Proponents, critics of divorce bill lock horns as House plenary debates begin

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Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, seen in combo photo with Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman. The two lawmakers are both pushing the campaign to institute divorce in the country. iNTERAKSYON COMBO PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – Proponents of the divorce bill and its opposers immediately locked horns as soon as the measure was sponsored in plenary on Monday.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano and Gabriela party-list Rep. Emmie de Jesus each delivered sponsorship speeches pushing for the revolutionary measure for marriages that are “shattered beyond repair.”

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was also one of the main authors of the bill.

Cebu Rep. Raul del Mar and Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza took the floor one after the other to raise the staunchest opposition against the bill.

Del Mar wanted Section 1 of the bill, which contained the title “Absolute Divorce Act of 2018” erased — a move blocked by the proponents.

Atienza also questioned the absence of a quorum, prompting another calling of the roll. The second head count found there were enough members in plenary.

In his speech, Lagman said House Bill No. 7303 provides for the following:

1. One of the guiding principles is that “Absolute divorce shall be judicially decreed after the fact of an irremediably broken marital union or a marriage vitiated from the start.”

2. Another guiding principle is that “the State has the role of strengthening marriage and family life by undertaking relevant pre-nuptial and post-matrimonial programs and activities.”

3. “Except for grounds under summary judicial proceedings, the proper court shall not start the trial of a petition for absolute divorce before the expiration of a mandatory six-month cooling-off period after the filing of the petition during which the court shall exercise all effects to reunite and reconcile the parties.”

4. Despite the pendency of a petition for absolute divorce or the issuance of a decree of absolute divorce, reconciliation of the spouses shall be effectuated by either terminating the divorce proceedings or recalling the decree of divorce.

5. Drive-through or quickie divorces are prohibited because “No decree of absolute divorce shall be based upon a stipulation of facts or a confession of judgment.”

6.The Office of the Public Prosecutor is authorized and obliged to conduct investigations to find out whether or not there is collusion between the spouses in a petition for absolute divorce and shall report its findings to the proper court within six (6) months from the filing of the petition.

7. Stiff penalties are imposable on colluding spouses and on a spouse who coerces or compels the other to file a petition for absolute divorce. The penalties are an indivisible imprisonment of five (5) years and a fine of P200,000.00.