(PNA graphics by Meyo de Jesus)

MANILA – Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said she will collaborate with neophyte colleague Robin Padilla to pass the divorce bill.

Hontiveros assured she is ready to work even with senators from the majority bloc in her advocacies for women and children.

"As in the past six years, I am always able to cross party lines and unite with other senators to push important laws," she said in a statement on Monday.

Expecting to retain her chairmanship of the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, Hontiveros said she would immediately work on the bill once it is referred to her.

"Upang mapabilis ang pagdinig, pwede naming isama sa record ‘yung naging hearing at committee report sa dissolution of marriage bill noong 18th Congress (To make the proceedings faster, we can include the previous hearings and committee report for the dissolution of marriage bill in the 18th Congress)," she said.

The dissolution of the marriage bill, Hontiveros noted, is an urgent reform measure for Filipinos who are stuck in broken or abusive relationships.

Like Padilla, she said the bill will protect marriages, not destroy them.

"To be clear, it will not affect the sacrament of marriage as observed by many religions. The law only affects marriage as a legal relationship creating obligations between spouses. It will have no impact on healthy marriages. It only serves to help those stuck in unions that have become irreparably toxic, broken, or abusive," she said.

Hontiveros sees a better chance for the dissolution of marriage bill to pass in the 19th Congress "one step at a time".

In a Facebook live forum on Sunday, Padilla said that while he favors marriages to last forever, some marriages are doomed because of irreconcilable differences.

"Hindi po ito kailanman na sumasalungat sa pag-aasawa. Hindi ito isang bagay na kami ay kontra na magkaroon ng forever. Katunayan, ito pong panukalang ito ay nagbibigay ng proteksyon unang una sa mag-asawa -- babae at lalaki -- at sa kanilang mga magiging anak (My bill is never meant to destroy marriages. We would never object to marriages that last forever. In fact, my bill aims to protect the marriage, including the woman, the man, and their children)," he said.

The Philippines and Vatican City are the only nations that do not recognize divorce.

Padilla also stressed the need to protect women who, after separating from their husbands, are usually subjected to unfair rumors, labeling the children they will have with their new partners as bastards o illegitimate.

Under Padilla's bill, a petition may be filed for divorce if the husband and/or wife cannot fulfill his/her obligation in the marriage or have irreconcilable differences; marriage was annulled abroad; presumed dead; there is a violation of the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act; and there is an attempt on the life of the child of the couple or of the petitioner, among others.

The bill also provides for a "mandatory cooling off period" after the petition is filed.

Meanwhile, the petition for divorce may be dismissed if the two parties submit a verified joint motion or if the court finds evidence of collusion between them. (PNA)