By Ben Rosario
Leaders of the House of Representatives and the Catholic Church will be pitted against each other in the race to convince Senate to reject or pass the divorce bill.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez revealed that there are currently “ongoing efforts to reach out” to senators to prod them to pass the Senate version of House Bill 7303 or the bill proposing the legalization of absolute divorce in the country.
“I am not at liberty to name names but there are ongoing discussions on this (bill),” Alvarez said in a radio interview yesterday.
Apparently, inspired by their success in its seemingly covert bid to stop Senate from passing the bill restoring the death penalty, Catholic church leaders have pursued a similar tact to block the divorce bill from being enacted into law.
At least two anti-divorce congressmen have confirmed that church men did not strongly lobby against the passage of HB 7303, which was passed by the Lower House on March 19.
“Instead of launching an anti-divorce campaign and lose in the voting, Catholic leaders decided to stage an all-out but quiet effort to approach the senators,” said one of the congressional sources.
But Alvarez remained unperturbed, saying that he is not giving up in his bid for the enactment of the measure despite vocal opposition of a number of senators against it.
Alvarez called on the Catholic church “to respect the responsibility of the State to address the concern of all the citizens of the nation, not just of the members of a particular religion.”
The House leader said that instead of opposing divorce, Catholic leaders should preach to followers of the religion not to avail of the divorce option to end their marriages.
“But let us not impose that belief on those who are not members of the Catholic Church. What is wrong is that the Catholic Church wants its doctrine be implemented through our laws—that is unacceptable,” Alvarez said during the radio interview.
He noted that the Philippines remains the only country in the world, aside from the Vatican, that does not have a divorce law.
Alvarez expressed optimism that the senators will understand the need for marriage dissolution and divorce law and the reality of the problem of increasing number of couples trapped in broken marriages.
“In fact we have conducted several committee hearings on this measure, including those conducted abroad, and we have seen people crying, pleading with us to address their situation,” the House leader said.
He aired the belief that senators will agree to a suggested compromise measure that would address their concerns against the bill.
“Under the law the grounds for annulment must exist before or during the celebration of marriage. That is why all decrees of annulment of marriage are based on the presumption that there was no marriage at all, that it was void from the beginning,” Alvarez explained.