House of Representatives

Despite questions, divorce bill hurdles 2nd reading at the House

Kaycee Valmonte

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Despite questions, divorce bill hurdles 2nd reading at the House

By Nancy Beijersbergen/Shutterstock

An absolute divorce bill is not likely to pass the Senate, however, given its current composition

MANILA, Philippines – A measure seeking to reinstate absolute divorce in the Philippines may again be inches away from getting a nod at the House of Representatives.

On Wednesday, May 15, lawmakers approved on second reading House Bill 9349, which provides divorce as a fourth way for couples to separate. There are currently only three ways in which spouses who got married in the Philippines can terminate their relationship: file a petition to dissolve the marriage, seek an annulment, or legal separation.

“We need a divorce law because these present modes may not be sufficient to give complete relief to spouses in distress,” said Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman when TINGOG Representative Jude Acidre pointed out the already available options for couples.

“Also, the present modes are expensive and take a long time to be decided so we are giving the spouses the option.”

Lagman, whose House Bill 78 was made to be the backbone of the proposal, noted that while the available options are fine to begin with, legalizing divorce would give couples a cheaper and faster route to separation.

He also highlighted that if the couple chooses divorce, “one of the important consequences [is] that they will be allowed to remarry.”

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‘Pro-woman’ legislation

During his interpellation, General Santos City District Representative Loreto “Ton” Acharon noted that the proposed measure is described as a “pro-woman legislation” and asked: Does this mean that the divorce law would be favoring one sector of society altogether? What about offended husbands?

“The husband could be the victim of marital violence in some exceptional cases… but we are saying that in the majority of cases, the wives are the victims of marital infidelity, marital violence, and marital abandonment,” Lagman pointed out.

“This is a ‘pro-woman legislation’ because the indelible data and statistics will show that in most cases, the woman is the victim.”

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority’s National Demographic Health Survey in 2022 found that 17.5% of women around the ages of 15 to 49 have experienced some form of physical, sexual, or emotional violence caused by partners, 15.2% suffered emotional abuse, 6.4% reported physical abuse, and 2.3% were abused sexually. (READ: Breaking the silence: How advocacy groups are helping abused women fight back)

It also found that among married respondents, nearly half or 48% identified their current husbands as the ones who caused them harm.

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There are only two countries that have yet to legalize divorce, the Philippines and the Vatican.

In the 17th Congress, the lower chamber under the leadership of ex-House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez approved on third reading a divorce bill. At the time, a similar bill was filed at the upper chamber by Senator Risa Hontiveros, but it languished at the committee level and senators ran out of time to discuss the proposed bill.

While the divorce bill has found supporters among congressmen, the same cannot be said for an absolute divorce bill filed at the Senate.

Lawmaker Senator Joel Villanueva, who chairs the committee on rules, is openly against divorce and is instead campaigning to make annulments cheaper as an alternative. –

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