A HOUSE DIVIDED?
Were there public hearings conducted on the proposed bill for the dissolution of marriage which is set to be passed by the lower house before Christmas Day?
This is the question raised by Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale who expressed her personal opposition to the proposal.
“Personally, I am against that. I’m sure it will go through bicameral discussions. It would take longer. I’m wondering whether there were public hearings on this?” she said when sought for comment on the proposal.
Although she is yet to read the entire content of House Bill (HB) 6027, Magpale said that based on the initial information she has read about the proposal, she finds it to be “anti-women.”
“It seems to be anti-women. Luoy kaayo ang babae. Murag sayun-sayunon na lang gyud ba (The women are the ones at a disadvantage. It’s like running roughshod over women),” she added.
Magpale said she thought the proposal was “dormant” but was surprised by the statement of the bill’s principal author, House Speaker Pantaleon
Alvarez, that it is expected to be passed by the House of Representatives before Christmas.
During his visit to Cebu for the mass oath-taking of new members of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) last Friday,
Alvarez made the assurance that his bill, which also seeks to legalize civil partnerships between same-sex couples, will be passed soon.
Magpale, who heads the Cebu Provincial Women’s Commission (PWC), said she will have the proposed bill discussed during their meeting tomorrow, Tuesday.
It was not only Magpale who was not aware of the details Alvarez’s proposed bill.
Some Cebu congressmen, when sought by CDN for comment on the proposal, said they are yet to see the bill in its entirety.
Cebu 5th District Rep. Ramon “Red” Durano VI said he has not yet to read the contents of the proposed bill and refused to comment yet.
“Anyway, we will have our session starting tomorrow (today). I’ll take a look at that bill,” he said.
Durano is one of the two remaining Cebu congressmen who have not joined the ruling PDP-Laban. Durano remains with Barug Alang sa Kauswagan ug Demokrasya (Bakud).
The other one is Cebu City North District Rep. Raul Del Mar. CDN called and sent messages to Del Mar for his statement on the proposal but he has not answered as of last night.
Cebu 6th District Rep. Jonas Cortes, through his chief of staff Jamaal James Calipayan, told CDN in a text message that they will not comment for now on whether or not he will support the proposal.
Cebu 7th District Rep. Peter John Calderon also said he is yet to review HB 6027 since he was not able to participate in the discussions at the committee level since he is not a part of it.
CDN also tried getting the comments of the other remaining Cebu representatives, but they could not be reached as of press time.
The other Cebu representatives are Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas (1st district), Wilfredo Caminero (2nd district), Gwendolyn Garcia (3rd district),
Benhur Salimbangon (4th district), Aileen Radaza (Lapu-Lapu City), and Rodrigo Abellanosa (Cebu City South District).
All of these congressional representatives are allied with PDP-Laban.
In his press conference last Friday, Alvarez said HB 6027 is still with the House committee on Population and Family Relations.
Alvarez also explained that dissolution of marriage is not expensive, simpler and faster compared to the long and tedious legal process of annulment.
He said joint petitions for dissolution could be disposed of immediately by a judge in one or two court hearings.
Another ground to be added to petitions for marriage dissolution is “severe and chronic unhappiness.”
Under the proposal, couples can also agree together on the dissolution and even lay down in paper how they will divide their properties as well as custody of children and sign the document. They can then go to court for a ministerial proceeding of letting a judge allow their petition.
With the expected opposition from the Roman Catholic Church on his proposal, Alvarez, who said he is a member of the Manobo tribe in Mindanao which allows multiple marriage, asked for “respect” from the Church.
“Hangyo nako sa simbahan, isig respetohay lang ta. Ang simbahan, dapat respetuhan niya ang obligasyon ug responsibilidad sa gobyerno ngado sa katawhan. Kay ang gobyerno dili mamili ug relihiyon,” he said.
(My request to the Church is let us respect each other. The Church should respect the obligations and responsibilities of the government to the people.
Because government does not discriminate on religion.)
He said couples with marriage problems become unproductive members of society and that this is a problem that should be addressed by government.
Instead, Alvarez suggested that if the Catholic Church is against the proposal, they should tell their own faithfuls not to avail of this legal remedy, should it become a law. But the Catholic Church should not restrict those who decide to avail of it, he added.
Alvarez believed a ‘Dissolution of Marriage’ law can even strengthen marriages because couples will do more to protect their union since their marriage can be dissolved anytime.
On civil unions, Alvarez also pointed out that this is a common problem among couples whose marriages could not be considered legally binding, such as those of in a same-sex union, in the absence of a law legalizing their marriages.
Alvarez noted in that in the cases of same-sex couples, if one of them gets hospitalized, the other cannot be considered a legitimate guardian and sign papers.
This should be remedied, he said, by giving them marital rights, which include “the right to support each other, inherit from each other, secure insurance policies, adopt children,” among others.
‘Times have changed’
Cebu City legislators also weighed in on the proposal, with most saying that it should be supported.
Councilor Joy Augustus Young said that there are more couples that are suffering from marital problems that need to be addressed.
“As much as I am not really comfortable about it, it is the call of the times. The world is not the same and we will have to adapt to the changing times.
It is only practical that we change our laws to go with the times,” he said.
He pointed out that premarital sex has become prevalent among the youth as well as unwed mothers. He said many couples also are suffering from marital problems but the legal expenses of divorce is a problem for poor couples.
If they are forced to be together, Young said this could cause more problems especially on the children.
Councilor Joel Garganera also said this is for the welfare of the family.
“I have been a barangay captain for 27 years, I have seen the challenges and difficulties faced by married couples on a daily basis. A few of these problems are irreconcilable, which has affected the welfare of the family, which might lead to psychological and emotional difficulties on the part of the children,” he said.
But he added that the law should be “strictly crafted” as to prioritize the importance of marriage as a sacred act but at the same time provide a leeway for those who suffer from an “unhealthy and toxic” marriage.
Councilor Raymond Garcia said he is keeping an “open mind” about the proposal considering that “times have changed” and problems are more complex.
Its a ‘no’
Other city councilors though said they oppose the proposal.
“There’s no need for that bill actually. The Family Code has already provided measures for the annulment and/or declaration of nullity of marriage.
The matrimonial union should therefore be protected,” said Councilor Phillip Zafra.
Councilor Sisinio Andales said the additional ground of unhappiness is subjected and prone to abuse by couples who don’t believe in the sanctity of marriage.
“Marriage is not an ordinary contract wherein one may sever due to his dislikes of the other party. It is a lifetime commitment. Hoping churches will campaign against the proposed bill and also the civic organizations,” he added.
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