By Ben Rosario
Bills seeking to legalize divorce in the country and a third postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections came closer to becoming laws after the House of Representatives approved the two measures on second reading, Wednesday.
In another viva voce vote, the Lower House approved on second reading House Bill 7185 proposing to recognize divorce obtained by a foreigner in his or her country.
HB 7185 and House Bill 7303, which proposes to institute absolute divorce and dissolution of marriage in the Philippines, were successfully defended during the plenary deliberations by the Committee on Population and Family Relations chaired by Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones.
Prior to the approval of the divorce measures, congressmen voted to approve on second reading House Bill 7378 providing for the third postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections from May 14, 2018 to October 8, 2018.
All three legislative proposals are expected to be voted upon on third and final reading before the Lower House goes on congressional break next week.
However, the three measured, strongly backed by the leaders of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, are not expected to be included in the list of priority bills of the Senate.
Originally scheduled on the last Monday of October, 2016, Congress has cancelled twice the barangay and SK polls upon the recommendation of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte had called on Congress to cancel the elections as part of his plans to weed out the barangay and SK administrations of officials linked to corruption and drug trade.
Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza, who was the lone interpellator of the sponsors of HB 7378, noted that Duterte’s alibi for cancelling the May 14 polls were no longer cited by proponents of the measure.
“Now, suspected drug personalities will continue to be entrenched in barangay governance and will get another reprieve. This measure will reward the bad and punish the good, there this is not an effective law,” warned Atienza.
He added: “Elections should be a cornerstone of a free, democratic society.”
Between the two divorce bills, HB 7185 appeared to have the least objection when presented for plenary debate last week.
Authored by Taguig Rep. Pia S. Cayetano, HB 7185 proposes the recognition of a foreign decree of termination of marriage and allowing its subsequent registration with the Philippine civil registry.
Other authors include Reps. Ma. Lourdes Aggabao (NPC, Isabela) ; Anicete Bertiz III (ACTS-OFW Partylist); Emmi de Jesus (Gabrie;la Partylist); Ma. Vida Espinosa (NPC, Masbate) and Aragones.
HB 7303 proposes ten grounds for the grant of a judicial decree of absolute divorce for married couples. Among the grounds cited in the bill are physical violence or grossly abusive conduct directed against the petitioner; homosexuality of any of the spouses; bigamous marriage; marital infidelity or perversion or having a child with another person outside the marriage; abandonement without ajustifiable cause for more than one year and drug addiciton, habiltual alcoholism or chronic gamgling of the resondent.
Prior to its approval on second reading, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the authors and sponsors of the bill, proposed a committee amendment that prties with pending cases for annulment of marriage or legal separation may convert their petitions to absolute divorce or dissolution of marriage.
Aside from Alvarez, Lagman, Cayetano and Aragones, other authors of the divorce bill are Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia (Independent, Cebu); Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr. (LP, Ifugao); Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers Partylist); Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna); Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Partylist) and Feliciano Belmonte Jr. (LP, Quezon City)l.