Divorce bill gets House panel’s nod; group formed to combine proposals
MANILA, Philippines — A bill instituting divorce in the Philippines has been approved by a House of Representatives panel while a technical working group (TWG) has been formed to consolidate other proposals and inputs from resource persons.
During the hearing of the House committee on population and family relations on Wednesday, the panel approved House Bill No. 100 or the Absolute Divorce Bill of 2019, which was authored by Albay 5th District Rep. Edcel Lagman.
Lagman moved to approve the bill, with no one objecting to the motion. Committee chair and Guimaras Rep. Ma. Lucille Nava approved the motion, before appointing Lagman to lead the TWG.
The TWG is tasked to combine HB 100 with other divorce bills authored by Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, and Davao del Norte 1st District Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez.
“Itong (This) technical working group, I will convene it most probably by next week, depending on the availability of the members, or [the] week after next. But definitely within the month of February, this will be approved already, with a corresponding committee report,” Lagman said in an ambush interview after the hearing.
“The members are Rep. Arlene Brosas, Rep. (Juliet Marie) Ferrer, and Rep. (Ma. Victoria) Umali. We are going to convene as soon as possible,” he added.
Several resource persons – both in favor and against the divorce – were present during the discussions and voiced their opinions on the said issue. Some of the proposals centered on changing the name of divorce to respect faith-based Filipinos, up to eventually just amending existing provisions on annulment.
Pro-family groups also stood against divorce, saying the Philippines being the only country in the world to have no laws on divorce – aside from city-state Vatican, which is the center of Catholicism — is not something to be ashamed of.
“We respectfully appeal to the [kind] consideration of the authors, if we may avoid using the word ‘divorce’, so that it will not be so hard to accept by faith-based people who want to give the Lord the utmost and highest respect,” lawyer Lyndon Caña said in the hearing.
“The word divorce is a Western word, it is a very stigmatized word, so full of package. Divorce is more known for the new problems that it has created than the old problems that it has solved,” he added.
Lagman, however, noted that even Catholicism is a foreign ideology, adding that even predominantly Catholic countries have also adopted divorce laws.
He also pointed out that divorce is not an entirely new idea to the Philippines, as Filipinos before the Spanish occupation have been lenient to divorce.
“Catholicism is also a foreign concept and we have embraced it in the Philippines. Now, we will have to restudy the suggestion that we should call this bill a reinstitution of divorce, because truly, we had divorce practices and policies even before the Spanish time,” Lagman explained.
“So divorce is not a foreign concept to Filipinos, history would show that before the Spaniards came, the Filipinos had already adopted practices of divorce, and the grounds were even more lenient than this bill,” he also said.
Government officials and politicians have been divided on whether divorce is needed in the country. Senator Risa Hontiveros has pushed for the measure in the Senate but fellow Senator Joel Villanueva – son of evangelical leader Bro. Eddie Villanueva – said that he would definitely oppose it.
“We are looking forward for a thorough deliberation. In fact, gusto po talaga naming ma-discuss ito ng mabuti, even sa floor, in any venue,” Brosas said.
“We are also going to consider during the technical working group some of the inputs of the resource persons, because there were some inputs which most probably we could include in the bill,” Lagman added.
Edited by KGA
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