Feature: New law strengthens anti-Mail Order Bride efforts in PH

A new legislative measure strengthening the Republic Act 6955 or the Anti- Mail Order Bride Act is enacted into law on July 21, 2016. The Republic Act 10906 or An Act Providing Stronger Measures against Unlawful Practices, Businesses, and Schemes of Matching and Offering Filipinos to Foreign Nationals for Purposes of Marriage or Common Law Partnership widens the scope of RA 6955 which only covers Filipino women. The new law mainly prohibits anybody engaging in any business or profitable schemes that match and/or offer Filipinos to foreign nationals for purposes of marriage or common law partnership through mail-order basis, personal introduction, email or websites in the internet. Other prohibited acts include exhibiting, printing, or distributing materials which promote the mail-order spouse industry; attracting or inducing any Filipino to join any club or association that matches Filipinos to foreign nationals for a fee; and using postal service or websites on the internet in promoting this law's prohibited acts. The salient features of the new law are the inclusion of Filipino men against acts of matching for purposes of marriage or common law partnership to foreign nationals; matching through the use of internet; confiscation and forfeiture of proceeds and instruments derived from committing the prohibited acts in favor of the government; and provision on the formulation of an implementing rules and regulations. It also imposes stiffer penalties on its violation. Any person found guilty of committing or cooperating in the prohibited acts shall suffer 15 years of imprisonment and shall pay a fine ranging from Php 500,000 to Php 1 million. If committed by a syndicate or committed on a larger scale, the offender shall suffer 20 years of imprisonment and a fine ranging from Php 2 million to Php 5 million. To ensure the prevention, protection, and rehabilitation for victims of mail-order spouse scheme, this law mandates the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), and the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) to conduct programs such as constant monitoring and formulating of policies pertinent to the scheme, and the mandatory provision of temporary shelter, free legal assistance, case management, psychological support, and other intervention programs for the victims. Furthermore, the CFO is mandated under the new law to conduct pre-departure counseling services for Filipinos who have contracted marriages with foreign nationals, case studies and researches on intermarriage, and information campaigns against the unlawful acts and other similar schemes. As a member of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), the CFO is tasked to safeguard Filipinos from schemes which promote human trafficking, slavery, and other forms of exploitation especially those in the guise of intermarriages. Thus, CFO persistently lobbied to the Congress for the passage of the law. In fact, most of CFO's proposals for its then-enrolled bill have been incorporated in the law. These are: 1. Prohibiting of matching both Filipino men and women for marriage or common-law partnership to foreign nationals. 2. Declaring the operation of the mail-order spouse industry through the internet as unlawful. 3. Confiscation and forfeiture of proceeds and instruments from the mail-order spouse industry in favor of the government. 4. Mandatory recovery and rehabilitation services for the victims. 5. Provision on the formulation of an implementing rules and regulations, and; stiffer penalties on its violation. The said law was mainly sponsored by former Senator Pia Cayetano and Representative Alfred Vargas III. During her sponsorship speech, Senator Cayetano pointed out that there is an undeniable existence of exploitation upon men and women hiding behind the intermarriage facade. This reality will now be confronted by the newly passed-law that will protect Filipinos against abuse, prostitution, and exploitation from schemes which offer Filipinos marriage to unscrupulous foreign nationals. The latest records of the CFO show that there is an annual average of more than 17,000 marriage migrants who leave the Philippines for the last three years. They are mostly bound to United States of America, Japan, Australia, South Korea, and Canada.

Source: Philippine Information Agency