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RH Law author files ‘pro-women’ absolute divorce bill

A bill seeking to institutionalize absolute divorce as a means for the “merciful liberation of the hapless wife from a long-dead marriage” has been filed in the 17th Congress.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman touts House Bill 116 as a “pro-woman” piece of proposed legislation, saying that in marriages it is the woman “who is usually brutalized and it is the man who philanders and gets away with it.”

Under the measure, the following will be considered grounds for absolute divorce: psychological incapacity as defined under Article 36 of the Family Code; irreconcilable differences or conflicts between the married couple which are beyond redemption, or when either of the spouses secures a valid foreign divorce, canonical divorce, and gender reassignment surgery.

The bill likewise adopts as grounds for absolute divorce the grounds for legal separation and annulment of marriage provided for in the Family Code of the Philippines, which include: marital abuse, sexual infidelity, attempt against the life of the other, abandonment, de facto separation, conviction for a crime when the sentence is more than six years, contracting a subsequent bigamous marriage, drug addiction or habitual alcoholism, and lesbianism or homosexuality.

For annulment of marriage, the current grounds are lack of parental consent, vitiated consent, impotency, insanity and affliction of sexually transmissible disease.

Lagman, a principal author of the Reproductive Health Law in the 15th Congress, said that while  “most marriages are supposed to be solemnized in heaven, the reality is many marriages plummet into hell – in irremediable breakdown, spousal abuse, marital infidelity and psychological incapacity, among others, which bedevil marriages.”

He said the bill gives an opportunity to spouses in “irremediably failed marriages” to secure an absolute divorce decree under limited grounds and well-defined procedures to avoid abuse, save the children from the pain and stress of their parents’ marital clashes, and grant the divorced spouses the right to marry again for another chance to achieve marital bliss.

Aside from being a pro-women measure, Lagman said HB 116 is also a poor women’s women’s issue since they cannot afford the expenses for legal separation or annulment of marriage.

Under the bill, a petitioner may apply before the proper court to waive the payment of filing fees and other costs of litigation.

The Philippines is one of only two countries in the world today which has no law on absolute divorce, after voters in Malta recommended by referendum the approval of its own divorce law in 2011. The other country with no divorce law is the Vatican City.  — Xianne Arcangel/BM, GMA News