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Thread: Is Philippines ready for a divorce law?

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  1. #41
    Poor pay high price for divorce ban

    Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:06 AM March 16, 2018

    For well-off people like Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, getting out of a bad marriage in the country is pricey but feasible.

    But for the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens, it is nearly impossible.

    That’s because the Philippines and the Vatican are the last two places on Earth where divorce is outlawed.

    For the nation’s 100 million people, the only exit from a union gone wrong is an embarrassing and labyrinthine process that often amounts to a luxury.

    But lawmakers, including Alvarez, have launched a new legislative effort to legalize divorce which activists believe could transform the lives of impoverished women trapped in toxic marriages.

    Civil procedure

    The bill has been propelled forward by Alvarez, a staunch ally of President Duterte.

    In an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP), Alvarez said ending his first marriage cost him P1 million, which was more than triple what an average family in the country made in a year.

    Alvarez did it through a civil procedure called annulment, whereby a judge declares a marriage invalid, generally because the spouses had a “psychological incapacity.”

    Annulment requires applicants to undergo a mental exam, testify in court, and sometimes even claim they or their spouse entered the union with a disorder like narcissism.

    The process can take anywhere from one to 10 years to wind through the creakingly slow and overburdened Philippine court system, costing at least P245,000.

    Since 1999, lawmakers have regularly filed a bill to legalize divorce, only to see it languish in committee limbo until now.

    ‘Badge of stupidity’

    For the first time ever, members of the House of Representatives are poised to approve the bill after backing it in preliminary votes.

    The measure would then head to the Senate where it faces opposition from conservative members.

    However, the bill seems to enjoy rare bipartisan support, a sign Alvarez says of the urgency of addressing broken marriages.

    “It’s a badge of stupidity because we are the only nation that does not see the problem,” said the 60-year-old Alvarez.

    The proposed legislation would allow divorce and exempt poor people from legal fees, listing domestic violence, attempts to engage a spouse in prostitution and irreconcilable differences among the grounds for splitting up.

    Not surprisingly, the country’s powerful Catholic Church, which counts about 80 percent of Filipinos as followers, has fiercely opposed the bill.

    “It is not according to the Scriptures, to the will of God and it does not help,” said Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo.

    The Church fought a pitched but ultimately unsuccessful battle in 2012 to halt a law providing free contraceptives to poor couples and teaching sex education in schools.

    It has also backed an existing ban on abortion and gay marriage.

    Notwithstanding Church opposition, surveys show a majority of Filipinos have supported legalizing divorce since 2014.

    At the same time, the number of the people filing for annulments have grown steadily in the past decade, hitting over 10,000 in 2017, according to government statistics.

    “Filipinos have become more open. They’ve been exposed to norms from other countries,” said Jean Franco, assistant political science professor at the University of the Philippines.

    But with Catholic clergy lobbying and protesting against the bill, its final passage is uncertain.

    Duterte stand ambiguous

    The country’s outspoken President, whose own marriage was annulled, has yet to wade into the debate. Although he spoke in favor of upholding the ban during his 23 years as mayor of Davao City, he is mercurial on social issues.

    A longtime critic of the Church, Mr. Duterte voiced support for gay marriage in 2015, only to backtrack after winning the presidency in 2016, before endorsing it yet again last December.

    He also has plenty on his plate, with international war crimes prosecutors launching a preliminary probe of his deadly war on drugs, which has also aroused the ire of the Church.

    Campaigners say the bill could offer a lifeline to women trapped in violent marriages.

    Divorce is a woman’s issue, especially for poor women who are being abused because it could provide them an out legally,” said Elizabeth Angsioco, national chair of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines.

    ‘Strangling, screaming’

    For women like Melody Alan who says she has endured 14 years of abuse from an unfaithful, alcoholic husband, the ban cannot be overturned soon enough.

    “He strangled me, pushed me against a wall. I was crying and screaming. I couldn’t breathe,” said Alan, secretary general of the Divorce Advocates of the Philippines.

