The bill legalizing absolute divorce in the country hurdled committee approval on Tuesday, August 17 and is headed for the second time for plenary delbierations in the House of Representatives.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the principal authors of the bill, said “no less than Speaker Lord Allan Velasco” is supportive of the enactment of the still unnumbered measure.
The House Committee on Population and Family Relations chaired by Guimaras Rep. Ma. Lucille Nava approved the measure during a zoom meeting that was allegedly off-limits to the media.
The committee-approved measure consolidated three separate legislative measures proposing absolute divorce as an alternative for the dissolution of marriage.
A similar bill had been introduced for plenary deliberation during the 17th Congress, then headed by former Speaker and Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, author of House Bill 2263.
Authors of HB 838 include Makabayan bloc Reps. Arlene Brosas, France Castro, Sarah Jane Elago, Eufemia Cullamat, Carlos Zarate, and Ferdinand Gaite; and House Bill 2263 authored by Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez.
Lagman, who filed HB HB 100, said Velasco favored the enactment of a reinstituted absolute divorce law, pointing out that the incumbent House leader submitted “perfecting amendments” to the measure.
Velasco proposed the following amendments: (a) provisions on court-assisted petitioners; (b) community-based pre-nuptial and post-matrimonial programs; (c) community-based women’s desks to provide assistance and support to victims of violence and abuse; and (d) an appropriation language for the bill.
In his sponsorship remarks of the measure Lagman said the “bill reinstates absolute divorce because absolute divorce was already practiced during the pre-Spanish times, the American colonial period, and during the Japanese occupation.”
He said that with the unanimous approval of the substitute bill “today is a momentous occasion for countless wives, who are battered and deserted, to regain their humanity, self-respect and freedom from irredeemably failed marriages and utterly dysfunctional unions.”
The grounds for legal separation, annulment of marriage, and nullification of marriage based on psychological incapacity under the Family Code of the Philippines are included as grounds for absolute divorce and were amended to make said grounds cover causes arising after the solemnization of the marriage.
The other grounds for divorce are the following: (a) separation in fact for at least five (5) years at the time the petition for absolute divorce is filed; (b) when one of the spouses undergoes a gender reassignment surgery or transitions from one sex to another; (c) irreconcilable marital differences as defined in the bill; (d) other forms of domestic or marital abuse which are also defined in the bill; (e) valid foreign divorce secured by either the alien or Filipino spouse; and (f) a marriage nullified by a recognized religious tribunal.
Lagman said the effects of absolute divorce include the voiding of the marital union and capacitating the divorced spouses to remarry.
The veteran lawmaker noted that the Philippines is the only country in the world today which outlaws absolute divorce, aside from the almost celibate Vatican City state.
Lagman maintained that “it is hard to believe that all the other countries collectively erred in instituting absolute divorce in varying degrees of liberality and limitations. An en masse blunder is beyond comprehension. An erroneous unanimity on such a crucial familial institution defies reason and experience. Obviously, the rest of the world cannot be mistaken on the universality of absolute divorce.”