Divorce bill critics win in Harapan poll

Posted at 06/13/2011 3:45 AM | Updated as of 06/13/2011 12:24 PM

MANILA, Philippines – If online and SMS polls are to be believed, more Filipinos do not want the divorce bill to be passed into law.

An SMS poll conducted during Sunday's ANC Harapan debate showed 3,331 votes to scrap the bill compared to 3,077 votes to pass the bill. A separate online poll showed 539 votes for the passage of the bill and 659 against.

Critics of the bill won in the 2 polls with 52.46% of the vote compared to 47.54% supporting the bill.

The results ran counter to a recent Social Weather Stations survey that showed 5 out of 10 Filipinos (50%) are now in favor of divorce, while 3 out of 10 (33%) are against.

The polls capped off the the Harapan debate on the divorce bill, aired on ABS-CBN and ANC late Sunday.

Pro-divorce speakers were Gabriela Representative Luz Ilagan, Bayan Muna Representative and human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares, former Gabriela Representative Liza Maza, Executive Director of EnGendeRights Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, litigation and family lawyer Atty. Lorna Kapunan and public interest law practitioner Atty. Ferdinand Topacio.

Representing the anti-divorce side were Dasmarinas City Representative Elpidio Barzaga, Bagong Henerasyon Representative Bernadette Herrera-Dy, consultant of CBCP Episcopal Commission of Family and Life Atty. James Imbong, marriage counselor Rebecca Medez, actress Evangeline Pascual and TV host Jojo Alejar.

Malta's recent decision on divorce sparked talks to revive House Bill 1799 or “An Act Introducing Divorce in the Philippines”, which was first filed by Gabriela party list Representatives Luz Ilagan and Emerenciana de Jesus in July 2010.

Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani said the bill is unconstitutional because the family is recognized by the State as “the foundation of the nation." He said marriage is sacred and is a gift from God.

“Ang divorce ay laban na laban sa ating Constitution. It requires a lot of imagination para sabihin mong nakaka-strengthen ng solidarity ng family ang paghiwalayin mo ang magkasama at bigyan mo sila ng pagkakataong mag-asawa ulit,” he said.

He added: "Ilang babae kaya ang papayag sa harap ng altar ay magpakasal at sasabihin ng asawa nila, ‘Sa totoo lang, mamahalin kita hanggang divorce lang’? Palagay ko, wala."

Divorce not alien to Filipinos

However, former Gabriela Representative Liza Maza said because of legal separation and annulment, marriages in the Philippines are no longer inviolable and the concept of divorce is no longer alien to the country.

“Ngayon pa lamang ay ina-allow na na maghiwalay ang mag-asawa,” she said.

Colmenares, meanwhile, said the concept of divorce in the Philippines existed since the Spanish era.

“May civil code ang Spain which allows for divorce. Hindi lang pina-implement ng Catholic Church noong panahon ng Spain kasi may divorce tapos may provision for civil marriages, na ayaw ng simbahan,” said Colmenares.

Ilagan said divorce is needed in a country where marriages are no longer sacred. “Tanggapin natin ang social reality. Maraming kasal na wasak na,” said Ilagan.

The stand of those who are against divorce is hinged on the belief that a divorce bill is not the answer in solving problems within abusive marriages.

“Madadagdagan lang ang inaabusong babae,” said Bagong Henerasyon Representative Herrera-Dy.

Grounds for divorce

The pro-divorce side reiterated that the bill specifies the grounds for divorce, allaying concerns of the anti-divorce side that approving the bill may open the floodgates to broken marriages.

“Malinaw sa panukala ang grounds for divorce. Hindi ‘yung mag-away lang kayo, divorce na. Mayroong malinaw na batayan. Kaya unfounded yung sinasabi nila na ito ang sisira sa pamilya. Sa sitwasyong ito, wasak na ang pamilya, wala nang sanctity of marriage na tinatawag. Nineteen women daily are victims of violence. Bakit sila mananatili sa isang kasal o isang pagsasamang impyerno na para sa kanila at para sa kanilang mga anak?” said Maza.

Divorce proponents also said those against passing the bill should not make comparisons to the United States, where according to Bishop Bacani, 1 out of 2 marriages end in divorce.

“US is not a good example kasi sa US mayroong ‘no-fault divorce.’ Ang panukalang batas sa Pilipinas ay hindi ‘no-fault divorce',” said Atty. Kapunan.

“Opposition to divorce is the hypocrisy of congress who want to remain married to their wives and keep their mistresses as well,” she added.

Meanwhile, Bishop Bacani believes that the divorce bill may just be a way to divert attention from more important matters.