‘D’ for dissolve | Inquirer Opinion

‘D’ for dissolve

/ 05:28 AM July 27, 2017

At the opening of the 17th Congress on Monday, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez made a pitch for same-sex unions and for the easy dissolution of marriage.

He sprang a surprise, given that these are hot-button issues certain to raise the hackles of the predominantly conservative body, and that in previous congresses, bills on divorce barely squeaked past their authors’ sponsorship speeches.

It bears repeating that the Philippines and the Vatican remain the only states in the world where there is no divorce. Annulment and legal separation are allowed here under certain stringent conditions, but the former is a long, expensive process, and remarriage to other parties is not an option for legally separated couples.


So why doesn’t Alvarez just cosponsor the divorce measures languishing in the House’s bill mill? And why, despite the apparent same goal of ending flawed marriages, are the divorce proponents skeptical about his proposed dissolution of marriage?


“The present system practically coerces married persons to remain with each other even if their relationship is beyond repair and has continuously caused harm to the wellbeing of the husband, wife, and, worse, the children involved. We have to change this,” said Alvarez, who is known to be estranged from his wife and in a longtime involvement with another woman.

Under the Speaker’s proposal, a marriage may be dissolved upon the filing in court of a joint petition expressing the couple’s “unhappiness.” If one party disagrees, the other party may file for dissolution and the marriage can be dissolved after just one hearing.

A judge might dispose of the petition in just a matter of days after asking if the parties went to court on their own accord. The dissolution of the marriage would also state the couple’s agreement on property and custody of their children.

According to Alvarez, the proposal addresses the grievances of couples in unhappy marriages.

“The process of annulment is very adversarial, very costly, and takes a long time. In hearings, you need to complain about the other party. Why do you need to make it so hard on the person?” he said, adding that divorce could be “very complicated.”

Far from devaluing marriage through the haste of its dissolution, the proposal will in fact make marital relations stronger as the parties will be encouraged to make each other happy, Alvarez said.


But who defines a happy or unhappy marriage? Family law practitioner Claire Castro raised the question in the course of saying that it’s normal for a married couple, two different individuals, to have differences. There will be times when both parties feel “unhappy,” but that’s not enough reason to break up their marriage, she said.

Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus agreed. There should be standards and parameters because the concept of happiness could be very subjective, she said. A too-easy process of dissolution could put women at risk of being blackmailed by their spouses. Most women are economically dependent on their husbands, and could be coerced into making decisions under pain of being subjected to a petition for marriage dissolution, De Jesus pointed out.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who filed a divorce bill in the last Congress, described divorce as “a poor woman’s issue,” because poor women cannot afford the long, expensive process involved in filing for legal separation or annulment, the only acceptable alternatives to divorce in the country.

While some marriages can be said to have been made in heaven, for many women marriage can be a descent to hell — with spousal abuse, marital infidelity, psychological incapacity, etc. plaguing their daily lives.

“An absolute divorce is a merciful liberation of the hapless wife from a long-dead marriage,” Lagman said.

He added that divorce proceedings would at least give the innocent spouse court-decreed financial and child support.

What to make of Alvarez’s proposal (though rough-hewn and requiring much work and refinement to be a conceivable response to the needs of troubled spouses)?

We’re not holding our breath. He may have a strong hold on the supermajority, but would it step up to the plate on this issue?

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And at any rate, why doesn’t he go the whole hog and run with the other “D” — divorce? If nothing else, the paperwork has been done.

TAGS: 17th Congress, dissolution of marriage, Edcel Lagman, Inquirer editorial, Pantaleon Alvarez, same-sex marriage

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