(Source: wikipedia.org/Photo by Manuel Gegenhuber)

(Source: wikipedia.org/Photo by Manuel Gegenhuber)

I’m divorced. My husband is likewise divorced from his first wife. If we were living in the Philippines, we would be among those condemned by the Catholic Church for living in sin. To legalize our union, we would have to go through the very tedious and expensive process of annulment from the court and the Church. That’s two processes (for each of us) times two, which in real terms translate to hundreds of thousands of pesos (including lawyers’ and psychiatrist fees) plus a lot of man-hours and psychological distress that could last for years.

[Read: http://www.positivelyfilipino.com/magazine/of-annulment-and-annulment]

Thank goodness we live in the United States where divorce is legal. While one cannot escape the aggravations that accompany the end of a marriage, at least when all is done and the dust has settled, each spouse has the option to find happiness and share a life – legally – with another (hopefully more compatible) person instead of being alone or worse, stuck in a marriage that is no longer working.

Did our divorce make us evil people? Definitely not; in fact I’d like to think we’re better persons now because we’re happier.

Did it mess up our children’s lives? No. They may have been insecure and sad at the beginning, but they have come to realize that it was for the better. Because they have survived the pain of hearing/seeing their parents fight and have come to accept the reality of separation, they’ve evolved with stronger characters, able to ride through challenges without falling apart. They’re happier individually, and we’re happy together.

Did our divorces cause other couples to divorce? Heck, no. Every marriage is unique and every couple makes choices based on their particular circumstances.

Did we trigger an epidemic of moral depravity as anti-divorce proponents warn? Are you kidding me?

Did we compromise the sanctity of the family? Of course not; in fact, we have created a happy, blended family from the ruins of our first marriages.

Divorce – or the lack of it – has been resuscitated as a hot topic in the Philippines because of the Social Weather Station’s (SWS) recent survey revealing that 60 percent of Filipinos now favor a divorce law, up from 50 percent a year ago.

What then is holding back our legislators from legalizing divorce? Our homeland is the only country in the world outside of the Vatican that doesn’t allow divorce for all of its citizens. (Muslim Filipinos are able to divorce, Christians can’t.) Anti-divorce proponents say, so what? Shouldn’t we be proud that we are upholding the sanctity of marriage?

The problem with such argument is that it is unrealistic. Marriages are breaking up even without a divorce law, so blaming legalization is way off the mark.

To better understand the merits of having a divorce law and why mere annulment isn’t enough, read family law expert Evalyn G. Ursua’s excellent article that Positively Filipino published two years ago and continues to be our most-read posting:

Read: http://www.positivelyfilipino.com/magazine/2013/2/why-the-philippines-needs-a-divorce-law

With the topic fresh in the news once again, some male legislators have been quoted making inane, incredibly self-centered and insensitive statements opposing a divorce law.

Read: http://politics.com.ph/post/under-de-saya-senators-fearful-of-divorce-law

While their gut reactions speak more about these characters’ characters rather than the merits of the proposed legislation, at least they confirm what many pro-divorce proponents suspect: any divorce act will face a steep uphill battle in Congress (or at least this current one) because the male legislators will oppose it tooth and nail based on their personal situations, not for the good of the people.

If opposing legislators will just read the proposed bill, they’ll see that the provisions are so stringent – only those couples who have not been living together for five years and the relationship is irreparable will qualify, for one – that there won’t be any trivialization of marriage vows, no Las Vegas-like revolving door (married one day, divorce the next), no insidious plot to undermine the family by marketing divorce as a commodity. “The law should only give people a choice, to be exercised according to their own personal beliefs,“ Ursua emphasizes.

Read: http://jlp-law.com/blog/proposed-divorce-law-in-the-philippines/

Journalist Val Abelgas in his column, “Divorce: Perhaps They’ll Listen Now,” says it best: “A big majority of our national leaders, including the lawmakers on whose hands fall the authority to pass such a law, are men who want to enjoy the best of both worlds – keeping their family intact while enjoying the benefits of infidelity.” Add to this the concern over having to pay alimony, the public exposure of their shenanigans and the consequent emotional storm that few males are equipped to handle – and there goes the divorce law. The Catholic Church of course opposes the legislation vehemently, which is still a factor although, as the passage of the Reproductive Health law has shown, the Church can actually lose when the majority turns against it.

However, divorce proponents need not despair. The slow but sure shift in public opinion is bound to result in something positive. Walden Bello, who just resigned as Akbayan party list representative to Congress over an issue unrelated to divorce (Read this week’s Q&A with Walden Bello http://www.positivelyfilipino.com/magazine/qa-with-recently-resigned-congressman-walden-bello), believes that it’s only a matter of time (and a lot of lobbying and public pressure) before divorce finally becomes a reality in the Philippines. He hopes that it will emerge as an electoral issue in the next election so people can vote in legislators who are more sympathetic to the cause.

Meanwhile we wait and watch as the fascinating process of mind change grips more and more Filipinos on this issue. There is obviously a growing realization that getting a second chance in life is a universal right, not a privilege accorded only to a few.  

Gemma Nemenzo

Editor, Positively Filipino