MANILA, Philippines – Are the 2016 vice-presidential candidates afraid of supporting controversial issues for fear of losing votes?
A majority of Filipinos identify as Roman Catholics, and it’s no secret that the Catholic Church has a strong hold over several politicians – both incumbent and aspiring.
Although the Philippine Constitution requires a separation of church and state, the former could not help but flex its muscles time and again.
At the height of the debates on reproductive health (RH), for instance, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) actively spoke against the RH bill. There were even bishops who campaigned against RH supporters, labeling these candidates as “Team Patay.”
The likes of Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto sided with the CBCP in opposing the proposed law, hence gaining popularity among anti-RH Filipinos. (READ: VP bets on women’s rights, RH).
The CBCP maintains a similar stance on divorce.
Will this year’s vice-presidential (VP) bets side with the Church or will they support such controversial measures? A survey in 2015 showed that 2 of 3 Filipinos reject divorce.
Annulment is enough
All VP bets are against divorce. They are no different from most presidential candidates, with the exception of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.
It’s only in Vatican City and the Philippines where divorce remains illegal and an alien concept.
In 2008, a divorce bill went as far as 3rd reading in the Senate. Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero, Gringo Honasan, Migz Zubiri, Jamby Madrigal, and Loren Legarda voted against it.
Instead of legalizing divorce, Cayetano suggests strenghtening the country’s annulment process.
The senator also believes that gender inequality must first be addressed before pushing for divorce, saying that women will be at the losing end. Ironically, his sister, Senator Pia Cayetano, openly supports divorce.
Cayeteno’s presidential candidate, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, shares a similar view, adding that divorce will only inflict a lasting “injury” on the family, especially children.
Escudero echoes the same stand, pushing for a more accessible and affordable annulment process. The senator himself got an annulment, ending a 10-year marriage, before he remarried.
Not all Filipinos, however, can afford one. In the Philippines, getting an annulment is complex, expensive, and long-winded.
The grounds for annulment are also limited, with psychological incapacity as the commonly used one.
His partner, Senator Grace Poe, is also against divorce.
The only woman gunning for the vice-presidency wants to first fix the annulment system before plunging into divorce. Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo told Rappler, “I [b]elieve we should first look into relaxing the process of annulment and make it more accessible to the poor and the marginalized.”
Robredo also supported moves to make physical and emotional abuse grounds for annulment.
Sanctity of marriage
Honasan believes that divorce could destroy the “sanctity” of marriage.
“Responsible parenthood is important. Parents should know where their kids are, who they’re with, and what they’re doing. We must preserve sanctity of marriage and family life,” he said in 2013.
His presidential candidate, Vice President Jejomar Binay, is silent on the issue.
Joining Honasan on the preaching train is Antonio Trillanes IV, who worries that divorce “negatively affects” children.
“I am against divorce bill. We’re pushing our society into an issue that’s very divisive,” he said in 2013.
Speaking before students of the University of Asia and the Pacific, he said that “[Parents] sacrifice their own happiness for the sake of the kids.”
Trillanes said divorce is unnecessary because the Philippines already has legal separation.
Meanwhile, Senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr gets more personal with his opposition to divorce.
“I love my wife. I do not want to divorce her,” Marcos said as he explained why he has no reason to support the bill.
But the young Marcos’ partner, Senator Santiago, favors divorce.
Among all presidential bets, only Santiago actively supports the divorce law – as long as it is sought on the basis of two grounds:
- An attempt on the life of the spouse by the other
- When one spouse is already living with another person (adultery or concubinage)
“On other grounds, I don’t advise it, I will not support it because it might trivialize the institution of marriage – young people might rush into marriage, particularly when they are young, and then change their minds and get a divorce,” Santiago explained.
But these candidates are not alone. Many of the country’s aspiring leaders are not supportive of legalizing divorce.
What awaits broken marriages in the Philippines? – Rappler.com