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Divorce bill up for voting by House panel

The House of Representatives committee on population and family relations is set to vote Wednesday on a measure that would allow divorce in the

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman on Tuesday said the technical working group (TWG) tasked to consolidate various versions of the divorce bill has come up
with a version that the panel will vote on.

Should the measure be approved by the committee, it will be introduced to the plenary for another round of debates and voting.

In a press conference, Lagman said the divorce bill could be approved at the plenary before lawmakers go on break on March 21.

Under the consolidated version of the divorce bill, married couples will have the option to end their marriage based on, among others, abuse and
irreconcilable differences.

They can also file for divorce if they have been legally or effectively separated (de facto) for five years, or if one spouse underwent sexual reassignment.

The bill, however, prohibits "no fault divorce" or divorce in which the spouse who wants to end the marriage cannot find anything wrong with the other

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez's proposal to include "severe and chronic unhappiness" as a ground for dissolving a marriage was also not included
in the consolidated measure, Lagman said.

"It's hard to determine. It's so subjective," he said.

Lagman said the petition by divorce can be filed by either of the spouses, or both of them in certain instances.

At present, only the Philippines and the Vatican have no divorce laws.

Should the divorce bill become a law, married couples will have a cheaper alternative to getting an annulment.

Resource persons told the committee during the TWG hearings that annulment proceedings in the Philippines cost P250,000 upwards.

Under the divorce bill, indigent litigants who want to end their marriage no longer have to pay court fees and other expenses related to the proceedings.

Asked how much getting a divorce will cost for couples who could foot the bill, Lagman said it will be "much, much less" than spending for annulment.

While the divorce bill expands the bases for ending a couple's marriage, Lagman said there is no time frame for the proceedings to be completed.

"It's hard to have a particular time frame. It will be on a case to case basis," he said.

To show that the State places importance on the sanctity of marriage, the court will only start divorce proceedings six months after the petition for
divorce is filed.

The exceptions to the so called six-month "cooling off period," however, are cases of violence or if there's an attempt at the lives of the spouse who
petitioned for divorce or their childrem.

The divorce bill also imposes a hefty P200,000 fine and jail time of not less than five years if a married couple is found to have colluded to get a divorce.

Divorce bill to strengthen marriage -- Alvarez

The divorce bill being crafted in the House of Representatives would not run counter to the constitutional provision that the state should protect the

"In fact this will strengthen yung marriage dahil nga alam ng both parties na kung hindi ka umayos, hindi ba, nandiyan palagi yung possibility…yung
tsansa na hiwalayan ka noong spouse mo. So it will really strengthen your marriage, kasi mag-iingat ka na kung mahal mo talaga yung tao," said
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez in a radio interview on Thursday.

Alvarez also said the proposed "Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage Bill" will not be costly and lengthy to a spouse.

"Hindi po… hindi na po magastos," said the Speaker.

The poor and overseas Filipino workers can avail of the services of a public attorney in seeking a divorce and the process would be simple and fast,
according to Alvarez.

Expensive and lengthy divorce are the complaints and problems of many OFWs, said Alvarez.

"Hindi naman nila mahiwalayan dahil napakahirap nga. Isipin mo, uuwi sila dito, maghahanap ng abugado, kulang pa daw naman yung pambayad sa
abugado yung kinikita nila," said Alvarez.

Under the proposed divorce bill, among the grounds for divorce are when the spouses are living separately for at least five years, irreconcilable
differences and sexual infidelity.

Alvarez said irreconcible difference is when the married spouses are no longer happy with each other and there is no point in reconciling.

The bill also provides for alimony or financial support for the children of divorced parents.
"Yung alimony, puwede mong monthly installment or puwedeng lump sum," the Speaker said.

Gabriela re-files divorce bill

Gabriela Party-list Reps. Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas have re-filed the proposed measure making divorce as a “rights-based” option aside from
legal separation and annulment.

In a press conference held at the House of Representatives, De Jesus and Brosas presented House Bill 2380, which was crafted in consultation with
women lawyers, from studies and inputs of various women’s groups and actual accounts of spouses gathered by the Gabriela Party-list.

The bill repeals several Articles of Executive Order 209 or the Family Code of the Philippines.

“We re-filed this bill hoping that the State will recognize that there are irreparable marriages and this will also cater to the rights of women who are
vulnerable to abuse inside their marriages,” De Jesus said.

Brosas also said many couples from the marginalized sectors that have no access to the courts simply end up separating without the benefit of legal

This is the fourth time that Gabriela filed the divorce bill since it was first introduced during the 13th Congress in 2005, the women’s group said in its

Divorce Advocates of the Philippines (DAP) and Association of Divorce for Women Empowerment (ADWE) joined Gabriela in urging the approval of
the divorce bill in the 17th Congress.

ADWE Secretary General Asliah Limbona of the Muslim Community shared their support to the Divorce bill despite having their own divorce rule under
the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines.

HB 2380 proposes five bases in which all are premised on the irreparable breakdown of the marriage and the total non-performance of marital

It states that a petition for divorce maybe filed when the petitioner has been separated de facto from his or her spouse for at least five years at the time
of the filing of the petition and reconciliation is highly improbable.

Divorce shall also be granted if the petitioner has been legally separated from the spouse for at least two years at the time of the filing.

Lastly, it shall only be applied if one or both spouses are psychologically incapacitated and when the spouses suffer from irreconcilable differences that
have caused the irreparable breakdown of the marriage.

“The proposed divorce bill takes into consideration the rudiments of the Filipino culture and the general sentiment of preserving the sanctity of Filipino
marriages which is why the measure provides that divorce is granted only when specific conditions are met,” De Jesus added.

EXPLAINER: What are the grounds,

provisions in House divorce bill?
Advocates of the bill in the House of Representatives are pushing for divorce as a cheaper and faster means to end a marriage

MANILA, Philippines – After hours and hours of consultations here and abroad, the House committee on population and family
relations approved on Wednesday, February 21, a bill that seeks to introduce divorce and the dissolution of marriage in the

It’s expected to be yet another controversial measure, especially since the Philippines is one of only two countries in the world
that does not allow divorce as a means to end a marriage. The other is the Vatican, the seat of the Roman Catholic Church.

The proposed measure's champions in the House are pushing for divorce as a cheaper and faster means for couples to end
their marriages. In the Philippines, annulments can cost upwards of P250,000 and can take up to decades to resolve.

What’s inside the bill? Here’s a summary:

Why a divorce law?

Section 2 of the bill, or its declaration of policy, says that while the Philippines “continues to protect and preserve marriage as a
social institution and as the foundation of the family,” divorce would give a chance for couples to terminate “a continuing
dysfunction of a long broken marriage.”

In doing this, the bill says it hopes to “save the children from pain, stress and agony consequent to their parents’ constant marital
clashes” and “grant the divorced spouses the right to marry again for another chance at marital bliss.”

Key points in the law

Lawmakers have made it a point, since the very start, for divorce in the Philippines to be cheaper and more efficient than
annulment, which is currently the only way to end a marriage in the predominantly Catholic nation.

During the committee’s deliberations on February 21, the members agreed that litigation and fees would be waived for “indigent”
divorce applicants. They would also be entitled to lawyers assigned by the court.
For the purpose of the law, “indigents” are defined as those whose real properties are below P5 million, an amount proposed by
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano explained that the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) they consulted
had specifically asked that the process would be affordable or would not cost them a year's salary.

Even if divorce is introduced, married couples can still seek legal separation or annulment of marriage, if they wish.

Those who file for divorce will need to observe a 6-month “cooling off period,” as a last-ditch effort to reconcile the couple. This
is waived in cases of domestic abuse or if there is danger against one spouse or a child.

“Pro-woman” is part of the bill’s guiding principles, citing “most cases” wherein the wife needs to seek one in order to walk away
from an abusive relationship.

An eventual divorce decree includes provisions for the case and custody of children, protection of the children’s legitime or
inheritance, the termination and liquidation of conjugal partnerships of gains or absolute community, and alimony for the
“innocent spouse.”

