The only one
Recent headlines raise an issue that I’ve long argued for (I seem to have lots of issues I’ve long argued for; either decision-makers are not listening, or I’m easily ignored), and that’s divorce.
Andy Bautista’s tribulations bring the issue back to the fore shortly after Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s problems surfaced. In Congress, House Bill No. 4408 is calling for it. About time, too. It was tried some years back but it failed because the Catholic Church complained. Yet other Catholic countries don’t. The Philippines is the only country in the world that doesn’t allow divorce (the Vatican doesn’t either, but that doesn’t count). Close to 200 countries representing more than 7 billion people allow those more than 7 billion people to make their own decision on what’s best for them. To be guided by their own conscience, and not some outside body’s dictate. One country of 103 million is denied what more than 7 billion can enjoy.
Surely that must tell the Filipino clergy something. Are they the only ones in the world who are right? Other Catholic countries allow it, so what’s so special about here?
Let me quote from what I wrote four years ago (“Yes to divorce,” 1/10/13), when then Speaker Sonny Belmonte introduced a bill calling for it. I first wrote about it in 2010.
Here’s what I said: “The Philippines is the ONLY COUNTRY in the world that doesn’t permit divorce. That includes ALL the predominantly Catholic countries in the world: Italy, the home of the Vatican (a small state, not a country, that doesn’t permit divorce; but since the Vatican is composed of mostly celibate religious, it hardly needs divorce), Spain, Poland, Colombia and Mexico—they all permit divorce even if they are 80-to-90-percent Catholic. Maybe the Church there has opposed it, but the state has recognized the right of couples to choose the life they want.
“If everyone except you believes in or does something, isn’t it just possible you could be wrong?
“The second point is: What kind of family life? I believe God put us on this world to enjoy life, not to suffer in misery. That’s what purgatory and (for some I could name) hell are for. There are two purposes for marriage as I, a layman, see it. One is to bear children and raise them to become successful, happy adults. The second is to provide a companion with whom to go through life happily, contentedly, and, can I say, in a satisfying and pleasurable companionship.
“What kind of life do two people who can’t stand each other have? What kind of environment do their kids suffer in, with two fighting, miserable parents? What chance of a successful, happy life do they have?
“I was divorced; in Australia it’s allowed. I’ve had 33 years (now 38) of a wonderful life with a wonderful second wife, happy, contented, and, yes, satisfied. And we have two (not 10) great kids who got a solid education and have started successful careers.
“My first wife had a happy life with her second husband until she died a few years back. Would God say this is wrong? If so, it’s not a god I’d want to believe in.
“The point that the bishops can have, and I’d fully support, is that any divorce must consider what is best for the children first. This must be the primary role in the divorce court (separate courts are needed). As long as the kids will be fully supported in whatever way is best, then divorce should be granted.
“So, let’s give Filipinos a fulfilling life. Let’s allow divorce, not reserve it for the rich under the farcical excuse of annulment. The poor deserve a happy life, too. We are not trying to destroy families, we’re trying to give the best opportunity for people to have happy families. Is that so wrong?”
An SWS survey in 2014 found that 60 percent of the public supported divorce. Only 29 percent opposed it. And in a secular society, which this is, Congress is obliged to listen to the public, not to the Catholic Church. The government serves all Filipinos, not just the 81 percent that are Catholics.
Congress must listen to the majority of Filipinos who want divorce. They are the representatives of the people, and the people have spoken. To confirm the people’s wishes, a new survey should be undertaken as part of the Congress review for HB 4408.
It’s time the Philippines joined the world.
Wallace_likeitis@wbf.ph. Read my previous columns: www.wallacebusinessforum.com.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.