Lawmakers consolidate divorce bills

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 13 2018 10:35 PM

MANILA - Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, chair of the lower House technical working group on the bills for divorce and dissolution of marriage, said these may be approved at the committee level next week.

"The TWG has already met this morning consolidating the 4 bills pertinent to the grant of absolute divorce," Lagman told reporters Tuesday.

"Hopefully before March 8, the international day for women, this bill will already be taken up in the plenary."

"It includes the grounds for legal separation annulment of marriage, nullification of marriage, psychological incapacity, irreconcilable differences, and when one of the spouses has undergone transgender surgery."

Lagman assured the bill is constitutional and does not violate the constitutional provision on the sanctity of marriage.

"It is not an affront to the constitutional provision on the sanctity of marriage as a basic social institution because what is subject to divorce proceedings are marriages long dead or vitiated from the very start. In the language of the Supreme Court, it is giving a decent burial for a cadaver of a marriage," he said.

Lagman added they also are making the process cheap for indigents.

"We are also crafting the substitute bill to reduce expense on the part of the petitioner. In most cases, the petitioner is the aggrieved wife, we are taking into consideration the concept of an indigent litigant who will be exempted from paying court fees," he said.

"We're also having a provision to have the court appoint de officio counsel. Then we are also having a provision that the court can appoint social workers psychiatrists, as well as psychologists, when necessary because these are the professional fees and attorney's fees which really increase the cost of enrollment proceedings today."

To cut down costs, Lagman said some grounds will be made subject to shorter summary proceedings. 

"We have also selected a number of grounds which could be subject to summary judicial proceedings in order to expedite the process," he said. 

"If one has already gotten a legal separation, the judicial decision will be the basis for the grant of divorce. Di na kailangan marami pa kwento 'pagkat nakuha mo na legal separation, may judicial decision."

Lagman added that they are making sure there will be no collusion between couples. 

"We are also providing for joint petitions but subject to the investigation of the office of public prosecutor in order to ascertain there is no collusion between the spouses," he said.

But while divorces under their proposal won't take too long, it also won't be very easy. 

"I would not say weeks. there's supposed to be a cooling period of 6 months in some cases. Pag binubogbog ang asawang babae, wala na cooling off period yun," he said.

He added that this will be easier to pass than the Reproductive Health Law. 

"I assure you this bill is easier to enact than the RH bill no less than the Catholic church has its own canonical divorce or what we say canonical dissolution of marriage," he said.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat echoed this sentiment. 

"Even iyung mga resource persons na faith-based organizations during the committee hearings acknowledged there's a need to provide for more solid grounds whether its annulment or divorce," he said.

Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, their ally in the opposition, however, opposed the bill. 

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez had cited unhappiness in a marriage as a ground in his original proposal.

"Considering the fact, without offense to people concerned, it seems that especially coming from the speaker prescribing that kind of values to the majority of Filipino people I'm not really comfortable," he said.

Alejano is concerned this proposal will encourage break-ups of married couples. 

"I believe in the sanctity of the marriage, I think the problems mostly married people encountered may be due to their being unprepared before they get married," he said.

Lagman assured everyone that there will be no flimsy grounds for divorce. 

If the measure is approved by the committee as scheduled, the approval will be historical as being the farthest any such proposal has come in the legislative mill in this predominantly Catholic country which remains as one of the 2 countries in the world without a divorce law.