SPEAKER Pantaleon Alvarez on Thursday appealed to the Catholic Church to respect the obligation of the government to protect the welfare of all Filipinos and desist from obstructing efforts in Congress to enact a law on dissolution of marriage and divorce.
Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives’ committee on family relations approved the substitute bill on dissolution of marriage and divorce.
Alvarez, estranged from his wife, is one of the principal authors of the dissolution of marriage bill.
Alvarez earlier said he expected the dissolution of marriage and divorce bill to reach the plenary by next week and approved by the House before they adjourn on March 23.
In a related development:
• Senator Francis Escudero said he favored making the existing process of annulment under the Civil Code and the Family Code more affordable and accessible instead.
He said this was much better than expanding the grounds provided therein via a new law on “divorce.”
But Senator Joel Villanueva, son of Jesus Is Lord founder Eddie Villanueva, and Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said they opposed the House-approved measure on divorce.
“I am strongly against divorce; instead I am pushing to make the country’s annulment laws be simplified and not anti-poor,” he said,
“No idea. Definitely not I,” said Sotto.
Senator Win Gatchalian, the only bachelor among the senators, said he did not believe in divorce and likened it to a drive through in American marriage.
“I don’t believe in no full divorce which means, ayoko sa mukha mo ayoko na. What we need is a clear process and reasonable process for our constituents to follow because the process now, it’s very expensive for our countrymen who will be separated.”
Alvarez on Thursday defended his proposed divorce measure being crafted in the House of Representatives, saying the bill would not run counter to the constitutional provision that the state should protect the family.
“In fact this will strengthen the marriage because both parties could no longer work it out, the possibility of divorce would be there,” Alvarez said in a radio interview.
Alvarez also said the proposed “Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage Bill” would not be costly and lengthy to a spouse.
In fact, he said the poor and overseas Filipino workers could avail themselves of the services of a public attorney in seeking a divorce and the process would be “simple and fast.”
Alvarez said extensive and lengthy divorce were the complaints and problems of many OFWs.
Under the proposed divorce bill, grounds for divorce include when the spouses are living separately for at least five years, irreconcilable differences and sexual infidelity.
Alvarez said irreconcilable difference was when the married spouses were no longer happy with each other and there was no point in reconciling.
The bill also provides for alimony or financial support for the children of divorced parents.
The bill is expected to be approved in plenary session anytime next week after its passage at the committee level last Wednesday.
The Catholic Church has consistently opposed moves in Congress to pass a divorce law. While there were several divorce bills filed in the past, none has reached the level of the plenary.
Alvarez said the main responsibility of the Church was to take care of its flock alone while it was the responsibility of the government to look after the interest of the entire Filipino nation.
He said that if a particular religion did not recognize divorce it was free to preach its doctrine to its members and dissuade them from taking advantage of the new legal option to sever their marriage ties.
Alvarez said that the dissolution of marriage and divorce bill not only had the support of practically all the political blocs in the House but even the media reports were mostly favorable to the proposed measure.
Likewise, Alvarez said the House would work for the passage of the bill recognizing civil union.
He noted that currently couples, whether of the same sex or not, who were living together but not married, did not enjoy the protection of the law.
“It is their basic human right that we need to address,” Alvarez said.
Among others, Alvarez said the measure would entitle these couples with various rights including the right to support each other, right to inherit from each other, right to adopt children, right to secure insurance policies, and the right to sign for necessary medical documents when one of the partners is hospitalized.