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The Filipino Marriage in Crisis: A Study on Divorce and Annulment in the Philipp

A family is the basic social unit of the human world; it is a microcosm of the l
arger society. According to Albers (1986) it is where people see the fundamental
patterns of every human interaction: love and hate, cooperation and competition
, trust and rivalry, harmony and conflict, and many others. The family setting p
rovides the training ground for learning to live in the larger world.
However, the Filipino family is threatened with extinction. Loose sexual mores,
a birth control mentality, open homosexuality, new age philosophies and economic
distress are only a few of the pressures that come to bear on families. Cert
ain social, political and economic forces both local and global are threatening
the venerable institution of the “domestic church”-the father, the mother and the ch
ildren. According to the World Congress of Families (Amato, 1986):
Slogans such as modernity, globalization, progress and the concept of civil soci
ety are the forces that have weakened the bonds between husbands and wives, pare
nt and child and the generations. These ideologies deny the natural origin and s
tatus of the family, the equal but complementary roles of men and women, the m
iracle of human fertility and procreation, the dignity and worth of every p
erson and the autonomy of the family itself.
The family, which develops and sustains not only individuals but also larger com
munities has been subordinated to the agendas of pressure groups and government
decision-makers and subjected to social experimentation. Aside from these, the f
amily also experiences several internal common problems. Among these common prob
lems-marital conflict is one (Noller, 1994). It is natural and normal to have co
nflict from time to time, especially during the first few years of marriage beca
use no two spouses ever agree completely on basic values, or attitudes towards a
llocation of certain privileges and distribution of scarce resources, or on perc
eptions of the precise meaning of role responsibilities (Melville, 1980). Other
usual sources of conflict are: conflict over one’s work, over children, over in-la
ws, over expenditures and over sex (Eshleman, 1978). According to Mendez, et al.
, (1984) when the whole marriage spectrum is considered the great majority of th
Filipino marriages is intact. However, quarrels between husband and wife are ine
vitable and may rise simply from misunderstanding, lack of communication, high-s
trung personalities or little annoyances such as a missing button, ashes on the
floor or failure to phone the one who is coming home late. The author’s cite indef
initely gambling, drinking and in-laws among the major sources of quarrels.
But conflict need not have such deleterious consequences. In fact, people who ha
ve some conflict and who handle it well tend to have higher levels of marital ad
justment than others (Noller, et. al., 1994). Conflict also has a functional val
ue. It often makes possible the effective communication of negative information,
i.e., getting out gripes, breaking through the lies or the silence and getting
matters out into open (Strong, et al., 1979). It is through conflict and its res
olution that misunderstandings are clarified, problems are better understood, go
als are redefined and cooperative action is promoted. As is often contended, eac
h quarrel and reconciliation contributes to a better understanding and an even g
reater intimacy between the spouses (Medina, 1985).
However, when conflict and disagreements are mishandled and goes unresolved, the
y accumulate through the years and the couple starts to drift from each other. L
ater when the situation becomes intolerable, repressed feelings and pent-up emot
ions explode and tension sets in. These would lead the couples to take either of
the two options: (1) to stay in the marriage and work out possible solutions to
the problem so as to save the relationship; and (2) to break the marriage bond
by getting or filing a divorce (Medina, 1991).
Unfortunately, absolute divorce (advinculo matrimonii) as an option to Filipino
couples whose marriages have broken down is not provided for by Philippine Laws.
Although, this was introduced by the Americans in 1898, was sanctioned by the P
hilippine Legislature in 1917 and was liberized during the Japanese occupation (
Asiaweek, March 15, 1983), the Revised Civil Code of 1950 permitted only legal s
eparation or relative divorce except among Muslims who are allowed absolute divo
rce by the Muslim Code. According to the 1987 Constitution, “marriage as an inviol
able social institution is the foundation of a family and shall be protected by
the State” (Article 15). Thus, as a matter of policy and pursuant to this constitu
tional provision, the New Family Code, like the previous Code of Laws does not p
rovide for absolute divorce. And, under the nationality principle (Article 15, C
ivil Code), all Filipinos-where they may be in the world are bound by
Philippine Laws on family rights, duties, status, condition and legal capacity.
So if one is a Filipino, it does not matter where he get a divorce-such divorce
is invalid/void in the Philippines. Absolute divorce dissolves the marriage bond
