Friday, June 1, 2012

... divorce and the divorce bill in the philippines: are you for it or against it (marriage / couples/ relationship counseling) ... (life coach, counselor, psychotherapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, quezon city, manila)

Divorce in the Philippines: Are you For it or Against it? (excerpts)

Amidst the pros and cons, what is your stand on the issue?

Why do some people who have committed themselves to each other separate? Psychiatrist and life coachRandy Dellosa, founder of the Life Change Recovery Center in Quezon City, says the most common reasons are infidelity and personality differences. 

“Many people experiencing marital separation come to me and tell me that the reason behind the estrangement is betrayal. In the past, there were more females who suffered from infidelity, but now, the number of males is on the rise as well,” he says. 

“The second reason is differences in personality. For a while, couples are able tolerate such differences, but it just reaches a point when they can no longer stand each other,” he adds.

Consequences of a troubled marriage

According to Randy, couples going through a troubled marriage or marital separation experience a host of stresses. 

“Couples go through a whole range of emotions, including depression and anger. During our counseling sessions, we learn that when much of the anger has been dealt with, the underlying emotion - depression - is usually revealed. It all stems from a person’s fantasy bubble bursting. The anger comes from the desire to control the situation, but when a person realizes that he or she can’t really control anything, that’s when the depression sets in,” he says.  

Randy shares that his patients usually not only experience emotional and mental stress of separation, they feel the physical upshots as well. 

“Some people start having headaches, while others develop insomnia or experience loss of appetite. Some of them also begin experiencing stress-related and psychosomatic illnesses. Sometimes, people develop disorders like high blood pressure and asthma. I even had one patient who developed cancer. These illnesses might be attributable to the stress caused by that person’s marital troubles,” he says.

Children, too, become largely affected by their parents’ situation. 

On the proposed Philippine Divorce Law

Divorce has long been a subject of contention between progressives and conservatives in the Philippines. The debate on this issue once again came to a head in May 2011 when the pro-divorce citizens of the Republic of Malta won a referendum on divorce, which resulted in a divorce law being enacted in the country in July. Suddenly, the Philippines and the Vatican City became the last two countries left in the world where divorce remains illegal.

But several divorce bills have already been filed in the past by lawmakers, the most recent one being 
House Bill No. 1799, which was filed by Reps. Luzviminda Ilagan and Emerenciana de Jesus of Gabriela Women’s Party in June 2010. 

In the aftermath of the Malta referendum, conservatives and religious groups in the Philippines have once again joined forces to wage yet another battle with the progressives in an already longstanding war of attrition. They are mostly the same people who are at loggerheads in the still unresolved debate on the Reproductive Health Bill.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said in a press statement published last June that “being the only country in the world that has no divorce law is an honor that every Filipino should be proud of.”

Archbishop Oscar Cruz told the press that “love for the family is at the core of cultural identity of Filipinos and should not be destroyed through divorce.” 

Similarly, CBCP’s legal counsel Jo Imbong said that the consequences of divorce seen on families in western countries reveal its “disastrous effects.” 

“It was a disaster. [It] destroyed family, destroyed children, destroyed stepchild-parent relationships, everything is in havoc. Now do you want that to happen in this country?” she commented, adding that the Philippine Constitution mandates the protection of the family as a social institution. “It recognizes the sanctity of life and [of] marriage as a sacred union,” she said.

But the bishops and their supporters are running the gauntlet of many people, including progressive Catholics, who are lashing out against them for their seeming imposition of their religious beliefs upon Filipinos, who live on a state that is neutral in matters of faith.

The organization Filipino Freethinkers, the largest group of free thinkers in the country, said on its website that the Maltese divorce story is one that is similar to the Filipino people’s struggle. They said that the victory of the citizens of Malta was achieved “despite the constant political meddling and religious blackmail of the Catholic Church.”

“The story of Malta’s divorce referendum shares similarities with our own debates,” the group said. “Both countries are last bastions of Catholicism - Malta in Europe, the Philippines in Asia; both countries are predominantly Catholic - 95 percent in Malta, 80 percent in the Philippines; and both battles are primarily between progressive Catholics and conservative bishops. And in both cases, the conservative bishops use fear mongering to keep their flock in line.” 

In particular, critics of the Catholic Church disapprove of the use of church sermons to spread apparent falsehoods about the proposed divorce law, including the idea that people will not think twice about getting married anymore because it will just be easy for them to separate. On the contrary, Ilagan and de Jesus’s divorce bill lists down very specific grounds which should be met before a divorce petition can be filed:

1. Petitioner has been separated de facto (in fact) from his or her spouse for at least five years at the time of the filing of the petition and reconciliation is highly improbable;

2. Petitioner has been legally separated from his or her spouse for at least two years at the time of the filing of the petition and reconciliation is highly improbable;

3. When the spouses suffer from irreconcilable differences that have caused the irreparable breakdown of the marriage;

4. When one or both spouses are psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations;

5. Any of the grounds for legal separation that has caused the irreparable breakdown of the marriage.

For the lawmakers, it is more about being pragmatic and facing up to the reality that in marital unions, as is the case with all other things in life, change is the only thing permanent.

“Reality tells us that there are many failed, unhappy marriages across all Filipino classes. Many couples, especially from the marginalized sectors who have no access to the courts, simply end up separating without the benefit of legal processes,” Ilagan and de Jesus said in their proposal. 

“Even when couples start out well in their marriage, political, economic, and social realities take their toll on their relationship. Some are not prepared to handle the intricacies of married life. For a large number of women, the inequalities and violence in marriage negate its ideals as the embodiment of love, care, and safety and erode the bases upon which a marriage is founded. The marital relations facilitate the commission of violence and perpetuate their oppression,” the lawmakers added.

According to a survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations last year, 50 percent of adult Filipinos agree that “married couples who have already separated and cannot reconcile anymore should be allowed to divorce so that they can get legally married again.” Only 33 percent disagreed with the statement. 

So, how about you? What is your stand on the divorce bill debate?