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The Philippines

Philippines takes step towards legalising divorce

Congress passes law, but the Senate must also pass a counterpart bill, although it has yet to begin drafting one

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 March, 2018, 8:30pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 March, 2018, 8:39pm

The Philippines took a step on Monday towards making divorce legal with the lower house of Congress passing a law allowing people to dissolve marriages, despite opposition from the president and bishops in the mainly Roman Catholic country.

The Philippines, which has the largest Catholic population in Asia, and the Vatican are the only two states in the world without a divorce law, Philippine politicians say.

Congresswoman Emmi de Jesus said the bill was in response to a clamour from women who wanted to get out of failed relationships, particularly from abusive husbands.

“It is not at the president’s bidding that we file legislation,” de Jesus told reporters, referring to opposition to the bill, passed with 134 votes in favour, 57 against and two abstentions, from President Rodrigo Duterte.

De Jesus said the legislative process should “take its course”. To become law, the upper house Senate must also pass what is known as a counterpart bill but it has yet to begin drafting one.

Duterte, who is legally separated from his wife, opposes making divorce legal. His spokesman Harry Roque, who told reporters Duterte was concerned about the welfare of children whose parents divorce.

Last year, a survey on divorce by independent pollster Social Weather Stations found that 53 per cent of the population were in favour of legalising it.