Divorce bill gets House’s final nod

MANILA The House of Representatives on Monday evening approved on third and final reading a landmark legislation institutionalizing absolute divorce and dissolution of marriage in the Philippines.

A total of 134 House members voted to approve House Bill 7303, while 57 lawmakers opposed it. Only two lawmakers abstained from voting.

The House passed the bill despite President Rodrigo R. Duterte's opposition to legalize divorce.

"Ayaw po sana niyang magkomento pero since nagbotohan na naman sa Kamara, ang Presidente po ay tutol sa divorce (He does not want to comment but since Congress already voted [on the measure], the President is against divorce)," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press conference in Camarines Sur on Monday.

HB 7303, otherwise known as the Absolute Divorce Act of 2018", aims to ensure that the proceedings for the grant of absolute divorce shall be affordable, efficient and inexpensive, especially for indigent litigants or petitioners.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the principal authors of the bill, said divorce is an exception for irremediably broken and lost marriages, and the State has a continuing mandate to protect and preserve marriage as a social institution and foundation of the family.

One of the guiding principles is that 'Absolute divorce shall be judicially decreed after the fact of an irremediably broken marital union or a marriage vitiated from the start', Lagman said.

Lagman said the bill provides the State's role in "strengthening marriage and family life by undertaking relevant pre-nuptial and post matrimonial programs and activities."

He said 'drive-thru' or 'quickie divorces' are prohibited because No decree of absolute divorce shall be based upon a stipulation of facts or a confession of judgment.

The grounds for absolute divorce are the existing grounds for legal separation and annulment of marriage.

A possible ground also for absolute divorce is the couple's separation for at least five years.

Other valid grounds include psychological incapacity of either spouse, irreconcilable marital differences, or a gender reassignment surgery of either spouse.

It also provides for a mandatory six-month "cooling-off period" between the time a petition is filed and when the court actually starts working on the case. This allows the court to exercise all efforts to reunite and reconcile the parties.

Despite the pendency of a petition for absolute divorce or the issuance of a decree of absolute divorce, reconciliation of the spouses shall be effectuated by either terminating the divorce proceedings or recalling the decree of divorce.

The bill penalizes spouses who are guilty of collusion with a five-year jail term and a fine of PHP200,000.

Source: Philippine News Agency