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Commentary

Love in law’s language

12:06 AM February 14, 2015

You can rant and rave what a big deal love is, but legally speaking it doesn’t mean that much.

A story is told that the late great film director Lino Brocka, a delegate to the Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution, nearly walked out from one of the sessions when the debate veered toward the political correctness of putting the word “love” in the Charter.

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Not used to finding himself at a loss for words, the fiery filmmaker couldn’t seem to find his bearings. He was groping for words to express his indignation when his temper got the better of him.

And so the fuming Brocka quipped, to the shock and amusement of his fellow Con-Com delegates: “Let’s not put love in there, because love is… yuck!”

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That’s love for you, according to the filmmaker who espoused, ennobled and elevated the idea of love to high heavens in many of his movies, sometimes using it to explain why people have to kill, steal, sell their bodies, or throw away their morals.

Romanticizing this idea of love to deliver powerful social statements in the context of human relationships while skillfully weaving and steering his narrative to the deepest and darkest core of human conflict has been Brocka’s trademark in making his movies—dark, surreal, irreverent films that are almost as physically tiring to watch as they are energizing to the soul’s struggle to be free.

There is no denying, however, that Brocka must have made his point so emphatically because the word “love” is only twice mentioned in the entire 1987 Constitution—which is quite surprising because, judging by its sheer length and excessive verbosity, the document must be made up of more than 10 million words.

Incidentally, the word “sex” appears just once. I wonder how Brocka would have taken this.

Indeed, people live for love, people die for love. That’s how important it is. But the problem with love is that precisely because it has come to symbolize the purest of human emotions, the serious and ruthless legal mind can’t quite seem to reconcile it with the cold-blooded formality of the language of law.

What it lacks in probative value, love compensates for with news sound bites and lots of drama.

The tabloids make a killing from news about so-called crimes of passion—the very emotional description for those gripping legal dramas that happen when the sins that men do in the name of love, the stuff of telenovelas, become true to life, spilling out of the courtroom and into the national headlines.

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I do recall that from the moment the Vizconde massacre case unfolded to a stunned nation in 1991 and throughout its history of more than 20 years, the tabloids had a field day milking the romantic angle between victim and accused for all it was worth, just to sell their sleazy tabloid stories. A couple of movies have been made out of it and that single story line spawned countless anecdotes and copycats.

But in reality, crimes of passion are tried in court no differently from any other crime. Law has little regard for what was felt in as much as it is obsessed to know what exactly was done.

Love will not exonerate the doer or aggravate his crime. Relationship will. That’s how it works in the court of law. The juror is not interested to hear the jilted lover’s story but to know how this jilted lover transformed into the murderer of the person he so professed to love.

In a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage, for instance, the only legally recognizable ground for granting it is the rather obscure, all-encompassing argument of psychological incapacity, which defies specific definition and cannot be singularly equated with the usual bane of married life such as infidelity, homosexuality, cruelty, immaturity, or plain and simple stupidity.

And yet psychological incapacity can be any, or some, or all of the above. It all depends if the character defect is so profoundly capable of impairing the married person’s ability to perform the responsibilities that the misfortune of being married had imposed to him or to her.

This is what I personally cannot understand and therefore cannot accept.

If for once, we can avoid the legalese, we should be able to acknowledge that there should be one and only one reason—the greatest single reason—to put an end to a miserable marriage. And that’s when the married man or woman falls out of love. Nothing more, nothing less. So please, let’s not confuse ourselves with this legal abomination of nature called psychological incapacity.

You could be married to the most promiscuous person on earth, to a deaf-mute with a bad case of halitosis but if you love that person madly enough, your marital vow to stay together through thick and thin, come hell or high water, will always be sacred to you.

If you really love the person, psychological incapacity, whatever that means, doesn’t give you reason enough to walk away. If you really love the person, you will love that person to death. If you really love the person, you just say, frankly, my dear I don’t give a damn.

But it’s a totally different story when love is gone.

Without love, there should have been no marriage in the first place. A loveless marriage is no marriage at all. But as simple as this explanation may sound, it cannot win the argument on the side of love.

Because unfortunately, the law is psychologically incapacitated or at least legally blind to see this, preferring to follow the dogmatic, single-minded and insensitive argument that love, whether present or absent, has really no bearing from the legal standpoint.

Love or the law. I’ll take love any given day, but sometimes I do agree with Lino Brocka: Yuck!

* * *

Now, for the sake of Valentine’s Day and the millions of lovestruck people out there, let me contradict myself. Love in the Language of Law: Love is the law that you shouldn’t break/Or love shall break your heart instead./If you treat love like a bouncing check/You’ll pay the price with damages.

Love is the immovable property/That always stays in place./Love is the irresistible force/That hate cannot replace.

Love is the right to remain silent/To douse the fire of oral argument./To love is to treat every disagreement/As just another negotiable instrument.

Love is the juridical necessity/To give to do and say “I do.”/Love is the juridical capacity/To act and say “I love you, too.”

Love does not look for proof to be sure/With love it’s always res ipsa loquitur.

For all must love and as a rule/There’s no exception, and no excuse/For young and old, for wise and fool/And all objections are overruled.

Wherefore premises considered/With love I suppose/That judgment be rendered/This case be closed/This case dismissed with prejudice/Sealed with a kiss/And so with love I rest my case…

Adel Abillar is a private law practitioner with a small office in Quezon City where, he says, “I alternate between being boss and messenger.” He obtained his law and prelaw degrees from Manuel L. Quezon University and the University of Santo Tomas, respectively.

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