By Daniel Llanto
FilAm Star Correspondent
Prospects look up for the eventual congressional passage of divorce and same-sex marriage in the Philippines after the House of Representatives adopted these as part of its priority measures as Congress opened its second regular session last July 24.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, known for herding only the legislative agenda enunciated by President Duterte, said divorce and same-sex marriage are on top of the House’s order of business along with the proposed shift to a federal form of government and the approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Both the federalism measure and BBL have been certified as urgent by the President, which means that divorce and same-sex marriage proposals enjoy the same status. As such, all these measures are expected to be passed by the super-majority in Congress, which has never failed the President so far.
To avoid stirring up the Church and other opponents of divorce and same-sex marriage, Alvarez chose to label them as “dissolution of marriage” and “same sex union” for now. These sectors have successfully defeated previous divorce measures.
“Previously married persons can remain friends and better parents, despite their differences, since they no longer have to sling mud at each other in front of a judge just to convince the magistrate that their marriage should be declared void or voided,” said Alvarez, who is himself estranged from his wife.
The Davao del Norte congressman designated House Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano – also estranged from her legal spouse – to shepherd the measure.
“I thank Rep. Pia for her commitment to file a bill that will allow for the dissolution of the marriage without the need for an extensively adversarial system. Married persons can mutually agree to end their marriage subject to approval of the Court,” Alvarez said.
“Admittedly, there is a sad reality about some marriages. We do not always get it right the first time. We have to change this,” said Alvarez, who admitted having mistresses and had a falling out with Rep. Tonyboy Floirendo over their girlfriends’ spat.
Another controversial measure Alvarez included in their agenda was the civil union bill, which seeks to allow same-sex unions.
“Let us tackle this issue head on. I will file a bill that will legally recognize and protect civil partnerships. I thank Rep. Geraldine Roman for her inputs regarding this legislative measure,” the Speaker said, referring to the transgender Bataan lawmaker.
“Our citizens should not be excluded from society just because of the person they love. They must also be treated with equality before the law. I support Rep. Roman’s fight against discrimination in our society,” Alvarez maintained.
Another piece of legislation he wants passed seeks to remove discrimination against illegitimate children and provide them with benefits.
“Children, through no fault of theirs, have been stigmatized by society for being born outside of a valid marriage. It is time to end the unequal treatment of legitimate and illegitimate children,” he said.
The House leadership, he added, will also be preoccupied with the Bangsamoro Basic Law, Charter change and the proposed shift to a federal system of government.
“This will be the basis for creating a homeland for our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters,” Alvarez said. “We have to exert additional effort in paving the way for the shift from a unitary to a federal form of government.”
He is also pushing for a measure requiring casinos to get franchises from Congress, which means taking over Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.’s regulatory powers over casinos.
“It does not make sense for it to regulate and operate. An entity that has this power runs the risk of dealing itself a favorable hand while undercutting others,” he said of Pagcor.
Alvarez also wants the Land Transportation Office merged with the Land Transportation, Franchising and Regulatory Board and be called Land Transportation Authority. He also wished for the creation of a regulatory body for a rehabilitated and expanded railway system.