That house of hypocrisy and idiocy was quick to cackle when it came across a party list group that proposed 10-year renewable marriages. The “solons” (how can they be called solons by the way when these people are anything but, wise) came out with tongues wagging, saying “no” to renewable marriage.
Proposals for renewable marriages aren’t new by the way. A Time article dating from 1971 covers the topic.
divorce will be unnecessary for marital termination—at least in Maryland—if two state legislators can persuade their colleagues to pass a newly proposed law. It calls for making marriage a three-year contract, with an option to renew every three years by the mutual consent of both partners. Any disagreements over alimony, child custody and the like would be settled by a court as they are now.
A “cyber-sermon” by Jonathan Parks also helps to understand the rationale for such a proposal:
One advantage of having a defined period for each relationship contract is that both partners know when they will sit down to examine how well this relationship has been working for both of them.
Such relationship reviews might be compared to employment reviews. When people are first employed, they often have a probationary period perhaps 6 months long after which they know their work will be examined and evaluated. If they pass that first assessment, perhaps they will have annual reviews of their work.
Renewable marriages could work on a similar schedule. The partners agree to review the benefits and burdens of their relationship as seen by each partner at a pre-determined time in the future.
If they continue to appreciate the good things that are happening between them more than they regret their problems,they will renew their marriage or relationship for another period of time, perhaps one or two years or even more years for those who are quite happy with each other.
Before there was a “renewable marriage” proposal, there was the Divorce Bill.
A detailed blog on the status of the proposal to legalize divorce in the Philippines is provided in the Philippine e-legal forum:
In 2005, party-list representative Liza Masa of Gabriela filed a divorce bill. In 2001, similar bills were filed in the Senate (Bill No. 782), introduced by Senator Rodolfo G. Biazon, and House of Representatives (Bill No. 878), introduced by Honorable Bellaflor J. Angara-Castillo. In 1999, Representative Manuel C. Ortega filed House Bill No. 6993, seeking for the legalization of divorce. This Congress (14th Congress), Gabriela again filed a bill to introduce divorce in the Philippines. Here’s the explanatory note of House Bill 3461, filed by GABRIELA Women’s Party Representatives Liza Largoza-Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan.
The bill seeks to introduce divorce in Philippine law with a strong sense of confidence that it will be used responsibly by Filipino couples. This confidence stems from the experiences of Filipino families that show that separation is usually the last resort of many Filipino couples whose marriage has failed. Cases of battered women also support this. Battered women invariably seek separation only after many years of trying to make the marriage work; separation only becomes imperative for them when they realize that it is necessary for their and their children’s survival. Divorce could actually provide protection to battered women and their children from further violence and abuse. With the predominance of the Catholic faith in the Philippines, the fear that divorce will erode personal values on marriage appears unfounded. The experience of Italy, where the Vatican is located, and Spain, two predominantly Catholic countries which practice divorce, supports this. Those countries have a low rate of divorce. Italy registers a 7% rate while Spain registers 15%. The figures reflect the strong influence of religious beliefs and culture on individuals in deciding to terminate marital relations.
President Arroyo and Cardinal Sin, however, strongly called for the rejection of the divorce bills, claiming them to be “un-Filipino, immoral, unconstitutional and a danger to the Filipino family“.
Arroyo and Sin’s pronouncements appear to be unfounded. The highlights of the explanatory note of House Bill No. 6993, in support for divorce, challenge both personalities’ notions:
Not all marriages succeed as a permanent union. An increasing number of married individuals find themselves subjected by their marriage partners to physical violence, grossly abusive conduct and other acts of or offenses that — rather than promote blissful, harmonious conjugal and family life — impair, debase or destroy the legitimate ends of the marriage relationship. The bill seeks to give spouses which are shacked by an irretrievably broken marriage the freedom to remarry and possibly succeed in attaining a stable and fulfilling family life.
Divorce is not a novel legal right. The Family Code sanctions relative divorce (a mensa et thoro). Legal separation is a recognized remedy for victims of failed marriages. Our civil laws on marriage justify and allow the separation of married individuals but does not confer them the legal right or remedy to extricate themselves from the ordeal of a broken marriage.
Divorce is not exclusive to contemporary times. Before the Spanish colonial rule in the early 16th century, absolute divorce had been widely practiced among our ancestral tribes — the Tagbanwas of Palawan, the Gadang of Nueva Vizcaya, the Sagada and Igorot of the Cordilleras, the Manobo, Bila-an and Moslems of Visayas and Mindanao islands, to name a few.
There were prior divorce laws. In 1917, Act 2710 allowed divorce on the grounds of adultery on the part of the wife and concubinage on the part of the husband. During the Japanese Occupation, a new law on absolute divorce, E.O. No. 141, was promulgated providing for ten grounds for divorce. These laws are no longer in effect.
