RH 2.0? Why Lagman thinks it's easier to pass divorce bill
MANILA, Philippines – Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman is confident that a much-awaited divorce law will pass the 17th Congress of the Philippines.
“People are receptive to absolute divorce,” said Lagman who headed the technical working group (TWG) for a bill that would introduce divorce in the Philippines.
A House panel recently approved the measure, and it is set to be deliberated upon by the House of Representatives during plenary session. (EXPLAINER: What are the grounds, provisions in House divorce bill?)
It would be historic in the Philippines, the only country in the world aside from Vatican City that has yet to introduce divorce.
“All countries, they already have a divorce law. That means to say, worldwide, there really is a need to give spouses in irremediably broken or lost marriages a chance a second chance at marital bliss,” said Lagman in an interview on Rappler Talk.
“People are receptive to absolute divorce. All surveys show that the majority of respondents are in favor of it,” added Lagman.
The veteran lawmaker, who headed efforts to pass the controversial Reproductive Health Bill during the 15th Congress, had earlier said he expected the enactment of the divorce law to be much easier.
Lagman told Rappler that barring any hitches, the measure should be passed into law by both chambers before the end of the 17th Congress or by 2019.
“Secondly, I think the Catholic Church is not as vehement in its opposition compared to the reproductive health bill where there were apprehensions that contraceptive products could lead to cancer, etcetera. In this case, there is no such argument,” said Lagman, explaining why he thinks divorce will be much easier to pass than the RH measure.
The law is expected to face strong opposition. In the House alone, several lawmakers led by Buhay Representative Lito Atienza have already announced their opposition to the bill.
Lagman said their apprehensions – that the bill would led to the breakdown of Filipino families – are addressed and acknowledge in the proposed law.
The proposed measure, entitled “An Act Providing for Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage in the Philippines,” places heavy emphasis on programs before and after marriage that aims to strengthen unions.
According to Lagman, provisions such as a prescribed 6-month “cooling off period” and one that allows the cancellation of the divorce decree should the couple have a change of heart, shows that the law still protects marriages that are not absolutely problematic.
“Divorce is the exception, not the general rule,” explained Lagman, dismissing the concerns from critics that a divorce law would lead to more separations. “[In Europe], [divorce] did not open the floodgates. Those are the statistics and data,” he said.
However, as optimistic as Lagman may be, there is no counterpart measure in the Senate yet. Lagman said Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano, a former senator, has been speaking with members of the upper chamber to sponsor a counterpart bill.
No less than Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has been pushing for the divorce bill in the House. Its proponents include legislators from various blocs, including the opposition – a rare feat in the oft-divided House of Representatives.
Lagman himself belongs to an independent opposition bloc.
Senate Majority Leader Senator Vicente Sotto III had earlier said the chance of the divorce bill being passed was “slim.” – Rappler.com