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The D word

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The Divorce Bill has been passed by the Lower House yet again, leaving its fate with the Senate, and as usual, it has become a hot topic once more, not only for our legislators who will ultimately decide its fate, but also among the common folk, and especially among the religious who are totally against it.

I have been married, mostly happily I would like to think, for 20 years, and as of now, see no need for a divorce in my particular case. However, recognizing that I am just one in a country of more than 100 million people of different personalities and backgrounds, my personal position on divorce is that it should be available for those who need it and that it is the duty of any responsible government to provide that choice to couples who would be otherwise stuck in unhappy and/or abusive marriages for the rest of their miserable lives, or as their vows go, till death do them part.

The problem with marriage is that humans, Filipinos in particular, are very poor judges of character and competence. This is quite obvious in our choices of leaders every time there are elections. We somehow almost always end up choosing the least qualified and most corrupt ones, mostly because we choose based on physical looks, packaging, name recall, and the ability to sing and dance.

That shallowness when it comes to nation building, which is at the macro level, isn’t much different when it comes to the micro or personal level, particularly when choosing life partners, where for the most part, our pathetically low standards and lack of discernment is the reason why many Filipinos are stuck a perpetually piss poor government, along with loveless, miserable, abusive, and hopeless marriages. Unfortunately for these people, being married to the wrong or the worst person is something most cannot simply power through with even the famed Pinoy resilience, or fix with thoughts and prayers.

Hence the need for divorce to be an option in the Philippines, which is the only nation in the world, aside from the Vatican, that does not have divorce.

Anyone who knows of a spouse who has been beaten physically, or abused psychologically or sexually, with the kids being forced to witness and live everything that can be ugly about a marriage, cannot just tell those affected by the crappy union to power through the tough bits because there is always hope that it can be saved and their life can still magically turn around. Because sometimes, despite all the effort to make a marriage work, some things just don’t work out the way we would like them to, and it is better for everyone involved, husband, wife, mom, dad, to be allowed to choose a different path and save themselves instead of being trapped in a hell where their kids burn with them.

House Bill No. 9349, or the Absolute Divorce Bill, gives spouses in irremediably failed marriages a fourth mode of dissolving an “irreparably broken or dysfunctional marriage” based on limited grounds. The other three allowed under the Family Code are canonical dissolution, annulment, and legal separation.

If there are three other ways to end a marriage, then why is there so much hullabaloo over divorce? Maybe it is because those three are expensive and inaccessible, so it doesn’t threaten the country’s conservatives and the sanctity of marriage?

One of the arguments against divorce is we should just amend our laws to make annulments more accessible. In that case, then isn’t it the same thing? And if they are suggesting that path instead, then why isn’t anyone doing anything about it? What is it about the D word that gets people so worked up anyway?

The church will always be against divorce because it is part of their teachings and their mandate. But in a country where church and state are supposed to be separate, government has to keep the interests and welfare of its people in mind, regardless of their religion or the religion of their legislators. If the church doesn’t want divorces, then maybe they can work a little harder in educating their flock on how to choose a good life partner and keep a marriage going. Because if they can do that, then less of their flock will need to get divorced, right? After all, divorce won’t be considered as an option if the marriages are strong in the first place, so a church whose members go into strong marriages shouldn’t be threatened by the D word. If the church does its job of strengthening the unions among its flock, then divorces in that community would be unnecessary, regardless of whether or not the government makes it available.

Divorce is like a fire extinguisher or a treatment for cancer. Just because it is there, we don’t have to use it. We can even pretend it doesn’t exist if it offends us so much. However, if the time comes when it is needed by other people, wouldn’t it be nice for them to have it around?

I am pro divorce even if I am a Catholic and in a happy marriage because supporting it is not for myself or my wife. It is for those who end up in unhappy marriages, which if I am unlucky, could even happen to my kids one day in the future, no matter what I do. And if that happens, I want them to live in a world where they are not trapped with a spouse that they cannot leave even if they are being abused day and night. Because if that happens and there is still no divorce, I might end up going to jail or hell, just to do what a dad does to get his kids out of their hell on earth.*

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