Divorce: Why Not?

The Philippines is the only country in the world without divorce. The Catholic church is strongly against it and it will do anything to hamper the passing of a divorce law. They say it will take over the Filipino value and culture as it will destroy the basic unit of the community, the family. They say divorce is not the answer to address the growing number of violence against women in the country. They say allowing divorce will only open the door for more marital issues such as infidelity and morality. I vow to disagree.

Marriages collapse for a reason. Two individuals who promised to spend the rest of their lives together are, let’s face it, still humans. Humans make mistake, a known fact. There’s a difference between believing a marriage will work a lifetime and living the marriage each day. Truth sucks most of the time. Marriage is no good ‘ol fairy tale guaranteeing that two people will live happily ever after. Differences only arise when you are already trapped in the covenant. Love can easily turn into hate when the life you dreamed about does not materialize. Endless fights on just about anything can be physically and emotionally draining that over time, each person loses their hope for anything better in the future. For a woman, the husband, who used to be her knight in shining armor is now her greatest enemy. To imagine carrying on a life with this great burden is unspeakable. Same goes for the man. The constant bickering of the wife makes every day a cursed existence. There is no other way but out.

Annulment is the only option for Filipinos if they want to break free from this bond. Annulment is different from divorce in the sense that the former denies the fact that a union ever transpired. There was no marriage to speak about and filing for an annulment requires you to prove that. The commonly used ground for annulment is psychological incapacity. You have to prove to court that one of you was not psychologically fit at the time of the marriage to enter a contract. I have no idea how this is presented during hearings but for sure this opens a can of worms. Resentment and bitterness towards each other becomes even more present as old wounds are rehashed. Pointing fingers also becomes inevitable. Annulment is a painstaking process that goes on for years. Unlike divorce, court decisions on annulment take forever. You have to attend quite a number of hearings and yes of course, spend quite a fortune, too. Annulments are pretty darn expensive in the Philippines, around $50K. For a third world country like the Philippines, annulment is indeed only for the rich. For the poor majority, they just need to suck it up and endure hell. And this is all right with the Catholic church.

Divorce is honest. When two married people are no longer on the same page, divorce acknowledges that fact. It is not pretentious. It accepts the reality that marriage does not work on some individuals and it releases them from such bondage. Freedom is better than living a lie. Somehow, the Catholic church does not think so.

Incompatible couples are forced to live with each other. It is interesting to note, however, that one can file for a legal separation here in the Philippines. This is practically useless because it only acknowledges that a husband and a wife do not live together anymore. They are separated de facto. Separated but still married. You are still not legally allowed to enter a new marriage, hence, you are still tied to your old burden. This does not offer anything else.

Most troubled families do not dare take any of the above-mentioned options because they involve too much time, money and emotions but really do not give much. They are forced to ride the marriage out. They cling to the safe reasoning that they are staying on with the marriage for the sake of the children. What they feel do not matter anymore. They have to endure hell because they have no other option.

Times have changed, though. More and more married individuals are brave enough to defy the church and risk social stigma. Couples separate and move on with their lives with other partners. This is illegal in the Philippines. You can go to jail for sleeping with someone other than your husband or your wife, provided he/she filed a case. But, this is rarely the case in this country. Only the rich can afford to have lawyers. Most married couples have mutually decided to move on with their lives so filing a case against each other is a rarity.

So, this is the case of failed marriages in the Philippines. You have to either stay and suffer or flee and be a fugitive from the law and the church. And this is all because we have to protect and preserve our culture and values. To live free legally is something that the church and the state will not give to troubled couples. Good job then Philippines for promoting a culture of lies, suffering and unlawfulness!