The House Committee on Population and Family Affairs on Thursday gave its preliminary approval to bills that would legalize divorce as well as companion legislation that would seek to recognize Catholic Church and other religious organizations’ civil dissolution of marriages.
The approval is contingent on the filing of a substitute measure that will be developed by a technical working group (TWG) and will include the essential features of other divorce-related legislation, according to Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the author of House Bill 78, which seeks to legalize divorce. Lagman has been chosen as the TWG’s leader for developing a replacement bill.
“No amount of compulsion by statute, custom or religion can restore their value,” says Lagman.
The 19th Congress has received at least six legislation that would make divorce a legal means to end marriages. House Bill 1021 by Cebu Representative Pablo John Garcia and House Bill 1593 by Tingog Party-list Representative Yedda Romualdez both aim to recognize the civil repercussions of church annulment.
Lagman claimed that divorce would not end marriages since only couples whose connection had long withered may file for divorce.
“Absolute divorce is urgently necessary in exceptional cases for couples in inordinately toxic and irreparably dysfunctional marriages, particularly the wives who are abused or abandoned,” says the lawmaker.
In addition, he claimed that his measure forbade “quick” or “drive-through” divorces as well as collusion between spouses to dissolve a marriage.
“Divorce is not against the Catholic faith. Even the Bible cites instances when Jesus Christ allowed divorces. All Catholic countries, except the Philippines, have legalized divorce. Even the Catholic hierarchy has its own matrimonial tribunal which dissolves marriages similar to a divorce,” the lawmaker added.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church continues to be adamantly opposed to making divorce legal, according to Jerome Secillano, Executive Secretary of the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). According to Edwil Zabala, a spokesman for the Iglesia Ni Cristo, their church similarly upholds the honorability of marriage.