Catholic bishops in Philippines mobilize against divorce bill
By Marianne Medlin
Reps. Luz Ilagan and Emmi A. De Jesus
Filipino Catholic bishops are speaking out against new legislation in the country that would legalize divorce, saying that the Philippines is proud to remain the last country in the world where divorce is illegal.
Love for the family is the basis of Filipino cultural identity – which now faces the risk of being destroyed through divorce, said retired Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan at a June 3 press conference held by the bishops.
Philippine lawmakers Rep. Luz Ilagan and Rep. Emerenciana de Jesus recently resurrected the long dormant bill proposing the legalization of divorce in the country. The move comes days after the predominately Catholic citizens of Malta voted to legalize divorce on May 29.
The Philippines – with an 82 percent Catholic population – and Vatican City are now the only places worldwide where divorce remains illegal.
Philippines bishops' attorney Jo Imbong pointed to what she called the disastrous effects of divorce in western countries, saying it's “destroyed family, destroyed children” and wreaked “havoc” on society.
She added that the Philippine Constitution mandates the protection of the family and “recognizes the sanctity of life, and marriage as a sacred union.”
“You don’t destroy or attack something that is sacred,” Imbong said.
President Benigno Aquino also voiced opposition to the divorce bill, saying that it's “not a priority, and I don’t see it becoming a priority even in the near future.”
“The sanctity of families is very important to us,” he told the Manila Standard on June 2.
Aquino said that he didn't want to enable a scenario where “couples get married in the morning and get a divorce in the afternoon.”
However, Aquino has publicly supported the country's controversial reproductive health bill, which seeks widespread distribution of contraceptives and calls for mandatory sex education in schools.
The Philippines bishops said that the proposed divorce legislation and reproductive planning bill have caused them concern over the ideological direction that the country is being pushed.
Philippines bishops' Secretary General Monsignor Juanito Figura said the Church is exercising “pastoral prudence” by reminding citizens what the nation's priorities are in the face of numerous challenges.
Instead of legalizing divorce, Msgr. Figura said the government should focus more on helping strengthen the family and provide support to struggling marriages.
He said that poverty, unemployment and prostitution are the “social cancers” that the government should focus on.
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