Philippines: Debate on Divorce Bill

Just before the intense debate on the Reproductive Health bill, Filipinos are once more at odds with each other in considering another controversial piece of legislation: the Divorce bill.

The debate on legalizing divorce took a kick-start when news of Maltese referendum favoring divorce reached the Philippines a few days ago. This has prompted progressive groups to make a bolder call for the country to follow in Malta's steps and legalize divorce in a predominantly Catholic nation.

The debate on divorce is nothing new, see here AttyatWork's round-up of talking points on the issue from last year.

Filipino Thinkers has a great digest of how the debate was settled and how the referendum unfolded in Malta. More importantly, it provides a side by side comparison of the issue between the Philippines and Malta:

Aside from the happy ending, which left the Philippines the only country without divorce1, the story of Malta’s divorce referendum shares similarities with our own reproductive health (RH) debates:

both countries are last bastions of Catholicism: Malta in Europe, the Philippines in Asia; both countries are predominantly Catholic: 95% in Malta, 80% in the Philippines; and both battles are primarily between progressive Catholics and conservative bishops. And in both cases, the conservative bishops use fear mongering to keep their flock in line.

For a quick refresher on the differences between divorce, annulment and legal separation, Lyle R. Santos has a quick guide in layman's terms.

With Malta's approval of divorce, the Philippines is now the lone country in the world that prohibits it. For Blue Dela Kanluran, the debate on divorce should not be framed on this fact alone:

As i had stated earlier my stand is against divorce however, I will not begrudge a sovereign nation of their right to decide whats best for their country and themselves as Malta has displayed here. (See, that is an example of the separation of Church and State).

Which leads me to wonder, what effects will the stigma of the only country which outlaws divorce have on the Philippines?

Personally, I think this will make pro-divorce legislation in the future more difficult not only because of the meddling of the Church but with the stigma earlier stated as well (Which is not how legislation should be argued).

Cocoy views the near-approval of the Reproductive Health and now the Divorce bill as a ‘reboot‘ of the Philippines, moving from a predominantly religious state in a secular one:

If the Reproductive Health bill becomes law, and it is followed by a divorce bill? That would be one continuity reboot for the Philippines. It signals that the nation is slowly becoming secular and less under the thrall of the Vatican.

As a Catholic, for me, it presents an opportunity for the Church to focus on the spiritual. I want sermons and direction that make me a better person. I don’t need the Church to tell me what is wrong with government. Filipinos everywhere already know what’s wrong with our nation. It is that time in history that we fix it. I need my church to help guide that poor maid who is always beaten up by her husband. I need a Church that guides street children away from the streets, and into education. I need this church to be relevant.

Dreamwalker takes delight in the fact that this proposed laws, no matter how dividing and controversial, sparks debate among society, thus encouraging everyone to take part in the national discourse:

I continue to be amazed by how Filipinos seem to be more aware of what is happening in the country and how we seek to be more informed about our laws – both proposed and existing. In my opinion, this can only lead to more good. Never mind that there will always b

Maju brings forward a valid point in cautioning that our lawmakers should take up the divorce law with a keener eye:

We should also get onto considerations on how good or bad are existing divorce laws. In many countries, notably those under the Sharia, the rights of women and men in divorce are not the same.

Lastly, here's a good discussion by a lawyer, Connie Veneracion, about annulment, legal separation under current Philippine laws and how divorce could plug the holes in the current Family Code:

Later on, however, it became clear that despite the leeway allowed by the concept of psychological incapacity, there was a huge gaping hole in the law. Annulment is a very expensive legal procedure beyond the financial capacity of majority of the Filipinos. The laundrywoman living in the slums who is physically abused by the drunken jobless husband could not afford it. In addition to the expense, the process was a long and tedious one. Eventually, the divorce advocates started making noise again. As expected, the Catholic church is getting more imaginative in coming up with arguments against divorce.

It is sad that most Filipinos cannot view marriage independently from its religious context. It is even more sad that most Filipinos do not consider themselves validly married unless married in church. Very sad indeed.

