Top Philippine presidential candidates oppose legalising divorce

Senator Grace Poe (centre) was among the Philippine presidential candidates who did not raise their hands when asked during a debate if they favoured legalisation of divorce.
Senator Grace Poe (centre) was among the Philippine presidential candidates who did not raise their hands when asked during a debate if they favoured legalisation of divorce. PHOTO: EPA

MANILA (AFP) - The Philippines looks likely to remain one of the few countries where divorce is illegal, based on a survey of the four leading presidential candidates on Sunday (March 20).

Vice-President Jejomar Binay, Senator Grace Poe, veteran mayor Rodrigo Duterte and former interior secretary Mar Roxas were asked during a presidential debate to raise their hands if they favoured legalisation of divorce.

Not one raised a hand in the brief segment. They were not given time to explain their stance.

The overwhelmingly Catholic Philippines is the only country aside from the Vatican that bans divorce.

Strong pressure from the Catholic church has stymied previous attempts to pass a divorce law even though a survey last year showed that about 60 per cent of adult Filipinos support such a measure.

A survey earlier this month showed that Poe, the adopted daughter of the country's top movie star, has a slight lead in the run-up to the May 9 vote for the presidency.

She is followed closely by Duterte, who is running on a ruthless anti-crime platform; Binay, former mayor of the country's financial district of Makati; and Roxas, the anointed successor of outgoing President Benigno Aquino who is limited by law to one six-year term.

In another portion of the debate, the four candidates were asked who supported restoration of the death penalty. Poe and Duterte, who openly boasts about killing criminals, both raised their hands despite the Catholic church's opposition to capital punishment.

The death penalty was abolished in the Philippines in 2006, partly due to lobbying by the church.