Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Posts Tagged ‘divorce’

Repeal the RH Law?

Posted by butalidnl on 27 January 2013

The CBCP wants the next Congress (i.e. the one that will be elected this coming May) to file a bill that will repeal the RH Law. This might seem achievable at first; but it is actually an impossible dream. The chance of the RH Law being rolled back is extremely small.

In the first place, the next Congress will probably look very much like the present one. Half of the senators will remain in place, and a number of other senators will probably be reelected. The majority of Congressmen will either retain their seats or pass on their positions to relatives or allies.  There will be no big shift in the composition of Congress.

The political dynamics that got the RH Law passed will remain in place after the elections. Aquino will still be the president, and most lawmakers would want to stay in his good side and not go against a law he supported. Public opinion will remain overwhelmingly in favor of the law.
Then the law would generate its own inertia. There would be organizational changes in the Departments of Education and Health, as well as in LGUs: people will be hired, reassigned, etc, to implement it. This in itself is a pro-RH constituency, and this goes beyond those directly involved in RH.  Reversing the law will mean lay-offs, reorganizations, etc. and will be resisted.

Legislators have a general aversion to reversing laws that they have just passed. Take the Cybercrime Law – although everybody agrees that it is defective, it takes forever to reverse because some would want to change parts of it (and the specific parts they want changed would differ) while others would want to repeal the whole law. And all these options have to go through committee; and this takes a long time.
A law which has so much support will have a lot of difficulty even hurdling the committee level of discusions.

If bills will be introduced to change the RH Law, they will have to give way to a reevaluation of the law itself, and this would mean that the law would then have to be implemented for a time. And when eventually amendments to the law will be considered; there would be as many proposals to strengthen it as to weaken it.

The implementation of the RH Law is sure to demonstrate its benefits, and it will show that the claims of its negative effects were exaggerated. Sex education will become part of the standard education curriculum; family planning advice and cheap contraceptives will be routinely available for poor couples. After a few years, even Catholic high schools will decide to integrate sex education in their curriculum. This is because their students would otherwise be at a disadvantage when they take exams e.g. the NCEE or State University admission tests.

The CBCP call to reverse the RH Law is most probably just a political rearguard action on their part. As long as they keep on screaming about it, they hope to deter lawmakers from passing other laws they don’t like, specifically a divorce law. This may work for a while; but if the CBCP keeps it up for too long, everyone will see how little political power the CBCP actually has. The CBCP case against the Divorce law will be a lot weaker, though. After all, the Philippines is the ONLY country in the world without a divorce law.

The CBCP would be better advised to concentrate on other issues than RH or Divorce. Gun control would a better thing to push. If the church pushed for a stricter gun control law on the basis of its being pro-life, it could regain some of its lost prestige. The CBCP could also strengthen its opposition to Mining (after having ‘dropped the ball’ on this issue in the last years).

Posted in LGU, Philippine education, Philippine politics, Philippines, politics | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Same-Sex Marriage and the Philippines

Posted by butalidnl on 2 June 2012

President Obama recently declared his support for same-sex marriage. This will undoubtably affect the results of the US elections – but exactly how, is anyone’s guess. The same-sex marriage issue has changed a lot in the US since 2004, when George Bush succesfully painted John Kerry as pro-same-sex marriage, and won the election.

One effect of Obama’s declaration has hit the Romney campaign. Bill White, a prominent gay supporter of Romney, withdrew his support and demanded to get his contribution back. He said that Romeny had “chosen to be in the wrong side of history”. He is now supporting Obama.

Prime Minister Cameron of the UK declared that his support of same-sex marriage is not despite his being a conservative, but because he is a conservative. Cameron makes an important point. Same-sex marriage is in reality a conservative demand. In an era when many people have divorces, and others decide to forego getting married in the first place; gays want to get married – and commit themselves to abide by societal conventions in the process.

Philippine Case
While same-sex marriage is not yet an immediate concern for the Philippines, it raises points which are already relevant. Among these would be the question of what to do with gays who do form lasting relationships. Even from a purely legal point of view, it would be a lot more convenient if gay couples could get into something like a ‘registered partnership’ if only for matters like inheritance, medical decisions etc.

At the same time, there should be some changes in the legal status of some heterosexual relationships. Under the principle that “consenting adults who love each other should be allowed to marry”, the country would need to pass a Divorce Law. And, together with this, there would need to be a law that allows unmarried couples who live together to formalize their relationship.

The issue of same-sex marriage also affects the public discourse about gays. Previously, gay rights meant that it is wrong to beat up gays, or to refuse to hire them. Gay rights includes their right to lead a ‘normal’ life, including marriage.

