House panel OKs 'in principle' bills legalizing divorce

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 23) — The House Committee on Population and Family Relations on Thursday approved in principle bills legalizing divorce, as well as related measures seeking the civil recognition of marriages dissolved by the Catholic Church and other religious denominations.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, author of House Bill 78 seeking to legalize divorce, said the approval is subject to the submission of a substitute measure to be drafted by a technical working group (TWG) which will include the key provisions of other divorce-related bills.

Lagman has been selected to lead the TWG in charge of coming up with a substitute bill.

In the explanatory note, Lagman said when the foundations of marriage are lost, "no amount of compulsion by statute, custom or religion can restore their value."

At least six bills have been filed in the 19th Congress to legalize divorce as a way of dissolving marriages. Meanwhile, two measures, House Bill 1021 of Cebu Rep. Pablo John Garcia and House Bill 1593 of Tingog Party-list Rep. Yedda Romualdez, seek to recognize the civil effects of church annulment.

Lagman said divorce would not destroy marriages because it could only be availed of by couples whose relationship "has long perished."

"Absolute divorce is urgently necessary in exceptional cases for couples in inordinately toxic and irreparably dysfunctional marriages, particularly the wives who are abused or abandoned," the lawmaker said.

He said his bill also prohibits "quickie" or "drive-thru" divorces, as well as collusion between spouses to end the marriage.

"Divorce is not against the Catholic faith. Even the Bible cites instances when Jesus Christ allowed divorces. All Catholic countries, except the Philippines, have legalized divorce. Even the Catholic hierarchy has its own matrimonial tribunal which dissolves marriages similar to a divorce," added Lagman.

Jerome Secillano, Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Public Affairs Committee Executive Secretary, said the Catholic Church remains staunchly opposed to legalizing divorce. Iglesia Ni Cristo spokesman Edwil Zabala said their church also believes in the sanctity of marriage.