Miriam: Church to fight divorce bill tooth and nail
MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on Wednesday said she sees nothing wrong with passing a strict divorce law but noted she is against legalizing abortion.
Santiago, a supporter of the recently passed reproductive health bill, said she equates abortion with the crime of murder.
“Abortion, never. I am a very avid supporter of RH, but I will definitely fight to the death against abortion as a lawyer, not necessarily as a religious person. I equate it properly with the crime of murder,” she said.
On the other hand, the senator said she will only back a divorce law as long as it is confined to only two grounds – if a spouse tries to murder his/her partner or if either partner is living with another person.
“On other grounds, I don't advise it, I will not support it because it might trivialize the institution of marriage—young people might rush into marriage, particularly when they are young, and then change their minds and get a divorce. They will not have the maturity or enough patience to work on their marriage,” she said.
She added: “Right now, the message of our society is that you cannot get along, try and get used to each other. But there has to be a limit. For example, when you become homicidal at the sight of your spouse, it's time to leave each other.”
Santiago said she does not believe in using psychological grounds to allow divorce.
“That is a slippery slope. Once you go there, it will become open-ended. I don't think so,” she said.
She also said she expects the Catholic Church to “fight tooth and nail” against any move to pass a divorce law even if one’s spouse is already homicidal or is living in with another person.
She said that as a compromise, lawmakers should just adopt the grounds for annulment of the Catholic Church.
Some senators back divorce bill
Aside from Santiago, several senators have also voiced their support for a divorce bill. At least 4 senators - Francis Escudero, Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda, and Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III - have annulled their marriages or are undergoing the process.
Cayetano earlier said it is high time that the country pass its own divorce law. She said her own annulment to former husband, Ari Ben Sebastian, has yet to be completed after being separated for the past 8 years.
“I’ve talked to lawyers, and psychologists and psychiatrists, and it is so traumatic for people to go through annulment because under our Philippine law, you have to blame someone, you have to say ‘you are incapacitated,’ you are saying, ‘this marriage never existed,’ which is not true.'
"I mean ask anyone, I’m sure that at some moment in time, whether it was one year, or ten years, or twenty years, they loved each other. So why can’t you call it what it is? We loved each other, something went wrong, it’s done. Why will you say it never existed because, ‘hayop ka, wala kang puso, wala kang capacity?’"
The senator said the Philippines is now the only country in the world without a divorce law because of the refusal of lawmakers to face the issues. She said there are many women who want to end their marriages to abusive husbands but cannot.
Escudero said he does not favor legalizing divorce but supports making the annulment process more affordable.
Escudero said if lawmakers continue to push for a divorce law, the measure should clarify who is the guilty spouse and disallow that person from marrying again.
"Ang nais nilang ground pag nanggugulpi ka daw, kung lasenggo ka at kung adik, pwedeng mag-divorce. Ang problema sa divorce, pwedeng mag-asawa pareho. So yung dating nanggugulpi, iba naman gugulpihin. Yung dating lasenggo, iba naman yung kasama niya habang lasing siya. Yung dating adik iba na naman ang kasama niya habang adik siya," he said.