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Introduction When two people decide to get a divorce, it isn't a sign that they "don't understand" one another,

but a sign that they have, at last, begun to.

- Helen Rowland

The Philippines had been firmly holding its stand on the issue of divorce. It is, after the Maltese Parliament passed new legislation (2011) legalizing divorce, the only country in the world, except for the Vatican City, that had not legalized divorce. However, attempts of legalizing divorce in the Philippines still pursue up to now. Two bills on this note have languished the Philippine Congress for more than a decade now and the debate still continues.

Divorce is a controversial topic and Filipinos, like any other issues, is divided on the two sides of the coin. The first, the pro- divorce side which is urging for the legalization of the divorce bill and the other, the anti- divorce side which halted the legalization of the said bill. Talks about the issue had been very rampant but stated and talked in a very hush voice for both of the sides of the issue do not really want to discuss the matter in the public. The only venue that this issue had been talked about is inside the legislative offices of the Philippine government that, like the whole Filipino population, also has the two sides of the coin.

In lieu of the issue and the talks on divorce, it is but a necessity to look at the current status of the bill in the policy making process and in the local setting.

To know the status of the policy in the policy making process and the local environment, this paper aims to answer the following questions through the given methods:

1. How did the issue on divorce tagged as a social problem and a public agenda?


This paper will seek how was divorce bill formulated and who were the actors or the people behind the divorce bill. This paper will use Andersons (2011) Agenda- Setting Process and Problem Creation Process.

2. What are the factors that hinder the legalization of the divorce bill in the Philippines? Using Andersons (2011) explanation on the political environment, this paper will look into the political, social and cultural environment of the Philippines that is greatly contributing to the political processes of the said setting. This paper will also analyze the political system of the local Philippine government and the local Philippine politics.

3. How is the agenda set in the area of divorce and marriage policy? Using Kingdons (1995) Agenda Setting, this paper will look at the different areas of analysis of the policy window of divorce in the Philippines- its problem stream, policy proposals and the politics stream of the bill. This question will also be analyzed using Birklands Level of Agenda to determine the current status of divorce bill in the agenda space.

4. What is the future of the divorce bill in the agenda space?

This paper will analyze the possibilities of the divorce bill in the Philippine political stream in comparison with the case of the legalization of the divorce in Malta.


Chapter I Background of the Study

The Philippines remains the only country in the world (with the exemption of the Vatican City) that does not acknowledge and does not have a law legalizing divorce. At present, a person in the Philippines that wishes to end his or her marriage life will have to face a formidable barrier in making that choice because divorce is prohibited (Guzman, 2009). However, annulment is legal in the Philippines and this remains the only choice of individuals wanting to end their relationships to their husbands/ wives. Troubled couples in the Philippines turn to annulment to declare that their marriage is null and void. When marriage is annulled, the union is treated as if it never existed. There is a big difference, though, on divorce and annulment on almost all aspects from the grounds to the effects.

While divorce merely ends the marriage, an annulment declares the entire marriage void, as though it had never happened. Grounds for annulment are stricter than grounds for a divorce. An annulment is a legal procedure in which a marriage contract and marriage are determined to be null and void. In the Philippines, the country has its own annulment rules that the citizens must follow.

Below is a tabular presentation of the difference of divorce and annulment. Table 1: Difference of Annulment and Divorce Annulment What is it?: Legal procedure for declaring a marriage null and void Divorce The dissolution of a marriage permanently based on a court order Incompatibility, irreconcilable differences, infidelity, domestic abuse


Misrepresentation or fraud, concealment of facts like already married, underage, lack of consummation forced to get married or the spouses are closely related


Annulment Problems arose: Issues settled by: Result: Before the marriage took place Court Marriage considered void from the beginning Usually after a marriage of short duration Each party keeps assets they owned prior to marriage If marriage involves children, handled same as divorce

Divorce After the marriage took place Court Marriage dissolved


Marriage of any length


Assets divided between parties at a judges discretion Parents must submit parenting plan; child support paid by nonprimary-career Sometimes awarded



Rarely awarded


Since divorce is not legal in the Philippines, the only option for troubled couples is to turn into annulment which, statistics says, is getting popular. According to the Office of the Solicitor General of the Philippines, from 2001 of 4520 cases, it rose up to 8282 cases in 2010 which means that the cases filed rose up to 40%. The increasing trend in of annulment cases filed in the Philippines shows that more and more couples are wishing to end their marriage. The most common grounds filed for annulment was psychological incapacity.

