House approves absolute divorce bill on final reading

With 126 votes in favor, 109 against, and 20 abstentions, the House of Representatives has approved on the third and final reading a bill reinstating absolute divorce in the Philippines.

On the final day of the 19th Congress' second regular session, House Bill 9349, or the Act Reinstituting Absolute Divorce as an Alternative Mode for the Dissolution of Marriage, was approved. This milestone came two months after the bill was referred by the House Committee on Population and Family Relations, and just one week after passing the second reading.

Here is an excerpt from the Declaration of Policy of the Absolute Divorce Act, as stated in the official committee report:

While the State continues to protect and preserve marriage as a social institution and as the foundation of the family, it shall also give the opportunity to spouses in irremediably failed marriages to secure an absolute divorce decree as an alternative mode for the dissolution of an irreparably broken or dysfunctional marriage under limited grounds and well-defined judicial procedures; save the children from the pain, stress, and agony consequent to their parents' constant marital clashes or irreconcilable differences; and grant the divorced spouses the right to marry again.

The measure stipulates that the grounds for absolute divorce align with those for legal separation and annulment. However, divorced spouses retain the right to remarry, a privilege not granted in legal separation.

As per the committee report, the following reasons are deemed valid grounds for a judicial decree of absolute divorce:

  • Physical violence or grossly abusive conduct directed against the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner
  • Physical violence or moral pressure to compel the petitioner to change religious or political affiliation
  • Attempt of respondent to corrupt or induce the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner, to engage in prostitution, or connivance in such corruption or inducement
  • Final judgment sentencing the respondent to imprisonment of more than six years, even if pardoned
  • Drug addiction or habitual alcoholism or chronic gambling of the respondent
  • Homosexuality of the respondent
  • Contracting by the respondent of a subsequent bigamous marriage, whether in the Philippines or abroad
  • Marital infidelity or perversion or having a child with another person other than one’s spouse during the marriage, except when upon the mutual agreement of the spouses, a child is born to them through in vitro fertilization or a similar procedure or when the wife bears a child after being a victim of rape
  • Attempt by the respondent against the life of the petitioner, a common child or a child of the petitioner
  • Abandonment of petitioner by respondent without justifiable cause for more than one year
  • When the spouses are legally separated by judicial decree for more than two years, either spouse can petition the proper Family Court for an absolute divorce based on said judicial decree of legal separation
The divorce process is set to offer a faster and cheaper option compared to the usually lengthy and costly annulment procedures.

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