Sotto says divorce bill lacked votes in House

Sotto says divorce bill lacked votes in House; Lagman says abstentions not counted

/ 08:34 AM May 23, 2024

Sotto says divorce bill lacked votes in House; Lagman says abstentions not counted

Former Senate President Vicente Sotto III (left) and Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman (Photos from Senate PRIB / FILE PHOTO)

MANILA, Philippines — Former Senate president Vicente Sotto III claims that the House of Representatives approved a bill seeking to reinstate divorce in the country without getting a sufficient amount of votes, as those who voted in the affirmative were less than half of the lawmakers present.

In a statement on Wednesday, hours after House Bill (HB) No. 9349, or the proposed Absolute Divorce Act, was approved on the third and final reading at the House, Sotto claimed that the 126 lawmakers who voted in favor of the proposal were fewer than half of the quorum or the members who participated in the proceedings.


HB No. 9349 was approved, with 126 lawmakers voting in the affirmative, 109 in the negative, and 20 abstentions.  This meant that 255 lawmakers participated in the voting process.


READ: House approves divorce bill on final reading 

But Sotto believes that for HB No. 9349 to be approved on third reading, 128 lawmakers — over half of the 255 — should have given the thumbs-up.

“House Bill No. 9349, or the Absolute Divorce Act, was approved with 126 lawmakers voting in the affirmative, 109 in the negative, and 20 abstentions,” Sotto said.

“Therefore, the motion is LOST. Parliamentary rules need a majority of the quorum to [be] approved. Tsk tsk,” he added.

When staunch divorce advocate and Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman was asked about Sotto’s view, he said that the rule of the House is simple: if the yes votes are more than the no votes, the bill is approved.

“It seems former Senate president Sotto doesn’t know how to count. What we are counting here is the majority, well, the yes vote won over the no vote.  We do not count the abstention because that has no vote, if it were a basketball game, the opponent lost, right?” Lagman said after the session was adjourned.


“Anyway, whether or not the margin is big or small, a win is a win, right?” he added.

READ: Lagman glad over House approval of divorce bill: Victory is still victory 

Lagman said that Sotto did not experience being Senate president with these views.

“No, you know it’s as if he was not Senate president before. What we count [is] only who said yes and who said no. If the yes votes are more than the no votes, then the yes wins. Abstentions are not counted,” he added.

Parliamentary rules

Sotto then advised Lagman to read parliamentary rules, as it has been a practice that the “majority” is always considered a majority of lawmakers present during the quorum, thereby including abstention votes, too.

“He (Lagman) is wrong. Abstentions, if taken, forms the quorum therefore 126 is not a majority of the votes. Aside from common sense, he should read parliamentary rules on voting. In so many words, it is always a majority of those present to get an approval,” Sotto said in a text message to

“Embarrassing to experts if they insist on a mistake,” he added.

Lagman insisted that the quorum only includes lawmakers who voted in the affirmative or the negative because the other members chose to abstain, which means the quorum is at 235, or the 126 yes votes and the 109 no votes combined, and not 255.

If this is the case, only 118 yes votes are needed to pass the bill.

“There being a quorum, what is reckoned is the total of yes votes against the no votes. Abstentions are not counted in reaching the majority votes. The divorce bill was definitely passed on third reading,” he said.

The Albay solon also confirmed that the passage of the divorce bill was anchored on Section 117 of the 19th Congress’ House rules, part of which states that an “abstention shall not be counted as a vote. Unless otherwise provided by the Constitution or by these rules, a majority of those voting, there being a quorum, shall decide the issue”.

But Sotto said the 20 abstention votes should have mattered because the lawmakers were present inside the plenary when the voting happened.

“Correct (referring to Section 117) should not be counted as a vote but as DID NOT VOTE IN FAVOR. Common sense!  They form part of the quorum. They made a mistake and are denying it. They should have a few of the abstentions not to register their abstention. Talo sila dyan (They would lose there),” he said.

When asked if he intends to question the constitutionality of the proceedings, Sotto said he will not, but warned that there may be groups that will.

“No need, although some sectors might. I believe the Senate will not accept a bill wrongly approved […] The people against the bill will have a field day if they do not correct their mistake,” Sotto added.

Under HB No. 9349, several grounds, like physical violence, abusive behavior, conviction on final judgment, homosexuality, drug addiction, another legal marriage, infidelity, and other conditions, will be considered grounds for absolute divorce.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

HB No. 9349 is the first bill in the 19th Congress to almost split the House evenly, as typically, only three to five members of the minority vote against bills being pushed by the Majority — sometimes including Lagman himself and members of the Makabayan bloc.

TAGS: Divorce bill, Edcel Lagman, Vicente Sotto

© Copyright 1997-2024 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.