Figure 1. Source:


Current Options for Separation (Yan, 2011)

Currently, the options for Filipino couples seeking to separate are annulment and legal separation.

Annulment is the legal procedure for declaring a marriage null and void. It is applicable to a marriage that is considered valid, but there are grounds to nullify it. This is different from a declaration of nullity of marriage, which applies to a marriage that has been void or invalid from the beginning.

The grounds for annulment are as follows:

1. Lack of parental consent in certain cases. If either party is at least 18 years old but below 21, and the marriage was solemnized without the consent of his or her parents or guardian; unless if upon reaching 21, the spouses freely cohabited with the other and as husband and wife.

2. Insanity. If at the time of marriage, either party was of unsound mind; unless the party, after coming to reason, freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife.

3. Fraud. If the consent of either party was obtained by fraud; unless the party, after gaining full knowledge of the facts constituting the fraud, freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife. Fraud includes: a. non-disclosure of a previous conviction by final judgment of the other party of a crime involving moral turpitude;

b. concealment by the wife of the fact that at the time of the marriage, she was pregnant by a man other than her husband;

c. concealment of sexually transmissible disease or STD, regardless of its nature, existing at the time of the marriage; or


d. concealment of drug addiction, habitual alcoholism or homosexuality or lesbianism existing at the time of the marriage.

4. Force, intimidation, or undue influence. If the consent of either party was obtained by any of these means; unless the complaining party freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife after the force, intimidation or undue influence has ceased.

5. Impotence. If at the time of marriage, either party was physically incapable of consummating the marriage with the other and the incapacity continues and appears to be incurable.

6. STD. If at the time of marriage, either party was afflicted with a sexually-transmitted disease found to be serious and appears to be incurable.

Legal separation is the legal process by which a married couple may formalize a de factoseparation while remaining legally married. Since the couple is still considered married to each other, they may not remarry.

As in an annulment, the petitioner is required to prove the allegations contained in the petition. Moreover, the court is required to schedule the pre-trial conference not earlier than six months from the filing of petition. This six-month period is meant to give the couple an opportunity for reconciliation.

The grounds for legal separation are as follows:

1. Repeated physical violence or grossly abusive conduct directed against the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner.

2. Physical violence or moral pressure to compel the petitioner to change religious or political affiliation.


3. Attempt of respondent to corrupt or induce the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner, to engage in prostitution, or connivance in such corruption or inducement.

4. Final judgment sentencing the respondent to imprisonment of more than six years, even if pardoned.

5. Drug addiction or habitual alcoholism of the respondent.

6. Lesbianism or homosexuality of the respondent.

7. Contracting by the respondent of a subsequent bigamous marriage, whether in the Philippines or abroad.

8. Sexual infidelity or perversion.

9. Attempt by the respondent against the life of the petitioner.

10. Abandonment of petitioner by respondent without justifiable cause for more than one year.

On the other hand, the defenses in legal separation are as follows:

1. Condonation 2. Consent 3. Connivance (in the commission of the offense or act constituting the ground for legal separation) 4. Mutual guilt (both parties have given ground for legal separation) 5. Collusion (to obtain decree of legal separation) 6. Prescription (5 years from the occurrence of the cause for legal separation)


Efforts of legalizing divorce in the Philippines

Efforts in the legalization of divorce in the Philippines had been very rampant. In 2005, GABRIELA representative Liza Masa filed a divorce bill primarily to free women suffering from traumatic marriages and to give more access to women that wishes to end their marriages. According to Representative Masa, the annulment process in the Philippines is very expensive, thus, marginalizing the ordinary people of the rights to be freed from abusive marriages. In 2001, similar bills were filed in the Senate (Bill No. 782), introduced by Senator Rodolfo G. Biazon, and House of Representatives (Bill No. 878), introduced by Honorable Bellaflor J. AngaraCastillo. House Bill No. 6993 or the An Act Legalizing Divorce, Amending for the Purpose Title II and Article 55 to 67 Thereunder of Executive Order No. 209, As Amended by Executive No. 227, Otherwise Known as the Family Code of the Philippines which was filed by Honorable Manuel C. Ortega of the First District of La Union during the Eleventh Congress (1999). The highlights of the explanatory note of House Bill No. 6993, in support of divorce, are as follows as explained by Attorney Pamaos (2008):

Divorce is not a novel legal right. The Family Code sanctions relative divorce (a mensa et thoro). Legal separation is a recognized remedy for victims of failed marriages. Our civil laws on marriage justify and allow the separation of married individuals but does not confer them the legal right or remedy to extricate themselves from the ordeal of a broken marriage.

