Indian Catholic News

Philippine lawmakers take aim at divorce law despite strong public support

Say legalization would 'shred the fabric of society'.


Lawmakers said this week that a proposed law to legalize divorce in the Philippines would face stiff opposition in Congress despite growing public support for the measure.

“The proposal to legalize divorce will not pass under my watch,” said house speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr, adding that marriage “should be saved and should guarantee the proper guidance of children”.

Belmonte’s deputy speaker in the house, Giorgidi Aggabao, said there was little support for the measure among fellow legislators

[The law] will shred the fabric of our society and will encourage flippant marriages,” she said.

The proposed law, House Bill 4408, was proposed last year by the Gabriela Women’s Party to help resolve the issue of irreconcilable separations.

Divorce was legal in the Philippines and widely practiced especially among tribal communities until 1950, when the country's New Civil Code prohibited it.

However, legal separations, in which couples live apart but cannot remarry, are permissible under the civil code, as are annulments.

The Philippines is the only country, aside from the Vatican, that does not allow divorce.

Despite the strong influence of the Church in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, a recent survey shows strong and growing support for legalizing divorce.

The survey conducted by the polling group Social Weather Stations (SWS) and released on Monday found that at least 60 percent — or three out of five Filipinos — want divorce to be legalized.

According to the survey, most respondents agreed that “married couples who have already separated and cannot reconcile anymore should be allowed to divorce so that they can get legally married again”.

Twenty-nine percent disagreed, while 11 percent were undecided on the issue.

SWS said in a statement on Monday that 62 percent of male respondents and 57 percent of female respondents supported legalizing divorce — up from 52 percent among males and 49 percent among females in a similar survey in 2011.

Representative Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, president of the Philippine Constitution Association, said marriage was a contract that "should be respected".

He said "it’s better to keep, and care it, and not allow an easy way out on this obligation".

"We have to look at our existing laws and culture, and we should be very deliberate about it," he added.

Romualdez said that to revive the debate whether to legalize divorce or not "will not look good" after the Philippines passed the controversial Reproductive Health law less than three years ago.

The passage of the law, which allows the use of artificial contraception for population control, defeated a strong lobby launched by Catholic leaders and organizations.

"The Church has taken a beating already, and it’s a little bit ironic that we push this," said Romualdez. "Legalizing divorce is a little bit too much."

Catholic Church leaders said that despite the strong sentiments of the people to legalize divorce, the Church would never change its position.

Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, former archbishop of Manila, said "even if 99 percent [of those surveyed expressed support], what is wrong is wrong," he said earlier this week.

"The Church is duty bound to observe and to promote the teachings of Her founder, and Her founder teaches that marriage is sacred," said Archbishop Oscar Cruz, a canon lawyer.

Representative Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela Women's Party, a sponsor of the proposed divorce bill, said she would do her best to schedule discussion of the bill when Congress resumes session in April following the Lenten break.

Source: UCAN

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