House to hear bills for civil unions, dissolution of marriage — Speaker

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(File photo) House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 24) — House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez endorsed on Monday his proposed plans for additions to the Family Code of the Philippines, which include civil unions, the dissolution of marriage, and the recognition of illegitimate children.

The announcement was made at the opening of the second session of 17th Congress, just ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte's second State of the Nation Address.

"We must also be considerate of the fact that marriage may not be for everyone. Presently, it even excludes certain groups of people from its fold," Alvarez said in a speech.

The proposed measure seeks to recognize same sex unions.

"Sa civil union, same sex or opposite sex, magkakaroon ng property relations between the two of them. Tapos yung right to support each other. Tapos yung right to adopt children," said Alvarez.

[Translation: In civil unions whether of the same or opposite sex, there will be property relations between the two of them. There will also be the right to support each other and the right to adopt children.]

Alvarez added that he would file the bill on recognizing and protecting civil partnerships himself, and he thanked Rep. Geraldine Roman for her input. Roman is the first transgender congresswoman.

Alvarez also said that marriages "are not always right the first time," and that couples should be able to opt out.

"Unfortunately, the present system practically coerces married persons to remain with each other even if the relationship is beyond repair and has caused, and continues to cause, harm to the well-being of the husband, the wife and, worse, the children involved," said Alvarez.

He also called on Rep. Pia Cayetano, whom he said committed to filing a bill on the dissolution of marriage.

At present, the Family Code only recognizes legal separation and annulment, which declares a marriage void. However, annulment has drawn criticism due to its long and expensive process.

The Philippines is the only country in the world that has not legalized divorce, in part due to strong Catholic opposition to the measure.

Dissolution, said Alvarez, is set to be "simpler" than divorce. Unlike annulment, the proposed process would recognize that the marriage took place and require that couples mutually agree to end their marriage.

Under this proposal, parents should agree on an "executable framework to provide for the care and support of their children," said Alvarez.

He also said it was time to end the "unequal treatment" of children born outside of wedlock.

"We can start the process by equalizing the legitimes that children receive regardless of whether or not they were born within or outside wedlock," said Alvarez.

Alvarez is eyeing passage of the measures by the end of the year.

CNN multi-platform writer Regine Cabato and correspondents Claire Jiao and Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.