So, will the passage of a divorce law patch the loopholes in the Family Code? It depends on what the law will allow as valid grounds for divorce and what the required procedure will be. It has happened before that a law is passed as some sort of pacifier. Congress can pass a “divorce” law which such narrow grounds and complex process that it will effectively negate the very purpose of a divorce. You know, just so it can be said that a divorce law has been passed. I doubt if that will satisfy the progressives and the divorce advocates.

Thumbnail used is from Flickr page of jekert gwapo used under CC License Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)


  • rose01

    we should pass the divorce law so when marriage failed we have other option and freedom to choose the right one for us, ,we are just human who does mistakes sometimes and we have the right to be happy not to suffer for the marriage you are not happy anymore.

    • ji

      so weak?! you will not learn from your mistake…you will not growing up..because you are not being punished by your decision..

    • kikoy

      then if this bill will be passed what will happen? if the marriage you will remarry? and if the same thing will happen you divorce again and remarry? is that what we want to the philippines? it is violation to the family code which states that marriage is the foundation of the family and an inviolable social institution.

  • joy

    Yes, we are human who KNOWS what is right and what is wrong. Marriage is not always a bed of roses, and you know it before you walked on the aisle. You both promised in front of the altar that you will be together for richer and for for poorer. So both of you are obliged to do your responsibility. You cannot consider marriage as successful when they do not undergo problems. These are what makes your relationship to be stronger.and you know the most painful thing for a child is to see their mommy/ daddy spending time with other children rather than you.Now i recommend you to watch Fireproof, for you to understand what marriage is.

    • Darren

      God said to Moses, “Give them a writing of divorcement, because of the hardness of their hearts”. Divorce is good in certain circumstances. #1 is adultery! I’m assuming that everyone knows what adultery is. Adultery is one of the ten commandments of almighty God! “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. If there is sexual infidelity within the said marriage, then that is a legitimate ground for divorce in Gods eye’s. He didn’t say that He liked divorce, but it’s necessary when the vows made are broken, and hearts are hardened. There is no “Sanctity” after the sexual infidelity line has been crossed! The innocence a marriage once had can never be regained. Things will never be as they once were after that. A writing of divorce is absolutely approved by God in the event of such.

    • Steve

      Joy – you did well in describing your beliefs about the commitment of marriage. But you failed to provide a solution to a common theme in marriage. That is, what happens when one of the partners in the marriage decides he or she doesn’t care about the commitment anymore? For instance, what if the husband decides he happier when he’s drinking and pusuing numerous “partners”? Then, when the wife protests, the husband, because of his constant drunkeness, beats her constantly? Is this an acceptable situation in your mind? Should that woman suffer for the rest of her life? And by the way, the most painful thing for a child is “NOT” seeing their Mommy/Daddy spending time with other children! The most painful thing a child can endure is seeing their mother get beat everynight, or suffer the pains of starvation because their Daddy has failed to be the provider he promised he would be. Wake up and join the 21st Century. Is EVERY other country in the world wrong? I don’t think so! Save those who have lived a miserable life in total desperation by the failure of their marriage and let them be free again!

      • Nate

        The entire Idea of divorce is skewed. The thought that here in the states infidelity is not widely recognized is in itself a subject borned of hypocrites. These days no one is pure and no virgins. Naturally if I marry a virgin the weight of adultry is far heavier than marrying the typical person who has had multiple partners and most often 2-3 kids from previous relationship. The adultury concept is old fashion and based upon the biblical perception that we are not intimately active until married. We go into marriage without planning, no thoughts of what the future holds and how we will confront adversity. We Purchase a used car, when it has a problem we fix it and keep it until it is no longer feasible to invest it it. Divorce is approached the same way. With the exception of the manual to fix problems. I don’t agree with divorce, but obviously I know that people aren’t prepared as they should be for marriage as it is intended to be. I believe love is learned, and love is a psuedo feeling at the beginning of all relationships because it is untested. Love is a developed feeling has to be tried and tested, tweaked and perfected. the process is so complicated that most view the road as grounds for divorce. there would be less divorce if getting married was as difficult as getting divorced. Completion of course as a couple as required for a degree. With no benefits as a couple until completed. Consequences for filing for divorce, loss of property, bank levy, tax levy, – I know it’s extreme, but breaking up is easy because the consequences are as minimal as the preparation to get married in the first place. Hmmmm!

