HOUSE Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez disclosed on Tuesday, March 20, that some lawmakers had been urged to vote against the divorce bill.
Asked at a press conference if there had been pressure from the Catholic church, Alvarez said, "Hindi ko alam. So far sa akin wala namang pressure. Pero I understand yung ibang mga miyembro tinawagan din para wag bumoto."
(I don't know. As far as I'm concerned, there was no pressure. But I understand some members of the House received calls telling them not to vote in favor of the bill.)
"Siguro kung walang mga tawag na ganun baka mas malaking boto pa yung nakuha natin," Alvarez added.
(We might have generated more votes in favor of the bill had there been no such calls.)
He did not disclose the names of the congressmen he was referring to nor of those who made the calls.
The House on Monday, March 19, approved on third and final reading House Bill 7303 or "An Act Instituting Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage in the Philippines."
A total of 134 lawmakers voted in favor while 57 voted against and two lawmakers abstained.
Alvarez also reacted to the recent pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte, through his spokesman Harry Roque Jr., that he is against divorce because it is disadvantageous to the family especially to the children.
“Ang sabi po niya (President Duterte) kawawa po yung mga anak, at kung magkakaroon ng divorce, mawawalan po ng karapatang magsampa ng kaso ‘yung mga asawa na pinabayaan ng mga asawa nila matapos silang mag-divorce,” Roque said on Monday.
Alvarez said the divorce bill ensures that the welfare of the children in failed marriages are protected.
He said the House is ready to explain the bill to the President if need be.
"Yung concern ni Presidente maganda -- yung tungkol sa mga bata. Ngayon kung kinakailangan na magpaliwanag kami lalong-lalo na yung mga principal sponsors at tsaka yung committee -- na itong concern na ito ay matagal po na napag-usapan ito at naayos nang maganda nung committee para ma-ensure yung welfare nung mga bata," he said.
Under the House's divorce bill, spouses who want a divorce should submit before the court, aside from the joint petition for divorce, a joint plan for parenthood, which provides for the support, parental authority, custody and living arrangements of the common children.
The court shall ensure the enforcement of the joint plan for parenthood. It may require the spouses to submit periodic reports on its implementation, to be validated by the court's social welfare officer.
The legitimate and adopted children of divorced parents shall retain their legal status and legitimacy under the bill.
Given the President's position, Alvarez said he remains optimistic that the bill will be enacted into law.
"Ang Presidente naman (The President) keeps an open mind," he said.
Alvarez said the sponsors of the bill, including himself, will also explain to their Senate counterparts if the need arises.
The Senate has yet to craft a legislation allowing divorce. (SunStar Philippines)