    Alan, 44, said her husband agreed to accept an annulment if she paid for it, something she could in “no way” afford while raising four children.

    In 2010, she separated from her husband, who now has two children with another woman, but they remain legally married.

    “I will file for divorce to get freedom (to say) that this is who I am now,” Alan said. “I can start anew.” - AFP
    FRIENDS LANG KAMI

  2. #42
    Church survey: More Filipinos ‘strongly agree’ to divorce law

    By: DJ Yap, Tina G. Santos - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:45 AM March 22, 2018

    More Filipinos “strongly agree” to the legalization of divorce in the country, with more women than men expressing their approval for it, a survey by the Catholic Church-run Radio Veritas has indicated.

    Based on the Veritas Truth Survey (VTS) released on Tuesday, 39 percent of the 1,200 respondents from urban and rural areas nationwide said that they “strongly agree” to making divorce legal, with 35 percent saying they “strongly disagree.”

    The House of Representatives on Monday passed the bill allowing divorce and the dissolution of marriage. The bill will be transmitted to the Senate for its concurrence.

    Of those surveyed, 13 percent said they “somewhat agree,” while another 13 percent said they “somewhat disagree.”

    The survey was conducted by the Research Department of Radio Veritas from December 2017 to January 2018.

    ‘Wake-up call’

    Radio Veritas president Fr. Anton Pascual described the results of the survey as “a wake-up call and a big challenge to the Catholic Church” which, he said, opposed divorce because this would further destroy the bond between husband and wife.

    More female respondents “strongly agreed” to legalizing divorce at 43 percent, versus

    34 percent of male respondents expressing strong approval for it. Thirty five percent of female and male respondents, respectively, said they “strongly disagreed” with having divorce in the country.

    Younger, richer

    Younger respondents “strongly agreed” to the legalization of the divorce, with 43 percent aged 13-20 years old, 34 percent aged 21-39, 38 percent from 40-60 years old, and 19 percent aged 61 and above.

    Respondents who are better off economically tend to favor divorce as well, with 46 percent of those who “strongly agree” coming from Class A; 62 percent from Class B; 55 percent from Class C2; 48 percent from Class C1; 40 percent from Class D, and 31 percent from Class E.

    Not any less Catholic

    Prodivorce lawmakers, meanwhile, assured the faithful that approving divorce would not make the Philippines any less Catholic.

    Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the bill’s coauthor, pointed out that many other Catholic countries have legalized divorce, including Ireland, Italy and Spain.

    In a press briefing on Tuesday, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said that even Jerusalem - where Jesus Christ lived - has a law on divorce.

    In the meantime, he added, there was still time to change the mind of President Duterte, who had expressed reservations on divorce, saying he had the welfare of children and neglected spouses in mind.
    FRIENDS LANG KAMI

  3. #43
    Irregular families?

    By: Michael L. Tan - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:20 AM March 23, 2018

    I don’t know if the term is used much, but some years back, when I applied for my eldest child to be admitted to a preschool, I was gently told that she could not be taken in because she was from an “irregular” family.

    It seems we were irregular on two counts: adoption (I look at it as two-way: A child adopts a parent as much as the other way around), and solo parenting. Maybe we lost on still another count: a solo father.

    I got the message, found a good preschool that is inclusive, and never bothered trying to get into a “regular” school again.

    “Irregular” is a term used by some people to refer to anything that doesn’t fit into the stereotype of a family as consisting of a father, a mother, two or three children, and maybe a dog and a cat.

    Think of the last family reunion you had, probably around Christmas and New Year’s Day, and you probably encountered more “irregular” families - single parents, separated parents, maybe even same-sex parents.

    But irregular families are here to stay, and in large enough numbers that need more attention. I even suspect, with so many Filipinos having to work away from their families, that irregular families are now the norm.

    Declining marriages

    Let me start off with one clear trend from the Philippine Statistics Authority, and I’m quoting from its latest report: “In a span of 10 years, the reported number of marriages decreased by 14.4 percent from 2007 to 2016.” The actual figures are 490,054 in 2007 and 419,628 in 2016.

