MANILA, Philippines --- The Filipino-style divorce bill will not be passed by the 15th Congress.
Speaker Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte Jr. said this yesterday as he declared the "death" of House Bill 1799, "An Act Introducing Divorce in the Philippines," filed by Gabriela party-list Representatives Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus.
"It is already dead this 15th Congress. It is still pending with the committee but nobody is really pushing for it. Only the two party-list representatives who filed the measure are the ones who are for pushing for it," Belmonte said in an interview.
"Whether it is a priority bill or not, it will not be passed, not this time," he stressed when asked if there is a chance for the bill to be approved before the 15th Congress ends in June, 2013.
Majority Leader and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali "Boyet" Gonzales II supported Belmonte's view, warning the Lower Chamber that the passage of both the divorce bill as well as the Reproductive Health (RH) bill is tantamount to declaring war against the Catholic Church.
HB 1799 has been languishing in the House Committee on Revision of Laws since June, 2011 when the panel conducted its first and last hearing on the divorce bill.
Before the start of the third regular session in July, however, Belmonte breathed life into the measure when he said the Lower House was keen on voting on HB 1799, along with the highly divisive RH bill and the proposed Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
But since the measure needs the full backing of the entire chamber, Belmonte sees no chance for the divorce measure to be passed by the 15th Congress with only a few congressmen supporting it, including himself.
Belmonte said, however, he does not see the upcoming elections and the Congress' preoccupation with other legislative issues, including the RH bill, as among the factors that led to the "death" of the divorce measure. It's just that it lacks support.
In several media fora, Gonzales stood firm that the divorce measure would not be passed by the 15th Congress.
Since the 13th Congress, the Gabriela party-list group has been pushing for the passage of the bill, citing the plight of women who are in disastrous marriages.
De Jesus admitted that it would be difficult for them to push for the passage of the bill, but she insisted that HB 1799 is a "very legitimate and necessary" measure.
"I don't think a passage is that easy to reach, but we hope that a strong support from the public can hasten the process," she said.
HB 1799 provides that those who have been separated for five years and those already legally separated for two years may apply for divorce.
Grounds for legal separation may also apply when these same grounds have already caused the irreparable breakdown of the marriage.
Before the implementation of 1950 Civil Code, divorce was legal and was widely practiced among ancestral tribes in Palawan, Nueva Vizcaya, the Cordilleras, the Manobos and Moslems of the Visayas and Mindanao Islands.
Divorce was prohibited when the New Civil Code took effect on August 30, 1950 and only legal separation was allowed.
The Office of the Solicitor General had earlier disclosed that the number of annulment cases in the Philippines increased by 40 percent from 4,520 cases in 2001 to 8,282 in 2010. It noted that 61 percent of
those who filed for annulment were women and the rest were men.