Lagman: Absolute divorce bill constitutional

MANILA A lawmaker in the House of Representatives on Tuesday said there is no provision in the 1987 Constitution which prohibits divorce.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman made the statement a day after the House of Representatives started its plenary debates on a bill institutionalizing absolute divorce and dissolution of marriage in the Philippines.

"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," Lagman said.

Lagman recalled that 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.

Citing records of the proceedings, Lagman said Commissioners Fr. Joaquin Bernas, Chito Gascon, Jose Bengzon, and Maria Teresa Nieva concurred that despite the adoption of these principles on marriage and family life in the 1987 Constitution, Congress is not precluded from instituting absolute divorce.

"No Commissioner registered a dissenting view on this issue," Lagman said.

Lagman noted that similar provisions on marriage and family life are found in the constitutions of countries which allow absolute divorce like Ireland, Columbia, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, El Salvador, Portugal, Brazil, Poland, France, Saudi Arabia, the Russian Federation and Cuba, among others.

"Unfortunately, what God has put together, couples in irremediably dysfunctional marriages put asunder because of human frailty and mortal limitations," Lagman said.

"While the State protects and preserves marriages, it is also duty bound to extend protection to spouses of shattered marriages beyond repair by allowing them to secure absolute divorce and save their children from the agony and distress of being exposed to their interminable strife," he added.

The bill aims to ensure that the proceedings for the grant of absolute divorce shall be affordable, efficient and inexpensive, especially for indigent litigants or petitioners.

The grounds for absolute divorce are the existing grounds for legal separation and annulment of marriage.

Also, a possible ground for absolute divorce is the couple's separation for at least five years.

Other valid grounds include psychological incapacity of either spouse, irreconcilable marital differences, or a gender reassignment surgery of either spouse.

It also provides for a mandatory six-month "cooling-off period" between the time a petition is filed and when the court actually starts working on the case. This allows the court to exercise all efforts to reunite and reconcile the parties.

The bill penalizes spouses who are guilty of collusion with imprisonment of five years and a fine of PHP200,000.

Source: Philippine News Agency

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