The case of Manny Pacquiao’s comments against same-sex marriage illustrates this point. He was quickly painted as being anti-gay, when all he said was that he was against same-sex marriage. Why? Because now, gay rights  includes the recognition of same-sex couples, and giving them equivalent rights to heterosexual couples. Pacquiao upheld the old version of gay rights.

There could also be an effect on the nature of same-sex relationships themselves. Today, a lot of same-sex couples in the Philippines mimic heterosexual relationships in the sense that one takes on a ‘male’ role, while the other a ‘female’ role. The development of ideas about same-sex marriage will challenge this ‘quasi-hetero’ arrangement. Same-sex partners would then increasingly adopt ‘unisex’ roles.

The whole idea that gays make up a ‘third sex’ should also fade as a result of the discourse on same-sex marriage. With the ‘third sex’ idea, some men claim that they are not gay because they take on the male role in a gay relationship, which is perfectly logical in a ‘third sex’ framework. But with same-sex marriage, the relationship is simply between two men, or two women.

Posted in Philippine politics, Philippines | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in Philippine economics, Philippine politics, Philippines, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

Catholicism Impedes Philippine Development

Posted by butalidnl on 22 January 2011

People ask why is it that the Philippines is underdeveloped, when it is the only Catholic country in the region. Well, I think the simple answer would be: precisely! Catholicism has some features that tend to make a country underdeveloped, and it is important for the Philippines (and other Catholic countries) to be able to overcome these in order to move forward.

Saints and Palakasan
The Catholic tradition has a lot of saints, who we are supposed to pray to in order to get favors from God. This is a form of patronism: talk to someone who has contacts “higher up”. This idea of going through contacts is at its height with praying to Mary; she is supposed to really have the “hot line” to Jesus. So, praying to Mary and the saints is indeed a form of indirect “democracy” – or democracy through your contacts.

Intercession by saints, or Mary for that matter, is just another form of “palakasan“. And this is reflected in the real world. No wonder we have such a strong patronage system in Philippine politics. It merely reflects the patronage that exists in our religious life.

Of course, going through contacts in heaven is a lot fairer than going through contacts here on earth. We can easily pray to whichever saint we want to, without having to have voted for them or gone to the same school with them, or whatever. But the whole idea that we can get things through contacts; and reciprocally, that we have to cultivate (or be loyal to) these contacts, is a direct influence on how we behave on earth.

The whole idea of penance for one’s sins, which is prescribed during confession with a priest is another problem with Catholicism. It may be a caricature; but the idea of committing a murder, and then having to say “three Hail Mary’s” as penance shows the disproportionality of penance to the sin.

Politicians could be corrupt, violate human rights, etc, but if they build churches and pray every Sunday, they will still go to heaven. The Catholic Church doesn’t demand that you return the loot (in contrast, Protestants would require it) before you get forgiven. So, Catholics could get away with murder, for a prayer, sometimes literally.

Celibate Priests
Priests are another thing wrong with Catholicism. Why is it that there is a class of MEN, who are required not to have any sexual experience (if this is possible??), to have the biggest say in how people live their lives?  These men only know sexual experiences and women (assuming of course, that these are heterosexual men) from a “theoretical” level. And they don’t know anything first hand about family life, and about the raising of children. I think it is therefore quite anomalous for these priests to have a say (and they do have a VERY big say) in people’s relations, in child upbringing, in family life.

The concept of celibacy for priests is a remnant of the way the church behaved in the Middle Ages. They didn’t want priests to be part of any family, in order to avoid conflicts of loyalties. Besides, since the church was a feudal power it itself, they didn’t want church officials handing down benefits to their children.

While it is true that some priests are so immersed in the social life of their communities that they are able to give good advice to people; the church as a whole does get in the way of formulating laws that would have been good for social development. The church is against sex education, birth control and divorce for so long; and its lobby against these has been quite successful so far.

It is rather ironic that many parents purposely enroll their children in religious schools in order to ensure that they are taught correct values. In these schools, their children absorb the values of palakasan, disproportional penance and the dominance of priests in society. They are destined to perpetuate these things which impede Philippine development.

All this is not to say that a country that is mainly Catholic is “hopeless”. Other countries with significant Catholic populations could overcome its limitations.  In the Netherlands (which is about 50% Catholic), Catholics no longer have confessions (so the “penance trap” does not happen), and saints are just looked upon as good examples and not as “people with contacts in higher places”.  And priests have not blocked divorce nor birth control.

Posted in Philippine politics, Philippines, politics, The Netherlands | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »