Absolute Divorce Bill, HB 9349

Let’s Talk About The Absolute Divorce Bill

Here's what you need to know.

Everyone’s got their own opinion on whether divorce should be allowed here in the Philippines. Let’s discuss some facts. 

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Last month, the House of Representatives approved the Absolute Divorce Bill on its third (3rd) and final reading. As one of the two countries in the world to not legalize divorce (the other being the Holy See), it’s a long-time coming for proponents of divorce. Still, it has ways to go before being law. The bill will now have to be transmitted to the Senate, where it must pass three (3) readings before being forwarded to the Office of the President. At such point, the President may: 1) sign it into law; 2) veto it and send it back to the Senate; or 3) let it lapse into law with no further action – this happens after thirty (30) days upon receipt. 

With all this in mind, the bill and its supporters still need to overcome several hurdles. Yet there’s already so much talk about it – people drawing lines and speaking out in support or disapproval of it. A lot has already been said about the bill, and divorce in general, and more will continue to be said until this ends. With all that noise, it can get overwhelming to the point where you just want to tune out. So,  let’s talk about it as we break down divorce, the bill seeking to legalize it, and everything in between. 

What’s in it and why it’s needed

Just so everyone is on the same page, let’s review: there currently exists three (3) types of “defective marriages” in the Philippines: Void Marriage (treated as if no marriage happened at all), Voidable Marriage (declares the marriage as valid until declared annulled by the court), and Legal Separation (which allows the couple to live separately but still recognizes them as being married). Each defective marriage may only be dissolved when specific grounds/conditions are met. 

Divorce, as laid out in the Absolute Divorce Bill being proposed, would provide an alternative route of dissolution. Existing grounds for legal separation and annulment are already made grounds for divorce as well. The new bill most notably adds the following: separation in fact for five (5) years, sex reassignment surgery, other forms of domestic abuse, and irreconcilable differences. Authors of the bill also note that divorce would be both cheaper and faster than current legal remedies available. Additionally, it would allow the parties to remarry.

It it further worth mentioning that a similar divorce bill was passed by the House in the last Congress, but was not acted upon by the Senate. This begs the question of whether the Senate will act on this new bill or not.

To read the documents in their entirety, you can access the official government site of the House of Representatives here.

Not for everyone

Like most political issues, the Absolute Divorce Bill has become a polarizing topic of conversation, especially in a predominantly Catholic country. It’s not hard to imagine why. Our culture is very family-centric, and this bill is sure to greatly impact many families should it pass into law – for better or worse. The question of whom divorce will affect the most seems to be at the heart of the debate. For example, individuals who are happy with their partners, and therefore do not need to consider divorce, feel that such a legal measure is not necessary. 

However, these arguments fail to take into account the important note that: just because something becomes available, doesn’t mean you have to use it. Just because couples in the Philippines will gain the ability to divorce does not mean that you are required or forced to do so. It simply exists to increase options available to those in need. This may be why some lawmakers, while opposed to divorce, are instead open to expanding current legal remedies such as annulment and making them more affordable. 

Another common criticism from dissenters of the bill is that the existence of such a legal remedy “threatens the sanctity of marriage” and “threatens marriage as a religious institution”, which is kinda funny considering that cheating is still an issue even when people want to pull the religion card. However, lawmakers are not allowed to create laws that favor or disadvantage any religion whatsoever for any reason (this is what separation of church and state is all about). Additionally, if you think that the ability to divorce threatens the stability of your marriage in particular, perhaps the problem is you and not the bill. Your time would be better spent becoming a better partner so that your partner won’t want to leave you. 

Why you should speak up 

At current, the Manila Standard reports that where the Senate stands on the issue is currently one more against, with many senators still undecided on the issue. Assuming that the Senate will not simply sit on the bill and let it die, that means the decision could go in either direction. This is where we all come in. 

Public opinion continues to be a powerful tool to move, inspire, and affect policy. You should speak your mind on the issue. This is an instance where social media can be extremely powerful. While one could argue that corporate interests do more in the way of swaying a politician’s actions, remember: these people hold positions in an elective office. If they want to be reelected they need to court the votes of as many persons as possible. As is the case with most highly controversial issues, the purportedly undecided politicians will side with public sentiment. And FYI, the 2025 midterm elections are less than a year away. 

So if you feel strongly about this topic, now is the time to use your voice. You might end up fighting with your friends or family who hold a differing opinion to yours. But being able to have these discussions with each other respectfully is an integral part of moving forward together as a society. 

However, before you do voice your opinion, it is important to have all the facts at your disposal. So we highly encourage everyone to read the proposed bill in its entirety before passing judgment. 

Want your voice to be heard on this issue? We at NYLON Manila want to know what you think about the Absolute Divorce Bill, and you can send us your opinions through this link

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