LAWMAKERS at the House of Representatives took the brutal murder of a wife in Quezon City as an opportunity to press for the passage of a divorce law.
Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano of Taguig City made the call in her impromptu sponsorship speech on the bill during plenary debates on Monday, referring to the case of Orlando Estrera who was arrested for killing his wife Heide by chopping her into pieces.
Heide had complained to the police of her husband’s abuse. Orlando, who said he opened his wife’s stomach to see if she was pregnant, was unrepentant.
Quezon City police on Tuesday said that while Orlando tested negative for drug use, he had admitted to being a former “shabu” (crystal meth) user.
Cayetano said “this type of violence does not happen overnight.”
“Somebody doesn’t just wake up and decide to chop his wife [into pieces]. This violence would have been manifested over a period of time; [it takes]months, or maybe even years. And this type of [domestic]violence occurs in many, many homes, maybe not to the extent of chopping the wife, but a woman can be slapped around, punched, [suffer]verbal abuses in front of their children. I don’t think there is anyone in the halls of Congress that can deny that this [violence committed against the wife]exists,” Cayetano, one of the authors of the measure, said.
The proposed “Act of Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage” provides an extensive list of grounds for absolute divorce, including marital infidelity except upon the mutual agreement of the spouses that a child is born into them by in vitro fertilization or similar procedure, or when the wife bears a child after being a victim of rape.
The 1987 Constitution provides that marriage is an inviolable social institution and that the “the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the state.”
This provision has been repeatedly invoked by Rep. Jose Atienza of Buhay party-list who has also insisted that divorce would cause the children and the mother of the children to suffer.
“If we push through with this, we will be sacrificing our future. It will affect the children, families will crumble.
Parents do not show their struggles to their children because that is for the protection of the children. Who will protect these children if their parents are living separate ways?” Atienza said.
“A man can remarry and remarry for a number of times and he will still be a man who can marry and remarry once again. But a woman once divorced will suffer the consequences of separation in the family,” Atienza added.
Lagman cites Con-Com transcript
Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, however, countered that the proposed divorce law would not violate the Constitution, citing the transcript of the conversation between the framers of the 1987 Constitution wherein they said the absence of divorce in the Constitution did not mean banning the passage of a divorce law.
Lagman cited the conversation between Catholic priest Fr. Joaquin Bernas and Jose Luis Martin Gascon, wherein Bernas asked: “Does this carry the meaning of prohibiting a divorce law?” to which Gascon, now the head of the Commission on Human Rights, responded, “No, Mr. Presiding Officer.”
Lagman also invoked the conversation between other framers of the 1987 Constitution, Jose Bengzon and Maria Teresa Nieva, wherein Bengzon asked “Will this in any way preclude Congress from approving a law on divorce?” to which Nueva responded, “we discussed that yesterday and I think we reiterated that it does not.”
Only Vatican, the seat of Catholic faith, and the Philippines where at least 80 percent are Catholics, have no divorce law.
Rep. Emerenciana de Jesus of Gabriela party-list, however, stressed that passing a divorce law was not about joining the bandwagon but upholding human rights.
“This is about recognizing that women under abusive marriages should be given remedy because why would they have to stay in a marriage that is unhealthy?” de Jesus said.
The Quezon City Criminal Investigation Detection Unit, which conducted the drug test on 43-year-old Orlando Estrera, said on Tuesday the suspect was not included in the drug watch list.
Estrera told reporters on Monday he mutilated his wife Heide after hearing “demonic voices.”
Quezon City police director Guillermo Eleazar, however, said Estrera earlier denied hearing any demonic voices when interviewed by the police.
The suspect used a 30-centimeter-long kitchen knife to chop up his wife’s hands, breasts, limbs and a 13-inch hammer to break her head before skinning her face.
Estrera also cut her stomach to check for a fetus, as he wondered why they never had children throughout their 16 years of marriage.
Authorities responded after a neighbor reported that Estrera was throwing something outside their residence in Barangay Holy Spirit, which turned out to be his wife’s body parts.
“No person in his proper state of mind can manage to do this kind of crime,” Eleazar said.
Psychiatric evaluation is being considered to check Estrera’s mental condition, he said.
Estrera was charged with a non-bailable parricide case, or violation of Article 246 of the Revised Penal Code.
with GLEE JALEA