Transcript of media interview (July 31, 2019)

Reporter: Ma’am, ‘Yung una po muna, hingi lang pong reaction dun sa biro ng Pangulo kahapon na, “When will your dynasty end?” 

Sen. Pia: Yeah, so first of all, biro nga ‘yun, ‘diba? So biro ‘yun, so if you ask me, biro. So I’ll leave it at that, kasi there are more important issues there. And that’s the TESDA App that was just launched [in Taguig City], which I feel is so interesting. And I think we should draw attention to what the important issues are, not a joke. 

But on that note, that is also something that I’m always willing to talk about. Kasi when you talk about dynasty, I always ask, let’s talk about governance. And I think with all due humility, the President’s high regard for our family, for my brother, is evident in no less than his being his endorsed Speaker. 

So, we’re so proud… I call on everyone to judge the new Speaker on the work that he will do. I’m so excited to be back in the Senate. I’m so excited for the work that I have to do as the new Chair of the Committee of Ways and Means and Chair also of the Committee on Sustainable Development. 

So, we want to be judged on the work that we do. That’s an open book, and we want to really do the kind of job that will make the Filipinos proud that they elected us. Let’s make it clear, we were elected. 

Reporter: Ma’am, does it also mean that you as part of the Senate or Congress will not support the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill? 

Sen. Pia: No. I’ve always said and you can always just refer to my statements on this. I always have an open mind on any issue that is brought on the floor. That has always been the position I’ve taken. 

I may have biases, so when you look… I did a quick scan on the political dynasty bills, and there are different definitions of political dynasty. So… it’s my job to have an open mind and to look at it. 

Reporter: ‘Yung Dissolution of Marriage Bill niyo po, can you explain lang, divorce po ba ito? Ano po ang mga magiging changes nito compared sa annulment?

Sen. Pia: That’s a very good question. And I think ang question niyo should be directed at those people who do not like the term “divorce.” You should ask them what they mean by dissolution of marriage versus divorce because I do not know.

I humbly have to say that I do not know what the difference is, but as one of the authors of the bill in the House of Representatives, I believe it was entitled, “Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage” precisely to address the discomfort that some had with the term, “divorce.”

But if may difference ‘yun, the title is there… But ako naman, as the author here also in the Senate, happy naman ako to listen to any and all concerns. I’m just happy that it’s being discussed.

For the record, there are three kinds of bills that were filed in the House. And I’ve refiled so far two of them – the Absolute Divorce or Dissolution [of Marriage], that’s one. And then the other one is the Foreign Divorce, which is actually already an existing form of divorce, actually the only form of divorce recognized in our Family Code. 

We just fine-tuned some details, which we were told for the last almost decade na it becomes a stumbling block for making that provision in the existing Family Code easy to use. It’s become very cumbersome for people to use because of lack of clarity. So ‘yun lang ‘yung sa Foreign Divorce.

Reporter: Ma’am, sa dissolution of marriage, paano siya naiba sa annulment, ma’am?

Sen. Pia: If you look at Article 36 on Annulment, the only ground there is the psychological incapacity. That is the existing ground that we have under our Family Code. So the grounds for divorce that I filed, there are more grounds. Some of them are similar to the grounds for legal separation. So that’s the easiest way.

You know what, I’d be very happy to have a forum on this and to answer more questions, kasi well it’s something that I’ve really worked on and I really believe in, so I’m happy to answer questions para walang… para people would understand, parang FAQs. 

Reporter: Why do you think is it time for the Philippines to legalize divorce?

Sen. Pia: My answer to that is based on scientific evidence. We went to three countries, [for consultations held by] the House of Representatives, where we had a lot of kababayans. 

I would say it’s partly because of that one bill, that is on the Foreign Divorce, because we have so many kababayans who are married to foreigners. But we also realized that so many of our kababayans are married to Filipinos and therefore, their need would be a regular divorce or dissolution of marriage. 

And so we went to Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Japan, and we had hearings in the House and I have met with so many groups espousing divorce, and the stories are so sad. I hear one story, I think, “Wow, this is the worst,” and then I hear another story, it’s about mostly women – but of course it applies to both – women who after their husbands have left them, beaten them up, had another family, had other wives, they’re still supporting that man. Because under the law, they are required to support the man. 

And even – in this particular story – even her grown children were saying, “Nay, iwanan mo na si Tatay.” Eh pero she feels that she has a legal obligation, a moral obligation, until ma-divorce ‘yun. Baka sabihin niyo, ba’t hindi annulment? Eh kasi sa annulment, some of them don’t want to avail of it, because wala naman daw silang psychological incapacity to fulfill their obligations. Pinaninindigan nila na hindi sila pasok doon. 

You can… As soon as we start discussing this, I know that my Facebook will be flooded with questions on divorce. Kahit anong topic ang pag-usapan, laging meron pa ring bumabalik sa divorce. And all over the country, during the campaign, I was asked repeatedly about it…

Reporter: Have you looked at the chances here in the Senate?

Sen. Pia: I haven’t really bothered. As you know nga, the committees that I will be chairing this Congress are new to me. So, dun ako naka-focus. I haven’t really had time. It’s just that I’ve also read what you’ve read na most people tend to be open-minded because they’ve also heard stories of people they know, people who come to them. So I’d like to believe, I’d like to hope that people would have an open mind. 

