In the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country, divorce is a dirty word--dreadful, deplorable, and notably, disallowed.
But this week, talks about the topic surfaced as Gabriela Party-list Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan announced the upcoming House discussions regarding House Bill (HB) 1779, also known as the Divorce Bill of the Philippines. The announcement was made shortly after Malta, another Catholic country by majority, voted for the legalization of divorce; hence, making the Philippines the only country in the world left without divorce.
While some seem to have formed strong opinions for or against the Bill, it is understood that there are still those who would like to learn more before stating their views. So with the purpose of helping people make informed opinions, this post has been made albeit, quite hastily, so we can freely talk about the D-word...
Divorce is legally defined as:
The dissolution of a marriage contracted between a man and a woman, by the judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction, or (Obs.) by an act of the legislature. (LectLaw.com)
Sounds simple, isn't it?
However, if we put said definition side by side with annulment and "declaration of nullity of marriage," the only two remedies for dissoluble marriages provided by the Family Code of the Philippines, this is when things get a little bit complicated.
By definition, annulment is:
A legal decree that states that a marriage was never valid. Has the legal effect of wiping out a marriage as though it never existed. (LectLaw.com)
Jaromay Laurente Pamaos adds that "[i]n essence, “annulment” applies to a marriage that is considered valid, but there are grounds to nullify it."
On the other hand, the firm says that "[a] “declaration of nullity” of marriage... applies to marriages that are void or invalid from the very beginning."
Legal separation, though allowed in the country, does not dissolve marriages as the spouses only agree to live apart. They are still considered married to each other, and, therefore, cannot remarry.
Early this year, Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares found himself in the midst of discussions as well when he released HB 3952, which seeks to make annulment more accessible to the poor--particularly to marginalized women who are often vulnerable to domestic violence.
At that time, I got acquainted with a young woman from a newly-annulled marriage who confirmed the exorbitant financial, emotional, and opportunity costs of going through an annulment. As for the reason(s), I have yet to know.
So I ran a quick survey among my Facebook contacts to learn about their thoughts on said bill. Surprisingly, divorce found its way into the discussions with most respondents favoring it over annulment.
Andi, an Ateneo batchmate, and staunch RH Bill advocate, brought in the topic of divorce in the discussion with this comment:
Annulment is expensive and takes years upon years (which in itself results in more expenses). also dahil at least one of the spouses MUST be at fault, naglalabasan lahat ng baho ng pamilya. I personally would applaud if we came out with something like no-fault divorce--irreconcilable differences lang. But yeah, like that's going to happen anytime soon. ;p
Eliza Bautista, a London-based Pinay, also added some thoughts to the discussion:
Annulment serves to declare a marriage null and void on the premise that it is one in the first place. My beef is that it is being used in lieu of divorce. As a result it defeats its purpose na. Couples are colluding (when they're not supposed to) to say that one party is "psychologically incapacitated" (which is i would bet my life, the reason most cited by couples) to get their marriages annuled. Now to add domestic violence, abandonment, is just hypocrisy. That's what a divorce is.
All I want is for people to be afforded a choice and whlst we're at it, let's do it in the most efficient and economical way possible that will be easily accessed by all levels of society.
Lastly, Master of Development Communication student, regular World of Womanity visitor, and a fellow blogger, Arnold Pasamba, took a more personal view regarding the matter:
I think, how I understand it is that, divorce is about stopping; while annulment, reversing.
When a man divorces his wife, he's stopping his commitment to her. If he wants annulment, he's like declaring that their marriage has never happened as if reversing the time.
Perhaps divorce is about stopping the present; annulment is about declaring that the past never actually happened.
Maybe, divorce is about DELETING; annulment is about UNDOing.
Perhaps, divorce is about accepting there's a dilemma that's impossible to solve; while, annulment is denying it . . . pretending that it never happened.
If that's the case, I would rather choose to stop the marriage (by divorce), than declare that it never happened (annulment).
I would rather face the problem than pretend it didn't exist.
Pres. Noynoy Aquino took a different stand on the issue by categorically stating that divorce is a no-no and that he prefers legal separation over it.
“Definitely I cannot support something like what they are doing in Las Vegas, where you get married in the morning and you’ll get divorced in the afternoon,” he said. (PhilStar.com)
DAWN OF THE DOOM
Those opposing divorce claim that legalizing this would actually be detrimental to families, which the State considers the most important unit of the society. They claim that people will most likely stop valuing marriage given that marital problems can be easily resolved by divorce.
On the other hand, those who are for divorce claim that the contrary will happen: divorce will, in fact, make Filipinos more careful about entering marriages. Additionally, it will protect the well-being of many women given that 72 percent of violence committed against women in 2009 were wife battering.
* * *
Is there really an element of hypocrisy in a society that considers divorce a dirty word yet, tolerates annulment among husbands and wives with smiling wedding portraits and kids in tow? Or are we just a part of an insecure nation which lives on comparing notes and keeping tabs with other countries?
At this point, I believe that the Family Code of the Philippines needs major gender mainstreaming with its many outdated and unfair provisions--mostly, patronizing the males over females. (See Sec. 4 Art. 96 and Sec. 5 Art, 124)
Click here to read the preliminary text of the proposed Divorce Bill.
For supplementary reading, view La Union 1st District Rep. Manuel Ortega's HB 6993.
Also read World of Womanity's A Prelude to the End.
Permissions were sought from quoted Facebook friends.
Anti-divorce comments are most welcome and, upon the blogger's discretion and with the commenter's permission, may be included in the updated version of this post.