Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Myth of ‘No Divorce in the Philippines’

It is often said, as this article states, that the Philippines is the only country in the world in which there is no legal divorce. Malta had previously shared that distinction.

The fact is, though, that the Philippines allows for divorce; the country simply chooses, for whatever reasons, to fool itself into thinking that it doesn’t by the simple expedient of not using the word.

The Philippines officially recognizes two solutions for a failed marriage: legal separation and annulment. Although the term is the same as is used by the Catholic Church, the annulments are granted through a civil process.

Though the grounds for annulment mostly echo church rules, there is a catchall category called ‘psychological impairment’ that is so broad that it can cover almost anything, the Filipino equivalent of ‘irreconcilable differences’.

The annulment process is outrageously expensive (estimated cost: P250,000 to P1,000,000 -- $6k-$25k), and way out of the reach of the average Filipino (the average Filipino’s solution is to simply ignore legality and move in with someone else), in part because a psychologist must be paid to testify about the ‘psychological incapacity’ (this can be done whether or not the respondent has even been interviewed by the psychologist, which is an indicator of how seriously anyone should take the whole charade). If one wishes a church annulment as well, in order to be allowed to remarry in the church, you can add more expense on top of that.

Nonetheless, the incidence of annulment is rising, with the number of cases doubling over the past decade. Certainly the number of cases (10,000 or so per year) is still very small for a country of a hundred million people, but given that probably well over 90% of the populace are totally frozen out by the costs, the numbers seem to indicate that annulment is not that rare among the well-to-do. At least two senators, for example, Loren Legarda and Pia Cayetano, have received annulments, and the wife of a third, Ralph Recto, was also formerly married. There may be others in the senate, but these three come to mind. The president’s sister, actress Kris Aquino, is currently seeking an annulment.

I doubt that the word ‘divorce’ will be allowed anytime soon, since the Church will oppose it for theological reasons, and the lawyers (and psychologists) have a financial interest in maintaining the status quo. And here’s the president on the subject, in an article entitled “Aquino: No to divorce, yes to remarriage after legal separation”:
Aquino, however, said he recognizes that "there are unions that no matter what interventions are done, no matter what counseling is done, they really cannot stay together and there are dangers to either one or both parties." 
For cases such as these, legally separated couples should be allowed to remarry, Aquino said.  
"Legal separation, it will be very, very stringent, you really have to ascertain that there really are irreconcilable differences … At the end of the day they should be allowed to remarry.”
Even by the standards of politicians, that’s a particularly weasel-ish position. If anyone can explain how his version of separation differs from divorce, I would love to hear it.

But apparently that’s the way Filipinos want it – they want to have divorce, but also want to pretend they don’t.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post! The Philippines is the only one of the two countries in the world which does not have divorce. Hoping that law makers may soon create this law. It is more cost efficient and I think does not need lawyers.