Divorce is not exclusive to contemporary times. Before the Spanish colonial rule in the early 16th century, absolute divorce had been widely practiced among our ancestral tribes the Tagbanwas of Palawan, the Gadang of Nueva Vizcaya, the Sagada and Igorot of the Cordilleras, the Manobo, Bila-an and Moslems of Visayas and Mindanao islands, to name a few.

There were prior divorce laws. In 1917, Act 2710 allowed divorce on the grounds of adultery on the part of the wife and concubinage on the part of the husband. During the Japanese Occupation, a new law on absolute divorce, E.O. No. 141, was promulgated providing for ten grounds for divorce. These laws are no longer in effect.


Based on the increasing number of failed marriages which confines many of our citizens to a perpetual state of marital limbo, it has become morally and socially acceptable for many Filipinos to grant spouses of broken marriages the legal right to remarry. The present grounds for legal separation which are recognized in our society as justifiable bases for relative divorce should be re-enacted as lawful grounds for absolute divorce. In addition, it is recommended that irreconcilable marital differences be included in our present civil laws as a justifiable cause for absolute divorce because not all circumstances and situations that vitiate the institution of marriage could be specifically categorized and defined by our lawmakers. Spouses living in a state of irreparable marital conflict or discord should be given the opportunity to present their marital contrarieties before the courts and have such differences adjudged as substantial grounds to dissolve or sever the legal bond of marriage.

The most recent effort to legalize divorce in the Philippines is the House Bill No. 1799 or the Act Introducing Divorce in the Philippines filed by GABRIELA Womens Party Representatives Luzviminda Ilagan and Emerenciana De Jesus during the Fifteenth Congress (2010). According to the explanatory note, the bill seeks to introduce divorce in the Philippine law as an additional option, thus retaining the options and remedies of legal separation, declaration of nullity of marriage and annulment. This is to be respectful and sensitive to differing religious beliefs in the country.

Even with the number of attempts of legalization of divorce in the country and the obvious urge of the public to have a system of change, there seems to be a big question on why, up to now, divorce had not made it into the current political mainstream.

Timeline of marriage dissolution policy in the Philippines

Early 16th Century: In pre-Spanish period, absolute divorce is widely practiced among many ancestral tribes in the Philippines.

1521-1898: Spanish law Siete Partidas only allowed relative divorce (or legal separation without right to re-marry.

1899: American Governor-General Weyler suspended the Siete Partidas.

1917: The Philippine Legislature, functioning under the 1916 Philippine Autonomy Act (or Jones Law), enacted Act No. 2710. This law provided the legal basis for the granting of absolute divorce. It repealed the Siete Partidas (or the Spanish law that only allows relative divorce or legal separation but without right to re-marry). It can be invoked in cases involving adultery on the part of the wife or concubinage on the part of the husband.

1943: The Japanese Executive Order No. 141 was promulgated. Also allowing divorce, this more liberal law expanded the grounds for which the legal remedy may be invoked.

1950: The New Civil Code of 1950 took effect. This law effectively abolished divorce and prohibited the civil dissolution of marriage. It was passed by the First Congress of the Philippines on 18 June 1949.

1987: The Family Code was signed into law by President Corazon Aquino. Among its provision is Article 36 which incorporates Canon 1095 of the 1983 New Code of Canon Law. This embodies the concept that certain individuals may have incapacity to assume the obligations of marriage on grounds of a psychological nature which may exist prior to marriage, and which renders the marriage void. This reflects the change in the position of the Church regarding the absolute indissolubility of marriage on the basis of new findings in psychology regarding the link between marriage breakdown and premarital causes.

