GABRIELA lawmakers re-filed the bill seeking to legalize divorce in the country and giving couples another legal remedy that they can resort to in addition to existing legal separation and marriage annulment.

Representative Mitos Magsaysay (first district, Zambales) said the bill should be "seriously considered" to adapt with the changing times.

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"Though it will encourage a lot of debate, this will be good as it will really bring the real picture of the state of family and how we can ensure and protect everyone's rights," Magsaysay told Sun.Star.

Actress-turned-politician Representative Lani Mercado-Revilla (second district, Cavite) will consult her constituents first before coming up with a decision, she told Sun.Star.

Akbayan Representative Kaka Bag-ao, meanwhile, supports the legalization of divorce.

"We believe in the sanctity of marriage, but not all relationships are perfect. Divorce should be an option especially if there's abuse or exploitation," Bag-ao told Sun.Star.

Gabriela earlier expressed optimism that the bill will gain more support and spark debates with more women at the lower chamber of Congress now totaling 59.

According to the measure, couples who may apply for divorce include those who have been separated in fact for five years and those already legally separated for two years. Grounds for legal separation may also apply when these same grounds have already caused the irreparable breakdown of the marriage.

In addition, psychological incapacity, causing one's failure to comply with essential marital obligations and irreconcilable differences causing the irreparable breakdown of the marriage are also recognized as grounds for divorce.

"We cannot ignore the fact that existing laws just do not suffice. Getting an annulment can be very expensive while legal separation will not give estranged couples the right to remarry," said Gabriela Representative Luzviminda Ilagan.

The lawmakers cited official figures from the Philippine National Police (PNP) in 2009 indicating that 19 women fall victims to marital violence every day. Among the forms of violence and abuse against women committed in 209, wife battery ranked the highest at 6,783 or 72 percent.

"Separation only becomes imperative for them (battered women) when they realize that it is necessary for their and their children's survival. Divorce could actually provide protection to battered women and their children from further violence and abuse," they explained. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)