A CONSOLIDATED bill seeking to allow divorce in the Philippines has hurdled the House committee level and may be up for deliberation at the plenary in a week.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, principal author of House Bill 6027, said members of the House committee on population and family relations had to cross party lines to approve the landmark measure, which will be called an “Act Providing for Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage,” on Wednesday, February 21.
It stemmed from the salient features of HB 116, 1062, 2380 and 6027, all seeking to allow the dissolution of marriage and address the concerns of couples in failed marriages.
"Ngayon, itong panukalang batas na ito, napaka-significant din ito dahil dito lang nagsama-sama yung majority, yung Makabayan bloc, yung minority (This is significant because this is supported by the majority bloc, Makabayan bloc and minority bloc),” Alvarez said at a press conference after the bill was approved at the committee level.
He said the bill would likely be deliberated upon at next week's plenary session.
Under the proposed measure, spouses have the option to file for an absolute divorce, a legal separation, or annulment of marriage.
Section 3 paragraph 2 of the bill states that the government should assure that the divorce shall be inexpensive and its process, efficient.
Its authors agreed that "indigents," defined under the bill as those who do not have real property of more than P5 million can avail of the court's services for free.
"Upon application of a qualified indigent petitioner, the proper court shall waive the payment of filing fees and other costs of litigation, and shall appoint a counsel de oficio for said petitioner and assign social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists preferably from appropriate government agencies to assist the said petitioner and the court," Section 6 (c) of the bill states.
Cayetano explained that the P5-million ceiling is based on the request of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) during consultations held abroad.
"This is based on the consultations we had with OFWs that you may be earning P20,000 a month but you don't spend all of that on a divorce so we based it on property," Cayetano said.
The measure also provides for summary judicial process or an expeditious manner of resolving the petition of divorce but only on these grounds: (a) when the spouses have been separated for at least five years; (b) when one of the spouses has contracted a bigamous marriage; (c) when the spouses have been legally separated by judicial decree for two years or more; (d) when one of the spouses has been sentenced to imprisonment for six years, even if subsequently pardoned; and (e) when one of the spouses has undergone a sex reassignment surgery.
According to Lagman, the summary judicial proceedings may be concluded in less than a year.
He noted that petitioners need not hire legal counsels during the process as they can represent themselves before the court.
"Yung (The) decision is immediately executory and final, wala nang appeal appeal dito (no appeal may be filed),” Lagman added.
Meanwhile, the grounds for absolute divorce under Section 5 of the bill are limited to the following: