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Sunday, June 16, 2024

House okays on final reading bill legalizing divorce

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Voting 126-109-20, the House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on third and final reading the measure legalizing divorce in the Philippines—a predominantly Catholic country.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the principal author of House Bill (HB) 9349, titled, “An Act reinstituting absolute divorce as an alternative mode for the dissolution of marriage,” was delighted over the bill’s passage.

He asserted that “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.”

Lagman, who defended the measure and faced 12 interpellators in debates that spanned long hours and nine session days, also emphasized that the passage on third reading of the absolute divorce bill signifies a significant shift in societal attitudes towards marriage and relationships.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, primary author of HB 9349, delivers a speech in defense of his bill at the Plenary Hall. (Photo by Aram Lascano)

The veteran solon maintained that “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.”

Lagman assured critics of the measure that a divorce law will not destroy marriages because “divorce does not put asunder 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.

Claps and cheers are heard at the session hall of Batasan Pambansa after Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas reads the results of the voting for the ‘Absolute Divorce’ bill. (Video By Aram Lascano)

Lagman also said that a divorce law “is constitutional as the Constitution does not prevent the Congress from enacting a divorce law even as it does not offend the dogma of the Catholic Church which has its own canonical dissolution of marriage.

“All other Catholic and Christian countries in the world have long legitimized divorce,” he noted.

The seasoned lawmaker clarified that the bill does not recognize no-fault, quickie, drive-thru, email or notarial divorces as there are limited and reasonable grounds for divorce and a petition will have to undergo judicial scrutiny in order to prevent abuse and collusion of the parties, which is penalized.

Lagman maintained that divorce is not for everybody. “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 said.

The Albay legislator, who was also the principal author of the reproductive health (RH) law, said that the divorce bill is an apt sequel to RA 10354.

Supporters of the absolute divorce bill do ‘butterfly’ hand signs after the proposed legislation passed the third and final reading at the House of Representatives. (Photo by Aram Lascano)

“These sister measures are pro-woman legislation since the RH law guarantees a woman’s right to freely determine the number and spacing of her children and mitigates maternal death, while a divorce law liberates a wife from an abusive relationship by ending a damaging and damaged marriage which will help her regain dignity and self-respect,” Lagman held.

He also argued that a divorce law is pro-children. “Divorce is not the worst thing that can happen to children. Having to live in a home filled with strife, discord, and violence is much worse.”

He stated that divorce actually provides children with the opportunity to grow and develop in an environment with fewer stressors and trauma by removing them from high-conflict households.

Lagman’s bill proposes to reinstitute divorce as an alternative mode for the dissolution of an irreparably broken or dysfunctional marriage under limited grounds and well-defined judicial procedures. 

It grants the divorced spouse the right to marry again for another chance to achieve marital bliss.

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