Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Posts Tagged ‘Gabriela’

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 »

Prospects for Makabayan

Posted by butalidnl on 2 June 2010

Now that the elections are over, Makabayan (the alliance consisting of Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Kabataan and ACT partylist groups) needs to take stock of its gains, and what its options for the future are. First, the gains. It seems that Makabayan would get at least 5 congress seats (maybe as much as 8 ) for this coming Congress. This is an enormous achievement, which they should put to good use.  On the other hand, its senatorial candidates Liza Maza and Satur Ocampo failed dismally to get elected – becoming only the 25th and 26th in the senatorial race. Both the positive and negative factors should play a role in Makabayan’s future.

Comprehensive Legislative Agenda
With the gains in Congress, Makabayan is clearly becoming a force to reckon with in Congress. In a Congress where personalities count, Makabayan representatives could present a unified stand on principle.  Before doing this, though, they need to have a clear comprehensive legislative agenda, drawn up on the basis of the specific advocacies of its member partylists, and on a unified vision of what kind of reform agenda they should push in Congress. Because otherwise, Makabayan will continue with its adhoc approach to lawmaking, and the reactive nature of its interventions.

I think that such a comprehensive legislative agenda, as well as a worked out strategy of how they intend to push it, will take the Makabayan lawmakers to a point where they will be able to push for progressive laws. If they really bundle their forces together, they could win over other partylist groups to their side, as well as district representatives, and could potentially form and lead a progressive bloc, which the other blocs in Congress will have to deal with. They can really get things done.

Independent Political Force
The experiment with Liza Maza and Satur Ocampo running for senate failed; but Makabayan should learn from this failure, instead of getting mired in it. The senatorial campaign showed that while Makabayan has a strong mass base, but that it did not gain significantly from allying itself with Villar’s Nacionalista Party. Rather, it was the Nacionalista Party which gained from Makabayan. In addition, being in the same senatorial slate as Bongbong Marcos confused Makabayan’s mass base on the true nature of the Marcoses; it also hindered Satur and Liza from attacking Bongbong Marcos and the legacy that he represented. I think that the Bongbong Marcos connection was the single biggest blunder in the senatorial campaign.

Makabayan should simply run as an independent political force, and not officially ally itself to an established traditional party. Perhaps traditional parties could “adopt” Makabayan candidates in their slates, but Makabayan should really avoid becoming an integral part of a slate – lest they fall into a similar trap again.

Then, again, one would ask: what use it would be to field independent candidates? To this, we can say that winning is not everything. Senatoriables have an unprecedented access to media which would be excellent for providing sharp analysis, and propagating the overall line of Makabayan to a national audience. I think it is worthwhile to do so, even though it will be admittedly more difficult to win an election given the state of things at the present. But who knows?

Local Positions
Another lesson that Makabayan should learn is one coming from Akbayan. Akbayan is slowly, quietly, fielding candidates to local political office. It has won some, and lost others. But the fact is that as Akbayan gains strength in the local field, it also strengthens its national posture. And the local field is a great way of developing electoral cadre, and of experimenting at the implementation of a program, and not merely at legislating it.

Makabayan is much better positioned that Akbayan to field local candidates. And it probably has already done so, although even more quietly, than Akbayan. But it is not enough to just have quiet sympathizers run for Makabayan, because the link with the national would not be clear nor natural. The local candidates of Makabayan should run openly as Makabayan where possible, in order to maximize the projection of the party itself, so that it could also gain from the local at the national level.

Well, these are just some suggestions for the future of Makabayan. Will Makabayan finally make an impact in Philippine politics? Or will it continue to plod along?

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