The State, as stated in the bill’s guiding principles, “has the role of strengthening marriage and family life” through programs,
both before and after the marriage.

The proposed law also gives space for couples who might have a change of heart. If, in the middle of proceedings, the couple
decides to reconcile, the process will be terminated. While the decree of absolute divorce will be set aside, the separation of
properties and forfeiture of the share of the guilty spouse will subsist, unless the couple reverts back to the former property

If the court finds that one party is coercing another to file for divorce, he or she may be punished with imprisonment of 5 years
and a P200,000-fine.

The eventual implementing rules and regulations for the law will be drafted by several agencies led by the Department of
Justice. The Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Philippine Commission on Women, the National Youth
Commission, and at least two representatives from women’s groups will be part of the team that will craft it.

What are the grounds?

The grounds listed include existing grounds for legal separation under Article 55 of the Family Code, and annulment under
Article 45 of the same code:

 Physical violence or grossly abusive conduct directed against the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the
 Physical violence or moral pressure to compel the petitioner to change religious or political affiliation
 Final judgement sentencing the respondent to imprisonment of more than 6 years, even if pardoned
 Drug addiction or habitual alcoholism or chronic gambling of the respondent
 Homosexuality of the respondent
 Contracting by the respondent of a subsequent bigamous marriage, whether in the Philippines or abroad
 Marital infidelity or perversion or having a child with another person other than one’s spouse during the marriage,
except when the spouses have agreed to a having a child through in vitro or a similar procedure, or when the wife
bears a child as a result of being a rape victim
 Attempt against the life of the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner
 Abandonment without justifiable cause for more than a year
 Those legally separated by judicial decree for more than two years can also avail of divorce
 One of the spouses was older than 18 but younger than 21 at the time of marriage without the consent of a
parent, guardian, or substitute parental authority unless after the age of 21, the pair freely cohabitated and lived
 Either party was of unsound mind, unless such party, after coming to reason, freely cohabilitated with the other
 The consent of one party was obtained through fraud unless, despite after knowing the fraud, continued to cohabit
as husband and wife
 That the consent of one party was obtained by force, intimidation, or undue influence, unless despite the
cessation of such, the pair continued to cohabit
 That either party was incapable of consummating the marriage with the other, and the incapacity continues or
appears to be incurable
 That either party is afflicted with a sexually transmissible infection that is serious or appears to be incurable

The bill introduces the following additional grounds:

 Separation for at least 5 years at the time the petition is filed, with reconciliation “highly improbable,” except if the
separation is due to the overseas employment of one or both spouses in different countries, or due to the
employment of one of the spouses in another province or region distant from the conjugal home
 Psychological incapacity of other spouse as defined in Article 36 of the Family Code, whether or not the
incapacity was present at the time of marriage or later
 When one of the spouses undergoes gender reassignment surgery or transition from one sex to another
 Irreconcilable marital differences and conflicts resulting in the “total breakdown of the marriage beyond repair”
despite the efforts of both spouses
How does divorce work?

For qualified indigent petitioners, the court will waive the payment of filing fees and other litigation costs. It will also appoint a
counsel de oficio or a lawyer for the petitioner, as well as assigned social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists, to assist the
petitioner and the court.

This provisions ensures that those with real properties below P5 million can afford the process. During consultations, lawmakers
were told that the cost of annulment – from the filing to the hiring of experts – was simply too prohibitive.

Couples can file jointly a petition for absolute divorce on the grounds of de facto separation for 5 years, legal separation for at
least two years, or irreconcilable differences. Those with children should also come up with a joint plan over their parenthood

Collusion between spouses is not allowed.

OFWs, as Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman earlier said, will be given preference when it comes to hearing their

Summary proceedings can happen in case of couples who have been separated for at least 5 years, a bigamous marriage, legal
separation for at least two years, sentence of imprisonment for at last 6 years, and sex reassignment surgery. – Rappler.com

Why The Philippines Needs A Divorce Law

Evalyn G. Ursua

(Two completely opposite divorce bills are pending in the House of Representatives. Marikina’s Rep. Marcelino Teodoro
filed an “Anti-Divorce and Unlawful Dissolution of Marriage Act,” seeking to guarantee a ban on any law facilitating or
recognizing divorce. Another bill coauthored by Gabriela Representatives Luzviminda Ilagan and Emerenciana de Jesus
would amend the Family Code to include a divorce provision. It is backed by no less than Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.
Following the enactment of the reproductive health law, the divorce bills promise to stir up a new controversy involving
the Catholic Church and its supporters. Below is an op-ed supporting the legalization of divorce. This won’t be the last
we’ll hear on the subject from either side. –Editors)

P eople who say that divorce is not advisable for the Philippines forget or ignore our history. The ethno-

linguistic communities of the Philippine archipelago before the Spanish conquest practiced divorce. We had a
divorce law from 1917 until August 30, 1950, when the Civil Code of 1950 took effect. The latter law prohibited
divorce for Filipinos, and the prohibition continues under the present Family Code. But Muslim Filipinos have
always practiced divorce, which Philippine law allowed. Today, divorce continues to be available to Muslim
Filipinos under the Code of Muslim Personal Law of the Philippines (Presidential Decree No. 1083),
promulgated in 1977.

So to say that divorce does not exist in present Philippine law is not accurate. The prohibition against divorce
under Philippine law applies only to Filipinos whose marriages are not governed by the Muslim Code. Since
Philippine law on marriage applies to all Filipino citizens even though they are residing in a foreign country,
the prohibition against divorce for non-Muslim Filipinos is also a concern of Filipino expatriates.

We are the only country in the world that has no divorce law for all its citizens regardless of religious belief or

Some think that we do not need a divorce law because the Family Code, which applies to non-Muslim
Filipinos, already provides for the termination of marriages through “annulment.” This argument misleads.
Annulment is a legal term that has a specific meaning. The remedy of annulment is based on specified grounds
that occurred at the time of the celebration of the marriage, such as lack of parental consent and vitiated consent (as
when a person married another at gunpoint). The remedy of annulment expires, and the defect may actually
be cured by ratification through free and voluntary cohabitation.
Misconceptions About Annulment

When lay people speak of “annulment” as a means of terminating a marriage, they actually refer to the remedy
under Article 36 of the Family Code. Article 36 declares that a marriage is void from the beginning when one
or both spouses are psychologically incapacitated to perform the essential marital obligations. Under Article
36, a court does not terminate a marriage but only declares it void. One must prove psychological incapacity
by presenting evidence on three essential elements of the condition: that it already existed before the marriage;
that it is grave or serious; and that it is incurable. To do this, one usually needs the help of a psychiatrist or
psychologist to testify as an expert witness.

But what if the marriage worked in the first ten years, but later the parties drifted apart for some reason or
another? What if the other spouse was violent, unfaithful, indolent, or an alcoholic or a drug addict? What if
one spouse abandoned the family? These may not be used for “annulment,” or for a marriage to be declared
void under Article 36, unless it can be proved that these are manifestations of psychological incapacity that
predated the marriage.

A divorce law will provide a remedy that Article 36 does not. Divorce does not concern itself with validity or
invalidity of a marriage. It terminates a marriage based on a ground that occurred during the marriage, which
makes the marital relationship no longer tenable, regardless of the spouse’s psychological constitution. A
divorce law will provide a straightforward remedy to a marital failure. It will benefit Filipinos wherever they

“The law should only give people a choice, to be exercised according to their own personal

Pending Bill

A divorce bill has been pending in the House of Representatives for the last six years, sponsored by the
representatives of the Gabriela Women’s Party. The bill lists five grounds for divorce, among them: when the
spouses have been separated in fact for at least five years or have been legally separated for at least two years,
and their reconciliation is highly improbable; when any of the grounds recognized by law for legal separation
has caused the irreparable breakdown of the marriage. The bill has not progressed beyond the Committee
level because the energies of many were focused on the reproductive health bill that was recently passed into

There is no more time to pass a divorce law in the current Congress since elections are scheduled in May. But
the bill will be filed again in the next Congress. Can it pass? Yes, definitely, eventually, with the support of
enlightened Filipinos. The lesson we have learned from past initiatives is that a relevant and much-needed
measure that has strong popular support will pass. Just as sustained citizen support carried the day for the
reproductive health bill, so too will strong popular support make possible the enactment of a divorce law.
People have to make their voices heard in support of the divorce bill.