1988: Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. filed a bill (S.B. No. 320) seeking to recognize marriage dissolutions by religious sects or denominations. The bill was never discussed.

1992: Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani filed a bill (S.B. No. 754) seeking to provide recognition of divorce obtained abroad by Filipinos. This bill was never discussed.

1995: Senator Nikki Coseteng filed a resolution (P.S. Res. No. 179) to inquire into the propriety of enacting a Divorce Code. This resolution was never discussed.
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1998: Senator Teofisto Guingona filed a bill (S.B. No. 461) seeking to delete the provision on legal separation, to integrate it as grounds for annulment of marriage. This bill, disguised as an amendatory bill, is actually a bill seeking to provide for divorce. One year after its referral to two Senate Committees, a committee hearing was conducted but the bill was not reported out.

1999: Representative Manuel Ortega filed a bill (H.B. No. 6993) seeking for the legalization of divorce.

2001: Senator Rodolfo Biazon filed a bill (S.B. No. 782) seeking to legalize divorce. The bill was never discussed. Also, Representative Bellaflor Angara-Castillo filed a divorce bill (H.B. No. 878).

2005: Representative Liza Masa filed a divorce bill (H.B. No. 4016) seeking to introduce divorce in the Philippines.

2008: Representative Masa re-filed a new divorce bill (H.B. No. 3461).

2010: Representatives Ilagan and De Jesus of GABRIELA filed a new divorce bill (H. B. No. 1799).

Since time immemorial, marriage dissolution had been in the context of the Philippines. The timeline posted above shows that divorce had been practiced in the Philippines even before the Spaniards came and it was a sort of a culture among tribes. From then on, divorce had been in the political culture of many Filipinos but with difference of the grounds and the effects and limitations. Even during the times of American and Japanese occupation in the Philippines, divorce was legal until the establishment of the First Philippine Congress which prohibited the civil dissolution of marriage and abolished divorce in the country. Until then, divorce had not found its way back into the political mainstream.

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Chapter II

Conceptual Framework for the Analysis of Problem Creation, Agenda Setting, Priority Setting and Political Environment in the Context of Divorce Bill filed in the Philippines

Despite the pressure given by the international community, the Philippines is making a big statement again on being firm with its stand on divorce. The Philippines is the only country (with the exemption of the Vatican City) with a no divorce law but the possibility of following the suit, despite of numbers of attempts, still remains vague in the status quo. Here is what is happening in the Philippines in terms of the divorce bills filed. There is a number already of divorce bills being filed in the lower and the upper house of the legislative body yet the issue and the talks on these divorce bills have reached only the narrow points and narrow analysis of the bills. What will happen next is that another persona will file the same divorce bill and leave the past divorce bills hanging. The most recent of the issue on divorce bills being filed is the openness of Senator Pia Cayetano to file another divorce bill at the Senate (, June 2012). There is already a number of bills filed but the question is, where are the bills now, what is their status, have these bills been debated about.

Problem Creation

How, then, do problems reach the agendas of governmental organizations such as the legislative branch (both the lower and the upper house)?

In the case of divorce, how, then, did divorce arrived in the problem arena?

The study of agenda setting concerns how politicians and solons consider a situation a problem and how an issue ends up in the arena of the agendas. In an analysis that has captivate many political scientists, he holds that agenda setting can be viewed as comprising three mostly independent streams of activity (problem, proposal and politics) (Anderson, 2011). This is according to the model of Professor John Kingdon. This is mostly termed as Kingdon;s Agenda
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Setting Model (1995). But even before an issue has the power to enter the local agenda space, it needs to be tagged as a problem. Conditions, thus, do not become problems if they are defined as such. For a condition to be converted into a problem, people must have some value or standard by which the troubling condition is judged to be unreasonable or unacceptable and appropriate for the government to handle. (Anderson, 2011)

