Dissolution of marriage: A gift or a curse?
The answer of the abovementioned question will depend on which side of the fence you are in. Those who are against HB 6027, otherwise known as the Dissolution of Marriage Bill, might say that it is a curse, but those who are in favor will surely say that it is a gift.
At present, the Philippines does not have a divorce law. This is the only country outside Vatican that does not have such law because of the strong opposition of the Roman Catholic Church. The church had exhibited throughout the ages its power to oppose legislation until the passage of RH Law of former President Benigno Aquino.
So the existing Family Code of the Philippines only provides termination of marriage through annulment and declaration of nullity of marriage. Admittedly, the process is extremely adversarial and is very expensive.
Some lawyers will have a package of, at the very least, P200,000, including the hiring of an expert witness, a psychiatrist or psychologist, who will testify in court. Many say that the said process is anti-poor.
Also, despite the tedious and expensive process, if there is doubt during the court hearing, the doubt shall be resolved in favor of preserving the family and not approving the annulment. Hence, there are lots of annulment cases that are disapproved due to the principle that the state shall protect the sanctity of the family.
There is also a case of legal separation, but the couple will only be separated by roof but not allowed to remarry. Still, the process in this case is not trouble-free.
The Dissolution of Marriage Bill, authored by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez himself, intends to ease the access of legal process to terminate a marriage while at the same time preserve the chance for a post-marriage scenario. The grounds and process are simple.
Section 1 states, “A marriage may be dissolved based on irreconcilable differences, or severe and chronic unhappiness, of the spouses which shall have caused the irreparable breakdown of the marriage.” In other words, if you are not anymore happy with your married life, you can have it dissolved.
The process is easy, such that the couples who are not anymore happy with their married life by agreement can file a joint verified petition for dissolution of marriage together with a joint plan for parenthood over their common children. In this case, the duty of a judge will even become ministerial. It will be a different story if only one party will file the petition, although the process is still not complicated. In either case, the support for the children is assured.
“It is a Christmas gift to the Filipino people.” This is how House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, during my “Straight to the Point” radio program aired over dyHP RMN Cebu, describes his pending bill. He said that the House of Representatives is fast-tracking the passage of the said bill before Christmas as a gift to the many Filipinos who ask for it based on his own social media surveys.
Alvarez is confident that his bill will be passed in the Lower House as he believes that 90 percent of the congressmen will vote for it. In fact, he said that even congressmen in the opposition bloc have expressed their support for the said bill.
If the bill will be approved in the Lower House, it will still undergo three readings in the Upper House, the senate. If approved, it will be submitted to the President for his signature before it will be finally become a law. Nevertheless, it can still be challenged before the Supreme Court for its constitutionality.
Carefully scrutinizing the provisions of the bill, one will find that this is tantamount to a divorce law. That’s why I asked Speaker Alvarez if his intention of naming the bill as Dissolution of Marriage instead of Divorce intentional to mislead the people; he answered no. He said he does not want to be accused of copying a law from other countries. He wants a unique one for the Filipinos.
For those who experience problematic marriages, this bill is a gift for them, but for others, they may call it as a curse as it is against the Christian doctrine.
It is understandable that the bill will meet a strong opposition again from the Roman Catholic Church because it will run counter to its doctrines. The church teaches that only death can separate the couple. Such doctrine is supported by the Bible.
Although the Catholic Church recognizes defective marriages as it provides church annulment, the process is surely not prone to abuses. What about the Alvarez’s bill? What measures should legislators incorporate so the law will not be abused?
Is it a gift or a curse? It depends.
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