MANILA – A bill that places heavy penalties for businesses peddling Filipino "mail-order spouses" is now a law, scoring a point for the protection of vulnerable single Filipinos.
The law, which was approved by the upper and lower houses earlier this year, was referred to then-President Benigno Aquino III for signing. However, as it was not signed by Aquino nor vetoed by President Rodrigo Duterte 30 days after being given to the Office of the President, it has become law.
Republic Act 10906, or the “Anti-Mail Order Spouse Law,” makes it illegal for anyone to have a business matching a Filipino to a foreign national for marriage or common law partnership through personal introduction, email, snail mail, website, or advertisement on traditional media.
The law also sanctions clubs that aim to introduce Filipinos to foreigners in order to allow them to broker a marriage or common-law partnership.
Previously, the “Anti-Mail Order Bride Law” only covered the matching of Filipino women for marriage to foreign nationals. This new law protects “Filipino spouses” and also includes digital platforms, but not including social media sites.
DATING SITES, SOCIAL MEDIA NOT INCLUDED
While protecting against immediate permanent arrangements, the law does not cover dating websites, or businesses which only aim to let foreigners meet Filipinos for purposes other than marriage or common law partnerships.
This is a good thing, said Jelen Paclarin, executive director of the Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau. Many men and women, she said, look for and find true love online, and so must not be judged unfairly.
She approved of the law’s coverage of businesses by “marriage brokers” as it has become common for men and women to become victims of these entrepreneurs who sell jobs in Japan and Korea, where brokering is legal, through marriage.
Brokers tell Filipinos they can get jobs abroad if they marry, Paclarin said, but this is not true as in many cases, they will need a resident visa and will not get their spouse’s citizenship upon marriage.
It is also good that the law does not include social media, Paclarin said.
“It is dangerous to expand this law to social media, because that will require surveillance. Effective ang law na ito to address marriage brokers,” she said.
She emphasized that the law is not enough of a deterrent, though, to get rid of trafficking and marriage brokering in the country.
“Dapat may continuing education. Government should talk to media [and spread information through the media] about the protection of Filipinos who are recruited by people they trust,” she said.
If found guilty, a person or anyone found to be assisting the guilty party will be imprisoned for 15 years and fined P500,000 to P1 million.
If the prohibited acts are committed by a syndicate or on a large scale, the penalty is increased to 20 years imprisonment, and a fine ranging from P2 million to P5 million.
Foreigners found guilty will be deported after they pay the fine and serve out their prison sentence. They will also be banned from reentering the Philippines.
If corporations, meanwhile, violate the law, their top officers will bear the brunt of the crime.
Advertising agencies, newspaper and magazine publishers, broadcast companies, and internet companies are also covered by the law.