Can Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez have multiple marriages because he is allegedly a member of the Manobo tribe?
According to Atty. Soledad Mawis, dean of the Lyceum College of Law, Alvarez cannot invoke his tribal past if he was married under the Family Code.
"If the Speaker was married under the Family Code and now he is a member of the Manobo tribe, with all due respect, it doesn't give him the license to live a polygamous life," she said in an ANC interview.
"It is because the first marriage contracted under the Family Code, must first be dissolved or terminated before he can marry someone else."
In an ANC interview, Speaker Alvarez admitted that he married Emelita Apostol before a judge but that his roots as a member of the Manobo tribe allowed him to engage in multiple marriages.
"Nabinyagan ako as a Manobo. Nandiyan na ako bago pa lahat nang ito, years back," he said.
He also said he chose to marry Apostol before a judge "because that was his option."
He also said he is willing to get married under tribal law.
Asked if tribal practice is higher than civil law, he said: "It is between civil law and yung batas nang kultura. Yung kultura [ang higher]."
Alvarez earlier confirmed that he is dating another woman despite the threat of disbarment.
Emelita has said when she married Pantaleon, the lawmaker was still a Catholic and that she is unaware of the lawmaker’s conversion to the Manobo tribe.
“Actually when we got married, I know he’s a Catholic but when he converted to IP (Indigenous People) or Manobo, I don't know. I respect him for that. It’s his faith. Hindi ako nakikialam pagdating sa religion,” she said, noting that she had a civil wedding ceremony with her husband.
She also said Alvarez "abandoned" her after he assumed the speakership.
Meanwhile, Atty. Mawis said it is time to pass a divorce law in the Philippines as some people need to get out of a marriage because of abuses or differences.
"There are certain people who should get out of a marriage," Mawis told ANC on Wednesday, adding that the dissolution of marriage bill could be a divorce law in disguise.
Alvarez's House Bill 6027 is seeking to legalize the dissolution of marriages. Among the grounds mentioned in the law are "severe and chronic unhappiness" and "irreconcilable differences."
Atty. Mawis said the only concern she has with the law is the lack of definition of "severe and chronic unhappiness," which could be subjective when applied.
"'Severe and chronic unhappiness,' do you need a witness to say that? It has to be based on expert opinion," she said.