It can be said that the influence of over three centuries of Catholic Spanish colonial rule over the Philippines gave most of its people a specific set of morals and ethics rooted in that faith, one of them being the sanctity of marriage. That meant traditional Filipino culture backed by law frowns on the concept of divorce, allowing only legal separation for troubled couples without remarriage, or annulment in “proving” that no lawful marriage actually took place. Now the Philippines and the Vatican stand as the last two nation-states of the world that illegalizes divorce. Divorce bills introduced in legislation typically get shredded eventually, except possibly for this latest one.
CNN Philippines reports that an unnumbered substitute House Bill for the legalization of absolute divorce in the country has been approved at the House of Representatives this past Tuesday, August 17. The approval comes from the House Committee on Population and Family Relations, following the definition wherein grounds for legal separation, marriage annulment and nullification are added as grounds for absolute divorce along with a few new ones. The bill was written up by Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, who pointed out the futility of the Philippines in ignoring nearly all countries allowing absolute divorce.
In his sponsorship speech Lagman notes, “It is hard to believe that all the other countries collectively erred in instituting absolute divorce in varying degrees of liberality and limitations,” referring to the determined local conservative opposition to divorce. A manifestation speech by Gabriela Party-List Rep. Arlene Brosas again emphasized how having absolute divorce will give a legal and affordable option for wives to save themselves from a toxically abusive marriage. The absolute divorce bill has been struggling to move forward in the legislature for years now, with its last notable progress being back in 2018.
The new grounds for divorce highlighted in the substitute bill that was approved on Tueday are as follows: legal and factual separation between spouses for at least 5 years at the time of filing for divorce; gender reassignment surgery or transition from one sex to another for one spouse; valid foreign-country divorce as secured by either the alien of Filipino spouse; and marriage nullification as granted by recognized religious tribunals. The original causes for legal separation and annulment as defined in the Family Code of the Philippines have already been added as acceptable causes for absolute divorce in the bill.
Image courtesy of Philippine Star