Catholic leaders seek debate on divorce bill

Catholic prelates on Thursday said there is a need for more deliberation and discussions on the legalization of divorce in the country.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Permanent Committee on Public Affairs executive secretary Fr. Jerome Secillano pushed for the holding of discussions on the issue for the benefit of the people.

“The public deserves to know what is in the bill. Perhaps a public forum or media discussions should be done to give the people a thorough understanding of its impact in the family and society,” he said.

Secillano, who attended the hearing at the House of Representatives on Wednesday, admitted that he was surprised by the speedy proposal by the House committee on population and family relations in endorsing the divorce bill.

“I was expecting that exhaustive deliberations and discussions will be conducted on the measure,” he added.

Meanwhile, Pro-life spiritual director Fr. Melvin Castro also pushed for the holding of debates for the people to know more about the measure.

“Nonetheless, with the sensitivity of the issue and the magnitude of its effects, Congress should allow open, honest, and exhaustive discussion and debate on the issue of divorce,” he added.

Meanwhile, retired Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes is hoping that the bill will not be passed by Congress.

“This is alarming. I hope Congress will not approve it. More family problems will be created with divorce,” Bastes said in an interview.

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Population and Family Relations approved a bill instituting absolute divorce and dissolution of marriage in the Philippines.

It also formed a technical working group to consolidate the three bills instituting absolute divorce in the country.

The Philippines and Vatican City are the only countries in the world where divorce is illegal.

As this developed, the minority leader in the  House of Representatives appealed to his colleagues to reject the divorce bill as it violates the Constitution mandating the strengthening of the family.

The  bloc’s leader, Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. made the statement following the approval Wednesday by the House committee on population and family relations of the bill that is proposed to be a way out to broken marriages.

Abante lamented how Congress was “further weakening the ties that bind our nation’s families together” and called on his colleagues in Congress “to reverse course on this disturbing path that threatens this sacred institution.”

“I would like to believe that as leaders of this country our goal should be finding ways to keep families together, not tear them apart. This proposed divorce law, unfortunately, only serves to erode the foundations of an institution that even the Constitution says we should value and protect,” said the lawmaker.

Abante pointed out that “the word ‘family’ is mentioned in the Constitution a dozen times and added that it even has a whole Article devoted to it. “That by itself should serve as a guide for us tasked to draft this nation’s laws. There is even a provision that specifically says that the State is duty-bound to protect the institution of marriage.”

Section 12 of ARTICLE II (Declaration of Principles and State Policies) states that “the State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution.”

Article XV (The Family) Section 2, on the other hand, states that “marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.”

The solon reminded his colleagues that there is already a mechanism by which marriages can be annulled.

“This final avenue is available for couples that cannot reconcile, and while some say that annulment can be a lengthy, difficult process, it is the demands of the process that ensure that only those who are really serious about ending their marriage––those who believe their marriage cannot be salvaged––who go through with  it,” Abante said.

Abante added that if the House insisted on pushing for divorce, they should repeal the provisions that allow for annulment.

“We are just providing too many doors by which married couples can walk out of their marriages. While in extreme cases it is warranted, I believe one door is more than enough.” 

Topics: Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines , divorce , Jerome Secillano
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