By Ben Rosario
Troubled couples hoping for “quickie’ divorces are in for a major disappointment in the pending House of Representatives measure instituting divorce in the country, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the principal authors of the proposal, said today.
But Senior Minority Leader and Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza aired strong fears that what will be subjected to a “quickie” is the bill’s approval.
Atienza said there is a strong indication that unlike in the past when they stood united against abbreviated plenary deliberations on a controversial measure, the two independent opposition groups – Makabayan and Magnificent Seven – might ride with the House leadership’s bid to ensure a “quickie” approval of the consolidated divorce bill.
Unlike the swift approval of the much-criticized TRAIN and Charter change bills by the House majority, Makabayan and Magnificent Seven congressmen are principal authors of the divorce measure.
Atienza, who represents the Catholic-backed Buhay Partylist, called on the pro-divorce camp not to “bastardize parliamentary rules” and allow a free and broad discussion of the pros and cons of the bill strongly opposed by Catholic leaders.
“They must not use their distorted interpretation of parliamentary rule. This is a very important issue that must be discussed freely and extensively, it is about marriage and family,” Atienza said.
He is apparently referring to the “misguided use” observance of the “turno en contra” rules in order to limit the debate to three oppositors and two supporters of a bill.
Atienza said Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s pronouncement that the bill will be passed on or before the March 24 adjournment has aroused suspicions that plenary discussions will be abbreviated.
Alvarez also wanted the the equally contentious Bangsamoro Basic Law to be presented for voting by March 24.
A strong objector to railroaded legislative measures, Lagman, who is expected to defend the divorce bill during plenary debates, has yet to air a stand on Atienza’s warning.
However, Lagman has assured that the legislative measure will not allow ‘quickie” divorces.
He said the bill unequivocally provides that “no decree of absolute divorce shall be based on a stipulation of facts or confession of judgment,” which is a prohibition on a no-contest divorce.
Lagman, head of the Magnificent Seven, said “coerced petitions and convenient collusions” are also disallowed.
According to him, the Office of the Public Prosecutor is mandated to conduct investigations to determine whether or not there is collusion between the spouses.
The bill specifically provides that the “Office of the Public Prosecutor in provinces, cities and capital towns is authorized and obliged to conduct investigations to find out whether or not there is collusion between the spouses in a petition for absolute divorce and shall report its findings to the proper court within six months from the filing of the petition.”
Moreover, steep penalties of five years imprisonment and a P200,000 fine are imposable on a spouse who coerces the other into filing a petition for divorce as well as on colluding spouses.
Section 12 of the bill provides that “a spouse who is a party to a petition for absolute divorce who is found by the court to have used threats or coercion to compel the other spouse in filing the petition, and spouses who are guilty of collusion, shall be punished with imprisonment of five years and a fine of P200,000.
However, the divorce bill provides the conduct of summary proceedings for six grounds for troubled marriages.