Thursday, June 02, 2011

Philippines Divorce Law?

The Philippines, one of a tiny number of countries to still outlaw divorce, is now engaged in a serious legislative debate as to whether to legalize divorce. The committee on revision of laws has just held its first hearing on House Bill 1799 (An Act Introducing Divorce in the Philippines). One Representative insisted that the divorce bill contravenes a provision in the Constitution concerning the “inviolability of marriage” and the state’s mandate to protect it, insisting that the Constitution would need to be amended prior to any bill purporting to legalize divorce. Another Representative asserted that if divorce is unconstitutional, then annulment and legal separation which are allowed under Philippine law, would also be unconstitutional. Another argument, citing American practices such as Elizabeth Taylor’s six divorces,  was that having a divorce law would “open the floodgates for marriages and families to be broken . . . by mere irreconcilable differences.”

A lawyer and law professor, Evalyn Ursua, informed the committee that the country already has a de facto divorce law in the provision for annulment, but she explained that poor couples cannot avail themselves of this because it is expensive and time-consuming. She said that an absolute divorce bill would address the problems of Filipinos abroad. Many Filipinos who work overseas return to the Philippines and find out that their spouse already has another partner. Some obtain dual citizenship to be able to get a divorce abroad because it’s not available in the Philippines. This is pursuant to the statutory provision that where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall likewise have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.