Figure 2 Problem Creation





The present Philippine law offers annulment, together with legal separation, to be the primary marriage dissolution policy of the country. It is, however, seen to be as a very drastic process. It is seen here that annulment contains many flaws, according to an interview, Sen. Pia Cayetano (2012), going through the process of annulment is a rigorous process. The process dictates that the couple should blame one another for the process to proceed. This means that the existing law of the Philippines, in the context of marriage dissolution, is even more harmful than helpful for the formulation of the individual filling it. Statistics also shows that annulment cases have rose 40% in the span of almost a decade (OSG, 2010). This can be analyzed that there is an urge for couples, depending on their own issues, to end their marriage. Statistics also says that of all the petitioners, 61% are women and most of the grounds for marriage, because of the limited grounds as basis for annulment, most of the
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petitioners result to psychological incapacity even if the issue or the problem between the partners are more serious like spousal violence, infidelity and/ or abandonment. Is there a need for divorce in the Philippines? That is the primary question in the process of problem creation. What is the condition of the local setting to prove that it is high time for the Philippines to, like other nations in the world, legalize abortion? Problems are defined or perceived by different persons or groups. Stewart, Hedge and Lester (2008) identify four major actors in the policy formulation: different government agencies, presidency, interest groups and the congress. Examining the different actors in the filing of divorce bill in the context of the Philippines, the Presidency is the only actor that does not prioritize the divorce bill as much as the other three actors.

For the government agencies, the groups or individuals undertaking research to back up necessary actions, the Office of the Solicitor General submitted researches on the hiking up number of petitioners for annulment. This can be explained as, even without divorce, people will still be filing for marriage dissolution for a number of reasons. This can also be stated as what the explanatory note of the H.B. 1799 is pointing out, that the introduction of divorce as one means of marriage dissolution does not mean the abolishment of the other given means. The couples still are given the choice.

In the congress, there is also a number of senators and representatives that are eying divorce as a possible solution to the problem and issue of abusive and unhappy marriages. From 1992, up to now, there are nine (9) attempts of congresspersons to legalize divorce, however some of it was not even discussed and some of it was left by the congresspersons that filed it as soon as they left the office. Meaning to say, divorce was not really given priority by the congress. The most recent cases of divorce bill filing were done by congress representatives and party-list leaders Rep. Ilagan and Rep. De Jesus of GABRIELA party- list. GABRIELA is an interest group that aims to give women empowerment and protect women from the abusive society. According to them, divorce will guarantee womens rights, protect them from abusive marriages and will be a remedy for unhappy marriages (Umil, 2011). For the group, the measure of divorce as a means
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of marriage dissolution will benefit, particularly the women, especially those who are victims of domestic violence for it provides an immediate venue to end the abusive marriage. According also to Ilgan, in reality, we cant deny, that there are marriages that turned sour. There are also marriages that are abusive, even violent and there are bigamous marriages and divorce, as well as other marriage dissolution law, will be their option in ending the traumatic marriages.

Even individual, that are given the freedom and venue to express their insights, shows their opinion and stand on the issue rises up. Articles about pro- divorce stand had been very rampant at present, especially when Malta left the Philippines in the stream of the non- divorce countries, making it the sole country that does not legalize divorce.

Santos (2011) wrote an article and enumerated the reasons why divorce should be legalized in the Philippines. She cited the following reasons:

1. The current laws that allow for legal separations and annulment are flawed. 2. Divorce used to exist in the Philippines 3. There are sectors in the Philippine society that practices divorce. 4. It is a recourse for women who are in abusive relationships 5. The stipulations of annulment are destructive. 6. Divorce has no religious bias. 7. People are in favor of divorce. 8. An annulment is an expensive process that not everyone can afford. 9. Divorce does not destroy the family.

In all of her statements, it is clear that the Philippines had been ready and will be ready for the legalization of divorce and it will even benefit more people rather than harm them whatever their religious biases maybe.

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What is the other side of the coin?

In all issues, there are always the two sides of the story. To make a non- biased call, the other side of the coin of the divorce-as-a-possible-solution issue had been contradicted by the Catholic Church. As expected, the Catholic Church will be the first and the strongest opposition of the divorce bill. The Philippines, being predominantly Catholic, the Catholic Church holds a stand in the issues of the society and even in politics, despite of the 1987 Freedom Constitutions statement that the separation of the Church and the State be observed.

According to the Church (as a statement in an interview of CBCP Secretary General Msgr. Juanito Figura, 2011), the government must focus more on helping strengthening the family and husband wife relationships instead of entertaining the possibility of divorce in the country (Yan, 2011). In their side, opening up a new arena for marriage dissolution will just attract more and more couples to file for marriage dissolution and that it will not cater the most pressing needs of the Philippine society at present.

