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Quick passage seen in House for divorce bill

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
Quick passage seen in House for divorce bill
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the principal authors of the latest divorce bill, believes the chamber will be able to pass the controversial and highly contested measure on third and final reading before the current 18th Congress adjourns next year.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives is expected to swiftly approve the bill allowing absolute divorce in the country despite strong objections by several lawmakers, a proponent has said.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the principal authors of the latest divorce bill, believes the chamber will be able to pass the controversial and highly contested measure on third and final reading before the current 18th Congress adjourns next year.

He cited the support from the House leadership, particularly Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, for the immediate passage of the bill.

“In Congress, once leaderships of both houses endorse a measure it can be expeditiously passed. In terms of the House, there is now a go signal from the Speaker to fast-track this bill because no less than the Speaker introduced perfecting amendments,” he told “The Chiefs” on One News last Thursday night.

The specific amendments introduced by Velasco were provisions on court-assisted petitioners, community-based pre-nuptial and post-matrimonial programs, community-based women’s desks to provide assistance and support to victims of violence and abuse and an appropriation language for the bill.

The veteran congressman explained that the House will have enough time to pass the bill in the plenary before it focuses on the 2022 national budget and other pandemic response measures.

Lagman, who headed the technical working group that drafted the substitute bill, expressed hope that the Senate would also prioritize the measure once it is passed by the House – just like what happened in the equally controversial Reproductive Health Law.

He defended the swift passage of the measure in the committee level, which was questioned by Deputy Speakers Lito Atienza and Eddie Villanueva. He cited House rules that allow committee approval in one hearing of bills already passed by the chamber on third and final reading during the previous Congress – just like the divorce bill.

“The committee did not commit any railroading, which is the approval with deplorable alacrity of a measure against the rules and/or without any thorough deliberation. It took the committee more than two years before approving the substitute bill,” he pointed out.

He assured critics that the measure will not provide for a “drive thru divorce” and “only reinstates absolute divorce that was already practiced during the pre-Spanish times, the American colonial period and during the Japanese occupation.”

Lagman explained that the proposed law would allow couples in failed marriages to “regain their humanity, self-respect and freedom from irredeemably failed marriages and utterly dysfunctional unions.”

He lamented that the Philippines is the only country in the world today which outlaws absolute divorce, aside from the almost celibate Vatican City state.

“It is hard to believe that all the other countries collectively erred in instituting absolute divorce in varying degrees of liberality and limitations. An en masse blunder is beyond comprehension. An erroneous unanimity on such a crucial familial institution defies reason and experience. Obviously, the rest of the world cannot be mistaken on the universality of absolute divorce,” Lagman pointed out.

Under the measure, the existing grounds for legal separation, annulment of marriage and nullification of marriage based on psychological incapacity under the Family Code of the Philippines are included as grounds for absolute divorce.

These grounds are amended to cover causes arising after the solemnization of the marriage.

The bill includes other grounds for divorce: separation in fact for at least five years at the time the petition for absolute divorce is filed; when one of the spouses undergoes a gender reassignment surgery or transitions from one sex to another; irreconcilable marital differences as defined in the bill; other forms of domestic or marital abuse which are also defined in the bill; valid foreign divorce secured by either the alien or Filipino spouse and a marriage nullified by a recognized religious tribunal.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
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