Divorce bill ‘sleeping’ at Senate

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“I’ve also had the opportunity to talk to a number of my former colleagues (at the Senate) and they said they were open to the bill.” -- Cayetano

House members confident of its passage

Whether called divorce or marriage dissolution or both, a law must be passed to allow Filipino couples to get out of marital hell, members of the House of Representatives stressed over the weekend.

While House Bill No. 7303 has already passed third and final reading at the House seeking to end unhappy unions, the Senate at the moment seemed lukewarm to passing a counterpart measure in the predominantly Catholic country of 106 million.
For divorce proponents interviewed by Daily Tribune, H.B. 7303 is practically “sleeping” or “gathering cobwebs” at the Senate.

Voting 134 in the affirmative, 57 in the negative, and two abstentions, the House approved last March H.B. 7303, or the proposed Act Instituting Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage in the Philippines.

If passed into law, the measure will provide former spouses the right to marry again either by civil or religious ceremony. It also ensures an absolute divorce proceeding that is inexpensive, particularly for indigent litigants and petitioners.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has remained confident the President will still reconsider his reservations on the Absolute Divorce Bill.

“The President’s concern is appreciated. If we have to explain, especially the principal sponsors and the committee, we will,” Alvarez was quoted as saying.

Alvarez stressed that the bill has passed a thorough legislative study and that it contains provisions that would ensure the welfare of all parties involved in divorce proceedings.
House Bill No. 7303, however, is expected to meet stiff opposition at the Senate where, according to Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, many senators are diametrically opposed to divorce.

Taguig City Rep. Pia Cayetano, a former senator, nonetheless, told the Daily Tribune that there’s hope that the bill on marriage dissolution she co-authored with Speaker Alvarez will get the nod of her former colleagues.

“I’ve also had the opportunity to talk to a number of my former colleagues and they said they were open to the bill,” she was quoted as saying.

“Over the long break, I understand that groups and individuals supporting this bill, both from here and abroad, our overseas Filipino workers, have exerted effort to send their position papers to the Senate secretariat and the office of the senators,” said Cayetano.

Cayetano added that those supportive of a marriage dissolution law have also posted messages on social media to explain why such a way out for unhappy couples should not be denied to the Filipinos.

“I hope that hearings will be held soon to start the discussions since this is an issue that impacts the lives of many Filipinos,” Cayetano said.

For Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, it may just be a matter of not calling marriage dissolution “divorce” to convince senators to pass H.B. 7303.

Batocade expressed hope that the senators “will find (a) way to see the light, (that they) will find enough wisdom in their thinking in the interest of these people who have marital problems.”

“It may help to convince the senators themselves if maybe they just delete this word ‘divorce’ and stick with the ‘marriage dissolution,’” said Batocade.

“I think the Senate will eventually agree with the House,” he added.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, when reached for comment, said he’s awaiting direction from the House leadership on the matter. However, he said the matter has already been discussed thoroughly and “reported out already in the Committee, including public hearings abroad.”

 

Asked about President Duterte’s reservations on divorce per se, Castelo expressed confidence on the House leadership’s capability to rally support for pieces of legislation that need to be passed.

“The President’s concern is appreciated. If we have to explain, especially the principal sponsors and the committee, we will.” – Alvarez

“It remains to be seen. (The) House should provide a compelling reason or there should be a snowballing clamor for it to offset the President’s pronouncement,” said Castelo.

Staunchly against divorce, Rep. Atienza said “I hope not” referring to the Senate agreeing to pass a marriage dissolution law. “Besides, the Senate has more senators who are pro-life and who are against divorce,” he told Daily Tribune.

“I remain consistent with my advocacy that family should always be protected and dissolution of marriage is not the solution to the problems of married Filipino couples.”

Instead of pushing for divorce and marriage dissolution, Atienza said the lawmakers, including those at the Senate, should find ways to reduce the cost of undergoing legal separation.

“Even the Church is looking for a system to hasten and shorten the proceedings in order to help married couples,” Atienza said.

He said the President may influence the senators’ views on the issue.

“If the President stays consistent with his pronounced conviction that he is against divorce and dissolution of marriage, the Senate will have more strength to remain in their position,” Atienza said.

H.B. No. 7303 provides the grounds on the granting of an absolute divorce, which include:
• The grounds for legal separation and annulment of marriage under the Family Code of the Philippines;

• Separation in fact 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.

A mandatory six-month cooling-off period is also provided under the bill. During the said period, the court will not start the trial for absolute divorce after the filing of the petition for six months to try to reunite and reconcile the parties.

Aside from these, the bill also provides for an option for a one-time grant of alimony, or the allowance for support made under the court to a divorced person by the former spouse.

There is also an option for delivering the presumptive legitimate, or the portion of a parent’s estate which he or she cannot give to the children as inheritance, if the spouses are still living.

If the divorce bill is signed into law, the Philippines will join every country in the world, except Vatican, to allow divorce.