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Divorce to face dissent in Senate

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By Vanne Terrazola

Senators are weighing their options on the proposal to allow divorce in the Philippines.

Senate of the Philippines (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Senate of the Philippines (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

While looking forward to the chamber’s debates on the bill seeking to legalize divorce, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that he is not yet keen to support the measure.

Senator Risa Hontiveros is pushing anew the passage of an “absolute divorce” bill in the 18th Congress, saying the government should provide legal mechanisms to protect and free persons who are trapped in an abusive marriage.

Sotto, however, said legislators might not be ready yet to approve the proposal. He said proponents of divorce should just push to make annulment process faster and affordable.

“Originally ‘pag binabanggit sa amin noong araw yan, ang sinasabi ko, paluwagin na lang natin ‘yong annulment kasi maraming kontra diyan. So gawin natin, paluwagin natin yung annulment (When it was being raised to us before, I always say that we should just simplify annulment because many would oppose that. So let us ease the annulment process instead),” the long-time lawmaker said in an interview over radio DZMM Tuesday.

But Sotto said he is not closing his doors on the divorce bill since an ally in the majority bloc, Sen. Pia Cayetano, is also pushing for its approval.

“Siguro pag-uusapan naming mabuti sa debate kasi with proper safeguards, tingnan natin kung mas maeeksplika sa amin ni Pia ito nang mas mabuti kesa doon sa present laws on annulment (Maybe if we discussed that in a debate, let us see if Pia can explain that well to us compared to the present laws on annulment),” he said.

This was the also the sentiment of Senator Grace Poe, who, on Wednesday, admitted having reconsidered her stance against divorce.

“At first, my position was for strengthening our 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 Pilipino in a DZMM interview.

Poe said she was only concerned that divorce, if passed and signed into law, would be abused.

“I hope that we seriously study this, and, as for my support, if there are good safeguards, why not” she said in Pilipino.

Unlike her colleagues, Sen. Cynthia Villar said the divorce bill may not yet have a chance in the Philippines. And the 18th Congress, she added, is no exception.

“I think it will have a hard time in the Philippines kasi (because) we are a predominantly Catholic country. Ayaw iyan ng Simbahan, maraming gulo (The Church does not want that, there are a lot of issues),” she told reporters in an interview.

“I think it will be filed every Congress and there will come a time that we will pass it, but I don’t think this is the time that we will be able to pass it. It’s a matter of adjusting the minds of the people,” she opined.

Villar said she disagrees with legalizing divorce, even with Cayetano, her partymate in the Nacionalista Party, is pushing for it.

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