Is the country ready for a divorce law?

Posted by watchmen
September 6, 2021
Posted in OPINION

The Family Code itself describes marriage as an inviolable social institution. The Scriptural adage is – what God has put together let no man put apart.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman reports that a technical working group at the House of Representatives has recommended the passage of a much-awaited divorce law. 

This bill will soon be taken up by the plenary of the House. Lagman is optimistic the bill will be carried, as Speaker Lord Allan Velasco himself is said to be supportive of a law that will address the many issues attendant to problematic marital unions.

According to Lagman, this absolute divorce bill means freedom for battered wives.

The Civil Code and the Family Code of the Philippines contain no provisions on divorce. There are marriages that may be declared “null and void,” e.g., the spouses are minors, but divorces based on grounds that are normally recognized in legal separation are not allowed.

The Family Code itself describes marriage as an inviolable social institution. The Scriptural adage is – what God has put together let no man put apart.

But laws are meant to recognize some realities that go with the changing times. They are also intended to address certain ills that result from a rigid application of codes of conduct.

An equally important consideration is that at the turn of this decade five out of 10 Filipino children were born outside of marriage. A great number of them were conceived as a result of extramarital unions.

“Extramarital” usually connotes infidelity in its traditional sense, characterized by hidden designs to meet with a lover even while entwined in what is publicly presented as a happy marriage.

However, there are thousands of unions that are no longer in that mold. Many have informally separated from their spouses but do not make it legal because annulment proceedings are wieldy, expensive, and time-consuming.

An annulment that takes less than a year to process here is nothing less than a miracle. Our courts are overburdened, and on top of that not a few courts deny annulment petitions based on their personal belief systems.

Instead of spending time and money on an annulment that might never happen, couples who have called it quits opt to go on with their lives and get into other relationships in a state of adultery or concubinage.

Some problems might arise when the relationship subsequent to marriage is bi-racial. What happens, for example, when a Filipina working in Japan, who is already separated from her husband in the Philippines, is impregnated by a Japanese man?

Can the Japanese man legally acknowledge paternity of the child even without the Filipina’s marriage with her Filipino husband getting annulled? Under Philippine law, that child is presumed legitimate having been conceived and born during the subsistence of a valid marriage.

As we understand it, Japanese law adheres to a similar principle. The Civil Law Act of Japan says that a child conceived by a wife during marriage is presumed to be a child of her husband.

Importantly also, has that child acquired the citizenship of its Japanese biological father considering that Japan adheres to the jus sanguinis principle – citizenship by blood?

We can multiply that situation with the total number of nations that the Filipino diaspora has reached. A divorce secured prior to conception would have obviated these concerns.

These and other gnawing questions are among the reasons for the growing clamor among overseas Filipino workers for the Philippines to now pass a law on absolute divorce. That law must be able to address the many issues that the Family Code has sadly failed to anticipate./WDJ

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