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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)


  • Kyle :DD

    The Divorce bill should not be approved because when you get married you will promise that you’d be together, so that means if you want to marry someone you should think about how your gonna handle your relationship with each other, proposing to someone is a really tough decision.

    ~kid here :D

  • […] Ufilipino: Mjadala juu ya Mswada wa Talaka […]

  • Amiefa

    Eventhough, most Filipino women suffers the consequences of problematic marriage, still, Iam on the stand of having no divorce. MY final option is just to have legal separation for both parties but not on the extent that we resort to Divorce.I still believe that time will heal those wounds created by such infidelities and the brutalities of men. My strong belief on the stand of being the only Christian country in the far East to uphold the values and beliefs and culture since time immemorial which is strong family ties that binds.The future generation would be at stake for they will be greatly affected if this divorce would take its effects into reality into the Philippines. There will be more broken homes instead of building them up.Everything has an end except Him who is the Immortal One. To end up the tragedy in marriage as most couples do, they just put into writing with their witness on stand that they separate ways and live on their own for the betterment of each, not advocating divorce.

    • Steve

      Your answer to the problem of terrible, unfaithful, and violent marriages is legal separation? Then what does the woman do when her violent, lazy, often drunk husband decides he has a right to move back in with you because he has nowhere else to stay? Do you realize that many marriages in the Philippines are “arranged” because the female became pregnant? The parents don’t want to suffer the disgrace of children born out of wedlock so in many cases they force the couple to marry. I ask you, is this a perfect arrangement under God? Without a divorce bill the woman’s only alternative is an annulment. Do you have any idea how many years it takes to get an annulment in the Philippines – many years – and that’s only if you have the good fortune to pay off the corrupt courts to get your paperwork to the top of the pile! Not to mention that the circumstances under which an annulment is granted make it almost impossible. If the husband does not provide for his family – no annulment. If the husband beats the wife and children – no annulment. If the husband has a history of infidelity – no annulment! You’re condemning people to a life of misery! Wake up people! Wake up Philippines!

      • youre kidding right?syempre kasalanan nila both kung bat cla nabuntis nung bata cla kaya cla pinakasal although may choice namn cla kung gusto nila at ayaw walang kinalaman yan sa pagging advantage ng divorce

      • Lucy

        In the case of the pregnant girl, then, why would they marry the guy in the first place if they will just throw their marriage off? What’s the sense? It would just let the child fatherless either.

      • ji

        why doing so? why marrying the one you’re not in love with…any way your parents will not be the lifetime partner of the one you’ll be marrying…it’s should fight for it

        • Donna

          ji sometimes people fall out of happens when your partner change,or when u change.noon mahal nila ang isa’t isa kaya sila nagpakasal.perohindi mo kasi lubusang makikilala ang isang tao hanggat mo nakakasama sa isang bubong.totoo yan kahit sabihin mong 10 yrs. 20 yrs na kau magsyota iba p rin pag nagkasama n kau sa isang saka dito satin madalas nagkabuntisan lng kaya napilitan n lang magpakasal.uso kc dito ang premarital sex.isa yan sa dapat tinuturo ng church s mga babae dahil isa rin yan kaya maraming pagsasama ang naguumpisa ng mali kaya natatapos ng mali..

    • ji

      like this one!

    • Donna

      kahit ngaun n walang divorce satin konti ba ang broken homes?kahit nasaang lugar ka man dito sa atin tignan mo ang ang mga tao sa paligid mo…ilan sa kanila ang hiwalay sa asawa, ang mga single mothers,ang mga nakikisama sa lalakeng may asawa’t anak na,ang mga hiwalay na nakatagpo na ng bagong pagibig,ang mga bagong hiwalay ulit etc…marami sila and im sure ilan sa kanila ay kilala mo at malapit pa sau.ganun ang takbo ng buhay ngaun.God hates anong pinag-iba ng legal separation sa divorce? sa legal separation di ka puedeng ikasal sa divorce peude na…yun lang.but the logic na dapat buo ang pamilya magkasama ang tatay nanay anak wala n rin sa legal ewan ko kung bakit ayaw ng iba divorce.

    • Donna

      in my personal opinion i am pro divorce.para sakin hindi yun ang sumisira ng pamilya.kasi formality lang yun ng paghihiwalay ng mag-asawa na gusto ng maghiwaly,hindi para paghiwalayin ang mag-asawa…the govt. should have options to their citizens.and the role of the church is to strengthen the moralities of the filipinos.not to hinder the desire of most filipinos that want divorce in the philippines.kung magbobotohan lang marami ang may gusto ng im happily married.but i like divorce not for me but for those who want it and need it…yung mga kasal na matagal ng hiwalay.tapos may iba ng kinakasama sila parehas at may mga anak na sila parehas at masaya na sila sa bago nilang pamilya.para naman mabigyan na rin nila ng kasal yung present nilang partner na matagal ng nagaantay at deserving.kc i feel pity for those women n nagmahal sa lalakeng hiwalay sa asawa at ilan taon na rin silang nagsasama pero hanggang ngaun di p rin sila maikasal kc kasal pa sa una.

