MANILA - “There is a problem on the word divorce.”
Senate President Vicente Sotto III had this to say when asked about the chances of a bill allowing divorce in the Philippines passing in the Senate.
Sotto said he gathered the opinion of his fellow senators and many of them expressed apprehension about supporting a law that would expressly endorse divorce as a means of ending a marriage.
“Karamihan sa amin, mas madali kung ang pag uusapan natin eh dissolution of marriage. In other words, it is an upgraded annulment law,” Sotto told reporters. “Kumbaga sa ano, may negative na dating.”
(Many of us prefer to refer to discuss dissolution of marriage. In other words, it is an upgraded annulment law… Divorce has a negative connotation.)
Sotto said many senators are open to discussing the matter “as long as the word divorce would not be used.”
“There is more probability or possibility of support if it is not called divorce or we’re not talking of divorce but we’re talking of dissolution of marriage,” Sotto added.
In the Philippines, the only country in the world aside from the Vatican City where divorce remains illegal, couples can only have their marriage annulled on the ground of psychological incapacity, a lengthy and costly process.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said what the senators want to happen is to make the process of annulment more accessible to the poor.
“We already have annulment in the Philippines. It is making it more efficient annulment process,” Zubiri told reporters. “I think that one is more acceptable to the majority of the members.”
In the Senate, minority Sen. Risa Hontiveros, an advocate of women’s rights, refiled a bill seeking legalization of absolute divorce in the Philippines.
Under Hontiveros’ divorce bill, physical violence and "grossly abusive conduct" are considered grounds for divorce. Divorce may also be filed when the spouses are legally separated by judicial decree for at least two years or when they have been separated “in fact” for at least five years and reconciliation is highly improbable.
Hontiveros, a widow, said while she respects the institution of marriage, the government must admit that there are relationships that are beyond repair.
“Buo rin yung aking simpatya at suporta sa ating mga kababayan lalo na sa mga kabaro ko na naipit na sa mga abusive, loveless at unhappy marriages,” Hontiveros said.
“Panahon na sila ay magkaroon ng pagkakataon, ng second chance,” she said after meeting divorce advocates.
(I sympathize with and support our fellow citizens, especially women who get trapped in abusive, loveless, and unhappy marriages. It’s about time we give them a second chance.)
There have been numerous attempts to pass a divorce law in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, but strong opposition from Church leaders have thwarted such efforts.