Judgment Call

[Judgment Call] That messy conversation about divorce

Chito de la Vega

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[Judgment Call] That messy conversation about divorce
We are committed to presenting the broadest views about the possible enactment of a divorce law in the Philippines 

Newsrooms are a microcosm of society. I’m not the first to realize or articulate that. Journalists from countries with a free press know this too well. News agencies seem to have this monolithic facade. But, inside, a newsroom is a veritable “marketplace of ideas.”

In a way, this diversity benefits the public. The accessibility of a variety of perspectives makes the newsroom live up to its journalistic purpose of providing information “to help citizens make informed choices.”

I am Chito de la Vega, a senior desk editor here at Rappler. I am also part of the faith and social issues editorial clusters. 

I’ve been in this vocation for over three decades. And though like everyone else I have my own opinions, I make sure these do not get in the way of my role as a journalist.

The topic of legalizing divorce in the country sparks spirited discussions in the Rappler newsroom, as it does across the country. And expect this conversation to reverberate more in the community after the House of Representatives on May 22 passed on third and final reading its proposed version of an absolute divorce law. 

This is actually the second time the congressmen passed an absolute divorce bill. The first was during the speakership of Pantaleon Alvarez in the 17th Congress. 

It’s still a long road ahead for the realization of divorce in our mostly Roman Catholic country.

Proposed laws or bills must pass through two legislative chambers and need the signature of the President before these are enacted. In the case of the divorce bill, it was earlier stymied in the Senate, limping past the committee level in 2023. This time, proponents of divorce face another hope-against-hope scenario in the Senate.

The Rappler newsroom, perhaps because of the predominantly Gen Z tilt of its demographic, has a more accepting view of the idea of divorce. But their voices do not necessarily drown out the opposing opinion of the handful who are twice their age. The titos and titas may be outnumbered, but their opinions carry a heavy weight.

Our news stories on this development have presented mainly the two sides in the struggle for an absolute divorce law in the Philippines. The saga of Albay Representative Edcel Lagman’s quixotic push for the divorce bill in the House is contained in these stories on the one hand; on the other, it is mostly the maneuverings of the Catholic Church. Standing beside the Catholic Church in the divorce divide are local evangelical churches, which also detest the passage a divorce law.

But if Rappler’s reportage is an earnest effort to present the dichotomy of the divorce conversation. It is in our Voices section, where we are proudest. Here, you will realize that there are more than just two sides in the divorce debate. It’s beyond just yes or no. The eclectic opinions open the door to a kaleidoscope of perspectives. 

And it is only not in the issue of divorce, but in a wide variety of issues that Rappler’s Voices unfolds into a tapestry of ideas. 

For Rappler, it’s not a question of whether we agree or disagree with an opinion. We are committed to presenting a patchwork of viewpoints to fulfill our avowed role as journalists in a democracy – “to inform the public about the issues so people can make the right decisions for their lives.” (Bill Kovach)

Soon, as the path to passing a divorce law appears clearer, expect more heated debates. It could be messy. But Rappler has prepared for what we foresee as more vociferous debates.

To deepen our relationship with our audience, we rolled out Rappler Communities – a combination of a news app and a community hub. We hope that with this accessible digital town square, we can engage even those opinions in the peripheries. We also envision Rappler Communities as a pulse-check on the ongoing conversations among our audience on particular issues. Yes, in a way, the app is also a virtual marites.

But that is essentially what keeps democracy alive – no single voice should outshout the others in the conversation. We tell the audience what we know, and what we don’t know. We clearly differentiate news from opinion. And when they have immersed themselves in the “marketplace of ideas,” hopefully, the public will make the right choices.

We are committed to this because that is our democratic mandate. – Rappler.com

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Chito de la Vega

Chito joined Rappler as senior editor in 2017. Prior to that he had a 32-year stint with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, where he started as a sportswriter.