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2 House leaders buck absolute divorce bill

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
2 House leaders buck absolute divorce bill
Deputy Speakers Lito Atienza and Eddie Villanueva yesterday assailed the approval by the House committee on population and family relations of a substitute bill that seeks to void marital union and divorced spouses to remarry.
Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Two House leaders have objected to a bill allowing absolute divorce in the country.

Deputy Speakers Lito Atienza and Eddie Villanueva yesterday assailed the approval by the House committee on population and family relations of a substitute bill that seeks to void marital union and divorced spouses to remarry.

Atienza of Buhay party-list believes the measure is unconstitutional and vowed to question it before the Supreme Court.

“This is in direct violation of the Constitution, specifically Article II, Section 12, which says that the State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution; and Article XV where the State ‘recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation.’ Accordingly, it shall strengthen its solidarity and actively promote its total development and that marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State,” he argued.

“The Constitution says the sanctity of marriage should be protected by the State. Passing this measure goes against the inviolability of marriage, which should never be broken, infringed or dishonored. We will challenge this all the way to the Supreme Court, if needed, where we are sure it will be deemed unconstitutional,” Atienza said.

He slammed the panel for supposedly railroading the approval of the bill by “not inviting organizations to defend the sanctity of marriage” and setting the hearing at a schedule coinciding with the hearing on the Commission on Audit report on the Department of Health funds last Monday.

“We condemn the action taken by the committee on population and family relations in railroading the passage of the substitute bill on absolute divorce in the country. They passed it in record time, treating it as lightly as the renaming of a public street,” he lamented.

Villanueva agreed with Atienza that the measure is not only “unconstitutional” but also “contrary to the deeply held Filipino value of preserving and fighting for marriage.”

“Marriage, as an inviolate commitment, would now be reduced to a contractual relationship, subject to the whims of unscrupulous individuals,” said the CIBAC party-list congressman.

Villanueva, founder of Jesus Is Lord Church Worldwide, said divorce is not the solution to broken marriages.

“While I do understand the plight of marriages that have become hostile and untenable, allowing divorce is not and will never be the answer to problematic unions. The legal remedies available such as legal separation, annulment and declaration of nullity of marriage are sufficient to address them,” he said.

Villanueva said the divorce bill should not be prioritized at the time when the attention of Congress should be focused on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the authors of the measure, defended the approval of the divorce bill.

Lagman, who headed the technical working group that drafted the substitute bill, explained that the measure only reinstates absolute divorce that was already practiced during the pre-Spanish times, the American colonial period and during the Japanese occupation.

He said the proposed law would allow couples in failed marriages to regain their humanity, self-respect and freedom from irredeemably failed marriages and utterly dysfunctional unions.

He lamented that the Philippines is the only country in the world today that outlaws absolute divorce, aside from the almost celibate Vatican City state.

“It is hard to believe that all the other countries collectively erred in instituting absolute divorce in varying degrees of liberality and limitations. An en masse blunder is beyond comprehension. An erroneous unanimity on such a crucial familial institution defies reason and experience. Obviously, the rest of the world cannot be mistaken on the universality of absolute divorce,” said.

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