PH divorce bill passed on second reading

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DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The House of Representatives passed on second reading Wednesday, March 13, the proposed Absolute Divorce Act of 2018.

The proposed law authored by Albay Congressman Edcel Lagman states that an absolute divorce is judicially pronounced after a permanently broken marital union or marriage.

It states “Once the absolute divorce becomes effective, the marriage bonds are cut and the former spouses will have the right to marry another person either by civil or religious ceremony.”

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the bill also makes sure the divorce process will be affordable and inexpensive, especially for poor litigants and petitioners.

The Catholic Church has interposed objection to the proposal citing the sanctity of marriage and the role of the family in the society.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines asked lawmakers to consider the “social costs” that go with the easy dissolution of marriage.

“In a context in which divorce is presented as an easy option, marriages and families are bound to break up more easily. More children will grow up disoriented and deprived of the care of
both parents,” it said.

The Philippines and the Vatican are the only states that have no divorce laws.

But Lagman in said, the proposed bill states that the court shall not begin 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.

A six-month cooling off period will give the couple time to reconcile their differences, during this period the court shall exercise all efforts to reunite and reconcile the parties.

But a penalty of P200,000 and five years imprisonment will be imposed, if the court finds that one party is forcing the other to file a petition for absolute divorce.

Lagman said while the State protects and preserves marriages, it is also duty-bound to protect spouses of marriages beyond repair by allowing them to secure absolute divorce.

The Family Code provides two ways for couples to separate.

The law provides legal separation – which allows spouses to split up, but not to remarry – and annulment, which allows spouses to remarry because the marriage is considered invalid from the beginning.

Despite the absence of a divorce bill in the country, still, many couple specially those financially able pay the high cost of marriage dissolution citing irreconcilable differences, psychological incapacity, others cite religious differences as reasons for annulment or separation.

As it is now, filing annulment or dissolution of marriages costs a party over P300,000 to include psychological record among others.

But Alvarez said the proposed bill will mean lesser expense to both parties.-Editha Z. Caduaya/

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