Divorce debate should draw out the most sound public policy


    It is not a sound argument to say that just because the Philippines is today the only state in the world besides the Vatican that does not have a divorce law, Congress should move to pass the bill allowing divorce, or the dissolution of marriage.

    It is similarly not a justification to preserve the status quo of no divorce, just because the country has never had such a law since the beginning of the Republic.

    The issue should not be resolved or dismissed with just a simplistic examination of the present situation and real problems of married couples in Philippine society.

    The issue should not be abstracted from the reality.

    The thing to emphasize is that the Congress should seek the proper and most appropriate public policy for our society and for the nation. The benefits must be reckoned.

    There are many approaches and factors that should be considered.

    First, it is clear that there are many Filipino couples that need an efficacious way to end their marriage bonds, without suffering the costly and prolonged process that now prevails.

    The state should not help prolong the agony of a spouse who is abused physically, mentally and emotionally in the marriage, by preventing her from getting out of that bondage.

    Second, there is an existing process under the law through which a couple can turn in order to sever their marriage contract. The problem with that process for most couples that go through it is the length of time it takes to achieve its purpose. Thus, that process only needs a solution to such problem.

    Third, it is also undeniable that the legal and cultural difficulty of severing marriage in the country has served as one factor that has contributed to family cohesion and the proper rearing of children.

    Fourth, strong family bonds contribute enormously to the vitality and dynamism of the Philippine economy today. Family solidarity is partly the reason why the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) program is such a major success, now contributing $30 billion dollars a year to the economy in terms of remittances.

    Some legislators are energetically pushing the divorce legislation because they themselves seek to benefit from it in their personal lives. Others are interested because they believe an easy process in ending marriage is the direction where the whole world is going.

    Still others have valid grounds to seek divorce.

    There are also those who fear that by adopting the no-fault divorce policy of, say, the United States, we could be courting what is dysfunctional in American society. Filipinos could wind up treating a divorce court like a fast-food restaurant.

    All these arguments deserve hearing and study.

    And so does the argument by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd that perhaps the best solution may be to make annulment less stringent, speedier and more affordable.

    This merits study, because if thoughtfully legislated, the country could benefit: 1) from the longer commitment of couples to their marriages and families; 2) the affirmation of the stability of Filipino families; 3) the provision of relief for couples whose relationships are hopeless; 4) the cultural benefits that would accrue to the young and rising Filipino generations.

    Divorce should be examined and debated along a wide spectrum of concerns and issues, and should not be rushed just because of pressure from the House Speaker who sponsored it. His personal circumstances should not figure in the discussions of the merits of the bill.

    The way to achieve good public policy is through an informed, considerate decision that is supported by the majority of the people.


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