It is time to give the remedy of divorce to those who need it, even as we respect the decision of those who want
to stay married despite their miserable marital life. To be sure, the Catholic Church will be the staunchest
opponent of the divorce bill. It will once again argue against the bill on moral grounds. It will invoke the
constitutional provision directing the State to protect marriage and the family, and another that refers to the
sanctity of family life. But these constitutional provisions were never intended to prohibit Congress from
legalizing divorce.

Church Need Not Worry

The Catholic Church need not worry. The institutions of marriage and the family have survived to this day, as
they will survive a Philippine divorce law. We are a secular state, where no religious group has the right to
define law or policy for the entire population. There is not one but a plurality of beliefs in Philippine society.
The law should only give people a choice, to be exercised according to their own personal beliefs.

Every day, Filipinos get married, bear children, separate and get into other relationships, regardless of what
the law says. The lack of a divorce law for non-Muslim Filipinos complicates further the marital and family
problems of many Filipinos. Our government has clearly failed to respond to their needs. If the country wants
to move forward, it has to confront the realities of marital and family life of Filipinos in the Philippines and
abroad. It has to pass a divorce law now.
Malta Divorce
In Malta divorce was not introduced until October 2011, despite civil marriage being introduced in 1975, except for the
recognition of divorces granted by foreign courts. Indeed, it was the nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando who presented a
private member’s motion for the introduction of Maltese divorce. In fact, on the 25th July, 2011, the parliament of Malta voted to
legalize divorce, following a May referendum with a 53% of voters approve of divorce legislation while there were eleven who
voted against and five abstentions. Following the referendum, in Malta divorce legislation came into effect in October 2011. For
this reason, it can be said nearly all countries around the world enacted divorce legislations, now including Malta. However, for
the reasons mentioned hereunder, Malta with divorce proceedings seem to be the excellent one since it ensures maintenance
when this is due and takes care of the rights children and divorce.

In Malta divorce can be asked by any of the spouses who do not need to be separated from each other by means of a contract or
judgment prior to the demand of divorce as provided for under article 66A of the civil code. In Malta divorce demand can be
brought jointly by both spouses or else by one spouse only but the Court shall be satisfied that the spouses have lived apart for a
period of four years out of the immediately preceding five years that do not have to run consecutively but have to be only
cumulative, that there is no hope of reconciliation and most importantly, that maintenance shall continue to run to the spouse
and children as agreed before in the contract of separation or by law when this is due as provided for under article 66B.
An important note mentioned under article 66D is that for divorce Malta does not require divorce applications to show any fault
by the party submitting such application on the part of the other party. However, when the parties are not yet separated by a
court judgment or contract, they can also put forward those defenses permissible for the parties under separation.

In Malta divorce can also be demanded during separation proceedings by means of an application filed by any of the parties
involved before the final judgment as provided for under article 66F of the civil code and the same witnesses shall be heard as
those presented in the separation documents but also, other witnesses can be presented that are related to the divorce
proceedings. Nonetheless, in Malta divorce applications can only be continued after the advocates of both parties and the court
have attempted reconciliation as provided for under article 66I of the civil code. Moreover, in Malta in divorce proceedings it is
important for the parties to agree on an agreement with the mediator, who can only be chosen from the list of names provided
for by the Minister because otherwise the agreement shall not be admissible during divorce proceedings, with regard to the
following issues:

(a) the care and the custody of the children;

(b) the access of the two parties to the children;
(c) the maintenance of the spouses or of one of them and of each child;
(d) residence in the matrimonial home;
(e) the division of the community of acquests or the community of residue under separate administration.
Maintenance and divorce
In Malta divorce and then maintenance were of utmost importance being the most concerned issues to people. Indeed, the issue
of guaranteed maintenance was central to the referendum question and was foremost in the legislator’s mind in legislating on
divorce in Malta. Hence, in Malta divorce can be refused or can be granted with a guarantee imposed by the courts as provided
for under article 66D of the civil code if the spouse who files for the divorce fails to provide adequate maintenance for children or
to his/her spouse. However, a spouse receiving maintenance from the other can also decide to renounce to that right.

Obligations towards children in divorce proceedings

During Malta divorce proceedings, the court may decide on its own motion to appoint a child’s advocate to hear the children and
to ensure the guarantee of their maintenance to be paid by the responsible party. This shows that the divorce in Malta as
provided for under article 66B of the civil code ensures the safety of the children’s rights and takes into consideration their well
being and interest.

Maintenance after divorce

The new law categorically states that the pronouncement of divorce in Malta will not affect the rights and obligations of the
parties as parents as shown clearly above.
However, article 66L of the civil code states that in Malta divorce pronouncements by the competent court give the right to the
parties to remarry but the party receiving maintenance from the other party shall forfeit this right of maintenance as from the
day of remarriage but this rule shall not apply in the case of when the party has received a lump sum from the other party.
Divorce and jurisdiction of the Maltese Civil Court
In Malta divorce proceedings shall be heard by the Civil Courts when one of the following requirements is present as provided for
under article 66N of the civil code:

(a) at least one of the spouses was domiciled in Malta on the date of the filing of the demand for divorce before the competent
civil court;
(b) at least one of the spouses was ordinarily resident in Malta for a period of one year immediately preceding the filing of the
demand for divorce.

This is the Last Country on Earth Where

Divorce is Illegal
They say it’s easier to get married than to get out of marriage. While marriage is one of
the most crucial bonds two people can take part in, divorce laws have been revised in
some countries to not only make divorce legal, but also, a speedier and less daunting
process. However, no matter how much has changed over the course of human history,
there is still one country where divorce is not legal and where ’till death do us part’
remains a tenet: the Philippines.
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Stronghold of Catholicism
During Spanish colonization, the Church played a major role in political affairs in the Philippines. When the Philippines became independent, the Philippine Constitution affirmed the separation of
Church and State. However, did these two entities fully separate?

The first Christian country in Asia and the only dominantly Catholic nation in the region, religion, specifically Catholicism, still influences the Philippine government on subjects ranging from who
to vote for during elections to governmental policies. The Philippine Catholic Church believes that it is their duty to uphold the teachings of the Church by opposing or implementing laws. One of
these laws is divorce. You can’t file for divorce in the Philippines.

The Church views marriage as a sacred vow and the Philippine Constitution upholds it as an institution that should be protected. The Church believes that no man can break what God has
unified through the sacrament of marriage. Many lawmakers were pushing for divorce laws in the Philippines, but these laws were blocked by politicians who have conservative views on
marriage and by the so-called ‘Catholic vote’.

Legal Separation and Annulment

However, the Philippine Constitution offers legal separation and annulment as alternatives to divorce. Studying Philippine law illustrates that these options are just consolations to get out of a
messy marriage, but an annulment is not divorce by definition.

One can only be legally separated if repeated physical abuse, drug abuse and alcoholism become marital issues. Although legally separated, parties can only end their marital duties to each
other, including cohabitation. However, the couple is still married in the eyes of the law. Therefore, legally separated couples cannot get married again.

Annulment is an expensive and tedious legal battle, especially if one party is not cooperating and is against the petition. To be granted annulment, issues must have taken place before the
marriage, since annulment nullifies the marriage. For example, an annulment demonstrates that marriage didn’t happen in the first place. Psychological incapacity, mistaken identity and being
underage are some reasons an annulment can be granted.

Annulment is also costly and tarnished with corruption in the judiciary arena. A faster and easier annulment process often costs more money. Couples who want to get an annulment in the
Philippines often feel weary. While in the US, ‘irreconcilable differences’ is the easiest reason for a divorce, the ‘easiest’ method for couples seeking an annulment in the Philippines is
psychological incapacity. However, many people do not want to be viewed this way. This label can affect peoples’ careers or who will have custody of their children. Using such grounds also
means a lot of mudslinging between parties.

