Reform Efforts Underway in the Philippines to Allow Divorce

news 18-Jun-2023 World News

Divorce is not an option in the Philippines Getting married is easy, but getting divorced is impossible. The Philippines, along with the Vatican, is the only state where divorce is not allowed. An attempt at reform is underway, but it has little chance of success.

At 41 years old, April Tadios from Manila wishes nothing more than to finally get divorced. It is not allowed in her country, the Philippines. She has been separated from her husband for eight years.

She has to provide for her 15-year-old daughter alone. No divorce also means no support. "I'm afraid I can't give my daughter everything she needs," Tadios says tearfully. "When she asks me for something, I say, 'Just be patient, we can't afford it right now, we just don't have the money.'"

"We don't have to be like other countries"

What God has brought together, man must not separate: this sentence from the New Testament also applies under Philippine law. For Father Jerome Secillano of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, divorce is not the appropriate solution to solve relationship problems:

"We don't have to be like other countries. We should even be proud of holding onto this. Of protecting marriage as an institution. So no to divorce."

Traditional moral values, especially outside cities

The influence of Catholic doctrine is significant in the Philippines. 80 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, and the vast majority of them practice the religion. Thus, the conservative understanding of marriage as an eternal bond remains predominant in the country, which was shaped by its time as a colony of Spain and its Catholic kings.

While surveys show that the younger generation is increasingly taking a different view of the issue, traditional moral values continue to dominate, especially outside the big cities. Even though they often do not correspond to reality, as separations also occur in the Philippines, just not recognized by the law.

Annulment possible, but expensive

As a way out of a marriage once contracted, the Church and the state only accept annulment. The marriage then never existed on paper. A lengthy process that only the wealthy can afford.

Curiously and tragically at the same time, there are different regulations in the Philippines. Muslims, the minority, are allowed to divorce because it is compatible with their faith. Catholics, on the other hand, do not have this option.

Despite this, most people still seem enthusiastic about getting married. After the end of the Corona lockdown, mass weddings even took place in the spring. The reason for this is not only tradition. For young people, marriage represents the path to a self-determined life. Couples are usually socially accepted only after marriage.

Attempts at reform have fallen flat

Many attempts to introduce modern divorce laws have failed. The government saw no need for action for a long time, probably also to avoid irritating the powerful opponents of divorce.

In 2018, the Philippine House of Representatives approved a bill. However, in the Senate, the upper house of the Philippine Congress, there was no progress. The attempt fell flat.

Especially Women Are Often in Distress

Experienced liberal politician Edcel Lagman is tirelessly working on a new version. He hopes that his new bill will gain the insight of both chambers of parliament and the president: "Many people have to suffer terrible agony. Especially women who are abused or abandoned. We have to help those who are in distress."

Lagman is optimistic that the reform will succeed during the current legislative period. When the relevant committee of the House of Representatives gave the green light for the historic reform in the spring, the liberal politician rejoiced: "The Philippines are on the verge of catching up with other nations."

However, nothing will change without the approval of the upper house. It is still unclear how the predominantly government-aligned senators will position themselves.

Therefore, April Tadios, who is separated from her husband, must continue to wait. The happiest day of her life - it would not be the wedding but the divorce.

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