The members of the Committee on Population and Family Relations of the House of Representatives unanimously approved Tuesday the replacement bill reinstituting absolute divorce as an alternate form of dissolution of marriage for plenary approval.

The committee on August 17 finally endorsed the unnumbered substitute bill that would enable absolute divorce in the Philippines during its virtual hearing.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who sponsored the bill, said that it aims to reinstate absolute divorce since it was previously used throughout pre-Spanish times, the American colonial era, and the Japanese occupation.

“Today is a momentous occasion for countless wives, who are battered and deserted, to regain their humanity, self-respect, and freedom from irredeemably failed marriages and utterly dysfunctional unions,” Lagman said following the committee’s unanimous approval of the bill.

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, according to Lagman, supports the reintroduction of absolute divorce law, as evidenced by the perfecting amendments he submitted, which are now included in the substitute bill: provisions on court-assisted petitioners; community-based pre-nuptial and post-matrimonial programs; and community-based women’s desks to provide assistance and support to victims of domestic violence.

According to him, the grounds for legal separation, annulment of marriage, and nullification of marriage based on psychological incapacity under the Philippine Family Code have been included as grounds for absolute divorce and were amended to include causes that arise after the marriage has been solemnized.

The bill states that the other grounds for divorce include: separation in fact for at least five years at the time the petition for absolute divorce is filed; when one of the spouses undergoes a gender reassignment surgery or transitions from one sex to another; irreconcilable marital differences as defined in the bill; other forms of domestic or marital abuse which are also defined in the bill; valid foreign divorce secured by either the alien or Filipino spouse; and a marriage nullified by a recognized religious tribunal.

The effects of absolute divorce include the voiding of the marital union and capacitating the divorced spouses to remarry.

Lagman highlighted that the Philippines is the only country in the world today that outlaws absolute divorce, aside from the almost celibate Vatican City state.

“It is hard to believe that all the other countries collectively erred in instituting absolute divorce in varying degrees of liberality and limitations. An en masse blunder is beyond comprehension. An erroneous unanimity on such a crucial familial institution defies reason and experience. Obviously, the rest of the world cannot be mistaken on the universality of absolute divorce,” he said. (PNA)