ASEAN chief justices tackle cross-border child custody rows

BORACAY, Philippines – Judiciaries within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will work together to better address cross-border child custody rows due to collapsed marriages between nationals of two different countries in the region.

ASEAN chief justices and judiciary leaders agreed on Monday, March 2, to form a working committee co-chaired by Philippine Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro to tackle the matter more closely.

Singapore Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon had raised the issue discussed during Monday's 3rd ASEAN Chief Justices Meeting here in Boracay island.

In an interview with reporters here, Sereno said such a discussion tabled by the Singapore leader marks "important strides in trying to ensure a better environment for people to live progressively in this region."

"As the political leaders of the ASEAN are moving towards closer cooperation, we in the judiciary have the duty to ensure that the rule of law prevails," she added.

The closed-door, high-level meeting is meant to create better understanding among ASEAN member-states of good judicial practices in the region and set the direction in addressing important cross-border legal challenges the bloc faces. It ended at around 2 pm.

Integration for the people

Prior to the meeting, which ran for over 4 hours, Sereno said the child custody rows resulting from mixed marriages is a "social issue that is a concern to many Filipino families."

Sereno urged the Philippine legislature "to move progressively forward" in the matter of "policy towards children of mixed marriges."

"Because these problems are cropping up not only in the domestic front but you can see it in various forms [in] many international jurisdictions," she said.

She said the ASEAN chief justices will also look into "how to minimize the impact of these discordant relationships in the ASEAN for the child."

The ASEAN economic integration, she said, is ultimately meant "not to serve the governments" but to protect "the common will of the individual" and "uphold human dignity in its various forms."

Sereno, who led the discussion, is the only female chief justice in ASEAN since 2012. (READ: Sereno lone female chief justice in ASEAN meeting)

Dignitaries present

Present in the closed-door meeting were Chief Justice Kifrawi Bin Dato Paduka HJ of Brunei; Chief Justice Tun Aripin Bin Zakaria of Malaysia; Chief Justice Htun Htun Oo of Myanmar; Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon of Singapore; Chief Justice Hoa Binh Truong of Vietnam; Chief Justice Muhammad Hatta Ali of Indonesia; Vice President of the Supreme Court Ottara You of Cambodia; Vice President of the Supreme Court Khampa Sendara of Lao PDR; and Justice Eakadi Chinnapongse of Thailand.

Before Monday's meeting, the ASEAN chief justices and judiciary leaders were welcomed by local government officials and Philippine legal luminaries in a welcome dinner featuring performances from locals in Aklan province.

Also in Boracay are SC Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo, Martin Villarama, Jr, Jose Portugal Perez, Jose Catral Mendoza, Bienvenido Reyes, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, and Marvic Leonen.

Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Andres Reyes, Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, and Court of Tax Appeals Presiding Justice Roman Del Rosario are also here.

The guests are set to leave the island Tuesday, March 3. – Rappler.com