A controversial bill to legalize divorces in the Philippines has stirred controversy among congress members in the archipelago.
The bill, House Bill No. 1799, also known as “An Act Introducing Divorce in the Philippines” was filed by Congresswomen Luzviminda Ilagan and Emerenciana De Jesus on July 27. Both congresswomen are members of the political party group Gabriela Women’s Party, which focuses on advancing women’s rights in the Philippines.
Currently, it is illegal to obtain a divorce in the Philippines. An annulment or legal separation is recognized by the government, according to the Family Code, executive order number 209, signed July 26, 1987.
“Reality tells us that there are many failed, unhappy marriages across all Filipino classes,” wrote the two congresswomen in HB 1799’s explanatory note.
“In the Filipino culture, marriage is regarded as a sacred union, and the family founded on marriage is considered as a fount of love, protection and care. Philippine society generally frowns upon and discourages marital break-ups and so provides cultural and legal safeguards to preserve marital relations. Cultural prescriptions and religious norms keep many couples together despite the breakdown of the marriage,” the bill added.
Walden Bello, a member of the House of Representatives, publicly supports the proposed divorce bill. “Let’s join the 20th century,” said Bello.
The Philippines is predominantly Roman Catholic, where marriage is highly revered and divorce is not an option. Congressman Ben Evardone has publicly opposed the bill. “We must continue to work for the preservation of the sanctity of marriage and the family,” said Evardone. “Legalizing divorce might encourage or promote destruction of families.”
“With the predominance of the Catholic faith in the Philippines, the fear that divorce will erode personal values on marriage appears unfounded,” stated congresswomen Ilagan and De Jesus.
“This bill is being introduced based on indications that Philippine society is ready for the legalization of divorce. The sanctity of marriage is not based on the number of marriages existing but on the quality of marital relationships,” they added.
According to the Family Code, a marriage may be annulled for various reasons, such as if a bride or groom was married without the consent of their parents and is under 21 years old. Other factors include that the marriage was forced and not voluntary or if either spouse had an “incurable” sexual transmitted disease.
A legal separation may be granted if there was physical abuse in the relationship, drug or alcohol abuse, homosexuality or infidelity among other factors, according to the Family Code.
GMA News, August 11, 2010
House Bill No. 1799 (full text)