“It is high time that the state gives women, and men, in abusive and irreparable marriages the option to file for divorce.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — For the fifth time, the Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) filed House Bill 2380, which seeks to legalize divorce in the Philippines.
The first divorce bill was filed by the GWP in 2010 during the 13th Congress. But the male-dominated Congress had not let the bill reach even the committee level.
GWP Representatives Emmi De Jesus and Arlene Brosas who filed the bill on Aug. 3, maintained that the bill is long overdue. “It is high time that the state gives women, and men, in abusive and irreparable marriages the option to file for divorce. We hope that this time, both Houses of Congress will finally approve the divorce bill,” they said in a statement.
As they filed the bill, the GWP legislators were joined by pro-divorce advocates and lobbyists from the Divorce Advocates of the Philippines (DAP) and Association for Divorce and Women Empowerment (ADWE).
Contrary to claims that a divorce law would be abused by couples who will enter into shallow and brief marriages, the legislators there are conditions stated in the proposed law before a divorce is granted.
These conditions are as follows:
– 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.
GWP pointed out that the divorce bill “takes into consideration the rudiments of Filipino culture and the general sentiment of preserving the sanctity of Filipino marriages.”
De Jesus also said that a marriage is sacred as long as there is no violence and abuse, and if there is respect and love between the couple.
“The state’s promotion of the sanctity of marriage in accordance with the Constitution is not gauged by the number of people who gets married in the country, or by the length of years they stay in the relationship,” De Jesus added.
The bill’s explanatory note said 14 percent of married women experience physical violence, while 23 percent experience emotional violence. The Philippine National Police records also showed increasing incidence of violence against women from 2004 to 2012, with 21 percent of cases with physical injuries.
Brosas said that surveys conducted affirm the need for a divorce bill. She said three of every five Filipinos, or at least 60 percent, are in favor of the legislation of divorce. “This shows not just the public pulse, but the de facto need for the option of divorce to be given,” she said.
She also said that “divorce is also not an entirely new concept in the Philippines since this has been a remedy given for couples in irreparable marriages even during the American period.”
HB 2380 also noted that divorce was practiced in the beginning of the 16th Century, before the Spanish colonial rule, by ancestral tribes, such as the Tagbanwas of Palawan, the Gadang of Nueva Vizcaya, the Sagadas and Igorots of the Cordilleras and the Manobos, Blaans and Moslems of the Visayas and the Mindanao islands.
It was only when the New Civil Code took effect on Aug. 30, 1950 that divorce was disallowed under Philippine law and legal separation was the only available option.
“Given the country’s history, the bill seeks to restore divorce as a rights-based option for majority of Filipinos, an option based on the recognition that the right to enter into a marriage contract has the corresponding spousal right to end such contract when it has reached the point of irreparability,” the HB 2380 read.