The leadership of the House of Representatives on Wednesday appealed to the Senate to give the lower chamber-initiated divorce bill a chance to become a law.
Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez of the First District of Davao del Norte , principal author of the bill, urged the Senate to recognize the clamor of many Filipinos for the passage of marriage dissolution and divorce bill, and prioritize the approval of such legislation.
“I hope so, because many people are waiting for the passage of that law, as we can see in the comments in social media,” said Alvarez, who was at the Senate for the confirmation hearing of the Commission on Appointments on his nomination as colonel in the reserve force of the Philippine Navy-Marines.
Unlike in the House, where the marriage dissolution and divorce bill received bipartisan support, several senators have expressed opposition to the passage of the bill.
Responding to an informal survey by the BusinessMirror, Sens. Franklin M. Drilon, Joel J. Villanueva, Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV, Francis G. Escudero, Vicente C. Sotto III, Sherwin T. Gatchalian, Cynthia A. Villar, Panfilo M. Lacson Sr. and Gregorio Honasan II indicated strong opposition to the divorce bill, offering instead to review existing processes for civil annulment of marriages on the rocks.
Senate leaders have yet to firm up a counterpart measure of the House-backed divorce bill, while several senators thumbed it down.
Instead, senators preferred a less costly option, such as relaxing rules on annulment.
Moreover, Alvarez said that after the House approves the bill, they would immediately forward it to the Senate for its own action.
“Once approved in the plenary, it would be forwarded to the Senate,” he said. The House Committee on Population and Family Relations already approved a substitute bill consolidating various proposals for marriage dissolution and divorce.
Earlier, Alvarez said the House would likely approve the marriage dissolution and divorce bill before Congress adjourns on March 23.
Among others, the substitute bill recognizes as grounds for marriage dissolution or divorce the same grounds for legal separation under the Family Code.
The bill also provides for summary judicial proceedings to expedite the resolution of petition for marriage dissolution/divorce without regard to technical rules. The petitioner has the option to be represented by lawyer or not.
The following grounds may be subjected to summary judicial proceeding: de facto separation for at least five years, bigamous marriage, legal separation for at least two years, imprisonment for six years, gender reassignment surgery, and joint petition of the spouses for the dissolution of their marriage.
However, the substitute bill also provides for a six-month cooling-off period, during which the court shall exercise all efforts to reunite and reconcile the parties.
Should reconciliation happen, the marriage dissolution/divorce proceedings, if pending, shall be terminated. If there is already a final decree of absolute divorce, it shall be set aside.
The bill, meanwhile, penalizes spouses who are guilty of collusion with imprisonment of five years and a fine of P200,000.
It said absolute divorce is judicially decreed after the fact of an irremediably broken marital union or a marriage vitiated from the start.
The measure added the state shall assure that the proceedings for the grant of absolute divorce shall be affordable and inexpensive, particularly for indigent litigants or petitioners, and observe an efficient process.
The bill said the option of absolute divorce is a pro-woman legislation because, in most cases, since it is the wife who is entitled to a divorce as a liberation from an abusive relationship and to help her regain dignity and self-esteem.
It said a divorce decree shall include provisions for the care and custody of children, protection of their legitimate, termination and liquidation of the conjugal partnership of gains or the absolute community, and alimony for the innocent spouse.
Even as absolute divorce is instituted, the measure said the state has the role of strengthening marriage and family life by undertaking relevant prenuptial and postmatrimonial programs and activities.