Gabriela refiles divorce bill

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) – Women’s rights advocates Gabriela Women’s Party filed a bill Wednesday calling for the legalization of divorce in the Philippines.

House Bill No. 2380 or the “Divorce Bill,” filed by Representatives Emmi De Jesus and Arlene Brosas, amends Article 26 and Articles 55 to 66 of Executive Order No. 209 or “The Family Code of the Philippines” to include divorce as a way for spouses to end their marriages.

The bill says divorce will not replace legal separation and annulment in the Family Code. Legal separation allows the spouses to live apart, but not to remarry, while annulment presumes that the marriage never happened.

The measure also repeals Article 36 of the Family Code, thus making psychological incapacity a basis for divorce rather than for annulment.

Aside from psychological incapacity, H.B. No. 2380 lists four other grounds for divorce:

The spouses have been separated de facto for at least five years at the time of filing and reconciliation is highly improbable.

The spouses have been legally separated for at least two years at the time of filing and reconciliation is highly improbable.

When the grounds for legal separation under Article 55 of the Family Code have caused irreparable breakdown of the marriage.

The spouses have suffered irreconcilable differences resulting in the breakdown of the marriage.

The bill said among the benefits that divorcees could be entitled to include equal division of conjugal assets, financial support by the employed spouse to the unemployed spouse up to one year after the divorce and financial support for the children.

In the explanatory note, the group said the measure is necessary as an increasing number of women are unable to leave unhappy and failed marriages, thus facilitating continued physical and emotional violence against them by their spouses. It also said the current measures to end a failed marriage are inadequate.

In a press statement, the group said the bill “takes into consideration the rudiments of Filipino culture and the general sentiment of preserving the sanctity of Filipino marriages which is why the measure provides that divorce is granted only when certain conditions are met.”

“A marriage can only be considered sacred when there is no violence and abuse,” De Jesus said in the statement. “The State’s Constitutional mandate to uphold the sanctity of marriage is not necessarily a result of the number of people getting married or the number of years that they are together.”

“Three of every five Filipinos or at least 60% are in favor of the legislation of divorce,” Brosas also said in the statement. “This shows only not just the public pulse, but the de facto need for the option of divorce to be given. Divorce is also not an entirely new concept in the Philippines since this has been a remedy given for couples in irreparable marriages even during the American period.”

H.B. No. 2380 marks the fifth time that the Gabriela Women’s Party filed a bill to legalize divorce since the 13th Congress in 2005. The Philippines remains the only country in the world, other than the Vatican, to not allow divorce except for marriages solemnized under Muslim Sharia law.