and parties can marry again (Diy-Sympio, 1988).
The country s being divorce-free is further caused by the nation s prevailing re
ligion-Christianity. The Catholic Church believes that every valid, sacramental
marriage is indissoluble. The Church does not accept the fact that divorce can s
ever the bond of a valid marriage. Christian theology asserts that, “matrimony is
a sacrament and cannot be dissolved by human power alone; nor by any cause save
death” (Medina, 1985). It (marriage) is a covenant relationship in which a man and
a woman establish themselves a partnership of love and life. Church Law presume
s that every marriage is valid until the contrary is proven. In fact, the Philip
pines is one of the remaining two nations in the world who does not exercise nor
recognize absolute divorce.
On the other hand, the Philippine Constitution and Church Laws provides other op
tions for couples whose marriages are in discord. Legal separation or relative d
ivorce is allowed in the country. No less than Article 55 of the (Family Code of
the Philippines, 1987), characterizes legal separation as separation only from
bed and board but the parties remain married. This means that the couples are pe
rmitted to live separately but the marital bonds are not severed, so neither sou
se may remarry. The Family Code (1987) further gives ten grounds for legal separ
Repeated physical violence or grossly abusive conduct directed against the petit
ioner, a common child or a child of the petitioner; physical violence or moral p
ressure to compel the petitioner to change religious or political affiliations;
attempt of the respondent to corrupt or induce the petitioner, a common child or
a child of the petitioner to engage in prostitution or connivance in such corru
ption or inducements; final judgment by sentencing the respondent to impriso
nment of more than six years, eve if pardoned; drug addiction or habitual alcoho
lism of the respondent; lesbianism or homosexuality of the respondent; contract
ing by the respondent a subsequent bigamous marriage, whether in the Philippines
or abroad; sexual infidelity or perversion; attempt by the respondent against
the life of the petitioner and abandonment of the petitioner by the respond
ent without justifiable cause for more than one year. The term “child” shall
include a child by nature or by adoption.
Aside from legal separation, there are other options resorted to by couples in m
arital discord. According to Medina (1991) there are three:
First is the conversion to Muslim religion. Some Filipinos have opted for conv
ersion because of the Muslim Legal system, which allows divorce, is recognized b
y Philippine Law. Moreover, divorce allows Muslims to remarry. Another option is
a divorce abroad. Some upper class individuals who would like to formalize an e
xisting extramarital relationship by a subsequent marriage abroad resort to this
. Both divorce and marriage are not recognized in the Philippines but more or le
ss tolerated by broad-minded Catholics for the reason that it is, “better than l
iving in an outright sin (Mendez, et. al., 1984).” If one of the parties in a vali
d marriage is a foreigner who later validly obtained a divorce abroad, enabling
him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse may likewise remarry under Philippine
Law (The Family Code of the Philippines, Article 26).Still, another option is a
n annulment by church. Catholics sometimes resort to this process, often as a
matter of conscience. The provisions of the Church Law on annulments are referre
d to as lack of True Discretion which means insufficient consent at the time of
wedding because one of the parties, lacks that maturity of judgment necessary an
d sufficient to understood, choose, undertake and fulfill the responsibilities o
f marriage…. (Meiley and Meiley, 1988).
Annulment is defined as the invalidation of a marriage. It falls under Article 4
5 of the Family Code (1987) and is based on legal grounds. According to Diy-Semp
io there are six; namely lack of parental consent in some cases, insanity, force
, fraud, intimidation or undue influence, impotence and STD. It is different fro
m legal separation, in sense that in legal separation, the spouses are still mar
ried to each other, and thus may not remarry.
However, lawyers do not prefer to use the term “annulment”, because it is more diffi
cult to prove and in most cases the circumstance of the married couples does not
fall under this category provided in the Family Code. The precise term is “declar
ation of nullity.” A declaration of nullity is a judgment of the church that the m
arriage is invalid/void or did not even legally existed in the first place. In e
ssence, it is also different from annulment since a “declaration of nullity” of marr
iage implies that the marriage was void/invalid or did not even legally existed
in the first place. Also, an action of declaration of nullity of marriage does n
ot prescribe while a n action for an annulment may prescribe.
There is no longer a need to go to Vatican to obtain an Ecclesiastical Declarati
on of Nullity because there are matrimonial tribunals and canon lawyers to handl
e this (Mendez, et. al., 1984).
A tribunal grants a declaration of nullity after a psychological capacity such a
s schizophrenia, homosexuality, psychopathy, sociopathy, anxiety and other clini
