Divorce Is Outlawed In The Philippines, But Moves Are Underway To Legalize It

Divorce Is Outlawed In The Philippines, But Moves Are Underway To Legalize It

The Philippines' lower house of Congress, in March, passed a divorce bill on the 3rd reading, moving the nation closer to legalization.

The bill seeks to allow divorce for a variety of reasons, including irreconcilable differences, abuse, infidelity, and abandonment. It passed notwithstanding opposition from President Rodrigo Duterte, whose own marriage was legally annulled.

But, for divorce to become legal the Senate also has to pass a bill in support, and even then Mr Duterte could yet use his veto to strike it down.

All over the world, divorce is only illegal in the Vatican City and Philippines.

More than 80% of people living in the Philippines describe themselves as Catholic, and the church has a great influence in the country.

Congresswoman Emmi de Jesus stated that the bill was filed because of a "clamor of women trapped in abusive relationships", who need the government to give them a means out of "irreparable marriages".

The Divorce Bill, or House Bill 7303, passed with 134 votes in favor and 57 against, with 2 abstentions.

How can Filipinos get out of a marriage?

Divorce Is Outlawed In The Philippines, But Moves Are Underway To Legalize It

Divorce Is Outlawed In The Philippines, But Moves Are Underway To Legalize It

Currently, the only way to end a marriage legally in the Philippines is by annulment.

Such a ruling requires a civil case in which a husband and a wife have to undergo mental health examinations and testify in court, all in an effort to have a judge declare a marriage invalid.

Such suits can last up to 10 years and are generally expensive. President Duterte won his annulment before he assumed office. His spokesperson, Harry Roque, stated that the president feared the divorce bill would cause difficulties for the kids of divorced couples.

What would the new bill allow?

Divorce Is Outlawed In The Philippines, But Moves Are Underway To Legalize It

Divorce Is Outlawed In The Philippines, But Moves Are Underway To Legalize It

This divorce bill would allow a court to dissolve a marriage if it is deemed "irremediably broken", enabling individuals to remarry another person of the opposite sex.

The law would also give courts the power to determine custody "in accordance with the best interests" of minors. Kids under 7 could not be separated from their moms unless there were "compelling reasons" to do so.

One of the bill's sponsors, opposition leader Edcel Lagman, said that in such divorce situation, "there is no more marriage to protect or union to end because the marriage has long perished".

The bill does not terminate the "steadfast commitment of the state to protect and preserve marriage", he concluded.

In any case, divorce will not be legal in the Philippines except the Senate passes a so-called counterpart bill, which the upper house hasn't even drafted.

Since 1999, Legislators have advanced numerous divorce bills, but until now they have all failed to pass committee stage.

Polls suggest a narrow majority in favor of divorce in the Philippines.