By Hannah Torregoza
“Otso Diretso” senatorial candidate Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno said he had no qualms supporting measures that would pave the way for the legalization of divorce and same sex marriage in the Philippines should he win a seat in the Senate in the upcoming May 13 midterm elections.
In contrast, Diokno said he was against the Duterte government’s efforts to revive the death penalty, federalism and lowering the minimum age of criminal liability.
At the very least, Diokno said that if the possibility of passing a divorce law was nil, the existing grounds for annulment should be expanded and make it less costly for those who wish to avail of this legal remedy.
“I’m in favor of divorce. I think we’re the only country left in the world that does not recognize it. I think its about time we do,” Diokno said during the Manila Bulletin’s MBHotSeat forum on Tuesday.
“I think there is a pending bill in the Congress that passed in the Lower House, but is still pending in the Senate, that provides that when you are separate in fact for more than five years, there is irreconcilable differences and a few other grounds that should be sufficient for divorce, that kind of legislation I would support.”
“Because the problem with psychological incapacity is it causes even greater enmity between the couple because they will keep blaming each other,” he added.
Asked about same-sex marriage, Diokno admitted he actually supports the passage of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) bill into law and believes that the rights of those in the LGBT community should also be defended.
But as to the reinstitution of the death penalty, Diokno said he was strongly against it.
“I am totally against the death penalty. I was around when we had the death penalty before and even the Supreme Court admitted that 70 percent of those who were handed the death sentence were wrongfully convicted,” said Diokno, a human rights lawyer and chair of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG).
Diokno said he still believed that “life did not come from us,” and that a penalty of life imprisonment was a much better punishment for those who would be found guilty of a heinous crime.
“Sa akin, mas punishment yung habambuhay naka kulong yung guilty. It’s really not how severe the punishment is, it’s about how certain we are that you would go to jail,” Diokno said.
On political dynasties, the lawyer said lawmakers should even expand it to include the families of incumbent officials.
“I am against political dynasty. I think we should even expand the anti-political dynasty law (to ensure) that term limits should apply not only to those incumbent but also their families,” he said.
“Para hindi na pwede ipasa yung term limit ko, pagkatapos ko, sa asawa ko naman or anak ko. So dapat buong pamilya na yung dapat bawal,” he explained.
Diokno also said he was against mandatory drug testing in college, saying politicians vying for public office were the ones who should, instead, under drug testing.
“What we need is better drug education, what we need is to treat drug addiction as an illness. We need a more comprehensive approach, it’s a health problem to me, rather than a criminal problem,” added the senatorial bet.
“If you look at the countries that have treated drug addition as an illness, I think they were more successful in addressing the problem than those who treat it as a criminal issue,” he also said.
He also thumbed down proposals to lower the minimum age of criminal liability: “Wala naman mayayaman na batang gagamitin ng sindikato, puro mahihirap lang yan. And they do it, because they need the money, they don’t know any better. So they should be treated as victims not as criminals.”
As to federalism, Diokno said he didn’t believe that a shift to a federal form of government would solve the country’s most pressing problems.
“Our problem is basically food and jobs, and freedom and justice. Food and jobs is connected to how we run our economy rather than our form of government. So changing the government I think is not going to get more food on the table or bring more jobs to our people,” he said.
“As far as freedom is concerned, I think its not going to make any difference if we change…it might even make it
harder for us to express our selves because of the layers that will be created in government,” he said.
And as far as justice was concerned, Diokno said that whatever form of government the Philippines will have, the justice system has to be fixed.
“If we are going to add additional courts, add another layer of federal courts, lalo tayong magkakaproblema. Tingin ko ayusin natin yung existing and address the basic problems first. Maybe five or 10 years down the road we can think of doing that,” Diokno stressed.