The debate continues, even up to now. The debate had been very much critical back year 2011 when the Maltese Parliament (Malta) legalized divorce in their country making the Philippines alone as the non-divorce country.

With the given issues, statistics, interviews and the people backing up divorce as a remedy in the country, divorce had been one of the talked about issues in the status quo, whether be it in the academe, the Church and the localities, depending on the sides of the one perceiving it. With all these, marriage dissolution in the process of divorce had been seen as an agenda of the local Philippine politics.

Agenda Setting and Priority Setting

Professor John Kingdon (1995) proposes a way on how to look at issues transforming into an agenda in the local political arena. The Kingdons Agenda- Setting Process explains that the agenda of the government can be explained into three (Kingdon, 1995): problem, policy and
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politics. This type of model is concerned on how the agenda is set, how issues come to be issues and how they come to the attention of policy makers (Guzman, 2009).

Figure 3 Kingdons Agenda- Setting Model


Problems refer to the process of persuading policy decision makers to pay attention to one problem over others. Because a policy proposal's chances of rising on the agenda are better if the associated problem is perceived as serious, problem recognition is critical. This uses focusing events to manipulate the agenda setting process of the locality (Harvard Family Research Project, 2007). Different focusing events are dramatization of the issue in ways of protest activities, using the media, presentation of statistical indicators and the likes that will likely to draw the attention of the public.

Proposals represent the process by which policy proposals are generated, debated, revised, and adopted for serious consideration. Because competing proposals can be attached to the same
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problem, getting a proposal on the short list typically takes time and the willingness to pursue it by using many tactics. Proposals are likely to be more successful if they are seen as technically feasible, compatible with decision maker values, reasonable in cost, and appealing to the public (Harvard Family Research Project, 2007).

Politics are political factors that influence agendas, such as changes in elected officials, political climate or mood (e.g., conservative, tax averse), and the voices of advocacy or opposition groups (Harvard Family Research Project, 2007). The lucky break that paves way for a proposal to be tabled on the agenda for decision is called a policy window (as shown in Figure 3). This policy window can also be considered as a window of opportunity that policy entrepreneurs or policy actors must grab whenever it opens.

The agenda setting is also a competition about timing and luck. Not all that reached the agenda stage and agenda space reached the priority list of the policy makers.

The issue of abusive and traumatic marriages and abused wives had been deliberately argued and discussed among policy makers; however, the means of getting into the solution varies according to the views and the means of the proposal. It is a process of recurrent explaining, describing, recommending and above all, persuading that your means is, not better, but the best of all means presented.

In the current status of the marriage dissolution laws of the Philippines, it is but a must to say that for over 20 years, the Church had been the one leading the argumentation on the legalization on different marriage dissolution means. This approach (Agenda- Setting Model) to issues of power has the potential to direct us on a theoretically- informed examination of why there has been lack of change in Philippine marital laws since 1950 when the Church successfully prevailed in decision to prohibit divorce. Using the multiple streams of the Kingdons Agenda Setting Model, the issue on the marriage dissolution and the introduction of divorce as one of the means can be analyzed.
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Since divorce had been part of Philippine history, it is not an alien topic for most Filipinos but surprisingly, after the establishment of the First Philippine Congress, divorce was eliminated as a means for marriage dissolution as the Philippines adopted the New Civil Code. This policy position on the dissolubility of marriage settled in favor of that which was preferred by the Catholic Church (Guzman, 2009). This resulted to an era where dissolution of marriage was prohibited that left the people of broken marriages left without any remedy to get out of legal relationship and remained trapped. How this condition was explained can be considered in Kingdons suggestion that development of a shared understanding of nature of problems is a critical factor in understanding why issues come on to a governments agenda (Guzman, 2009). On the issue of divorce, the government, clearly, did not see the condition as an issue or a problematic case. Sudden change of the situation when Pope John Paul acknowledged in 1983 the possibility of couples to not hold on to their marriages due to causes which are psychological in nature. President Corazon Aquino passed the Family Code which incorporated the statement of the Pope and acknowledges a marriage dissolution process, but in a limited ground of psychological issues. In this matter, it is very evident that marriage dissolution laws had been into the mainstream politics as when the Vatican City, which is the most regarded in issues of sanctity of marriage, saw a need for the law to make a move out of the issues of failing and breaking marriages. This, in the Kingdons Agenda Setting process, benchmarked on the streams of problems, proposals and politics. The Family Code of the Philippines signed by former President Aquino was signed because the political actors and the problem, as well as, the proposal came from a highly regarded institution. Knowing the background of former President Aquino which was known as a devout Catholic, it is easy to understand why the proposal successfully got its agenda status in the Philippine laws.

