Marriage dissolution tops House agenda
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez wants the House of Representatives to give priority during the second regular session to legislation that would allow the dissolution of marriage and require casinos, mining companies and public transport operators to secure congressional franchises.
The 17th Congress returned on Monday for its second regular session, with the House and the Senate setting agenda aligned with the legislative priorities of President Duterte.
In the House, Alvarez opened the second regular session saying he wanted “to be remembered as the Speaker of the people who listened to — and acted upon — the often unheard cries and complaints of the marginalized and voiceless members of our society.”
“Together, let us empower the disempowered,” he implored his colleagues.
The first measure that Alvarez mentioned concerned the “dissolution of marriage without the need for an extensively adversarial system,” which he entrusted to Taguig City Rep. Pia Cayetano.
Such a bill, he said, would allow spouses to break up without being required to “sling mud at each other in front of a judge” just to justify the termination of their marriage.
The proposal would allow the dissolution of marriage upon mutual agreement by the spouses. He said the couple would have to comply with the condition that they execute a “framework” for the care and support of their children.
Outside of marriage, Alvarez urged his colleagues to pass a measure that would provide for rights under civil unions for both heterosexual and same-sex couples, which had inputs from the Philippines’ first transgender lawmaker, Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman.
“We must also be considerate of the fact that marriage may not be for everyone. [At present], it even excludes certain groups of people from its fold,” Alvarez said.
“Our citizens should not be excluded from society just because of the person they love. They must also be treated with equality before the law,” he added.
Alvarez also sought equal rights for legitimate and illegitimate children, noting the stigma on children who were born out of wedlock was “through no fault of theirs.”
Alvarez said the House should “embark upon the great reorganization of the government bureaucracy.”
He said mining companies and operators of casinos and public transportation should be required to secure legislative franchises, just like current public utilities such as energy, water and telecommunication companies.
He said the requirement would add a “safeguard mechanism that will make certain that the public’s interest will always be protected.”
“This will make certain that their applications are scrutinized deeply. Only the deserving will be allowed to operate,” Alvarez said, adding he had met Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, chair of the legislative franchises committee, to shepherd the bill through the chamber.
Alvarez also sought to remove the power of state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. to regulate and operate the gaming industry because of possible conflict of interest.
“An entity that has this power runs the risk of dealing itself a favorable hand while undercutting others,” he said.
Alvarez also sought the merger of the Land Transportation Office and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board into a single Land Transportation Authority.
He said a Philippine Railways Authority should be created to set uniform standards and fares for the country’s rail transport systems, as well as a Philippine Airports Authority to oversee the airports, which currently act autonomously.
Alvarez gave the job to the transportation committee chair, Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento.
Alvarez also batted for the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law that would establish a homeland for the Moros in Mindanao, as well as a bill that would allow a shift from a unitary to a federal form of government.
“This will address the structural defects that have hampered our national strategy in pursuit of peace, prosperity and progress,” he said, entrusting it to the constitutional amendments committee chair, Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado.
Federalism has been a longtime advocacy of President Duterte’s national political party, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
Opposition lawmakers lauded Alvarez’s progressive stance on LGBT rights.
“Bold, clear and progressive on gender rights issues. I hope he follows through with clear directives to his leaders to push the bills he mentioned,” said Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr.
Akbayan Rep. Tomasito Villarin, however, said Alvarez should have prioritized the antidiscrimination bill pushed by the LGBT community.
The opposition lawmakers expressed alarm over the conflict of interest that may arise from the proposal to require mining companies and transport operators to secure franchises from Congress.
Baguilat said he opposed the proposal because it would cause “conflict of interest for many legislators connected to business interests in mining and gambling.”
Villarin said the proposal reeked of “protecting vested interests and consolidating power over grant of franchises to Congress.”
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