Divorce bill hurdles House panel

The House Committee on Population and Family Relations on Wednesday approved a bill instituting absolute divorce and dissolution of marriage in the Philippines.

The panel formed a technical working group to consolidate House Bills (HB) 100, 838 and 2263 before it reaches the plenary for discussion.

HB 100, otherwise known as the proposed Absolute Divorce Act", aims to ensure that the proceedings for the grant of absolute divorce shall be affordable, efficient and inexpensive.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the author of HB 100, said divorce is an exception for irremediably broken and lost marriages, and the State has a continuing mandate to protect and preserve marriage as a social institution and foundation of the family.

In his sponsorship speech, Lagman said the enactment of a law on absolute divorce and dissolution of marriage is not prohibited by the constitutional tenets on marriage as a social institution and as the foundation of the family.

"No less than the Commissioners of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, which drafted the 1987 Constitution, were unanimous that the Congress has the authority to pass a divorce law under the present Charter," Lagman said.

He said "drive-thru" or "quickie divorces" are prohibited because no decree of absolute divorce shall be based upon a stipulation of facts or a confession of judgment.

Lagman noted that one of the guiding principles of the bill is that absolute divorce shall be judicially decreed after the fact of an irremediably broken marital union or a marriage vitiated from the start.

He added that the State has the role of strengthening marriage and family life by undertaking "relevant pre-nuptial and post-matrimonial programs and activities.

Except for grounds under summary judicial proceedings, the proper court shall not start the trial petition for absolute divorce before the expiration of a mandatory six-month cooling-off period after the filing of the petition during which the court shall exercise all effects to reunite and reconcile the parties," the bill read.

"The institution of absolute divorce and dissolution of marriage is definitely not for couples in harmonious, happy and vibrant marital relationships, which accounts for the overwhelming majority of Filipino unions," Lagman said.

"It is for the exceptional cases when the marital bond is irremediably damaged because marriage is still a human institution which could collapse and wither due to human frailty and mortal limitations," he added.

He said the proposed law will not destroy marriage and the family as revered institutions.

"A divorce law cannot undo centuries of dearly held Filipino customs and traditions honoring and celebrating marriage and the family. Marriage and the family are and will still be at the heart of the Filipino way of life," he said.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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