SEVERAL bills filed in Congress seek to strengthen the family by mandating marriage counseling, banning homosexual unions, providing more options for separation short of divorce, and boosting family togetherness.

Would-be couples will have to take mandatory marriage seminar and counseling once House Bill (HB) 216, or the Mandatory Marriage Counseling Act, by Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon (Muntinlupa), is passed.

HB 216 will amend the existing Family Code, which requires counseling for engaged couples aged 18 to 25. It will make marriage counseling a must for all couples regardless of age.

“Divorce could even make marriages fragile because of the availability of an ‘escape clause,’ instead of couples putting in more effort in preserving the family,” said Biazon, a 1991 UST Medical Technology graduate.

The bill mandates couples applying for marriage to go through marriage counseling first before a marriage license can be issued. It also disapproves of legalizing divorce in the country.

“Divorce provides an open backdoor that can be used anytime one of the partners feels like doing so,” Biazon said.

Biazon also filed HB 1245 to secure marriage strictly between natural born men and women.

Called the Act Limiting Marriage to Natural Born Males and Females, the bill affirms the Family Code’s prohibition of homosexual marriage.

Meanwhile, HB 4948, also known as the Anti-Divorce Bill, by Kampi Party-list Rep. Ma. Armelita Villarosa, seeks to expand grounds for legal separation instead of legalizing divorce or popularizing annulment in the country.

“Many partisan groups exploit women issues and claim to be protective of feminist interests but forget that reckless disregard for marriage leave children at the losing end,” Villarosa said. “Breakdown of the family results in breakdown of society.”

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The bill seeks to amend articles 36 and 55 of the Family Code, which provide grounds for declaring the marriage void. Aside from psychological incapacity of a partner, the marriage may be voided, according to the bill, based on the following reasons: excessive gambling by either spouse, marital rape, sexually transmitted disease, bisexuality, and failure to provide material support.

”It is more sensible to expand the grounds for separation than to go through divorce,” UST Theology professor Ulysses Parado said. “This (bill) gives the couple a chance to discover the causes of a failing marriage to remedy the marriage instead.”

Villarosa said that divorce is not the solution for battered wives.

“The popular clamor for divorce is not the answer to our worsening societal woes,” she added. “There is simply a need to make the grounds for legal separation more responsive to the problems that beset modern Filipino households while retaining the strict legal requirements in procedure and evidence before a marriage can be dissolved.”

Meanwhile, a bill seeks to give families longer weekends for “quality time.”

The proposed Family Bonding Act, or HB 1718, by Rep. Oscar Malapitan (Caloocan City), proposes a non-working holiday falling on Tuesday or Wednesday to be moved to Monday or Friday, so families could have extended time together.

The bill will serve as “an effective domestic cost-saving measure since those families who prefer to stay home will have longer time of rest and can save money,” Malapitan said. K. P. Bayos, M. L. C. Celis, C. G. Fallorina, and R. S. Mejia

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