,” she said.

If proven that the solemnizing officer is unauthorized but continued to solemnize marriages, Dorilag said he or she will face criminal and administrative charges.

Also, the authority of judges to solemnize weddings ends upon the resignation, retirement, termination of his/her license through an order from the Supreme Court or Sandiganbayan.

In the case of mayors, their authority will end once his/her term of office has expired, she explained.

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.



As regards to the role of the PSA, Dorilag said the office is mandated to issue a certificate of registration of authority to the solemnizing officers, particularly to pastors, priests or rabbi.

But, they are not allowed to issue certificates of authority to mayors and judges.

Ang gina-issuehan namon sang certificate amo lang ni siya ang pastors or priests pero wala kami ga-issue sang mga certificates sa mayor and judges kay ara na sa ila, attached sa ila position,” Dorilag explained.

Since their authority is innate, judges and mayors do not need any certificate from the PSA to solemnize marriages.

“Innate na sa ila position ang authority to solemnize. Bale once sila ang nagapungko or official pa sila kag indi pa sila retired like mga judges, pwede gid sila kakasal maskin wala sila certificate. Indi siya sakop sang PSA like tagaan sila sang certificate bag-o sila mag-solemnize,” she added.

When asked if the PSA can verify if a solemnizing officer is authorized to wed a couple, Dorilag said that they can only issue classification or verification if that officer is covered by a certificate of registration of authority from  the PSA such as pastors, priests, or rabbi.

Pwede lang kami ka-issue classification or verification kun covered siya sang certificate of registration or kun ginpa-register niya iya authority. So kun innate sa iya position, indi siya covered,” she noted.