  • it is really hard thing to be in a situation where in you are in such relation of having a partner of drunkard, womanizer, and to the extend of beating their partners,,why would someone be staying in such relation,if a partner knows that love and caress doesn’t exist already, isn’t it, it is so hard and very painful for the siblings seeing their parents quarreling and beating each other? seeing them and hearing them throwing nasty words towards each others?…. children with this kind of family would have psychological problems / disturbances…so it is better to be separated,have a divorce to save the children
    morality and dignity

    • ji

      why not choosing the one you really love? give up your prides to solve the problem…be humble!

      • yunika

        so true, i definitely agree with that.:)
        all problems has a solution. if it it doesn’t, then it is not a problem, as simple as that.

  • rose

    what if you run out of love?? would u stay being martyr? just to say you are still married and ur relationship being wife and husband are still in tucked even though u didnt love each other anymore? or just to say u didnt broke your promises?? we are all just human and sometimes we made mistakes but we deserved to be happy in our life,how could we be happy when u are living with somebody u didnt love anymore???

    • ji

      why marrying the one whom you will not be sure of loving him for the rest of your life? Yeah were humans and we make mistakes but mistakes are meant for learning…for us to realize things that cannot be seen by our eyes…how could you be happy if you’re the kind of person who do not know how to be you think you’ll gonna be happy with your next partner? What if you don’t love him anymore? You’ll gonna transfer again to another would eventually become a habit for you..

    • yunika

      what if you run out of love? then there must be something wrong with you. in the first place, it will not happen ti there is nothing to be a reason for falling out of love.. yes, its true. we are all just human and we make mistakes. then what, why would you let to make a mistake with another mistake?
      Divorce is definitely not necessary. All things can be worked out through smooth conversations :)

  • melai

    I really agree to have DIVORCE in in Philippines, as a human being, we have the right to choose who are and what we want in our life. I was married for how many years but look.. Is the happiness with me in my life? What is our ultimate goal in life? HAPPINESS.. that is the thing that we are seeking for..
    How do you able to say it is a family if you feel that every time you see his face its just remind you of your pissed off past.. That you know you are not treated as wife. Not treated as friend, just because you have a kids but you know every night he never sleep with you..
    So what suppose I should wait for..
    If only there is a divorce.. I can find someone who will with me all the rest of my life..
    Some other will against to this, coz they don’t experience or have it in their lives..Try to put yourself in the situation.. possibly you may understand…

    • ji

      yeah ur happy with divorce…you’re the only one who’s happy for it…have you even asked your children if they’re happy with your decision..if they want a broken family? Are you happy seeing them being jealous with a happy family together as one…even though you have a lot of problems..its the family that makes you strong enough to conquer it…

  • well yeah nothing is perfect so I agree to the divorce

  • lanie

    Well,some of people in our country had an idiot mind..We all know that DIVORCED is not on the bible or its not on the 10 commandments but i know GOD says on the BIBLE that we have the RIGHT to choose or deicide on ourself,we all know that we are not a perfect person,ANNULLMENT and DIVORCED?? people in government in philippines why u dont allowed DIVORCED but you allow ANNULLMENT in marriage..that is LOL,and you answer ANNULLMENT and DIVORCED was diiferrent,what is different on it?? cos for me its just the same,different in meaning but its the same way,dissolution of a marriage and allowed 2 parties to remarry again..( The party initiating the annulment must prove that he or she has the grounds to do so and if it can be proven, the marriage will be considered null and void by the court.)meaning its still dissolution of a marriage.. philippines said that the marriage is a sacrament thats why they dont allowed DIVORCED but they allowed ANULLMENT..!! if u divorced u can remarry again,if you ANNULED 2 parties can remarry again..LOL but ofc ANNULMENT is not easy to get ( but still dissolution of a marriage ) but in philippines if you have more money u can just pay to ANNULED your

  • Queeniemhayevalencia

    divorce bill helps the women who are battered by their husband and can’t afford the cost of filing an annulment.
    (sorry for the wrong grammar I’m just a typical teenager who is very concern about the Philippines and the legalization of divorce bill)

  • Grace_rubis07

    @4dec99673f6dd4875246afb41a65b900:disqus  Thank you for enlightening me. though the comment thread below is really depressing, as a youth, a UP student, a follower of Christ, it’s very hard to bear that most people simply marry for the wrong reasons, I just don’t find it logical to say I Do when at the back of your mind you don’t even know the person you are marrying. Why do most of you see divorce as a positive bill?! I mean seriously?!! Why marry when you will just end up separating?!   As for DOMESTIC violence, well, @Nate:disqus you are right again, if your rights are violated, then file a case! 
      Divorce is simply a childish exit to marriage, we should all know TRUE LOVE which comes if we make an effort to know God! for those who move for the divorce bill, I see you don’t believe in what God says at all. please do read the Bible.
     Don’t you guys understand that we are in the Philippines (the only country WITHOUT DIVORCE) because God is really favoring us?! think about that, as for me, I am proud to be a Filipina, coz as long as there is no divorce, my fellowmen are still sane and can still hope for true love…
     May God bless all of us :))

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