Divorce, federalism, BBL make it to House priority wish list

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Getting out from “unhappy marriages” will be easy for troubled couples under a bill that the leadership of the House of Representatives has placed high on the list of legislative priorities.

In his speech opening the second regular session of the 17th Congress, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez also made official the inclusion of the “same-sex and heterosexual” civil unions measure in the priority list of legislation requiring swift processing in the Lower House.

Alvarez said a third social reform measure on the list of legislative priority is a bill that would put legitimate and illegitimate children on equal footing under the law.

The proposed shift to federal form of government through constitutional amendments and the refiled Bangsamoro Basic Law, this time cleared of objectionable provisions, will also be treated with urgency on the floor.

Alvarez underscored the importance of approving the bill before the end of the 19th Congress in 2019, saying that he is aware of the stand of the Catholic Church on divorce and same-sex marriage.

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“Admittedly, there is a sad reality about some marriages. We do not always get it right the first time around,” stated Alvarez.

Deputy Speaker and Taguig City Rep. Pia Cayetano has made a commitment to file the bill that would ease the requirements and judicial procedure for the dissolution of marriage.

Alvarez said Cayetano’s bill provides for separation of legally married couples “without the need for an extensively adversarial system”

“Mas simple. Both parties can file (for dissolution) based on unhappiness,” said Alvarez, who has once publicly admitted being separated from wife, Emelita, and currently having an extra-marital affair.

On the other hand, Cayetano, a former senator, is legally separated from husband, Ben Ari Sebastian.

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Alvarez said he has not talked to Senate members for its version of the bill, pointing out that the measure will be sent to the Upper House once approved by congressmen.

He disclosed that he will author the bill that will allow heterosexual and same-sex couples to enjoy civil benefits of a legal marriage such as having conjugal partnership on properties, right to adopt children, and support each other.

“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 said, referring to Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman, a transsexual person.

The House official also called for an end to the “unequal treatment of legitimate and illegitimate children.”

“We can start the process by equalizing the legitimacy that children receive regardless of whether or not they were born within or outside wedlock,” Alvarez said.

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He added: “This is an issue of justice and fairness.”

Also included in the priority wish list of the House leadership is the clipping of the powers given under the law to the Philippine Gaming Corporation.

“It does not make sense for it to regulate and operate,” said Alvarez.

The proposed merger of the Land Transportation Office and the Land Transportation Franchise and Regulatory Board into a Land Transportation Authority; the creation of the Philippine Railways Authority and the Philippine Airports Authority are also included in the list.

“We must require that operators of casinos, public transportation, as well as mining companies, secure a legislative franchise from Congress prior to their operations. This will make certain that their applications are scrutinized deeply,” stated Alvarez.

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