Since August of 2010, HB No. 1799, “An Act Introducing Divorce in the Philippines” has been sitting on the shelf. House speaker Feliciano Belmonte, who supports the bill, says now that the RH (Reproductive Health) bill has been approved by both chambers, a new focus has been shifted to the topic of the validity of Divorce in the Philippines.
According to Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, one of the Bill’s authors, the Office of the Solicitor General receives approximately 800 cases of legal separation or annulment every month. In 2010 there were 8,282 cases recorded. Legal separation and annulment of marriage are the only two ways to legal remedies to a marriage gone bad.
Divorce is not recognized in the Philippines and is one of two countries in the world that does not have a divorce law and therefore no recognition of divorce. The other country is the Vatican (surprise!). HB 1799 appears as though it could be a reasonable approach to divorce in the Philippines and would in no way take any resemblance to the liberal divorce laws of western society. As in most countries, some marriages are programmed for failure from the beginning, and a serious look at this bill (and subsequent passage) may alleviate many serious issues of sufferance in marriage that include psychological or physical abuses. This will be a highly contested and divisive piece of legislation for the Philippines, and a real cultural challenge going forward.
I believe that the strong family culture of the Philippines is a direct result of the Catholic Church’s strong influence and support in the institution of marriage and admonition as applied to divorce. Raised a catholic myself, I understand the virtues of the sacrament of marriage and am respectful of the institution of marriage. I also support the strength of family values and promote family togetherness for the benefit of everyone involved. However the Philippine legislature decides, I believe the institution of marriage should not be watered down with lax divorce laws, but any new law should bench-marked, not only to strengthen the institution, but to encourage marital successes. While the family culture remains strong in the Philippines, in no way should a one-size-fits-all divorce measure be adopted.
While I believe strongly in the institution of marriage, I also believe that people can make mistakes, and divorce on a case-by-case basis can be a good thing for society in general. Divorce, if legalized in the Philippines, could eliminate many problems associated with a union gone bad, from stress and health issues, to the exorbitant costs to a family both in the mental and financial areas. A good law could also alleviate the lengthy and costly separation and annulment process that clogs the already burdened court system. Looking forward though, there is another downside….the increased number of cases pertaining to collection of alimony and child support. Just another example of how the enactment of one law, while it fixes one problem, also creates many more. Now that would be a new dilemma for the Philippines!
Just think, in the future Boracay could become the Vegas styled destination of the Philippines! Good for business, bad for culture.