Divorce bill? No way, says House leaders

By , on March 25, 2015

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MANILA — House leaders, both from the administration and opposition, on Monday rejected anew the proposed divorce bill stressing “marriage should be respected and protected.”

Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. and House Independent Bloc Leader and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez shut down the idea after a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that 60 percent of Filipinos are supportive of divorce.

Belmonte assured the Filipino people that his leadership will not approve any proposal that would legalize divorce in the country.

“The proposal to legalize divorce will not pass under my watch,” said Belmonte, adding that marriage should be saved aimed at guaranteeing proper guidance among children.

For his part, Romualdez reminded that the Philippines is not yet ready to join the world who acknowledge and recognize divorce as an alternative to ink another marriage.

“It’s a contract (marriage), so any contract should be respected and there are conditions for which each party has to abide and in layman’s term. It’s better to keep, and care it and not allow an easy way out on this obligation,” Romualdez explained.

He also stressed that the country should not allow suchproposal to prosper, explaining Filipinos have very close family relations.

“We have to look at our existing laws and culture, and we should be very deliberate about it,” the Leyte lawmaker said. “We have to preserve the sanctity of marriage and family.”

He also recalled that reviving the raging debate over theproposal would not look good after the country earned its second saint in the name of St. Pedro Calungsod and the elevation of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle to the College of Cardinals.

He also said that the influential Catholic Church has been seriously hit with the passage during the last 15th Congress of the highly-divisive Reproductive Health (RH) Law.

“The Church has taken a beating already and it’s a little bit ironic that we push this after we got a new saint and another Cardinal. We have a lot of blessings and that’s a little bit too much after the RH. That’s not easy, there’s humanity involved here,” said Romualdez.

The veteran solon said the issue should be best decided by lawmakers through a conscience vote.

“We have to take it through conscience vote. That is very personal to anyone who is married or in a relationship,” Romualdez stressed.

Gabriela party-list Rep. Luz Ilagan, one of the authors of House Bill 4408 or “An Act Introducing Divorce in the Philippines,” along with Gabriela party-list Rep. Emerenciana “Emmi” de Jesus, appealed to the House leadership to open the debates on the divorce bill this 16th Congress.

Ilagan said her group re-filed the proposed law this Congress to help liberate couples who are in unhappy and irreconcilable marriages.

The measure allows those who have been separated for five years and those already legally separated for two years to apply for divorce.

The grounds for legal separation may also apply when these same grounds have already caused the irreparable breakdown of the marriage.

As provided under Article 36 of the Family Code, psychological incapacity is one of the prime grounds for legal separation or nullity of marriage.

Lack of authority of the solemnizing officer, bigamous or polygamous marriages and marriages where one or both parties were below the marrying age allowed by law are among the other grounds for the marriage to be nullified under the law.

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 available.

Earlier, the Office of the Solicitor General 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.

About 8,000 to 10,000 petitions for annulment are filed before the OSG, more than 90 percent of which have been granted by the courts.

Based on the SWS survey conducted from November 27 to December 1, 2014, it found out that 60 percent of Filipino adults in favor of the legalization of divorce.

The survey showed 38 percent “strongly” agreed and 22 percent “somewhat” agreed. The survey firm noted that the current percentage of Filipino adults who are in favor of legalizing divorce is higher than the 50 percent in March, 2011 and 43 percent in May, 2005.

According to the survey, only 29 percent disagreed that “married couples who have already separated and cannot reconcile anymore should be allowed to divorce so that they can get legally married again,” while the remaining 11 percent of the respondents were undecided on the matter.