What's your senatorial candidate's take on divorce?
Kathlyn dela Cruz, ABS-CBN News
MANILA - Divorce has been a thorny issue for the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country.
Of six senatorial candidates asked during "The Rundown 2016: An ANC Leadership Forum" on Friday whether they support divorce or not, only two answered in the affirmative -- Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares and lawyer Lorna Kapunan.
Speaking before students of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, Colmenares said Article 36 of the Family Code, which allows the annulment of marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity, already has the components of a divorce.
He noted, however, that the law only allows annulment if it is proven that the spouse was psychologically incapacitated before or at the time of marriage.
"Ibig sabihin, pag nalaman mo na nangbubugbog pala yung asawa mo after the marriage at di mo ma-prove na nag-exist ito before the marriage or at the time of marriage, hindi po mabubuwag [ang kasal]," he said.
That is why he supports the divorce bill filed by the Gabriela Party-list, which, he said, seeks to "remedy" the law.
"The absurdity is that why is it when grounds exist after marriage, hindi na pwede? Hindi mo naman malalaman na nangbubugbog ang asawa mo nung nanliligaw siya eh. Malalaman mo lang pag magkasama na kayo. So the divorce bill actually will just remedy the situation... na kahit after the marriage pag nangbugbog ang asawa, maging ground na rin siya for divorce," he explained.
Colmenares said he himself has also filed a bill in Congress seeking to amend Article 36 of the Family Code to make spousal violence, infidelity and abandonment of at least one year a conclusive presumption of psychological incapacity.
"Para hindi na gumastos ang napakaraming mahihirap na mag-hire ka ng psychologist, psychiatrist. Mahabang hearing... Para sa akin, pag binubugbog mo ang asawa mo, di na kailangan ng psychiatrist to prove na ikaw ay psychologically incapacitated," he said.
READ: How much does annulment cost?
Colmenares found an ally in Kapunan, who did not mince her words in expressing her support for divorce.
"Ilang beses ba ninyo naisip na lasunin ang kape ng asawa ninyo?" Kapunan quipped, as she went on to stress the high cost of having a marriage annulled in the Philippines, having to pay for experts and lawyers.
She said she is advocating for a no-fault divorce to make the whole process easier. "It really takes two to break a marriage. But when the wife says kasalanan ng lalaki, sasabihin ni lalaki kasalanan ni babae, and both of them will get good lawyers and good psychologists, nothing will happen with the marriage," she said.
Kapunan also pointed out the problem of having double standards in favor of men, comparing them to bees who can "go from flower to flower" whereas it is immoral for women to "go from bee to bee to bee."
"We're tired of that. Let us not have this double standard anymore... If a marriage is already loveless and there's no romance, it should end."
READ: Pope simplifies Catholic marriage annulment
SANCTITY OF MARRIAGE
ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Samuel Pagdilao, for his part, said people may call him "old-fashioned" but he is really against divorce on biblical, moral, and constitutional grounds.
He said divorce, which is defined as the dissolution or termination of marriage, goes against the teachings of the Catholic church which he strongly adheres to.
He also said the family, as stated in the Constitution, is the basic social institution. Therefore, having a divorce will not only leave children broken but will also result to a tragedy for the nation.
"Pag sabog ang pamilya, I tell you, that is the beginning of a tragedy in our country," he said.
Former Senator Miguel Zubiri, likewise, said divorce should not be used by couples as a solution to their problems, misunderstandings, and differences.
Pasig Rep. Roman Romulo added that a wife and a husband should work together to solve their differences and not simply turn their backs away from each other.
Zubiri and Romulo, along with Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian, instead advocated that the process of annulment in the country be sped up, with Gatchalian noting that 1 out of 5 women in the Philippines suffer abuse in the hands of their husbands.
"Huwag po tayo magkaroon ng mindset na, 'Sweetheart, mag-asawa tayo next week. Anyway, after one month kung di ayos, mag-divorce na lang tayo.' You produce dysfunctional families," said Zubiri.
"I'm not afraid of the Church but I respect the Church," Gatchalian said. "I believe in the sanctity of marriage."
For her part, senatorial hopeful Susan Ople pointed out the stigma attached to the word "divorce" in explaining her opposition to it.
"It's the word divorce, it's the concept of divorce," said Ople, who had her marriage annulled in 1999 wherein she spent about P100,000.
"I think when you say the word divorce, there's a stigma attached to it, in our culture. I think I'm in favor of looking at it the Filipino perspective, looking at how even if you grant an annulment and broaden the reasons for granting so, you can keep the children safe and secure. Yung Filipino values paano mo maipasok doon," she said.
Kapunan then reacted to Ople's statements, saying divorce means divorce and it should not be called any other way.
"I have this concept that if it talks like a duck, walks like a duck, f*cks like a duck, it is a duck," the lawyer said. "It is a duck, call it a duck."