Divorce: To be or not to be

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By Henrylito D. Tacio

Regarding Henry

Thursday, January 31, 2013


ON HEARING that House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte has a plant to enact a divorce bill in the next Congress, retired Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani said it was “not a good development” for the country.

The divorce bill “might bring the country to the moral brink,” said Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who led the opposition to the reproductive health (RH) bill in the House.

“It’s a serious matter,” commented Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.

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The Philippines, aside from the Vatican, has become the world’s only country without a divorce law after Malta legalized it in 2011.

Some people are clamoring the legalization of divorce in the country. “Battered wives should be free from their husbands,” said a human rights advocate. “Women should be respected, cared, and loved. The husband has no right to abuse his wife. Although it is written in the Bible that what God has united can’t be separated by man, a husband has no right to abuse, hurt, control or torture his wife. Why? Is it the will of God that a person should be oppressed and discriminated?”

On August 2010, the party-list group, Gabriela, refiled the controversial divorce bill in the 15th Congress. In the bill’s explanatory note, it said that legalizing divorce would give “married couples in irreparable marriages another legal remedy that they can resort to in addition to the country’s existing laws on legal separation and annulment.”

A decree of legal separation gives the spouses the right to live separately from each other, dissolves the conjugal partnership, awards the minor children to the innocent spouse and disqualifies the offending spouse from inheriting from the estate of the innocent spouse.

Although a decree of legal separation allows the spouses to live separately, it does not sever the bonds of marriage. In other words, they cannot remarry as they are still technically married to each other.

But if they want to get married again to another partner, the couple should file for annulment. “Once a decree of annulment has been issued by the court the parties may choose to remarry,” explains a lawyer.

Since the 13th Congress, Gabriela has been pushing for a divorce law. Historically, divorce has been part of the Philippine legal system and was widely practiced by Muslims as well as ancestral tribes in Palawan, Nueva Vizcaya, the Cordilleras, the Visayas and Mindanao.

“Divorce was also available during the American period and during the Japanese occupation,” the explanatory note said. But when the New Civil Code took effect in August 1950, divorce was disallowed under Philippine law.

According to Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, the refiled measure — renamed House Bill No. 1799 (An Act Introducing Divorce in the Philippines) – would not allow a “no-fault divorce” similar to what is being implemented in Las Vegas.

As she explained it: “HB 1799 was carefully crafted to take into consideration Philippine values and traditions that give utmost importance to the way Filipinos appreciate the family as an institution. It will not allow couples to get married today and get divorced tomorrow.”

Now, should divorced be legalized in the Philippines? “Yes,” said a 38-year-old executive. “Divorce gives freedom for both men and women who are suffering from unhappy marriages. I believe marriage is really a sacred thing, aside from all the efforts you do for the wedding. But there’s no assurance that you’ll end happy until your last breath. Don’t be such a martyr, speak up; not as a married man or woman but as an individual that deserves real happiness. Each of us has the right and we deserve what is right.”

A 27-year-old bank manager speaks her mind: “As a Christian, I am against divorce. Why should you marry if in the end you’ll end up in divorce? That’s why we have dating before marrying the one that we love. We need to know our partner well so that the relationship won’t end up in divorce.”

Another woman said: “I’m in favor all for the sanctity of marriage and the preservation of the family. But when it is the woman who supports the family and the husband is not doing his duty, I think it’s unfair to keep the union going. I married to have a life partner, not a burden!”

Still another one said: “It seems very unfair to allow Muslims to divorce and not allow those of other faiths not of Catholicism. Definitely, there are more than just two religions in the Philippines. Others exist besides Catholicism and Islam. Unfortunately, if you’re not Muslim, you have a serious problem because you have to abide by Catholic rules just because they hold the politicians in their pocket.”

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 31, 2013.

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