A bill to legalize divorce has just been given the green light for consideration by the Philippine legislature. Apart from the Holy See, the archipelago is the last country where divorce is still prohibited by law.
On August 17, 2021, the Family Commission decided to put the Divorce Bill on the agenda of the House of Representatives, the lower house of the Philippine legislature.
For Edcel Langman, progressive representative and leader of the opposition in Congress, said the bill seeks to reinstate absolute divorce because it was already practiced during the pre-Spanish (and therefore pre-Catholic) times, the American colonial period, and during the Japanese occupation.
“Today is a momentous occasion for countless wives, who are battered and deserted, to regain their humanity, self-respect and freedom from irredeemably failed marriages and utterly dysfunctional unions,” said the representative, who is also fighting for women's access to contraception. and early abortion.
The project provides for divorce in six cases:
– separation in fact for at least five years at the time the petition for absolute divorce is filed;
– when one of the spouses undergoes a gender reassignment surgery or transitions from one sex to another;
– irreconcilable marital differences as defined in the bill;
– domestic or marital abuse;
– valid foreign divorce secured by either the alien or Filipino spouse; and;
– a marriage nullified by a recognized religious tribunal.
Representative of the list of parties of the citizen battle against corruption (CIBAC) and vice-president of the House, the conservative Eddie Villanueva, for his part expressed his dismay at a project which, if it is approved, would be “catastrophic for families.”
Two Opposing Views of the World
Edcel Langman used force in numbers to justify the bill: “It is hard to believe that all the other countries collectively erred in instituting absolute divorce in varying degrees of liberality and limitations. An en masse blunder is beyond comprehension. An erroneous unanimity on such a crucial familial institution defies reason and experience. Obviously, the rest of the world cannot be mistaken on the universality of absolute divorce,” he said.
The reason is not without interest: a universal opinion carries a certain weight and can hardly be contradicted. But first it should be noted that “all countries” is not equal to “all men,” which significantly lessens the force of the argument.
Moreover, in the moral order, it is not impossible to detect errors which were very widespread in certain periods: the right of life or death of the father over his own child was almost universal in Antiquity. Abortion echoes that today.
Finally, since divorce was widely rejected a few centuries ago, the argument turns against its author.
For Mr. Villanueva on the other hand: “any law that minimizes the inviolability and the status of the family as a social institution is inherently unconstitutional and contrary to the deeply rooted Filipino value of preservation and the fight for marriage,” he declared.
He added that while he understands that some marriages are in disarray, he remains convinced that divorce will never be a solution. “The legal remedies available such as legal separation, annulment or declaration of nullity of the marriage are sufficient to remedy this.”
“The most urgent political action right now is not the Divorce Bill, but the government simply needs to make existing remedies more accessible, especially to the poor, by making the process less expensive and resolving the cases faster,” he added.
Now the divorce legalization project is in the hands of the House of Representatives, which will have to examine it in the coming months.
Although the influence of Catholicism remains considerable in the Philippines, secularization is gaining ground, and moreover, the ruling coalition is far from carrying the Church in its heart: it is therefore not certain that the archipelago will remain for long the last state - along with the Vatican - to prohibit divorce.