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Congress now sets sights on legalizing divorce

Government accused of war on family values

Aside from Vatican City, the Philippines is the only nation where it is not legal to end marriage (AFP/Jay Directo) Aside from Vatican City, the Philippines is the only nation where it is not legal to end marriage (AFP/Jay Directo)
  • ucanews.com reporter, Manila
  • Philippines
  • December 19, 2012
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Following the passage of the controversial Reproductive Health Bill on Monday night, Congress is expected to rile the Catholic Church again with a divorce bill next on the agenda.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr said yesterday that the bill – which he said he supports – would be tackled next year, most likely after Congress reopens following June elections.

Aside from Vatican City, the Philippines is the only nation in the world not to have legalized divorce after Malta passed legislation last year.

“Reality tells us that there are many failed, unhappy marriages across all Filipino classes,” say Luzvviminda Ilagan and Emerenciana de Jesus, the proponents of the bill.

The only two elected members of the Gabriela Women’s Party, Ilagan and de Jesus filed the bill in August 2010 as an amendment to the Family Code but it has since been stalled at committee stage by constitutional amendments.

The bill cites five grounds for divorce including irreconcilable differences, de facto separation for five years or legal separation for at least two years.

Separation is permitted in the Philippines for reasons including infidelity and repeated physical violence but legally the husband and wife remain married and cannot remarry.

"Many couples, especially from marginalized sectors who have no access to the courts, simply end up separating without the benefit of legal process," say Ilagan and de Jesus.

Representative Rufus Rodriguez of the populist opposition party, Force of the Filipino Masses, an opponent of the Reproductive Health Bill, warned that the divorce proposal would further erode family values in the Philippines.

“If we opposed the Reproductive Health Bill, we’re going to oppose the divorce bill even more,” he said.

Father Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said the house speaker’s vocal support yesterday for the divorce bill showed “the true face” of the government.

“It has never been for the welfare of the family, women and children,” he said. “I don’t wish to say we told you so but that very statement itself reveals that [the bill] is just the beginning of an entire series of anti-family and anti-life legislation.”

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