Spouses, especially wives, will soon have the option of getting out of an irremediably broken marriage and get a new lease on life with the approval by the House Committee on Population and Family Relations of the bill reinstituting absolute divorce in the Philippines.
The approval of the substitute bill on absolute divorce for eventual plenary debates assures that the country is now at the threshold of joining the universality of absolute divorce in the community of nations.
Rep. Ian Paul Dy of Isabela chairs the Committee on Population and Family Relations.
The template of the substitute bill is my House Bill No. 78, which is almost a replica of the bill approved on third and final reading by the House of Representatives during the 17th Congress. The approval of the same bill during the 18th Congress was stalled by the pandemic.
While it is said that marriages are solemnized in heaven, the fact is some marriages plummet into hell because of human frailty and imperfections. The Divorce Act seeks to redeem couples, particularly the abused or abandoned wives, from infernal agony.
But it must be underscored that a law on absolute divorce is not for everybody. This Act is for the exceptional circumstances of married couples who are marooned in toxic, dysfunctional, and even abusive marriages, particularly for wives who suffer the torment of irreversibly dead marriages.
Divorce is not the worst thing that can happen to a family. Enduring years of physical violence, suffering emotional abuse, tolerating infidelity, allowing children to live in a hostile home and witness daily discord and constant conflict – these are far worse than divorce.
The salient features of the proposed Absolute Divorce Act are the following:
Since absolute divorce is not a foreign or new concept to Filipinos, the title is reinstituting absolute divorce.
The State has the responsibility of rescuing couples and their children from a home plagued by discord or a house on fire even as it continues to recognize marriage as a social institution and the foundation of the family.
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.
Quickie, notarial, email and other speedy drive-thru divorces are prohibited.
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;
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;
At any time during the proceedings, if the parties agree to reconcile, the petition is dismissed;
Even after the issuance of an absolute divorce decree, when the parties decide to reconcile, the divorce decree shall be nullified;
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
No decree of absolute divorce shall be based upon a stipulation of facts or a confession of judgment.
In a divorce proceeding, no marriage is destroyed because the union in fact has long perished. According to the Supreme Court in Te vs. Te, the dissolution of a marriage is a decent interment of a long-dead marriage.
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.
Divorce is not against the Catholic faith. Even the bible cites instances when Jesus Christ allowed divorces. All Catholic countries, except the Philippines, have legalized divorce which the Papacy has not condemned. Even the Catholic hierarchy has its own matrimonial tribunal which dissolves marriages similar to a divorce.
Divorce is an option. An aggrieved party can seek in the proper cases annulment of marriage, legal separation or dissolution of marriage based on psychological incapacity under the Family Code, all of which are expensive and involve a lengthy process, unlike divorce which is mandated to be expeditious, reasonable, and inexpensive.
EDCEL C. LAGMAN