My former students in the law school will remember that, whenever the topic comes up, I often quip that the fact that the Philippines does not have a law on divorce is a case of national hypocrisy because it is undeniable that nearly everyone knows someone who has long separated from his, or her, spouse and many even already have separate families.
Most of these separated couples have not had their marriage nullified or annulled because of insufficient means, the strict laws and rules on declaration of nullity or annulment of marriage or, simply because none of the ground for such cases are applicable to their situation. Actions for legal separation offer even less relief because while it results in a recognition of their separation from bed and board, they would still remain tied by the bounds of marriage and the legal consequences thereof.
The situation has perpetuated unclear or confusing rules and situations regarding their property and hereditary rights, custody of children and even exposes them to possible criminal liability for concubinage, adultery or bigamy.
Those who are rabidly opposed to the passage of a reasonable law on divorce often cite religious grounds touting the sanctity of marriage while others quote the 1987 Constitution, Article 15 of which provides that “Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.”
My position is that a law on divorce is NOT HARMFUL to the institution of marriage because it seeks to address or remedy marital unions that, for all intents and purposes, have already ended, where love has been replaced by hate, where one’s spouse is no longer viewed with longing but with growing disgust and where the joy and comfort of marital bliss has already become a prison cell and the sentence is longer than reclusion perpetua.
Divorce should not make it easy for married couples to separate but should provide a reasonable avenue for remedies if, and when, they do.
Religion should not be an issue because, while divorce may be taboo in certain faiths or theologies, the law nonetheless must, and does, recognize relationships that may not be theologically acceptable but must still be addressed with clear legislation.
For example, our laws recognize and provide for the rules regulating common-law relationships with, or without, legal impediments for marriage. “Live-in” relationships amount to “living in sin”, as far as many religions are concerned, but our Family Code defines it and provides many rules governing the different aspects of such a relationship.
As an aside, the very same logic should also apply to the need for legislation to address same-sex unions, partnerships or relationships……. I did not use “marriage” because it unnecessarily raises some people’s blood pressure so, for now, let us leave this for another future article.
Going back, I refuse to believe that any faith that is based on the propagation of love, morality and honesty would truly force a couple to continue to live together when they would rather be strangling each other’s throat than be in one another’s warm embrace. That would be forcing them to live a lie, where is the honesty in that?
Even the Supreme Court has recognized the depth and unknowable extent of the hows and whys of love by quoting the philosopher, Blaise Pascal, in saying that “LOVE HAS REASONS THAT REASON CANNOT EXPLAIN.
Thus, we cannot legislate love, as is often said, but we can enact laws to apply when it is gone.