A Conservative Culture
Since Filipino culture is heavily conservative, many couples who wish to end their marriage legally usually don’t get the support they need from their respective families. Although not a taboo,
broken families are still frowned upon. Couples are taught to try their best to keep the sanctity of marriage by staying together and working things out.

With divorce not legal under the Family Code of the Philippines in the constitution, divorce is not recognized as a Civil Status in the Philippines. You can see this ruling in important documents
where only ‘Single’, ‘Married’, and ‘Widow’ are options for Civil Status.

Since annulment and legal separation are so hard to get, parties cannot just ‘casually’ separate. In the Philippines, all properties between married couples are conjugal by default and prenuptial
agreement is unheard of. Can you imagine if a man who wants to buy a new condo unit has to ask for ‘approval’ from his estranged wife, even though they have been estranged for years, or if a
woman still has to use her ex-husband’s family name in documents and identification papers, despite being separated from her husband?

While the Philippines take pride in their Family Code and the majority of families there are still intact, divorce is a white elephant in the room that needs to be addressed. While other countries
have stepped up and now allow same-sex marriages, the Philippines still hinders people from leaving bad marriages gracefully and starting new lives more quickly.
The Last Country in the World
Where Divorce Is Illegal
Welcome to the Philippines, home to philandering politicians, millions of “illegitimate”
children, and marital laws that make Italy look liberal.
A man puts a ring on his wife during a mass wedding in Muntinlupa city south of Manila on February 14, 2008.
Petitions for civil annulments in the Philippines are rising 15 percent a year, while two in five young adults want
divorce to be made legal, according to data released February 13. It also found that more people are living
together without getting married. AFP PHOTO/Jay DIRECTO (Photo credit should read JAY
DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images)

MANILA, Philippines — On the occasion of his 84th birthday in 2011, friends of former Filipino Senator
Ramon Revilla, a darkly handsome film star turned politician, unveiled an imposing 10-meter-high bronze
statue in his honor.

Revilla’s films are mostly forgettable and his accomplishments as a lawmaker were marginal, but he will be
long remembered in the Philippines for having sired at least 72 children by 16 different women, only one of
whom was his wife. Thirty-eight of the children bear his surname.

It’s unclear what the statue is supposed to honor, but it is a fitting monument to something that is sorely
lacking in the Philippines: a divorce law.

The Philippines is now the only country in the world that denies divorce to the majority of its citizens; it is the
last holdout among a group of staunchly Catholic countries where the church has fought hard to enforce its
views on the sanctity of marriage. Pope Francis, who visited the Philippines last week, has urged his bishops to
take a more forgiving stance toward divorced Catholics, but this is a moot point in the Philippines: There is no
such thing as a divorced Catholic.

A bill that would legalize divorce in the Philippines is now before the legislature, but it has little chance of
becoming law without the support of President Benigno Aquino III, who is on record saying divorce is a “no-
no” for this archipelago nation. Aquino, a bachelor and a practicing Catholic, said he does not want the
Philippines to become like Las Vegas, where “you get married in the morning [and] you get divorced in the

Aquino ignored the bishops and their threats of excommunication three years ago when he signed a
reproductive health law that provides subsidized contraceptives to poor women, but most analysts here believe
that he has no appetite for another politically bruising battle with the Catholic hierarchy on another of its hot-
button issues.

For its part, the global church has been steadily losing ground in the fight against divorce. The first big blow
came in 1970 when Italy legalized divorce, despite the ferocious opposition of the Vatican. An attempt to repeal
the Italian divorce law was soundly rejected in a 1974 referendum. Next came Brazil, which legalized divorce in
1977, followed by Spain (1981), Argentina (1987), Ireland (1997), and Chile (2004).

That left only the Philippines and the tiny Mediterranean island nation of Malta (and, of course, the
independent but mostly celibate Vatican city-state). In 2011, Malta held a referendum on divorce. The church
pulled out all stops in a particularly nasty campaign against legalization, but came up short. Soon after the
referendum, the archbishop of Malta issued a rare apology for the church’s harsh attacks on pro-divorce

Here in the Philippines, the Catholic hierarchy takes particular pride in the country’s status as the last holdout.

Here in the Philippines, the Catholic hierarchy takes particular

pride in the country’s status as the last holdout.
One archbishop emeritus called it “an honor that every Filipino should be proud of.” Another said Filipinos
should not follow the example of “de-Christianized countries.”

It wasn’t always thus. Before explorer Ferdinand Magellan claimed the Philippines for the Spanish crown and
began converting the natives to Catholicism in 1521, divorce was commonly practiced by the archipelago’s
traditional tribes, according to anthropologists. But four centuries of Spanish rule, carried out for the most part
by Catholic religious orders, effectively stamped out the custom.

Things eased up a bit when the Americans became the new colonial masters after the 1898 Spanish-American
War. A 1917 law allowed divorce, but only for adultery if committed by the wife or for “concubinage” on the part
of the husband. The Japanese, during their otherwise horrific World War II occupation of the Philippines,
introduced modern divorce laws, but those were canceled and the old 1917 law restored when, in 1944, U.S.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur famously returned. Six years later, after the Philippines had been granted
independence and the church had reasserted its authority, the 1917 law was revoked and divorce was banned

Separation, but equal

Philippine law does allow divorce for the country’s Muslim minority — about 11 percent of the population — but
for now, the only legal option available to non-Muslim couples who want out of a bad marriage is to seek either
a church annulment or a civil annulment. (The church accepts legal separations, but separated persons are not
allowed to remarry.)

Annulment is different from divorce in that the parties must establish that the marriage was defective from the
beginning: that one or both were too young to get married (the minimum age in the Philippines is 18; for male
Muslims it’s 15, for girls “puberty”); that proper parental consent was not obtained; that one of the parties was
already married or had an incurable sexually transmissible disease; or — most commonly — was
“psychologically incapacitated” at the time of the marriage. A church tribunal or civil judge can then declare
that the marriage never happened.

The usual problems that cause the breakdown of a marriage — infidelity, physical or mental abuse, or plain old
“irreconcilable differences” — don’t count in an annulment proceeding.

Sen. Pia Cayetano, who was the main sponsor of the controversial reproductive health law and who is
frequently mentioned as a potential successor to Aquino, called the absence of a realistic and reasonable
divorce law in the Philippines “a travesty.”

“It needs to change, definitely. Do I see it happening soon? No, it will take a while for the Philippines to
separate human rights and civil rights from religious belief,” she said.

Professional services

What is most troublesome about using the annulment process as a substitute for divorce is that it forces two
people who might otherwise have a reasonably civil split into manufacturing or faking an adversarial
relationship with each other and with a state prosecutor — or in the case of church annulment, a “defender of
the bond” — whose role in the proceeding is to defend the sanctity of the marriage by arguing that the unhappy
couple stay together.

“It’s inhumane — and I speak from experience,” said Cayetano, whose own annulment was granted in 2013.

The process is not only slow and psychologically painful, but it’s also expensive. It can take years to finalize a
civil annulment unless you are wealthy enough to pay the judge a substantial bribe to speed things long.

Michelle, a 40-year-old Manila physician from a well-to-do family, got her civil annulment in a mere six
months. All she had to do was hire the right lawyer and pay 350,000 pesos (about $8,000), more than triple
the per capita GDP in the Philippines and thus well beyond the reach of most Filipinos.

About a third of the money went to the judge as a “professional service fee.” Michelle, who asked that we not
publish her last name, said her lawyer and the judge were pals from law school days, which helped smooth
things considerably. She only had to appear in court once, and she was asked only one question: her name.

Michelle and her husband, also a physician, were both 30 when they married. Michelle told us she felt
pressured because she was pregnant at the time. Although the marriage lasted seven years, she said that she
regretted her decision almost from the beginning and that an annulment, despite the social stigma attached to
it, somehow felt right.

“It’s like I am forgiven,” she said. “It’s like going to confession. It erased whatever sin I committed.”

