Legalization of divorce proposed in last Catholic country where it is prohibited

It’s the first time in the history of the Philippines that a divorce bill has reached plenary deliberations. (AFP)
Updated 24 February 2018

Legalization of divorce proposed in last Catholic country where it is prohibited

MANILA: A landmark bill was approved this week to legalize divorce in the Philippines, the last Catholic country where it is prohibited.
With the proposed bill titled “An Act providing for absolute divorce and dissolution of marriage”approved by the House of Representatives committee on population and family relations, it will now move to the plenary level.
It’s the first time in the history of the Philippines that a divorce bill has reached plenary deliberations.
However, the effort to legislate an absolute divorce law faces diminishing prospects in the Senate, where several senators have already expressed opposition to such measure.
Senate majority leader Vicente Sotto III even pointed out that not one of his colleagues had bothered to file a counterpart bill in the upper chamber.
Several senators are also thumbing down the proposal to introduce divorce in the country. Instead of divorce, they are battling for a “simplified” annulment law that would make the process affordable and accessible to ordinary Filipinos.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, the only bachelor among members of the Senate, stressed that he doesn’t believe in a “drive-through” divorce like the one in the United States.
“What we need is a clear and reasonable process for our constituents to follow,” he said, noting that the current process of separation in the Philippines is expensive and difficult to follow.
Senator Joel Villanueva, son of an evangelist, also said he is strongly against divorce, but would push for an annulment law that is “simplified and not anti-poor.”
Senator Francis Escudero, likewise, said he favors a measure that will make the existing process of annulment under the civil code and the family code more affordable and accessible to all. Escudero himself has undergone an annulment process with his first wife.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said he is not totally opposed to a divorce bill but would first like to see the salient features of the House version of the proposed measure.
“My primary concern is the sanctity of marriage. Needless to say, I don’t want marriage and separation to be a ‘dime a dozen’ affair,” he said.
So far, only Senator Risa Hontiveros has signified her support for the enactment of the bill. “If and when one is filed, I will actively participate because it is going to be a very important deliberation,” she said.
Meanwhile, church leaders expressed disappointment over the passage of the bill before the lower house, as they reiterated their stance against divorce.
“Divorce is a direct affront to the law ordained by God and specifically reiterated by our Lord Jesus Christ. The destruction of families by divorce is indeed a project of Satan, the enemy par excellence of God,” said Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon.
Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines permanent committee on public affairs, also criticized approval of the bill.
“By passing this measure, Congress betrays its mandate to protect our country’s legally and morally declared social and inviolable institutions!” Secillano posted on his Facebook account.
Save for the Vatican, the Philippines is the only Catholic country in the world where divorce is forbidden.
This, however, had not been a guarantee to keep many marriages intact and husbands faithful to their wives. Several politicians are also known to be philanderers.


Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

Updated 23 August 2019

Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

  • Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds demonstrated against Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy
  • Posters appeared overnight in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan

SRINAGAR, India: Security forces used tear gas against stone-throwing local residents in Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on Friday, after a third straight week of protests in the restive Soura district despite the imposition of tight restrictions.
Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds of locals staged a protest march against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5.
Posters appeared overnight this week in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), to protest against India’s decision.
This was the first such call by separatists seeking Kashmir’s secession from India. India’s move was accompanied by travel and communication restrictions in Kashmir that are still largely in place, although some landlines were restored last week.
The UNMOGIP was set up in 1949 after the first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a Himalayan region both countries claim in full but rule in part. The group monitors cease-fire violations along the border between the countries.
In a narrow lane of Soura, blocked like many others with rocks and sheets of metal, residents hurled stones at the paramilitary police to stop them moving into an area around the local mosque, Jinab Sahib, which had earlier been packed for Friday prayers.
The police responded with several rounds of tear gas and chili grenades but were beaten back by dozens of stone-pelting men. Some men suffered pellet injuries.
The locals said the security forces had been repeatedly trying to move into Soura, often using tear gas and pellets.
“We are neither safe at home, nor outside,” said Rouf, who declined to give his full name. He had rubbed salt into his face to counteract the effects of tear gas.
The afternoon had begun peacefully, with men and women streaming into Jinab Sahib for afternoon prayers. A cleric then raised a call for “Azadi” – Urdu for freedom – several times, and declared Kashmir’s allegiance to neighboring Pakistan.
“Long live Pakistan,” the cleric said, as worshippers roared back in approval.
US President Donald Trump plans to discuss Kashmir when he meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in France this weekend, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.
Trump, who has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, will press Modi on how he plans to calm regional tensions after the withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy, and stress the need for dialogue, the official said.
Some Indian media reports on Friday said “terrorists” were trying to enter India from Afghanistan, citing unnamed government officials.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan responded on Twitter on Friday that such claims were being made to “divert attention” away from what he called human rights violations in Kashmir.
“The Indian leadership will in all probability attempt a false flag operation to divert attention,” Khan said.
Khan’s comments came a day after United Nations experts called on the Indian government to “end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests” in Kashmir, saying it would increase regional tensions.
“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offense,” they said in a statement.
At least 152 people have been hurt by teargas and pellets since security forces launched their crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Large swathes of Srinagar remain deserted with shops shut except for some provision stores with shutters half-down. Police vans patrolled some areas announcing a curfew and asking people to stay indoors.
On the Dal Lake, long rows of houseboats, normally packed with tourists at this time of year, floated closed and empty, as police patrolled its mirror-calm waters in boats.