Based on the increasing number of failed marriages which confines many of our citizens to a perpetual state of marital limbo, it has become morally and socially acceptable for many Filipinos to grant spouses of broken marriages the legal right to remarry. The present grounds for legal separation which are recognized in our society as justifiable bases for relative divorce should be re-enacted as lawful grounds for absolute divorce. In addition, it is recommended that “irreconcilable marital differences” be included in our present civil laws as a justifiable cause for absolute divorce because not all circumstances and situations that vitiate the institution of marriage could be specifically categorized and defined by our lawmakers. Spouses living in a state of irreparable marital conflict or discord should be given the opportunity to present their marital contrarieties before the courts and have such differences adjudged as substantial grounds to dissolve or sever the legal bond of marriage.
Then Came 1-ABAA
Then along came 1-ABAA. The advocate of the proposed law, women’s party list group Isa-Ako Babaeng Astig Aasenso (1-ABAA), said it plans to put forth a measure requiring couples to renew marriage every 10 years so that it would not be voided.
The proposal must have sounded so radical that “Several lawmakers on Tuesday slammed the doors on a proposal for a renewable marriage even before it reached Congress.”. This proposal isn’t even Dead on Arrival, it’s an abortion!
Ruffled Feathers, Wagging Tongues and Brown Noses
And so typical of the telenobela called Da Pinas, according to the Inquirer news article, this is what the not-so-wise Philippine solons had to say:
Speaker Prospero Nograles said he is not in favor of the proposal as it was against his Catholic beliefs.
Nueva Ecija Representative Eduardo Nonato Joson also thumbed it down, saying couples who want to get out of the marriage can resort to annulment.
Manila Representative Bienvenido Abante, a pastor, said making marriage renewable reduces it to a “mere legal contract” instead of a relationship.
“What is happening to our values? That’s what happens when people don’t believe in absolutes anymore,” Abante said.
Muntinlupa Representative Rufino Biazon said the proposal bodes danger to families.
“The proposed marriage contract expiration should be opposed because it will endanger the integrity of the ties that bind Philippine society,” Biazon said in a statement.He said marriage does not trap couples into the relationship and is not a violation of human rights because getting into it is an option for men and women.
“To give marriage an expiration is also to give families an expiration. It will be dangerous to open Philippine society to the mindset that marriages and families have a predetermined end,” he added.
Three women lawmakers also opposed the idea.
Representative Liza Maza of Gabriela party list called the proposal “absurd” and “outrageous.”
Marriage should not be treated like a rental contract that has an expiration. Marriage, according to the solon, is imbued with social responsibility that should be upheld by couples.
The proposal also goes against the provisions of the Constitution because the highest law of the land clearly advocates marriage and family. It is also anti-women because it would give men the opportunity to leave his wife after 10 years and easily find a new one, Maza said.
Fellow Gabriela party-list Representative Luz Ilagan said making marriage renewable “reduces a sacred institution to a mere business contract.”
“What if the woman is battered before the 10 years is over? She should be able to get out of the relationship,” she said, adding that divorce would be a better option.
“The proposal ignores realities like what happens to the children, what would be their status? Will we not make it easy for the philandering men to have serial marriage? It’s not a well-thought-out proposal,” Ilagan said in a text message.
Representative Risa Hontiveros of Akbayan party list said marriage should be a lifetime contract, not something that is renewable. But she also said that the current system of annulment should make it easy especially for the abused women to get out of the relationship and ensure support for her children.
I am surprised that even the so-called progressives aren’t that progressive as well.
Let’s look at the reasons for their refusals and comment on these reasons (not necessarily to agree or disagree):
Reason 1 – Against his Catholic beliefs.
Comment: This congressman needs to be reminded of the separation of the church and state, that his Catholic beliefs should not infringe the rights of people who do not share his Catholic beliefs.
He also ought to be reminded that it is not really accurate to say that there is absolutely no divorce in the Philippines. Under Presidential Decree No. 1083, also known as the “Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines,” divorce is allowed in certain instances, but this law applies only when both parties are Muslims, or wherein only the male party is a Muslim and the marriage is solemnized in accordance with Muslim law in any part of the Philippines. For the rest of Filipinos, therefore, divorce is not available.
Reason 2 – Couples who want to get out of the marriage can resort to annulment.
Comment: The annulment process in the Philippines is so convoluted. The Philippines and Malta are the only two remaining countries that have no legal divorce. Both are deeply Catholic. In the Philippines, like the Euro-Mediterranean city-island Malta of late modernity, the observed changes in the values of marriage and the family, the secularisation of sexuality and an increase in the incidence of unsuccessful marriages is still accompanied by an deeply entrenched Catholic family culture that resists the civil settlement of marriage failure by divorce.
