House Bill 9349 or the Absolute Divorce Act has hurdled the House of Representatives after a thrilling series of debates and voting that resulted in its passing on the third and final reading. The result was a win for the proponents but not necessarily a convincing majority following the 131 affirmative votes, 109 negative votes and 20 abstentions. The ball is now at the Senate. Initial discussions show that there is no certainty yet that it will be an easy ride for the controversial legislation. Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada said he conducted an initial survey among 11 senators and 6 are in favor while 5 are against the Divorce Bill. How the other senators will appreciate the proposed legislation remain uncertain.

The win of the proponents and other pro-divorce groups at the House is not the first time actually. In fact, it is the nth time that the group of advocate Representative Edcel Lagman was able to advance their cause but ultimately faced a cold denial at the Upper chamber. Of course the composition of the senate changes and perhaps it can be a help this time.

Note that today, the Philippines is the only country in the world that does not allow divorce. While the Catholic faith has considerable influence on this-literacy, poverty, governance and politics matter and play critical effects on any public discussion towards its legalization. While in the Vatican City a recognized independent state and the seat of the Catholic Church, by necessity and logic forbids divorce, its host country Italy ironically allows divorce. Salvation and persecution were never an issue. They do not look at divorce as a factor in poverty and the degradation of the family. In fact, their poverty rate in 2023 is only 9.8 percent. Compare it with the 22.4 percent poverty rate in the Philippines in the first quarter of last year and yet the only country that does not allow divorce. In short, divorce is not necessarily correlated with poverty.

Italy’s 2021 literacy rate is at 99.94 percent. Interestingly, the 2021 literacy rate in the country is 99.27 percent according to Global Data. However based on the 2022 Programme for International Student Assessment or PISA which covered 81 countries, the country ranked third from the bottom in science, and sixth from the bottom in mathematics and reading.

I have to state the figures to provide context on the reasons why our lawmakers are not totally agreeable to passing the divorce bill into law and why having divorce in the country has no causal effect in literacy, poverty and good governance.

Religion in general has become a personal relationship of a people with God. It has never posed trouble between Italy and the Vatican City. It did not make the rest of Italy evil.

In the Philippines, the continued hesitance of the politicians and policy makers in embracing and allowing divorce as a right among couples is not in any way about their religious beliefs and principles based on the fear of God. Rather it is more on the fear of repercussions from a voting populace who is still politically immature and easily gets swayed by naysayers. They are actually afraid that the strong political influence of the faithful will cost them their political grip. In short, their opposition is more on survival than faith.

The 2022 PISA result undermines the literacy rate of the country. Commonsense will tell us then how the current generation will appreciate any academic discussions about divorce. Worst, the problem with literacy is an opportunity awaiting or perhaps already being exploited by the decision makers in the country to serve their own interests and political survival.

On a more personal note, divorce is an option for those who are trapped in an unhealthy relationship. Period. Ifs and buts are a thing of the past. Let us not allow and consent to the old stereotypes about love and relationships. Independence has empowered people around the world and helped them find their true place and happiness and adjust to the present order of things. It’s just about time.