Saturday, September 22, 2018

Malilong: He smashed plane into his house to kill wife

The Other Side

THIS is one hell of a way, literally and figuratively, to end a domestic dispute,

An American, who had earlier been arrested for assaulting his wife but released on bail, took his employer’s small plane and flew it straight into his own house in Payson, Utah, USA.

Duane Youd was an experienced pilot, according to a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) story, so there was no doubting what his intention was and who his targets were. Unfortunately for him, his wife and a child who was with her at that time, survived the aerial attack while he died. The house itself, which was valued at $400,000, remained intact except for a burnt front.

The couple had earlier gone to a canyon to talk about their problems but the dialogue ended up with Youd assaulting his wife. Both had been drinking.

Their story is interesting because they allow divorce in America and we have been repeatedly told by those who want a similar law passed in the Philippines that the availability of an exit route from a problematic marriage could lessen domestic violence. It seems that it does not always work out as advertised.

In my years of legal practice, I have handled family law cases where the hatred displayed by the spouses was so strong, you could never imagine that once upon a time they were intimate with each other. The vehemence was initially shocking but eventually, I got used to it.

But I still wonder if it is fair to the spouses to keep them imprisoned by a union that is not obviously working. We’ve been taught in law school that marriage is not just a contract but a social institution that the State must seek to preserve. But what if the foundations of the institution have become eroded?

There are no quick fixes. We had and still have a law that allows the declaration of nullity of a marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity of the other spouse to perform the essential marital obligations. It used to be easy securing a favorable judgment but over the years, jurisprudence has evolved which has rendered the remedy almost impossible to obtain.

Worse, the cost of obtaining declaration of nullity has become prohibitive and it not necessarily because the lawyers are charging enormous fees. Filing fees have gone up and so have the charges of the psychologists. It used to be P5,000 only, all in, but over the years, the charges have gone through the roof. People are not exaggerating when they say that it is cheaper to get married than to have it annulled.

So couples stay married even if they’re unhappy. Or do they really stay married? Is it really accurate to say that in chaining a couple to a union that has become oppressive, the State is preserving the institution of marriage? Or are they in fact perpetuating a myth?

That a marriage bond can easily be dissolved is not a guarantee that there will be no more violence between the spouses. The case in Utah is a perfect example. On the other hand, why should partners who hate each other as passionately as they loved each other once upon a time be prohibited from escaping from such a toxic relationship? Isn’t that a form of State-sponsored violence?

By the way, my wife and I just marked our 44th wedding anniversary. Archbishop Jose Palma officiated the thanksgiving mass. Staying married is a choice, not an obligation.