Senate of the Philippines

Where do senators stand on divorce bill?

Bonz Magsambol

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Where do senators stand on divorce bill?

SENATE HUDDLE. Senators huddle before the final reading of Senate Bill No. 2534 'An act providing for a One Hundred Pesos minimum wage for employees in the private sector', on February 19, 2024.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

At least seven senators are said to favor the divorce bill, for now

MANILA, Philippines – Will the divorce bill finally hurdle the Senate?

On Wednesday, May 22, the House of Representatives approved a measure that seeks to allow couples to terminate their marriage through absolute divorce. The vote showed a sharp division in the lower chamber with 131 affirmative votes, 109 no votes, and 20 abstentions.

The opposition of the Catholic Church and other Christian groups have been among the biggest hindrances to the passage of the divorce bill. The Philippines and Vatican City are the only countries in the world without a divorce law.

It was the second time for the House to pass the divorce bill. The first was in the 17th Congress in 2018 but the Senate’s counterpart measure languished at the committee level.

In September 2023, the Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality approved a consolidated measure on absolute divorce in the country. (READ: Divorce bill hurdles Senate committee level)

Earlier in May, then-Senate majority leader Joel Villanueva said the Senate was still studying the proposed measure.

With the passage of the divorce bill at the House, where do senators now stand on the controversial measure?

In favor

Senators who are in favor of Senate Bill No. 2443 are the authors of the consolidated measure: senators Risa Hontiveros, Raffy Tulfo, Robinhood Padilla, Pia Cayetano, and Imee Marcos.

Senator JV Ejercito said in a statement on Tuesday, May 28, that he favored legalizing divorce in the country. “Sometimes, things just don’t work out…. I am leaning at this time to be in favor of legalizing divorce,” he said on X.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, who unlike his half-brother is not in favor of the divorce bill, released to the media the results of his own survey on where senators stand on the proposed measure. It showed Senator Grace Poe also supposedly in favor of the bill, bringing the number of senators supporting the bill to seven.

In 2019, Poe had said that she was more inclined to support the divorce bill after she saw how women in troubled marriages suffered, but she also wanted safeguards in place to protect the law from abuse. Until that time, Poe had pushed for making the annulment of marriages more accessible in the country, instead of legalizing divorce.


Senator Joel Villanueva is among the most vocal opponents of the divorce bill in the upper chamber. Villanueva and his father, CIBAC Representative Eddie Villanueva, founder of religious group Jesus is Lord (JIL) movement, are against the divorce bill.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada is also opposed to the measure. “Instead of pushing for an absolute divorce law, which is proscribed by the Constitution, perhaps a bill with a well-defined ground for nullifying a marriage would be a much welcomed alternative,” he said.

Newly installed Senate President Francis “Chiz” Escudero said that he would “rather make annulment affordable and accessible.” The cost of annulment in the Philippines ranges from P150,000 to P300,000, depending on several factors, such as lawyer’s fees, court fees, and other professional fees.

“It’s good to weigh (the issues) because half the members voted for and there are also half of the legislators who voted against and virtually telling us not to tackle that,” Escudero said, referring to the results of voting at the House.

In explaining why he is not in favor of legalizing divorce in the Philippines, Senator Migz Zubiri said: “I’m a conservative senator. I’m pro-family and pro-life.”

Past statements

Other senators have not made known their current position on the divorce bill as of posting time. Senators Sonny Angara and Bong Revilla said that they would study the proposed measure first before making a stand.

On the campaign trail for his first crack at the Senate in 2013, Angara promised Archbishop Paciano Aniceto that he would not support the legalization of divorce in the country, after the latter urged him to protect the sanctity of marriage.

Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel and Senator Nancy Binay had previously issued statements opposing a divorce law in the country.

Senator Cynthia Villar was among those were not in favor of the divorce bill in 2018, along with senators Francis Tolentino and Sherwin Gatchalian.

In 2020, then-House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said he was against divorce, consistent with his past statements on the topic.

Rappler will update this story once other senators publicize their stand on the divorce bill. –

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.