The House of Representatives on Monday, March 12, began the plenary debates on House Bill (HB) 7303 which seeks to institute absolute divorce in the Philippines.
In his sponsorship speech, Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, who is one of the authors of the measure, said “the State shall be steadfast in protecting marriage as a social institution and as the foundation of the family” even as HB 7303 should be passed into law.
Mr. Lagman also noted that “the State is also duty-bound to help couples in dysfunctional marriages where reconciliation is virtually nil.”
Gabriela party-list Rep. Emmi A. De Jesus, another co-author of the bill, stated that the bill seeks to provide a “rights-based option… based on the recognition that the right to enter into a marriage contract has the corresponding spousal right to end such contract when it has reached the point of irreparability.”
Ms. De Jesus also maintained that the “common fear that divorce will erode morals and personal values on marriage appears unfounded” as divorce only adds to already existing options of legal separation, declaration of the nullity of marriage, and annulment as remedy to spouses who want to quit a failed marriage.
She added that the divorce “isn’t a Biblical and religious question” as it recognizes the “plurality of religious beliefs and cultural sensibilities in the Philippines.”
“It should be emphasized that the issue should be approached on the rights-based realm beyond any moral or theological consideration,” Ms. De Jesus said.
For her part, bill co-author Taguig City Rep. Pia S. Cayetano used as example the reported wife who was chopped and skinned by his husband out of rage.
“My question to each and everyone of us here today is: what is so unacceptable about divorce if this will result in the saving of life, of the sanity, of the dignity of a woman before something like this happens to her?” Ms. Cayetano said.
“We are simply asking that we provide the legal vehicle for women or for men who would need this as a result of home that does not give them the peace, the sanctity, the respect that was the promise that they expected when they said ‘I do,'” Ms. Cayetano added.
Buhay party-list Rep. Jose L. Atienza, Jr., who challenged the bill in the plenary, said that there are existing laws which protect men and women from abuse.
“Ang sabi po ng ating Saligang Batas, ang pamilya ang pundasyon ng ating lipunan. Ito’y dapat pinalalakas (According to the Constitution, the family is the foundation of the society. It should be strengthened.). Section 2 (of Article XV) states that marriage is an inviolable social institution,” Mr. Atienza added.
The bill adopts as grounds for legal separation and annulment under the Family Code as grounds for absolute divorce. It also allows summary judicial proceedings to grant divorce on the condition that the couple had been de facto separated for five years; the couple is legally separated; a spouse is in a bigamous marriage; six or more years of imprisonment of a spouse; or a spouse undergoes a sex reassignment surgery.
The divorce bill also provides for six months cooling period should the couple reconcile. — Minde Nyl R. Dela Cruz