    The decline is incongruent with the growing population, including the segment of young adults. These “marriageables” just aren’t getting married.

    Are they perhaps postponing marriage? That certainly is happening, with the median age of marriage in 2011 as 23 for females and 28 for males. We know, too, of the phenomenon among low-income families of couples living together because they can’t afford a grand church wedding. They postpone, and postpone, until they reach middle or even old age, and then sign up for a mass wedding sponsored by some politician, with their grandchildren or even great-grandchildren attending.

    But postponement just can’t explain the declining number of marriages, which covers all age groups.

    I looked for statistics on the number of couples living together and there weren’t any, at least not as research with the enumeration of live-in couples as the main objective. But there is the National Demographic Health Survey done every few years and involving large numbers of women, to look at the number of children they have, family planning, and other aspects of maternal health. The last NDHS was conducted in 2016, with results released only recently.

    For the 25,074 women in the survey, designed to reflect the national population across regions, 35 percent had never been married; 42 percent, married; 18 percent, living together; 3 percent, separated; and 1 percent, widowed. (I’ve rounded off the figures, which is why they don’t add up to 100 percent.)

    The “never married” segment of the female population deserves more attention. We know all too well from our own clans of aunts who postponed marriage to support younger siblings through school, until, as one of my own aunts described it, “time passed us by.” That said, many did unofficially adopt nephews and nieces, raising them as their own children as an irregular family. Just last weekend, someone in our clan who was everyone’s favorite aunt passed away, and the wake was not so much sorrowful as it was a celebration of her very full life—a nanay in every sense of the word.

    As for the other figures, note that 18 percent of the women in the NDHS were in live-in relationships. I would not be surprised if the actual numbers were higher. When surveys are conducted, women are simply asked: “May asawa ba kayo?” (Are you married?) and even in a live-in relationship, they will answer “yes”.

    It is important to establish just how many live-in couples there are because they do not enjoy many of the social services and privileges granted to married couples. Women in live-in relationships are vulnerable because the men can abscond any time, fleeing their responsibilities for the children. Women do leave their live-in partners as well, usually because they suffer domestic abuse, but take their children with them.

    What happens then, especially in urban poor areas, is that women might move from one live-in relationship to another. The men they live with may also have children from previous relationships. These are called blended families, although I wonder just how blended they can be, given the natural tensions that come from having stepparents and stepsiblings. Blended families happen, too, when widows or widowers remarry.

    Informal social sector

    If there is an informal economic sector, there is also an informal social sector—couples in live-in relationships, children unofficially adopted by an unmarried aunt, or even, in poor communities, by neighbors.
    Very quietly, too, there are many same-sex couples in the Philippines who have been adopting children, again unofficially since they can’t even marry.

    I’ve written occasionally about the sandwich generation, or people who have dependents going up and down across generations. One very extreme example that I documented had several generations of males having children very early, ending up with a newborn son, a father aged 16, all the way up to a great-great-greatgrandfather aged 92. And who do you think was providing most of the support for all these generations? Yes, the 92-year-old. A club sandwich family.

    A variation now getting attention in the Western media is the boomerang parent. In the West, it used to be that children would leave their parents during college or right after college, and never return home.

    These days, because of the economic crisis in the West, the children who have moved out, sometimes already in their 30s, will move back in with their parents. Boomerang. Again, we’ve had boomerang parents in the Philippines and other poorer countries for decades, some of them even being boomerang grandparents (the grandchildren moving in).

    All these “irregular” families have it tough, facing social discrimination as well as a lack of government support, varying from one “irregular” family type to another. Rightly so, more government support is now extended to single mothers, but single fathers have practically no benefits. Live-in couples have no official benefits as a couple, but their children do have some benefits from SSS, GSIS and PhilHealth.

    The many changing configurations of Filipino families, irregular as they may sound, still fall back on basics: the need to survive, the need for companionship, the need of societies for biological as well as social reproduction, particularly value systems. In the current war on drugs, I have found in urban poor communities kind neighbors taking in children whose parents are in prison, or who have been killed.

