MANILA (AFP) – Support for divorce is rising in the mainly Roman Catholic Philippines, which is among only three territories where it is still banned, according to a nationwide survey released Thursday.
Half of adult Filipinos surveyed by Social Weather Stations in March said estranged couples who are living apart should be allowed to divorce so they could find another spouse, the Manila-based pollster said. A third of respondents disagreed while the rest were undecided, it added.
"Net agreement (was) a big change from merely neutral opinion six years ago, when 43 percent agreed and 44 percent disagreed," SWS said.
The shift was mostly due to changing views among men -- whether married or single -- and married women, as well as both sexes among poorer classes, the polling firm added.
The Philippines, Malta, and the Vatican city-state are the only places in the world where divorce is still outlawed, but overwhelmingly Catholic Malta voted last week in favour of legalising it, in a non-binding referendum.
It is now up to the Maltese parliament to legalise the dissolution of marriage there.
The Philippine House of Representatives, one of two chambers of the legislature, began debating a bill to legalise divorce this week amid strong opposition from the Catholic church, to which 85 percent of Filipinos adhere.
The Catholic leadership is also attempting to block passage of a proposed law that would allot state funds for a family planning programme.
President Benigno Aquino, who backs the family planning bill, has yet to express his stand on the proposed divorce law.
Asked about the SWS poll, his spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters: "It's a snapshot of the values of the Filipinos. It?s a survey conducted scientifically. We leave it at that."
The survey of 1,200 adults asked only one question and did not query respondents about other situations in which divorce may be sought, such as where only one spouse had called for it.