House starts debating divorce bill
The House of Representatives on Monday begun plenary debates on the so-called absolute divorce bill, as a conservative religious congressman warned that doing so could lead to children shooting up their schools.
In his sponsorship speech, Albay 1st Dist. Rep. Edcel Lagman assured that granting couples with irreparable relationships the right to divorce “cannot undo centuries of dearly held Filipino customs and traditions honoring and celebrating marriage and the family.”
Lagman said “absolute divorce is the exception” because “the great majority” of married couples have happy relationships. But, even as the State was mandated by the Constitution to protect marriage as an “inviolable social institution,” he stressed the need to help couples whose marriages are “shattered beyond repair.”
“Marriage, even as it is proclaimed an inviolable institution, is not impervious to demise, predeceasing the spouses. It is still basically a human institution, which in some instances, may collapse and wither because of human frailties and mortal limitations,” Lagman said.
“In these exceptional circumstances, the State is also duty-bound to help couples in dysfunctional marriages where reconciliation is virtually nil. The State cannot abandon distressed spouses and their children in a house aflame,” he added.
Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus, in her sponsorship speech, said the divorce bill would recognize that “the right to enter into a marriage contract has the corresponding spousal right to end such contract when it has reached the point of irreparability.”
De Jesus cited the Center for Women’s Resources’ finding that a woman is battered by her husband or partner every 14 minutes and 36 seconds.
“In this context, should a woman still stay within the marital relationship even it is abusive, disadvantageous and unhealthy?” said the lawmaker whose group had aided victims of domestic violence.
Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano delivered an impromptu speech citing a news report on Monday regarding a woman who was hacked to pieces and skinned by her husband.
On the other hand, staunchly religious Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza claimed divorce would “not protect the lives of the women” even as men “would not be that affected.”
“A man can remarry and remarry for a number of times and he will still be a man who can marry and remarry once again. But, a woman, once divorced, will suffer the consequences of separation in the family,” said the senior deputy minority leader.
He even blamed the occurrence of school shootings in the United States on the fact that it allows couples to divorce.
“We do not want to reach the point where children who grow up in separated and divorced marriages would bring guns to their schools to shoot their principal and their classmates. That’s what’s happening in countries where divorce is common,” he said.
Atienza added that “the Constitution meant to make difficult the separation of people.”
“It’s not enough that the man was hurtful, it’s not enough that the woman was hurtful. We all swear to our spouses, ’till death do us part,’” he said. “The solution is not the passage of a law that is a clear violation of the promise and the protection of the Constitution.”
Meanwhile, Cebu City 1st Dist. Rep. Raul del Mar said divorce was “totally unnecessary” because of the existing options of legal separation and annulment.
Lagman explained the existing options would “not give complete relief to couples in irremediably broken marriages” and sought to disabuse Del Mar of the notion that divorce was just meant to address the prohibitive costs and slow pace of the said options.
The opposition lawmaker pointed out legal separation only allows separation of residences, while annulments are granted for reasons that render the marriage void from the start, but not supervening causes that occur during the marriage itself.