Hontiveros: Divorce bill is ‘pro-family, pro-children’

Aika Rey

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Hontiveros: Divorce bill is ‘pro-family, pro-children’
'It makes us respect marriage more by being more discerning with our choices in life. It protects children from abuse and rebuilds broken families,' Senator Risa Hontiveros says at the first Senate hearing on the divorce bill

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros said on Tuesday, September 17, that contrary to the claim of groups opposed to it, the controversial divorce bill is “pro-marriage, pro-family, and pro-children.”

At the first Senate hearing on the absolute divorce bill, Hontiveros said that Filipinos, especially women and children, “should be free from abusive and loveless relationships” to be given another chance in life.

“They, together with their children, deserve all the chances available in this world to build nurturing families and find true and meaninful relationships. The divorce bill is pro-marriage, pro-family, and pro-children,” Hontiveros said.

“It makes us respect marriage more by being more discerning with our choices in life. It protects children from abuse and rebuilds broken families,” she added.

On Tuesday, Kana Takahashi of Maya: The Feminist Collective shared her experience as a child whose parents divorced when she was little. She said that in her case, the “unhappiness” brought about by her parents’ divorce was only temporary.

“While there is no question that divorce is hard for us kids, it is a far cry better than raising your children in a violent, abusive, angry, or deeply resentful marriage. After the divorce, I started to see the positive effects of separation,” Takahashi said.

She added: “There’s no more shouting; no more conflicts. My family became as nurturing as ever.”

‘Serious problems’

Despite the promise of a “second chance” in life, groups opposed to the measure bellieved that divorce would only break families apart and permanently scar children.

At the hearing, Fenny Tatad of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) office on women said that the state should not interfere in the matters that concerns marriage.

“We believe this is a misplaced concern: the Philippines has a lot to teach, and the rest of the world has much to learn from the Philippines, in depending the sanctity and indissolubity of marriage,” Tatad said.

“In almost every country where divorce has been legalized, marriage and the family are in serious trouble. Divorce has not been a solution to the problem, it has become the problem,” she added.

Tatad said that strengthening marriage and family life should be discussed, instead of “spending precious time and money on unconstitutional divorce bills.” (READ: SolGen role in annulment ‘waste of taxpayers’ money’ – group)

Another group, the Coalition of Concerned Families of the Philippines (CCFP), also claimed that divorce would “pave the for way bigamy or polygamy,” as people would be legally allowed to have “successive partners.”

Lawyer Aldwin Salumbides of the CCFP said that he had handled annulment cases for the intention of marrying again.

“All pending divorce bills contain a subtle yet dangerous component [as it] will pave way for bigamy or polygamy… Who are the real losers in court? Filipino families who are split and torn apart,” Salumbides said at the hearing.

Joel Arzaga of the Alliance for the Family Foundation shared the position taken by other anti-divorce groups that a divorce law “runs afoul to the Constitution,” citing the “permanent character” of marriage in the Constitution.” He added that divorce only offered “illusory benefits.”

In response to the claims, Hontiveros said that the divorce bills she and Senator Pia Cayetano had filed are “founded on constitutional principles.”

“Imposibleng may aabot sa komite ko, or sa kahit anong komite, na bill which for example would enable bigamy o polygamy or kahit anong violations of the Revised Penal Code,” Hontiveros said on Tuesday.

(It’s impossible that any bill that would enable bigamy or polygamy or any violations of the Revised Penal Code would reach my committee or others’ commitees.)

Primacy of welfare of women, children

In a media interview, Hontiveros said that they would “try” to address concerns that existing laws already provide enough remedies for unsalvageable marriages, such as legal separation and annulment.

“Susubukan namin i-address ang concerns ng religious organizations, lalo na ‘yung concerns ng sufficiency ng kasalukuyang batas (We will try to address the concerns of religious organizations, especially the concerns that the current laws are already sufficient),” Hontiveros said.

But the senator added that the welfare of women and children would still be paramount in the discussions.

Asked whether there will be enough support for the divorce bill, Hontiveros was confident that she would gather more votes, as the “balance of force” in the 18th Congress seemed to be “more favorable” to this measure.

“‘Di masyadong open ang balance of forces noon. ‘Yung sense ko ay nahihinog na at possibleng mag-move forward (The balance of forces was not very open before. My sense is that it’s coming to fruition and it may possibly move forward),” the senator said.

In the Senate, Hontiveros and Cayetano had filed bills seeking to institute legal termination of marriages by Philippine courts.

Cayetano had filed two other bills seeking the recognition of divorce in the Philippine civil registry if done outside the country, as well as the recognition of the civil effects of Church annulment.

In the 17th Congress, the bill languished in the Senate committee level due to the lack of time to hear the divorce bill. The counterpat measure at the  House of Representatives was passed on 3rd and final reading. – Rappler.com

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.