Senate bets against divorce, support same-sex union

MANILA, Philippines – Senatorial candidates who joined a media-organized forum at the University of the Philippines (UP) were mostly against the legalization of divorce in the Philippines. 

During ANC’s “The Rundown 2016” forum on Friday, January 29, 7 senatorial candidates were asked whether it was the right time to enact a divorce law in the predominantly Catholic Philippines.

Members of the first batch of senatorial candidates in the forum who said they oppose a divorce law in the country are District Representatives Sherwin Gatchalian of Valenzuela City and Roman Romulo of Pasig City, Anti-Crime and Terrrorism through Community Involvement and Support party-list Representative Samuel Pagdilao, and former senator Juan Miguel Zubiri.

The other two – Bayan Muna party-list Representative Neri Colmenares and women's rights lawyer Lorna Kapunan – support the proposal. Labor advocate Susan Ople, who was also at the forum, has not expressed a clear-cut stance. 

In voicing their strong opposition to the proposal, Pagdilao and Zubiri each cited studies that link broken families to more crimes involving the youth.

Gatchalian and Romulo shared a common position: what should be done instead is to improve the country’s law on annulment or legal separation.

“One out of every 5 women experience [domestic] violence in the country. We need mechanisms to expedite the process of separation,” Gatchalian said.

For his part, Romulo explained: “Puwedeng amyendahan ang legal separation para makapagpakasal muli ang isang battered na asawa. Ang annulment of marriage, padaliin po natin.” (We can amend the [law] on legal separation to allow a battered wife to remarry. We should make annulment easier.)  

Meanwhile, those who opted for legalizing divorce stressed how women suffer and are unable to escape a failing marriage. 

Kapunan, as she earlier pointed out in Rappler's #TheLeaderIWant forum, said the only solution against the tiring and tedious process of annulment is divorce. 

However, she clarified that she is also pro-family, and stressed that both parties must first try to strengthen their relationship before contemplating divorce. 

Annulment

Colmenares, a lawmaker in the 16th Congress, said he has filed a bill amending Article 36 of the Family Code, which limits the grounds for annulment. 

He said Article 36 is the Philippines’ divorce law and that it should be expanded by including spousal violence and infidelity as indicators of psychological incapacity.

Under the law, psychological incapacity is manifested only through: 

Ople, who is legally separated, shared the tedious process she went through just to have her marriage annulled in 1991, and hoped that other women won’t go through the same thing.

“I hope more women would not experience what [I went through]. Even Pope Francis approves of church annulment. We have to keep an open mind,” she said in Filipino.

But she said that she is in favor of looking at divorce from a Filipino perspective, noting how the word divorce carries a stigma. 

"It's the word divorce, it's the concept of divorce. I am in favor of looking at the annulment law and seeing where we can have our own that's culturally suited," she said during the panel discussion. 

Same-sex marriage 

The second batch of senatorial candidates was asked whether or not they approve of same-sex marriage.

They were former interior secretary Rafael Alunan III and former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Dionisio Santiago, both independent candidates; Liberal Party (LP) bets Nariman Ambolodto, Mark Lapid and former energy secretary Jericho Petilla; and opposition candidates Sandra Cam and Leyte Representative Martin Romualdez.

Alunan said that everyone has "free will." Santiago, citing the LGBT community’s contributions to society, said it is time to give them the same rights as everyone else. (READ: #LoveWins: When equality became the law of the land)

All administration bets are also for homosexual unions.

“Hindi na pinag-uusapan ang religous rights dito. Ang pinag-uusapan natin ang human rights. [Dapat] pantay-pantay ang tingin ng lipunan (We're not talking about religious rights here. We're talking about human rights. Society must treat give equal treatment to everyone),” Lapid said, a comment that was well-applauded by the audience.

For his part, Petilla said: “The difference with a man and a woman union is that they have benefits. But for LGBT relationships, they do not enjoy that such as lower income tax rates.”

Ambolodto, a Muslim, said she respects same-sex relationships but the state must act on the legality of their union. 

Romualdez, who is running under Vice President Jejomar Binay’s ticket, said that even the Pope is not against this type of relationship. 

Cam initially said she is against homosexual marriage because the Philippines is a Catholic nation. She said the country is too young for such marriage but later noted that she would pass a bill to protect same-sex partners. (READ: Gatchalian: PH not yet ready for same-sex marriage

Aside from the issue of divorce and same-sex marriage, the candidates were also asked about their views on increasing budgets for state universities and colleges, the anti-political dynasty bill and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). – Rappler.com

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.

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