By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Pia Cayetano on Wednesday said she has no plans to disrespect any religious belief or organization in her push for the passage of the bill that seeks to legalize absolute divorce in the Philippines.
Like Sen. Risa Hontiveros, Cayetano filed her own version of the divorce measure, Senate Bill No. 288 or the Absolute Divorce Act of 2019.
Cayetano had earlier filed the measure at the House of Representatives in the 17th Congress but the measure was not approved due to the Senate’s lack of support and consideration on the institutionalization of divorce in the Philippines. The senator re-filed the measure at the Senate this 18th Congress.
“What I always reiterate, for those who are against it, you don’t have to avail of it. For those who are against it, in your own church, in your own religious organization, you can continue to believe what you want to believe. That is your supreme right,” Cayetano told reporters in an interview.
“And never ko po aapakan or never ko… Wala ho akong karapatan na kwestyunin ang paniniwala ng mga tao (I would never trample…I don’t have the right to question the belief of people) when it comes to spiritual and religious reasons,” she said.
But when it comes to legal issues, Cayetano said she has an obligation to have an open mind and pass laws that would be applicable to all Filipinos who want to avail of this legal remedy.
“Kasi remember, this is a kind of law that is not mandatory, this is a kind of law that people can avail of. ‘Yun ‘yun eh, may difference ‘yun (There’s a difference). Let’s say its an option,” she said.
Cayetano said that when the divorce bill was being at the Lower House, they had “tried to look for middle ground” to ensure that all concerns and the needs of the parties involved would be addressed.
“If I remember right, (there are cases where someone had to cope with) three years of support for the spouse who was dependent on the working spouse. Kasi ‘yung objective nga is mag-move on ka na, try to get gainfully employed also,” she pointed out.
“But I want to have an open mind about it if kailangan longer, kasi the objective din naman is to not abandon the spouse who dedicated their life to being a homemaker, whether it’s a man or a woman, it applies both ways,” she said.
Some senators she noted have expressed openness on the divorce bill and is vouching that debates on the issue would be fruitful in the upper chamber.
“So I’d like to believe, I’d like to hope that people would have an open mind,” she said.
Senators who have expressed openness on the divorce bill include Sen. Grace Poe while Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he is looking forward to the chamber’s debates on the measure.
Poe had admitted she had a change of heart after seeing many Filipino women suffering in an abusive relationship. She initially supported strengthening the country’s annulment process and making it accessible especially to the poor.
“But now, when I see that many Filipino women are abused and prevented to start anew with their lives, I am thinking that maybe, it is really high-time to discuss divorce,” Poe said in a radio interview.
Poe said she could only hope that Congress would be able to pass a divorce law that has sufficient safeguards against abuse.