Philippines May Be on Verge of Legalizing Divorce, Gay Unions

The Philippines remains only country in the world without legal divorce

by David Hejza • ChurchMilitant • July 26, 2017

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte’s right-hand man in Congress is pushing for same-sex unions and divorce in the Philippines.

On Monday, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he would propose new bills to legalize divorce and same-sex unions, as well as recognize civil partnerships between people of the same sex. Alvarez is Philippine self-professed dictator Duterte’s closest ally in Congress.

Alvarez’ new bills, backed by Duterte, are estimated to meet strong resistance from the Philippines’ Catholic bishops. Several Filipinos — 80 percent of the population — identify as Catholic and up until the 1970’s, traffic and businesses came to a halt as the Angelus was recited.

If his proposed bills were to pass, the Philippines would be the first Southeast Asian nation to legalize same-sex unions. The Vatican and the Philippines remain the only states in which divorce is prohibited.

Alvarez is insisting Filipinos should be granted these new “rights.”
“We must also be considerate of the fact that marriage may not be for everyone,” he said.

“Presently, it even excludes certain groups of people from its fold.” Alvarez added, “Our citizens should not be excluded from society just because of the person they love. They must also be treated with equality before the law.”

Alvarez’ proposals attracted mixed reactions from those for and against the move. Philippine Congressman Teodoro Baguilat summarized the proposal as “bold, clear and progressive.” Representative Tom Villarina insisted Congress should focus on passing an anti-discrimination bill put forward by the LGBT community because he claimed the proposal already had widespread support.

However, the latest opinion polls from 2015 showed nearly 70 percent of 1,200 respondents strongly rejected same-sex marriages. Laws to legalize same-sex marriages in the Philippines were proposed as far back as 2006 but none have been validated.

Several Western countries (27 in total), mainly in Europe and the American continents, legalized same-sex marriage in recent years. The first nation was the Netherlands, in December 2000, when the Senate approved the bill by a 49 to 26 vote. Only the Christian parties, which held 26 of the 75 seats, voted against the same-sex marriage bill.

Alvarez claims, under his proposed law, divorce would help to strengthen the rights of minors because there would be fewer illegitimate children. He argues divorces would be a less tedious and expensive process than going about it through the traditional process the Holy Catholic Church has outlined.

“They (would) no longer have to sling mud at each other in front of a judge just to convince the magistrate that their marriage should be declared void,” he said.

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