Divorce Law for the Philippines
Posted by butalidnl on 2 June 2011
The Philippines is now the only country in the world without a divorce law. Well, technically, the Vatican also doesn’t have one; but they don’t have married couples either! Malta had a referendum on 28 May about divorce, and they approved the law, we are now the only country left.
Should the Philippines follow the rest of the world? Well, why not? It is a good idea to have divorce as a way out for people trapped in failed marriages.
Some people think that annulment is the same as divorce. It is not, and it does not address the question of failed marriages as well as divorce does. Why? In the first place, only a few people could avail of annulment. In 2010, a little over 7000 couples were granted annulment; most of these are well-to-do, because it takes a lot of money to have an annulment (an estimated P300K). Most people would just simply leave their marriage partner, and then live together with a new one, without resorting to any of the legalities.
But the main problem with annulment is in the basis for having one. Annulment is not granted for physical abuse, attempt on one’s life, sexual infidelity or abandonment. However, one can still sue for legal separation on these bases. But legal separation still means that you remain married, and that you supposedly still share in conjugal property and obligations, even if you live separately. And that you can’t remarry.
Gabriela (women’s party list group) has filed a divorce bill (HB 1799) in the House of Representatives. In it, they propose that divorce may be filed “when the couple have been estranged for at least five years, or legally separated for at least two years, with little hope of reconciliation; when any of the grounds for legal separation has caused the irreparable breakdown of the marriage; when either or both people are psychologically incapable of complying with the essential marital obligations; and when the spouses suffer from irreconcilable differences which cause the breakdown of the marriage.”
Gabriela’s proposal doesn’t make divorce “easy”. It only makes the logical conclusion: that if a couple have been legally separated for at least two years (meaning that there was enough basis, in the first place, for a legal separation) and that all attempts at reconciliation have failed, that they be granted divorce. Or, alternatively, that the couple had been estranged for at least 5 years.
End of the Family?
The church claims that a divorce law will spell the end of the Filipino family. This is obviously alarmist and not based on fact. Divorce has been around for some time in many countries; and the family still seems to be going strong. On the contrary, divorce may actually promote marriage and the family. Now, without divorce, many people simply “rearrange” their familial relations without legal sanction. So, even though they may be technically married to someone else, they live together with new partners, whom they couldn’t marry. If divorce was possible, this people would simply divorce their old partners and marry their new ones.
When a couple is divorced, the children will still have both parents, who will both have an opportunity to participate in their life. The ex-couple become co-parents, and they have a new set of shared responsibilities. If they arrange things well, the children will feel at home in both their parent’s homes. They will be much better off than when they were in one home and their parents were always fighting. When a couple’s marriage is annulled, the parent who doesn’t have custody to the children has less rights to participate in their upbringing.
The family and marriages will also gain from divorce since partners will be discouraged from straying by the threat of divorce, and the need to make alimony or child support payments.
Gay marriage, Abortion Next?
Another thing that the church says is that approving the RH and Divorce Bills will open the flood gates to all sorts of laws, such as gay marriage or abortion. I beg to disagree: there is a wide consensus in the Philippines in favor of both the RH and Divorce bills, but none for abortion or gay marriage.
The RH and Divorce bills address pressing social problems, and need to be passed immediately. There is no such urgency for either an abortion bill or the legalization of gay marriage. Perhaps their time will come, but not for a couple of decades at least.
I would imagine, that after these two bills get passed, one thing that the government could do will be to tax church properties (of all churches, of course). The likelihood of this happening is probably more than having an abortion bill or legalizing gay marriage. And this should be more interesting. Of course, from the church’s point of view, this will be “demonic” or something similar.