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Legalization of Divorce (Affirmative Side)

Among all the countries of the world, with the exception of the Vatican, the Philippines remains the only
one where divorce is still outlawed. This is so even as all other predominantly Roman Catholic countries
have already written divorce into their laws.

The opposition to divorce is no longer organic, considering that a clear majority, or 54 percent of Filipinos,
support its legalization, according to a survey conducted by the Social Weather Station (SWS).

And it is even dishonest, considering that we have legal separation and annulment as existing legal options
for those who want to get out of failed marriages.

Human beings are not perfect. We make wrong decisions, and it is theoretically the duty of
the state to provide its citizens the full support to enable them to rehabilitate their lives. A
failed marriage, especially when the differences are already irreconcilable, becomes a social
prison that could have serious consequences not only for the well-being of the adult parents,
but more so for the children who are trapped in these failed marriages.

Legal separation, while severing the marriage bond, does not go far enough because it doesn’t
allow the separated couple to legally remarry and find their happiness with other partners. It
consigns persons whose earlier marriages ended in failure to a perpetual sentence of not being
able to spend the rest of their lives with others, with whom the real meaning of marriage as a
happy bond can be celebrated and realized.

Annulment is an expensive and long process which only those with the resources can avail of.
Furthermore, what it requires is proof that the marriage was void from the very start. This is
easy to prove if the contracted marriage turned out to be bigamous or patently illegal.
Otherwise, it entails a painful process of one party having to prove that the other is mentally
and psychologically incapacitated at the time of marriage. Couples wanting to have their
marriage annulled either feign incapacitation, or literally tear each other apart in painful court
proceedings where the severed bond that binds them is further stretched when one party
accuses the other of insanity, or psychological impairment, or mental instability for an act that
for all intents and purposes was done with mutual consent years ago.
Annulment proceedings not only discriminate against the poor and those who do not have the
necessary resources. They also legalize feigned insanity and contribute to the further stigmatization of
those who genuinely suffer from mental illness. In fact, if we must be honest, using psychological incapacity
as a ground for annulment practically renders all marriages contracted out of love as potentially annullable
for the simple reason that being in love is a state of psychological impairment in itself. When one is in love,
more so if madly, one can easily forget reason.

The House of Representatives has already passed its version of the divorce bill with 134 members voting
for it, 57 against and with two abstentions. The grounds for divorce in the House bill include de facto
separation for at least five years, legal separation by judicial decree for at least two years, psychological
incapacity, gender reassignment surgery, irreconcilable differences and joint petition of spouses.

However, it is expected to encounter strong opposition in the Senate. President Duterte has also expressed
his opposition to the bill, citing as his main reason that it will be bad for the welfare of the children, and
would be disadvantageous to the women who will no longer be able to file cases against their former
husbands should they be neglected. Hence, even if the Senate passes the bill, the President may exercise
his veto power, and it remains to be seen if the legalization of divorce has enough supporters in both
houses of Congress to override such a veto.

It is ironic that the President would oppose the bill, when he had been through an annulment himself. His
fear that legalizing divorce would be disadvantageous to neglected women who may not be able to sue
their former husbands can be remedied by a provision in the law itself, where they can be allowed to do

The President also expressed his reservations because he is concerned about the plight of the
children. Yet, we know that a loveless marriage does not only trap adults, but also inflicts
emotional harm on the children from the union.

Besides, the President’s argument about the fate of children of divorced couples is exactly the
same plight that awaits those who undergo legal separation or annulment.

There are other factors that cause psychosocial stress for children. The OFW phenomenon, which is
supported by the government as a state policy has also caused de facto separations between spouses, and
between parents and their children. This has led to failed marriages, dysfunctional families, juvenile
delinquency, teenage pregnancies and even drug addiction.
The Roman Catholic Church has consistently opposed the legalization of divorce. Conservatives fear that
with the divorce law, there will be a further diminution of the institution of the family, and of society’s moral

However, it is a fallacy that just because divorce is legal, people will run to the nearest court
to file petitions for the dissolution of their marriages. For the Church and the religious
conservatives to fear this is either an admission that they have not done their job well in
instructing the people, or that they have a very low regard for the Filipino’s sense of morals.

The Filipino’s sense of extended family will undoubtedly provide divorcees and their children an organically
rooted mechanism to recuperate and survive divorce-related trauma. This is in addition to the legal
protection that can be provided for in the law in the form of alimony, child support, visitation arrangements
and custody.

It must be emphasized that legalizing divorce is not an attack on the institution of marriage
and the family. On the contrary, it simply ensures that marriage remains as a social institution
that enables happiness, and not become a legalized social prison that traps families, including
children of couples who cannot afford an annulment or whose marriages were contracted as
valid unions with mutual consent. It also affords women and men who failed the first time
another chance at happiness.

Gabriela Women's Party Rep. Emmi de Jesus in a statement after the bill hurdled the lower house reiterated
calls for its legalization.

"Ang pagpasok sa kontrata ng kasal, na kinikilala ng estado ay isang karapatan. Karapatang may
karampatang obligasyong kailangan tuparin ng dalawang panig. Dapat naroroon ang pagmamahalan,
paggalang, suporta at iba pang factors na magbibigay ng kaligayahan at kalusugan sa kanilang relasyon,"
she said.

(Entering the contract of marriage, that is recognized by the state, is a right. A right that has
corresponding obligations which must be met by both sides. There should be love, respect,
support and other factors that ensure a happy and healthy relationship.)
"Kapag may paglabag sa mga obligasyong ito, na kung minsang umaabot pa sa puntong nakataya na ang
buhay at katinuan sa pagitan ng mag-asawa, marapat lamang na kilalanin din ng estado ang karapatan na
wakasan ang kontrata at karapatang umalis sa relasyon."

(If there are violations of these obligations, that sometimes even endangers the life and sanity
of the couple, it is just for the state to also recognize their right to end the contract and exit
the failed relationship.)

Gabriela Women's Party has been pushing for the legalization of divorce since the 13th Congress when it
first secured seats in the lower chamber.