Estrada’s survey shows tight tally on divorce bill at Senate

(INQUIRER) MANILA, Philippines — The initial result of Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada’s survey showed a neck-and-neck fight for and against the controversial divorce bill.

Based on a list that Estrada released to the media on Tuesday, five senators have so far voted in favor of divorce, while five said they are against it.

Senators backing the proposed divorce law are Robin Padilla, Grace Poe, Risa Hontiveros, Imee Marcos, Pia Cayetano, and Raffy Tulfo.

READ: House revises ‘yes’ vote on divorce bill’s approval to 131 from 126

Estrada, meanwhile, included his name in the list of lawmakers against it along with newly-installed Senate President Francis Escudero, Majority Leader Francis Tolentino, and Senators Joel Villanueva and Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa.

“I thought it was a good idea to put up a survey because the House passed it already on third reading. So, I just want to get their thoughts on it,” Estrada said in an interview with Senate reporters about his survey.

Before adjourning the second regular session of the 19th Congress last week, the House of Representatives approved on May 22 the controversial divorce bill with 126 members voting for it. A total of 109 members voted against the suggested law, while 20 members abstained from voting.

Later, the House clarified that 131 members, not 126, voted to approve the measure.

In the Senate, its committee on women already approved a counterpart bill although it remains pending before the committee on rules.

Nine senators signed the committee report: Hontiveros, Padilla, Cayetano, Marcos, Poe, Tulfo, Loren Legarda, JV Ejercito, and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel.

Estrada likewise explained during the interview why he opposed the introduction of divorce to the Philippines.

“I am a devout Catholic,” Estrada said.

“And there is another remedy. Mayroon namang annulment and siguro iyong annulment pabilisin na lang ang annulment cases, kasi let’s face it, may kamahalan ang annulment,” he added.

(And there is another remedy. There is annulment, and maybe we should expedite annulment cases because, let’s face it, annulment is quite expensive.)

For Estrada, a bill with a “well-defined ground for nullifying a marriage would be a much welcomed alternative.”

He cited his own bill filed during the 15th Congress, defining certain indications of psychological incapacity as a ground for the declaration of nullity of marriage.

“Imbes na divorce, bakit hindi na lang natin pag-aralan kung paano mas katanggap-tanggap at mapapagaan ang proseso ng pagkuha ng annulment ng kasal?” he said in a separate statement.

(Instead of divorce, why don’t we just study why don’t we just study how to make the process of getting marriage annulment more acceptable and not difficult?

Like Estrada, Escudero has also been against divorce and leans toward a more affordable and accessible annulment.

The new Senate chief said earlier that he expects his colleagues to vote on the divorce bill based on conscience and personal beliefs.

Ejercito, meanwhile, said he is currently in the process of discernment, noting that divorce is a “difficult” issue.

“I am leaning at this time to be in favor,” he, nevertheless, said in a statement.

Raised a Roman Catholic, Ejercito recognized the Church’s arguments on the sanctity of marriage.

“But I also know that a lot of Filipino couples are trapped in loveless and unworkable marriages,” he said.