divorce in the Philippines

House defers transmittal of approved divorce bill to Senate

Kaycee Valmonte

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House defers transmittal of approved divorce bill to Senate

EXTRA SECURITY. After "some members" of the House of Representatives allegedly receive bomb threats, House Secretary General Reginald Velasco said on February 5, 2024 that the chamber is implementing security measures akin to SONA protocol.

2024 Kaycee Valmonte/Rappler

Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman, principal author of the divorce bill in the lower chamber, expresses his disagreement with the move in a letter to House Secretary General Reginald Velasco

MANILA, Philippines – House Bill 9349, or the measure allowing absolute divorce, was not immediately transmitted to the Senate, despite getting approved on third and final reading on May 22. 

House defers transmittal of approved divorce bill to Senate

Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman, principal author of the controversial bill, raised this to House Secretary General Reginald Velasco in a letter dated Wednesday, May 29.

He said he was informed that the Office of the Secretary General “deferred the transmittal to the Senate” of the approved bill, and that “the purported reason for the delay is that there is need to report for the Plenary’s action the corrected affirmative votes from 126 to 131.”

“I beg to disagree. There is no need to wait. Whether the affirmative margin was 126 against 109, as initially reported by the staff of the Office of the Secretary General, or 131 to 109 as subsequently corrected on the same day, the irreversible fact is that the affirmative votes got the majority of those who voted with the presence of the quorum and without the abstentions being counted,” he said in his letter to Velasco.

Lagman stressed that the correction did not change the outcome of the vote. “In fact, no member of the House has officially protested challenging the result,” he added.

He said that “the correction can be made when the House opens its Third Regular Session on 22 July 2024, without prejudice to the mandate of the House for the Secretary General to transmit immediately to the Senate the engrossed copy of the approved absolute divorce bill.”

Legalizing divorce in the country remains a divisive topic among lawmakers. Of the 20 House members who explained their votes last week, 14 stressed their resounding no votes – citing reasons such as wanting to protect the “sanctity of marriage” or the foundations of a family, and some saying that legalizing divorce in the country would not reflect Roman Catholic or Christian values. 

Camarines Sur 3rd District Representative Gabriel Bordad earlier said that his constituents “tend to be rather conservative when confronted with matters with religious undertones.” In his staff’s informal surveys, the majority of his constituents do not support the divorce bill.

The Philippines is one of two countries in the world without a divorce law. The second is Vatican City whose residents are mostly priests and nuns. 

“The push for divorce legalization goes beyond international conformity,” Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas had said in explaining her affirmative vote on May 22.  “It is fundamentally about providing abused women a pathway to escape domestic violence and rebuild their lives.”

Allowing divorce in the country has been an uphill battle for advocates. A divorce bill also passed in the lower chamber for the first time in 2018, during the 17th Congress, but its Senate counterpart bill languished at the committee level.

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– Rappler.com

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