Tribunal Director, Rev. Fr. Dominic Santhiyagu, J.C.L, with Rev. Fr. Martin Arlando and Ms. Anne Nah visited 4 Tribunals in Philippines for a working cum learning visit. The visit was from the 25 till 27 October 2022. The purpose of this visit is to learn the good practices and the formation of the First Instance Tribunals in the Philippines. The 4 Tribunals consists of the Caloocan Tribunal, the Cubao Tribunal, the Antipolo Tribunal and the Pasig Tribunal.
Caloocan Tribunal Visit on 25 October 2022
We met their tribunal staff, Ms. Bea Lim who had prepared a folder on their coding system, practices and filing system together with a thumb drive of all the forms and tribunal practices used in their Tribunal. Ms. Bea shared that most of their forms were taken from the Catholic Formulary – Volume III: First Instance Marriage Nullity Acts. We were shown the room for Hearing and the room where the Respondent & Witnesses would be waiting while there is an ongoing hearing. They use an Express Scribe Transcription Software when conducting hearings in the Tribunal.
We had a meeting with Rev. Fr. Arden together with Ms. Bea Lim. Rev. Fr. Arden shared that the Caloocan Tribunal was established in 2017 when they withdrew formally from the Inter-Diocesan Tribunal of Manila. Rev. Fr. Dominic shared with them that we have an Inter-Diocesan (3 Dioceses) Tribunal under the Kuala Lumpur Archdiocese but we work independently from each other. He also shared that our Diocese’s intention is to set up a First Instance Tribunal and wanted to know the procedure in applying for First Instance Tribunal. Rev. Fr. Arden shared that their office wrote to the Roman Rota to apply for the First Instance Tribunal. Rev. Fr. Dominic requested for a sample letter for reference.
With regards to the Tribunal Practices, Ms. Bea Lim shared that based from experience they found that the Petitioner usually cannot do their Statement / Case History on their own. Sometimes, it was because of lack of supporting documents. The Tribunal have the Pre-judicial Marriage Counsellors (PJMC) who are from the Family Life Ministry or the Pre-Judicial Advocate (PJA) to help the Petitioner to prepare their Statement. They will meet the Petitioner about 2 or 3 times and also to ensure that all supporting documents for Nullity are in order. According to Ms. Bea, you see a mark difference between the Petitioner doing the statement on their own and a Petitioner who is assisted by PJMC/ PJA. The latter is more concise and have less questions before submitting into the Tribunal.
They code their cases according to ABCD. Code C is for those who made enquiries and a file will be open with an Enquiry No. Code B is for cases where the Tribunal are in receipt of incomplete documents. Ms. Bea will arrange for a PJMC/PJA to help them. The Enquiry No. is also used for cases with incomplete documents. Code A is for cases where all the supporting documents are complete. Upon receipt of the Petition/Libellus, a Protocol No. will be issued for the said case. Code D is for those files which have been completed or withdrawn.
Ms. Bea also shared that through experience with their postal office, they found that their letters to the Petitioner/Respondent could not be delivered. They have since used a courier service which provide documentary proof of receipt of their letters and at times, they used a personal delivery person to hand delivers the letters for cases which are in their vicinity.
Cubao Tribunal Visit on 26 October 2022
We met with the staff of the Cubao Tribunal i.e. Ms. Sweet and Ms. Valerie. We had the honour of attending an Oath-Taking Ceremony of an Ecclesiastical Notary, Ms. Blesida before Bishop Honesto Ongtioco at the Chapel of the Cubao Diocesan Centre.
We had a breakfast meeting with Bishop Honesto.
Then we were shown to their Tribunal Office and their hearing room which is equipped with the Multi-Functioning Meeting System. Previously, they were using the same system as Caloocan Tribunal. This new System is equipped with a sound mixer system, PC and flat screen TV for video recording of the meetings.
We had a hybrid meeting with the following: -
Rev. Fr. Jun Arvie (Judicial Vicar) who is currently based in Rome on the Profile of the Diocesan Tribunal;
Rev. Fr. Jaime Achacoso on the Pre-Judicial Marriage Course;
Ms. Blesilda on Judicial Pastoral Service;
Bro. Julius Callanga on the Tribunal Migrants’ Ministry (“Tribunal on Wheels”) especially networking with other Tribunal offices in other countries especially in Europe; and
Open Forum moderated by Ms. Chrisma.
The above hybrid meeting was recorded and they will forward the recording to their Social Communications Unit for editing. They have agreed to let us have the edited video recording of our hybrid meeting in due course.
We were given tour of the Diocesan Centre which house a reception hall at the top that is open for public to lease for functions, Social Communications and Media Department where there is a green room for video recording and a sound room for voice recording. The green room and the sound room are open to the parishes in Cubao Diocese for FREE to use for their video/voice recording. We also visited the Chancery, Finance and other Departments in the Diocesan Centre.
Antipolo Tribunal Visit on 27 October 2022 (morning session)
We met the staff of the Tribunal, Ms. Tess and Rev. Fr. Julius Paul who will be the judge auditor for a hearing. Then, we attended a hearing by the Petitioner where Rev. Fr. Julius Paul acted as Judge Auditor and Sr. Melanie as Defender of the Bond.
Pasig Tribunal Visit on 27 October 2022 (afternoon session)
We met Rev. Fr. Vicente Uy the Judicial Vicar of the Pasig Tribunal. We were informed that before they formally start a Marriage Tribunal case, Bishop Mylo and Rev. Fr. Vicente would meet up with the Petitioners in person on matters of Pastoral Care to assess their cases and the Judicial Offering in view that the Tribunal do not charge any fees for the Nullity Application. We attended the Preliminary Meeting between Rev. Fr. Vicente (Bishop Mylo was away) and 5 Petitioners. Then, we attended 2 hearings by the Petitioner and his witness where Rev. Fr. Vicente acted as Judge Auditor, Rev. Fr Jeffrey as Associate Judge and Sr. Melanie Reyes as Defender of the Bond.
Reported by: Ms. Anne Nah