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House panel OKs bill introducing divorce in PHL

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A House of Representatives panel on Wednesday approve the substitute bill seeking to introducing divorce in the Philippines.

In a meeting, the House committee on population and Family Relations chaired by Laguna Representative Sol Aragones approved the substitute bill for House Bills 116, 1062, 2380 and 6027, filed by Representatives Edcel Lagman, Robert "Ace" Barbers, Emmi de Jesus, and Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr.

Lagman said the new working title of the bill is "An Act Providing for Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage in the Philippines."

"The divorce results to dissolution of marriage," he said.

The bill provides for the institution of "absolute marriage" as judicial decreed after an irremediably broken marital union or marriage.

This means that after the divorce becomes effective, the marriage bonds will be severed and the former spouses will have the right to marry another person either by civil or religious ceremony.

It also ensures that the proceedings for the grant of absolute divorce will be affordable and inexpensive, particularly for indigent litigants and petitioners.

The measure was approved after a short executive session of the House panel. Here, the conflicting provisions of the bill was resolved to come up with a compromise measure.

In a press briefing after the meeting, Lagman pointed out the several provisions that were tweaked for the compromise measure.

One is the alimony or the allowance for support made under the court to a divorced person by the former spouse.

"Originally, yung alimony is supposed to be a periodic contribution of payment but now there is an option, depending on the agreement of the parties," he said.

"The alimony can be a one-time payment or periodic. Most probably this would depend on the needs of the spouse supposed to give the alimony," he added.

Aside from this, the legitime, or the portion of a parent's estate which he or she cannot give to the children as inheritance, is likewise changed.

"In the original, the presumptive legitime is given to the children upon the dissolution of marriage. But in the compromise agreement, again there is an option whether it will be given at the time of the dissolution of marriage or when there is already settled payment," he said.

The House panel also redefined the term "indigent" under the bill.

The indigent petitioner will be exempted from payment of filing fees and cost of litigation. He or she will also be provided with a counsel and the court can also assign him or her a social worker, a psychiatrist or psychologist to help in the process.

"But we have redefined indigent litigant to those litigants or petitioners who do not have real property of more than P5 million," Lagman said.

Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano explained that they came up with the P5-million real property limit after their public consultations.

"This is based on the public consultations that we had with a lot of OFWs and even Filipinos here that may be earning P20,000 a month but you will not spend that money for a divorce. So they would rather continue the status quo and not obtain a divorce because it is beyond their capacity to pay," she said.

"In all the public consultation we had, that was the request na make a bill that is accessible to us, that is affordable to us," she added.

The bill also provides for a mandatory six-month cooling-off period, wherein the court will not start the trial for absolute divorce after the filing of the petition for six months to try to to reunite an reconcile the parties.

Lagman said over the weekend that he is confident the Philippines will have a divorce law by the end of the 17th Congress in 2019.

Lagman said over the weekend that he is confident the Philippines will have a divorce law by the end of the 17th Congress in 2019. —ALG/NB, GMA News

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