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Divorce in Philippines: What man has put together

Publication Date : 09-07-2013

 

The battle lines are being drawn in the Philippine Congress. That’s between Church and State, and that’s over divorce.

The State is being championed by  House Speaker Sonny Belmonte and the Church by Representative Marcelino Teodoro of Marikina. The Speaker is all for divorce and wants it taken up by the current Congress, though saying it won’t be a priority. Teodoro finds it an abomination and has re-filed a bill seeking to block it. His bill, he says, will fight the “unlawful dissolution of marriage”, and protect the family as the inviolable foundation of the nation.

Well, if divorce is going to pass, now is the best time for it. The Reproductive Health law showed how the stranglehold of the Church on Philippine life, or Philippine electoral politics, has greatly waned. Gone are the days when it could threaten politicians with hellfire, or its secular equivalent which is losing in the elections.

The Church’s condemnation of those who voted for RH hardly produced a ripple, other than as sideshow entertainment, such as when a church in Bacolod put up a sign in front of its yard separating the saved from the doomed. There’s a better chance this time of debating the thing without this extraneous element, or pretty much on its merits.

Which augurs well for it. The opposition to it is not based on moral grounds, it is based on hypocritical ones. Let me count the ways:
One, the sole justification for proscribing divorce is St. Luke’s account of Jesus Christ saying, “What God has put together, let no man put asunder.” That may be true, but why should you construe every marriage as something God put together?

Look at the reasons why many Filipinos marry: Variously because the woman is “damaged goods”; because that’s what their parents want; because with the Church proscription against premarital sex that is the only way lovers can exchange affections physically—and ask yourself if God had anything to do with it. The last is particularly benighted and is probably the biggest cause of failed marriages in this country.

Marrying for sex is an almost surefire guarantee for failure. One or the other of the couples soon discovers that sex is overrated, or discovers it is so underrated they want to have more of it elsewhere (the husband in particular, the wife is banned from it on pain of stoning, or its modern equivalent).

Why drag God into that arrangement?

Two, except for the Vatican, a city of less than a thousand souls, we’re the only country that bans divorce. Is it possible Italy itself, the one country known for its fetish with family it even calls the Mafia so, can be so unprotective or dismissive of the very foundation of its life? Is it possible most of the 7 billion souls in the world today are condemned to go to hell for abiding so reprehensible a thing as divorce? It’s enough to overpopulate Dante’s favourite place. Well, maybe it’s a good strategy to get Beelzebub to rethink his policy of letting loose temptation upon the earth to ease up on the massive exodus to his dominion.

Three, the Church finds divorce anathema but annulment not so. In fact, annulment is the alternative to divorce which is available only to the rich. It takes time, effort and money. What is annulment? It is the act of dissolving a marriage by proclaiming that the marriage never really took place because: the marriage was infirm, there was really no consent on the part of one or both of the parties; there was no consummation, one or both are impotent physically or psychologically; the husband was an a–hole and/or wife-beater from the start, etc. etc.

An annulment may not, repeat not, argue that there was love there at the start but which soured and died. There must not have been any affection at all at any time. What is that but a bunch of lies? What is that but institutionalised lying? What is that but hypocrisy?

Four, we are a country that bans divorce but accepts concubinage. A term that not quite incidentally shows gender bias: A man has a mistress, he is guilty of concubinage, which is officially punishable by a fine and unofficially rewardable by the envy of peers.

A woman has a lover, she is guilty of adultery, which is officially punishable by jail, and unofficially so by having her lover's sexual organ pistol-whipped by her irate estranged husband who keeps an entire harem himself. You know the guy, he boasted about it.

I’m almost tempted to say, I’ll agree to ban divorce if you agree to jail people who keep, indeed flout, their lovers.

Finally, divorce in fact is respectful of marriage in that it recognises it enough to initiate a legal process to dissolve it. Opposing divorce is the best thing to discourage marriage, a thing the kids in particular are already shunning. Why bother getting married at all? Why get
into a fix you can’t get out of?

In the end, that’s what makes the opposition to divorce silly even from its own perspective.

It is counterproductive, it achieves the opposite of what it sets out to do, which is to defend the family as the foundation of this society. Of course who says you can’t have a family, and probably a more loving one, without marriage? The virtues of marriage more than those of sex have certainly been more convincingly argued to be overrated.

The groups opposing divorce should drive it home even more convincingly, by showing the quality of mind they draw into their ranks.
Maybe they’re contributing something positive, if quite unwittingly, to life after all.

 

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