Bohol first district representative, Rene L. Relampagos, registered a “no” vote in the third reading of the proposed bill on divorce.
He said that divorce is not a simple issue. “It is not simply a pro-family vs. anti-family issue. A “yes” vote does not mean you are anti-family and a “no” vote does not mean you are pro-family. It is not good vs. evil either with divorce seen as evil. It is much more than that,” he clarified.
In the current set-up, a marriage can be dissolved through a judicial process where psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the Civil Code lie as the sole basis. This is the only procedure akin to divorce. Bigamy, failure to comply with certain statutory requirements, abandonment as well as recognition of foreign decrees of annulment among other matters needed to be looked into.
Despite this, however, the cases for declaration of nullity of marriage increase by the year. “This alone calls us to look into the issues surrounding marriage with the intent of strengthening the most basic social unit and protecting all stakeholders in the family,” said Relampagos.
The number of annulment cases filed in court does reflect the silent statistics of couples who refuse or lack capacity to undergo the annulment process but remain separated ‘de facto’ and living apart which is much much more in number he said.
“I am fully aware that there are many dysfunctional marriages and families nowadays. Drugs, violence, abuse and infidelity persist amongst many domestic problems. And the tedious judicial process may not work for all. But if we were to have a divorce bill, it should reflect the Filipino values on family, protect every member of the family and should be accessible to everyone who qualifies for the same. It should not be too liberal but not too conservative at the same time,” he said. “A delicate balance between liberality and being conservative must be met.”
The lawmaker noted that cases for dissolution of marriage in the country remain as a last resort for couples which are good. “And it should remain like that,” he espoused. “Divorce should be seen as a last resort. As such, all efforts to save the marriage should likewise be considered and institutionalized. Going further back, strengthening and institutionalizing pre-marriage counseling should also be considered.”
Divorce is not seen anymore as anti-family nor is it evil, per se, which breaks families. For others, divorce is precisely pro-family and good especially in manifestly abusive relationships. Debates and arguments for both sides can be endless. Relampagos said that it is easy to get drowned in the discussions. “Extremism is dangerous.”
“Instead, I want to focus on the institution and stakeholders bound to be affected – the family per se, the father, the mother, the child or children. The mothers and the children remain the most vulnerable in the situation,” he relates. “In most cases after divorce, children remain with the mother who, even if she is gainfully employed, faces the harsh reality of raising the kids by herself for the most part. And the effect on children can be daunting as well. And as a little but significant note on mother’s day, my salute goes to all single mothers who are among the strongest and the most persistent I know. You all deserve an extra plate of our celebrations!”
Under the proposed version of the bill, the grounds for divorce were expanded to include irreconcilable differences. While procedure is still judicial, it admits of summary procedure for divorce under certain circumstances.
In the words of one Supreme Court justice, “Man has not invented a reliable compass by which steer a marriage in it’s journey over troubled water. Laws are seemingly inadequate. Over time, much reliance has been placed in the unseen hand of Him who created all things. Who is to blame when a marriage fails?”
“Aware of the issues facing the Filipino families, I am for measures that work for the best interests of all concerned. Divorce is one delicate issue which requires much more deliberation and circumspect. This is a game-changer,” Relampagos emphasized.