Do Filipinos need a divorce law?

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 21 2018 04:59 PM | Updated as of Mar 21 2018 06:31 PM

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MANILA - A pro-life lawmaker and a divorce advocate on Wednesday had a heated discussion on whether or not the Philippines needs a divorce law, after the measure was approved on final reading in the House of Representatives.

Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said he would rather see current laws on the married couples' separation enforced than passing a new law.

He said he is against the proposal because he has personally seen "the problems that are immediately bred when 2 people separate" and how the children suffer in those situations.

"Nagkakaroon ng problema ang mga bata dahil pag naghihiwalay ang mag-asawa, yung parents nila nawala at may nakasamang iba, talagang masakit sa bata yan. Nawawala yung poste nila, yung naaasahan; nawawala yung majikero nilang nanay pag may sakit sila," he told ANC's Headstart.

He added, the bill, which was passed on third and final reading at the House of Representatives, would allow for "no limit" on marrying, divorcing, and remarrying.

Beth Angsioco, head of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines, believes, however, that "there is a very concrete need for a divorce law to be enacted."

Current laws provide only for annulment and legal separation, and she said these are not enough.

"Legal separation does not allow, does not dissolve the marriage bonds. It’s not just a case of getting married immediately after separation; it’s also a case of breaking the power that a man usually has over the woman by virtue of marriage," she said.

She said there have been cases where although a couple has been separated, the husband continues to abuse the woman because he thinks he still "owns the woman because the marriage is still intact."

Annulment, on the other hand, declares the marriage "void from the beginning" and the couple would have to establish that the grounds for their separation existed before their wedding ceremony. She said this is among the reasons why this procedure becomes "very long and very expensive."

"What we need is an option for valid marriages that broke after.... that recognition that this marriage is valid, but it went wrong, things went very wrong and therefore, they decided to divorce," she said.

"What is happening now in terms of annulment is [that] even valid marriages, they try to make it appear na hindi naman yan valid from the start, which to me is hypocrisy," she added.

The Senate has yet to deliberate on a similar bill, with at least one senator saying it has a "50-50" percent of passing.

President Rodrigo Duterte has taken a stand against divorce, believing children of divorce will suffer, his spokesman Harry Roque revealed last Wednesday.