Divorce law in the Philippines — still a 50-50 chance

Catholic faithful carry placards as they join a "march for life" at a park in Manila early on February 24, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 20 March 2018

Divorce law in the Philippines — still a 50-50 chance

MANILA: While the Philippines’ lower House of Congress has approved a proposed law allowing divorce in the mainly Catholic country, legislation still seems unlikely.
President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed disapproval of divorce, according to his spokesman Harry Roque. Several senators also reiterated their opposition to the measure on Tuesday and the Philippine public are likewise divided on the issue.
On Monday, the House of Representatives passed a third and final reading, House Bill 7303, also known as “An Act Instituting Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage in the Philippines,” by a vote of 134-57 with two abstentions.
Roque, however, said Duterte did not support the proposed law as he had concerns for the children of divorced couples and about spouses who would be neglected after a divorce was granted.
Aside from not having the support of the president, the bill also has no counterpart in the Senate.
On Tuesday, several senators expressed their opposition to divorce, with some expressing their preference for a bill that would provide a more affordable annulment.
Among those who rejected the divorce bill were Senators Emmanuel Pacquiao, Joel Villanueva, and Francis Escudero.
Pacquiao, a born-again Christian preacher, said that divorce was not the answer to a failed marriage.”What God has joined together, let no one separate,” he said, adding that there was already an annulment process so there was no need to pass a divorce bill.
Escudero said he favored a bill that would make annulment more accessible to Filipinos, including the poor, over a divorce law.
Sen. Villanueva said in a post on Twitter: “Not too long ago in the same HOR (House of Representatives) no one would even dare to push for a divorce bill for obvious reasons. Filipinos value family more than anything, esp. moral values. Maybe times have changed but still praying and hoping for Christ’s ambassadors to step up and be heard.”
Sen. President Aquilino Pimentel III, however, said the idea of the “dissolution of marriage” should be studied first.
Meanwhile, citizens took to social media to share their thoughts on the divorce bill — some looking forward to its legislation, others expressing strong opposition.
A government official interviewed by Arab News said that she was for annulment, which she had already experienced.
The official, Mariz R., said that in an annulment process petitioners had to give a strong reason, such as psychological incapacity, which she said was difficult to prove. She expressed concern that if divorce was legalized there would be more broken marriages in the country.
John Paolo Bencito, 23, a copywriter for a public relations firm, said he was for the divorce law proposal because it gave an option to couples who were no longer happy in a relationship.
“The divorce bill does not necessarily mean that you’re turning back from your family,” he said. “Many Filipinos, for me, are backward about family, about divorce (because of our culture)” as it is seen as a deviation from cultural norms.
Tonyo Cruz, a columnist, said: “Don’t be afraid. The divorce bill won’t affect good/great/outstanding marriages. It would affect only the bad/awful/abusive marriages which a partner or both partners wish to end. If your marriage is not bad/awful/abusive, you’re safe under the divorce bill.”
The divorce bill passed by the lower house proposes that while the state continues to protect and preserve marriage as a social institution and as the foundation of the family, it shall also give the opportunity to spouses in “irremediably failed marriages” to secure absolute divorce under limited grounds, as well as judicial procedures to end the dysfunction of a long-broken marriage.
It also seeks to save children from the pain, stress and agony caused by parents’ constant marital clashes; and grants the divorced spouses the right to marry again.
Under the bill, couples seeking divorce are ensured inexpensive and affordable court proceedings in securing an absolute divorce decree.
An absolute divorce decree shall be granted on grounds including legal separation and annulment of the marriage under the Family Code, de-facto separation for at least five years, legal separation by judicial decree for at least two years, psychological incapacity, gender reassignment surgery, irreconcilable differences and the joint petition of spouses.


Missing Seoul mayor’s body found after massive search

Updated 23 sec ago

Missing Seoul mayor’s body found after massive search

  • Police said they were looking for Won-soon wooded hills stretching across northern Seoul where his cellphone signal was last detected

SEOUL: Police say the body of the missing mayor of South Korea’s capital, Seoul, has been found. They say Park Won-soon’s body was located in hills in northern Seoul early Friday, more than seven hours after they launched a massive search for him. Park’s daughter had called police on Thursday afternoon to report him missing, saying he had given her a “will-like” message before leaving home. News reports say one of Park’s secretaries had lodged a complaint with police on Wednesday night over alleged sexual harassment.
Police said they were looking for Won-soon in wooded hills stretching across northern Seoul where his cellphone signal was last detected. They said the phone was currently turned off.
The daughter didn’t explain the contents of the message, said an officer at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency who was responsible for the search operation.
His daughter said she decided to call police because she couldn’t reach her father on the phone, the officer said, requesting anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the media about the matter.
Kim Ji-hyeong, a Seoul Metropolitan Government official, said Park did not come to work on Thursday for unspecified reasons and had canceled all of his schedule, including a meeting with a presidential official at his Seoul City Hall office.
The reason for Park’s disappearance wasn’t clear. The Seoul-based SBS television network reported that one of Park’s secretaries had lodged a complaint with police on Wednesday night over alleged sexual harassment such as unwanted physical contact that began in 2017. The SBS report, which didn’t cite any source, said the secretary told police investigators that an unspecified number of other female employees at Seoul City Hall had suffered similar sexual harassment by Park.
MBC television carried a similar report.
Both the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency and Park’s office said they couldn’t confirm the reports.
Police officer Lee Byeong-seok told reporters that Park was last identified by a security camera at 10:53 a.m. at the entrance to the hills, more than six hours before his daughter called police to report him missing.
About 600 police and fire officers using drones searched unsuccessfully for hours Thursday evening. Fire officer Jeong Jin-hyang said rescuers were using dogs to search dangerous areas on the hills, and helicopters would be deployed Friday morning if Park were not found overnight.
Park, 64, a longtime civic activist and human rights lawyer, was elected Seoul mayor in 2011. He became the city’s first mayor to be voted into a third term in June last year. A member of President Moon Jae-in’s liberal Democratic Party, he has been considered a potential presidential candidate in 2022 elections.
Park has mostly maintained his activist colors as mayor, criticizing what he described as the country’s growing social and economic inequalities and corrupt ties between large businesses and politicians.
As a lawyer, he was credited for winning the country’s first sexual harassment conviction. He has also been an outspoken critic of Japan’s colonial-era policies toward Korea, including the mobilization of Korean and other women as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers.
Park also established himself as a fierce opponent of former conservative President Park Geun-hye and openly supported the millions of people who flooded the city’s streets in late 2016 and 2017, calling for her ouster over a corruption scandal.
Park Geun-hye, a daughter of late authoritarian leader Park Chung-hee, was formally removed from office in March 2017 and is currently serving a decades-long prison term on bribery and other charges.
Seoul, a city of 10 million people, has been a new center of the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea since the country eased its rigid social distancing rules in early May. Authorities are struggling to trace contacts amid surges in cases linked to nightclubs, church services, a huge e-commerce warehouse and door-to-door sellers in Seoul.
Park Won-soon has led an aggressive anti-virus campaign, shutting down thousands of nightspots and banning rallies in major downtown streets.