Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said on Tuesday that as part of the Manobo people of Mindanao, he is allowed to marry several times. Philstar.com/AJ Bolando

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said on Tuesday that as part of the Manobo people of Mindanao, he is allowed to marry several times. Philstar.com/AJ Bolando

Alvarez: Dissolution of marriage bill not a self-serving measure
Audrey Morallo (philstar.com) - July 25, 2017 - 1:50pm

MANILA, Philippines —  Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Tuesday defended himself from insinuations that his pushing for a bill for the legal dissolution of marriage is self-serving, saying that he can have multiple marriages because he is a Manobo.

During the opening of the second session of the 17th Congress, Alvarez listed a bill providing for the legal dissolution of marriage as one of the House’s priority legislative measures.

The speaker said that he is not pushing for the legislative measure to benefit himself as his people's culture and laws allow him to marry several times.

“Ang dissolution of marriage po, iyan ay fi-nile ko, hindi po para sa sarili ko, dahil hindi ko po iyan kailangan, dahil ako po ay miyembro ng isang tribe sa Mindanao kung saan po puwede po sa amin yung multiple marriages. At yung naggo-govern po na batas sa amin ay yung kultura po ng tribo,” the House leader said in an interview with DZBB radio. He said later in the interview that he is a Manobo.

He said that one of the grounds for the dissolution of marriage would be the unhappiness of any of the parties in a marriage.

The House leader said that this would compel the man or the wife to strive for the happiness of the partner.

“Kasi kapag nagpakasal kayo, both parties will now be obliged to make the other party happy. Kasi kapag hindi po kapag hindi po niya ginawa yung tungkulin niya bilang asawa, bilang kabiyak, ay yung asawa niya, kung hindi na masaya, ay mayroong karapatan para mag-file ng dissolution of marriage,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez is already separated from his legal wife and currently in a relationship with another woman. He has admitted in the past to siring several children by different women.

Early this year, Alvarez and Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr. got into a conflict allegedly because of a spat between their girlfriends, an issue that the House leader has denied.

President Rodrigo Duterte defended the House speaker at the height of the controversy between Alvarez and Floirendo.

“Even if Bebot (Alvarez’s nickname) says he has five or four (women), we can’t do anything. He never converted to Christianity so he is not bound by the number of women you can have,” Duterte said in a speech in April.

The Bukidnon provincial government says in its website that "polygamy, although rarely practiced, was allowed" among the Manobo. The National Commission for Culture and the Arts, however, does not mention the practice in its culture profile of the Manobo, which comprises nine major ethnic groups that are further divided into many subgroups.

During the opening of the second regular session on Monday, Alvarez said that such a bill would help former partners become friends and better parents despite their separation.

Bill will require care and support of children

He said before legislators, many of whom are suspected to be engaged in extramarital affairs: “One of the conditions, which must be complied with, is an agreed upon and executable framework to provide for the care and support of their children.”

He also clarified that he is not pushing for a divorce nor a same-sex marriage bill. He said that he wants bills on the dissolution of marriage measure and on civil unions passed.

The measure will also prevent partners from besmirching each other's reputations in court just to get its nod for annulment, according to Alvarez. It will also be less costly, he added.

He said that he would invoke the separation of the church and state should the Catholic Church or any religious group oppose his measure.

Rep. Pia Cayetano, who is also estranged from her husband, will shepherd the bill in the House, he said.

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