‘Senate won’t approve divorce bill’

Senate of the Philippines

Manila, Philippines – THE Senate is not likely to back a bill allowing divorce, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd said on Thursday, a day after a House committee cleared the measure for floor debates.

The chances of its passage are slim, Sotto said, noting that no one had even bothered to file a counterpart measure in the Senate.

“An amendment to the grounds for annulment (of an existing marriage) might stand a better chance of passage,” Sotto said.

Sen. Francis Escudero echoed Sotto’s sentiments, saying he was in favor of making the process of annulment under the Civil Code and the Family Code more affordable and accessible, instead of expanding the grounds for it through a new law that grants divorce.

The House Committee on Population and Family Relations on Wednesday approved the proposed “Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage Act,” paving the way for plenary debates.

The bill provides an extensive list of grounds for divorce, including marital infidelity.

Sen. Joel Villanueva is also in favor of simplifying annulment procedures to make it accessible to the poor.
“I am strongly against divorce,” said Villanueva, son of evangelical preacher Eduardo Villanueva.

Sen. Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian said he was open to the idea of allowing divorce but said the law should not allow “express divorce,” wherein the marriage bond is broken for flimsy reasons such as a person’s appearance.

“What we need is a clear and reasonable process for the people to follow. I do believe that abuse and violence against a partner should be a ground for divorce,” he added.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson had said he was willing to see the salient features of the House bill. “My primary concern is the sanctity of marriage. Needless to say, I don’t want marriage and separation to be a ‘dime a dozen’ affair,” he added.

‘Lagman twisting the truth on divorce’

An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) took exception to a statement by one of the bill’s authors, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, that the Catholic Church could eventually support the bill because it contains provisions on the dissolution of marriage.

Canon Law, or the law of the Church, allows the dissolution of marriage through marriage tribunals, on limited grounds.

Divorce is different from dissolution of marriage, said Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the CBCP Permanent Committee on Public Affairs.

“The former is a declaration that marriage is null and void from the very start while the latter invalidates what is otherwise a valid marriage,” Secillano said. “Lagman is twisting the truth on divorce.”

“Instead of formulating law that will strengthen it (marriage), uphold its beauty and sanctity, they’ve bastardized and destroyed it by introducing measures, such as divorce that hastens the disintegration of couples,” he added.

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