With reports that the Absolute Divorce Bill has hurdled the House of Representatives’ Committee on Population and Family Relations, the proponents of the bill are now all-out in defending the need for this legislation.
One of the advocates’ claims is that divorce will affect only those who need it. In fact, a senator once taunted: “Don’t want a divorce? Then don’t get one!”
This claim, however, overlooks the fact that once passed into law, divorce will redefine marriage for all of Philippine society, and not just for those who may want to avail it.
In particular, divorce will redefine marriage by eliminating its permanent character. With a divorce law, the life-long union between a man and a woman becomes susceptible to termination at the will of the parties.
This is true given the inclusion of “irreconcilable differences” as a ground for divorce.
While there may be cooling-off mechanisms and judicial processes, the fact remains that spouses may now conclude that there exist insurmountable marital conflicts that warrant the end of their marital life. All they have to do is to get a court to agree.
With this, the marital commitment becomes superficial as spouses will now enter into marriages aware that there is a possible way out.
This changes the mentality and disposition of persons contracting a marriage. From a commitment to remain with one’s spouse no matter what, it becomes a commitment to remain in a marriage only for as long as one wants.
Stripping marriage of its permanence, ultimately, weakens the stability of conjugal life, threatens the solidarity of the family, and harms the children. This is not without precedent, as we have seen this happen in many countries where divorce is available.
For example, in the United States, our cultural idol, the data shows an alarmingly high divorce rate of 42-45%. This rises to 60% for 2nd marriages and 73% for 3rd marriages.
In Spain, where much of our culture is derived, the divorce rate is at 84%. And in Portugal, the divorce rate is at a whopping 92%.
If introduced in the country, it is not far-fetched to anticipate that many marriages will also end in divorce— with disastrous consequences for the family.
With a divorce necessarily comes complications such as custody battles, loss of parent-children communications, and the inevitable disintegration of the family.
In fact, these consequences of divorce leave deep wounds and painful memories on children that lead to adverse effects on their academic performance, physical and mental health, including increased possibility to be exposed to drug, alcohol, and even sexual abuse.
Studies show that 40% of children from divorced families required psychological help. This manifests even into their adulthood, as they would exhibit a significantly higher risk for depression.
Surely, this harrowing situation would concern all of Philippine society —not just those who obtain a divorce— and would be contrary to what our Constitution envisions marriage to be: an inviolable social institution which the State is mandated to preserve and protect.
If the State is to be faithful to this Constitutional mandate, then it must uphold the permanence of the marital commitment because the good of the spouses, the welfare of the children, and the stability of the Filipino family depend on that commitment.
Spouses should be given all State support to ensure that they are able to work on their marriage, fostering communication, reconciliation, and perseverance for the sake of their children and the commitment they made. And this entails the State precluding any possibility of severing marital ties.
Only through this will the sanctity of marriage and the family—the foundation of our nation—be maintained. As a philosopher-turned-saint admonished: “as the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the world in which we live.”
*** Atty. Jesus Joel Mari Delos Reyes Arzaga, J.D., is a lawyer engaged in private practice, a professor of law, Vice-President for Legislative Affairs of the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philipppines, Inc. (ALFI), Secretary of the UA&P Law, and Senior Associate of Universitas Foundation, Inc.
In 2022, he was given the Viktor Frankl Award by the World Youth Alliance, a United Nations accredited organization based in New York, U.S.A.