MANILA - Congressmen are ready to allay President Rodrigo Duterte's misgivings about legalizing divorce in the country, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said Tuesday.
The measure, which would allow a divorced partner to marry another person of the opposite sex, passed Monday on third reading by 134-57 with 2 abstentions in the House of Representatives.
Duterte is against divorce, believing children of divorce will suffer, his spokesman Harry Roque revealed.
"Kami ay handang magpaliwanag sa Pangulo. Iyung concern ng Pangulo, in fact, talagang mahaba ang diskusyon niyan sa committee na siniguro talaga ma-address ang welfare nung mga bata," Alvarez told DZMM.
(We are ready to explain to the President, His concern, in fact, was discussed thoroughly at the House committee level, which guaranteed that the welfare of divorced couples' children will be addressed.)
"Malinaw na malinaw po iyung provision tungkol doon, especially iyung education and support of the children," he added.
(The bill's provision about that is very clear, especially on the education and support of the children.)
At present the only way to exit a failed union is to bring an expensive civil case of annulment in which a judge declares a marriage invalid due to "psychological incapacity".
Applicants must undergo a mental exam, testify in court and sometimes even claim they or their spouse entered the union while afflicted by a disorder such as narcissism.
The process can take anywhere from 1 to 10 years to wind through the creakingly slow and overburdened Philippine court system and cost at least P250,000.
Duterte, 72, separated from his estranged wife in this manner long before he was elected president.
The proposed divorce law would require a court ruling to dissolve "irremediably broken" marital unions. The bill will become law if the Senate also passes it and Duterte refrains from using his veto.
Several senators, however, have publicly stated their opposition.
"Pag nai-forward naman namin iyan sa kanila (Senate), hopefully,pag-usapan nila," Alvarez appealed to senators. "Alam naman natin lahat na matagal nang problema ito ng karamihan ng mga kababayan natin."
(When we forward the bill to them, we hope that they could discuss it because we know that this has long been a problem for many Filipinos.)
A predominantly Catholic country, the Philippines is one of only 2 states in the world, aside from the Vatican, where divorce is outlawed. Since 1999, lawmakers have regularly filed a bill to legalize divorce, only to see it languish in committee limbo -- until now.
With a report from Agence France-Presse