The House of Representatives (HOR) Committee of Population and Family Relations finally approved a measure that would allow divorce in the country. It's the first time in Philippine history that divorce would be tackled with other lawmakers in the plenary.
The historic feat came after a technical working group consolidated and approved a substitute bill, entitled "Act Instituting Absolute Divorce In The Philippines." According to the HOR's press release, it substituted House Bills (HB) 116, 1062, 2380 and 6027, which tackle absolute divorce, more grounds for annulment, divorce, and dissolution of marriage respectively.
"The objective is not to promote divorce but to allow people to move on and to reflect the legal status of the life they are already living," said Taguig Representative and Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano during the press briefing, PhilStarreports. "In all the public consultation we had, that was the request [to] make a bill that is accessible to us, that is affordable to us," she told GMA News.
Under the consolidated substitute bill, there would be five grounds for divorce and dissolution of marriage, ABS-CBN News reports. These are:
The spouses have been separated de facto for at least five years
When one of the spouses contracted a bigamous marriage
The spouses have been legally separated by judicial decree for two years or more
When one of the spouses has been sentenced to imprisonment for six years even if subsequently pardoned
When one of the spouses has undergone sex reassignment surgery
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Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, who headed the technical working group, shared that the consolidated substitute incorporated significant revisions to previous divorce proposals:
1. How the alimony or spousal support could be decided upon by the divorcing couple. They are given the option to pay alimony either periodically or as a one-time payment. In earlier proposals, alimony would have to be paid periodically.
2. The legitime, or the legal right share of the children to a parent's estate, could either be given to the children upon dissolution or marriage or upon the death of a parent. In earlier proposals, it would have to be paid once the divorce is final.
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3. Indigent petitioners, or as redefined by the new bill as petitioners who do not have a real property of more than P5 million, would also be exempted from payment of litigation costs. They would also be assigned a legal counsel and social worker or psychologist by the court if needed. The bill would also allow some divorce proceedings to be settled through summary proceedings instead of a full-blown trial.
4. Spouses could also file a joint petition for divorce, depending on the grounds mentioned above. However, the bill also provides a mandatory six-month cooling-off period. The court will only start the divorce proceedings six months after the filing of the petition to try to reunite, and reconcile the parties.
Apart from the provisions mentioned above, a divorce decree should also include provisions for the care and custody of children, termination and liquidation of the conjugal partnership of gains or the absolute community in line with the existing Family Code.
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Unde the new divorce bill, a spouse who is found to have used threats or coercion to compel the other to petition for divorce, or spouses who are guilty of collusion, would be penalized with imprisonment for five years and a fine of P200,000.
The proposal to introduce divorce in the Philippines had been repeatedly rejected in the past largely due to us being a predominantly Catholic country. Aside from the Vatican, the Philippines is the only country that doesn't allow divorce.
The approval of the consolidated substitute bill at the committee level is, so far, the closest the country has gotten to legalizing divorce. If the plenary approves the divorce bill as it is, couples and even spouses who work overseas, would have a cheaper and faster alternative to getting an annulment.