cal diagnosis is established through various psychological tests and a series of
probing interviews on the person s married life (Meiley and Meiley, 1988). Most
petitioners are women (Ventura, 1981) and among the rounds they specify are hus
band’s violent disposition, immorality, cruelty, psychological abnormality, alcoho
lism, impotence and abnormal attachment to mother.
The government has adopted the Canon Law concept of a void marriage to a certain
extent under the Article 36 of the New Family Code of the Philippines which sta
tes that:
A marriage contracted by any party who, at the time of celebration, was psycholo
gically incapacitated to comply with essential marital obligations shall be void
even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after its solemnization. What con
stitutes “psychological incapacity” is of course left to the courts to interpret on
a case-to-case basis but repeated physical violence or wife battering as a manif
estation of psychopathic abnormality may fall under this concept (Oyog, 1988).
Due to the absence of divorce and due to the difficulties, the scandal, the time
and expenses involved in legal separation or annulment, only a small proportion
of couples resort to these options. Only, the upper class for instance, who hav
e large properties to settle are interested and willing to spend time and money
for legal separation or annulment of their marriage. Only, a few are willing to
subject their families and children to shame during the process. The bulk of tro
ubled couples in the Philippines, especially among the poor people, usually reso
rt to separation by informal arrangement.
As an answer to the commercialization of legal separation or divorce as options
for troubled couples, Congressman Manuel Ortega of La Union proposed House Bill
6993 or the “Legalization of Absolute Divorce” which allows married people to separa
te and remarry both the aggrieved as well as the guilty spouse (http://www.proli Aside from the commercialization of legal separation an
d annulment, under the country present laws on marriage-legal separation and ann
ulment does not dissolve the marriage bonds between legally separated spouses. T
he law therefore forestalls them from pursuing marital ties with others. This is
the main reason why proponents of House Bill 6993 or the absolute divorce bill
insist on its enactment. Claiming that absolute divorce is necessary to free cou
ples from impossible marriages such as in the case of battered wives by allowing
remarriages for separated spouses, absolute divorce bill supporters are saying
that legalizing the bill is just giving a chance for separated couples to “possibl
y succeed in attaining a stable and fulfilling family life.” Other reasons will in
clude: to give freedom to couples who could not live or with stand each other an
y longer or have fallen out of love; to allow a person to escape from persistent
squabbles, incompatibility or an unfaithful, untrustworthy or philandering spou
se; to allow a person to remarry and seek happiness with other partner and last
is to free couples and children from a troubled marital life, and to avoid havin
g illegitimate children with an undivorced married person.
The absolute divorce bill currently pending in Congress contemplates remarriage
to spouses to “possibly succeed “in family life. On the other hand, critics assert t
hat a weight of evidence however does not support this hope. The bill is just se
en as an endless entry-exit resolving door, which likely results in a divorce sp
iral following that of the American society whose values becomes so easily assim
ilated into the Filipino culture. The belief that divorce equals happiness as wh
at absolute divorce bill is saying is utterly false. If in divorcist societies l
ike the United States, up to 50% of persons who fail to find happiness in marria
ge, where are they going to find it? In a second, third, fourth marriage? The st
atistics say NO, the divorce rate among divorces that remarry, are three or four
times higher than among those who marry for the first time. Divorce does not te
nd to make happiness. Divorce tends to make for divorce; and divorce always
marks the final collapse of a hope for happiness. As frequently argued, it is on
ly meant for hard cases, for those persons whose remarriages have in fact failed
, so as to give them the chance to start again. The evidence however is becoming
massive that the remedy is worse than the illness. The financial and economic r
esources of a family are generally divided upon the onset of a divorce. The fath
er, who usually initiates separation in the Philippines, must now support two fa
milies, which will require two homes, two sets of furniture and appliances and s
ubsequently two sets of children. Conflicts arise over money, property, custody
and maintenance. This deepens bitter feeling between the spouses, children and i
n-laws. As well as becoming impoverished, single mothers often become lonely, af
raid and exhausted. Divorce has not made women equal to men but has only caused
hardships in many ways of them and to their children. Statistics shows that wome
generally face worse in divorce because of maintenance default and raising child
ren on reduced income. A US study in 1985 made by the Stanford University found
