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.


Indians demonstrate against ‘divisive’ citizenship bill

Updated 11 December 2019

Indians demonstrate against ‘divisive’ citizenship bill

  • The bill, which goes to the upper house on Wednesday, would ensure citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but exclude Muslims

NEW DELHI: Protests erupted across various parts of India on Tuesday, a day after the lower house of Parliament passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) which makes religion the basis for granting Indian citizenship to minorities from neighboring countries. 

The bill, which goes to the upper house on Wednesday, would ensure citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but exclude Muslims.

“After the CAB, we are going to bring in the National Register of Citizens (NRC),” Home Minister Amit Shah said after the passage of the bill. 

The fear among a large section of Indians is that by bringing in the CAB and the NRC — a process to identify illegal immigrants — the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying to target Muslim minorities. 

They insist that the new bill protects all other communities except Muslims, who constitute around 14 percent of India’s total population.

The opposition Congress Party said that the bill was a move to “destroy the foundation” of India.

“The CAB is an attack on the Indian constitution. Anyone who supports it is attacking and attempting to destroy the foundation of our nation,” party leader Rahul Gandhi posted in a tweet.

Priyanka Gandhi, Rahul’s sister and a prominent opposition leader, called the bill “India’s tryst with bigotry.”

However, BJP spokesperson Sudesh Verma said: “The opposition is communalizing the bill. 

The CAB saves minorities who owe their origin to India from being prosecuted on grounds of religious status. The same is not the case with Muslims since they have not been prosecuted because of their religion.”

Eight northeastern states observed a day-long strike against the CAB. 

“Once the bill is implemented, the native tribal people will become permanent minorities in their own state,” Animesh Debbarma, a tribal leader who organized the strike in the state of Tripura said.

“The bill is against our fundamental rights and it is an attack on our constitution and secularism,” he told Arab News.

In Assam, some places saw violence with a vehicle belonging to the BJP state president vandalized.

In New Delhi, different civil society groups and individuals gathered close to the Indian Parliament and expressed their outrage at the “open and blatant attack” on what they called the “idea” of India.

“The CAB is not only against Muslim minorities but against all the minorities — be it Tamils or Nepali Gurkhas — and is a blatant attempt to polarize the society in the name of religion and turn India into a majoritarian Hindu state,” Nadeem Khan, head of United Against Hate, a campaign to connect people from different faiths, said.

Rallies and protests were also organized in Pune, Ahmadabad, Allahabad, Patna and Lucknow.

On Tuesday, more than 600 academics, activists, lawyers and writers called the bill “divisive, discriminatory, unconstitutional” in an open letter, and urged the government to withdraw the proposed law.

They said that the CAB, along with the NRC, “will bring untold suffering to people across the country. It will damage fundamentally and irreparably, the nature of the Indian republic.”

Delhi-based activist and a prominent human rights campaigner, Harsh Mander, said: “I feel the CAB is the most dangerous bill that has ever been brought by the Indian Parliament. We need a mass civil disobedience movement to oppose this legislation.”

Meanwhile, the international community is also watching the domestic debate on the CAB. 

Describing the initiative as a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction,”  a federal US commission on international religious freedom has sought US sanctions against Shah and other Indian leaders if the bill with the “religious criterion” is passed.

EU ambassador to India, Ugo Astuto, in a press conference in New Delhi on Monday said that he hopes: “The spirit of equality enshrined in the Indian constitution will be upheld by the Parliament.”