MANILA, June 3, 2011?The cost of divorce on children was among the crucial points repeatedly brought up at yesterday’s Congressional committee hearing on the divorce bill sponsored by Gabriela Representatives Luzviminda Ilagan and Emerenciana de Jesus.
“A bill like this can open the floodgates for all to be able to get a divorce for irreconcilable differences, which may be a dispute between couples on even minor matters. But the point is, solving the problem may lead to another problem, of families being destroyed, children growing up with only one parent. That is one of the worst punishments that we can give to a child. When one is absent and only one is present, when the most ideal for the family life is to have two parents taking care of the child, in one home,” said Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.
“In the history of divorce in the Western countries, the perils and social cost are unquantifiable. In fact…10, 15, 20 years after divorce, the suffering is still there. The children, the divorced couples, suffer. The social cost is very high,” said Atty. Jo Imbong, Executive Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Legal Office.
“The destruction of the lives of children, delinquency, suicide?everything else happens after the divorce,” she added.
Under the divorce bill, or House Bill 1799, a petition for divorce may be filed on any of the following grounds: de facto separation from one’s spouse for at least five years; legal separation from one’s spouse for at least two years; irreparable breakdown of the marriage as a result of the grounds for legal separation; psychological incapacity; irreconcilable differences.
Co-author de Jesus explained that the measure is meant to help those who are suffering from unsuccessful marriages to come clean.
“Kailangan talaga ng isang distinct amendment sa ating Family Code, which we call ‘divorce law Pinoy-style.’ Hindi ito anti-marriage; in fact, inasmuch as we appreciate and approve of good marriages, we recognize that we have economic, political and other components of our society that really can cause failure of marriage…and the relationship is irrevocable,â€ she said.
“Having said that, we still can help especially our women and siyempre lahat ng gustong kumawala sa relasyon na hindi na sila maligaya, nakakaramdam na sila ng pang-aapi, at ang mahalaga rin dito ay hindi na sila magkaka-stigma. Dadaan sila sa isang proseso na kikilalanin na hindi sila lumabas sa isang relasyon na hindi naging matagumpay,” the solon pointed out.
Ilagan expressed her belief that enacting absolute divorce in the country “may even strengthen the sanctity of marriage. Now people will not take you for granted. People will be very conscious that there are vows to be maintained, there are obligations to be fulfilled.”
“Would absolute divorce legislation be pursuant to the text, context and spirit of the 1987 Constitution? In light of repeated declarations in the Constitution, how could absolute divorce strengthen the Filipino family?” asked Imbong.
According to Article XV, Section 2 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State. Likewise, The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution.
“How would absolute divorce make the family an inviolable social institution? It is untenable to say that by destroying the family, it is strengthened, and by dividing the family, it is made inviolable,” the lawyer said, adding that it is precisely the absence of absolute divorce in the Philippines that has kept many couples together through thick and thin till the end.
A law on absolute divorce already threatens to violate the matrimonial vows even before they are pronounced, Imbong stressed, making couples “open to divorce even before they in fact get married.”
“Stripping marriage of its inviolable nature is to openly tell to every child born of the marital union that he has but temporary parents, and has also a temporary family. This is nothing less than gross parental injustice to the children they brought to this world,” she added.
Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo FariÃ±as weighed in on the permanence of the institution of marriage.
“Ang kasal ay for better or for worse. Hindi naman po puwedeng puro ‘happy-happy’ lang. At sa Amerika alam niyo may divorce. Mahigit kalahati sa kinakasal doon, [end up] divorced…dahil puwede eh. Ngayon kung ayaw mo na sa mister mo, puwede naman maghiwalay. Pero huwag ka nang magpakasal ulit para matuto naman tayo… kung mistake natin eh panagutan naman natin yung mistake natin,” the congressman remarked.
Imbong ended her statement by alluding to the basics of the State’s duty to the family.
“Would it be incongruous to ask why this much is being proposed in Congress on how to remedy ‘difficult marriages’ while practically nothing is said and proposed to strengthen marriages and prevent marriage failures?”
No specific date has been set for another committee hearing on the bill, which was filed under the Committee on the Revision of Laws. (Diana Uichanco)