Another divorce bill in Congress

By Modesto P. Sa-onoy

A small group in the House of Representatives is at it again – wanting to legalize divorce in the Philippines. One of its advocates, Pantaleon Alvarez, who represents the first congressional district of Davao del Norte, justified his support with the claim that “the Philippines and Vatican City, where Pope Francis and his fellow celibate cardinals reside, are the only places around the globe that do not have any law on divorce.” He added that, since none among the cardinals and priests in the Vatican are even married, we’re the only ones (without a divorce law) to be precise.”

Alvarez became popular in Bacolod a few years ago when he allegedly engaged in a fistfight over a woman. No wonder he wants a divorce. Even so, his reasoning is as faulty as can be. Just because others are doing it does not mean we should also follow when we know the foolishness of an act.

Alvarez is showing that we are wrong because we refused to jump into the same frying pan as others. He should present a better argument. A herd mentality is never reasonable as it is dangerous.

On the other hand, should we not be proud as a Catholic and Christian nation that we have remained steadfast in the faith and refused to be “de-Christianized?” Should God’s law surrender to popular culture or yield morality to tribalism?

A committee in the House of Representatives approved in principle the Marriage Dissolution Bill, a measure equivalent to divorce in other countries. The bill is authored by Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman who filled the same bill in 2018 but was shelved and refiled in July 2019. Give the old man credit for perseverance but remember his other advocacies that strike at the heart of the family institution and God’s law like contraception.

Speaking before the House Committee on Population, Lagman said that his new proposed measure is a consolidated version of three divorce bills that were all rejected by Congress. Alvarez was his constant endorser.

A technical working group dealing with the Lagman proposal is composed of Reps. Arlene Brosas of women’s group Gabriela; Ma. Victoria Umali of A-Teacher party-list; Juliet Marie Ferrer of Negros Occidental, and Ma. Lourdes Acosta-Alba of Bukidnon. Of course, Gabriela is a militant group (as A-Teacher) that is also a major advocate of contraception and population control. I don’t know the political or social ideology of Cong. Juliet Ferrer, former mayor of La Carlota City and spouse of Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer.

The Philippines is the only Christian nation in Asia; 85 percent of its 105 million population are Catholics but many other Christian denominations are more orthodox than the Catholics when it involves marriage.

Lagman will have to deal with other legislators who are vehemently opposed to divorce, the reason his bills keep on getting into the shelves.

For one, Deputy Speaker Eddie Villanueva, of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) party-list, objected to the approval of Lagman’s bill. He pointed out the defects of the Lagman bill.

Villanueva said, “The passage of a divorce bill is practically unnecessary. First, it does not address issues of the high cost of litigation and slow-grinding disposition of cases, which are the real problems encountered by those seeking relief from troubled marriages.” He probably refers to the process of annulment and legal separation which separates the married couple.

On the religious aspect, he said, “Second and more importantly, it is a clear defiance to God and to the Constitution because it will terribly degrade the sacrosanctness of marriage as an inviolable institution.”

Villanueva, an evangelist and head of the Jesus is Lord Movement, insisted that state-sanctioned divorce would only ruin the sanctity of marriage and destroy families. That is exactly what the Lagman bill intends to do.

“The divorce bills filed in Congress simply enumerate and consolidate remedies for broken marriages already existing in our current laws. That is why the divorce bill is unnecessary,” Villanueva added.

Lagman countered: “Divorce will not destroy marriages because there is no more marriage or happy union to speak of when couples reach the difficult decision to seek divorce.” His solution is the “easy way out”. He sees difficulties in marriage as no longer marriage. We see marriage as a God-mandated sacrament undergoing the normal test of human weakness.