Why not divorce? | Inquirer Opinion

Why not divorce?

/ 12:20 AM April 06, 2017

The relationship has long been an open secret in the House, Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque said of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s extramarital affair, which became public last week. Roque, who had viciously assailed Sen. Leila de Lima for her affair with her driver during the House inquiry into her alleged link to the trade in illegal drugs, justified Alvarez’s situation: There has been no concealment, he said, and besides, the Speaker’s constituents do not seem to mind.

Such efforts to justify the double standard upheld by honorable men in the government gives the lie to the Philippines’ lofty ranking in the gender equality index. Unfortunately, even President Duterte vigorously defends it. “We’re all hypocrites here,” said the declared ladies’ man. “Who doesn’t have [his own source of] happiness?” he added, echoing Alvarez’s earlier response to comments about his affair: “Who doesn’t have a girlfriend?”

The controversy, which once more highlights the old boys’ club mentality in the male-dominated House, might just be the opening needed to revisit the divorce bill.

It’s a timely issue, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said on Monday as she called on Alvarez to include divorce in his legislative agenda. Pointing out that only the Philippines and the Vatican are the only states in the world left with no divorce law in place, she said divorce may be a “legal option for [married] couples [with] irreconcilable differences.”


Gabriela first filed a measure seeking to legalize divorce in 2005. Its latest divorce bill, filed last year, is pending at the House committee on revision of laws.

Noting that existing remedies such as legal separation and annulment involve a long and tedious process, Brosas said divorce could offer a quick-fix solution to estranged couples. Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who filed last July a similar bill, describes divorce as “a poor women’s issue, because poor women cannot afford the current exorbitant expense for legal separation or annulment of marriage.”

Why, despite their rocky marriages and extramarital relationships, have lawmakers resisted such a measure, and given that a 2014 Social Weather Stations survey indicates that three out of five Filipinos favor divorce? Wouldn’t this have meant plus points among voters?

But now that they have generally admitted their philandering ways, shouldn’t lawmakers finally acknowledge the need for a divorce law to release them from the dysfunctional marriages that set them on their search for extramarital bliss in the first place?


To be sure, pressure from the Catholic Church has been cited as a deterrent to healthy debate on the issue. The Church has constantly threatened hell and damnation on those who would support the institution of divorce—the same means it used to block the reproductive health bill for 14 years.

But then again, why would lawmakers want to mess with the present setup?  As Alvarez said, he’s enjoying the ride.  And even Rep. Pia Cayetano, who as senator raised expectations of being a women’s champion when she shepherded the RH bill to passage, has shrugged off the President’s typical sexist remarks with a casual “boys will be boys” shrug.


Without a divorce law, the honorable gentlemen of the House can continue to have girlfriends, flaunt their “open secret” in the chamber, and dismiss any prospect of disbarment as their behavior is considered the norm. And without divorce, they don’t have to offer marriage to their girlfriends and can in fact keep the latter on their best behavior lest they get dumped for a younger model.

Beyond Congress, any serial womanizer and wife-beater can go on with their oppressive ways, knowing there is no way out for the subject of their brutal ministrations. Sure, she can leave, but she can’t remarry, so how can she support herself and the children? Neither can most ordinary women afford to pay for an expensive annulment.  But philandering males can leave the home—and often do—as this allows them to take up with a new partner without being bothered by the encumbrances of divorce, such as alimony payments.

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Yes, it’s an opportune time to revisit the divorce bill. But does it have a chance against those flaunting open secrets, and who benefit immensely from the status quo?

TAGS: affair, ALVAREZ, divorce, divorce bill, Editorial, opinion, Pantaleon Alvarez

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