House of Representatives

House takes another shot at divorce law

Dwight de Leon

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House takes another shot at divorce law
A House panel approves 'in principle' numerous bills on divorce and dissolution of marriage, to be consolidated by a technical working group

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives in the 19th Congress under the Marcos administration began tackling anew bills seeking to legalize divorce in the Philippines, which is among the only two countries in the world where it is not allowed.

The lower chamber’s population and family relations committee, chaired by Representative Ian Dy of Isabela’s 3rd District, approved “in principle” eight bills on divorce and dissolution of marriage, to be consolidated by a technical working group, which will be headed by Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman.

“Absolute divorce is urgently necessary in exceptional cases for couples in inordinately toxic and irreparably dysfunctional marriages, particularly the wives who are abused or abandoned,” Lagman said in his speech on Thursday, February 23. “The state has the responsibility of rescuing couples and their children from a house on fire.”

“People should be given a chance to correct wrong choices. And, upon closing that chapter and learning its lessons, they should be allowed to once again journey off and find a partner with whom they are truly compatible with; the kind who will really be a witness and companion to their life, in sickness and in health, till death do them part,” added Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon Alvarez, also a divorce bill proponent.

Other authors of divorce bills are representatives Arlene Brosas, France Castro, Juliet Marie de Leon, Doris Maniquiz, Raoul Manuel, Ronald Singson, Jocelyn Tulfo, and Edvic Yap.

Lagman’s motion, which was granted by the committee, left open the possibility of creating a separate or companion measure to the substitute divorce bill which would address “special concern on the civil recognition of marriages dissolved by the Catholic Church and other recognized religious denomination.”

This is because two of the bills taken up by the committee alongside divorce proposals on Thursday are about legalizing or recognizing the civil effects of church annulments. Authors are representatives Yedda Romualdez, Jude Acidre, and Pablo John Garcia.

“Once this bill becomes a law, a declaration of nullity of marriage decreed by the church will hold as much weight and will have the same effect as a civil annulment. This removes the burden of undergoing the civil annulment procedure,” Acidre said.

“Recognizing the civil effects of church annulment will address the need to ensure that those who find themselves in such a difficult marital situation will have the benefit of a more efficient and affordable procedure that can help ease their conscience,” he added.

Passing divorce has been an uphill battle in the Philippines, but significant strides have been made in the past.

In the 17th Congress, when Alvarez was House speaker under the Duterte administration, a divorce bill hurdled the House, in a contentious 134-57-2 vote.

A counterpart bill in the Senate by Senator Risa Hontiveros at the time, however, just languished at the committee level.

But even if the House approves divorce bill again, its prospects are dim in the Senate, where the majority leader is Senator Joel Villanueva, whose rules committee decides which bills are taken up in the plenary.

The conservative lawmaker already recently used his powers to delay the consideration of a bill seeking to prohibit discrimination on the basis of one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE).

Asked about his position on divorce, Villanueva said in 2019: “Over my dead body.” – Rappler.com

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.