By Ben Rosario
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said on Wednesday he does not support divorce as a solution to troubled marriage, but vowed not to stand in the way if majority of the country’s congressmen want it legalized.
During the session break, Cayetano said he will conduct a survey among lawmakers to determine their views on controversial bills such as divorce, the death penalty, and Charter change.
Cayetano aired his view on the pending divorce bills in response to the decision of the House Committee on Family Relations to include the proposal in its list of legislative priorities for the 18th Congress.
“Some believe that divorce is the solution, some like me do not believe that divorce is the solution… pero kung paano maging democratic at mas accessible ang annulment (…but how we can make annulment more democratic and accessible),” said Cayetano, a devout Christian.
He recalled that in a meeting prior to his election as speaker, Cayetano urged House members to “act depending on our conscience.”
However, Cayetano assured the House panel chaired by Guimaras Rep. Ma. Lucille Nava that divorce bills, backed by the committee, will be debated upon freely in the plenary.
In its organizational meeting late last month, the House panel reached a consensus to include in its list of priority bills proposals seeking to legalize absolute divorce and on the recognition of writ of absolute divorce granted by a foreign country.
“But we are not stopping any of the committees from discussing all of these bills. I can tell you my personal stand but hindi naman yung personal stand ko lang yung masusunod, di ba?” Cayetano said.
“Definitely for impossible marriages – ibig sabihin yung ginugulpi yung asawa or yung psychologically incapacitated, we have a find a solution,” he stated.
Aside from divorce, the family relations panel also agreed to place in the list of six priority measures bills seeking to address the civil effects of church annulment decree, adolescent pregnancy prevention, the creation of local population development office, and the overhaul of the civil registration system in the country.
Nava said the committee has jurisdiction over legislative measures that “directly and principally relating to population growth, and family planning, population census and statistics and family relations.”
Divorce legalization measures have been filed by Reps. Pantaleon Alvarez (PDP-Laban, Davao del Norte) and Edcel Lagman (LP, Albay).
Both measures are carryovers of the previous Congress where Alvarez served as speaker.
The two authors of the divorce measures were expected to limit the committee consideration of the bill to just one hearing which is allowed for legislative proposals that have already been approved on third and final reading by the preceding Congress.
It was recalled that in the 17th Congress, the Lower House passed on third and final reading last March 19 the divorce bill co-authored by Alvarez and Lagman.
However, the Senate ignored the proposal which was never considered to be elevated to Malacañang for President Duterte’s signature.
The 17th Congress also caused the passage of the Foreign Divorce Recognition Act.
Bukidnon Rep. Ma. Lourdes Acosta-Alba filed House Bill 96, proposing to acknowledge as binding in the Philippines the decree of divorce or termination of marriage granted by a foreign government to spouses legally married in the Philippines.
Acosta said passage of the measure will allow Filipino espouses to skip the long and tedious process of having their local marriages annulled when a foreign decree of divorce has already been obtained.
“As the foreign spouse is already freed from his or her marital obligation, the same right must also be accorded to the Filipino spouse without the cost and burden of a tedious judicial process,” said Acosta.
Majority Leader Martin Romualdez and his wife, Tinggog Bisaya Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez filed HBG 1157 or the proposed Church Nullity Act of 2019.
The proposal seeks to recognize the civil effects of church annulment, declaration of nullity, and dissolution of marriages granted by the church.
Citing the Shari’ah Law that recognizes the nullity of marriage and divorce granted under the Qua’ran, the Romualdez couple said the principle of equality before the law dictates that annulment of marriage granted by other religions should also be upheld as legal in the country.
Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones filed House Bill No. 2206, the Philippine Civil Registration Act of 2017, which proposes to provide for a comprehensive and responsive civil registration, the establishment of the Barangay Civil Registration System, a Free Delayed Registration Program, and a Free Delayed Registration Program for Indigenous Peoples.