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Divorce nears approval in PHL; House okays bill on final reading

By Claire Morales True and Jennifer T. Santos

QUEZON CITY — Is divorce finally coming to the Philippines?

There is a ray of hope for the advocates of divorce, especially the battered wives and husbands, as the House of Representatives has passed a bill seeking to reinstitute absolute divorce as a way for Filipinos to end a marriage on third and final reading.

It will now up to the Senate to approve a similar measure so divorce would finally be legalized in the Philippines. Only the Vatican and the Philippines have bans on divorce. It was gathered that the divorce bill in the Senate has been pending on second reading.

The lower chamber was actually sharply divided on the measure as 126 solons made affirmative votes with 109 opposition and 20 abstention.

The bill seeks to provide absolute divorce as a legal remedy for irreparably broken marriages under specific grounds and judicial processes, with the goal of sparing children from the emotional strain of parental dispute and allowing divorced individuals to remarry.

HB 9349 lays down the comprehensive guidelines for absolute divorce petitions, encompassing grounds, procedures, and the effects on custody, property division, and support. It also includes provisions for reconciliation methods, fines, and community-based initiatives, which will be supervised by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The bill seeks to allow the dissolution of marriage on grounds of violence, substance abuse, homosexuality, infidelity, abandonment, and separation of at least two years.

The measure would also require couples applying for divorce to go through a judicial process to prove their grounds for divorce, while prohibiting “quickie divorces.” Moreover, petitioners would be given a 60-day cooling-off period to allow them some time to possibly reconcile.

Proponents of the measure, including 1st district Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, stressed the need to provide a way out for Filipinos in irreparably broken marriages, especially women in abusive relationships.

“Bigyan natin ng pagkakataon ang mga naaabusong kababaihan at kanilang mga anak ng isang pagkaakataon na mabuhay sa isang pamilyang puno ng pagmamahal,” Brosas said.

But some lawmakers warned that the measure could be abused, citing instances of marriages that end in divorce within a day in other countries.

“One day, we will all regret what this Congress approved right now,” said Rep. Bienvenido Benny Abante Jr of Manila’s sixth district, one of the oppositors of the bill. Abante is also a Christian church leader as a Bible Baptist pastor.

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