Seares: The divorce bill: Must it pass only ‘over (Villanueva’s) dead body’?

News sense

“A DIVORCE bill? Over my dead body. I will definitely oppose it.”--Sen. Joel Villanueva

Son of a Christian evangelist, Sen. Joel Villanueva is waving his religious values in his work as legislator. “Over my dead body,” he vowed Monday (Aug. 5) as he announced his opposition to the bill allowing absolute divorce in the country, citing God and the Constitution.

When the 18th Congress opened, Sen. Risa Hontiveros filed the “Divorce Act of 2019,” a reprise of her 2018 version. Her old bill languished in the preceding Congress but now she drew some encouragement from Senate President Tito Sotto who was open to a debate on the issue. Well, the antis include Villanueva who is waving his opposition with an OMDB (“over-my-dead-body”) label.

Idiom for ‘not giving in’

OMDB is an expression, an idiom for “not giving in under any circumstance.” It doesn’t mean violence although it usually invokes the image of physical force resulting in death.

Sen. Bato de la Rosa gave the same resolve when last July 12 he insisted that extra-judicial killings (EJKs) are not state-sponsored. But he was more graphic, bloody and specific: he said he’d have his “head cut off” if anyone could prove government approval of the executions that are catching global attention.

Last Dec. 20, 2012, Gwen Garcia, about to complete her third term when served with a six-month suspension order, said “I will continue to discharge my functions as governor and if they want me to stop, they have to do it over my dead body.”

Rudy Guiliani, President Trump’s lawyer, bristling over the prospect of having his client testify before special investigator Robert Mueller on Russian meddling in US elections, snarled, “Over my dead body.”

Which message?

The expression conveys either a joke or consternation; thus, the public needs to see which message is being sent. The Cebuano-Bisaya version of “Mamatay pa” or “Paputol ko’s liog” is more expressive than the English idiom. How the line is said and its context, along with body language of the speaker, helps in getting what is meant. Those who didn’t hear Villanueva and watch him up close when he said “over my dead body” can only guess how much of a fight he will put up.

He may win the support of other senators allied with President Duterte. A similar bill, tagged as a “quick divorce” version, was passed last March 2018 on third and final reading in the House led by then speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. But the Senate sat on Hontiveros’s counterpart bill after Duterte announced that his daughter Sara opposed the proposal.

No dead body may result from the clash on Hontiveros’s bill But Villanueva may have to present more than the biblical argument and the stretched interpretation of the Constitution’s preamble to oppose absolute divorce.

Reinventing annulment

They may yet come up with a version that doesn’t have to bear the label “absolute divorce,” something like Alvarez’s euphemistic “dissolution of union.”

And the legal annulment, now in the statute books and the Catholic Church tolerates, may be made less tortuous than it is to poor and middle-class couples who cannot afford to pay the cost of ending a marital union. Legislators might “reinvent” legal annulment the way Alvarez did.


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