PNA art by Meyo de Jesus
MANILA – The committee approval of the bill reinstituting absolute divorce for plenary debates will put the country at the “threshold of joining the universality of absolute divorce in the community of nations”, a lawmaker said on Tuesday.
Albay Representative Edcel Lagman said the divorce bill will give spouses, especially wives, the option of getting out of an “irremediably broken marriage” and a chance to start over as the House Committee on Population and Family Relations gave its thumbs up to the proposal.
“While it is said that marriages are solemnized in heaven, the fact is some marriages plummet into hell because of human frailty and imperfections. The Divorce Act seeks to redeem couples, particularly the abused or abandoned wives, from infernal agony,” Lagman said.
He noted that the proposed law would be for the exceptional circumstances of married couples who are “marooned in toxic, dysfunctional and even abusive marriages, particularly for wives who suffer the torment of irreversibly dead marriages.”
“Divorce is not the worst thing that can happen to a family. Enduring years of physical violence, suffering emotional abuse, tolerating infidelity, allowing children to live in a hostile home and witness daily discord and constant conflict – these are far worse than divorce,” he said.
The bill provides that a divorce petition will undergo a judicial process where proof of the cause for the divorce is established and that the marriage has completely collapsed without any possibility of reconciliation.
Quickie, notarial, email and other speedy drive-thru divorces are prohibited, it added.
There is a cooling-off period of 60 days after the filing of the divorce petition wherein the judge shall exert earnest efforts to reconcile the parties.
The public prosecutor is mandated to conduct an investigation to assure that there is no collusion between the parties or whether one party coerced the other to file the divorce petition.
At any time during the proceedings, if the parties agree to reconcile, the petition is dismissed. Even after the issuance of an absolute divorce decree, when the parties decide to reconcile, the divorce decree shall be nullified, according to the proposed law.
The bill proposes harsh penalties for those who collude to secure a divorce decree or of one spouse coercing the other to file for divorce. The penalties consist of an indivisible punishment of five years imprisonment and a sizeable fine.
“Divorce is an option. An aggrieved party can seek in the proper cases annulment of marriage, legal separation or dissolution of marriage based on psychological incapacity under the Family Code, all of which are expensive and involve a lengthy process, unlike divorce which is mandated to be expeditious, reasonable, and inexpensive,” Lagman said.