HOUSE SPEAKER ALVAREZ SAYS
Christmas Day is just 35 days away, and for House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, it is enough time to have the bill seeking for the dissolution of marriage to be passed.
During his visit in Cebu last Friday for the mass oath-taking of the new Partido Demokratiko Pilipino – Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) members from the province, Alvarez announced that House Bill 6027 will be approved in the Lower House before Christmas.
“We will pass it before Christmas because by December, it will be passed on its third reading. (We want its passage as soon as possible because) a lot are requesting for it, even on social media,” he said.
It was Alvarez who filed House Bill 6027 before the House’s Committee on Family Relations in July, and several legislators from the opposition also contributed to it as co-authors.
The bill also seeks to legalize civil union of same-sex couples.
These proposals have been topping the House’s agenda. However, its Senate version is yet to be drafted.
During a regular session in Congress last July, the Davao first representative revealed that unlike divorce, the dissolution of marriage will not have to go through tedious legal processes in order for spouses to attain it.
On Friday, he added that dissolution of marriage is not divorce per se since the bill seeks marriage to be dissolved easily after just one hearing, where a judge might dispose of the joint petition for dissolution in just a matter of days.
Aside from irreconcilable differences, Alvarez said “severe and chronic unhappiness” is also a ground for couples to exit their marriage.
“Dili (siya) divorce. Ang grounds is unhappiness — severe and chronic unhappiness. You have to explain to the court why you’re unhappy. Because imo bana sigeg kahubog unya imong asawa sige og mahjong. Dili maatiman ang inyong anak. Unhappy ka tungod imo bana dili mouli, naay chicks.
Prove them to court. Duha ka hearing lang na,” explained Alvarez.
(It’s not divorce. The grounds is unhappiness. … Because your husband is a drunkard and your wife keeps on playing mahjong. You are unhappy because your husband does not return home. He has a mistress. Prove them to court. That will take two hearings only.)
He also said it is not like annulment which seeks to declare marriage as nonexistent.
Alvarez added his proposal aims to keep the fact that a marriage took place between two parties and there must be an “executable framework to provide for the care and support” of the children.
“Ang dissolution of marriage, isuwat unsaon pagbahin ang property, custody of children. Sabot and pirma. Then go to court (In the dissolution of marriage, parties will write how to divide properties, custody of children, then agree and sign),” added Alvarez.
Even though Alvarez opted to keep the term “dissolution of marriage,” it can be recalled that Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III urged the House Speaker to simply call it as divorce considering that the former is similar to the latter.
Alvarez, who is estranged from his wife, claimed that he has no personal motive in pushing for the dissolution of marriage, and that he belonged to an ethnic tribe in Mindanao where men are allowed to marry multiple times and have multiples wives.
“I’m a member of a tribe in Mindanao allowing multiple marriages. Among tribo (Manobo Tribe) way problema ana. But sa Mindanao almost all tribes didto allowed na siya. Culture gyud na sya (Our tribe has no problem about an individual having multiple spouses. Almost all tribes in Mindanao allow this. It’s our culture),” said Alvarez.
The present law in the Philippines allows only annulment between couples wherein their marriage will be deemed as nonexistent. Under this law, a court can only grant annulment under specific conditions, such as mistaken identity, psychological incapacity or homosexuality.
To prove psychological incapacity, the law requires the petitioning parties to undergo psychological examinations to back up their claim, which many couples cannot afford.
Respect for other beliefs
But even so, annulment has drawn flak both from individuals and religious groups in the country, especially from the Catholic Church, citing that the sanctity of marriage must be preserved at all means and costs.
In turn, this prompted Alvarez to urge the church to respect the obligation of the government to protect its constituents since the bill, he said, also seeks to strengthen marriage and ensure the couple to maintain a happy relationship so that they won’t resort to ending it.
“This will strengthen marriage. The moment magminyo mo, kamo parehas naa sa inyo utok anytime ang isa ka party can file dissolution of marriage kung di na happy (The moment you get married, you are both aware that the other party can file a dissolution of marriage if one is no longer happy),” Alvarez stated.
“Hangyo nako sa simbahan, igo respetohay lang ta. Ang simbahan dapat respetohan niya ang obligasyon especially sa gobyerno ngadto sa katawhan. Tanan lumulupyo sa nasod responsibilidad sa gobyerno. Usa ani kung naay problema sa kaminyon. Ang dili malipayon unproductive na sa sociey. So if supak ka ana, i-preach na sa imo myembro nga dili i-avail ang balaod kay supak sa tinuohan. But ayaw idamay ang ubang relihiyon. Respetuhi ang katungod sa uban,” he added.
(I am asking the church, let’s just respect each other. The church should respect the obligation of the government towards the people. Everyone in the country is the responsibility of the government, including those in problematic marriages. Those who are unhappy will become unproductive members of the society. If you oppose it, you tell your members not to avail of this law because it is against your beliefs. But just don’t include other religious groups. Respect the rights of others.)
Only country with no divorce
The Catholic Church has been steadily losing ground in the fight against divorce and other means to end marriage in the Philippines, the only country in the eastern region of Asia whose population is predominantly Catholic.
The first blow came in 1970 when Italy, where the seat of the Catholic Church is located, legalized divorce, despite the ferocious opposition of the Vatican. Brazil, a predominantly Catholic country, legalized divorce in 1977, followed by Spain (1981), Argentina (1987), Ireland (1997) and Chile (2004).
The Vatican, a small state within Rome where the Pope is based and where the major Catholic basilicas are located, doesn’t permit divorce although it does not need one since it is composed of mostly celibate religious leaders.
Apart from the Vatican, the Philippines is the only country in the world without a divorce law after Malta, located at the coast of North Africa, legalized divorce in 2011.
For their part, the Archdiocese of Cebu pointed out that having a law that will allow the dissolution of marriage is not the answer to ensure a healthy and happy relationship between married couples.
Msgr. Joseph Tan, media liaison officer of the Archdiocese of Cebu, told Cebu Daily News in a phone interview that citing the abstract concept of “unhappiness” as grounds to dissolve marriage should be clearly defined.
“From my point of view right now, I notice that happiness is the factor our lawmakers are considering as grounds of the bill. But it’s a vague notion. It can mean a simple feeling of discontentment. If that were the case, I don’t think the solution to that is dissolution of marriage,” Tan said.
“There must be a clear definition of what constitutes happiness. If that’s the case, it is a weak argument to break or exit from a commitment which was made out of solemn vows,” he added.
Tan also upheld the church’s stand to keep marriage as a sacrament between husband and wife by disallowing the legalization of any means to end it.
“The church constantly reechoes the message that marriage is a lasting union between spouses if it comes with conviction what God has made together no man must no put asunder. Church relationship between husband and wife is a sacrament,” he said.