SWS survey: Half of Filipinos for divorce; 1/3 against

Survey: Half of Filipinos for divorce; 1/3 against

A large number of Filipino men and women with live-in partners, widowed or separated, who have never been married and even some who are married, support the legalization of divorce, says a survey by the independent Social Weather Stations. They are among the 50 percent who agree that irreconcilable couples should be allowed to divorce against only 31 percent who disagree.

Survey: Half of Filipinosfor divorce; 1/3 against

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MANILA, Philippines — A large number of men and women with live-in partners, widowed or separated, who have never been married and even some who are married, are among the 50 percent of Filipinos who support the legalization of divorce, according to a recent survey by the independent pollster Social Weather Stations (SWS).

In contrast, 31 percent of them disagreed with divorce for irreconcilably separated couples, or a net agreement score (50 percent agree minus 31 percent disagree) of +19, the survey report released on May 31 said. It said 17 percent were undecided.


Trend since 2005

The survey results also showed that the “moderately strong” net agreement score was down from +27 in June 2023 and the record high “very strong” +44 in March 2023.


Support for divorce was nearly evenly split—43 percent who agreed versus 45 percent who disagreed—when SWS first surveyed support for divorce in the Philippines in May 2005.

READ: House approves divorce bill on final reading

Net agreement

Following that, net agreement rose to +18 in May 2011 (moderately strong) and +31 in December 2014 (very strong). It declined to moderately strong levels from March 2015 to December 2019, and “neutral” in September 2021.

The report on the March 21 to March 25 survey came on the heels of the passage of House Bill No. 9349, or the proposed Absolute Divorce Act.

READ: Forwarding of divorce bill to Senate on hold

The bill was approved on third and final reading on May 22 with 126 lawmakers voting for approval with 109 against. Twenty abstained from voting.


The survey said that of the 50 percent who supported divorce, 28 percent “strongly agree” while 22 percent “somewhat agree” that married couples who “have already separated and cannot reconcile anymore should be allowed to divorce so they can get legally married again.”

Net agreement was very strong among men and women with live-in partners (+40 and +39 respectively). This is compared to moderately strong levels among widowed or separated women (+23), men who have never married (+20), women who have never married (+18), widowed or separated men (+12), married women (+12), and married men (+10).

Based on religion

Those from Metro Manila showed very strong net agreement at +40, followed by moderately strong levels in Luzon outside of Metro Manila and Visayas at +20 each. Mindanao was neutral at +2.

In terms of religious affiliation, net agreement was moderately strong among Catholics (+20), other Christians (+21) and Muslims (+11). Net agreement among members of Iglesia ni Cristo was moderately weak (-10).

House bill transmittal

The survey used face-to-face interviews of 1,500 adults nationwide. The sampling error margins are plus or minus 2.5 percent for national percentages, plus or minus 4 percent for Luzon outside of Metro Manila, plus or minus 5.7 percent each for Metro Manila, Visayas and Mindanao.

Divorce was legal during the American colonial period and was abolished during the Japanese occupation.

After the May 22 vote on the bill, House Secretary General Reginald Velasco delayed its transmittal to the Senate, saying the number of votes needed correction. He said 131, not 126, had voted to pass the bill.

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.

Sotto argued that the bill was not passed as it did not get a majority to support it. He said that in the Senate, the nay votes were counted with the abstained votes. Applying that to the bill, the bill’s passage would have been blocked as there were 129 against and 126 in favor.

Informal Senate count

Velasco said that under House rules, abstentions were not counted as votes, meaning the bill passed, whether the yay votes were 126 or 131.

Velasco said the matter would be clarified when the third regular session of Congress opens on July 22.

In the 24-member Senate, an informal survey conducted by Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada showed six senators so far were in favor of divorce—Robinhood Padilla, Grace Poe, Risa Hontiveros, Imee Marcos, Pia Cayetano and Raffy Tulfo.

Five were opposed—Estrada himself, Senate President Francis Escudero, Majority Leader Francis Tolentino, and Senators Joel Villanueva and Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.

In separate interviews, Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri and Cynthia Villar said they also are opposed to divorce.

The last time a House divorce bill hurdled final reading was in the 17th Congress, during the first half of former President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

However, the measure languished in the Senate.

House Bill No. 7303, or “An Act Instituting Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage in the Philippines,” got support from 134 representatives against 57 who opposed it. There were two abstentions during the third and final reading in March 2018.

Several lawmakers attempted to pass a divorce bill during the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th Congress.

Slow, costly

Prodivorce advocates maintain that the absence of divorce as a legal option significantly hinders couples from severing ties from their spouses and, more crucially, escaping violent and abusive relationships. Ending marriage through annulment or declaration of marriage invalidity from the courts is slow and costly and has no guaranteed outcome.

Those strongly against divorce, like the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, say that it is “antifamily, antimarriage and antichildren.” Antidivorce advocates see the proposed measure destroying the Filipino family, which is regarded by the 1987 Constitution as the nation’s basic social foundation.

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Escudero said that instead of divorce, the existing process of annulment under the Civil Code should be made more affordable and accessible to Filipinos. Villanueva said that divorce would encourage spouses to separate over petty quarrels.

TAGS: absolute divorce, Divorce bill, SWS

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