House approves divorce bill on final reading

House approves divorce bill on final reading
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THE House of Representatives approved on third and final reading a measure seeking to legalize absolute divorce.

House Bill 9349, or the Absolute Divorce Act, garnered 126 “yes” votes, 109 “no” votes, and 20 abstentions.

The measure, authored by Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, seeks to reinstitute divorce as an alternative mode for dissolution “of an irremediably broken marriage.”

Lagman said the passage of the absolute divorce bill signifies a significant shift in societal attitudes toward marriage and relationships in the country.

“As the only country in the world besides the Vatican where divorce is still illegal, this is a clear and resounding victory and signals the imminent liberation for Filipino wives who are entombed in toxic, abusive, and long-dead marriages,” he said.

“By legalizing divorce, the Philippines acknowledges the need to provide options for individuals trapped in unhappy and irreparable marriages. This recognition reflects an evolving understanding of the complexities and challenges that can arise within marital unions,” he added.

Lagman noted under the proposed measure that the state has the responsibility of rescuing couples and their children from a home plagued by discord even as it continues to recognize marriage as a social institution and the foundation of the family.

Under the absolute divorce bill, the grounds for legal separation under the Family Code of the Philippines can also be considered, such as:

* Physical violence or grossly abusive conduct directed against the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner;

* Physical violence or moral pressure to compel the petitioner to change religious or political affiliation;

* Attempt of respondent to corrupt or induce the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner, to engage in prostitution;

* Final judgment sentencing the respondent to imprisonment of more than six years;

* Drug addiction, habitual alcoholism, or chronic gambling;

* Homosexuality of the respondent;

* Contracting by the respondent of a subsequent bigamous marriage;

* Marital infidelity or perversion, or having a child with another person other than one's spouse during the marriage;

* Attempt by the respondent against the life of the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner; and

* Abandonment of petitioner by respondent without justifiable cause for more than one year.

It may also enforce the grounds for annulment of marriage under the Family Code of the Philippines such as the lack of parental consent; insanity; fraud, force, intimidation or undue influence; impotence; and sexually transmissible diseases.

A divorce petition will undergo a judicial process where proof of the cause for the divorce is established and that the marriage has completely collapsed without any possibility of reconciliation.

Quickie, notarial, email and other speedy drive-thru divorces are prohibited.

A petition for absolute divorce shall be filed with the proper family court by the petitioner or joint petitioners within 10 years from the occurrence or discovery of the cause for divorce.

The court is required to impose a 60-day “cooling-off period” after the filing of the petition, where they will exercise all efforts to reunite and reconcile the concerned parties.

However, cases involving acts of violence against women and their children or attempt against the life of the other spouse, or a common child, or a child of the petitioner shall not be covered by the cooling period.

The divorce decree will immediately be considered nullified when concerned spouses decide to reconcile despite it being approved already.

A divorce decree shall include provisions for the care, custody, and support of children, protection of their legitime (a person's property that cannot be transferred to a stranger), termination and liquidation of the conjugal partnership of gains or the absolute community, and alimony for the offended spouse.

Lagman maintained that divorce is not for everybody.

“Divorce does not put under a marriage as the union has long perished. What will be before the Family Court is a cadaver of a marriage. Divorce is not the monster plaguing a marriage. It is marital infidelity, abandonment, violence, and cruelty, among others, which are the devils that destroy marriages,” he said.

“It is for those who have just and valid causes to be adjudicated by the proper court. It is only an alternative remedy and will not apply to the overwhelming majority of Filipino married couples who have enduring and loving marriages,” he added. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)

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