A lawyer … or a hit man

Most people, however, find the process to be less than uplifting. Paolo Yap, 35, a graphic designer in Manila,
separated from his then wife in 2004 and stopped communicating with her entirely two years later. Four years
ago, when he and his new partner decided they wanted to marry, Paolo needed an annulment.

He hired a lawyer for 300,000 pesos, but let her go when he realized it was going to cost at least twice that. So
he made a deal with a lawyer friend who agreed to take the case in exchange for Yap’s services as a designer.

A psychologist was hired to certify “mental incapacity.” Yap was found to be “depressive and anti-social”; his
former wife “narcissistic and histrionic.”

As the case was wending its way through the system, Yap made the startling discovery that his former wife had
already obtained an annulment. Her lawyer’s strategy had been to file the case with a local court in a remote
corner of the Philippines that had a reputation as an annulment mill.

Her lawyer’s strategy had been to file the case with a local court
in a remote corner of the Philippines that had a reputation as an
annulment mill.
Yap was never notified, even though the court papers seemed to suggest he was actually present, as the law
requires. And even when the former wife learned that Yap had started annulment proceedings, she didn’t tell
him, allowing him to spend hundreds of thousands of pesos unnecessarily.

“You know, it’s only about 10 or 15 thousand pesos to hire a hit man to kill your spouse,” he noted sardonically.
“Much less than an annulment.”

Philanderers and statesmen

In the fight to uphold the sanctity of marriage, the Catholic bishops of the Philippines can bank on solid
support from an unlikely quarter: the country’s male politicians, for whom multiple mistresses and
maintaining second — and even third — households is a seemingly sacred privilege and a badge of manly pride.

Former Senator Revilla, of course, is the gold standard in this department, but Joseph Estrada, who served as
president from 1998 until 2001 (and, like Revilla, is a former film star), proudly sired three children by his wife
and at least nine additional offspring by six other women.

Longtime ruler Ferdinand Marcos also had numerous extramarital affairs, while Fidel Ramos, Estrada’s
predecessor in the Malacañang Palace, acknowledged at least one well-publicized dalliance.

The lack of a divorce option provides “a sense of comfort to male philanderers,” according to Evalyn Ursua, an
attorney who specializes in annulment cases and who has advocated for the legalization of divorce. “With a [law
prohibiting divorce], they know they can continue this lifestyle where they have their beautiful and loyal wife —
and also the comfort and status of their mistress,” she said. “A divorce law would allow women to put an end to

Despite a veneer of religious piety, philandering is deeply embedded in Philippine society, from the privileged
to the poorest. “It’s the machismo thing … and wives are expected not to make a fuss about having mistresses,”
said Rep. Emerenciana De Jesus, who is co-sponsoring the divorce bill. But while rich men often continue to
support their wives and children for appearances’ sake, poor women generally find themselves abandoned and
left to care for their children on their own. There are laws that require gainfully employed fathers to support
their biological children, but they are so rarely enforced that most people don’t know they exist.

A poverty of options for the poor

In a typical year, civil courts in the Philippines will grant about 10,000 annulments — a very small number for
a country with a population of more than 100 million. This is not an indication of widespread marital
contentment in the Philippines, but rather that annulments are only available to the well-off.

As a result, experts say, most Filipinos who find themselves in an unhappy relationship simply move on to the
next one. The women, of course, are expected to deal with the children. “For these women, the survival
mechanism is to find another guy to support her and her kids,” said Mary Racelis, a sociologist at the Ateneo de
Manila University.

Among the very poor, there is a growing tendency toward what the government calls “unions without benefit of
valid marriage,” or what the church calls “living in sin.” Precise statistics are not available, but Racelis
estimates that only 30 to 40 percent of the urban poor now bother to get married in the first place.
“It’s too expensive,” she said. “You’re expected to have a big celebration, and they simply can’t afford it.” That
and the realization that once you enter into a marriage there’s no getting out.

The social cost is compounded by the Philippine economy’s heavy reliance on its most important export: cheap
labor. An estimated 10 million Filipinos work abroad. Although men used to dominate the field, the majority
are now women. They work as nannies, nurses, caregivers, maids, and shop clerks, sending home some $25
billion in 2013, according to the Philippines’ central bank, to support families back home. Unsurprisingly, the
long separations are a strain on married life, and women who work overseas frequently discover that the
money they faithfully send home each month is supporting hubby and his new girlfriend.

Far from turning the Philippines into another Las Vegas, as suggested by President Aquino, the divorce bill that
has been put forward by De Jesus and the Gabriela Women’s Party is very conservative and, according to its
authors, respectful of the “cultural sensibilities in the Philippines.” Grounds for divorce in this bill include
physical violence against a spouse or child, imprisonment of a spouse for more than six years, abandonment for
more than a year, sexual infidelity or perversion, bigamy, homosexuality, or drug addiction. Except in cases
that involve violence against women or children, the court would not be allowed to take any action for six
months after the initial filing — a kind of cooling-off period. The bill also obliges the court to “take steps toward
the reconciliation of the spouses” before granting the final decree.

Most importantly, the bill provides guidelines for the division of assets, child support, and payment of damages
to “the innocent spouse.”

De Jesus, the bill’s co-sponsor, says the Catholic Church remains the loudest opponent of divorce because it “is
afraid of losing its cultural dominance over the majority of the country.”

De Jesus, the bill’s co-sponsor, says the Catholic Church remains

the loudest opponent of divorce because it “is afraid of losing its
cultural dominance over the majority of the country.”
But she noted that under the 1987 constitution, the separation between church and state in the Philippines is
supposed to be inviolable.

The church and its faithful, De Jesus argues, are entitled to their beliefs on the sanctity of marriage, but are not
entitled to impose those beliefs on others who may disagree. The state, she added, shouldn’t view divorce as a
damnable sin, but rather as a civil right. “The state should recognize that if you have a right to enter into a
contract, you have the right to get out of it,” said De Jesus.

The church begs to differ. “[Proponents of divorce] see marriage as a contract. For us, it is a sacrament,” said
the Rev. Edgardo Pangan, a canon lawyer who specializes in annulments. “We cannot compromise with the
laws of God.”

Who’s your daddy?

One result of the church’s opposition to divorce and its opposition to virtually every form of contraceptive has
been millions of “illegitimate” children. No one knows the number, but one study suggests that about 30
percent of births in the Philippines go unregistered, often because of the stigma of illegitimacy.

Former Senator Revilla, who has probably contributed more to this problem than anyone, has at least
acknowledged and tried to do something about it. He is the father of the so-called Revilla Bill, which allows
children born out of wedlock to legally use their father’s surname so long as both biological parents give their

“These children must be spared from the stigma attached to being ‘illegitimate,’ and their parents’ faults must
not be passed on to them,” he said in 2004. “It is the state’s responsibility to shield them from unwarranted
shame and discrimination.”

Revilla, who is said to be a generous provider to all his children, has also made provisions to leave behind
samples of his DNA so that any claims of paternity that arise after his death can be verified.
What the Supreme Court says about
'The heart has reasons of its own which reason does not know,' says one ruling

MANILA, Philippines – In America 50 years ago, you could not love someone whose skin color was different from yours. But
love fights.

Some of the cases brought to the Supreme Court have been a testament to that – love strives, if not to triumph, then at least to
be just.

In 1992, the Supreme Court awarded damages to a young woman's parents who sued the parents of their daughter’s boyfriend
for civil damages. The young couple died in "what appears from all indications was a crime committed by their minor son."

In that decision, Justice Florenz Regalado said:

“One of the ironic verities of life, it has been said, is that sorrow is sometimes a touchstone of love.”

There are the real deaths, then there are the presumptive deaths. In Philippine civil code, if a spouse disappears "and there is
danger of death," then the other party can presume him or her to be dead and can remarry.

In 1998, Jerry Cantor left wife Maria Fe in their home and never returned. Even after 4 years, the Supreme Court did not allow
for Jerry to be presumed dead, therefore prohibiting Maria Fe from moving on.

