05/23/2024, 12.36
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Manila Lower House passes divorce law

by Santosh Digal

The measure had 126 votes in favour and 109 against. It still needs the approval of the Senate to become state law. In the name of its Constitution, which protects the family, the Philippines is the only country not to have this institution in its legislation. The Catholic Church opposes the law that has been debated for years. 

Manila (AsiaNews) - On 22nd May, the House of Representatives, the lower house of the Philippine parliament, approved on second reading the law on divorce. Proposition No. 9349 received the votes of 126 MPs in favour, while 109 opposed and 20 abstained, according to House Secretary General Reginald Velasco.

Known as the ‘Absolute Divorce Act’, the proposal aims to recognise the institution of divorce in the country that currently recognises marriage as indissoluble, recognising only nullity decreed by canonical courts in cases of serious deficiencies in the bond. The Philippines is currently the only country in the world (along with the Vatican) that does not provide for divorce in its legislation in any form.

It still needs the approval of the Philippine Senate to become state law. Should the law also be passed by the other branch of parliament, spouses will be able to file for divorce if they have been separated for at least five years. However, the proposal provides for a final 60-day period between the filing of the application and the judgment for possible conciliation.

The bill also mentions as possible grounds physical violence or grossly abusive conduct directed against the petitioner, a common child or the petitioner's child; physical violence or moral pressure to force the petitioner to change religious or political affiliation; drug addiction or habitual alcoholism or chronic gambling; homosexuality.

The issue has been under discussion in the country for years: back in 2018, the House passed a similar measure, but in that case the Senate did not complete the legislative process. The 1987 Philippine Constitution contains a section that declares: ‘Marriage as an inviolable social institution is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State’. And the Philippine Catholic Church has repeatedly expressed its opposition.

The bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of Taytay, Palawan, Archbishop Broderick Pabillo, president of the Episcopal Commission for the Laity, already expressed concern in 2021 about this bill ‘because legislators should support families’. Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, already stated in 2015 when he was president of the Bishops' Conference that “a failed marriage is not grounds for divorce”.

In the debate in the House of Representatives, MP Arlene Brosas of the ‘Gabriela Women's Party’ argued that ‘divorce is a rights-based choice: the right to join in marriage must also include the right to leave’. MP Edcel Lagman, one of the initiators of the bill, argued that the law would still prohibit ‘quickie divorces’. He said he respected the opposing views ‘based on their religious beliefs, the bishops’ fears, and the need to avoid the displeasure of the respective spouses', but announced that a campaign for approval would be launched immediately in the Senate as well.  In contrast, Congressman Rufus Rodriguez came out with a ‘loud and resounding no to the divorce bill’, arguing that the measure would violate the Philippine Constitution.

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