Hontiveros hopeful refiled divorce bill will pass Congress
MANILA, Philippines — For more than 10 years, Mark Luna has been physically separated from his wife, who he accused of cheating on him twice. But he is not legally separated from his wife. He could file for an annulment, but it would be expensive and difficult for him.
What he needs is divorce, which he said, would “free” him not only physically but emotionally and mentally from his failed marriage.
“It’s a different feeling if you know you’re not legally bound by someone, by this marriage. Marriage becomes a piece of paper if one spouse violates it,” Luna, speaking partly in Filipino, told reporters in an interview on Monday.
Until now, however, divorce is prohibited in the country.
Mark Luna is among the divorce advocates that met with Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Monday seeking to step up efforts to pass the absolute divorce bill.
Hontiveros has refiled the bill – “The Divorce Act of 2019” — which seeks to include as grounds for divorce the psychological incapacity of either spouse, irreconcilable marital differences, marital rape, or being separated for at least five years.
Luna got married in 1993, but a year after, he went overseas to work as a seaman. While at sea, he found out that his wife had cheated on him twice.
“I was working in the sea and twice I did my best to save my marriage,” he said. “We got separated twice. We got reconciled. I accepted her without even questioning.”
But he eventually gave up making the marriage work and accepted that it could no longer be fixed.
He knew he could not have his marriage annulled as he could not afford it, with an initial payment for a lawyer and a psychologist amounting to P200,000.
The duration of the process is not even guaranteed. It could take months or possibly years.
Luna also found the process of annulment “unreasonable,” noting that to annul one’s marriage, one has to declare that declare the spouse as psychologically incapacitated.
Under the law, infidelity, battery, or drug addiction are not grounds for annulment, Luna lamented.
“Annulment is you go before the marriage and you analyze the spouse. We only fall under psychological incapacitation and that’s very unrealistic,” Luna said to explain further why he could not opt for an annulment. “I met her, courted her, loved her, and married her. [Now] the state has to tell me that my marriage is null and void because of psychological incapacity? Why don’t we just state the real reason why the marriage was ruined?”
Luna is one of the administrators of the group Divorce Advocates of the Philippines. In his two years as an administrator, he has learned of other people’s failed marriages.
“I have witnessed stories wherein after 15 years of separation, it’s the husband who abandoned the woman who benefited from her insurance,” he said.
“We know several instances when the woman was already being beaten up and still that’s not enough grounds for annulment. You have to still prove that the man is psychologically incapacitated.”
He has appealed to lawmakers to hear understand their plight and heed their call.
“Why make it difficult for irreparable marriages to end? Annulment law is different not because of the price but [because of] the process itself,” Luna said. “For me, let there be annulment for the Church and let us have an option for divorce in the civil [contract]. That is what we are asking.”
Hontiveros, who chairs the Committee on Women, dubbed the meeting, which was attended by five major divorce advocate groups, as “historic.”
Citing initial positive statements of her colleagues on the measure, she said she remained hopeful that the bill would pass in the 18th Congress.
She hopes to start tackling the measure at the committee level by September.
“This is about the right to second chances for our women and youth,” she said.
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