MANILA- House Speaker Pantaleon Avarez's proposed bills for the dissolution of marriage, civil unions and the total separation of property drew mostly negative feedback from different stakeholders.
Gabriela Party-list Rep. Emmi de Jesus said the speaker's proposal sounds like the group's own proposal for a divorce law, House Bill No. 2380.
"Sa totoo lang, 'yung divorce bill namin, 'yun din naman ang ending, marriage will be severed, pero syempre context namin kaugnay ng rights ng kakababaihan sa kultura natin. Maraming kaso na hinawakan namin with regards to getting out of marriage ay babaeng nakaranas ng violence," she said.
Alvarez over the weekend pitched the measures when asked of his priorities in the 2nd regular session of the 17th Congress, which opens on July 24.
He said under his proposed bill, parties would be spared the painful process of annulment by allowing couples to jointly petition a court for the dissolution of their marriage.
However, he explained, this is not a divorce bill but merely seeks to free couples from an unhappy marriage.
Predominantly Catholic Philippines is currently the only country in the world without a divorce law.
"Hindi ito divorce; dissolution of marriage ito. Halimbawa, 'di tayo magkasundo, 'di na tayo masaya sa isa't isa. We can go to court and petition jointly for the dissolution of our marriage," he said.
"Then doon sa petition na iyon, mag-agree na tayo [sa] custody of children, paano mo hatiin 'yung properties. Ang duty ng judge ministerial na lang, titingnan niya kung walang intimidation, kung may free will ba ang parties to enter into an agreement na di-dissolve ang marriage," he added.
Alvarez said should one of the spouses refuse the dissolution, the other spouse could still petition a court on the ground of "unhappiness."
Family law practitioner Claire Castro, however asks: what should define a happy and unhappy marriage?
"Pagka sinabi nating 'di na ako happy,' ano ba yung definition ng happiness? Kasi may mga pagkakataon na nag-aaway talaga 'yung mag-asawa, at 'di iyan mawawala kasi pareho silang different persons, may kaniya-kaniya silang attitude," she said.
"Pero 'pag sinabi mong 'di ako happy sa iyo,' papaano mo mapoprove 'yung happiness? Papaano kung nag-away kayo 1 week, siyempre during that time 'di kayo happy sa isa't isa."
"So siguro dapat maging strict tayo... kung talagang mapapasa ito, ano ba 'yung ibig sabihin ng 'happiness.' ... Ok lang gumawa ng isang batas [na] 'di ganun kaliberal at nandoon pa rin 'yung respeto sa marriage, pero siguro mas ok talaga na maging mas easy for a couple," she said.
De Jesus raised the same question.
"'Pag tiningnan natin [ang] dissolution of marriage at ginamit ang salitang 'unhappy,' subjective, very subjective. Mahalaga para sa amin, kaya nga sabi namin educational sana ang approach para ipakita ano ba batayan bakit nawawasak [ang pagsasama]?," she said.
Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Judicial Vicar of the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, meanwhile reiterated the Church's opposition to any dissolution of marriage.
"Itatanong ko rin, 'wag ka na mag-asawa, basta magsama 'pag 'di gusto maghiwalay. Bakit magpapakasal kung ganun lang, 'pag 'di magkasundo, nag-aaway, let's file for divorce. Just stick together, the next day, part ways. Walang problema," he said.
Cruz maintained that problematic marriages could be covered by the rules on annulment, and reminded the public that the dissolution of marriage affects children.
"The first victims of this reality are the children. I have not heard a child so far. Baka meron na pumapalakpak mga magulang nagkasundo, maghiwalay, ang unang biktima [ay] mga anak nila."
Cruz maintained that under the laws of nature, marriages can not be put asunder.
"'Di sa ayaw ko; 'di pwede. Kalikasan ang batayan. Kung ano pagsamama, kung babaguhin ang family code, dapat lalo baguhin [ang] Konstitusyon. It's a state policy that the state shall recognize the family as a basic social unit, the family as a basic social unit," he said.
Senior Deputy Minority Leader BUHAY Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza also criticized Alvarez's proposal, saying the bill removes "the genuine essence of marriage."
"This proposal effectively destroys the institution of marriage in the country. This destroys the sanctity, respect and value of the family," he said.
