By Herman M. Lagon
(Last of two parts)
OPPOSITION to the legalization of divorce in the Philippines often draws its strength from religious and moral arguments. However, it’s crucial to delve deeper and recognize that the absence of a divorce law doesn’t inherently make a society morally superior. In reality, maintaining the status quo inadvertently perpetuates injustices and societal anomalies. As recent national polls have shown, and as reflected in the sorry state of our nation’s social services, rule of law, economy, democracy, sovereignty, and fiscal integrity, the situation speaks for itself.
One key argument against divorce is that it is unnecessary because annulment and legal separation already exist. However, these options are often prohibitively expensive and time-consuming, leaving them accessible mainly to the wealthy. Consequently, many couples resort to illicit relationships, bigamy, or live in de facto separations, hidden from legal scrutiny. This harsh truth fosters a culture of deceit and hypocrisy, even within religious communities.
When properly regulated, divorce offers a more accessible and equitable solution for couples in dire straits. It enables them to part ways legally and amicably, reducing the need for secretive, potentially harmful practices. It also mitigates the emotional, mental, and financial burden of lengthy annulment processes, enabling individuals, including their loved ones, to move on with their lives.
Furthermore, divorce safeguards the rights and well-being of spouses trapped in abusive or violent marriages. Advocates for the status quo often emphasize the need for couples to work things out. While reconciliation is admirable, expecting all marriages to be repaired is unrealistic. In domestic abuse cases, forcing couples to stay together perpetuates suffering and endangers lives, not just of the spouses but also of their loved ones. Divorce provides an exit strategy, a lifeline to those in desperate need.
Some may argue that children are better off in intact families, but this oversimplifies a complex issue. Children exposed to constant conflict and discord between their parents can suffer more harm than good. Divorce, when done responsibly and with children’s best interests in mind, can provide a more stable and peaceful environment for them. In fact, as the bill declares, it seeks to “save the childred from pain, stress, and agony consequent to their parents’ constant marital clashes.” It is about choosing the lesser of two evils: a non-nuclear home versus a home filled with hatred and turmoil.
Critics may argue that the Philippines should preserve its conservative values and resist Western influences. However, it is worth noting that other predominantly Catholic countries like Brazil and Mexico have embraced divorce in 1977 and 1917, respectively, while upholding their unique cultural identities. Why should we be more dogmatic than the Pope and more Pharisaic than modern-day societies?
In fact, in a bittersweet surprise, the Philippines, a 300,000-km2 nation of 115 million Filipinos living in 7,641 islands known for its cultural and religious diversity, and the Vatican City, a landlocked barangay-wide microstate inhabited mostly by 800 celibate clergy and employees, are the only two of the 195 sovereign states in the world without divorce laws. While Vatican City’s lack of divorce laws aligns with the special vow of most of its religious population, the Philippines’ enduring absence of legal divorce options raises compelling questions about its truly representative, clear, and present position. Note that the recent SWS survey showed that 53% of Filipinos agreed to leganize divoce, while only 32% say otherwise.
Additionally, the constitutional argument against divorce is unfounded. There is no prohibition in the Philippine Constitution against the legalization of divorce. Our legal system should not discriminate in favor of one religious belief over another. It is perplexing why other Catholic countries are more tolerant of divorce while ours clings to an outdated stance.
In conclusion, the urgency and necessity of legalizing divorce in the Philippines stem from the need to provide a humane, equitable, and practical solution for couples trapped in irreparable marriages. It is not about undermining the sanctity of marriage but recognizing the limits of human endurance and the imperative of change. Divorce is a logical, necessary option and a path towards a more compassionate and just society. It is high time we give divorce a chance.
Doc H fondly describes himself as a ‘student of and for life’ who, like many others, aspires to a life-giving and why-driven world that is grounded in social justice and the pursuit of happiness. His views herewith do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions he is employed or connected with.