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3/6/2018 Divorce: Yes, we need to talk about it


Divorce: Yes, we need to talk about it

Divorce – it's on the country’s big bad shelf, alongside same-sex marriage, abortion, sexuality education, and other
rights and services readily accessed in other countries

Fritzie Rodriguez @fritzdrodriguez

Published 9:00 PM, April 03, 2015
Updated 11:27 PM, April 03, 2015

MANILA, Philippines – It was a happy marriage until it wasn’t.

They exchanged vows of eternal love which would later stop making sense.

They never thought love would run out; not when they were busy slicing cakes, not when they were pregnant with
their rst child. Nobody expected their marriage to crumble until the crumbs came. 1/11
3/6/2018 Divorce: Yes, we need to talk about it

Can they o cially end their marriage? Cash spells yes; poverty, no. And to do so, one or both of them have to be
declared “psychologically incapacitated.” They were both crazy in love in the beginning, they didn’t know they also
had to be in the end.

In the Philippines, it takes a lot of money to get married, perhaps even more to get out of it.

Don't separate. Think about your children, think about God.

Some Filipinos, however, are actually thinking about their children and that’s why they want an annulment. Or
maybe a divorce, if only the Philippines had one.

Divorce. It’s lined up on the country’s big bad shelf, alongside same-sex marriage, abortion, sexuality education,
and other rights and services readily accessed in other countries but labeled as sin or taboo back home.

Some stay married not out of love or logic, but simply because they have no choice.

Love isn't blind, laws are

The country’s divorce bill was led in 2010 and has been pending in Congress since.

“It’s still with the Committee on Revision of Laws, hasn’t been moving. It only had one hearing since 2010, it wasn’t
a priority,” Representative Luzviminda Ilagan told Rappler.

Ilagan is one of the two women from the Gabriela women’s party who crafted the bill.

“The issue has been forgotten and only resurrected recently because of the SWS survey showing that 60% of
Filipinos favor legalizing divorce,” Ilagan added. “Who knows, there may be even more who were not reached by
the survey.”

Public support for legalization of divorce

2005 2011 2014

43-44% 50% 60%

(Source: 4th quarter 2014 SWS survey)

Support for legalization of divorce as of December 2014

Women Men

57% 62% 2/11
3/6/2018 Divorce: Yes, we need to talk about it

The Philippines allowed divorce as early as the 16th century, before the Spanish colonial rule, Ilagan explained, it
was also allowed during the American period and the Japanese occupation. Divorce was only banned in 1949
because of the new Civil Code.

The Philippines allows annulment, legal separation, and the declaration of nullity. Why divorce? Because the
existing options are insu cient, advocates say:

Marriage is declared void
from the start, lacking focus
on the circumstances during
marriage. One of the most
common grounds used for
annulment is proving that one
or both parties have
“psychological incapacity.”
Advocates argue the obvious:
not all couples have this
problem; yet lawyers have to
be “creative” in courts in
proving otherwise. The whole
process may also be
expensive, tiring, and even
embarrassing or traumatizing
for some.

Legal Separation
Unlike annulment which
allows both parties to 3/11
3/6/2018 Divorce: Yes, we need to talk about it

remarry, this option does not.

They’re allowed to live
separately without marital
obligations, but their marriage
stays. Its grounds include
sexual in delity and physical

Declaration of
This option allows both
parties to remarry, however,
the grounds for it are only
technicalities such as the lack
of legal requirements (i.e.,
age, marriage license).

Grounds for termination
focuses on what happened
during the marriage (i.e.,

The ght for divorce is a ght for women's rights, argued Dr Natalie Verceles, Chairperson of the University of the
Philippines Women and Development Studies. "We forget that development for women entails the expansion of
choices, capabilities. Allowing women to leave dysfunctional or unhappy marriages enables them to live better

"The divorce bill can empower women."

Papa, don’t preach 4/11
3/6/2018 Divorce: Yes, we need to talk about it

DIVORCE. The CBCP says divorce makes a mockery out of marriage, and that it victimizes children. Women’s rights advocates
denounce such claims. File photo by Noli Yamsuan/Archdiocese of Manila

“Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The
Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) began their position on divorce with this bible verse.

Divorce as the devil. Welcome to the Philippines.

“A failed marriage is not an argument for divorce. It is rather proof of the necessity that only mature people enter
into it,” CBCP added, arguing that the country’s existing laws already address violent marriages.

Reality, however, proves that sometimes maturity and violence are unrelated to the many possible reasons couples
separate. And no one, not even gods, could stop “immature” people from marrying; nor should they be stopped
from separating.

The CBCP also compares marriage to test-driving a car, stressing how “dehumanizing” it is for people to “test”
another marriage after failing the rst.

Opposition of the Catholic Church, Ilagan argued, is the biggest hindrance to exonerating the Philippines from
being the only country in the world, aside from Vatican City, without divorce. 5/11
3/6/2018 Divorce: Yes, we need to talk about it

“Every election year, the Church tells politicians they will not win if they support divorce. They said the same with
the Reproductive Health (RH) bill,” Ilagan said.

These men have no marital experience, why should they have an opinion? asked Jelen Paclarin of the Women’s
Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB), a non-governmental organization championing women’s rights.

"The Church should have no say. It's not part of their mandate anymore," Paclarin argued.

In fact, under Philippines laws, Muslim Filipinos can divorce. And although Filipinos can get divorce abroad, this is
not legally recognized back home.

"Why are religious standards applied in civil law?" the WLB asked. "If the basis for allowing divorce among Muslim
Filipinos is religion, aren't other Filipinos who do not subscribe to religious dogma against divorce entitled to avail
of divorce as well?"

Advocates are also pointing ngers at legislators arguing against divorce without understanding it.

