Chiz favors affordable annulment over divorce

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star
Chiz favors affordable annulment over divorce
Senate President Francis "Chiz" Escudero
Instagram / Chiz Escudero

MANILA, Philippines — Instead of supporting House Bill 9349 – the proposed Absolute Divorce Act, which the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading last week – Senate President Francis Escudero wants to push for making annulment affordable and accessible.

According to Escudero, a thorough study of the controversial divorce bill is needed as the House recorded 131 affirmative votes, 109 negative votes and 20 abstentions on Wednesday, before Congress’ sine die adjournment.

“It’s good to weigh (the issues) because half the members voted for and there are also half of the legislators who voted against and virtually
 telling us not to tackle that,” Escudero told dzBB radio.

“I’d rather make the annulment affordable and accessible,” he added.

HB 9349 seeks to provide absolute divorce as a legal remedy for irreparably broken marriages under specific grounds and judicial processes, with the goal of sparing children from the emotional strain of parental dispute and allowing divorced individuals to remarry.

The proposed measure lays down the comprehensive guidelines for absolute divorce petitions, encompassing grounds, procedures and the effects on custody, property division and support.

The bill also hopes to provide for reconciliation methods, fines and community-based initiatives, which will be supervised by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

One of the options could be allowing the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) to accept an annulment case, according to Escudero.

“For example, opening cases like this in the PAO so that it is not expensive rather than us going along with the flow of the rest of the world that they say we are only one of two countries without divorce. Why do we want to?” he said.

“Anytime we use the word divorce, it is clear that it is between the government and the Church. But the Church has accepted the word annulment, in fact it was (the late) former president Corazon Aquino who was close to the Church who passed the executive order as if it were law that then president Aquino had lawmaking powers through the Family Code, which is the annulment we have now. Perhaps it should be looked at and studied, expanded and made more accessible to any Filipino who wants to have their marriage annulled,” he explained.

The Senate president noted that at present, handling annulment cases is not within the mandate of the PAO, thus, some sectors view the annulment process as available only for rich people.

He said that the Supreme Court (SC) has removed the requirement of a psychologist, but additional grounds need other medical experts.


Meanwhile, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president and Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David expressed his objection to the legalization of divorce, saying marriage is an agreement of a couple with God.

In his homily at a mass at the San Roque Cathedral in Kalookan City last Friday, David mentioned that marriage could not be dissolved because when a couple marry, they enter into a covenant with God. 

“If indeed, you think of our human promises as just agreements among ourselves, they can be dissolved when violated. But Jesus raises the bar of our humanity by teaching us to look at marriage, not just as an agreement between two spouses, but as a covenant between the couple and God,” he said. 

“In the sacrament, God invites the couple to make an act of faith, not just in each other, but in the God who calls them to build a family. That, if God is the foundation of the marriage, there is no way any human institution can dissolve it,” he added.

The prelate explained that while there are instances when marriages are “weak and fragile,” the Catholic Church also believes that marriage “can grow, it can fall and die like a seed on the ground and germinate, blossom and bear fruits that are divine.” — Evelyn Macairan

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