House approves divorce bill on final reading

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 19) — The House of Representatives has approved the Absolute Divorce Bill with a vote of 134-57-2.

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

Once absolute divorce is made effective, legal marriage bonds are cut and the former spouses can marry again either by civil rites or a religious ceremony.

Congressmen who opposed the measure expressed fears that the bill would lead to more couples separating instead of trying to fix their differences.

The bill's sponsor, Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, earlier said the proper court shall not start 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 which the court shall exercise all efforts to reunite and reconcile the parties.

Under the bill, the custody of children will be determined by a court "in accordance with the best interests" of the children. Minors under seven years old may not be separated from their mother unless there are "compelling reasons" for it.

Earlier, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte was not for the divorce bill.

READ: Malacañang: Duterte against divorce bill

"Ayaw po sana niya mag-kumento, pero since nagbotohan naman na sa kamara, ang presidente po ay tutol sa divorce," Roque said.

[Translation: He actually didn't want to comment, but since the House has already voted on it, the President is against divorce.]

He added Duterte considered how divorce may affect the children and the distressed spouses.

CNN Philippines digital producer Ver Marcelo contributed to this report.