MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines took a step on Monday toward 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 clamor 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 favor, 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 percent of the population were in favor of legalizing it.
Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Robert Birsel