Congress recently approved a bill last February 22 that would allow divorce in the Philippines. This was initially passed at the committee level and has yet to hurdle the plenary session where it would be further reviewed and debated. This is the first step in making it the law of the land.
Divorce has been a very sensitive issue in the Philippines. It is the only country (apart from Vatican City) that does not allow it which comes as no surprise because it is a predominantly Catholic country. However, with recent developments that saw other Catholic countries permitting divorce, this has given advocates more ammunition to push for legislation.
As expected, conservatives led by the Catholic Church has been against divorce. They have asserted the sanctity of marriage and that “whatever God brought together, no man can break it apart.” In addition, there is the trauma it can bring upon the children, especially if they are at a very young age. They have been taught love and they find it difficult to reconcile that notion when their parents are separating.
Furthermore, conservatives think divorce will not be invoked judiciously. Anyone can separate from their partners anytime they feel like doing do at the slightest inconvenience without any regard to the welfare of their children. In other words, divorce encourages selfishness. Legal separation is a compromise they are willing to accept over divorce because the latter entails total and absolute dissolution. However, the process is costly. The typical expense would run up to 250,000 Php.
Divorce advocates beg to differ. They want practical solutions, not unrealistic if not foolish ones. Compared to legal separation, thee process is simpler. Under this proposed bill, divorce may be granted on the following grounds: abuse, infidelity, psychological incapacity, and irreconcilable differences. Also included as basis for divorce is ”gender reassignment surgery” which may lead to marital conflict and thus given consideration.
As a concession to conservatives, the bill allows for a 6-month “cooling period” to give couples a chance to reconcile. If it is no longer possible, divorce proceedings can begin. This is automatically waived in cases that involve violence against women and children.
If it is any indication, the divorce bill wants to protect individuals, saving them from marriages that have become toxic bordering on dangerous rather than requiring couples to stay together at the risk of someone losing their lives. The bill seeks to save couples from marriages that were never meant to be in the first place.
Based on studies conducted, not all marriages were done for the right reasons (not for love). There are those who treat marriages like business transactions, to strengthen business ties, gain more power or escape poverty. They are done more to please parents and not for their personal happiness. In the long run, conflict would manifest itself to the point couples will want out because they are no longer happy being in the company of one another due to the above-mentioned reasons.
Some even question if the Church has carefully screened couples who want to get married to determine if they are fit for each other, notwithstanding the doctrines.
While it is true divorce will break up families, safety and security is the chief reason why couples want divorce. They feel they are no longer getting anything from the existing marriage in the emotional aspect. Material solutions are not helping. They want to rebuild their lives without fear of oppression from their spouse which is why they want to be separated in the first place.