Lack of divorce law nothing to be proud of–Pia Cayetano
MANILA, Philippines–The absence of a divorce law in the Philippines is nothing to be proud of, according to Sen. Pia Cayetano who considers the lack of a divorce provision in the country’s laws to be discriminatory.
“We consider that a discriminatory practice because many women are forced to stay in a marriage that is harmful to them, either physically or emotionally. I speak of it from a women’s perspective, but it doesn’t mean that it cannot apply also to men,” said Cayetano, who chairs the Senate committee on women, family relations and gender equality.
The senator said she was considering holding hearings on divorce but was not sure her colleagues in Congress would embrace such a bill, even though a recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that majority of Filipinos want to legalize divorce.
The influential Catholic hierarchy, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, is strongly opposed to a divorce law.
According to Cayetano, there was nothing to be proud of in the fact that the Philippines, except for the Vatican, is the only country in the world that still does not allow divorce.
“It doesn’t say anything for us. What does it mean? That we are self-suffering? That we allow women, or men for that matter, to stay in horrible relationships and possibly not even be good parents to their children simply because our law does not recognize that they should live separate lives?” she said.
Those not in favor of divorce need not avail themselves of it, but they should not deprive other Filipinos of the right to divorce, the senator said.
Cayetano said no divorce bill has been filed in the Senate, but there are bills to expand legal separation and the definition of annulment, and she can use these to initiate the deliberations on divorce.
Earlier, Cayetano’s committee discussed laws discriminatory against women, including the Family Code and its lack of a divorce provision. The senator said she would look into whether these earlier discussions could be made to extend into a hearing on divorce or if a new resolution needed to be filed.
There could be a redefinition of how to terminate or change the status of a marriage, she said.
“My question really was: How far will this go? But I am happy to be part of it and to introduce it,” she said.
In the House, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said he did not think Congress would pass a divorce bill even if majority of Filipinos want it.
“I don’t think it has any chance to pass the 16th Congress,” said Belmonte, referring to the divorce bill filed in the House by Gabriela party-list members Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus.
Belmonte cited the Catholic Church’s opposition to divorce as the main stumbling block to such a proposal supported by 60 percent of Filipinos as shown in the SWS survey.
Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said the Constitution should be amended first because a divorce law would violate the Charter.
Fariñas cited Article XV of the Constitution in which the state recognizes the family as the basic foundation of the nation.
1-BAP party-list representative Silvestre Bello III, a former justice secretary, said a divorce law would be seen as destroying the family in a country dominated by Catholics.
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