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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)
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.