Divorce and the Senate

STRAIGHT TO THE POINT - Atty. Ruphil Bañoc - The Freeman

The arguments for or against divorce are familiar to many of us. They have been uttered in many fora ad infinitum.

The ball is now in the hands of the Senate.

Those who oppose the bill rely heavily on the Biblical command, which says, “What therefore God hath put together, let no man put asunder.” They also harp on Section 2 Article XV of the Philippine Constitution, which states, “Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.” They posit that the divorce bill is against the law of God and the fundamental law of the land.

They are afraid that if divorce becomes a law, it will open the floodgates to a situation in which marriage will just be a plain game, and if one gets bored, one can leave it anytime.

During my “Straight to the Point” radio program, Msgr. Joseph Tan, spokesman of the Archdiocese of Cebu, said that the Roman Catholic Church may issue an Oratio Emperata as regards the divorce bill.

In a separate interview on the same program, Cong. Pablo John Garcia, who voted for the bill, explained his reasons for supporting it. He even quoted Pope Francis, who said that divorce is sometimes morally necessary.

The heart of his argument is that there are marriages that don’t work. The law is for them. They deserve a second chance. For now, annulment is not easy to obtain because it is expensive and tedious.

In the words of Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, there are people who are trapped in “unhappy and irreparable marriages.” This fact resonates with many Filipinos, particularly those who experience firsthand the hell brought about by an abusive relationship.

Those who favor the bill share the same arguments with the abovementioned legislators.

We don't know what will happen to the divorce bill in the Senate's hands. Elections are fast approaching, and politicians want to avoid controversies that may jeopardize their chances of getting elected or reelected. Therefore, absent public pressure, the Senate can choose not to put it on the agenda. It can also lengthen the interpellation period until the measure is overtaken by events, such as the coming of a new set of senators.

History has shown us that the president's role is pivotal in passing a bill, particularly if they certify it as urgent.

The passage of Reproductive Health Bill into law was in no small measure made possible through the help of the late president Noynoy Aquino. The Catholic Church moved heaven and earth to block the legislative measure --to no avail.

During former President Rody Duterte's incumbency, the proponents of the divorce bill first succeeded in having it passed in the Lower House. But Duterte was against it. It died in the Senate.

However, the bill advocates refused to wave the white flag of surrender, perhaps inspired by the growing public support. The majority (53%) of Filipinos, according to the Social Weather Survey, are in favor of the legalization of divorce. Hence, it is passed again in the present House.

In the final analysis and practically speaking, it is still public opinion that politicians like senators and congressmen take the cue from. It is thus incumbent upon those who favor or oppose divorce to make known their sentiments.

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