Dissent swells even before Alvarez could file divorce bill

July 11, 2017 - 5:59 PM
Pantaleon Alvarez
File photo of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez

MANILA, Philippines – Resistance to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s advocacy for legalized dissolution of failed marriages has been raised even before it can be filed.

Alvarez had recently hinted that he would file a bill for the dissolution of marriages to spare couples from being trapped in loveless unions.

He said this would be one of his advocacies when the second regular session of the 17th Congress opens on July 24.

This early, Buhay partylist Representative Lito Atienza has begun raising a howl.

“The proposal effectively destroys the institution of marriage in the country. This destroys the sanctity, respect and value of the family. I don’t know of any other country in the world that has adopted this kind of law, which makes it easy to dissolve a marriage upon agreement,” he said.

He added, “Kapag ayaw na ng mag-asawa sa isa’t isa, pwede na maghiwalay agad … Para bang mag-usap na lang kayo, pag ayaw na, hiwalay na. Papaano naman yung kontratang pinirmahan na ang testigo ay ang Panginoong Hesukristo (If they no longer see it working, acouple just agrees they would go their separate ways? What about the contract they firmed up, with Jesus Christ as witness?”

Atienza said the “genuine essence of marriage” is totally discarded in the bill with the idea to make it easy for a couple to separate.

Atienza also said he was confident this bill would not be acceptable to a great number of his colleagues in Congress who still believe in the sanctity of marriage.

“I hope and pray that Speaker Alvarez doesn’t pursue this line of thinking, which would not strengthen marriage. This would destroy marriage. For Catholics, this is a contract of union before man and before God under the Sacrament of Marriage. I still hope that he was only joking when he said that,” he said.

Last year, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman filed House Bill No. 116 seeking to institutionalize absolute divorce in the country.

“While most marriages are supposed to be solemnized in heaven, the reality is many marriages plummet into hell – in irremediable breakdown, spousal abuse, marital infidelity and psychological incapacity, among others, which bedevil marriages,” Lagman, principal author of the Reproductive Health law, said in his bill.

The Philippines is the only country in the world today that has no law on absolute divorce, after Malta recommended, by referendum, the approval of its own divorce law on 28 May 2011.

The grounds for legal separation and annulment of marriage, as provided for in the Family Code, have been adopted among the grounds for absolute divorce.

The existing grounds for legal separation are marital abuse, sexual infidelity, attempt against the life of the other, abandonment, de facto separation, conviction for a crime when the sentence is more than six years, contracting a subsequent bigamous marriage, drug addiction or habitual alcoholism, and lesbianism or homosexuality.

For annulment of marriage the current grounds are lack of parental consent, vitiated consent, impotency, insanity and affliction of sexually transmissible disease.

Psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the Family Code is included as another ground for absolute divorce.

Four (4) additional grounds for absolute divorce are provided for in House Bill 116, namely, when either of the spouses secures (a) a valid foreign divorce, (b) canonical divorce, and (c) gender reassignment surgery, as well as (d) when irreconcilable differences or conflicts exist between the married couple which are beyond redemption despite earnest and repeated efforts at reconciliation.

Gabriela partylist Reps. Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas have also filed House Bill 2380 last year for legalization of divorce Philippine-style.

The proposal provides for divorce to be granted if at least one of the following conditions are met:

The petitioner has been separated de facto from his or her spouse for at least five years at the time of the filing of the petition and reconciliation is highly improbable

The petitioner has been legally separated from the spouse for at least two years at the time of the filing and reconciliation is highly improbable

When any of the grounds for legal separation has caused the irreparable breakdown of the marriage

When one or both spouses are psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations

When the spouses suffer from irreconcilable differences that have caused the irreparable breakdown of the marriage.