Is Divorce Still Illegal In The Philippines? Understand Filipinos’ Separation Rights

When two people are bound in a relationship of marriage, both individuals have to accept the good and bad things about each other

When two people are bound in a relationship of marriage, both individuals have to accept the good and bad things about each other

When two people are bound in a relationship of marriage, both individuals have to accept the good and bad things about each other, but when one person starts to dominate the other,  it becomes very difficult for the other individual to live their life peacefully and to live happily. With peace and freedom, people take divorce. When two individuals willingly separate from each other, it is for their own good, but what if divorce is considered illegal? Last week, the Lower House of the Philippines parliament passed a bill because of which divorce is now legal in the country. Besides the Vatican, the Philippines is the only other place where divorce is illegal. In August, the bill will reach the Senate and also need the assent of the president to become law. The author of the bill, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, said that the country understands the need to provide alternatives for individuals who are trapped in an ‘irreparable and unhappy marriage’.

A Glimpse of the History of Divorce in the Philippines

In the 16th century, before the Spanish people came, divorce in the Philippines was legal and allowed. In 1917, under the American occupation, the people of the Philippines could end their marriages in cases of concubinage and adultery. During World War II, when the Philippines was under Japanese rule, the Japanese people made divorce easier by giving 11 reasons to file for divorce. In 1950, when the Philippine Civil Code was enacted, the divorce legislation was stopped. Divorce was replaced by the rules on legal separation.

Since 1977, the Muslims of the Philippines, which comprise almost 6% of the total population, have been able to take divorce under a law signed by President Ferdinand Marcos.

Today, divorce is not legal in the Philippines because of the Catholic Church, which considers marriage a holy commitment.

About the New Bill

The new bills clearly define the grounds on which divorce can be filed, which include domestic or marital violence, psychological incapacity, individual differences, and separation of the spouses for at least five years. Under the family code of the Philippines, the grounds for legal separation can also be considered grounds for absolute divorce, which include:

1) Moral pressure or physical violence to force the petitioner to change political or religious affiliation.

2) Any attempt by the respondent to corrupt or encourage the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner, to engage in prostitution

3) Final judgement of sentencing the respondent to imprisonment for more than 6 years

4) Habitual alcoholism, chronic gambling, or drug addiction

5) Homosexuality of the respondent.

6) If your partner or someone else is still married

7) If the respondent threatens the life of the petitioner, a common child 

8) If the respondent leaves the petitioner without a valid reason

Other grounds for absolute divorce include insanity, fraud, force,impotence or intimidation.

Who is opposing this new bill?

In 2018, a similar bill was passed in the House but failed in the Senate. Catholic and Christian groups, along with Conservative lawmakers, continue to oppose the bill. The son of a popular Christian evangelist in the Philippines, Senator Joel Villanueva, is anti-divorce; he has also suggested making annulments more affordable. But half of the Filipinos support making divorce legal in the country.

Current Separation Rights for Filipinos

Filipinos can opt for legal separation and annulment if the couple wants to end their marriage. Legal separation means that the individuals can live apart, but they are still married and cannot marry anyone else. Annulment means that the marriage can be declared invalid. The annulment in the Philippines is very expensive, costing over 150,000 pesos (Rs. 2 lakh) to 300,000 pesos (Rs. 4 lakh).

About Freelance writer

As a passionate freelance writer, I delve into the intricacies of human rights, work-life balance, and labour rights to illuminate the often overlooked aspects of our societal fabric. With a keen eye for detail and a commitment to social justice, I navigate the complexities of these crucial topics, aiming to foster awareness and inspire change.

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