Divorce bill sails through House panel

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    THE bill legalizing absolute divorce in the country was approved in the committee level yesterday after one of its proponents invoked a House rule which allows committees to dispose measures already approved on third reading in the previous Congress.

    The House committee on family relations approved in principle the various divorce bills pending its consolidation by a technical working group (TWG) led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the bill’s principal author.

    The measure was approved in the committee level after Lagman cited Rule 10 section 48 of the House Rules which the House leadership invokes whenever it seeks to expedite the passage of old bills already approved in the 17th Congress.

    “(These) should be prioritized and may be disposed of as matters already reported upon the approval of majority of the members of the committee present, there being a quorum,” Lagman said.

    Lagman said the current divorce bills filed in the 18th Congress include his House Bill (HB) No. 100, HB No. 838 of party-list Reps. Arlene Brosas of Gabriela, France Castro of Alliance and Concerned Teachers (ACT), Sarah Elago of Kabataan, Eufemia Cullamat, Carlos Zarate and Ferdinand Gaite of Bayan Muna; and HB No. 2263 by former speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

    Deputy Speaker for good governance and moral uprightness Eduardo “Bro. Eddie” Villanueva of Cibac party-list opposed the passage of the measure, saying it destroys the sanctity of marriage.

    Villanueva said the bills do not address the issues of high cost of litigation and slow-grinding disposition of cases “which are the real problems encountered by those seeking relief from troubled marriages, particularly poor petitioners.”

    “More importantly, it is a clear defiance to God and to the Constitution because it will terribly degrade the sacrosanctness of marriage as an inviolable institution,” he said.

    The divorce bills filed in Congress, Villanueva said, “simply enumerate and consolidate remedies for broken marriages already existing in our current laws.”

    “That is why the divorce bill is unnecessary. Worse, it just makes marriage ‘cheap’ because the grounds it qualifies as bases for divorce are shallow and not in favor of the strengthening the families – which is what the Constitution and various jurisprudence of the court decree,” he added.

    Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano agreed that the proposal to legalize divorce in the country is not the solution to troubled marriages.

    While he is against divorce which is a pet bill of her sister Sen. Pia Cayetano, Cayetano assured the public that the House leadership will facilitate intelligent debates on the matter.

    In the previous 17th Congress under then speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, the divorce bill was approved on third and final reading to liberate couples in problematic marriages.

    The bill, however, died in the Senate due to lack of support.

    Under the approved version of the bill last Congress, the measure recognized as a ground for dissolution of marriage the same grounds for legal separation under the Family Code.

    The bill also provided for summary judicial proceedings to expedite the resolution of petition for marriage dissolution/divorce without regard to technical rules. It likewise gave the petitioner the option to be represented by a lawyer or not.

    The following grounds may be subjected to summary judicial proceeding: de facto separation for at least five years, bigamous marriage, legal separation for at least two years, imprisonment for six years, gender reassignment surgery, and joint petition of the spouses for the dissolution of their marriage.

    However, the substitute bill also provides for a six-month cooling-off period during which the court shall exercise all efforts to reunite and reconcile the parties.