The reproductive health (RH) and divorce bills have one thing in common: they both propose to grant certain rights to certain individuals. But their similarity ends there because the rights associated with each bill are very much different in terms of form and what they require of the State.
The rights that an RH law would provide are claim-rights, meaning they correlate to a duty in another person or entity. In this case, not only do the citizens have the right to use contraceptives, the government is actually duty-bound to provide them for free along with other reproductive health care services to those who need them.
The rights being promoted by the divorce bill introduced by Gabriela partylist representatives Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus, on the other hand, are merely privilege-rights, so there is no correlating duty on the part of the government or anyone else. To have a privilege to do something simply means to have no duty not to do it. With the existing Philippine laws, the offended spouse in a failed marriage still has a duty not to enter into a new marriage contract with another person. The divorce bill aims to remove that duty by providing the option of officially ending an irreparable marriage and thereby grant the privilege to start a new life – with or without a new partner.
Unlike the RH bill, the divorce bill does not seek to appropriate billions in taxpayers’ money for its implementation; the government will not be made to pay for the fees of the divorce lawyers and psychiatrists, or to provide financial assistance to the unemployed spouses and children.
The divorce bill also does not even try to compel churches to recognize divorce and marry divorcees.
The divorce bill is simply about granting freedom to those who need it the most – people whose marriages have caused them untold suffering and who want nothing more than to have another shot at happiness.
We have succeeded in getting the majority of our legislators to vote for the RH bill amid strong religious opposition in using government money to buy contraceptives, which they deem intrinsically evil. While the Catholic bishops are expected to fight more fiercely against divorce after their loss in the RH battle, if the Philippines is truly becoming a more secular state, the divorce bill should even be easier to pass since there is no billion-peso budget involved, and the only objections will be religious in nature and therefore irrelevant to the discussion.
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Image credit: EWTN News