Philippines moves closer to divorce law | 2018-03-20 |

Philippines moves closer to divorce law

BBC     20th March, 2018 10:35:13 printer

Philippines moves closer to divorce law


he Philippines' lower house of Congress has passed a divorce bill on the third reading, moving the country closer to legalisation.


The bill passed despite opposition from President Rodrigo Duterte, who had his own marriage legally annulled.


However, for divorce to become legal the Senate also has to pass a bill in favour, and even then Mr Duterte could still use his veto to strike it down.


Worldwide, divorce is only illegal in the Philippines and Vatican City.


Over 80% of people in the Philippines describe themselves as Catholic, and the church has a powerful influence in the country.


Congresswoman Emmi de Jesus said the bill was filed because of a "clamour of women trapped in abusive relationships", who need the government to give them a means out of "irreparable marriages".


The Divorce Bill, or House Bill 7303, passed with 134 votes in favour and 57 against, with two abstentions.


Currently, the only means to end a marriage legally in the Philippines is annulment.


Such a ruling requires a civil case in which spouses have to undergo mental health tests and testify in court, all in a bid to have a judge declare a marriage invalid.


This divorce bill would mean a court ruling could dissolve a marriage if it is deemed "irremediably broken", allowing individuals to remarry another person of the opposite sex.


The bill would also give courts the power to decide custody "in accordance with the best interests" of minors. Children under seven could not be separated from their mothers unless there were "compelling reasons" to do so.


Legislators have advanced numerous divorce bills since 1999, but until now they have all failed to pass committee stage.


Polls suggest a narrow majority in favour of divorce in the Philippines.