In the United States, many people take the daily freedoms we have for granted – including the freedom to divorce. There are laws that people must abide by in obtaining a divorce, but the result is the same. If spouses no longer want to be married, they have a legal option to dissolve their marriage. Such is the case in most of the world, except for the Philippines. Currently, the Philippines is the only country in the world, except for Vatican City, which has no divorce laws. The fight to make divorce legal in the Philippines, by Sunshine Lichauco de Leon, cnn.com, October 6, 2014. Spouses are, therefore, trapped in their marriages, whether they want to divorce because of adultery, abuse, or just irreconcilable differences. The have the option of legal separation, declaration of nullity, or annulment, but these options are very fact specific, extremely costly and time consuming. In addition, they do not give people what they are looking for – a complete and total separation from each other.
There is, however, a new bill before Congress that seeks to afford Filipino citizens the right and opportunity to divorce. The proposed bill still comes with strict restrictions. For example, “married couples must have been living separately for a minimum of five years with no hope of reconciliation…or legally separated for at least two years.” Id. This is a long time to remain tied to another person, particularly if one spouse wants to get remarried, or if there are allegations of abuse. The proposed bill, however, promises to be much quicker (once you get through the waiting period) and less expensive than the current available options. In addition, there would be procedures in place for settling outstanding issues such as division of property, child support and spousal support.
While legalizing divorce sounds like a no brainer, there is strong opposition to the bill, particularly from religious groups. A representative of the Catholic Church, which accounts for a large majority of the Filipino population, has said, “We are opposed to legislation which would enable the state to break the marriage bond so that the couple can each remarry.” Id. In addition, the church fears that it will encourage unnecessary divorces and cause damage to the children involved. While separation of church and state is mandated by the Philippines’ constitution, according to the article, “many lawmakers and citizens believe the political pressure being exerted by the Catholic Church reduces the chance of he bill passing anytime soon.” These leaves many unhappy people trapped in unhappy, or even abusive, marriages with no chance of legal escape. Hopefully the politicians can stand strong against religious pressure and give these people an option to have a better life.