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PH Commission on Women backs divorce bills, says current system disadvantageous to women

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) has expressed full support on the proposed measures legalizing divorce in the Philippines, saying the current system that bans divorce puts women at a disadvantage.

Senior Gender and Development Specialist Armando Orcilla Jr. of the PCW Policy Development, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Division made the position on Thursday during the first committee hearing on the pending divorce bills in the House of Representatives.

"As to divorce and dissolution of marriage, we fully support these bills filed to free married couples from the tedious process of annulment, be it in a form of divorce or dissolution of marriage," Orcilla told the Committee on Population and Family Relations.

One of the pending bills, authored by Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, provides that the divorce petition will undergo a judicial process where proof of the cause for the divorce is established and that the marriage has completely collapsed without any possibility of reconciliation.

In addition, Lagman's bill allows divorced couples to remarry.

According to Orcilla, studies have shown that women are mostly "at the losing end" when a marriage fails.

"In such cases, women are sometimes solely burdened to financially provide for the children and balance this with their personal struggles of loneliness and social stigma due to cultural stereotypes under the current legal system," he said.

Orcilla said coming up with a divorce law is one of the recommendations made to the Philippines by the United Nations Human Rights Committee on the Elimination of All Discrimination against Women.

"We hope that the bills on divorce will have provisions that will ensure that the divorce process is simplified and reduce the cost of the procedure especially for the indigents," he said.

"These divorce measures will completely give both parties a chance to start anew," Orcilla added.

The PCW also expressed support to pending House Bill 1593, which recognizes the civil effects of church annulment, declaration of nullity, and dissolution of marriages that was authored by Tingog party-list Representative Yedda Romualdez.

"We echo the sentiments raised by Pope Francis that obtaining annulment would cost hundreds and thousands of dollars," Orcilla said.

"We should make annulment cheaper for ordinary and poor women, especially when they are in abusive relationships."

The Family Code provides for annulment or voiding of marriage, but the grounds to avail of such are numerous, including:

  • the party in whose behalf it is sought to have the marriage annulled was eighteen years of age or over but below twenty-one, and the marriage was solemnized without the consent of the parents, guardian or person having substitute parental authority over the party, in that order, unless after attaining the age of twenty-one, such party freely cohabited with the other and both lived together as husband and wife;
  • either party was of unsound mind, unless such party after coming to reason, freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife;
  • the consent of either party was obtained by fraud, unless such party afterwards, with full knowledge of the facts constituting the fraud, freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife;
  • the consent of either party was obtained by force, intimidation or undue influence, unless the same having disappeared or ceased, such party thereafter freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife;
  • either party was physically incapable of consummating the marriage with the other, and such incapacity continues and appears to be incurable; and
  • either party was afflicted with a sexually-transmissible disease found to be serious and appears to be incurable

—KBK, GMA Integrated News