Bernardo M. Villegas
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Need for Evidence Based Legislation (Part 1)

          It seems that some of our legislators are still living in caves as shown by  their ignorance of the use of data to support enlightened legislation.  We are now living in the age of data analytics and Big Data.  Data is the new gold.  Decision and policy makers can no longer be forgiven if they shoot from the hip.  They should always back up their decisions, whether in business or politics, with what is known as empirical evidence.  A recent example of some unthinking legislators who dd not bother to consider abundant evidence from social scientists all over the world was the passing by the House of Representatives of another (they never give up) divorce bill.  Tons and tons of evidence from some of the most thorough researches  by social scientists, especially in what can be considered the divorce capital of the world—the United States (where some 50 per cent of marriages end up in divorce—would have alerted these law makers about the great harm that divorce does to society, especially to children.  Just a little google search could have led them to such well research publications as “Why Marriage Matters:  Twenty-Six Conclusions from the Social Sciences (2005); or the Effects of Divorce on Children by Patrick F. Fagan and Aaron Churchill ((2012); or Does Divorce Make People Happy by Linda White et al (2002); and many others.  There is abundant evidence in these publications that divorce leads to so much human happiness, mental disorder among the youth, juvenile delinquency, more suicides, more child abuse, and so on and so forth.

         I must admit that  the majority of those of us who drafted the Constitution in 1986 still did not have all these abundant data showing the deleterious effects of divorce on Philippine society when we followed our leader, Justice Cecilia Munoz Palma who chaired the Constitutional Commission appointed by former President Cory Aquino, in categorically stating in Article XV (The Family), Sections 1 and 2  that the State has the responsibility of strengthening the family as the foundation of the nation and protecting the inviolable social institution of marriage as the foundation of the family.    We just relied on our understanding of natural law imprinted in the consciences of human beings, reinforced by the teachings of Christianity which is the predominant religion of the Philippines.  It was not difficult to support the moral convictions of Justice Munoz Palma who was an exemplary Catholic lay leader.  I realize, though, that the world has changed since then and there is a great deal of moral relativism and what Pope Francis calls “ideological colonialism” prevalent among some of our legislators.  That is why we now have to make use of scientific arguments based on the findings of the social sciences.  Some of our legislators unfortunately do not believe in absolute truths in morality.  There are too many modern Pilates among them. They, therefore, have to be presented with sufficient empirical evidence why divorce would be disastrous to Philippine society.

         Well, I have news for the pro-divorce legislators.  As recently posted in a Manifesto of Pro-Life Philippines, the following facts have been established by scientific research based on data taken from many countries, especially in the Western world.  First, let us consider what social sciences have concluded about the benefits of stable marriages:

         -High quality relationships.  With its commitment to serving the spouse and children, marriage fosters high-quality relationships between adults, as well as between parents and children.

         -Greater happiness. Couples in stable marriages and their children are happier than divorced couples and their children.  This finding is very important in the light of the greater emphasis some social scientists are now putting on Gross National Happiness rather than Gross National Product as a gauge of the success of a society.

         -Better health.  Marriage is associated with better health and less illnesses for the family.  Marriage seems to be associated with better health among minorities and the poor.  Stable marriages are associated with a sharply lower risk of infant mortality.

         -More mental health.  Couples in stable marriages and their children are least likely to have mental disorders.

         -Greater wealth.  Married couples in stable marriages are wealthier than divorced couples and their children.

         -Improved parenting ability.  Stable marriages enhance an adult’s ability to bring up children.

         On the negative side, the researches on marriage and divorce reveal the harmful effects of divorce on society:

         -More crimes.  Boys raised in single-parent families are more likely to engage in delinquent and criminal behavior.

         -More suicides.  People who are divorced/separated have an 83 percent higher risk of suicide than those who are married.  The risk of suicide increases among children whose parents divorce.  As an educator over the last fifty years, I can attest to this fact, having known first-hand suicides among some students who came from broken families.

         -More child abuse.  Divorce is correlated with a greater risk of abuse and neglect of children.  A child who is not living with his or her own blood parents is at greater risk of being a victim of child abuse.

         -More premature deaths among children.  The child of divorce parents has a higher risk of premature death.

         -More health problems.  Those who experience the divorce of their parents are more likely to suffer from health problems.

         -More prone to depression.  Divorce is highly correlated with increased depression and anxiety for both boys and girls of all ages.  (To be continued).