Escudero: No plan to push for or reject divorce bill

By Marita Moaje

May 24, 2024, 9:20 am

<p>Senate President Francis Escudero<em> (PNA file photo)</em></p>

Senate President Francis Escudero (PNA file photo)

MANILA – Senate President Francis Escudero said Thursday he will not speak for or against the bill seeking to legalize absolute divorce in the country.

In a press briefing, Escudero said he has yet to read a copy of House Bill 9349 or the proposed Absolute Divorce Act that hurdled the third and final reading at the House of Representatives.

“Ang posisyon ko dito sa divorce ay conscience, personal vote ito. Walang party, walang majority, walang minority stand dito. Personal na desisyon base sa kani-kanilang paniniwala at relihiyon ang mangyayari dyan kada senador. At bilang tagapangulo ng Senado, wala akong balak dumiin pabor o kontra dito (My position on divorce is that it is a conscience, personal vote. No party, no majority, no minority stand here. Senators will make a personal decision based on their respective beliefs and religion. And as the president of the Senate, I have no intention of speaking for or against it),” he said.

Escudero explained that the definition of divorce has a bigger spectrum.

He, however, said he is pushing for annulment, which is in the current Family Code, to be more affordable and accessible.

“Ang personal stand ko ay ito: mas nais kong palawakin at affordable at accessible yung annulment na nasa family code natin ngayon. Sa papaanong paraan? Payagan ang PAO (Public Attorney's Office) na tanggapin ang mga kasong ito. Nagsabi na ang Supreme Court na hindi na kailangan ang psychologist para mapatunayan ang psychological incapacity. At pangatlo, at mas maliwanag, i-define ng kongreso kung ano-ano ang mako-consider na psychological incapacity (My personal stand is this: I prefer to expand and make affordable and accessible the annulment that is in our family code now. In what way? Allow PAO to accept these cases. The Supreme Court has said that there is no need for a psychologist to prove psychological incapacity. And third, Congress should clearly define what can be considered psychological incapacity),” he said.

Escudero said the divorce bill has long been deliberated, even in the previous Congress, but has not been passed into law.

Voting 131 in favor, 109 against, and 20 abstentions, the House approved the absolute divorce bill on Wednesday.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, author of the bill, said that by legalizing divorce, the Philippines acknowledges the need to provide options for individuals trapped in "unhappy and irreparable marriages."

The bill stipulates the grounds for absolute divorce, among them psychological incapacity, irreconcilable differences, domestic or marital abuse when one of the spouses undergoes a sex reassignment surgery or transitions from one sex to another, and separation of the spouses for at least five years.

Moreover, the grounds for legal separation under the Family Code of the Philippines can also be considered grounds for absolute divorce, including physical violence, grossly abusive conduct, drug addiction, habitual alcoholism, chronic gambling, and homosexuality of the respondent.

On Thursday, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines slammed the bill's passage at the House, saying that lawmakers who voted in favor of the bill "betrayed their constitutional mandate to uphold marriage and the family."

Of all the nations in the world, only Vatican City and the Philippines prohibit divorce. (PNA)