Seares: Bebot’s law re: unhappy marriage

PANTALEON Alvarez won’t be forgotten as the House speaker whose controversy-wracked term includes setting off a storm over his public admission that he left his wife, has kept a girlfriend (“Dyos ko naman, sino bang walang girlfriend?”), and dared the lawyers group IBP to strip him of his law license.

Now, on the second regular session of this Congress which opens July 24, Speaker Bebot announced he’d push for a “dissolution-of-marriage” bill that provides for only one ground: “unhappiness.”

One ground + sweetener

Much easier than the version filed by Gabriela women’s party-list in 2003, re-filed in 2010 and, most probably, filed again in 2016. Gabriela proposes both legal separation and divorce, with the five grounds for divorce added to the 10 grounds for legal separation under the Family Code.

An unhappy couple, under Alvarez’s proposal, may file a joint petition or only one spouse may do so if the other spouse wants the marriage to stay because he or she is freaking happy.

Here’s the prime “sweetener”: the petition cannot be denied in case one condones or consents or both collude. The judge’s duty is ministerial, only to verify that the couple had free will in deciding. No need to prove “psychological incapacity” of a spouse, which is required under existing law and adds a huge sum on the tab.

Not divorce?

And yet, Alvarez doesn’t call the “dissolution” a divorce even though division of properties and agreement on custody of children is included in the petition.

Avoiding the “D” word is obviously to soften church opposition but what else is it? It looks like divorce, it produces effects of a divorce, it must be a divorce.

The argument that’s basic and compelling (to him and other husbands with GFs) is that a man and a woman shouldn’t be forced to suffer the ordeal of an unhappy union. That will strengthen, instead of erode, the institution as each spouse will work at making their marriage a happy one. Or so Alvarez believes.

Since the pursuit of happiness primarily drives his bill, it must also provide that with the marriage terminated, each spouse can legally marry again. And illicit relations with the other woman or man may be legalized: hooray.

No more pre-nup, GF?

Corollary to the proposal is his plan to have absolute community of properties under the Family Code converted to separation of properties. That would remove the need, Alvarez says, for pre-nuptial agreement and minimize marriages for money and convenience.

And that might prompt lawyer-legislators to sin no more and shun GFs. Or do I hear Speaker Alvarez say again: “Dyos ko naman, sino bang walang girlfriend?”
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