Making Divorce Legal in the Philippines

While divorce is never easy, at least it’s not illegal. Aside from Vatican City, the Philippines is the only other country that lacks divorce laws, meaning you cannot get divorced in the Philippines.

Luckily, a new bill filed in Congress hopes to change that through legalizing divorce. The new bill is providing hope to thousands of people stuck in filed and often abusive marriages.

History of Divorce in the Philippines

Divorce was actually legal in the Philippines during the American colonial period in the first half of the 20th century. But in 1949 it became prohibited with the enactment of the 1949 Civil Code. According to Solita Monsod, a professor emerita at University of the Philippines School of Economics, religion was behind the shift. “It is because of a very powerful and conservative church hierarchy, and the dominance of very conservative segments of the catholic laity,” she says.

Current law allows for legal separation, as well as declaration of a nullity of marriage and annulment. But none of these options fully addresses the needs of couples looking for complete freedom from their spouses.

“Divorce Philippine-style”

Congresswoman Luzviminda Ilagan is a co-author of the new divorce bill, nicknamed “Divorce Philippine-style.” The bill promises to make the process quicker and cheaper, while still maintaining strict eligibility requirements. Married couples must live separately for a minimum of five years and have no hope of reconciliation. Or the couple must have been legally separated for at least two years.

“…positive first step”

Filipinas like Teresa (who asked to not be identified by her full name) feel that fact that the Philippines is one of two countries that does not allow divorce is emblematic of a far greater issue. “It is a clear manifestation that there is no separation of church and state in this country.” But, she continues, “the fact that the bill is being filed and certain congressmen are willing to sponsor it is a positive first step.”

Source: CNN, The fight to make divorce legal in the Philippines, October 6, 2014

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