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Good morning Honorable Chairman Ian Paul Dy and distinguished Members of the Committee as well as esteemed resource persons.

At the outset, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to Chairman Ian Paul Dy for granting my request to include House Bill No. 78 in the Agenda for the Day.

As the House Bill number shows, it is the first bill on reinstituting absolute divorce in the Philippines which was filed in this 19th Congress. It is virtually identical with the House Bill on absolute divorce which was approved on third and final reading by the House of Representatives during the 17th Congress. It is comprehensive enough to include the grant of civil recognition to the dissolution of marriages by the matrimonial tribunals of the Catholic Church and other recognized religious denominations, which is the subject of House Bill No. 1021 and No. 1593.

In addition to adopting the Explanatory Note to House Bill No. 78 as my sponsorship message, may I also outline the overriding reasons why the Philippine Congress must now enact an absolute divorce law.

The following constitute the essence and import of the bill on absolute divorce:

  1. Since absolute divorce is not a new or foreign concept to Filipinos, the title is reinstituting absolute divorce. The pre-Spanish Filipinos practiced divorce which was available to both spouses. There was limited absolute divorce during the American era and the grounds for divorce were expanded during the Japanese occupation.

  2. All countries worldwide have their statutes on absolute divorce in varying degrees of liberality, including all of the Catholic countries except the Vatican City State which has a population of only about 800 residents, mostly priests and nuns. The Philippines is now the only country which has not legalized absolute divorce. Considering that divorce is worldwide, there can be no blunder in unanimity for its global legalization.

  3. Absolute divorce is not for everybody. The overwhelming majority of Filipino married couples have happy and enduring relationships. They do not need a divorce law.

  4. Absolute divorce is urgently necessary in exceptional cases for couples in inordinately toxic and irreparably dysfunctional marriages, particularly the wives who are abused or abandoned.

  5. The State has the responsibility of rescuing couples and their children from a house on fire.

  6. Studies in progressive countries show that children of divorced parents are more resilient, more loving, and independent as they are liberated from daily exposure to the bickerings of their parents.

  7. Under the proposed law, 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.

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

  9. The State continues to recognize marriage as a social institution and the foundation of the family. For this purpose, the State conducts prenuptial and post nuptial seminars; there is a cooling off period of six (6) months 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; and at any time during the proceedings, if the parties agree to reconcile, the petition is dismissed; or even after the issuance of an absolute divorce decree, when the parties decide to reconcile, the divorce degree shall be nullified.

  10. 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 fine of P200,000.00.

  11. 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.

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

  13. 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. Even the Catholic hierarchy has its own matrimonial tribunal which dissolves marriages similar to a divorce.

  14. 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 lengthy unlike in a divorce proceeding which it is mandated to be inexpensive, affordable and expeditious. Incidentally, in legal separation the judicially separated spouses cannot remarry unlike in a divorce decree. In annulment and dissolution of marriage based on psychological incapacity, the causes must exist before or contemporaneous with the celebration of the marriage, while in reality the overwhelming grounds for divorce occur after the marriage and during cohabitation.

Mr. Chairman and Honorable members of the Committee since House Bill No. 78 is the first bill on the subject matter to be filed and is comprehensive, Amy I respectfully suggest that it be adopted as the template for consideration during the deliberation of the Technical Working Group.

May I also humbly volunteer to Chair the Technical Working Group with the approval of the Chair and the Members of the Committee.

Thank you.