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Senate Panel OKs Absolute Divorce Bill

Senate Panel OKs Absolute Divorce Bill
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A Senate panel has approved a consolidated measure that provides for absolute divorce based on various grounds, including five years of separation whether continuous or broken, and commission of the crime of rape before or after marriage.

The Committee Report 124 – prepared and submitted by the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality – recommended the approval of Senate Bill No. 2443, which defined absolute divorce as the “legal termination of a marriage by a court in a legal proceeding.”

Once divorce is granted, the status of both parties will be reverted to single for all legal intents and purposes, including the right to contract a subsequent marriage.

SB 2443 is a substitution of consolidated SB Nos. 147, 213, 237, 554, 555, 1198 and 2047 on the Dissolution of Marriage Act sponsored by committee chairperson Sen. Risa Hontiveros.

“The state should ensure that the court proceedings for the grant of absolute divorce will be expeditious, inexpensive and affordable, particularly for indigent litigants,” the measure read.

In February, the House of Representatives expressed openness to a bill that may finally pave the way for divorce, after it approved in principle a measure providing for the dissolution of marriage.

“The Philippines will soon join the rest of the world in the legalization of absolute divorce after the House committee on population and family relations approved in principle several bills on divorce and dissolution of marriage,” divorce advocate Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said.

A report by news agency AFP showed that the Philippines is the only state outside Vatican that outlaws divorce, with the Catholic Church opposing the practice as it is against its teachings.

Those who favor divorce say the ban makes it difficult for concerned individuals to escape violent or abusive spouses, or even for couples to amicably cut ties.

The report said that in 2018, both the House majority and opposition parties approved a divorce bill, which was stalled in the Senate.

Filed on Sept. 18, the committee report enumerated several grounds for the dissolution of marriage that either or both spouses may use, including five years of separation.

Another ground is the commission of the crime of rape by the respondent-spouse against the petitioner-spouse, whether before or after their marriage.

The measure said physical violence or abusive conduct need not be repeated for the divorce to be granted.

It said lesbianism and homosexuality should not be considered as grounds for the absolute dissolution of marriage, unless either or both spouses committed marital infidelity.

Another basis that the bill provided is a final decree of absolute divorce legally obtained in a foreign jurisdiction by any Filipino regardless of who they married, and irreconcilable differences or irreparable breakdown of marriage despite efforts to reconcile.

The bill authors were Hontiveros and Senators Raffy Tulfo, Robin Padilla, Pia Cayetano and Imee Marcos.

Four others – Senators Joseph Victor Ejercito, Grace Poe, Aquilino Pimentel III and Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda – also signed the panel report.

The measure said that while the state recognizes the sanctity of family life and endeavors to protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution, it is also duty-bound to safeguard the dignity of every person, guarantee full respect for human rights, uphold fundamental equality before the law of men and women and protect and ensure the best interest of children.

The divorce decree will include provisions for the care and custody of children, termination and liquidation of the conjugal partnership of gains or the absolute community, and spousal support for the aggrieved spouse.

A joint petition filed by both spouses with common children should be accompanied by a joint plan for parenthood, which provides for the support, custody and living arrangements of their common children.

“If the court determines that the joint plan for parenthood is adequate to protect the rights and interests of the common children, the court will approve the joint plan for parenthood together with the grant of a divorce decree if warranted,” the proposal said.