MANILA (UPDATE) - The prospects of passing a divorce bill at the Senate are "dim," Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said Thursday.
Sotto's reaction came after a committee of the House of Representatives on Wednesday submitted a divorce bill for deliberations at the plenary level.
While the divorce bill has made significant progress at the House, Sotto said he is unaware of any counterpart bill in the Senate. He said that amending the grounds for annulment of marriage might be approved faster.
"No counterpart bill, I'm not aware of any senator interested. Unless I'm wrong. An amendment to the grounds for annulment might stand a better chance of passage," he told ABS-CBN News.
According to the Senate website, no lawmaker has filed a divorce bill in the chamber.
Like Sotto, Senators Joel Villanueva, Panfilo Lacson, and Francis Escudero also expressed apprehensions on legalizing divorce.
Villanueva and Escudero said they are willing to amend the grounds for annulment under the Family Code instead of pushing for a divorce law.
"I am strongly against divorce. Instead, I am pushing to make the country’s annulment laws simplified and not anti-poor," Villanueva said.
"I am in favor of making the existing process of annulment under the Civil Code and the Family Code more affordable and accessible instead of expanding the grounds provides therein via a new law on
'divorce'," Escudero said.
Although he is not a proponent of legalizing divorce, Lacson said he is open to reviewing proposed measures.
"At the outset, no. I'm willing to see the salient features of the House bill and whatever bill might be filed in the Senate though. My primary concern is the sanctity of marriage. Needless to say, I don't want marriage and separation to be a 'dime a dozen' affair," he said.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, meanwhile, said he supports a divorce bill on grounds of violence and physical abuse, and expressed hopes that a counterpart measure would be tackled in the Senate soon.
"I believe the justified reasons for divorce would include violence, abuse, pananakit (physical abuse)," he said.
A predominantly Catholic country, the Philippines is one of only 2 states in the world, aside from the Vatican, where divorce is outlawed.
Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano, a former senator, expressed optimism that a divorce bill would stand the scrutiny of senators.
"'Yun lang naman ang pakiusap ko sa lahat ng legislator whether in the House or my former colleagues in the Senate, pakinggan nila mga tao at mga concerns ng mga tao bakit nila kailangan ito (divorce law)," she said.
(My only request to all legislators, whether in the House or my former colleagues in the Senate, is to listen to the public on why they need a divorce law.) - with reports from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News