"I don't know of any other country in the world that has adopted this kind of law, which makes it easy to dissolve a marriage upon agreement. Kapag ayaw na ng mag-asawa sa isa't isa, pwede na maghiwalay agad,' he added.
"Para bang mag-usap na lang kayo, 'pag ayaw na, hiwalay na. Papaano naman 'yung kontratang pinirmahan na ang testigo ay ang Panginoong Hesukristo?" Atienza said.
Castro is also concerned how such a bill may diminish the value of marriage.
"Pero 'pag dumating kasi 'yung panahon na ganito, ang batas natin baka magkaroon ng sinasabing mawalan ng value 'yung marriage. Alam mo naman sa Pilipinas, talagang 'yung sanctity ng marriage ay talagang pine-preserve natin," said the family law practitioner.
But Alvarez allayed the critics' fears, saying his proposal would not undermine the institution of marriage and will, in fact, reinforce it as it would compel couples to work on keeping their marriages happy.
"Ito, mas napoprotektahan natin 'yung marriage as an institution because 'pag nagpakasal ang 2 parties, kailangan 'yung spouses na 'yun must see to it na masaya 'yung kaniyang partner. 'Di ba kasi ngayon, pagkatapos ng kasalan, isang party, balik sa barkada, inom dito inom doon, 'di na masaya 'yung isang party...So pagka 'di masaya 'yung kabilang party, bigyan natin siya ng karapatan para i-dissolove ang kaniyang marriage," he said.
For her part, De Jesus is wary that the speaker's proposal would be risky as it may make separations too easy.
"Doon sa proposal ni Speaker, mabilis. Sa amin kasi, merong talagang matibay na 'pag pumasok o dinala na sa korte 'yung petition of any of the parties, ike-carry 'yung reasons na legal separation, ike-carry 'yung reasons sa annulment na 5 years na de facto na hiwalay na at irreparable marriage," she said.
De Jesus also fears this may put women at risk of being blackmailed by their husbands.
"Nakakatakot diyan kasi kung beholden ang babae sa desisyon ng lalaki or kung beholden isa doon sa isa, kung walang kapangyarihan lalo na kung economic power. Sasabihan lang, pumirma ka, magpepetisyon. Pwede ring 'di sa kagustuhan niya, pwede ring tulak rin ng coercion. Dapat pagka idi-dissolve na marriage, magkaroon ng proseso na malinaw ang batayan."
NO TO ADOPTION OF TOTAL SEPARATION OF PROPERTY
Cruz also decried the proposal for the adoption of a total separation of property for married couples, explaining that this sets the stage for the failure of a marriage.
"This is so sad. Before they're even united, they're already separating some things and usually the prenuptial agreement [is] sayo [ay] iyo, akin [ay] akin. That's in preparation for divorce or legal separation to me," he said.
Alvarez has already filed House Bill No. 5268, which amends the Family Code of the Philippines to say that future spouses may, in marriage settlements, agree upon the regime of absolute community, conjugal partnership of gains, complete separation of property or any other regime.
In the absence of a marriage settlement or if the regime agreed upon is void, the regime of total separation of property as established in this code shall govern.
The same bill also seeks to amend the family code to say that "when a man and a woman, who are capacitated to marry each other, live exclusively with each other as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage or under a void marriage, their respective wages and salaries earned in their individual capacity shall be owned by them under the regime of total separation of property, and the property acquired by both of them through their work of industry shall be governed by the rules of co-ownership."
Alvarez said he is seeking to prevent marriages for money or convenience.
"Gusto natin bigyang solusyon 'yung nagpapakasal for convenience na dahil mayaman 'yung babae, mayaman 'yung lalaki, pinapakasalan. Pagkatapos noon, 'yung isa, siyempre kung 'yun ang consideration, hindi purely because of love, hindi magiging successful 'yung marriage," he said.
Alvarez explained that under his proposal, couples no longer have to sign a prenuptial agreement so that they can keep their properties separate.
"Pag walang marriage settlement, complete separation of property, ang presumption and default provision complete separation of property para maiwasan natin 'yung nagpapakasal dahil sa pera dahil mayaman ang lalaki, dahil mayaman ang babae. 'Di ba kultura ng Pilipino nahihiya ,tayong magpapirma ng marriage settlement?" he said.
