Bishop Teodoro Bacani has argued that the proposed divorce bill is “unconstitutional because the family is recognized by the State as the foundation of the nation” and that it “requires a lot of imagination” to say that separating spouses and giving them a chance to remarry strengthens the solidarity of the family.
He is presumably referring to Article XV of the 1987 Constitution:
Section 1. The State recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation. Accordingly, it shall strengthen its solidarity and actively promote its total development.
Section 2. Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.
But if Bacani is correct in his interpretation of the Constitution, why does the State recognize Muslim divorce? Are Filipino Muslims exempted from the above sections of our Constitution? And why do we have legal separation that entitles the spouses to live separately from each other when the State is supposed to strengthen the family’s solidarity and actively promote its total development? How can a family develop when the spouses are living apart? It seems more likely that Bacani is wrong.
Legal separation may be granted on certain grounds like physical violence and grossly abusive conduct (see Art. 55 of the Family Code for the complete list), and most of these grounds look very much like symptoms that the marriage has already broken down and that there is no longer any “foundation of the family” to protect; what is left to protect is the offended spouse and children, and this can be done not by forcing the so-called “family” to stay together but by keeping them safely apart.
The proposed divorce bill uses exactly the same grounds but with the following provision:
In addition, a petition for divorce may be filed upon showing that there is an irremediable breakdown of the marriage relationship due to irreconcilable marital differences. Said petition must specifically allege the grounds which destroy the legitimate ends of the marriage relationship and prevent any reasonable expectations of reconciliation.
It is clear that as far as this bill is concerned, divorce does not destroy the marriage which the State is supposed to protect; rather, it merely acknowledges that the marriage has already been essentially destroyed and has now become a hollow shell that obstinately binds two people at least one of which is already hurting from such bondage and wishing for nothing more than to be set free. Article 68 of the Family Code states that “the husband and wife are obliged to live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, and render mutual help and support.” If love and respect are irredeemably lost and it is no longer possible for the spouses to live together, much less to support each other, what marriage is there to save?
Just like with the RH Bill, it seems that the true objections against divorce are actually religious in nature and that these constitutionality issues are just rationalizations to support an underlying conviction that “what God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” Well, aside from accepting the fact that our Constitution guarantees that “no law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion,” when a marriage turns into a living hell, one must ponder, did God really join them together, or did they perhaps just use the name of God in vain?