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In a supermajority-dominated House of Representatives, independent opposition leader Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman has again prevailed with the approval on third and final reading of the absolute divorce bill which he has principally authored and sponsored.

Lagman asserted that “as the only country in the world besides the Vatican where divorce is still illegal, this is a clear and resounding victory and signals the imminent liberation for Filipino wives who are entombed in toxic, abusive, and long-dead marriages.”

Lagman, who defended the measure and faced 12 interpellators in debates that spanned long hours and nine session days, also emphasized that the passage on third reading of the absolute divorce bill signifies a significant shift in societal attitudes towards marriage and relationships.

The Albay solon explained that “by legalizing divorce, the Philippines acknowledges the need to provide options for individuals trapped in unhappy and irreparable marriages. This recognition reflects an evolving understanding of the complexities and challenges that can arise within marital unions.”

He assured critics of the measure that a divorce law will not destroy marriages because “divorce does not put asunder a marriage as the union has long perished. What will be before the Family Court is a cadaver of a marriage. Divorce is not the monster plaguing a marriage. It is marital infidelity, abandonment, violence, and cruelty, among others, which are the devils that destroy marriages.”

The veteran legislator also said that a divorce law “is constitutional as the Constitution does not prevent the Congress from enacting a divorce law even as it does not offend the dogma of the Catholic Church which has its own canonical dissolution of marriage. All other Catholic and Christian countries in the world have long legitimized divorce.”

He also clarified that the bill does not recognize no-fault, quickie, drive-thru, email or notarial divorces as there are limited and reasonable grounds for divorce and a petition will have to undergo judicial scrutiny in order to prevent abuse and collusion of the parties, which is penalized.

Lagman maintained that divorce is not for everybody. “It is for those who have just and valid causes to be adjudicated by the proper court. It is only an alternative remedy and will not apply to the overwhelming majority of Filipino married couples who have enduring and loving marriages,” he said.

Lagman, who was also the principal author of the reproductive health law, said that the divorce bill is an apt sequel to RA 10354.

“These sister measures are pro-woman legislation since the RH law guarantees a woman’s right to freely determine the number and spacing of her children and mitigates maternal death, while a divorce law liberates a wife from an abusive relationship by ending a damaging and damaged marriage which will help her regain dignity and self-respect,” Lagman held.

He also argued that a divorce law is pro-children. “Divorce is not the worst thing that can happen to children. Having to live in a home filled with strife, discord, and violence is much worse.”

He stated that divorce actually provides children with the opportunity to grow and develop in an environment with fewer stressors and trauma by removing them from high-conflict households.

The salient features of the proposed Absolute Divorce Act are the following:

  1. The State has the responsibility of rescuing couples and their children from a home plagued by discord even as it continues to recognize marriage as a social institution and the foundation of the family.

  2. A divorce petition will undergo a judicial process where proof of the cause for the divorce is established and that the marriage has completely collapsed without any possibility of reconciliation.

  3. Quickie, notarial, email and other speedy drive-thru divorces are prohibited.

  4. There is a cooling-off period of sixty (60) days after the filing of the divorce petition wherein the judge shall exert earnest efforts to reconcile the parties;

  5. The public prosecutor is mandated to conduct an investigation to assure that there is no collusion between the parties or whether one party coerced the other to file the divorce petition;

  6. At any time during the proceedings, if the parties agree to reconcile, the petition is dismissed;

  7. Even after the issuance of an absolute divorce decree, when the parties decide to reconcile, the divorce decree shall be nullified;

  8. There are harsh penalties for those who collude to secure a divorce decree or of one spouse coercing the other to file for divorce. The penalties consist of an indivisible punishment of five years imprisonment and a sizeable fine; and

  9. No decree of absolute divorce shall be based upon a stipulation of facts or a confession of judgment.

  10. An absolute divorce law is constitutional. There was unanimity in the Constitutional Commission of 1987 where the Commissioners led by Fr. Joaquin Bernas, said that the Congress has the power to enact a divorce law.

  11. Divorce proceedings are mandated to be expeditious, reasonable, and inexpensive.

  12. The divorce decree shall include an award for alimony to the innocent spouse and adequate financial support to the children, as well as their custody.