Justice Marvic Leonen said in his dissent:

“She bore the indignity of being left behind. She suffered the indifference of her husband. Such indifference was not momentary.
She anguished through years of never hearing from him. The absence of a few days between spouses may be tolerable,
required by necessity. The absence of months may test one’s patience. But the absence of years of someone who made the
solemn promise to stand by his partner in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, is intolerable. The waiting is as painful to
the spirit as the endless search for a person that probably did not want to be found or could no longer be found.”

Justice Leonen also dissented when the Supreme Court ruled that despite decades of separation, it is the wife who has the right
to bury her husband, and not the common-law partner that he has been with until his death.

“The law reaches into much of our lives while we live. It constitutes and frames most of our actions. But at the same time, the
law also grants us the autonomy or the space to define who we are. Upon our death, the law does not cease to respect our
earned autonomy. Rather, it gives space for us to speak through the agency of she who may have sat at our bedside as we
suffered through a lingering illness.

I am of the view that it is that love and caring which should be rewarded with the honor of putting us in that place where we mark
our physical presence for the last time and where we will be eternally remembered.”

There is also injustice in sex, as the Supreme Court declared in Tsoi vs Court of Appeals. The High Court declared null and void
a marriage based on the complaint of the wife that they were not having sex.

Justice Justo Torres Jr said:

“Love is useless unless it is shared with another. Indeed, no man is an island, the cruelest act of a partner in marriage is to say "I
could not have cared less." This is so because an ungiven self is an unfulfilled self. The egoist has nothing but himself. In the
natural order, it is sexual intimacy which brings spouses wholeness and oneness. Sexual intimacy is a gift and a participation in
the mystery of creation. It is a function which enlivens the hope of procreation and ensures the continuation of family relations.”

Love, we learn, needs to fulfill obligations. In Antonio vs Reyes, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the wife was still in love
with her husband. Nevertheless, they still voided the marriage after finding that the wife was "psychologically incapacitated to
comply with the essential obligations of marriage."

Justice Dante Tinga said:

“Marriage, in legal contemplation, is more than the legitimatization of a desire of people in love to live together.”

Love is also something you decide to work hard for, said Dr Nedy Lorenzo Tayag in his expert testimony as a clinical
psychologist in the annulment case of Rumbaua vs Rumbaua.

“Individuals who are in love had the power to let love grow or let love die – it is a choice one had to face when love is not the
love he/she expected.”
Chief Justice Hilario Davide has an advice for those who find themselves in the legal and moral dilemma of falling in love outside

“If he really loved her, then the noblest thing he could have done was to walk away.”

In that case, Davide and the Supreme Court disbarred the lawyer for committing bigamy.

Is a love that is lawful a just love? Ask the woman in Figueroa vs Barranco who tried to bar her ex-boyfriend from taking his
lawyer’s oath after he left her and their child, and married another woman. She did not prevail.

Justice Flerida Ruth Romero said:

“We cannot castigate a man for seeking out the partner of his dreams, for marriage is a sacred and perpetual bond which should
be entered into because of love, not for any other reason.”

If a woman left her husband and their children, is that a ground for annulment? Not in Matudan vs People as the Supreme Court
remained very conservative in its definition of what constitutes annulment.

Justice Leonen pleaded the court to be more open minded in his dissent:

“Parties should not be forced to stay in unhappy or otherwise broken marriages in the guise of protecting the family. This avoids
the reality that people fall out of love. There is always the possibility that human love is not forever.”

To borrow from American jurisprudence, the US Supreme Court in 1967 invalidated all laws that prohibited interracial marriages.
They said in Loving vs Virginia:

The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness
by free men.

In Obergefell vs Hodges that legalized same-sex marriage in all US states, their Supreme Court said:

“Marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they
disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for
themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They
ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

That landmark ruling proves that love can win, despite odds.

Justice Florenz Regalado left us with this poignant lesson in love when he awarded back wages to a 30-year-old teacher who
was fired for marrying her 16-year-old student.

“If the two eventually fell in love, despite the disparity in their ages and academic levels, this only lends substance to the truism
that the heart has reasons of its own which reason does not know.”

Statistics on violence against Filipino women

Submitted by webmaster on Tue, 2014-05-13 15:07

 The 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey

(NDHS) conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO) introduced the
"Women Safety Module" which aims to capture the extent and types of
VAW experienced by women (15-49 years old). Information was collected
on spousal violence - covering all forms of VAW: 1) physical violence; 2)
sexual violence; 3) emotional violence; and 4) economic violence (the 3rd
and 4th forms of VAW were grouped together in the survey as "other forms
of violence"). The module also included questions on marital control, which
may fall either under emotional/psychological violence or economic

Physical Violence

 The NDHS revealed that one in five women aged 15-49 has experienced
physical violence since age 15; 14.4 percent of married women have
experienced physical abuse from their husbands; and more than one-third
(37%) of separated or widowed women have experienced physical
violence, implying that domestic violence could be the reason for
separation or annulment

Sexual Violence

 One in twenty five women age 15-49 who have ever had sex ever
experienced forced first sexual intercourse

 One in ten women age 15-49 ever experienced sexual violence

Physical Violence During Pregnancy

 Overall, 4 percent of women who have ever been pregnant have ever
experienced physical violence during pregnancy. The incident increases
slightly with number of living children; decreases slightly with age;
decreases with education level; and declines steadily with wealth quintile.

Spousal Violence

 Emotional and other forms of non-personal violence are the most common
types of spousal violence (23% of ever-married women). One in seven
ever-married women experienced physical violence by their husbands while
8 percent experienced sexual violence by their husbands.

 Patterns in prevalence of spousal violence are similar to those of violence

experienced by woman 15-49. Most likely higher among separated,
widowed and divorced; currently married women who have married more
than once; and in CARAGA region, Central Visayas and SOCCSKSARGEN.

Spousal Violence by Husband's Characteristics

 Spousal Violence tends to decline as husband's age increases, education

increases, and wealth quintile increases.

Consequences of Spousal Violence

 One in three women who experienced physical/sexual violence reported
having physical injuries such as cuts, bruises or aches. More than 10
percent reported to have suffered eye injuries, sprains, dislocations or
burns, and about the same proportion reported that they attempted to
commit suicide.

 Three in five women who experienced physical/sexual violence reported

having experienced psychological consequences like depression, anxiety
and anger.

Violence Initiated by Women Against Husbands

 Women were asked, "Have you ever hit, slapped, kicked, or done anything
else to physically hurt your (last) husband at times when he was not
already beating or physically hurting you?". 16 percent answered "Yes,
ever" and 9 percent answered "Yes, in the last 12 months"
VAW Reported to the Philippine National Police

 In 2013 the number of VAW cases reported to the Philippine National Police
(PNP) increases by 49.4 percent from 2012 report. The increase caused the
trend to go upward again after it decreases in 2011.

 The 2013 report is so far the highest number of reported VAW cases since

 The trend, however, is not conclusive of a decreasing or increasing VAW

incidence in the country because data are based only from what was
reported to PNP.

 Across a ten-year period from 2004 to 2013, average violations of RA 9262

ranked first at 57 percent among the different VAW categories since its
implementation in 2004.

 Reported cases under RA 9262 continue to increase from 218 in 2004 to

16,517 cases in 2013. Continuous information campaign on the law and its
strict implementation may have caused the increasing trend.

 Since 2004, wife battering cases have been categorized under ‘Violation of
RA 9262’ that is, if the victim files a case under such law, otherwise the
reported cases will fall under physical injuries category.
 Physical injury is the second most prevalent case across the ten-year
period, accounting for 19.7 percent of all reported VAW cases nationwide.

