House panel OKs bills legalizing divorce

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 5) — A House committee on Wednesday has approved three measures seeking to legalize divorce in the Philippines — the only remaining state aside from Vatican City that has no divorce law.

These measures — House bills 100, 838 and 2263 — will be consolidated by a technical working group before it will be put to plenary discussion.

Absolute divorce validates the separation between married couples as total and final, allowing the husband and wife to return to their status of being single with the right to contract marriage.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who has long been advocating for the passage of a divorce bill, will head the technical working group.

"Divorce is not a monster that will destroy marriages and wreck marital relationships. Let us be clear about this — the monsters that lead to the demise of a marriage are infidelity, abuse, financial problems, lack of intimacy and communicaiton, and inequality," said Lagman, who authored House Bill 100 or the Absolute Divorce Bill of 2019.

“It is safe to say that a divorce bill has been approved by the panel subject to consolidation by a TWG, which will meet on 12 February 2020", he added.

Other members of the TWG are Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, A Teacher Party-list Rep. Victoria Umali, Negros Occidental Rep. Juliet Ferrer, and Bukidnon Rep. Ma. Lourdes Acosta-Alba.

Despite this development, religious groups, pro-family advocates who were present in the hearing, and even fellow lawmakers expressed their disapproval of the measure.

For one, CIBAC Party-list Rep. Bro. Eddie Villanueva said that the measure only makes marriage “cheap” as the grounds used as bases for divorce are not in favor of strengthening families.

“What we really need is to improve the annulment process and make it pro-poor in terms of cost and time. It may necessitate an executive action or a legislative one, but certainly not a divorce bill,” said Villanueva.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano himself has previously expressed in the past that he does not believe in divorce as a solution to troubled marriages. However, he said that he will still allow a "free and open debate" among his fellow lawmakers, should it be taken up in the lower chamber again.

Before the 17th Congress adjourned, the House approved on third and final reading its previous version of the absolute divorce bill. However, this measure was rejected by the Senate.