MANILA, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- The approval this week of a committee in the House of Representatives of a bill that would allow divorce in the Philippines has stirred up the Catholic country, reviving an old debate on the legalization of divorce.
On Wednesday, the House Committee on Population and Family Relations submitted a divorce bill that would legalize divorce in the Philippines and dissolution of marriage for plenary deliberations.
The bill, entitled, "An act instituting absolute divorce in the Philippines," was approved with no contention.
Under the bill, married couples may end their marriage for several reasons, including abuse, infidelity, and irreconcilable differences.
It aims to give "the opportunity to spouses in irremediably failed marriages to secure an absolute divorce decree under limited grounds and well-defined judicial procedures to terminate a continuing dysfunction of a long-broken marriage."
Representative Pia Cayetano, one of the bill's authors, said the bill simply provides another legal option for spouses in bad marriages.
"Having a divorce (bill) in a country does not make people rush into it," she said, adding that legalizing divorce will fix a bad marriage. "There won't be conflicts over properties. The relationship is better because it ended," Cayetano said.
Cayetano, whose own marriage was annulled, said couples tend to stay in broken or abusive marriages because getting an annulment is a long and expensive process.
She said divorce law provides a cheaper alternative to couples who wish to separate and annul their marriage.
"Under the divorce decree, we recognize specific grounds that could exist before the marriage or during the marriage. It is simply providing closure for a marriage that is already dead," Cayetano said.
Like in the past, the Catholic Church slammed the proposed bill, calling it "anti-marriage and anti-family."
"The Church is all for the protection of rights especially of the aggrieved parties," said priest Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, in a statement on Thursday.
"While divorce may indeed vindicate the rights of women, as congressmen believed, it is unfortunately to the detriment of marriage and family as sacred institutions that should otherwise be protected by the State," Secillano said.
The Church has long opposed any laws that allow divorce. It also opposes laws on euthanasia, abortion, total population control and homosexual marriages.
The Philippines is the only country in the world other than the Vatican that still outlaws divorce.
The Family Code of the Philippines currently provides two ways for couples to separate - legal separation and annulment. However, the legal separation will not sever the marital bond and the annulment will take a long time and cost a large amount of money.
Lawmakers have been trying to legalize divorce in the Philippines for almost three decades but to no avail.
Senator Vicente Sotto said it is not likely that the divorce law will pass in the Senate, adding that he is not aware of any counterpart bill in the Senate.
Indeed, the Senate website showed that no senator has filed a divorce bill in the chamber.