Table 1. Annual Comparative Statistics on Violence Against Women,

2004 - 2012

Reported Cases 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 201

Rape 997 927 659 837 811 770 1,042 832 1,0

Incestuous Rape 38 46 26 22 28 27 19 23 33

Attempted Rape 194 148 185 147 204 167 268 201 256

Acts of Lasciviousness 580 536 382 358 445 485 745 625 721

Physical Injuries 3,553 2,335 1,892 1,505 1,307 1,498 2,018 1,588 1,7

Sexual Harassment 53 37 38 46 18 54 83 63 41

RA 9262 218 924 1,269 2,387 3,599 5,285 9,974 9,021 11,

Threats 319 223 199 182 220 208 374 213 240

Seduction 62 19 29 30 19 19 25 15 10

Concubinage 121 102 93 109 109 99 158 128 146

RA 9208 17 11 16 24 34 152 190 62 41

Abduction / Kidnapping 29 16 34 23 28 18 25 22 20

Unjust Vexation 90 50 59 59 83 703 183 155 156

Total 6,271 5,374 4,881 5,729 6,905 9,485 15,104 12,948 15,

Source: Philippine National Police - Women and Children Protection Center


 Reported incidence of physical injury has been decreasing in the latter

years. Its peak was in 2001 at 5,668 reported cases.

 The decrease can be partly attributed to the enactment into law of RA 9262
or Anti-VAWC Act of 2004 which penalizes abusive husbands and live-in
partners. However, in 2009 and 2010 the reported cases show an
increasing trend which slides back in 2011. The trend starts to increase
again in 2012 and 2013.
 Reported rape cases which ranked third accounted for about 8.6 percent of
total reported VAW cases from 2004 to 2013.

 Acts of lasciviousness ranked fourth at an average of 591 reported cases

accounting for 5.5 percent of all reported VAW cases from 2004 to 2013.
The comparative figures indicate an upward trend of the reported cases
after a record low of 358 reported cases in 2007.

 Among the different regions, Region 6 (Western Visayas) posted the

highest reported VAW cases from January to December 2013 with 4,833
reported cases, accounting for 20.3 percent of the total reported VAW
cases nationwide.

 Region 11 (Davao) comes next at 4,411 (18.5%) reported VAW cases

followed by Region 7 (Central Visayas) with 3,460 reported VAW cases or
14.5 percent of the total reported VAW cases nationwide.

 The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) posted the lowest

reported VAW cases with 86 cases in 2013.

Violence Against Women (VAW)

Violence against women (VAW) appears as one of the country’s pervasive

social problems. According to the 2008 National Demographic and Health
Survey conducted by the National Statistics Office, one in five Filipino women
age 15-49 has experienced physical violence since age 15. It is indeed
alarming that despite efforts to address the concern, VAW persists.

VAW is deemed to be closely linked with the unequal power relationship

between women and men otherwise known as “gender-based
violence.”Societal norms and traditions dictate people to think men are the
leaders, pursuers, providers, and take on dominant roles in society while
women are nurturers, men’s companions and supporters, and take on
subordinate roles in society. This perception leads to men gaining more power
over women. With power comes the need to control to retain that power. And
VAW is a form of men’s expression of controlling women to retain power.

Women are also put to blame as the cause of their own misery. In the home,
some women are accused of being “naggers” or neglectful of their duties as
wife that is why they are beaten by their spouses. Rape is sometimes
attributed to a raped woman’s “flirtatious” ways. A woman filing for sexual
harassment, in some instances is blamed for being malicious by interpreting
her employer’s appreciation of her good looks.

These are just some of the realities that contribute to the vulnerability of
Filipino women to VAW. An even greater problem is the lack of concrete
information to show the extent of VAW in the country as many cases of
violence against women often go unreported due to women victims’ “culture of
silence.” Many of the victims are ashamed to relate their experiences while
others tend to dismiss their ordeal as a result of their lack of faith in the
country’s justice system caused by frustrations over the lack of results in filing
Several government mechanisms have already been put in place to address
VAW. Non-government organizations also take part in this crusade. It is
uncertain when this trend will totally diminish in the Philippine setting, but as
long as current efforts to fight VAW are sustained, hope could be set high.

Ending a Marriage in the Only Country That Bans Divorce

In the Philippines, a husband and wife can part only through death, or the torturous process of annulment.

MANILA, Philippines—The call came in the middle of a workday. My lawyer’s name flashed on the caller-ID
screen, and there was no small talk when I picked up.

“I have the court decision,” she said.

She was literally holding my future in her hands, in the form of an annulment decision we had sought for four
years. After opening the envelope, she rambled a bit, skimming the contents out loud to fill the dead air.

Then she paused.

“Petition approved. Congratulations!” she said. “You are now a free woman!”

I had finally gotten out of my long-dead marriage in the devoutly Catholic Philippines, the only country in the
world (other than Vatican City) where divorce is not legal. Two people can voluntarily choose to love, honor,
and remain faithful to each other, but in the Philippines it is pretty much only through death, or the torturously
long process of annulment, that they can part.

I had walked out on my marriage five years earlier and had barely spoken with my daughter’s father for just as
long, but on paper he was still my husband. I was a single woman, but I was not free. My name was only half
mine—all my identification papers remained in my married name. Any major purchase I made would be
considered conjugal property. If I got into a new relationship, I risked being charged with adultery and jailed.

I was 28 when I left my husband, 29 when I finally decided—against my family’s wishes and without their
support—to file for annulment. I was 33 when I received the court decision. And on the phone that day, I felt
like the oldest 33-year-old in the world.


Under Philippine law, two people wishing to end their marriage have limited options. They can file for legal
separation, which will allow them to separate their possessions and live apart, but does not legally end a
marital union and thus does not permit remarriage. They can file for divorce if they are among the estimated 5
percent of the population that is Muslim and is governed by the Code of Muslim Personal Laws.

Or they can get an annulment, which in the Philippines is a lengthy and expensive court proceeding. (An
ecclesiastical annulment, granted through a Church tribunal, is a separate procedure, without which a Catholic
cannot get remarried in the Church. Pope Francis has said that the Church should “streamline” this process,
which can take up to a decade.) An annulment ends a marriage, but differs from divorce in important ways. The
parties, for instance, must prove that the marriage was never valid to begin with. Under Philippine law,
reasons can include one or both parties having been below the age of 18 when they got married, either party
having an incurable sexually transmitted disease, or cases of polygamy or mistaken identity.

Divorce has not always been banned in the Philippines. The Spanish colonizers who ruled the island until the
late 19th century imposed their own Catholic traditions, allowing “relative divorce,” or legal separation, in cases
involving adultery or one spouse joining a religious order. But the relevant law declared that “so great is the tie
and force of marriage, that when legally contracted, it cannot be dissolved even if one of the parties should turn
heretic, or Jew, or Moor, or even commit adultery.” After the Spanish era, divorce laws depended on the
colonizer. The Americans, who acquired the nation in 1898 following the Spanish-American War, allowed
divorce, but only on the grounds of adultery or concubinage. The Japanese, who occupied the Philippines
during World War II, introduced liberal divorce laws. Following liberation, however, divorce was once again
outlawed—except among the Muslim minority—under the Philippine Civil Code of 1949.

The Manila Cathedral, built by Spanish friars in the 16th century (Erik de Castro / Reuters)
If marriage is essentially a contract, the difference between an annulment and a divorce is the difference
between declaring the contract null—because, say, it was signed under conditions of duress or fraud—and
terminating it.

In the case of marriage, declaring the contract null is a far more difficult proposition. Infidelity and physical
abuse, for example, are not on the list of acceptable reasons for a marriage to be declared invalid under
Philippine law. A petitioner seeking to leave a marriage for those or any number of other reasons has to try to
prove that his or her spouse is suffering from “psychological incapacity” such as narcissistic personality


Filipino TV host Amy Perez is familiar with the difficulties these rules pose. Perez married a rock musician in
1995, and the couple had a son two years later. But within a year of his birth, Perez’s husband had left her with
their baby and gone to live abroad. Perez filed for an annulment in 2000, and was denied. She appealed and
lost. In 2006, the Philippine Supreme Court declined to hear her case, declaring:

We find [the husband’s] alleged mixed personality disorder, the ‘leaving-the-house’ attitude whenever they
quarreled, the violent tendencies during epileptic attacks, the sexual infidelity, the abandonment and lack of
support, and his preference to spend more time with his band mates than his family, are not rooted on some
debilitating psychological condition but a mere refusal or unwillingness to assume the essential obligations of

Statistics from the Philippines’ Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) show that there were more than 10,000
petitions filed to end marriages in 2013, out of a population of roughly 100 million, with women filing slightly
more than half of the petitions. The most recent statistics OSG provided me, based on a sample of such cases
from 2010 to 2011, showed that 6 percent of these petitions were dismissed or denied. But this obscures the
fact that such cases can drag on for years, and that court fees, which typically amount to nearly $400 just to file
paperwork, can exceed the average monthly wages of Filipino workers, which a 2012 International Labor
Organization study estimated at less than $300.

