“The sanctity of marriage is not based on the number of marriages existing but on the quality of marital relationships. When a marriage is no longer viable, divorce should be an option.” – GWP Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
Unhappy marriages where the parties have resorted to hurting and abusing each other should be allowed to end.
This was among the calls made by Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luz Ilagan as she made an appeal to the House of Representatives to seriously address the issues being raised in the proposals in House 1799 for the implementation of a divorce policy in the Philippines.
The Gabriela lawmaker once more brought up the issue in congress in the wake of reports that Malta’s recent referendum resulted to an affirmative vote to legalize divorce in the largely Catholic Mediterranean island. As a result of the referendum, Malta’s parliament is soon expected to pass a law to legalize divorce and the Philippines is left to be the only country in the world without a law on divorce. Almost three-quarters of Malata’s electorate voted last May 29, and 72 percent voted in favor of having divorce in the country.
Ilagan appealed to representatives to “not keep our country in the dark ages.” The Committee on Revision of Laws is set to tackle HB 1799 “An Act Introducing Divorce in the Philippines,” which Ilagan filed together with Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus. Ilagan said that the proposal is based upon the concrete experiences of married Filipinos and that it does not derive from divorce laws in other countries.
“I appeal to my colleagues in Congress to let the legislative mill run its course on the Divorce bill without further delay and give Filipino couples in irreparable and unhappy marriages this option. We cannot ignore the fact that existing laws just do not suffice. Getting an annulment can be very expensive while legal separation will not give estranged couples the right to remarry.”
Ilagan said that the proposed divorce bill elaborates on the need for a measure to address the commission of violence in marital relations. “Women in abusive marriages will definitely benefit from this legislation,’she said.
Official figures from the Philippine National Police (PNP) in 2009 showed that 19 women fall victim to marital violence every day. Among the forms of violence and abuse against women committed in 2009, wife battery ranked the highest at 6,783 or 72 percent of all cases.
Ilagan’s proposal aims to introduce divorce as another remedy to marriages on the brink of dissolution. Currently, the the Family Code provides three options, the declaration of nullity, annulment and legal separation. HB 1799 introduces another remedy, the remedy of divorce.
Divorce, Filipino style
The lawmaker said that the proposal is based upon the concrete experiences of married Filipinos. “These experiences were studied in their religious, socio-economic, political, cultural and legal settings, their lessons and insights were drawn and processed into the HB 1799 provisions,” she said.
Ilagan said that because the bill’s recommendations take off from the actual experiences of Filipinos, especially of Filipino women, proves that the proposal was not”plucked from thin air” and that it was animated by the collective experience of married Filipinos desperately searching for real solutions to to failed marriages.
“The country’s legal system has been unable to respond to the reality of failed and broken unions and marriages. This bill is uniquely Filipino. It is not modeled after divorce systems of other countries. And, most importantly, it is sensitive to the rich and diverse cultural – including moral and religious – environment of our country,” she said.
Ilagan said that she and other proponents prefer to call the proposal that seeks to introduce as “divorce-Filipino style.”
HB 1799 proposes that divorce should be granted petitioners (1) who have been separated de facto from their spouse for at least five years and reconciliation is highly improbable; (2)who have been legally separated from their spouse for at least two years and reconciliation is improbable; (3) when any of the grounds for legal separation under paragraph (a) of Article 55 of the Family Code has caused the irreparable breakdown of the marriage; (4) when one or both spouses are psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations; and (5) when the spouses suffer from irreconcilable differences that have caused irreparable breakdown of the marriage.
Ilagan said that common and basic to all the grounds for divorce under the bill is that the marriage has already reached the “point of no repair.” She explained that the proposed measure also has provisions against possible abuses in resorting to divorce and that it has safeguards so it may not be used to destroy marriage and family as social institutions. These safeguards, she said, are the same with the safeguards for legal separation as can be found in Articles 56, 58 to 61 of the proposal.
“HB 1799 provides for equity between the spouses in divorce. It provides that the assets shall be equally divided between the spouses in order to provide for the well-being of each spouse and the children. It dissolves, in effect, the absolute community or conjugal partnership of gains since this property regime is inconsistent with divorce,” she said.
In the meantime, the proposal also leaves to the courts the duty to decide regarding the issue of custody of minor children based on their best interest and with provisions for their support. It states that in proper cases, the aggrieved party can claim damages in accordance with the Civil Code provisions on damages. It also provides that the parties will be disqualified from inheriting from each other by intestate succession and that any donation made by the innocent spouse in favour of the offending spouse may be revoked.
The proposal also takes into consideration the matter of divorce obtained in foreign jurisdictions. It said that these will be considered valid in the Philippines as long as the divorce is grounded on the circumstances enumerated in Article 55 (B) of the proposal.
“The sanctity of marriage is not based on the number of marriages existing but on the quality of marital relationships. When a marriage is no longer viable, divorce should be an option,” said Ilagan.