Having an alternative to the labyrinthine, archaic, and expensive annulment law will allow more equitable access to legal remedies.
Reason 3 – Making marriage renewable reduces it to a “mere legal contract” instead of a relationship/Reduces a sacred institution to a mere business contract.
Comment: Uhhh.. why call the document stipulating the terms of the relationship a marriage contract if it’s not a contract? Relationships end, too by the way.
This argument has its roots in the canonical view of marriage which was prevalent in medieval times – and in the case of the Philippines, during the Spanish occupation. A study by Masha V. Antokolskaia on The Process of Modernisation of Family Law in Eastern and Western Europe: Difference in Timing, Resemblance in Substance provides valuable insights on understanding why the Philippines family law is still stuck in a rut.
The reference to sacred institutions blur the separation of church and state. The institutionalisation of marriage, the banning of concubinage and the bastardisation of children born outside wedlock can be understood within the framework of feudalism – the introduction of the feudal system with the right of succession belonging to the first-born as its centerpiece. In 11th century Europe, the horizontal, cognate family structure of Carolingian times, in which male and female heirs were equal, was replaced by the vertical, agnate family structure, in which only the male line was important and male heirs were privileged. The goal of this change was to limit the amount of heirs in order to prevent the further division of land. The restrictions of family law served the same purpose. This same structure was transplanted by the Europeans to the Philippine occupied territories.
The development of family law in Europe shows that conservatism in family law does not primarily correlate with a less developed economy, but first and foremost with the measure of abandonment of the old canonical dogmas.
This abandonment was slower in countries with a strong Church influence (such as Italy, Spain, Ireland and Greece). Even economically less developed East European countries (such as Moldova, Romania and Serbia) have a fairly modern family law, due to the radical break with the canonical concepts that was imposed by the communists.
The process of gradually abandoning the concepts of canon law was essentially the same in all European countries, and was influenced by the same liberal ideas. The general trend can be described as the gradual change from a transpersonal to a personal approach. While the ideas of the Enlightenment were mainly on the rights and freedoms of the individual as a citizen, not of the individual as a private person. The family remained in the private domain where individualism, personal freedom and equality were acknowledged much later.
The breakdown of feudalism saw the entry of personalistic views consistent with the new social order. With individualism and personal freedom invading the family, the ideas concerning its social function and its whole image changed. The family was now regarded as a union based on love, its primary purpose was now to serve the happiness of its members. This change from a transpersonal to a personalistic approach is an important transformation that has occurred in family law over the last two centuries.
The essence of transpersonalism is the sacrificing of the interests of individuals to abstract values. This attitude was typical of medieval society, but in the private sphere it has dominated well into modern times. Family law was one of its last resorts. An everyday example of the endurance of transpersonalism can be found in the words of the Dutch Minister of Justice delivered in 1947, who stated that ‘[t]he acceptance of a monogamous marriage as the socially recognised form of cohabitation of man and woman, logically brings about that a difference must be made between children in and out of wedlock . . . Not because the legislator does not have any compassion with these indeed innocent children . . . but because the interest of society as a whole in the preservation of the respect for the institution of marriage, has priority over the individual interests of those persons’. The abstract interests of society as envisaged in this purely moral judgement concerning monogamy is given priority over the interests of innocent children. That is transpersonalism pur sang. This approach, prevailing until so recently, is still based on the medieval concept of marriage, although the author himself will hardly have been aware of this link.
Reason 4 – Proposal bodes danger to families
Comment: Evalyn Ursua, former Executive Director of the Women’s Legal Bureau, feminist lawyer and advocate of women and children’s rights has a different take. She says, “I believe the harm on children is even worse when two people are at each others’ throats, obviously very unhappy, but stick together for the sake of the institution of marriage. I believe they can be better parents if they confront their issues — especially if these seem to be irreconcilable. But good parenting should not stop with marital separation or divorce. In fact, it can even be enhanced.”
The Meat of the Matter
While the renewable proposal may sound “absurd” to our solons, it sounds more absurd that we have a crisis in our family laws and our solons have done nothing to provide relief but have actually exacerbated the crisis and blurred the lines that separate church and state.
What it boils down to is this:
1. The Philippine Family Law is in shambles
2. Annulment has not provided any relief.
3. There is a need for an alternative to annulment.
4. Instead of just saying NO to renewable marriage, fix the broken family law, say YES to an alternative to annulment, LEGALIZATION OF DIVORCE is a good start!
The Million Dollar Question
Having said that, it will be worth asking the candidates the following questions:
1. What is the candidates position on divorce? Is he in favor or not in favor of divorce?
2. Will he allow his religious beliefs to dictate upon a secular matter?
P.S. Remember to demand an honest answer specially if a candidate claims to be “honest”. 😉