Divorce bill narrowly hurdles House

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Divorce bill narrowly hurdles House
Artist's rendition of domestic violence.
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on final reading a bill that legalizes absolute divorce based on limited grounds and a well-defined judicial process.

House Bill (HB) 9349, which underwent a long interpellation process and was resent back to its committee before making it to plenary, clinched third reading approval with a slim margin of 126-109-20 votes. 

This is the second time that a measure legalizing divorce was passed by the House, the first time being in 2018 during the 17th Congress, after which it eventually died upon reaching the Senate. 

The absolute divorce bill approved by the House "does not recognize no-fault, quickie, drive-thru, email or notarial" divorces, said Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay, 1st District), the principal author of the draft bill that formed the basis of HB 9349.

Under the measure, there are "limited and reasonable grounds for divorce and a petition will have to undergo judicial scrutiny in order to prevent abuse and collusion of the parties, which is penalized," Lagman said.

Quelling concerns from religious groups that allowing divorce would harm marriages, Lagman maintained that "divorce is not for everybody."

“It is for those who have just and valid causes to be adjudicated by the proper court. It is only an alternative remedy and will not apply to the overwhelming majority of Filipino married couples who have enduring and loving marriages,” the lawmaker said.

Like other progressive bills, measures introducing divorce in the Philippines often trigger extreme opposition from conservative groups and lawmakers who flag its potential negative impact on families. But rights groups have also argued that the lack of accessible to options to dissolve marriages disproportionately harms victim-survivors of domestic abuse and their children.

During plenary deliberations of the absolute divorce bill, lawmakers supportive of the measure pointed out that current available options for couples to separate, such as annulment, remain expensive and, thus, inaccessible. 

What are the salient features of the measure?

House Bill 9349 sets a number of requirements and legal steps for a couple to successfully file a petition for absolute divorce.

Among others, it only allows for absolute divorce "after the fact of an irremediably broken marriage" is established.

Lagman said that a divorce petition will undergo a judicial process where proof of the cause for the divorce is established and that the marriage has completely collapsed without any possibility of reconciliation. 

The grounds for absolute divorce under HB 9349 are as follows:

  • Based on legal separation grounds under article 55 of the Family Code, with modifications
  • Based on annulment of marriage under the same
  • Separation in fact for at least five years at the time of filing for divorce, with reconciliation highly improbable
  • Psychological incapacity of either spouse, whether it existed at the time of marriage or developed after
  • One spouse undergoing sex reassignment surgery or transitioning from one sex to another
  • Irreconcilable differences
  • Other forms of domestic or marital abuse

The bill provides for a cooling-off period of 60 days after the filing of the divorce petition where the judge will exert earnest efforts to reconcile the parties.

The measure also requires the public prosecutor to investigate and assure that there is no collusion or coercion behind the filing of the divorce petition.

The House bill also allows parties to reconcile and have their petition dismissed, even after the issuance of an absolute divorce decree.

The Philippines is one of two countries in the world that does not allow couples to divorce, the other one being the Vatican, the seat of the Roman Catholic Church.

With the House's approval of the divorce bill, it will be sent to the Senate for deliberation, most of whom are opposed to the measure. 

vuukle comment






  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with