Why does the Philippines need to consider divorce law? My mom’s friend was intoxicated with a date rape drug from a soda her “friend” gave her. The next thing she knew, she was sobbing while marching along the aisle, forced to marry the guy who held her captive for three days. She had a long-term boyfriend and she was not marrying him.
She was just 21.
One of my neighbors had a wife who went abroad for work. She left her kid to the husband. After a couple of months, she was never heard from again. The husband then received news that she is already married to someone else.
With her own kids.
One of my churchmates confessed that her husband has a bad temper and would hurt her for years. One time when she was eight months pregnant, he threw a baby’s walker at her. It took her to the emergency room.
She then told herself that it was enough.
State of the Divorce Law in the Philippines
The Philippines is one of the two places in the world without divorce law as it hails itself as Catholic and the only Christian country in Asia. Being so, it vows to protect the sanctity of marriage. However, if we really look into the reality of what the Philippine society is made of, you would see the good things: colorful culture, friendly people, but there is also poverty, children born out of wedlock, couples illegally separated for years, infidelity, and all other perils of the world.
We are not saying that Christianity is equivalent to perfection but sometimes, even the ceremony that is supposed to be a means to produce a lineage of religious people is tainted by malice and abuse.
How many individuals have experienced even worse than the three real-life stories aforementioned? We cannot answer that. However, recently, a divorce bill has been proposed and has already passed the third congress hearing. Nonetheless, some senators note that it is the farthest it could get as even Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is against it.
Let us think of it this way: if we heard a call for help from disparaging and coerced unions and we dismissed that, can it really be a protection of Christian ceremony and its values? Wouldn’t that be tolerating unchristian acts?
Divorce Law in the Country
The country has Separation and Annulment Laws but no divorce law. When it first hit the news, a lot of individuals immediately protested as they say it would surely destroy marriages in the country and that it would be an opportunity for some to easily “switch spouses.” But here is what is worthy to note: considering a divorce law is not equivalent to renouncing Catholicism or Christianity given the right and considerable circumstances.
The proposed law postulates that it is in favor of women and children burdened by abusive relationships and that it will consider petitions for divorce only if a marriage falls under any of its specified circumstances.
It borrowed already existing grounds from Articles 55 and 45 of the Family Code and Annulment. Some of which consist of homosexuality, mental incapacity, contracted bigamous marriage either local or abroad, acquired sexually transmitted infections, separation of at least 5 years, abuse or threat to life, dissolution of marriage obtained by fraud, and marital problems beyond repair. Moreover, it is also suggested that if one party is coercing the other to file for divorce, it would be legally punished and penalized.
Given all this, couples filing for it have the burden of proof. Thus it would never be easily handed to them.
A Mindset of Disagreement
Whatever we do, we really cannot argue on a divorce’s legitimacy on the basis of religious customs but looking at it politically, we could find reasons to actually consider it.
First, it will save people trapped in abusive marriages. This does not only consider the gender of the victim but also looks into the welfare of children involved. Some experience battering and emotional distress to the point a life threat. Would we really force a victim to live with a captor? Would that be reasonable?
Second, some were married fraudulently. Date-rape drugs, forced pregnancy, and unions. Would this provide a decent life for the abused and their offspring? Should this be considered valid?
Third, there are parents whose partners have been separated from them for years without even supporting the children. Moreover, what if these missing partners are already living with someone else and are raising a lovechild together? What is the sense of only being married on paper?
Lastly, what if we accepted that the sanctity of marriage lies not only in the mindset but in the welfare of the people and the relationship between them that actually makes up the marriage? Thus, we are not supposed to protect the legality nor the name of the ceremony, rather, its “content.”
Divorce Law: What is a Christian Marriage Anyway?
With this in mind, we would need to clearly define what we can consider a “Christian” or a “decent” marriage. If we would want to be politically and morally correct, that is the type of marriages we should maintain. Further, saying that passing of a divorce law would destroy families in the Philippines is tantamount to saying that all unions in the country are miserable. Are they? If one law is not applicable to an individual, he simply wouldn’t subject himself to it. Given that this becomes law, happy couples who are contented and can reconcile in their marriage would never file for it.
Ultimately, if people look at divorce law as an opportunity to make marriage a trial-and-error ceremony to change spouses easily, then the problem is with a person’s mindset and not with the law.