Lawmakers on Thursday asked members of the House of Representatives to allow the husband and the wife to correct their “error” by legalizing divorce in the Philippines.
Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon D. Alvarez appealed to his fellow lawmakers during the first hearing of the House Committee on Population and Family Relations on the proposed legalization of divorce in the Philippines.
“To be with someone whom we will love and care for, in sickness and in health, till death do us part, is wonderful. Marriage is beautiful. But only for those who get it right. And for those who do get it right, congratulations!” said Alvarez.
Alvarez, however, said reality shows a different picture for most people and many get marriage wrong.
“And, as a mistake, and with the ‘options’ to sever marriage as time-consuming, adversarial, and very expensive, the effect is to forcibly chain together those who should be allowed to distance and part ways in peace,” he said.
“For this situation, a toxic marriage, like an exploding star pulled back and collapsing unto itself, becomes a blackhole where nothing, not even the light of hope and love, can survive or escape,” said Alvarez.
The lawmaker said they find out about marital abuse, alcoholism, addiction to harmful drugs, gambling, depression, reckless behavior, and neglect for each other and of the children.
“This happens, not necessarily because the husband and the wife were inherently bad people. Often, that is not the case. But the situation they are stuck in eventually turns them that way,” he said.
“Unfortunately, compatibility is not something easy and best discovered at the start of a relationship. This is why many marriages are mistakes. The spouses initially thought they were compatible, and then they later find out they were not. And there is no realistic and non-adversarial remedy available in our jurisdiction,” Alvarez added.
With this, he said the husband and the wife should be allowed to correct that error.
“And when allowed, studies show that those who are in their subsequent marriage are as happy, if not happier, compared to their previous unions. They have learned the lessons, they know who they are, what they want, and what they can offer, and they apply it to their next relationship,” he said.
Allowing for the dissolution of marriage, through divorce, and including grounds that do not require the husband and the wife to further squabble and wash their dirty laundry in public, so to speak, is the best way forward, said Alvarez.
Alvarez is pushing for the passage of House Bill 4998 or “An Act Instituting Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage in the Philippines.”
In House Bill 78, Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman underscored that there are only two sovereign states in the world where divorce is illegal—the Philippines and the Vatican City.
“All countries worldwide have their statutes on absolute divorce in varying degrees of liberality, including all of the Catholic countries except the Vatican City State which has a population of only about 800 residents, mostly priests and nuns. The Philippines is now the only country, which has not legalized absolute divorce. Considering that divorce is worldwide, there can be no blunder in unanimity for its global legalization,” he said.
“Absolute divorce is not for everybody. The overwhelming majority of Filipino married couples have happy and enduring relationships. They do not need a divorce law,” he cited.
Lagman said that the bill reinstituting absolute divorce is an apt sequel to the Reproductive Health Act, which he also authored, since in both measures the central figure is the woman.
The bill reinstates absolute divorce because it was previously practiced by pre-Spanish Filipinos, and also during the American era and Japanese occupation.
Under the proposed law, a divorce petition will undergo a judicial process where proof of the cause for the divorce is established and that the marriage has completely collapsed without any possibility of reconciliation.
The bill said quickie, notarial, email and other speedy drive-thru divorces are prohibited.
The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) Senior Gender and Development Specialist Armando Orcilla expressed support for the passage of the divorce bill.
“We fully support these bills filed to free married couples from the tedious process of annulment, be it in a form of divorce or dissolution of marriage,” Orcilla said.
Orcilla also urged lawmakers to simplify and reduce the cost of the divorce procedure, especially for the indigents.