The Philippines remains the only country in the world without a divorce law Photo: Reforma

Divorce law divides Philippines

Moms Landmark Divorce Bill Passes Second Reading in Philippine Congress Amidst Strong Catholic Opposition

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(ZENIT News / Manila, 05.19.2024).- In a significant move, Filipino lawmakers have advanced a landmark divorce bill, marking a pivotal shift in the predominantly Catholic nation’s approach to marital dissolution. On May 15, the House of Representatives approved the bill through a voice vote following its second reading, amidst vocal opposition from the Catholic Church.

The Philippines remains the only country in the world without a divorce law, a distinction it held after Malta legalized divorce in 2011. The proposed legislation aims to provide «limited grounds and well-defined judicial procedures for divorce,» offering a legal framework to alleviate the «pain, stress, and agony caused by marital conflicts or irreconcilable differences» that often affect children.

The bill’s provisions include the right for divorced individuals to remarry, a significant change that proponents argue will provide women with the opportunity to «start a new life.» Arlene Brosas, a legislator from the Gabriela Women’s Party, emphasized the positive impact on children, stating on May 16, «Let’s give their children the chance to grow up in a safe and loving environment.»

With the bill now set for its third reading in the House, it must secure majority approval before moving to the Senate for further scrutiny and a similar legislative process. Upon Senate approval, the bill will be presented to the President for final endorsement.

Several senators have expressed their enthusiasm for the bill’s progress. Senator Risa Hontiveros, in a statement on May 16, said, «It is time to give Filipino women, men, children, and families who need it a second chance at love and life.» Hontiveros, along with four other senators, has also introduced Senate Bill 2443, the «Dissolution of Marriage Act,» which has been pending a second reading since September 2023.

The Catholic Church has long opposed the introduction of divorce legislation. Following the bill’s second reading, church leaders urged the government to prioritize programs that strengthen family and marital bonds. Bishop Alberto Uy of Tagbilaran, central Philippines, highlighted in a radio interview on May 16, «A society that values strong and stable families is a prosperous society.» He called on Congress members to reconsider the proposed divorce bill and focus on policies that support marriage and family welfare.

Bishop Uy argued that divorce undermines social cohesion by eroding the foundations of family unity, leading to increased social fragmentation, poverty, and other societal issues. «By promoting divorce, we are contributing to the breakdown of social cohesion and the erosion of moral values,» he asserted.

Similarly, Father Jerome Secillano, Executive Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Permanent Committee on Public Affairs, stated that a divorce law is unnecessary in the Philippines. In a May 16 interview with Manila journalists, he pointed out that existing legal remedies are available for «troubled» marriages in the country.

The proposed divorce bill specifically targets those in dysfunctional marriages and families deemed irreparably broken. As the legislative process continues, the debate between the need for modern legal frameworks and the preservation of traditional values is likely to intensify, reflecting the broader societal struggle over the evolution of family laws in the Philippines.

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