MANILA — The House of Representatives has approved on second reading a bill that seeks to protect Filipino men and women against unlawful matchmaking activities and similar schemes using the postal service and the Internet.
Once approved and signed into law, House Bill 5572 shall repeal Republic Act 6955, also known as the Anti-mail Order Bride Law, which was enacted in 1990, Rep. Linabelle Ruth R. Villarica (4th District, Bulacan), chairperson of the House Committee on Women and Gender Equality, said.
“Towards the approval of the measure, the State shall prevent the exploitation of Filipinos, male and female, and protect them from unlawful practices, businesses, and schemes which offer Filipinos for marriage to unscrupulous foreign nationals and expose them to abuse, exploitation, prostitution, and violent situations,” Villarica said.
RA 6955 outlawed mail-order bride services in the Philippines, banning the practice of matching specifically Filipino women for marriage to foreign nationals using mail, advertisement, publication, printing or distribution of brochures, fliers and other propaganda materials.
Under the law, violators shall suffer an imprisonment of not less than six years and one day but not more than eight years and a fine of not less than P8,000 but not more than P20,000.
With House Bill 5572, to be known as the Anti-Mail Order Spouse Act, it shall be unlawful to match both Filipino men and women for marriage or common law partnership to foreign nationals using the postal service and the Internet.
The measure substituted House Bills 222 and 2892 authored by Reps. Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales (Party List, CIBAC) and Alfredo D. Vargas III (5th District, Quezon City), respectively.
Cruz-Gonzales said the measure aims to protect not only Filipino women but Filipino men as well against unscrupulous individuals who operate unlawful matchmaking activities and similar schemes through media, particularly the Internet.
According to Cruz-Gonzales, with the mail-order bride services outlawed in the Philippines under RA 6955, companies devoted to matching men with Filipinas have just moved into cyberspace.
“With the advent of the internet, online matchmaking websites have proliferated and largely replaced traditional paper-based classifieds,” Cruz-Gonzales said.
By strengthening the law, Cruz-Gonzales was confident that the government would be able to better protect Filipino men and women from what some sectors described as “the new era’s professional prostitution or high end pornography through the web.”
Vargas noted that RA 6955 has failed to curb the perils of women trafficking and failed to anticipate the proliferation of the mail-order bride industry in the Internet.
“At present, it has also been a trend for Filipino men to be engaged in mail-order spouse schemes and RA 6955 does not protect them from falling prey to exploitation,” Vargas said.
The proposed “Anti-Mail Order Spouse Act” prohibits any business or activity, including those matchmaking websites, which offer membership whether for free or with a fee and have for their purpose the matching of Filipinos for marriage or common law partnership to foreign nationals on a mail – order basis, through personal introduction or through emails or websites in the Internet.
Under the measure, it is unlawful to exhibit, advertise, publish, print or distribute, or cause the exhibition, advertisement, publication, printing or distribution of any brochure, flier or any propaganda material, including those distributed and made available through the internet, which are calculated to promote the prohibited acts in the measure.
The measure prohibits any solicitation, enlistment or in any manner attract or induce any Filipino to become a member in any club or association whose objective is to match Filipinos for marriage or common law partnership to foreign nationals on mail-order basis, through personal introduction or through emails or websites in the internet whether for free or with a fee.
It is also unlawful for the administrator, manager, publisher, editor-in-chief or officer-in-charge or advertising manager of any newspaper, magazine, television or radio station, of other media including internet websites and other schemes made available through the worldwide web, or of an advertising agency, printing company or other similar entities, to allow or consent to the acts prohibited by the proposed act.
Violators will be penalized with imprisonment of 15 years and a fine of not less than Php500,000 but not more than Php1,000,000.
If the violator is a foreigner, the offender shall be immediately deported and barred forever from entering the country after service of sentence and payment of a fine.
When the crime is committed by a syndicate or in a large scale, any person found guilty shall suffer the penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a fine of not less than Php2,000,000 but not more than P5,000,000.
Co-authors of the bill are Villarica and Reps. Xavier Jesus Romualdo (Lone District, Camiguin), Erlinda Santiago (Party List, SAGIP), Luzviminda Ilagan (Party List, GABRIELA), Emmi de Jesus (Party List, GABRIELA), Marie Anne Pernes (Lone District, Siquijor), Josephine Veronique Lacson-Noel (Lone District, Malabon), and Maria Leonor Gerona-Robredo (3rd District, Camarines Sur).