And what I always reiterate, for those who are against it, you don’t have to avail of it. For those who are against it, in your own church, in your own religious organization, you can continue to believe what you want to believe. That is your supreme right. And never ko po aapakan or never ko… Wala ho akong karapatan na kwestyunin ang paniniwala ng mga tao when it comes to spiritual and religious reasons. 

But when it comes to legal, it is my obligation to have an open mind and pass laws that will be applicable to all Filipinos who want to avail of it. Kasi remember, this is a kind of law that is not mandatory, this is a kind of law people can avail of. ‘Yun ‘yun eh, may difference ‘yun. 

Reporter: So parang it’s a privilege?

Sen. Pia: Let’s say it’s an option. Baka mamaya may legal implication pa ‘yung privilege. It’s an option. 

Reporter: Sorry ma’am, additional grounds, irreconcilable differences, ano pa ‘yung mga possible grounds?

Sen. Pia: Give me time na balikan ko ‘yun, kasi ganun ako eh. Move on na ako sa ibang bills after napasa ‘yun sa House. I was hoping napasa na ‘yun sa [17th] Congress. Let me just go back to it and then I’ll discuss it further.

Reporter: Last na po, aside from the grounds, what else are the advantages of divorce over annulment? Kasi sabi nila may annulment na nga bakit pa may divorce?

Sen. Pia: Ah hindi. Kasi if you look at our provision on Annulment, any law student can tell you, we have one article on it. That’s it. One article – Article 36. There’s actually no provisions on support, they just use by analogy other provisions on support. There are no provisions on the procedure, so the bill that we filed, the bill that is the product of the House… 

I’ll reiterate ‘House,’ kasi I was in the House of Representatives, lagay niyo na lang ‘yun as background, baka malito ang ibang tao na what I’m talking about na bill na na-hear, that was while I was in the House. This is a product of lengthy discussions and so there’s a lot more details in it, including support, including what is known in other countries as alimony, napag-usapan din ‘yun kasi issue ‘yun. Some believe na in other countries, dahil sa walang forever, pero ‘yung support may forever. So mabigat daw, mabigat. 

So we had long discussions about that, and we tried to look for middle ground na there would be, if I remember right, please let’s confirm it lang, three years of support for the spouse who was dependent on the working spouse. Kasi ‘yung objective nga is mag-move on ka na, try to get gainfully employed also, give that person enough time to also gainfully…

But I wanna have an open mind about it if kailangan longer, kasi the objective din naman is to not abandon the spouse who dedicated their life to being a homemaker, whether it’s a man or a woman, it applies both ways.

But kaya ko rin naisip na hindi rin tama na ‘yung forever kasi paano kung ‘yung breadwinner, katulad ng mga na-meet ko na OFW? Tapos 20 years na siyang nagtatrabaho dun, sinusuportahan niya ang asawa niya, and then worst case, ‘yung asawa niya na nambabae na nagkaanak na sa iba, baka siya pa magbibigay ng support forever because siya ang technically working, you know what I mean? 

So you have to weigh these things. Sasabihin, yeah, pero si mister naman sa bahay ‘yung nag-aalaga ng mga anak, pero nangaliwa din siya. So iba-balance mo rin lahat ‘yun eh. So, I can’t pretend that there’s a simple, easy, hundred percent fair, but we have to do our best.

Reporter: ‘Yung finile niyo po, that was the same bill that was passed in the House last [17th] Congress?

Sen. Pia: Yes, but I’m very open pa to even making my own amendments to it.

Reporter: So kung ano ang pumasa sa House, ‘yun ang ni-refile niyo?

Sen. Pia: Oo, kasi you have to remember, that was a product of members of the House. Eh nandito na ako [Senate, 18th Congress], so kapag nandito naman ako, minsan naman nagkakaroon din ako ng bagong ideas, and then syempre… Ano naman ‘yun, kumbaga free for all ulit.

[Inaudible question]

Sen. Pia: Ay tapos na siya, pasado siya [by the House in the 17th Congress]. Oo, walang nangyari dito [sa Senate in the 17th Congress].

[Inaudible question]

Sen. Pia: That’s a good question, I have to say that it’s kinda my observation also, I don’t know kung may survey talaga. But it’s kinda my observation pagka ganun, ‘yung mga babae, “Yes!” Ta’s ‘yung mga lalaki, “‘Wag na ‘yan…”

Reporter: Pero do you find it a relief na ‘yung mga [inaudible – senators] most of them at least open to discussion?

Sen. Pia: Ganito, sa dami ng trabaho ko, kasi nga ‘yung mga bagong committees ko, and again, I have to emphasize ‘yung Committee on Sustainable Development, andaming sakop nun, syempre happy ako kung kahit anong bill na sinusulong ko maraming support, dahil mababawasan din ‘yung trabaho ko dahil wala na ako masyadong kukumbinsihin. So I’m always happy naman na open-minded, or may support, or willing to discuss, I’m always happy. Thank you!# 

Senator Pia Cayetano answers questions from the Senate media.