Bicolanos divided over absolute divorce bill

By Connie Calipay

May 27, 2024, 8:37 pm

<p><em>(PNA file photo by Yancy Lim)</em></p>

(PNA file photo by Yancy Lim)

LEGAZPI CITY – Albay residents gave mixed reactions regarding the recently approved House Bill No. 9349, or the proposed Absolute Divorce Act.

Teresita Tongo of Sto. Domingo town said she is against the divorce bill because it will destroy families.

"The family should be strengthened even more. With an absolute divorce bill, the family will be weakened. Every family has problems and no one is perfect. Instead of a divorce, the family should be supported more to be more stable," she said in an interview on Monday.

Tongo, a mother of four, added that children will be most affected by the divorce bill.

"Children's welfare is always the priority. Talk properly, which will still result in a peaceful marriage, kindness and love will flourish. Nothing is impossible with God. Husbands and wives should always talk, pray with their children)," she added.

Tongo, who has been married for more than 30 years, said those who are suffering from physical abuse may seek interventions from the government, family members or even the courts.

Lunce Barcena, 33, a media practitioner from Legazpi City, is also opposed to the bill.

"Marriage should be honored and should not be separated by the state. Family is a fundamental institution in society," he said.

The father of two said children will be more vulnerable to instability.

"They are the losers here. Imagine how a child can fully grow up holistically when his or her mother is separated and has other families. A lot of children will probably be in trouble because there are no parents to guide and take care of them. They may even be subject to child abuse, especially if the other husband abuses the children," he said.

Barcena added that instead of a divorce bill, the government should focus on programs that will provide counseling and strengthen family ties.

Architect Kristine Lagman of Bacacay town, however, said divorce will serve as a safeguard law.

"If you don't want your partner to divorce you, then you will be a good, honest, loyal, and better partner," she said.

“Other people are firm against divorce, but of course, they should not share the same beliefs as people who have been abused. A person should not be trapped in an abusive and dysfunctional relationship. It's as simple as that: if you don't want a divorce, then it's not for you. It's just a matter of choice,” she added.

Reynard Sevillano, also from Legazpi City, thinks that the divorce bill has its pros and cons.

"The advantage is that for those who are suffering from mental and physical abuse, the divorce is good. They can be given a chance to have a new relationship, especially the battered wives. The children will be far away from the trauma that a severe fight between husband and wife may cause," he said.

“The disadvantage is that because there is an option for divorce, the sanctity of marriage will be lost. It will be taken advantage of by those people who can pay and file the divorce,” he added.

Bishop Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi issued a pastoral statement over the weekend in response to the approval of the House of Representatives on May 22 with 131 affirmative votes, 109 negative votes, and 20 abstentions

The statement expressed concern that divorce may undermine family stability and have negative effects on children, noting that it conflicts with the Church’s teachings on the sanctity and permanence of marriage.

"We can empathize with the pain and suffering of families affected by irreparable marriages. However, we firmly believe that divorce only exacerbates the instability of the affected families and the negative effects on children," Baylon said.

The diocese also pointed out that divorce is inconsistent with the Constitution and the Family Code, which recognize marriage as an inviolable social institution and a permanent union.

The bishop encouraged lawmakers to reconsider the bill and explore alternatives that support and strengthen families.

"We express our hope and fervent prayer that the Senate will stand firm in its previous rejections of similar measures and continue to protect the sanctity of marriage and the family," the statement read.

The decree of absolute divorce authored by Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman shall have the effect of judicial dissolution of a marriage where the divorced spouses return to their status of being single with the right to contract marriage again. (PNA)