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House approves absolute divorce bill on 3rd and final reading

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By Ben R. Rosario

Registering a vote of 134 in the affirmative, 57 in the negative, and two abstentions, the House of Representatives made legislative history Monday night by passing on third and final reading House Bill 7303 or the absolute divorce bill.

Congressmen passed HB 7303 notwithstanding an earlier Malacañang declaration stating President Duterte’s objection to the bill.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque had earlier said President Duterte was concerned about the adverse impact of a married couple’s divorce on the children.

“Ayaw sana niya mag komento pero since nagbotohan na naman saKamara, ang Presidente ay tutol sa divorce. Ang sabi niya kawawa yung mga anak [He didn’t want to comment but since the House has already voted, the President is against divorce. He said he feels sorry for the children],”Roque said.

Senior Deputy Minority Leader and BuhayParty-list Rep. Lito Atienza, a firm oppositor of the measure, said approval of the measure will only be an exercise in futility following President Duterte’s pronouncements against the measure.

“We strongly agree with the President that divorce would be very detrimental to mothers and children,” Atienza. “We welcome and fully appreciate President Duterte’s stand against the divorce law. The President has saved the Filipino family with his strong position against divorce,” he added.

Divorce not a Senate priority

Sen. Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, said the passage of divorce law in the Senate is not a priority.

Gordon stressed that there is still no solid vote in the Senate for a divorce law.

“I think it will violate the Constitution because nakalagay doon (it is provided there that) marriage is a social institution that the government should try and protect,” Gordon said.

“If their marriage has become irreconcilable, and it negatively affects their child, their divorce should be limited as there is such thing as annulment,” he added.

But Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said they are open to entertaining the dissolution of marriage.

“Divorce as we know it in America, (is) doubtful. But this new idea being introduced, ‘dissolution of marriage,’ should be studied. Speaker tells me there is a difference. Hence, we study if true,” Pimentel said.

Bipartisan support

The legislative proposal instituting divorce in the country won bipartisan support although approval was credited by many to the intense backing of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

Weak resistance coming from the Catholic Church was also considered a reason for the seeming feeble opposition against the measure.

The Catholic Church has been one of the staunchest oppositors of the bill.

Authors and principal sponsors of the recently passed divorce bill are prepared to convince President Duterte that the measure contains sufficient provisions that would address concerns on the welfare of children of couples breaking up their marriage, Alvarez said.

Alvarez said he fully understood Duterte’s misgivings over the measure but he remains optimistic that the chief executive will still consider his adverse position on House Bill 7303 or the Absolute Divorce Bill.

“Iyong concern ni President Duterte ay maganda. Kung kinakailangan magpapaliwanag kami, lalo na ang principal sponsor at ang committee, gagawin namin,” Alvarez stated. (The president’s concern is appreciated. If we have to explain, especially the principal sponsors and the committee, we will)

Alvarez assured that the Lower House did its part in considering such concerns over the children’s plight, stressing that the bill went through a thorough legislative study that it now contains provisions that would ensure that the welfare of all parties involved in divorce, particularly children, will be addressed.

Education, support for kids

“Malinaw na malinaw po iyung provision tungkol doon(Provisions on the education and support for children are very clear), especially iyung education and support of the children,” the speaker said. “The President keeps an open mind on issues.

Cebu Rep. Raul Del Mar chided the claim of pro-divorce solons that the proposal allows only “limited” grounds for seeking divorce.

“There are 23 grounds here, you call that limited grounds?” decried Del Mar.

Bukidnon Rep. Manuel Zubiri said the divorce measure will make the bond of family even worse, instead of protecting it at all cost.

In rejecting the measure, Davao del Sur Rep. Mercedes Cagas, also lamented that the measure was approved despite its threat to the family.

“Mr. Speaker, instead of giving an opportunity for families to break, let us focus on strengthening the families. This can be done by promoting healthy marriages,” she said.

Principal author and Albay Rep. EdcelLagman said the legislation is aimed for “exceptional cases when the marital bond is irremediably severed.”

“In divorce and dissolution of marriage proceedings, there is no more marriage to protect or union to destroy because the marriage has long perished,” Lagman stressed.

HB 730 provides that petitioners seeking divorce are ensured inexpensive and affordable court proceedings in securing an absolute divorce decree.

The bill further states that grounds on the grant of an absolute divorce decree shall include grounds for legal separation and annulment of marriage under the Family Code, de facto separation for at least five years, legal separation by judicial decree for at least two years, psychological incapacity, gender reassignment surgery, irreconcilable differences, and joint petition of spouses.(With reports from Mario B. Casayuran and Vanne P. Terrazola)

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