MANILA - The House of Representatives has approved on second reading a bill legalizing divorce and dissolution of marriage in the Philippines.
This is the first time such a bill has been tackled and approved by the lower chamber.
The bill will be put to a vote on the third and final reading within 3 session days from Wednesday.
Debates on the bill, primarily authored by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, were terminated Tuesday night after only 2 lawmakers registered to interpellate.
The other authors are Representatives Robert Ace Barbers, Emmi de Jesus, Arlene Brosas, Teddy Baguilat, Rodel Batocabe, Ariel Casilao, France Castro, Nancy Catamco, Pia Cayetano, Sarah Elago, Gwendolyn Garcia, Ana Cristina Go, Antonio Tinio, Carlos Zarate, Feliciano Belmonte, Kaka Bag-ao, Doy Leachon and Eleonor Bulut-Begtang.
Both interpellations by Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza and Cebu Rep. Raul del Mar were finished. Atienza, who is against the measure, delivered a speech but did not ask questions to Lagman.
The bill seeks to provide the opportunity for spouses in failed marriages to secure an absolute divorce decree under limited grounds and well-defined judicial procedures; to protect the children from the pain and stress resulting from their parent's marital problems and to grant the ex-spouses the right to marry again.
The bill provides that the state shall ensure inexpensive and affordable court proceedings in securing an absolute divorce decree.
It also seeks to provide for the grounds on the grant of an absolute divorce decree to include grounds for legal separation and annulment of marriage under the Family Code of the Philippines, separation in fact for at least 5 years, legal separation by judicial decree for at least 2 years, psychological incapacity, gender reassignment surgery, irreconcilable differences and joint petition of spouses.
The bill would also prioritize overseas Filipino workers with respect to court hearings while mandating summary proceedings for certain grounds of absolute divorce to facilitate and eliminate costly and cumbersome court process.
It will also provide for a mandatory 6-month cooling off period for petitioner spouses, during which there will be no action on a petition 6 months after one is filed.
It also states the effects of absolute divorce on the right of the spouses to remarry, the conjugal partnership of gains, the children and their legitime, donation and alimony.
It recognizes the reconciliation of the spouses through a joint manifestation under oath submitted to the court while providing options for a one time grant of alimony. It also provides options for delivering the presumptive legitime if the spouses are still living.
Alvarez originally authored a bill legalizing dissolution of marriage but it was consolidated into HB No. 7303 with the other bills legalizing divorce.
Atienza earlier predicted that the bill would be dead in the water at the Senate.
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez and Atienza believe the Senate would not take up the divorce bill.
"Marami kaming pinaghihirapan dito, nagdedebate kami, nagkakasamaan pa kami ng loob pagkatapos naming magawang matapos then it will just be parked in the Senate without any action, and I think ito ganun din mangyayari kahit na 'yung divorce ipasa namin dito pagdating doon. Barangay election pa-park din nila, death penalty naka-park din sa kanila," said Suarez, referring to measures seeking to postpone anew the village polls and reviving death as capital punishment.
Atienza echoed this, saying: "Di pag-uusapan sa Senado 'yan. Dito init na init 'yung mga kasama ko. Naniniwala ako mga senador mas malawak ang pananaw, mas malalim ang pag-iisip, di pag-uusapan, di nila bibigyan ng ganung halaga tulad nang nakikita niyo dito, nag-iinit ang ulo ng tao sa issue ng divorce."
"This proposed law is definitely unconstitutional! It is expressly stated in Article XV on The Family, Section 2 [of the 1987 Constitution] that 'Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.' The Constitution is very clear and there is no room for misinterpretation. So how can Congressman Edcel Lagman interpret their proposed law as constitutional?" he added.