    Take time to get to know some of those families in your clan and in your community and you will find they uphold family values much more than regular ones.
    FRIENDS LANG KAMI

  4. #44
    Trusting Church wisdom on void marriages

    By: Cristina A. Montes, Jaime B. Achacoso - @inquirerdotnet 05:05 AM March 27, 2018

    Proponents of divorce as a solution to spousal abuse cite the difficulty of obtaining a civil declaration of nullity of marriage.

    The process does need reform. Getting marriage nullity declarations from courts would be easier if the provisions of the Family Code (FC) on void and voidable marriages resembled their counterpart provisions in the Code of Canon Law (CCL) more.

    Law students hear that the Catholic Church influenced the drafting of the FC, making its provisions “oppressive.” But the FC provisions on void and voidable marriages were, in fact, not influenced enough by the CCL. This is unfortunate for many who otherwise would have cases for obtaining marriage nullity declarations.

    The CCL has more, not less, grounds for nullity of marriage. It recognizes “grave lack of discretion of judgment concerning the essential matrimonial rights and duties, which are to be mutually given and accepted” (often shortened as “lack of due discretion”) as a ground for nullity. By contrast, the FC does not.

    Furthermore, under the CCL, marriages are either valid or void, never voidable. Marriages that are voidable under the FC are simply void under the CCL.

    While a petition to annul a voidable marriage must be filed within five years from the discovery or disappearance of the ground or from the marriage, as the case may be, a petition to declare a marriage void may be filed any time.

    For example, under Article 45 (4) of the FC, a marriage where the consent of either party was obtained by force, intimidation, or undue influence is voidable. The petition to have it annulled must be filed within five years from the disappearance or cessation of the force, intimidation, or undue influence. After five years, the only way to have the marriage declared void is the famous Article 36, with the need for the testimony of fee-charging experts to prove psychological incapacity.

    If such marriages were void instead of voidable under the FC, the petition may be filed even more than five years. This happens in canon law, where the grounds for the declaration of nullity of marriage do not lapse with the passage of time, and can be alleged any time. And all that would be needed is proof that the marriage was obtained by force, intimidation, or undue influence.

    More: While Article 45 (4) of the FC states “force, intimidation, or undue influence,” Canon 1103 of the CCL states “force or grave fear inflicted from outside the person, even when inflicted unintentionally, which is of such type that the person is compelled to choose marriage in order to be freed from it.” This is broad enough to encompass shotgun marriages, as well as marriages contracted because of threat of shame due to an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, or fear of displeasing one’s parents who arranged the marriage.

    There are more reasons why the CCL is more flexible than the FC with regard to marriage nullities.

    Indeed, the CCL is based on a holistic view of the person, and of marriage with its specific nature and telos. Thus, the CCL provisions on void marriages are internally consistent and “just right”—protecting marriage, while providing solutions to putative marriages that are marriages in name only.

    Divorce inflicts heavy costs on society and is unnecessary. Most of the extreme cases cited by divorce proponents are cases of either void or voidable marriages (in FC terminology), which are invalid ab initio (in CCL terminology). The reason such unions appear irreparable is that often, there was no marriage to begin with: either because of an inherent lack of capacity for marriage on the part of one or both parties, or a defect in the consent that is at the heart of the marriage covenant.

    It is said that “what God has put together, let no man put asunder.” The converse is also true: What God has not put together (the case of a marriage that is invalid ab initio), should also not be forced to remain in force purely on legalistic reasons—i.e., that the marriage contract is in force. What is needed is a more efficient way to have such a defective contract declared invalid ab initio, rather than legalizing divorce, which is nothing but the recension of a valid marriage contract to satisfy the minority cases of spouses who choose not to honor such a covenant.

    * * *

    Fr. Jaime B. Achacoso, a canon lawyer and a Catholic priest, holds a doctorate in canon law from the University of Navarra in Spain. Cristina A. Montes holds law degrees from the University of the Philippines and the University of Navarra.
    FRIENDS LANG KAMI


 
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