“The system is so unfair, especially to women like me in a situation of abandonment. Why do they have to make
it so hard?” asked Perez, whose marriage didn’t formally end until a decade after her husband left her. She
declined to give details about how she finally obtained the annulment. Last year, she married her longtime
boyfriend, with whom she has two children.


Like Perez, I filed for annulment claiming my spouse was psychologically incapacitated. My lawyer suggested I
try to have both of us declared psychologically incapacitated to double the chances of success, but I refused. I
was afraid such a designation would damage my chances of getting a job or custody of my daughter.

“Psychological incapacity,” more than one lawyer told me, was just the Philippine version of “irreconcilable

“Don’t worry. It’s just a term to justify your petition,” my lawyer assured me, echoing the two other lawyers I
had consulted before her. (I wanted a second opinion.) They all gave me some variation on: “It’s just the
Philippine version of ‘irreconcilable differences.’”

But making such a claim is not an innocuous formality. Trying to show psychological incapacity is an
adversarial process in civil court, aimed at proving beyond a reasonable doubt that one spouse was exhibiting
behavior indicating an inability to take on the responsibilities of marriage. It means stating in public court all
the reasons—both trivial and consequential—why you cannot stay married to your spouse. It involves
psychological tests and, in some cases, witnesses. It’s a game of mud-slinging and one-upmanship that makes
breaking up that much harder and uglier. It encourages a petitioner to exaggerate problems—to declare a once-
loved partner an alcoholic as opposed to someone who occasionally came home drunk, or a chronic womanizer
as opposed to someone who once had an affair.

“The process is inhumane. It is hurtful to two people who may have at one point loved each other and may have
even tried to work it out,” Philippine Senator Pia Cayetano, a prominent women’s-rights legislator, told me.
She should know: She’s been through it too.


This kind of hassle can be avoided for the right price, however.
Michelle, a former classmate of mine who asked that I not use her full name, claims to have paid her lawyer
$10,000 for an all-inclusive annulment package that covered a psychiatric evaluation, all the related paperwork
and fees, and a guarantee of a favorable decision from the judge, an old law-school buddy of the lawyer’s.

As a 28-year-old middle manager, I couldn’t afford that. It took me a year before I found a lawyer I could
afford; my cousin eventually negotiated a fee of $2,000 with a former law-school classmate. I paid this lawyer
in installments as my case dragged on.

But you get what you pay for.

Michelle got her annulment in six months. I waited four years.

Michelle only had to appear in court once. I spent years using up vacation days for intermittent court

Michelle took the stand to answer only one question: her name. I withstood a barrage of inquiries from a judge.

It was a harrowing experience, forcing me to dredge up years of bad, buried memories. The judge probed for
details about the fights I’d had with my husband. He accused me of not trying hard enough to keep the peace in
our relationship. When I brought up the allegations in my petition—regarding the abuse and infidelity I’d had
to endure—he asked me if I thought that was enough to end a marriage. (My then-husband didn’t show up to
any of the court proceedings, which is a way of opposing the annulment petition.) I was too proud to beg the
judge to stop his line of questioning, too angry to stay quiet. I was ultimately taken off the stand because I was
crying uncontrollably. I felt like I was on trial, as if I were a criminal.

And in the eyes of the Church and Philippine matrimonial law, which is largely based on Church doctrine, I had
done something worse than commit a crime. I had sinned. I was reneging on sacred vows. I had desecrated the
sanctity of marriage.

“You could have chosen your battles better and just stayed quiet,” I remember a friend telling me when I told
him what had happened in court. “That judge is going to decide whether or not to grant you an annulment. He
is not someone you want to piss off.”

In the eyes of the Church and Philippine law, I had done something worse than commit a crime. I had sinned.

He was right, of course. But I couldn’t see that. My lawyer later told me the judge had said I was too smart for
my own good, and suggested that this was why my marriage had failed. I still did not see how that could
warrant shaming me in front of a courtroom full of strangers. When I went through the legal prerequisites of
getting married, I was not subjected to such interrogation.

“It’s really hard for us, too,” Noel Segovia, a senior lawyer at the OSG, told me. “In some cases, we know the
couple can no longer live together, but because of insufficient evidence, we have to deny their petition for

A bill to legalize divorce, proposed in 2010, received little support from the country’s Catholic, bachelor
president, who told reporters that he did not want to turn the Philippines into Las Vegas, where “[t]he
stereotype is you get married in the morning [and] you get divorced in the afternoon.” In the meantime,
Philippine public opinion has moved steadily in favor of legalizing divorce, from 50 percent in March 2011 to
60 percent in December 2014, according to a survey by the Philippine research institution Social Weather
Stations. When legislators were asked if the results of the survey would sway their opinion on divorce, one
senator explained: “I cannot favor a divorce law. My wife might use that against me.”

If there’s a middle ground between Vegas and the Vatican, the pope didn’t advocate for it during his recent visit
to the Philippines, despite his earlier calls for the Church to show more kindness toward sinners. And so the
Philippines, the land of no divorce, continues to lay claim to a title no other country wants.

IN NUMBERS: The state of the nation's

marital woes
Happy ever after does not happen for everyone. Statistics from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) show us the state of the
nation’s heartbreak.
Ana P. Santos
Published 2:54 AM, January 01, 2016

Updated 3:04 AM, January 01, 2016




(READ: Part 1: The annulment business)

(READ: Part 2: Cotabato court issues spurious annulment documents)

(READ: Part 3: Cavite: Haven for paid-for annulments?)

(READ: Part 4: Bribery in annulment mills)

(READ: PART 5: Annulment scam)

(READ: Part 6: Recto: Certified fake)

MANILA, Philippines – What do numbers from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) show about the state of marital affairs in
the country?

Since 2001, the number of annulment and nullity cases filed has been increasing. The latest available figures for the current
year showed there were already more than 6,000 cases filed; the number of cases in 2015 will most likely exceed the number
filed in the previous year.

Type of petition filed

Based on the OSG's random sampling of cases filed in 2012, a large majority of the cases for dissolution of marriage were for
nullity of marriage. This was followed by annulment, while a mere 1% filed for legal separation. Other grounds for dissolution of
marriage included presumptive death, recognition of divorce and absence.

Who filed?

The OSG's sampling of 2013 data showed that more females initiate the filing of annulment or nullity proceedings. There is no
specific profession that dominates the list of those filing for annulment. Business people, employees, school teachers,
OFWs.There is no available data on income bracket of respondents.

A random sampling of 2008 cases revealed that the petitioners were between the ages of 21-25 and had been married between
1-5 years.

Age bracket of respondents

(Based on random sampling of 2008 data)


> 20 years old 9.76% 17.28%

21-25 years old 42.86% 57.72%

26-30 27.53% 16.18%

31-35 12.89% 3.68%

36-40 4.18% 2.21%

41-45 1.74% 1.84%

46-50 0.70% 0.74%

Above 50 0.35% 0.37%

Number of years together prior to filing of petition

(Based on random sampling of 2008 data)


1-5 years 34.72%

6-10 26.04%

11-15 16.69%

16-20 8.30%

21-25 6.42%

26-30 1.89%

31-35 0.75%

36-40 0.38%

<1 year 4.91%

On the other hand, a look by the OSG at selected data from 2010 and 2011 cases showed that 82% of the couples had children.
Number of petitions granted, denied or dismissed

Also based on randomly selected data from 2010 and 2011, 94% of the cases filed were granted, while 6% were denied or
dismissed by the court.

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