This opened the arena for the potential policy change.

More efforts on changing the policy on marriage dissolution came after the approval of the Family code; however most of the petitions and bills filed was not even discussed by the local solons. The buzz on the filing of the divorce bill came again into the arena of discussion when active womens group, GABRIELA, filed for the legalization of divorce in the country in 2005. But the efforts just ended up with no resolution and with no result at all, although it was
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discussed and debated inside the congress. Another bill was filed from the area of the womens group of Garbiela in 2010 spearheaded by Representative Ilagan and Representative De Jesus. The House Bill 1799 was filed July, 2010 after the much awaited approval of the divorce bill in Malta which left the Philippines the only country without a divorce law. The filing of the divorce bill came into reconsideration of the GARBIELA party list considering the issues of women in abusive marriages. According to them, the most pressing issue of women nowadays is domestic violence and this happens while inside the legal binding of marriage. According to the authors of the said bill, this will, more likely, to empower and give more access to women in traumatic and failing marriage to end the legal binding and start a new and improved life.

Although House Bill No. 1799 had been discussed and debated in the legislative branch of the government, alongside with another controversial Reproductive Health Bill, the approval seems to farfetched at this moment. Legislators in the Fifteenth Philippine Congress seem to value the idea and the approval of the church more than the idea of the Filipino people. This, even with the principle of separation of church and state of the Philippine Constitution, is the primary hindrance to the approval of the Divorce Bill.

Agenda Setting in House Bill No. 1799 Pressured on the note that Malta, the Philippines sole partner in pursuing a non- divorce law country, legalized divorce in their country after a referendum on May 2011, interest groups found an arena of the need to pass a petition on legalizing divorce in the country. Since the Philippines, again on the exemption of Vatican City, is, at present, the only country that does not acknowledge divorce as a means of ending a legal binding of marriage, various interest groups, particularly Gabriela, see the opportunity that it is high time to pursue their call of legalizing divorce. Another bill was filed by the party- list in the attempt to legalize divorce. This is the House Bill No. 1799 which is the second bill filed by the same party list group about the issue on divorce. Presented on the explanatory note of House Bill No. 1799, the problems identified or the bases of filing the divorce bill is primarily to serve the empowerment of women. Comparing annulment grounds in the grounds of the proposed divorce bill, the divorce bill caters the needs of couples that are suffering from domestic violence. Gabriela representatives also explained that
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the proposed divorce bill is more diverse in the context of religion and cultural beliefs. Adding to this notion, when legalized, divorce will be an added arena or means, together with annulment and legal separation, on ending a legal binding of marriage and it will not be the sole means. With this note, the House Bill No. 1799 will give more options and more access to end a problematic marriage, if not abusive and traumatic.

Kingdon (1995), in his model of multiple streams, an issue will be tabled as an agenda with the help of political actors and policy entrepreneurs. At present, aside from the global pressure and despite the stand of the Catholic Church, divorce has slowly creeping its way into the priorities of the legislative for the number of Senator- Judges in the Philippines had separated from their own partners. With some of the senators that are in favor of legalizing divorce, slowly, the issue is currently being discussed.

What is stopping the legalization of divorce in the Philippines?

Despite the public approval and the support coming from legislators and other interest groups, divorce seemed to have a difficult time to enter its legalization stage. Guzman (2009) in his research found out that the biggest barrier to the passage of divorce in law is the Philippine culture, traditional beliefs and customs and education and preaching of the Church. This can also be pointed out that Filipinos believe that the family is the basic social, economic, political and religious unit of the society, therefore making it sacred and should- be taken good care of.

