A retired Catholic bishop and a priest in Manila have expressed “disappointment” over the passage of a bill that seeks to legalize absolute divorce in the country at the House of Representatives.
The House Committee on Population and Family Relations passed on Tuesday, August 17, the proposed Absolute Divorce Act that provides an option for each of the marital spouse to file for divorce and allow them to re-marry.
“I am greatly disappointed because until now the Philippines is the only Catholic country in the world that follows the law of Jesus Christ taught by the Church: Absolutely no divorce for lawfully married man and wife,” said Bishop Arturo Bastes, retired prelate of Sorsogon.
“This is a dogma which the Church holds despite the State’s authority,” he said, adding that it is “a pity if this singular honor of our Catholic country will disappear.”
Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the public affairs office of the Catholic bishops’ conference, said he was saddened that lawmakers prioritized the bill at a time when the country is faced with so many problems due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“People need their representatives to help them during this critical period,” said the priest, “but these congressmen opted to prioritize passing a bill that does more harm to the family than help strengthen it specially in this time of immense crisis.”
Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas said the bill will give Filipino wives an accessible and affordable option to escape from abusive husbands.
“It is about time that we offer spouses, especially wives, the added legal option to exit toxic and abusive marital relationships,” said Brosas.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the authors of the bill, said absolute divorce would void the marital union of a couple and allow them to re-marry.
“This bill reinstates absolute divorce because absolute divorce was already practiced during the pre-Spanish times, the American colonial period, and during the Japanese occupation,” he said in his sponsorship speech.
Under the proposed measure, the current grounds for legal separation, annulment of marriage, and nullification of marriage based on psychological incapacity under the Family Code will be incorporated as justifications for an absolute divorce.
Other bases 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;
- domestic or marital abuse;
- valid foreign divorce secured by either the alien or Filipino spouse; and
- a marriage nullified by a recognized religious tribunal
Aside from Vatican City, the Philippines remains the only country in the world where divorce is not allowed.