Disclaimer: The views and opinions stated in this article are solely of the writer’s and does not necessarily reflect the views and stand of WhenInManila.com on the matter.
The Philippines is the only country in the world, aside from the independent city-state of Vatican, that does not have divorce.
That actually sounds almost unbelievable, especially for a developing country who’s been working to keep up with the rest of the world. In 2013, we upgraded our education system into the K-12 system, as all other countries already had, and we consistently strive to be in the international radar by upgrading our businesses, our cities, our travel destinations, our food, striving to brand everything as “world-class”.
But why can’t our marital laws be granted the same treatment? Why do we refuse to adjust to the times and instead insist on staying 10 steps behind the rest of the world? And most importantly, why are we denying Filipinos their right to happiness by forcing them to stay in unhappy, loveless, and sometimes even abusive marriages?
Image: Zoriana Stakhniv @zorianast via Unsplash.com
It kind of seems that as a country where values and traditions are often held in a higher regard than kindness and authenticity, that our families, since centuries past, have been so used to shrouding the cracks in their marriages, forcing unhappy couples (and their children, as a consequence), to suffer in silence. At the facade of many Filipino families is that happy family photo—dad in his crisp polo, mom sporting that bright pink lipstick over a big smile, and the children, with shirts so neatly tucked and hairs combed back—but what we don’t see is what they go home to after they take that photo; the pained scenes that happen behind closed doors in a home that is broken and no longer happy.
In a survey conducted by Social Weather Station (SWS) in 2018, the result concludes that majority of Filipinos are in favor of divorce.
So, why is divorce still illegal in our country?
Yes, we have annulment. You can file for your marriage to be considered nullified, as if it never happened. But did you know that there are only six grounds for annulment? And that these six grounds do not include infidelity, abuse, and not even separation, even when you’ve been separated from your spouse for many years without any form of communication? And those grounds for annulment most certainly does not include the simple reason that you’re miserable, and that you two just no longer want to be married to each other.
But there is progress.
The absolute divorce bills submitted by Senators Risa Hontiveros and Pia Cayetano are currently in review by our legislators, and the bill has already passed its third and final reading in the Congress—the farthest the divorce bill has ever gone. But it’s looking bleak in the Senate. A couple of senators already expressed opposition to the bill, including Senators Cynthia Villar and Manny Pacquiao. Senator Joel Villanueva has even outspokenly stated his stand on the matter, reportedly quipping “Divorce? Over my dead body.” But not only that. Even the President thinks divorce should not be made legal as “it would negatively affect the children of the couple,” former Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque explained.
Image: Jarek Puczel
But children are negatively affected anyway, even now without divorce, having to first-hand be bear witnesses to their parents’ unhappy marriage, especially the abusive ones. With divorce, at least there is a better chance for healing and for starting over again. After all, children can only be as well nurtured as their parents. If the parents are happy, they are able to provide, nurture, and love their children better, too.
The divorce bill, as stated in the official press release of the House of Representatives, describes the absolute divorce it’s proposing to be “the separation between married couples that is total and final where the husband and wife return to their status of being single with the right to contract marriage again.”
The press release also states: “[The divorce bill] declares that while the State continues to protect and preserve marriage as a social institution and as the foundation of the family, it shall also give the opportunity to spouses in irremediably failed marriages to secure absolute divorce under limited grounds, as well as judicial procedures to end dysfunction of a long-broken marriage; save the children from the pain, stress, and agony consequent to their parents’ constant marital clashes; and grant the divorced spouses the right to marry again for another chance to achieve marital bliss.”
And don’t Filipinos deserve that?
If we can give the most horrible of criminals a “second chance in life,” we should also be able to grant the same privilege of second chances for every Filipino. We should be able to legalize divorce.