Readers' Submissions

Philippines Documents – A(nother) Word Of Caution

I make no apology for mentioning this subject again. I have raised it several times in previous submissions detailing my experiences marrying and divorcing my Filipina wife. I was, in retrospect, lucky to have avoided even more complications. Others have not been so lucky and I have no doubt that yet more will encounter this morass in the future.

The spur for this submission was the news that a Filipino nurse, Victorino Chua, has today been convicted in the UK of murdering two patients and seriously harming others. His qualification certification from the Philippines has been brought into serious doubt. They are, to my experienced (personal and professional) eye, completely false. (See here). It prompted me to put forward this word of caution about Philippines documents in general – and of the specific areas possibly relevant here.

Why is this relevant or even of interest to the World of Stick? In my opinion (but – as always – I stand to be corrected) because:

1. Reading all of the submissions here, some seem to be (perhaps understandably) more drawn to Filipinas rather than to Thais, especially as Thailand changes. They generally have better English and can appear to have a more ‘loving and caring’ nature, be less mercenary, and are more prepared to leave their homeland for a new life in a new country.
2. Filipinas can seem to be (and perhaps can be) excellent ‘marriage material’ and there appear to be some readers / writers of submissions who are seeking exactly that.
3. The Philippines is a country (possibly the last) in which there is no divorce.
4. Most western countries have tightened their immigration procedures and are demanding more evidence – and examining that evidence in more detail than ever before.

I have no intention to stereotype or over-generalise, and this submission is based on personal experience and knowledge. I have experienced many Filipinas whose primary aim in life is to find a Western husband and move to his country for a better life – and you can’t blame them for that. But there are difficulties.

From what I hear and read, Filipino men are no more constant than their Thai counterparts when it comes to taking responsibility for their offspring. Taking off when pregnancy / birth occurs seems to be common. But there is (I think) a difference. In the Philippines – especially in the more traditional and conservative areas – no marriage often means no nookie or a shotgun wedding. Young marriage is usual, but unlike in Thailand there is no divorce. Not for adultery, not for violence, not for violence, whatever.

There is, of course, ‘annulment’. Many times whilst living as an ex-pat I met European guys who had taken up with married Filipinas and told me that they were ‘working towards’ an annulment so that they could marry and begin the immigration process to take their sweetheart back to their home country. I never met one who had achieved this or who had got significantly along the way. The grounds for annulment are quite tightly drawn and include (for example) one of the parties to the marriage being under age (undisclosedly), being pregnant with another man’s child, mental incapacity, etc. And an application for annulment has (as I understand it) to be made within a fairly short time-frame after the marriage.

So now to the paperwork side of things. As highlighted in the news story I began with, it’s possible in the Philippines (and many / most / all other countries?) to buy any certificate of anything you want. I know a guy who bought a certificate to ‘prove’ that his Filipina ‘wife’s’ husband had died so that he could marry her. The husband is alive and kicking. My ex-wife produced a birth certificate for her son showing that he was born out of wedlock, so she’d never been married. The official one was quite different.

Just a personal opinion here, but Filipinas seem to me to think only in the short term. In other words, if some document is required now, for this purpose, it can be obtained. Unfortunately they do not seem to grasp that at some stage that document may be compared with another and they can’t both be right.

Mention has been made of the ‘CENOMAR’ in other subs, or the ‘Certificate of No Previous Marriage’ or as it is known to Filipinas, the ‘Single Paper’. It looks impressive, with ribbon and seal, issued by the Philippines National Records Office and is a legal requirement in many jurisdictions to prove that the Filipina is free to marry (there is no divorce, remember). Oh, and just a point on that. If a Filipina is divorced outside the Philippines it is recognised in the Phils if she was the respondent (the one being divorced) but not if she was the petitioner (the one seeking divorce).

A moment’s thought will be enough to make the reader realise that the ‘Single Paper’ seeks to prove a negative. OK, maybe, if a marriage took place in the Philippines – the records system should capture that (I’ll come to that soon) but what if it was in Las Vegas, or the UK or (in my case) Cyprus? Well, they’ve thought of that, and Philippines law requires that a Filipina marrying abroad must notify their local Consulate or Embassy of their marriage so that it can be recorded back in Philippines National Records Office. Filipinas are not known for worrying about this sort of technical stuff.

The Philippines now has an on-line records registry and one can apply for records of births, marriages and deaths ($20 when I did it). The records have been compiled by scanning-in the local registers from district / local / regional offices. The local registers were vulnerable to ‘amendment’ before scanning and I rather suspect that the current records are a bit vulnerable too. (In my case, my newly-acquired step-son’s on-line and official birth certificate detailed all sorts of stuff about his parents’ marriage – the marriage register was blank and his mother’s ‘Single Paper’ had enough seals and ribbons to impress anyone. Her uncle was a senior man in the regional council office.)

I have been lucky, I think. My divorce is done and dusted. My doubts were referred to UKBA and probably went into the ‘too hard’ box. Had doubts been raised I may have had to go back to Cyprus to get the marriage declared bigamous and void (many years and much money) or gone to the High Court here in UK (many years and much money).

Filipina ex-wife has been lucky too. She is now married to a local bloke much older and much richer than me.

Stickman's thoughts:

If you cannot rely on the integrity of official documents, it really sounds like getting involved with a Filipina could be one giant headache.