        • connie

          yes.. you have ur point and i agree.. i think the problem really rooted from their individual CORE values, their behavior.. If the husband bet the wife , then file a case against him. a VAWC law can answer/protect u from those violations. We need to be reminded that,an act of violence can be corrected if the victim is willing to fight for her/his right. But if you will allow the violation that was committed , then u are tolerating the act and therefore you conspire and no longer to be called a VICTIM. There a lot of laws in the Philippines, but on how we exercise our right and apply the full force of the law, to correct the wrongdoings and give them a second chance, then that would be a better solution.Another, After the couple file a DIVORCE, is that so-called ABUSED had been discussed and corrected? or just forgotten and person who commit those acts will continue to commit those acts of ABUSING others, UNLESS he/she punish/ed.

      • denver

        What you’re suggesting would only make people or more people create rash decisions in their life. They’re saying that in marriage you ‘can’ make a mistake. Yes, you’re only human but that doesn’t mean you could intentionally go in to something you’re not sure of especially when you are completely aware that you’re not sure of it. It would remove the concept of marriage as a “life time decision” because they could easily “undo” their mistake. I’m not saying that they should endure their mistake, I’m telling them to prevent that mistake. But when one says that “in love a mistake is unpreventable”, there is no such thing because we are rational beings. Love is never a mistake. There is a reason why they think they should go in to a commitment like that and it always stays even when they think otherwise and there are always solutions to relationship problems that doesn’t include “GIVING UP”. Divorce would indicate weakness not a smart decision. A battered wife is a different matter because there are laws here that can protect you from that.

        • Nathan

          @ Denver,
          It’s 2012 most people don’t even think of marriage unless a unexspected pregnancy arises which i would say accounts for quite a majority. Then there is the marriage that happens from peer and family pressure, oh and lets not forget the marriage for simple financial benefit. Love and marriage have nothing to do with each other, i say this because the average person doesnt know what love is. Or they think they do and are way off base, because they can’t see past what’s really going on right in front of them. Do you realize how many men simply say 95 percent of the time ” I love you too” it’s rarely a phrase initiated by men. It’s a natural response to your female mate saying “I Love you”!! You are right the mistake should be prevented and to do that they need to start with learning not the definition of love but learn to Identify it. No one buys a car without first test driving it, even a simple thing like purchasing clothing requires trying on first, Life should teach to make better choices but there is no manual for true love: Other than the Bible!

        • redrose

          For all the anti-Divorce people, I hope to God that there won’t come a time that you or somebody you care deeply about would desperately need an escape to be happy and have their freedom back.

          Nobody has the right to control & decide on how other people live their lives’ or condemn them for their actions & choices. God give us free will & only HE can bestow
          judgment on us.

          • kram

            i sounds that you believe in God. however you were against those anti-Divorce people.
            I’ll ask you,

            if you promised God something, can you break that promise????

    • vicky pfeiffer

      the most cases in the philippines, the men abuse the divorce must be implemented in the philippines.its more painful for a child to see if his mom is beaten by his dad because his dad has a young mistress in secret.the problem in the philippines is not the women but the men.most are machos and irresponsible.its high time now that this chains of ignorance among the phil women will be taken off.divorce must be implemented in the philippines and i swear to God i will even raise funds to support this bill and i will organize rallies to wake up the women in the philippines.i am supporting this bill 100% because i love philippines and i believe to the capacity of the philippine women.VIVA FILIPINAS GO GO SUPPORT THE DIVORCE BILL.

