Divorce bill hurdles House committee level

MANILA, Philippines – The bill that would legalize absolute divorce in the Philippines is once again moving under the Duterte administration, after a House committee approved the measure on Wednesday, February 5.

The House committee on population and family relations unanimously approved House Bill (HB) No. 100 or the proposed Absolute Divorce Act authored by longtime advocate and Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman. 

Panel chairperson Maria Lucille Nava also appointed Lagman to head the technical working group that would consolidate HB No. 100 with the other divorce bills penned by Gabriela Women's Party Representative Arlene Brosas and Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon Alvarez.

Alvarez had been the Speaker when the House, under the previous 17th Congress, approved the divorce bill for the first time under President Rodrigo Duterte's term. This was also the farthest the measure has reached in the Philippines, which is the only other country without divorce, aside from Vatican City.

On Wednesday, Lagman himself moved for the approval of his bill, citing Section 48, Rule X of the House rules, which states that bills that have been identified as priority measures of the House and were approved on 3rd reading in a previous Congress may already be approved at the committee level. 

In his defense of the divorce bill, Lagman said it "may be distressing, but it is far from a death sentence."

"In fact, it can often save people from relationships and situations that can inflict more long-term emotional, psychological, and phsyical damage," Lagman said.

"Divorce is not a monster that will destroy marriages and wreck marital relationships. Let us [be] clear about this – the monsters that lead to the demise of a marriage are infidelity, abuse, financial problems, lack of intimacy and communication, and inequality," he added.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano already said he will not support the passage of the divorce bill, but vowed not to get in the way should a majority of House members back the measure once it reaches the plenary.

"Some believe that divorce is the solution, some like me do not believe that divorce is the solution.... But we are not stopping any of the committees from discussing all of these bills. I can tell you my personal stand, but hindi naman 'yung personal stand ko lang 'yung masusunod, 'di ba (but my personal stand isn't necessarily the view that would prevail, right)?" Cayetano said in October 2019.

In the Senate, the divorce bill remains pending at the committee level following strong opposition from conservative senators. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.