OFWs in Hong Kong express support for divorce in Philippines

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The consultation on divorce bills held at the PCG on Oct. 1.

THE Filipino community here in Hong Kong expressed their overwhelming support to the proposed measures to allow divorce in the Philippines, the only country in the world which does not allow so.

Eight members of the House of Representatives came to Hong Kong and met with Filipinos living and working in the city for a consultation on seven pending bills that seek to amend EO No. 29 or the Family Code of the Philippines introducing measures on the dissolution of marriage and absolute divorce.

The consultation, held on Oct. 1 at the Philippine Consulate General, saw hundreds of Filipinos, majority of them women, expressing their support for divorce in the Philippines. This support was apparent from eight out of 10 resource persons and speakers who gave their view on the issue. Arguments for the measures included the prohibitive cost of seeking annulment of marriage, as well as the complex process of securing one.

Cynthia Abdon Tellez, general manager of the NGO Mission for Migrant Workers, said that out of 2,000 requests for assistance they receive from migrant workers in Hong Kong, some eight to 10 percent concerned marital or family problems.

“We have a case wherein she was able to singlehandedly send their children to school and build a house on the land of the relatives of her husband. With her responsibility done – napatapos na ang kanyang mga anak sa pag-aaral – she is now seriously considering what her future is considering that her husband is now cohabiting with another woman in their house she built with her own sweat and tears.

“She has not seen her husband for 15 years, hindi siya makauwi doon sa bahay  nila mismo and she does not know what to do Should she drive out the other woman and her husband as well? Remember the house is built on the land owned by her estranged husband’s relatives. As an alternative, she is thinking of acquiring other properties for herself. But then since this would be acquired within the marriage her husband may have access to this. What is a trapped woman to do?” Abdon Tellez said.

She added that they also had cases  of Filipino women being abused by their husband  when they were in the Philippines, and now that they are in Hong Kong, they want to “start anew”.

“The existing mechanism for estranged married couples leaves much to be desired…This is an issue dear to women migrant as it seriously affects their ability to be productive members of society. This is an issue that will instill in women migrants that there is hope after a terrible marriage,” Abdon  Tellez said.

Meanwhile, a representative of the Chaplaincy for Filipinos in Hong Kong, said the group opposed divorce in the Philippines as marriage is “forever”.

“Marriage is a mission; it is a way to live a life of holiness and sanctity. What is the mission for the couple? To give witness of their love and the love of the couple must not be based on emotion but a commitment, a sacrificial love, a love that knows how to sacrifice for his/her beloved,” the representative said.

A Filipino lawyer, in a forum held at the PCG in 2015, said there are four ways to legally dissolve marriages in the Philippines.

One way, he said, is through a “declaration of presumptive death,” which can be used if one spouse had been “missing” for four straight years. Another way is through annulment. The lawyer said a Filipino marriage can be annulled if the spouses were 18 to 20 years old and got married without getting their parents’ consent.

Another ground for annulment is insanity or if the spouse was out of their mind when they got married. One more ground for annulment is fraud or if one of the spouses deceived the other. A marriage can also be annulled if the spouses were married through “force,  intimidation, or undue influence.” The third legal way to annul a marriage in the Philippines is through a declaration of nullity. Philippine courts issue this declaration if the marriage in question was “missing an element”.

These include marriages where those who the knot “were not a man and a woman;” the spouses were not yet 18 years old when they got married; or if they did not categorically give their consent– -or did not say their “I dos”—during the wedding.

A marriage can also be nullified if there was no marriage certificate issued or if no wedding ceremony happened. Likewise, “psychological incapacity” can be used as a ground for nullification of marriage.

Manifestations of “psychological incapacity” include immaturity, irresponsibility, and homosexuality.” A marriage can also be nullified if it violates Article 51 of the Family Code, which requires widows and widowers to give their children’s inheritance before getting married again.

Marriages that are bigamous, polygamous, incestuous, or “are against public policy” could also be declared as null and void. The last legal way to dissolve a marriage in the Philippines is through “divorce by foreign spouse”.


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