Forwarding of House's divorce bill to Senate on hold

Forwarding of divorce bill to Senate on hold

House OKs divorce bill on final reading stock images

MANILA, Philippines — The transmission of the absolute divorce bill from the House of Representatives to the Senate has been deferred pending questions about the final vote count when the lower chamber passed it on its third and final reading on May 22.

In a message to the Inquirer on Tuesday, House Secretary General Reginald Velasco said the move was meant to “set the record straight” on the final voting for House Bill No. 9349. A total of 126 lawmakers voted in favor of the bill, 109 were against it while 20 abstained.


The next morning, however, the count of those who approved the bill was amended to 131. This prompted former Senate President Tito Sotto and other opponents of the bill, like conservative evangelists Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante and Cibac Rep. Eddie Villanueva, to question the validity of the vote.


READ: House OKs divorce bill: ‘No monster’

Sotto argued that the measure could not be considered passed as it did not get the majority vote. In the Senate, the nay votes are counted with the abstained votes, so the final results would have resulted in the majority not voting in favor, 126-129.

But Velasco clarified that under House rules, abstentions are not counted as votes, meaning the bill would have passed via majority anyway, whether the Yay votes were at 126 or 131.

Count to be clarified

He said that the matter would be clarified during the resumption of the session on July 22.

In the Senate, members appear to be almost evenly divided against the bill based on the informal survey conducted by Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada.

In a list Estrada released to Senate reporters on Tuesday, there were at least six senators in favor of the measure, while five were opposed.


“I conducted a survey on my own and asked my fellow senators, my colleagues, [about] their thoughts on the divorce bill,” he said.

Asked if its approval in the House would put pressure on the Senate to pass its own version, Estrada replied, “It’s not our priority bill.”

Senators in favor of the divorce law, according to Estrada’s survey, were Robinhood Padilla, Grace Poe, Risa Hontiveros, Imee Marcos, Pia Cayetano and Raffy Tulfo.

Those against it were Estrada, along with Senate President Francis Escudero, Majority Leader Francis Tolentino, and Senators Joel Villanueva and Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.

“I have been and still am not in favor of legalizing divorce in our country. Instead of pushing for an absolute divorce law, which is proscribed by the Constitution, perhaps a bill with a well-defined ground for nullifying a marriage would be a much-welcomed alternative,” said Estrada.

“Instead of divorce, why don’t we just study how the process of getting an annulment can become easier and more acceptable?…and maybe we should just expedite annulment cases because, let’s face it, annulment is quite expensive,” he added.

More affordable

Escudero is also against a measure that would allow an absolute divorce in the country. Instead of a divorce bill, he said the existing process of annulment under the Civil Code should be made more affordable and accessible to Filipinos.

For Villanueva, divorce would only encourage spouses to separate over petty quarrels. “Maybe there will be a drive-thru, a long line of those wanting to get divorced over petty reasons. ‘I didn’t like your hairstyle, let’s get divorced’, ‘I didn’t like the way you wash my clothes, let’s get divorced’. That’s what will likely happen. Maybe we are not ready for that,” said the senator, whose father is an evangelist.

“We in the Senate are willing to scrutinize and study carefully what will be the effect of this, what will be the effect on the Family Code, what will be the effect on every Filipino family,” he added.

Sen. JV Ejercito said that while he was still in the process of discernment, “I am leaning at this time to be in favor.”

“I was raised a Roman Catholic, I understand the defense of the Church on the sanctity of marriage. But I also know that a lot of Filipino couples are trapped in loveless and unworkable marriages. It is not their fault. Sometimes things just don’t work out. I also believe that everyone deserves another chance to be happy in life,” he added.

“This is a difficult issue…I intend to listen, and participate actively, in the deliberation in the Senate,” he said.

Minority Floor Leader Aquilino Pimentel III, on the other hand, said that he could not vote for the bill based on what he has heard in the news about its contents.

Other senators, meanwhile, like Sen. Sonny Angara and Ramon Revilla Jr., remain undecided.

House Bill No. 9349, or the Absolute Divorce Bill, principally authored by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, gives spouses in irremediably failed marriages a “fourth mode” of dissolving an “irreparably broken or dysfunctional marriage” based on limited grounds. The other three allowed under the Family Code are canonical dissolution, annulment, and legal separation.

If enacted into law, the bill would actually “reinstate” divorce in the country, as it was legal during the American colonial era and then abolished during the Japanese occupation.

Currently, the Philippines is one of only two countries in the world that still does not allow divorce as a means to end a marriage. The other one is the Vatican, the seat of the Roman Catholic Church.

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The last time a divorce bill cleared final reading was during the 17th Congress, but it languished in the Senate. In fact, the current Senate version of the divorce bill, SB No. 2443—filed by Hontiveros, Tulfo, Padilla, Cayetano and Marcos—hurdled the committee level last year for the first time since 1986, but has yet to move forward.

TAGS: absolute divorce, Divorce bill

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