Senators split on passage of divorce bill, says Jinggoy


Senators are divided on the issue of whether there is a necessity to pass the divorce bill, Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada said.


Estrada, in an interview on Tuesday, May 28 said he commissioned a survey and asked fellow senators on their stand on the issue.


Those in favor of passing the divorce bill include Senators Risa Hontiveros, Pia Cayetano, Grace Poe, Imee Marcos, Raffy Tulfo, Joseph Victor "JV" Ejercito and Robinhood “Robin” Padilla.


Those against the divorce bill include Senate President Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Francis Tolentino, Joel Villanueva, Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa and Estrada himself.


“I conducted a survey on my own and asked my fellow senators, my colleagues on their thoughts on the Divorce bill...I thought it’s a good idea to conduct a survey because the House (of Representatives) passed it already on third reading, so ayun I would just like to get their thoughts on it,” Estrada said in an interview. 


Before the adjournment of Congress’ second regular session last week, the House of Representatives approved the divorce bill with 126 of its members voting in favor of the measure.


At least 109 House lawmakers voted against the measure while 20 of them abstained during the voting.


Later on, the House leadership clarified that 131 of its members actually voted in favor of the divorce bill, and only 126 did not vote on the measure.


Estrada further said he believes the measure is not part of the priority agenda of the Senate: “It’s not our priority bill.”


Asked about his stand, Estrada said he is against the measure due to his religious belief as a Roman Catholic.


“No, I am a devout Catholic and there is another remedy meron naman (there is) annulment,” he pointed out.


“Bilisan na lang yung mga annulment cases kasi let’s face it medyo matagal at may kamahalan ang pag file ng annulment (the annulment cases should be expedited because let’s face it, filing an annulment is costly and the process is also protracted),” he pointed out.


Also asked about his stand, his brother, Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, said he is still “in the process of discernment.”


But Ejercito said he is now "leaning at this time to be in favor" of divorce.


“I was raised a Roman Catholic. I understand the defense of the Church on the sanctity of marriage. But I also know that a lot of Filipino couples are trapped in loveless and unworkable marriages. It is not their fault. Sometimes things just don’t work out. I also believe that everyone deserves another chance to be happy in life,” Ejercito said.


“This is a difficult issue. As a representative of the people and a Catholic, I am currently in the process of discernment. I intend to listen, and participate actively, in the deliberation in the Senate,” he added.


Earlier, Escudero, when asked about the issue on divorce, said he too prefers that annulment be made affordable and accessible especially for the poor.


Because at present, the cost of annulment in the Philippines ranges from P180,000 to P600,000 depending on location and individual case.


The Philippines and the Vatican City are the only countries that do not have a divorce law.


Escudero, whose first marriage was annulled, said the Church now recognizes annulment through the Family Code of the Philippines or Executive Order No. 209, s. 1987.


“Perhaps we should now look and study that, expand it and make it more accessible to any Filipino who wants to have an annulment or have their marriage annulled,” said Escudero, who is now married to actress-model and influencer Heart Evangelista.


Sen. Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara, for his part, said he is still undecided on the issue as he sees the need to study the bill first.


"We will have to study the bill well. We want a law that still protects the marriage institution but at the same time levels the playing field even for poor litigants or couples."


Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. shared the same sentiment, saying he is still "looking forward" to Senate discussions on the measure. "Mahirap magkamali (It's hard to make a mistake)," he said.