Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

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.

Divorce Bill
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.


17 Responses to “Divorce Law for the Philippines”

  1. Lovely Gamboa said

    It should approved this law. Imagine, muslim country having divorced.

  2. child support…

    Divorce Law for the Philippines « Carlo's Think Pieces…

  3. lanemden said

    same as any argument, and definitely, i’m not convince! will this solve the problem? probably, it will..but will it prevent the problem from happening? its not! so I don’t see it as a good solution..
    think about it..

  4. lanemden said

    by the way, the social problem they are talking about is failed marriages. so, do you think this prevents failed marriages?

    • the social problem addressed is that marriages that have failed are kept artificially (or legally) alive, resulting in all kinds of problems. divorce just recognizes that a marriage has failed, and allows the two people to go on with their lives. a divorce law also addresses the problem of caring for the children.

    • this bill doesn’t solve marital problems. it solves its results.

  5. Siruj said

    Marriage is primarily designed to be a permanent union between a man and a woman. It allows two very different people to come together and be one in the eyes of God and the society. The amazing transformation of two individuals into one is due to the love of the couples for each other and their vow before and to the Lord. The capacity to love is a privilege given by God, and such love permitted the coming together of two people.Personality clashes are but natural within marriage. Marriages are not made to be perfect. The wedding ceremony isn’t the culmination of marriage, but only a commencement exercise. Couples enter marriage not with the view of perfection, but of a constant effort to bring out the best in their relationship. Having a nice wedding ceremony is a privilege, but being in a marriage is both a privilege and an obligation. Marriage is a practice of responsibility – a responsibility when fulfilled provides corresponding happiness for both.

    • pinoyleonardo said

      Well said Siruj! I hope couples planning to enter marriage will think about it and assimialte their readiness with the help of church or social development agency. This is one area that needs to be checked as well- are those getting married doing so for the right reason? Are they ready to face the responsibilities no matter their state in life?

      Further, the cost of annulment is only for the rich and so I’m guessing what difference will divorce make?

      • Siruj said

        tnx Pinoyleonardo! Couples should not enter marriage if they are not really up to it.
        With regards to irreconcilable differences as ground for divorce, how can we actually measure irreconcilable differences? Couldn’t every conflict be just an irreconcilable difference when no effort is done to solve or reconcile differences? And if effort is claimed by both parties, what range of effort is allowable to determine a conflict’s being irreconcilable?
        Furthermore, if every part of the world has legalized divorce, does it necessarily imply that we legalize it as well in the Philippines? Cultural and societal assimilation must never be the goal of Filipinos.

        The argument that is usually given in support of the legalization of divorce is that divorce is an affirmation of the State’s policy on anti-violence against women and children w/c is unreasonable. We have an existing R.A 9262 or “An act Anti-violence against women and children”. If you really want to protect women and children against violence, why not target the act itself by amending it to include provisions that will ensure the cessation of violence against women and children?

      • ella said

        Well according art.59 of house bill 6993 (divorce bill), “No [legal separation] DIVORCE may be decreed unless the court has taken steps toward the reconciliation of the spouses and is fully satisfied, despite such efforts, that reconciliation is highly improbable.” Meaning to say, before the couple go through with the process of divorce they should exert all efforts to reconcile their differences and this should satisfy the court first then, they can proceed with the divorce.

        As for RA 9262, it does not say that a battered or abused wife can legally be separated from her husband. She can only only file charges against him but is still committed to their marriage. So it might be possible that this husband use this “bond” to get even or beat her more. Repeated physical abuse and attempt to the life of the petitioner are grounds for divorce according to HB NO. 6993. Why would a wife stay with her abusive husband when she can just leave the house and the BROKEN MARRIAGE and even have a better life for her and for her children if only divorce is implemented?

    • Angela said

      I was horrified when I saw that Abuse is not grounds for annulment. Would the government rather have a dead person than a divorce person?


      People change. I cant imagine living in a situation where me and my spouse are constantly fighting and he is cheating on me. To me i rather be in a marriage that I want to be in and my spouse wants to be in than a contractual obligations.

  6. i want a divorce law in the philippines-to be fair for those who had been separated

  7. married couple are exceptional

  8. em em said

    pls be agree all of u!people in the Philippines,its a good thing for us!its very unfair for those who can’t afford to have annulment..!!annulment is just for the riches,how about the others?if they don’t have more than 100,000.00pesos they can’t get away with their irresponsible husband!!!

  9. evelyn l. kadusale said

    The government or church should not decide what’s best for a marriage which is no longer working. The couple should be given a free hand in deciding what to do with their personal life and not force them to remain as married because of a contract. Contracts can be altered or terminated if both parties are amenable. By granting divorce, both parties can move on completely and have a chance to live normal lives without discrimination from society.

  10. at this point, I can only say that,..being a roman catholic, divorce is definitely a wrong one..because it’s against the law of GOD..but on the other hand, divorce could be a solution of a battered wife to legally separate from his’s very impractical for the wife if she will still live with her husband knowing that she already suffer….THE POINT HERE IS THINK WISELY BEFORE YOU MAKE A MOVE…BECAUSE ONE MOVE COULD CREATE A HUGE PROBLEM…(SORRY FOR MY GRAMMAR…I’M JUST AN AVERAGE TEENAGER WHO WANTS TO VOICE OUT OF MY OPINION..THANKS!!!)

  11. Janet Cabanda said

    i am married to a japanese man for 2yrs and 4mos here in the Phils. after our marriage he went back to Japan and we can’t be together cos my visa application was denied for 2 times and we don’t have kids.
    until we want to end up our marriage. He said that he already filed a divorced in Japan. so i just wait when he can send me the Divorced papers.
    my question is can i used the divorced papers that he filed in japan to remarry again without any annulment process?? cos my concern is if he filed our divorced paper in japan then he can be remarry again there, how about me, i cnt used the papers here in the Phils. cos we dnt have a divorced here. if that so, that is so unfair to me if ever. i want also to be happy and have my own family. and i like that they will have some grounds to consider to filed divorced here in Phils. i just hope that they will consider or hear my concern.
    thank you!!

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