House Approves Divorce Bill on Third Reading, Faces Significant Opposition

The House of Representatives has once again approved on third and final reading a bill that seeks to legalize divorce in the Philippines, passing by a much closer margin this time. House Bill (HB) No. 9349, titled "An Act reinstituting absolute divorce as an alternative mode for the dissolution of marriage," garnered 126 affirmative votes during the plenary session on Wednesday afternoon.

A total of 109 House members voted against the bill, reflecting a relatively large opposition. However, their numbers were insufficient to prevent the bill's passage. Additionally, 20 lawmakers abstained from voting.

Wednesday marked the final day of the second regular session of the 19th Congress. The measure had been approved on second reading a week earlier.


The last time the lower chamber gave final approval to a pro-divorce bill was on March 19, 2018, during the 17th Congress. That measure, HB No. 7303, titled "An Act instituting absolute divorce and dissolution of marriage in the Philippines," received 134 affirmative votes against 57 negative votes. However, it did not progress in the Senate.

Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman was the main sponsor and defender of HB No. 9349 during the two-month-long plenary debates.

Following the nominal voting, there was an unusually long delay before the results were announced, with several congressmen seen approaching the rostrum and huddling together.

The Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country, remains one of the last few nations in the world that does not recognize divorce. Despite this, Representative Lagman framed the measure as a "reinstitution" of divorce, arguing that the concept existed among Filipinos centuries ago before the introduction of Catholicism.

The objective of HB No. 9349 is to "reinstitute absolute divorce as an alternative mode for the dissolution of an irreparably broken or dysfunctional marriage under limited grounds and well-defined judicial procedures." It aims to "save the children from the pain, stress, and agony consequent to their parents' marital clashes or irreconcilable differences." Additionally, the measure seeks to "grant the divorced spouses the right to marry again for another chance to achieve marital bliss."

The bill stipulates specific grounds upon which a petition for absolute divorce may be filed:

  • Grounds for legal separation under Article 55 of the Family Code of the Philippines, as modified;
  • Grounds for annulment of marriage under Article 45 of the Family Code of the Philippines, as modified;
  • Separation of the spouses in fact for at least five years at the time the petition for absolute divorce is filed, with reconciliation being highly improbable;
  • Psychological incapacity as provided in Article 36 of the Family Code of the Philippines;
  • Irreconcilable differences; and
  • Domestic or marital abuse, including acts under Republic Act (RA) No. 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004.

The bill's approval marks a significant step towards legalizing divorce in the Philippines, yet it remains to be seen how it will fare in the Senate, where previous attempts have faltered.

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