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House passes divorce bill

Manila Standard

After weeks of plenary debates, the bill allowing absolute divorce in the Philippines has been approved by the House of Representatives.

This is a welcome development, but will the Senate pass it as well?

House Bill 9349, or the Absolute Divorce Act, sponsored by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, calls for a fourth mode of terminating what he described as “irreparably broken or dysfunctional” marriages in the country.

The three other modes allowed under the Family Code are canonical dissolution, annulment and legal separation.

If enacted into law, the bill would actually reinstate divorce in the country, since it was legal during the American colonial era and then abolished during the Japanese occupation.

According to Lagman, absolute divorce would allow estranged couples a second chance at marital bliss.

He argued while the Family Code states that a marriage is supposed to be a permanent union, “permanence here is not doctrinal. It is a standard or a norm because that permanence accepts exceptions even under the Family Code.”

HB 9349 would prohibit “no-fault divorces,” or cases where couples would collude to avail themselves of the remedy.

It is also designed not to be exploited for “Las Vegas (style), notarial, email and drive-through” divorces which are allowed in other countries, particularly in the United States.

The draft measure would offer divorce as an alternative mode for the “dissolution of an irreparably broken or dysfunctional marriage under limited grounds and well-defined judicial procedures.”

It also aims to “save the children from the pain, stress and agony consequent to their parents’ marital clashes or irreconcilable differences and grant the divorced spouses the right to marry again for another chance to achieve marital bliss.”

The House bill points out that “the option of absolute divorce is a pro-woman legislation because in most cases, it is the wife who is entitled to a divorce as a liberation from an abusive relationship and to help her regain dignity and self-esteem.”

The bill also provides for a “60-day cooling-off period” after the filing of a divorce petition to leave the door open for “a final attempt at reconciliation” between the spouses.

The grounds for absolute divorce adopt those applied to legal separation and annulment, and also include other forms of domestic abuse. The bill also sets a prescription period of 10 years from the discovery of the ground for divorce.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, chairperson of the Senate committee on women, has expressed hope her colleagues would support this measure: “It’s time to give a second chance at love and life to Filipino women, men, children and families who need it.”

We agree completely.

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