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Thursday, June 13, 2024

‘Divorce covers Church unions’

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Estrada survey shows Senate split on measure

Catholic marriages will be covered by the Divorce Law once it is passed by Congress, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said, rejecting the position of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines that the measure will only apply to civil unions.

“It’s completely baseless to assert that a ‘sacramental marriage’ or church wedding will not be covered by a future divorce law,” Lagman said.

“Church marriage is recognized as a civilly valid marriage under the Family Code and is regulated like civil marriages by the secular laws on marriage,” he added.

The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading a measure seeking to bring back absolute divorce.

At the Upper Chamber, Senator Jinggoy Estrada on Tuesday said he did an informal survey among his colleagues which showed that five were against divorce while six said they were supporting the measure.

Aside from Estrada, Senate President Francis Escudero, Senate Majority Leader Francis Tolentino, and Senators Joel Villanueva and Ronald dela Rosa said they were not in favor of bringing back absolute divorce based on the informal poll.

Those who were in favor based on Estrada’s poll were Senators Risa Hontiveros, Grace Poe, Raffy Tulfo, Robin Padilla, Imee Marcos and Pia Cayetano.

Based on the public pronouncements, however, seven are in favor of divorce – including Senator JV Ejercito – while seven are against it, including Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

“I have been and still am not in favor of legalizing divorce in our country. Instead of pushing for an absolute divorce law, which is proscribed by the Constitution, perhaps a bill with a well-defined ground for nullifying a marriage would be a much welcomed alternative,” Estrada said.

“From what I have read in the news as to the contents of the House bill on divorce, I cannot vote for that bill,” Pimentel said.

Escudero earlier said that instead of divorce, the government should work to make annulment affordable and accessible.

Zubiri, for his part, said he is “a conservative – I am pro-family and pro-life.”

Ejercito, on the other hand, said that while he understands the defense of the Church of the sanctity of marriage, he also acknowledges that “a lot of Filipino couples are trapped in loveless and unworkable marriages.”

“As a representative of the people and a Catholic, I am currently in the process of discernment. I intend to listen, and actively participate in the deliberation in the Senate. I am leaning at this time to be in favor,” he said.

Hontiveros, principal author and sponsor of the measure in the Senate, emphasized that the committee report on the Divorce Bill in the Senate has been ready for some time.

“We are just waiting for the committee report to be reported out in the Senate plenary session,” stated Hontiveros, who chairs the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality.

Tulfo expressed belief that the divorce bill is an act of social justice that would give people a fresh start from a miserable marriage.

“The quality of family life for spouses who are already in an unhealthy marital relationship is not what was envisioned by the State as something that needs protection,” Tulfo said.

Under the measure passed by the House, the following are grounds for divorce: legal separation under Article 55 of the Family Code of the Philippines; annulment of marriage under Article 45 of the Family Code of the Philippines; separation of the spouses for at least five years at the time of the petition for absolute divorce is filed, and reconciliation is highly improbable; psychological incapacity as provided in Article 36 of the Family Code of the Philippines; and domestic or marital abuse to include acts under RA No. 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and and Their Children Act of 2004.

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