Philippines may beat Malta to divorce law
A women’s political party in the Philippines yesterday urged the House of Representatives to take the country out of “the dark ages” and legalise divorce, just a day after Malta approved divorce legislation in a referendum.
The announcement was immediately met with criticism by Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz and the Filipino Church, which warned the Bill would increase marital breakdown. The Church said the Philippines should not go down the “unfortunate” road taken by Malta.
Malta and the Philippines, both predominantly Catholic countries, remain the only two countries in the world which do not allow divorce.
The Filipino Congress yesterday said it would begin discussing the Bill tomorrow. Meanwhile, the Speaker announced his approval of the Bill and called for it to be passed through the necessary process.
Although the Bill is likely to be met by vehement opposition, there is a chance of it being approved in the Philippines before Malta’s Bill is officially enacted.
The Filipino divorce Bill, presented by the Gabriela party, allows couples to get divorced if they have been legally separated for two years. If they have only been living apart, they can obtain divorce after five years.
It also lists a number of grounds including violence, psychological incapacity, irreconcilable differences, abandonment or infidelity.
The divorce Bill was filed in July last year, only 20 days after Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando did the same thing.
Unlike Dr Pullicino Orlando’s Bill, which was adapted from the Irish law introduced in 1997, the Filipino one was drawn up by a number of family lawyers and is tailored specifically to the country.
However, it has since been shelved, unlike in Malta, where the matter was put to a referendum.
Filipino politician Luzviminda Ilagan, one of the Bill’s sponsors, told The Times the Bill does not allow a no-fault divorce, as is being proposed in Malta.
“It was carefully crafted to take into consideration the Philippines’ values and traditions that give utmost importance to the way Filipinos appreciate the family as an institution. It takes into consideration religious beliefs existing in the Philippines. It will not allow couples to get married today and get divorced tomorrow,” she said, adding that similar Bills had been filed on numerous occasions. “We really cannot predict or dictate the process as the Catholic leadership also presents a strong opposition to the measure.”