Verceles believes the divorce bill will not triumph anytime soon, especially since elections are nearing, “Politicians
share the CBCP’s sentiments, they need votes."

The "traditional and hypocritical" opinions of male politicians on divorce are part of the country's "macho
mentality," observed Ilagan. "They don't want to legalize divorce yet some have two or more families."

She pointed out that some politicians had "quick" annulments since they can afford it. Some of these "quickie
courts" may involve corruption. 6/11
3/6/2018 Divorce: Yes, we need to talk about it

Meanwhile, poor and even middle-income women cannot afford the procedure.

Not all men, however, are like this. Verceles lauded the likes of Congressman Edcel Lagman, a staunch RH
advocate. At the same time, not all women are pro-women, citing Congresswoman Lucy Torres-Gomez, an RH law

The Philippines is no land of milk and honey – no matter how "holy" it may be, couples do break up.

O ce of the Solicitor General data

Number of annulment cases led

2010 2011

8,283 10,257

Money talks

Will divorce be cheaper than annulment?

Hiring lawyers and psychologists for an annulment case can be very expensive. There are also women who stay in
abusive or unhappy marriages for economic survival; they have no jobs, they depend on their husbands. Hence the
need for government to help empower women economically, Verceles suggested.

At present, poor women rely only on pro-bono lawyers for annulment. Such should not be the case for divorce.

"We should look at how divorce can be accessed by the [less privileged]," said Paclarin.

The poor mostly only hold on to informal agreements (kasulatan) signed by both parties and a barangay captain.
Such have no legal effect.

Women should also be educated about their rights and legal options. Consultation workshops on divorce could
help get the people's pulse and problems, said WLB.

Lack of child support is common in post-separation situations, hence the need for the divorce law to come up with
an easier and faster way of guaranteeing that the more capable party will provide child support.

WLB also calls for scraping the country's in delity laws discriminating against women.

Paclarin painted this scenerio: A battered wife les a VAW (violence against women) case against her husband
who then lies and accuses her of adultery. Both go to court, with the husband having the advantage of money and
"good" lawyers. Who will win? 7/11
3/6/2018 Divorce: Yes, we need to talk about it

Future of the end

What awaits the end of Filipino marriages?

“Mga praning sila (They’re paranoid). They think if we have a divorce law, it will encourage couples to divorce or
break up families,” said Verceles. “We won the RH law despite Church opposition. The same thing can happen for
divorce.” (READ: Divorce needs RH-like support)

Verceles has been separated for 13 years and boasts of successfully raising her daughter. "It's not a badge of
dishonor for children, remove the stigma," she said.

Ilagan admits the bill would most likely fail in the 16th Congress, but that it is good that more people are now
talking about divorce and its merits.

"It's not a Las Vegas kind of divorce; get married today, divorce tomorrow," Ilagan said. "Let’s not pretend our
societies don't have [marital] problems. What we’re proposing is just another remedy."

The logic is simple, advocates say: If you don't want a divorce, don't get one, but don't force others to agree with
you. If they want it, let them.

Just like the RH law, divorce has a long battle ahead. Until then, many Filipinos might stay blind to the reality that
not all marriages will last. –

Got stories to tell? Share your ideas, articles, and questions surrounding gender, women, and development issues
with Speak up on #GenderIssues! 8/11
3/6/2018 Divorce: Yes, we need to talk about it

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Ex-Gabriela representative Luz Ilagan is new DSWD undersecretary

President Rodrigo Duterte appoints to the DSWD former Gabriela Women's Partylist Representative Luz Ilagan,
who also hails from Davao

Pia Ranada @piaranada

Published 5:13 PM, September 14, 2017
Updated 5:14 PM, September 14, 2017 9/11
3/6/2018 Divorce: Yes, we need to talk about it

NEW DSWD USEC. Former lawmaker and Davao city o cial Luzviminda Ilagan has joined the Duterte administration. Photo from the
Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development website

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed former Gabriela Women's Partylist representative
Luzviminda Ilagan as social welfare undersecretary.

Malacanang released Ilagan's appointment papers on Thursday, September 14, or a day after they were signed.

The appointment comes weeks after the Commission on Appointments rejected the appointment of Left-
nominated Judy Taguiwalo as social welfare secretary.

Ilagan is a member of Gabriela, a Leftist organization advocating for women's rights. Her appointment seemed to
indicate that Duterte was still open to having Leftists in his administration, despite the meltdown of peace talks
with the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Ilagan, who also hails from Davao, was supportive of Duterte during the 2016 national elections, and defended him
even when he was criticized for supposedly sexist behavior and remarks during the campaign period.

When Duterte came under re for catcalling a female reporter, a violation of Davao laws, Ilagan, representative of a
feminist party, even said catcalling is “not sexual harassment.” Gabriela later clari ed its stance on the issue.

She had also asked the public to “accept” Duterte’s Bisaya way of speaking, which administration o cials and
allies had cited to explain the President's tendency to make hyperbolic statements. 10/11
3/6/2018 Divorce: Yes, we need to talk about it

"We have to accept that our President is different and he is working under a cultural way of communicating.
Ganoon naman talaga mga Bisaya (That's really how Visayans speak). They are sarcastic. We exaggerate,” Ilagan
had said.

During the same 2016 elections, Ilagan ran for Davao City 3rd District Councilor but lost.

Before then, she served as Gabriela Women’s Party Representative in the 14th Congress, from 2007 to 2016. Prior
to that, she was a Davao City councilor after being elected to the post in 1998.

Ilagan rst worked with Duterte when then President Corazon Aquino appointed her as city councilor, and Duterte,
as Davao City o cer-in-charge. He led the city council where Ilagan was a member. – 11/11