Who do congressmen really represent? – Arch. Jose Palma

By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol and Nestle L. Semilla March 21,2018 - 12:08 AM



Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma expressed disappointment over the House of Representatives’ approval of a bill which seeks to legalize absolute divorce and dissolution of marriage in the country.

The head of the country’s biggest archdiocese that is home to close to four million Catholics, however, remained optimistic that the bill will not be enacted into law.

“We’re hoping that it won’t be approved in the Senate. We pray that they (legislators) will be enlightened. I’m sure they won’t be happy if future generations will blame them for a legacy that does not bring about the good of the community, but rather it’s destruction,” the 68-year-old prelate said in an interview after he presided over the Chrism Mass and renewal of priestly vows at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, Tuesday. (see separate story)

The lower House on Monday passed on the third and final reading House Bill 7303, the proposed divorce bill, otherwise known as “An Act Instituting Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage in the Philippines.”

A total of 134 congressmen voted for the bill’s passage while 57 opposed. Two abstained.

But even before the bill is submitted to the Senate, some members of the upper chamber already expressed their opposition against the proposed law.

Despite a failed marriage, President Rodrigo Duterte also does not approve of divorce in the Philippines, saying that it would be bad for the children of separated parents.

Palma said that he is expecting senators to make an independent evaluation of the issue, and not base their decisions on what their political allies say unlike many congressmen.

“We begin to question our congressmen’s discernment and allegiance. Who do they really represent? Sometimes, they are more inclined to pushing for what they want instead of expressing the sentiments of the people they represent. We feel sad about it,” he said.

“I think senators are more independent-minded. They discern what is good for the country,” he added.

The Philippines and the Vatican are the only two places in the world where divorce is not allowed.

Under Philippine law, the only way for married couples in the Philippines to separate is either through annulment or legal separation, an often agonizing, lengthy, and expensive court process.

But though legal separation allows the couple to separate their possessions and live apart, it does not sever the marital bond.

The proposed divorce law seeks to ensure those that feel the need to sever their marital ties that the process would be inexpensive and affordable.

Grounds for an absolute divorce include the following: reasons stated under legal separation and annulment under the Family Code of the Philippines, separation in fact for at least five years, legal separation by judicial decree for at least two years, psychological incapacity, gender reassignment surgery, irreconcilable differences, and joint petition of spouses.

Mixed feelings

Cebu Congressmen have mixed feelings over the passage of House Bill 7303.

Seventh district Representative Peter John Calderon who voted against the bill believes that divorce will not solve marital problems.

“Married couples should work out and try all means to make their marriage work and preserve the family,” Calderon said in a text message to Cebu Daily News.

Second district Representative Wilfredo Caminero, who also voted against the bill, considers marriage as a sacred covenant “for better or for worse,” he said.

“A sacrifice for the weakness of the other; but joy and happiness for the common strength. When it collapses, it’s the children that are most affected, let not the state be a party to the perceived misery,” Caminero added.

Both Calderon and Caminero strongly believe that the inevitable victims of divorce are the children.

Cebu first district Rep. Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas was one of only two lawmakers who abstained from voting on the bill as he had mixed feelings about it.

“I genuinely believe marriage is sacred. It is a lifelong promise between a man and a woman to love and support each other until death do they part. A promise to someone in front of our Creator is something that we should protect,” said Gullas, who abstained from the vote.

Cebu Daily News also asked 3rd district Rep. Gwen Garcia, 4th district Rep. Benhur Salimbangon and 6th district Rep. Jonas Cortes how they voted on the issue of divorce; but CDN’s texts remained unanswered by the three legislators as of last night.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, in propelling the bill’s passage earlier said that this was his “gift” to Filipinos “suffering” from their marriages, especially those working abroad.

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, for his part, said that he stands neutral on the issue of divorce in the country.

“I’m a practicing Catholic but I don’t necessarily think that the law should follow the teachings of the Church. That’s not good if you let the Church take over the government. But that’s the word of the people, I understand,” Osmeña told reporters although he also understands the sentiments of the Catholic Church.

“It’s the job then of the Church to convince the people not to get a divorce. I wish I could do the same thing also,” Osmeña added. /with Doris Mae C. Mondragon

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