Bill adds more grounds for legal separation | Inquirer News

Bill adds more grounds for legal separation

/ 05:30 AM March 20, 2023
Stock photo of hands holding cutout male and female figures STORY: Bill adds more grounds for legal separation stock images

MANILA, Philippines — To ensure “comprehensive and effective” legal protections for abuse victims, especially women and children, a lawmaker has filed a bill that seeks to include all forms of domestic violence as among the grounds for legal separation under the Family Code.

In filing House Bill 7538, Pagtibayin at Palaguin ang Pangkabuhayang Pilipino (4Ps) party-list Rep. Jonathan Clement Abalos II cited the Philippine Commission on Women’s observation that the current bases for legal separation have “failed to recognize the current realities of the victims, most of whom are subjected to other forms of violence not yet covered in the Family Code but defined in Republic Act 9262, also known as the Anti-Violence against Women and their Children (Anti-VAWC) Act of 2004.”


His bill seeks to update the legal separation grounds in Article 55 of Executive Order 209 or the Family Code of the Philippines. In particular, the clause “repeated physical violence or grossly abusive conduct” in the Family Code will be replaced, under HB 7538, with “any act or series of acts of physical and sexual violence, economic abuse, or grossly abusive conduct, including battery, assault, coercion, harassment or arbitrary deprivation of liberty” directed against the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner.

The bill also includes psychological violence that causes emotional or mental distress and behavioral addiction, such as gambling or pornographic addiction, as a basis for legal separation.
Another ground is gender identity to “guarantee that individuals subject to bias and other forms of abuse due to their gender identity are legally protected and have access to legal remedies.”

Instead of just “lesbianism or homosexuality of the respondent,” the basis cited under HB 7538 will be “gender identity and sexual orientation of the petitioner or petitioner’s partner resulting in psychological incapacity or irreconcilable differences.”


Another basis for legal separation will be an attempt by the respondent against the life of a common child or a petitioner’s child as well as acts of violence defined in the Anti-VAWC Act.

According to Abalos, the updated grounds were essential to “promoting the safety, security and well-being of all Filipinos and to upholding the principles of justice and equality in our society, especially those of Filipino women.”

He also cited Philippine National Police records which showed that while there were fewer VAWC cases from January to November 2021 — 27,696 of which 13,723 involved married women as victims — “the severity had increased with more cases involving physical violence.”

“These numbers highlight the importance of ensuring the legal protections for the victims of domestic violence and abuse are comprehensive and effective. Therefore it is appropriate to include all forms of violence as grounds for legal separation,” Abalos said.


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