Fr. Dacanay’s Idea

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013


THERE’S a story about a Cagayana who sued her American husband for divorce in the USA for the reason of “mental cruelty.”

After being married to her for twenty-five years, her husband got it ill with an intestinal disorder that caused him to be constantly flatulent.

The sound and the smell of his terrible farts affected her mental equilibrium, the Cagayana explained tearfully in court. Her divorce petition was granted.

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Stories like this may have some bearing on actual divorce cases but may have been passed around so many times that they get transformed into the urban legend genre.

Underneath “legendary” stories which relate the questionable and even trivial reasons for getting a divorce in the USA lurks the storyteller’s apprehension that the same scenarios can play in the Philippine scene once we have our own divorce law. Marriage would then be taken lightly, and this attitude would be a threat to what Fr. Jaime Bulatao had identified in the 1960s as the Filipino’s highest value, the family.

Even now with no divorce law yet, the main reason behind the gravest marital discords between husbands and wives is that when they got married, they were not serious about what they were supposed to be committing to do for the rest of their lives. The problem would get aggravated with the escape provided by divorce.

Some divorce proponents propose a legal provision that would qualify for divorce extreme cases only. This proviso would protect divorce from getting turned into a habitual practice, “like changing one’s clothes,” to use the lingo of divorce urban legends.

As a matter of fact, in the early years of its divorce history, our “role model,” the USA, took a conservative stand with regard to divorce. It was supposed to be rarely granted and only like a surgical imperative when other forms of treatment were no longer efficacious. However, through the years, the high standard of “rare” got lowered down to “sometimes” then walked the ground of convenience to “whenever.” This history of “serial divorce” can repeat itself in our country.

With this in mind, there are lawyers who maintain that our annulment law has the capability of handling a problematic marriage that is beyond salvation; it is already in hell. The marriage is hell on earth, they argue, because it was organically invalid when it was contracted. Divorce activists pronounce this reasoning a landscape broad enough for planting a billion convoluted palusots.

Annulment is a form of divorce, an expensive variety, they say. It is not, annulment lawyers insist.

Whatever arguments there may be in the annulment-versus-divorce debate, the incontrovertible fact is, there are cases wherein staying married to someone is tantamount to masochism. There must be a way out after trying all the curative measures.

Speaker of the House Sonny Belmonte’s way out of hell is divorce. Would a divorce bill spearheaded by him pass? Maybe not.

During the last presidential campaign, then presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino made it known that he was not in favor of divorce.

And so, to a probable divorce veto, friends who are in favor of divorce request: “At the very least, is it possible to lower the cost of an annulment?”

On my part, instead of a divorce bill, I wonder if it is legally possible to craft a bill that would make lovers pause from their marriage plans.

In the Catholic Church in the USA, engaged couples must wait for a year before they can marry in church. This policy of the church gives couples time to evaluate their commitment to marriage.

Indeed, according to a Cagayana friend of mine who married her American boyfriend in the USA recently, many engagements break in the course of waiting for lack of commitment. A civil version of this church policy may be created to include tests which can point out problem areas to those who are so in love, they think a brood of vipers is a rosebush.

I also like Fr. Jose Dacanay’s suggestion in a Sunday homily that before tying the knot, engaged couples should read the New Family Code.

In my opinion, a seminar on the law should be made mandatory before a marriage license is issued, to check the awareness and commitment of applicants. Would a man go on with his marriage proposal when he finds out from the New Family Code, for instance, that the money a husband earns is, legally speaking, family property, while the wife may keep her earnings to herself?

Fr. Dacanay elicited laughter in the XU chapel when he suggested that lovey-dovey sweethearts affix their signatures after each article of the code so in case they still marry in spite of seeing the unromantic, legal aspect of what they are getting into, they can refer to the signatures when they begin to have marital fights.

“This is love,” Fr. Dacanay intoned, not “everything will be okay because we feel nice.”

But, would there be a divorce law in the Philippines eventually, maybe after Pres. Aquino’s term? Yes, if we Pro-lifers do not fight harder to convince people that, in the long run, divorce is not the best solution to a problematic marriage; in fact , it compounds the problem.

Besides, the divorce “card” is right behind the RH Law “domino effect,” and right behind this divorce “card” is abortion.

Don’t say it is impossible for the Philippines to have an abortion law. Its creation is a matter of conditioning. The RH Law passed because of the subliminal conditioning by media that nationalized, free contraception is good -- never mind if a user availing of the program may not be married; never mind if he/she is just horny for the nearest live body and does not want babies to cramp his/her lifestyle; and, on top of that, never mind if the user can afford to pay for his/her own contraceptive device.

We were overwhelmed by the media blitz which favored the RH Bill. Let’s be more introspective now that the divorce bill is peddled to us through the same strategy. (Ametta Suarez Taguchi)

(Ms. Ametta Suarez Taguchi teaches Home Economics and Livelihood Education. She also writes and directs plays and won the Palanca Awards for Literature seven times)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 23, 2013.

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