House bill on ‘absolute divorce’ up for plenary approval, Lagman says


The House Committee on Population and Family Relations on Tuesday endorsed for plenary approval a substitute bill instituting absolute divorce in the Philippines.

Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, chairman of the technical working group and author of House Bill 100 on the enactment of an absolute divorce law, said the unnumbered absolute divorce bill is now bound for plenary debates in the House of Representatives.

“It is hard to believe that all the other countries collectively erred in instituting absolute divorce in varying degrees of liberality and limitations. An en masse blunder is beyond comprehension. An erroneous unanimity on such a crucial familial institution defies reason and experience. Obviously, the rest of the world cannot be mistaken on the universality of absolute divorce,” he said.

Lagman said the substitute bill, which is supported by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, include: provisions on court-assisted petitioners; community-based pre-nuptial and post-matrimonial programs; community-based women’s desks to provide assistance and support to victims of violence and abuse; and an appropriation language for the bill.

“This bill reinstates absolute divorce because absolute divorce was already practiced during the pre-Spanish times, the American colonial period, and during the Japanese occupation,” he said.

Lagman said that with the unanimous approval of the substitute bill “today is a momentous occasion for countless wives, who are battered and deserted, to regain their humanity, self-respect and freedom from irredeemably failed marriages and utterly dysfunctional unions.”

The grounds for legal separation, annulment of marriage, and nullification of marriage based on psychological incapacity under the Family Code of the Philippines are included as grounds for absolute divorce and were amended to make said grounds cover causes arising after the solemnization of the marriage.

The other grounds for divorce are the following: (a) separation in fact for at least five years at the time the petition for absolute divorce is filed; (b) when one of the spouses undergoes a gender reassignment surgery or transitions from one sex to another; (c) irreconcilable marital differences as defined in the bill; (d) other forms of domestic or marital abuse which are also defined in the bill; (e) valid foreign divorce secured by either the alien or Filipino spouse; and (f) a marriage nullified by a recognized religious tribunal.

Lagman said the effects of absolute divorce include the voiding of the marital union and capacitating the divorced spouses to remarry.

The bill also provide mandatory  six-month cooling-off period.

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

The requirement of a cooling- off period shall not apply in cases which involve acts of violence against women and their children under the “Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004” or attempt against the life of the other spouse or a common child or a child of the petitioner.

Moreover, the bill said the custody of the minor children shall be decided by the proper court in accordance with the best interests of the children, subject to the provisions of Article 213 of the Family Code of the Philippine.

It said the conjugal partnership of gains or the absolute community shall be dissolved and liquidated and the assets shall be equally divided between the spouses, excluding the paraphernal or exclusive properties of either spouse.

In addition to the equal share in the assets of the absolute community or conjugal partnership, the measure said the petitioner who is not gainfully employed shall be entitled to spousal support or alimony from the respondent until the petitioner finds adequate employment.

Provided, that the support shall not exceed two years from the finality of the decree of absolute divorce and shall cease upon the petitioner’s remarriage.

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