MANILA, Philippines - Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz on Monday said the proposed divorce bill is "anti-Filipino," and blamed the Aquino administration for renewed calls to tackle the issue in Congress.
In an interview, Cruz said the Philippines should not follow the Catholic Mediterranean state of Malta, which voted in a referendum to legalize divorce. This leaves the Philippines as the only nation that does not have a divorce law.
"Salamat sa Diyos dahil ang Pilipinas wala pang divorce. Ang ating kultura at ugali ay makapamilya. Hindi pa kasama dito ang relihiyon. Nakapakimportane sa ating mga Pilipino ang pamilya," Cruz told abs-cbnNEWS.com.
The Catholic prelate said he wants to ask supporters of the bill how divorce could help preserve marriages and families.
"Gusto kong tanungin ang mga nagsusulong sa divorce bill - Ilang asawa ang pwede kong iwanan? Ilang tahanan ang pwede kong sirain? At ilang anak ang pwede kong iwanan? Tandaan na ang unang biktima ng divorce ay ang mga bata," he said.
Cruz said spouses who are in abusive relationships could readily seek annulment to terminate the marriage.
The prelate blamed the Aquino administration for renewed calls to pass the divorce bill especially after President Benigno Aquino III aired support for a responsible parenthood bill. Critics said the measure is a thinly veiled version of the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, which endorses both natural and artificial forms of contraception.
Asked if he believes that Aquino endorses divorce, he said: "The RH, divorce and same sex bills are all connected. Whether he endorses it or not, it is in his program. It's his people in Congress. Sana mali ako. Ang hirap paniwalaan ang presidente kasi for 1 month, ang sinasabi at ginagawa hindi magkadugtong. Iba ang ginagawa sa sinasabi."
He added: "Itong gobyerno ito ay gustong pasukin ang kwarto ng asawa, sirain ang tahanan at pati kalikasan. Kahit 1,000 beses man ang ikasal lalaki sa kapwa lalaki hindi ito legal at hindi dapat mangyari."
President Aquino earlier said he is against divorce for fundamental reasons, but acknowledges that marriage is not for everyone.
“I do recognize that there have been unions that were wrong, that no matter what interventions are done, no matter what counseling is done, they really cannot stay together. There is danger to either one or both parties in the marriage especially the children. Divorce is a no-no. But in legal separation, you can assert that there really are irreconcilable differences,” Aquino said.
Divorce justifies search for 'perfect spouse'
Meanwhile, an official of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines said legalizing divorce would lead to more broken marriages in the country.
Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, said legalizing divorce gives couples an easy way out instead of solving their problems.
"They divorce their first, second, third spouses because they have this image of the ideal spouse. If the marriage falls short of that image, they will separate," he said.
He noted: "If a court proves that there is psychological incapacity, the marriage is annulled. But then why should they be allowed to marry again? We just pass on the problem to the next marriage. Ang pinakamaganda - couples must know each other better before marriage."
The CBCP said the Malta referendum makes Filipino Catholic Church officials even more determined to ensure that divorce is not legalized in the Philippines.
"It is very unfortunate what happened in Malta but it also makes us even more resolved to protect the institution of marriage," he said.