President of bishops' conference responds to survey that shows 60 percent of Filipinos want divorce to be legalised

The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has reiterated the Church’s stance against divorce days after a survey firm reported that six in 10 Filipinos favour it.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan said in a statement that a failed marriage should not be reason to divorce.

The archbishop pointed to several Philippine laws that are meant to protect the rights of wives and children in marriages that are oppressive or spouses are cruel. They provide for legal separation or annulment.

“In other words, the supposed suffering that a spouse must bear owing to a failed marriage is more imagined than real, and comes only upon one who does not make use of the remedies already available under existing law,” Archbishop Villegas said.

The archbishop argued that people opt for divorce even if annulment and legal separation are viable options because they simply want to remarry.

He also said divorce makes a mockery of marriage and victimizes the children of divorcing couples, “compounding their trauma” of having to choose which parent to live with and dealing with a total stranger in the person of the new spouse.

The issue of divorce also has gained headlines as lawmakers prepare to debate a legislation that would allow the practice. The proposed law was introduced in 2014 by the Gabriela Women’s Party to help resolve the issue of irreconcilable separations.

The Philippines is the only country, aside from the Vatican, that does not allow divorce.

Lawmakers, including House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr, have said they would oppose the bill as it winds through the legislative process.

Despite the strong influence of the Church in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, a recent survey by the polling group Social Weather Stations shows strong and growing support for legalising divorce.

The survey released on March 23 found that at least 60 percent want divorce to be legalised.