MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who openly admits to a partnership outside of marriage, denied he is pushing a bill on the dissolution of marriages for his personal benefit saying he is allowed by law to be polygamous as a member of a Mindanao tribe.
“Ang dissolution of marriage po, iyan ay fi-nile ko, hindi po para sa sarili ko, dahil hindi ko po iyan kailangan, dahil ako po ay miyembro ng isang tribe sa Mindanao kung saan po puwede po sa amin ‘yung multiple marriages. At ‘yung naggo-govern po na batas sa amin ay yung kultura po ng tribo,” Alvarez said in an interview over radio station dzBB, a transcript of which was provided by his office.
(I filed the dissolution of marriage bill not for my benefit because I don’t need it as a member of a tribe in Mindanao where we are allowed multiple marriages. And the law that governs us is the culture of the tribe.)
Alvarez said he is a Manobo and is covered by the Indigenous People’s Rights Act, which recognizes, respects and protects the rights of indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples “to preserve and develop their cultures, traditions and institutions.”
“I am covered by the IPRA law because I am an IP,” he added.
Asked if this allows him to have more than one wife, he said: “Puwede po ‘yun sa batas namin (That is allowed by our laws).”
According to the website of the Bukidnon provincial government, polygamy, although rarely practiced, was allowed by the Manobo.
While many indigenous communities practice customary marriages, few are registered.
Alvarez earlier said he has been estranged and living apart from his wife Emelita for several years.
“Kaya ko lang naman po talaga itong tinutulak dahil gusto ko pong i-address ‘yung mga hinaing ng karamihan. Ang dami po na mga married couples na hindi na po talaga nagkakasundo. Gusto nilang tapusin ‘yung kanilang pagsasama (The reason why I am pushing this is to address the appeal of the majority. There are many married couples that really don’t agree with each other. They want to end their relationship),” he said.
He said the only legal means available, annulment, was “adversarial” and requires destroying the other party.
Earlier, he said a husband or wife should be able to file a petition to seek a way out of marriage because of “unhappiness.”
Alvarez expects Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano to shepherd the bill.
Under his proposal, “one of the conditions, which must be complied with, is an agreed upon and executable framework to provide for the care and support of their children,” Alvarez said.
“Moreover, previously married persons can remain friends and better parents, despite their differences, since they no longer have to sling mud at each other in front of a judge just to convince the magistrate that their marriage should be declared void or voided,” he added.
He said critics of the bill, including the Catholic church, should give it a chance.
Alvarez plans to hold public hearings not only in the Philippines, but abroad, especially where there are many Filipino workers, saying he has received messages from Filipinos in Japan thanking him for pushing the bill.