House passes divorce bill on second reading

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 14) — The divorce bill hurdled the House of Representatives on second reading Wednesday.

The chamber approved the proposed Absolute Divorce Act of 2018 through a voice vote or by shouting ayes and nayes.

Under the bill, an absolute divorce is judicially pronounced after a permanently broken marital union or marriage.

Once the absolute divorce becomes effective, the marriage bonds are cut and the former spouses will have the right to marry another person either by civil or religious ceremony.

The bill also makes sure the divorce process will be affordable and inexpensive, especially for poor litigants and petitioners.

However, bill sponsor Albay Representative Edcel Lagman said the court shall not begin the trial of a petition for absolute divorce before the expiration of a mandatory six-month cooling off period after the filing of the petition.

During this period, the court shall exercise all efforts to reunite and reconcile the parties.

Meanwhile, spouses who collude or coerce their partner to file a petition for absolute divorce, will be penalized with five years imprisonment and a fine of P200,000.

Lagman said while the State protects and preserves marriages, it is also duty-bound to protect spouses of marriages beyond repair by allowing them to secure absolute divorce.

"Sa ngayon, maraming broken marriages na yung mag-asawa na hindi na pwede mareconcile ay may kanya kanya nang second, third, fourth families and they are living in sin and they are living against the law. Mabuti ata na bigyan sila ng full relief na they are bailed out from this inhospitable, intolerable relation. Parang meron bang tinatawag na second chance, second chance for marital bliss," he said.

[Translation: Right now there are many broken marriages where the spouses can no longer reconcile and have their own second, third, fourth families and are living in sin and living against the law. It seems better to give htem full relief where they are bailed out from this inhospitable, intolerable relation. It's like they'll be given a second chance, second chance for marital bliss.]

However, some groups, including the Catholic Church, have voiced opposition towards the enactment of such a legislation.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines asked lawmakers to consider the "social costs" that go with the easy dissolution of marriage.

"In a context in which divorce is presented as an easy option, marriages and families are bound to break up more easily. More children will grow up disoriented and deprived of the care of both parents," it said.

The Philippines and the Vatican are the only states that have no divorce laws.

The Family Code provides two ways for couples to separate.

There is legal separation - which allows spouses to split up, but not to remarry - and annulment, which allows spouses to remarry because the marriage is considered invalid from the beginning.

A Social Weather Stations survey released last March 10 said half or one in two Filipinos surveyed  believe divorce for spouses who are "irreconcilably separated' should be legalized.

READ: Survey: 1 in 2 Filipinos agree to divorce for 'irreconcilably separated' spouses