Another is the Catholic Church, demographically speaking, the Philippines, is dominantly Catholic in nature. Almost 81% of the population of the Philippines is Roman Catholic; therefore the Church has gained its own support and ally in contradicting the legalization of divorce. According to an interview to one of the Philippine senators, the possibility of passing the divorce bill alongside with the talks and debates on another controversial bill, (which is also strongly opposed by the Catholic Church), Reproductive Health Bill, is like declaring a war against the Church (Luci, 2012). This statement means that the Philippine senators are so keen with their image on the Catholic Church and what image will they give this dominant institution.

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Clearly, the arena for agenda status and the local political arena for divorce is, in the sense, going through a hard time. The Philippine divorce policy issue has been through various phases of conflict in the political arena, from being active in the 1917 and 1950 to one of the latency and dormancy afterwards (Guzman, 2009).

Malta: A Pressure on Philippine Divorce Policy

Before the year 2011, there are three countries in the world that has no divorce law namely Vatican City, Malta and the Philippines. After the referendum (May 2011) and the approval of divorce law, Malta, a Roman Catholic country, have joined other countries in the world that legalize divorce. According to Prime Minister Gonzi, the result in favor of divorce is not the result he wanted, personally, but the will of the majority, thus the divorce law is enacted.

Before the enactment of divorce law in Malta, the country also allows Church annulment and legal separation through courts.

Malta, being predominantly Roman Catholic with 95% of the population of more than 400, 000 being Roman Catholic, considers the historic vote on the legalization of divorce.

Upon the historic legalization of divorce in Malta, this left the Philippines, with the Vatican City the only countries in the world that has no divorce. The global community now pressures the Philippines to legalize divorce and enter the 21st century.

Possibilities and Future of the Divorce Bill

A year after Malta legalized divorce in their country, knowing that their religious culture is, same as the Philippines, Roman Catholic, and given the political will of the parliament of hearing the demands and pressure of the citizens, it can be noted that the Divorce Bill has its way and is on its track on the public policy arena. There is more possibility now in the attempts of policy change in the Marriage Laws of the Philippines especially that the public participation and the masses participation on political decisions are now increasing. Since, mentioned in the previous
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statements, divorce bill had been supported by the public, by the time that the political culture acknowledges more the public decision rather than few institutions demands, the possibility of legalizing divorce in the country will be on its height.

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Chapter III Conclusion

For many years, the issue of policy change in the arena of marriage law had been kept of the scen in the local political arena in the Philippines. For a very long time, sectors of Philippine society affected by the lack of a divorce provision in the country have either remained quiescent or have been prevented from raising the issue (Guzman, 2009). Evident in the political culture of the Philippines, the voice of the church and the dominating power of the Catholic Church and traditional culture and beliefs are keeping the issue of divorce in the arena of public policy. For more than 30 years of fighting itself to be in the political setting, the Church had been its biggest opposing party. Indeed, the Catholic Church has mobilized a concrete amount of biases to stop, if not slow down, the approval of divorce bill in the country.

Despite of the efforts of policy makers in filing legislative bills aimed at re-establishing the divorce policy and the obvious public support, the policy change on the marriage law of the Philippines had been very obscure. It seems that the efforts to change the law are being frustrated at every step. Most of the bills filed were not even heard inside the legislature.

It is a must to note that despite of overwhelming support gained, power still remains a big issue on the policy making process. The more powerful an institution is or an interest group or even an individual, it has the capability to manipulate the political culture and setting.

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Chapter IV Recommendation

There is a high need for the Philippines to look at a wider scope of participation in many areas of politics especially in determining the needs of public policies. This study shows that, more often than not, the powerful institutions and not the direct public were accounted and that the powerful institutions voices and ideas were given accounts and priorities. This kind of situation has to change in the Philippines, not only on the issue of marriage law or divorce or the controversial issue of the Reproductive Health Bill but on all of the political decisions made and enacted.

The power domination in the Philippine political culture is very evident and thus calls for a serious change. With regards to the case of Malta, which is predominantly Catholic, the voice of the public still remained the biggest basis for the enactment of the divorce bill.

The review of current statistics, the review of the present Family and Marriage Law and the review of the present political culture is also a need in the status quo of the Philippines. Times had changed and the needs and the situations of the people have also changed therefore old measures and means have to be reviewed if it still addresses the current needs of the people.

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