Women’s group gives piece on PNoy’s divorce pronouncement

A PARTY-LIST group pushing for the passage of a measure that seeks to amend the Family Code to introduce a divorce provision reacted to the recent statement of Palace officials that President Benigno Aquino III would not touch the divorce question with a 10-foot pole.

Gabriela Party-list Representative Luzviminda Ilagan said their party respects the opinion of Malacañang but cautioned that they should read the bill first before jumping into conclusions.

“As for Malacañang, that is their opinion. But have they read the bill? Before they jump into conclusion, they should read it first so that they can see the pro-low income and pro-women provision,” Ilagan said.

Palace officials have stressed repeatedly that divorce is not just low on the Aquino administration radar but it is not on its radar screen at all, apparently, to avoid a potential dispute with the Catholic Church.

Ilagan said even for the Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP), they are realistic enough to know that the bill cannot be tackled this Congress.

“If we come up victorious again this coming May elections, we will re-file the measure next Congress,” Ilagan assured.

According to the lawmaker, House Bill 1799, which she co-authored with Rep. Emerenciana De Jesus (Party-list, Gabriela), filed on July 27, 2010 and is now pending with the Committee on Revision of Laws, seeks to introduce divorce in Philippine law with a strong sense of confidence that it will be used responsibly by Filipino couples.

Ilagan said this confidence stems from the experience of Filipino families showing that separation is usually the last resort of many Filipino couples whose marriages have failed.

“Cases of battered women also support this. Battered women invariably seek separation only after many years of trying to make the marriage work; separation only becomes imperative for them when they realize that it is necessary for their and their children’s survival. Divorce could actually provide protection to battered women and their children from further violence and abuse” Ilagan said.

Ilagan said the bill is respectful of and sensitive to differing religious beliefs in the Philippines as it recognizes that the plurality of religious beliefs and cultural sensibilities in the Philippines demand that different remedies for failed marriages should be made available.

It retains the existing remedies of legal separation, declaration of nullity of the marriage and annulment and only adds divorce as one more remedy. Couples may choose from these remedies depending on their situation, religious beliefs, cultural sensibilities, needs and emotional state.

“While divorce under this proposed measure severs the bonds of marriage, divorce as a remedy need not be for the purpose of re-marriage; it may be resorted to by individuals to achieve peace of mind and facilitate their pursuit of full human development,” Ilagan stressed.

The five grounds for divorce proposed under the measure are premised on the irreparable breakdown of the marriage and the total non-performance of marital obligations.

It provides that a petition for divorce may be filed when the petitioner has been separated de facto from his or her spouse for at least five years at the time of the filing of the petition and reconciliation is highly improbable or when the petitioner has been legally separated for at least two years at the time of the filing of the petition.

Another ground for a divorce to be granted is when the spouses suffer from irreconcilable differences that have caused the irreparable breakdown of the marriage and when one or both spouses are psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations in the belief that the concept is consistent with the termination of marital ties rather than with a void marriage.

Also, a decree of divorce dissolves the absolute community or conjugal partnerships of gains. The assets shall be equally divided between the spouses.

Lastly, the bill eliminates “condonation of the act” and “consent to the fact” as grounds for denying a petition for legal separation and, by extension, a petition for divorce.

“The sanctity of marriage is not based on the number of marriages existing but on the quality of marital relationships. When a marriage is no longer viable, divorce should be an option,” Ilagan said.

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