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Asia Minute: Legalized Divorce Under Consideration in Philippines

House of Representatives of the Philippines
Wikimedia Commons

This is a busy period for many of the world’s major religions. Over the next few weeks, there are observances for Muslims and Hindus, while Friday is Passover for those of the Jewish faith and for Christians, next Sunday is Easter. That is particularly significant in the Philippines, where according to the national census more than 80-percent of the population is Roman Catholic. It’s also delicate timing for a continuing political debate in that country. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

The Philippines is one of the only places left in the world where it’s illegal to get divorced, but a growing number of lawmakers are looking to change that.

Last week, the lower house of the Philippine Congress approved a measure that would legalize divorce. It’s the furthest such legislation has ever gotten; although it faces some high-profile opposition in the Senate.

Public opinion polls show widespread support.

Right now, the only options for Filipinos who want to end their marriages is either a legal separation or an annulment—which can be lengthy, expensive, and difficult to obtain.

Under the 1987 “Family Code of the Philippines,” only a handful of reasons are allowed for an annulment. Petitioners must demonstrate “a lack of parental consent, or psychological incapacity, fraud, marriage by force or intimidation, inability to consummate the marriage or if one party has contracted a sexually transmitted disease.”

Credit Wikipedia Commons
President Rodrigo Duterte

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was married for 27 years, but his marriage was annulled—after a two-year process started by his wife.

According to court documents cited by the Philippine news website, Duterte was examined by a clinical psychologist who found him unable to “remain committed to a person or a relationship.”

Duterte opposes legalizing divorce.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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