divorce in the Philippines

Divorce bill hurdles Senate committee level

Bonz Magsambol

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Divorce bill hurdles Senate committee level
(1st UPDATE) Aside from the Vatican City, the Philippines is the only country in the world without a divorce law

MANILA, Philippines – For the first time since the restoration of a bicameral legislature after the EDSA Revolution, a Senate committee on women, children, family relation, and gender equality on Tuesday, September 19, approved a consolidated measure on absolute divorce in the country.

Senate Bill No. 2443 was the consolidated measure filed by Senators Risa Hontiveros, Raffy Tulfo, Robin Padilla, Pia Cayetano, and Imee Marcos. If passed, it will provide “protections to the parties to the marriage and its common children, amending for this purpose executive order no 209, or the family code of the Philippines.”

Aside from the authors, Senators JV Ejercito, Grace Poe, Koko Pimentel and Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda signed the report.

Under the bill, absolute divorce was defined as “the legal termination of a marriage by a court in a legal proceeding, requiring a petition or complaint for divorce by one or both party/ies, which will have the effect of returning both parties to the status of single for all legal intents and purposes, including the right to contract a subsequent marriage.”

A petition for divorce must be filed by one or both spouses, which would have “the effect of returning both parties to the status of single for all legal intents and purposes, including the right to contract a subsequent marriage.”

What are the grounds for divorce?

  • Five years of separation, whether continuous or broken, without a judicial decree of separation;
  • The commission of the crime of rape by the respondent-spouse against the petitioner-spouse, whether before or after the celebration of their marriage;
  • The grounds for legal separation under article 55 of the Family Code or any other special law;
  • A final decree of absolute divorce validly obtained in a foreign jurisdiction by any Filipino citizen, regardless of who they married;
  • Irreconcilable marital differences or irreparable breakdown of the marriage, despite earnest efforts at reconciliation, subject to a cooling off period of 60 days pursuant to Section 8 of this Act;
  • A marriage annulment or dissolution, duly authorized by a church or religious entity, or a marriage termination duly authorized by customs and practices traditionally recognized, accepted and observed by an ICC or IP to which the parties belong, having the same effect as a decree of divorce, annulment, dissolution or declaration of nullity issued by a competent court.

In March, the House of Representatives approved the counterpart measure at the committee level.

“Spouses, especially wives, will soon have the option of getting out of an irremediably broken marriage and get a new lease on life with the approval by the House Committee on Population and Family Relations of the bill reinstituting absolute divorce in the Philippines,” Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman said in a statement. He is the principal author of the House version of the bill.

Attempts at Divorce bill

Opposition of the Catholic Church and other Christian groups have been one of the biggest hindrances to the passage of the divorce bill. This has left the Philippines the only country in the world, apart from Vatican City, without a divorce law.

In 2016, Senator Loren Legarda filed Senate Bill 410 that seeks to prescribe an additional ground for annulment. Under Legarda’s bill, a marriage involving parties who have been separated in fact for at least 5 years may be annulled.

In 2018, the Lower Chamber approved on third and final reading a House Bill 7303 which seeks to introduce divorce and the dissolution of marriage in the Philippines. But this fizzled out as no counterpart measure was passed in the Senate. The bill languished in the Senate committee level due to the lack of time to hear the divorce bill.

In 2019, Senator Joel Villanueva said that he would not support any bill on divorce. “Divorce? Over my dead body,” he said.

While the House would always pass bills on divorce, the fate of the controversial measure suffers at the hands of the Senate, whose leaders and members are deemed conservative. – Rappler.com

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.