that mothers and children average a 73% decline in their standard living the fir
st year after divorce while men’s increased 42%. Thus, many women and children fin
d themselves needing a public assistance and undergoing many changes in lifestyl
e and socio-economic status. Then, too the difficulty of raising children alone,
causing many family problems. Divorce results to a dysfunctional home. The kind
of home is hardly the breeding ground for a psychologically stable and emotiona
lly mature person. In divorce, the needs of the children for their parents are d
isrupted and their development process hindered or impaired. Divorce would furth
er bring embarrassment, resentment, insecurity feelings and other negative effec
ts in the moral and psychological development of the children. Considering this
fact, “Most victims of child manifestation came from single-parent households or a
re children from drug ring members” ( Thus
, serious problems occur which usually lead to runaway teens, drug problems, ali
enation, prostitution, low self-esteem, depression and even suicide. Moreover lo
ng-term physical and emotional burdens are often placed on children who endure l
ong-after divorce: these frequently take the form of post adolescent fears of co
mmitment or betrayal, lack of goals and feelings of not being in control of thei
r life (Gehring, et. Al., 1990).
Divorce is fundamentally a moral, not a legal issue. Were it not for its moral d
imension, the issue would be totally within human competence and freedom. The re
ality is that the Catholic Church, comprising about 85% of the Philippine popula
tion is absolutely against divorce as a universal error and a serious violation
of God’s Laws. And this is based on the clear teachings of Jesus Christ who raised
matrimony from a sacred contract to the dignity of a sacrament.
Whatever legal route the proponents of an absolute divorce law in the Philip
pines may take, it will end up running smack against the 1987 Constitution, whic
h provides that the family as an inviolable social institution (Article XV, Sect
ion 2). Other provisions regarding family in our 1987 Constitution are:
Section 12. The state recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect a
nd strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution (Article II, I
bid). Section I. The state recognizes the Philippine family as the foundation of
the nation. Accordingly, it shall strengthen its solidarity and actively promot
e its total development.
This shows clearly that legalizing divorce would only end up violating the Phili
ppine Constitution as well as the Filipino culture. Divorce is one of the featur
es of the Westerner’s culture and is evidently not a part of the Filipino culture.
Following or legalizing divorce only imply as to abandoning our own culture, wh
ich in either way should not be. In this world, there is a need for Filipinos to
preserve culture and heritage, which we ought to be proud of. Furthermore, lega
lizing divorce would end up to remarriages being considered (since this is the n
otion of what absolute divorce is appealing for), and it would also follow that
men and even women will become unfaithful.
Critics asserts that, “ A habitual wife-beater, divorced and remarried is not like
ly to morph into a tender loving lamb with his second or third wife.” Both goodnes
s and evil have multiple effects. It therefore, makes enormous sense not to make
it easy for persons to exit and reenter into marriage (
The researcher shares the idea of opposing the enactment of House Bill 6993
or the absolute divorce law. The researcher thinks that legalizing divorce would
create more negative than positive effects. It is first against the Catholic Fa
ith, it destroys the venerable institution of the domestic church-the mother, th
e father and the child, as well as the psychological and moral development of th
e children, it is against the country’s culture, it destroys morality and it also
encourages remarriage and also encourages a man and even a woman to become unfai
thful. Moreover, the social costs of divorce as experienced in divorcist societi
es like the United States are also frightening. Divorce is essentially social ex
plosive that in time will go off in the form of sexual aberrations, acts of viol
ence and other detrimental signs of social maladjustments. And finally the worse
, legalizing divorce would only lead to the idea of reducing marriage to a tempo
social contract. Furthermore, this would also lead to considering marriage as a
temporary sexual contract instead of a permanent love contract between a man and
a woman.
But, nevertheless the researcher argues that the government should provide other
options aside from annulment or legal separation or if not provide simpler and
accessible access towards the processing of legal separation or annulment for tr
oubled couples such as in the case of battered wives. This is so as not to make
legal separation or annulment an option only for the rich people but accessible
and open to all marriages in discord.

The Filipino Marriage Crisis: A Study on Divorce and Annulment in the Philippine
A Research Paper

In partial fulfillment of the

Requirements of the course Comm 2
Submitted to:
Prof. Irma R. Tan

Submitted by:
Nilli Angelie M. Yu

March 14, 2008

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