A news article at The Daily Tribune narrated a story about a woman having been conned by a “fixer” who was supposed to ensure her marriage annulment. The victim, who has been separated from her husband for about four years, paid the suspect Php85,000 in exchange for the suspect’s services to facilitate a “sure thing” and “hassle-free” annulment ruling. When the victim received the document for a favorable court ruling, she was very happy as this would enable her to proceed with her new life with her British boyfriend. However, her happiness was cut short upon learning that the court ruling document she received was a fake.
I see a couple of tragedies here. First, we have a victim who lost a huge sum of money from a scam. Second, we have someone whose hopes for having a new and promising life get crushed. While losing hard-earned money from a scam is a painful experience, I feel that having one’s hope crushed compounded with a feeling of helplessness is even more devastating. The Philippine government is certainly not helping out in preventing such tragedies from happening with its zealous Family Code. The Code aims to preserve the “sanctity of marriage” but when a marriage is irreparably broken what is the point of being confined in a mere nominal union if not to merely preserve the sanctity of “sanctity” itself?
Cavite Congresswoman Lani Mercado-Revilla said that people should work in preserving the holiness and purity of marriage. Marikina Congressman Marcelino Teodoro expressed his surprise upon learning of an increasing number of annulment filing in the country. Teodoro said that the figure:
“…is an alarming percentage for a predominant Catholic country. There is a need to strengthen the law on the family as an inviolable institution.”
He further states:
“The problem with couples getting married is the lack of informed decisions which should have been provided by the seminars required before marriage…What couples fail to realize before getting married are the legal implications of their actions as husband and wife which entails deep thought and understanding. These obligations stretch out from co-habiting, obligations of the man to woman and vice versa as well as supporting the family. These are vital legal obligations that must be fully understood by couples and strictly informed to them by legal and Church-related seminars… Annulment should not always be the option. We must not relax the rules on annulment but make the provisions of the Family Code be clearly informed before entering the marriage. Marriage should not be done out of impulse or mere feelings but both parties should be psychologically prepared and legally informed for the lifelong commitment that it entails.”
I feel that it is this kind of thinking that is to blame. While Teodoro and Mercado-Revilla may believe that marriage is a holy sacrament according to their religious inclinations, preserving this religious ideal may not spell justice and promote happiness to the many lives trapped in an irreparably broken union. Granting that it is an assumption on my part to assert that a marriage involved in an annulment application is irreparable, I submit that it is also an assumption for the respectable lawmakers to say that the root of the problem stems from couples’ lack of psychological preparation and lack informed decisions for what is meant to be a lifelong commitment. We simply are not gods to have omniscience and omnipotence to ensure and maintain order in our lives all the time.
Is it a sin or is it wrong to have a marriage annulled by estranged couples? Why is this so wrong? Is it because of the perception of the “sanctity” of marriage? What does “sanctity” mean, anyway? When the marriage itself becomes a problem where can we find this “sanctity”? It may have been forgotten in bed the very moment the actual “sin” was committed!
I see marriage as a contract between two persons to love and honor one another till death parts them. Suppose that a man and a woman get married and everything is all nice and happy. Then after 10 years things in their lives have changed. Let’s say the man changed. Let’s suppose that he refuses to protect his wife; that he abuses, assaults, and tramples upon the woman he wed. Is his wife under any obligation to him? He has violated the contract. And despite all the counseling and intervention done to make the marriage work, the woman is still being hurt and tormented. Don’t we see that the husband has failed to live up to the oath in the contract, to love and honor his wife? In addition to physical injury and mental anguish, the kids are being affected by the constant violence they are seeing from their father. Is the wife under any obligation to the husband in that case? Is she bound by the contract the husband has broken? Must the wife live with the husband for the husband’s sake? Must the wife live with the husband and stay married to him for the sake of a religious ideal? Should we insist upon a wife to remain with a husband who torments her? Even married women have a right to personal security, don’t they? Do they lose their right of self-preservation the moment they say “I do” in the wedding ceremony? Does the woman have the right to seek a new life and a new happiness? Do we picture God, with His infinite wisdom and compassion, insisting that His child remain the wife of a cruel man? If our honorable lawmakers insist that marriage is a sacred inviolable union under God, even for a marriage that threatens the happiness and self-preservation of an individual, then I can only wonder why God could be so cruel as to limit and permit a person to live in a living hell. It’s easy to say that “God will find a way to make the marriage work if you just have faith” as well as “Having faith in God will make changes in the cruel partner’s ways, thereby saving the marriage”. It’s easy to say that those who opt to annul their marriage do not have faith and are immoral and so on. It is easy to condemn and judge these people but it is another story to actually feel their pain by walking in their shoes.
Those who oppose relaxing the annulment requirements or any bills with a shade of divorce may invoke religious beliefs or even quote Biblical passages to support their contention. That is fine and dandy and they have every right to express themselves. However, it is quite ironic that the only time Jesus was known to have actually written anything was the time when he wrote something in the sand when he challenged any sinless accusers of an adulteress to cast the first stone. Do all of our honorable lawmakers know how it actually feels like to be helplessly trapped in a miserable married life? Perhaps some of them do. But if they choose to remain in such a life, what makes it right for them to dictate how others, who perhaps don’t have the same means and privilege, ought to pursue their own new happiness and self-preservation?
To our Philippine lawmakers, please read the writings on the wall. Please look at the facts and please look at pragmatism once in a while instead of being overly fixated on cultural or even religious beliefs that are just simply too archaic and out of touch with the present reality. Laws are made for the sake of promoting and accommodating justice, not for the sake of promoting and accommodating laws.