By Ben Rosario
Bills legalizing civil partnership of couples of the same sex and granting a more liberal approach in the annulment of marriages are now in the same league as the Charter change measure in terms of congressional priorities.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, principal author of the two controversial measures, made this distinction for the three legislative proposals as he admitted in an interview that he has no qualms about marrying his girlfriend, Jen, notwithstanding his marriage with estranged wife, Emelita Apostol-Alvarez.
“Pupuwede kong gawin yun (I can do that). And I’m willing to do it,” Alvarez said as the interview wandered from legislative priorities of the Lower House to his romantic relationship.
Alvarez explained that he is a member of a cultural minority whose customs and traditions, that include multiple marriages, is protected under the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA).
The House leader said that after the Charter change bill, measures seeking to legalize civil partnership of couples of same or different sex and providing for additional grounds for the dissolution of marriage come next in the list of priorities of the Lower House.
With Alvarez as the principal author, House Bill 6595 which will legally acknowledge civil partnership in gay relationships, and HB 6027 granting new grounds for dissolution of marriage, have been referred to various committees for deliberation.
The Catholic Church has strongly voiced its opposition against the two measures. It will be recalled that notwithstanding the Church’s objection to its passage, the bill seeking to restore the death penalty was passed by the Lower House.
Alvarez revealed that during committee hearings conducted in Filipino communities in Hong Kong, Japan and Dubai, massive support for HB 6595 was highly noticeable.
Alvarez said the current legal processes for legal separation and annulment of marriage are expensive, tedious and slow.
Alvarez explained that by acknowledging civil union of partners with the same sex, they will both enjoy equal protection of the law.
According to him the reality in the country is that there are a lot of couples who are cohabiting or in a live-in relationship but the absence of a law protecting their properties denies them equal protection.
HB 6027 provides for a process of annulment of marriage that is not “extremely adversarial in nature” and inexpensive as compared to Executive Order NO. 209 or the Family Code of the Philippines that provides grounds for annulment.
Under the proposed bill, a marriage may be dissolved based on irreconcilable differences or “severe and chronic unhappiness” of the spouses which may cause irreparable breakdown of marriage.
HB 6595 recognizes both civil partnership of same sex or heterosexual couples.
“It aims to be a landmark effort to provide civil rights, benefits and responsibilities to couples, previously unable to marry, by giving them due recognition and protection from the State,” explained Alvarez.
“Ultimately, at the core of a civil partnership are two fully consenting adults who, like many Filipinos, merely wish to love, care and support each other as they build a life together during their fleeting time here on earth,” he stated.
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