    • Nathan

      Yes,Fireproof is a very good movie! loved it. People do take marriage for granted and totally forget their vows. Marriage isnt always going to be peaches and cream and that is unfortunate. The problem is most people a marrying for the wrong reasons, and most dont truly i=understand what love is: They understand of course what is depicted on TV but that is by way off. To truly measure love you have to have experienced trials and tribulations with your mate. In otherwords, have you or he lost their job yet stayed by each others side through those times, Has their been a sickness and health issue, has their been issues of concern that would challenge your relationship, How does she/he support your believes and values etc…. People especially younger think that the good times of dating and living together (If it gets that far) are indications of love. When in fact those are symptoms of lust. If your heart hasnt been tested prior to marriage how will it fair during marriage? hmmm! People would yhink twice about it if their were greater consequences evoke upon you when you decide to divorce. The reason for the petition should weigh heavily on how the petionor with be dealth with and if its a simple irreconcilable difference, a automatic depart as you came in rule should be in place. Because marriages are be played like games.

    • kram

      tama ka. tsssss kung mag magpapakasal ang isang tao, siguro naman alam na nia sa sarili nia kung ano bang klase ng tao ang pakakasalan niya. kahit na sabihing tao lang tayo, nagbabago, nagkakamali, it’s not a reason para baliin ANG MGA OATHS AND PROMISES NA SINABI NIO SA HARAP MISMO NG DIYOS, unless di sila naniniwala sa diyos kaya madali na sa kanilang baliin ang mga sinabi nila sa harap ng altar.. tssss, ano kayo naglalaro ng bahay bahayan? pag nagkalabuan palit na ng taya????? how pathetic!

  • I have articulated my position on the matter on my blog post. You may want to read it.

  • I still believed in the biblical perspective stated in Mark 10:9, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” It is up to the individuals to bear the consequences of their decisions. Probably, what they can do is bring everything up to God in prayers that they may have the faith and strength to carry on. They have to seek God in their lives, ask forgiveness and acknowledge Him as the one in total control of what is happening to them.

  • Iknow

    I’m in with the RH BILL! I’m out when it comes to divorce. u hav 2 make sure d person u marry is d one forever not marrying when u feel like it.

    • Nathan

      @ Iknow-Although that would be the ultimate thing to do–there is no way possible to determine who is and who isnt right for you. Life doesnt have a Crystal ball. When you meet a person you don’t even know who that person truly is until you have slept with them—That’s when all of the issues you didnt know about come to surface, but belive me we are fake as a 3 dollar bill until that first intimate encounter, now a lot of people will disagree with that, but they are the ones you have to avoid for sure. The quest is simple and it usually begins as a physical attraction and guys do whatever academy award winning act necessary to get to that intimate encounter. Then you find out he’s married, he has 90 kids by 90 women, he’s on parole, he doesn’t even live in your city, he lives with mom, and the list goes on. And you are never wise to it because guys have been doing it so long, that women actually ignore the greatest gift they have “Intuition” just for the sake of not missing out on what they think (and are mistaken) true love—Sad Sad, So sad. So it’s always a leap of faith, with a dark back door exit if it doesnt work out.

  • lou

    having a divorce law is one way to correct huge problems in the philippines. many couples out of collision between them end up having psychologically stressed out and commit crimes and becomes violent. they do that because they wanted to get out of that horrible situation or just an effect of the course. which do you think is better— to have a divorce and be normal again, or push yourself hard to figure out how to make things work although the relationship is way off to get reconciled. staying with a person you dont feel like keeping is more sinful than legally breaking ties and legally remarry.

    • kram

      so divorce is advantageous? why would you marry a person worth not marrying for? can’t a boy or a girl set some plenty of time to think about marriage? or to know who their partners really are? don’t be pathetic. no one can separate 2 persons united by God.


    • queen

      you know that divorce is a sin because God says “find a person who will love you and accept who you are…
      (im sorry for my grammar i`m just share whats in my mind)

    • kram

      ohhhhh?????? God bless you more brother, hope you’ll find someone who can love at their most and made you love them at your most. xP

  • […] aware of: I enjoyed translating this one Filipinas: Debate sobre proyecto de Ley de Divorcio [es] (Phillipines: Debate on Divorce Bill [en]) because I wasn't aware that there was still a country that does not allow […]

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