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Philippines divorce bill gains ground amid church opposition

A divorce law could destabilize society and lead to poverty, say Church leaders
Pro-divorce advocates take part in a demonstration on Valentine's Day in front of the Senate Building in Pasay, Metro Manila, the Philippines on Feb. 14, 2023.

Pro-divorce advocates take part in a demonstration on Valentine's Day in front of the Senate Building in Pasay, Metro Manila, the Philippines on Feb. 14, 2023. (Photo: AFP)

Published: May 17, 2024 11:06 AM GMT
Updated: May 20, 2024 04:50 AM GMT

Philippine lawmakers have approved a divorce law through voice voting following the second reading on May 15 amid strong opposition from the Catholic Church.

The Catholic-majority country is dubbed the world's only country without a divorce law after Malta legalized it in 2011.

The bill provides “limited grounds and well-defined judicial procedures for divorce and aims to save children from the pain, stress, and agony brought about by their parents’ marital clashes or irreconcilable differences.”

It also allows a divorcee to remarry.

The divorce bill will give women a second chance “to start a new life,” said lawmaker Arlene Brosas from Gabriela Women’s Party.

“And let’s give their children a chance to grow in a safe and loving environment,” she told the media on May 16.

The bill will still go to its third reading. Once passed by the majority of the lawmakers, it will be presented to the Senate, the upper house, for its concurrence and will undergo the same legislative process.

The bill will be sent to the president for signing off once the Senate approves it.

Several senators have also expressed elation over the progress of the divorce bill in the Lower House.

“It’s time to give Filipino women, men, children, and families who need it, a second chance at love and life,” Senator Risa Hontiveros said in a statement on May 16.

At the Senate, Hontiveros and four other senators also wrote Senate Bill 2443, the proposed "Dissolution of Marriage Act," which has been pending in second reading since September 2023.

The Catholic Church has been vocal against the divorce bill for years.

After the second reading, Church leaders urged the government to prioritize programs that would strengthen the bond of families and marriage.

A “society that values strong, stable families is a thriving society,” Bishop Alberto Uy of Tagbilaran in the central Philippines, said in a radio interview on May 16.

He urged the members of Congress to reconsider the proposed divorce bill. The bishop also asked them to "focus on promoting policies and programs that support marriage, strengthen families, and protect the well-being of all members of society.”

“Divorce weakens the fabric of society by eroding the foundation of the family unit. It leads to social fragmentation, increased poverty, and other societal ills. By promoting divorce, we are contributing to the breakdown of social cohesion and the erosion of moral values,” Uy said.

Father Jerome Secilliano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines-Permanent Committee on Public Affairs, added that a divorce law is unnecessary in the Philippines.

In an interview with Manila reporters on May 16, he said there are available legal remedies for “problematic” marriages in the country.

Under the proposed divorce bill, the ones who will be allowed to divorce are those who have a dysfunctional marriage and those families that are irreparably broken.

The government will also scrutinize the grounds for divorce, such as abuse, alcoholism, drug use, violence, and other reasons.

According to a report from the Philippine Commission on Women released in March, one in every 20 girls and women aged 15 to 49 years old experience such violence at some point in their lifetime.

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