MANILA, Philippines, May 31, 2011 ( – With Malta having voted to legalize divorce, the last remaining country in the world where divorce is illegal, beside Vatican City, is set to open deliberations on a revision of its laws.

In a referendum on Saturday, citizens of the staunchly Roman Catholic island nation of Malta voted 52.6 percent in favor of legalizing divorce.

A measure proposing legislation legalizing divorce in the Philippines was filed by Gabriela Representatives Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus, and will be discussed in the House Committee on Revision of Laws on Wednesday, June 1.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said on Monday that he supports the measure, while admitting it will be a contentious issue.

“It is bound to be another contentious bill, but let me just say that I myself am in favor of the bill. (It’s) very difficult to make the people who cannot continue to live together do so,” Belmonte said in a media interview. “I think even countries like Italy have divorce law, not to mention everybody else,” he added.

President Aquino has not issued his official position on the proposed divorce bill, but he has been previously quoted to say he is against divorce, though acknowledging marriage is not for everyone.

“I do recognize that there have been unions that were wrong, that no matter what interventions are done, no matter what counseling is done, they really cannot stay together. There is danger to either one or both parties in the marriage especially the children. Divorce is a no-no. But in legal separation, you can assert that there really are irreconcilable differences,” Aquino said.

The reaction to the proposed divorce legislation by pro-family advocates and the Church was swift.

World boxing superstar and Philippines congressman Manny Pacquiao gave reporters a statement saying that just as he opposes the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, he is against the divorce bill, on the grounds that both measures diminish the importance of the family as an institution.

When asked about couples who can no longer make a marriage work, Pacquiao said people should not rush into marriage and instead think very hard about it before marrying someone.

Rev. Teodoro Bacani Jr., Manila auxiliary bishop, said that legislators should consider the effect of divorce in other countries before pushing for the law legalizing it.

“First, let’s see if that helps the countries that have divorce,” Bishop
Bacani told GMA News.

Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz was more outspoken, saying the proposed divorce bill was “anti-Filipino,” and blamed the Aquino administration for allowing the divorce measure, along with the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, to proceed.

“I want to ask the divorce bill advocates – How many wives can I leave? How can I destroy homes? And how many children can I leave? Note that the first victims of divorce are the children,” he questioned supporters of the bill in an abs-cbnNEWS report.

Archbishop Cruz pointed out that the divorce bill and the RH Bill are part of a “tripod” of social maladies that will eventually include abortion and same-sex marriages.

“There is lobby money behind this … Do I believe that the RH bill is the tipping point for the divorce bill? Of course. I am many things but I am not paranoid,” he told ANC’s Headstart host Karen Davila.

Asked if he believes that Aquino endorses divorce, Archbishop Cruz said, “The RH, divorce and same sex bills are all connected. Whether he endorses it or not, it is in His program. It’s His people in Congress. I hope I’m wrong.”

Rev. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, said the Malta referendum makes Filipino Catholic Church officials even more determined to ensure that divorce is not legalized in the Philippines.

“It is very unfortunate what happened in Malta but it also makes us even more resolved to protect the institution of marriage,” he said.


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