Divorce: A human law decided by a majority vote | Inquirer
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Divorce: A human law decided by a majority vote

Should Filipinos be happy or alarmed, considering that House Bill (HB) 9349, or the Absolute Divorce Act, has been approved by the House of Representatives on its third reading?

Should Filipinos be happy or alarmed, considering that House Bill (HB) 9349, or the Absolute Divorce Act, has been approved by the House of Representatives on its third reading?

Regarding the same, I agree, and I agree absolutely, with Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and his brilliant elucidation of the House Rules (Section 117 of Rule XVII) on the reckoning of the winning votes. I agree with him when he said that an ordinary bill needs approval on the third reading of only at least a majority of one more affirmative (yes) vote over the negative (no) votes when there is a quorum.

I agree with the lawmaker from Bicol when he clarified that the majority of the entire membership of the House, or the majority of the quorum, is not required for the approval on third reading of an ordinary bill. And I agree with him when he emphatically said that the winning margin of 126 to 109, as initially reported, or 131 to 109, as later corrected by the Office of the Secretary General, does not affect the ultimate legality of the final approval of the divorce bill.

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However, I disagree, and I disagree absolutely, with Rep. Lagman and the House of Representatives when they approved House Bill (HB) 9349, or the Absolute Divorce Act, which is synonymous with the legal dissolution of marriage.

In the first place, it is universal knowledge that not all that is legal is moral. Whatever is legal is not necessarily moral and socially responsible (abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, destructive mining and logging approved by the government, inter alia). On the other hand, whatever is declared illegal (malum prohibitum, such as the public practice of Christian faith in Saudi Arabia) is not necessarily immoral or unethical.

Thus, the approval of House Bill (HB) 9349 or the legalization of absolute divorce is not necessarily moral or ethical. The Philippines might one day pass it into law and therefore legalize something that is immoral (from the point of view of Christianity).


What is ethical or moral and what is legal are not identical. It is not correct to presume that law and morality are identical. No, they are not the same. It may occur that there are some civil laws that demand action, human behavior, or conduct, which correspond to the action, human behavior, or conduct demanded by Christian morality (Family Code of the Philippines, etc.), and this coincidence is good for the people. But the law, specifically civil law, and morality are neither equivalent nor the same.

It is a fact of life that some existing laws may be unjust, unethical or immoral. By decree, China imposes its nine-dash-line maritime and legal claim to the South China Sea, but the whole world knows that such a decree is unjust.

All global citizens and people of goodwill do follow the general obligation to obey the law as long as it does not clearly require unjust action, practice and behavior. Therefore, when the law is unjust, citizens may resist what is asked by the law because an unjust law does not oblige.


An age-old moral teaching of Christ himself. Some Filipino senators and representatives have reintroduced the old Roman idea of “democratism” and advocated the policy of vox populi vox Dei, which means that everything has to be put into a majority vote and that, in their common opinion, the Catholic Church should learn to accept whatever is popular (or what the people like).

There are those who say that the Catholic Church is antiquated, like a grandfather clock in the digital age, and they suggest that what people, the majority of whom are Catholics, think may be helpful. Surveys in the new millennium say more and more Filipinos “strongly agree” with legalizing divorce.

But Catholic Faith and Morals do not depend on a numbers game and are not validated by what is popular or what is the majority opinion. The teachings of Jesus are not handed down from generation to generation by a democratic majority vote. Catholic Faith and Morals, such as respect for human life and dignity from cradle to the grave, the immorality of the death penalty and the indissolubility of marriage, are all revealed by God and not something heard from the grapevine, and certainly not dictated by self-interest in a legislative procedure when legislators go for it because most of them personally wanted divorce.

Vox populi vox Dei. “The voice of the people is the voice of God,” or vox populi vox Dei, though ancient, might sound groundbreaking. But it could only make a “windsock” out of the Church that blows with the prevailing breeze, unfortunately confusing the moral truth with the majority opinion. [I am paraphrasing Senator Jasper Irving’s monologue in the drama film Lions for Lambs (2007), in which Tom Cruise plays the role of Senator Jasper Irving].

Even if more and more Filipinos “strongly agree” with legalizing divorce, the profound shift in Filipinos’ attitudes cannot change the immoral nature of divorce. Anything immoral cannot become good just because it is approved and accepted by the majority.

In the Christian point of view, “love seeks to be definitive; it cannot be an arrangement ‘until further notice’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1646). Thus, when President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos was married to Imelda Romualdez in 1954, they knew they had entered into a covenant blessed by God, a covenant that was heterosexual and monogamous.

When President Bongbong Marcos, was married to Atty. Liza Araneta in Italy in 1993, they knew they entered into a commitment that is lifetime: “Hindi tulad nang pagsubo ng kanin na iluluwa kapag napaso.” They knew that such a commitment is not dictated by a human law but by a divine law.

When Joe Biden married Neilia Hunter in a Roman Catholic wedding in 1966, they vowed, “until death do us part.” Because of his commitment, Joe Biden married his second wife, teacher Jill Tracy, only after his first wife Neilia died in an automobile accident in 1972.

For centuries, England has had a divorce law, and its king, Henry VIII (1491-1547), was married six times. And every school kid in Great Britain today knows the rhyme: “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived,” pertaining to the six wives in succession. He knew that a divorce is not an annulment; divorce ends a valid and sanctified marriage, the termination of marital union. When he wanted to marry Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII failed to get an annulment from the pope and he was mad.

Till death do us part. In the Catholic Church, a marriage is valid until proven otherwise (proofs include the lack of full consent, a partner who was previously married, age requirements and other impediments). Annulment means there was no valid marriage from the beginning; hence, it never existed, and therefore it is void. But Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon was valid. And he wasn’t able to prove otherwise.

Because the Catholic Church did not approve of his desire to annul his marriage, he didn’t like it at all, and England broke away from the Catholic Church. Henry VIII, once bearing the glorious title of “Defender of the Church,” made himself the “Supreme Head of the Church of England” in 1531 to fulfill his endless caprices and whims.

There is one theological reason why divorce remains the same: It is immoral. Why? Because God says so. The Bible, with the Catholic tradition and magisterium, defends the indissolubility of marriage – even when some congressmen and senators have argued that Israel, the country of Jesus Christ by birth, has a divorce law, that the Philippines is the earth’s last bastion of absolute marriage and that the Vatican is the only other state with no divorce law.

Matrimony is neither a signed legal document nor a suggestion. It is a divine institution.

“Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10:9).

José Mario Bautista Maximiano is the author of the 3-volume work on Church Reforms (Claretian, 2023, 2024, 2025) and the author of the 3-volume work on 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines (Claretian, 2021, 2022).

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