It often comes up on general trivia that as of this day and age, only two countries in the whole world do not allow divorce – the dissolution of marriage – and actively rail against any attempt at legislation in support of it. These nations are the Vatican City, center of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Republic of the Philippines in Asia, formerly a colony of Catholic Spain for over 300 years. Even in the face of social upheavals, Filipino lawmakers cannot seem to bring up the issue of a divorce bill without the vigilant Church torpedoing it eventually; until now.
According to Inquirer.NET, this Wednesday the House of Representatives dropped a bombshell in Congress when, in the face of conservative and religious opposition, they managed to pass the Absolute Divorce Act of 2018 in the second reading. In a tense vocal vote, the House chamber resounded with more “ayes” than “nays” for the bill, which would provide for (the always hotly-contested notion of) legally binding absolute divorce in case of a permanently ruined marriage. This has been the Holy Grail of unhappy Filipino married couples, to be able to completely separate from one another and have the right to remarry.
In the absence of divorce, the only recourses available for husband and wife in a destructive union were to file for either legal separation or annulment. The former only mandates separate homes for both halves of the marriage without dissolving the bond; the latter purportedly proves that the marriage was invalid from the start. Both options were time-consuming in court and prohibitively costly. Under the Absolute Divorce act, the dissolution process will be made as affordable as possible, that even impoverished couples may avail of it. But bill sponsor Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay also put conditions to prevent misuse.
First, when an absolute divorce petition is filed by a disgruntled couple, the court will not act on it until the end of a 6-month mandatory “cool-off” period wherein all efforts to effect reconciliation will be taken. Furthermore, any filing for divorce discovered to be done under coercion will result in the spouse responsible being fined P200000 plus a 5-month imprisonment. In this way, Lagman, explains, the Philippine State shall equally protect and preserve the sanctity of marriage, and protect spouses from irreconcilable unions to be freed by absolute divorce.
As expected, opposition groups led by the Catholic Church have risen in uproar over the legislator action. The CBCP insists that the very existence of divorce makes it a “soft choice” that encourages couples to separate over the most inconsequential marital problems. But an SWS survey notes that as of March 10, about half of all Filipinos now favor divorce.
Photo courtesy of PTVNews