If his bill is approved, properties of the couple will stay separate even after the start of the marriage. Currently, properties of married couples belong to both spouses, unless there is a prenuptial agreement.
"Default provision 'yung dati sa civil code natin [na] pagka walang marriage settlement, automatic nakalagay conjugal partnership ang regime of property. Inamyendahan nito ang Family Code. Ginawa from conjugal, ginawa community property, halo-halo na lahat."
Further, if the proposal is approved, couples will have to come to a settlement on which properties will become joint properties of the couple.
"So ngayon, at least doon pa lang pinrotektahan na kayo ng state, ng gobyerno. Ngayon, kung magpapakasal kayo, sabihin niyo 'ah hindi, gawin nating conjugal, gawin nating absolute community, o 'di kasalanan niyo nang dalawa 'yan. Di na kasalanan ng state yan," the Speaker said.
But Castro favors a return to the old civil code provision that says properties acquired by a couple before their marriage remain their individual property, but properties acquired during the marriage should be conjugal property. This, she says, is meant to preserve the institution of marriage.
"Dapat pangalagaan [ang] marriage. Kasi darating ang time na babae naman, let's face it, walang trabaho. Ano property niya? Kaya binigay na conjugal partnership dahil mga babae na walang trabaho ay 50-50 pa rin ang sharing sa properties na naipundar during the marriage. Paano poproteksyunan ang asawa na nasa bahay lang?"
CRITIC ALSO NIXES SAME-SEX UNION
Cruz likewise maintained the church's opposition to any form of same sex marriage.
"Same sex marriage, etc., masasabi ko diyan then, that is never, never the reality of marriage. Sila bahala, kaya lang to my mind, it's an exercise in futility, because there can be no union between two parties of the same sex," he said.
"There can be friendship, there can be a united, a harmonious bilateral consideration, but union is more than unity. Union is like communion. They interpenetrate community. Iba yun, hindi marriage yun."
Cruz is also against any state recognition of same sex partnerships.
"It's a contradiction in terms, it is not the reality. I have nothing against [them], I do not have anything against them--I wrote about them, I titled it gender identity difficulty. There are realities which are downright realities human law cannot change. Human nature, 'di mo pwedeng palitan, naturalesa ng tao. Sa pamamagitan lang ng isang batas na ginawa din ng tao," he said.
Last Saturday, Alvarez also said he would file a bill that would allow civil unions for both same sex and opposite sex couples.
This bill will govern property rights, custodial rights over children and even adoption rights for childless couples.
In effect, this would be genderless, Alvarez said.
Cruz meanwhile explained that there is no place for same sex couples in the institution of marriage.
"Wala silang puwang sa kasal. Sa lahat ng ibang bagay, may puwang sila at iyan ay mga anak rin naman ng Diyos, at 'wag natin sila maliitin. Kaya lang, 'yung katotohanan ay katotohanan," he said.
"As far as marriage is concerned, sorry, but there are things that cannot be done. Hindi pagkat ayaw ng Simbahan, 'di pwede ayon sa rule of law of nature. Simbahan kasi, [ang] kaniyang mga aral base sa kalikasan, 'di panay base sa langit. Lahat base sa kalisakan. Pareho kasarian, 'di pwede union, 'di pwede communion, di pwedeng marriage," Cruz added.
Castro meanwhile said same sex couples can already enjoy their own property together without a civil union.
"Kahit walang ganyang batas, recognized ang same sex relationship. Unang una, when it comes to properties, pwede naman sila bumili ng properties, i-register as co-owners. When it comes to inheritance, they can donate, they can make a last will, ilalagay partners. Allowed ito," she said.
However, Castro said there maybe a problem when it comes to adoption rights.
"When it comes to adoption, adoption can be applicable only to one person, medyo mag-contradict ito sa family code, na sabi nga natin woman and man lang pwede mag-asawa. 'Yun lang din batas sa adoption."
Castro suggests the crafting of a bill specifically allowing same sex partners to adopt.
De Jesus, for her part, wants a thorough study of the bills on civil unions and total separation of property for married couples.