With a population of 100 million, the Philippines is the third largest Catholic country in the world, and one of two predominantly Roman Catholic nations in Asia (the other is East Timor). About 93% of the population of the Philippines is Christian; based on the2000 Philippine Census, an estimated 80.9% of Filipinos are Roman Catholic. Aside from the Vatican, the Philippines is the only country in the world where divorce is impossible: the only way to end a marriage there is though annulment.
According to the 2011 Social Weather Survey by Social Weather Stations, a private, nonprofit social research institution established in August 1985), 50% of adult Filipinos agree and 33% disagree with the statement, “Married couples who have already separated and cannot reconcile anymore should be allowed to divorce so that they can get legally married again.” Approximately 16% said they were undecided about the issue.
Support for divorce has risen among men and women, both married and single (without a spouse or partner), since the 2005 Social Weather Survey. “Compared to May 2005, attitude towards legal divorce changed from neutral to favorable among men, from net +1 (44% agree, 43% disagree) to net +21 (52% agree, 30% disagree), and women, from net -5 (41% agree, 46% disagree) to net +14 (49% agree, 35% disagree) [Table 2].
It also rose from neutral to favorable among singles, from net +7 (45% agree, 38% disagree) to net +22 (52% agree, 30% disagree), and among marrieds, from net -7 (41% agree, 48% disagree) to net +14 (49% agree, 34% disagree).
It stayed favorable among those with live-in partners, from net +36 (63% agree, 26% disagree, correctly rounded) in May 2005 to net +35 (62% agree, 27% disagree) in March 2011.
Attitude towards legal divorce switched from opposition to support among married women, up from net -10 (39% agree, 49% disagree) to +10 (47% agree, 38% disagree).”
However, in the meantime, annulment remains the only choice for Filipinos who wish to end their marriages. A civil annulment will allow Filipinos to remarry in civil ceremonies, but not in the church; for that, they would have to seek a religious annulment as well. Without an annulment granted by the church, and relationship — including marriage — that someone who has a civil annulment enters into would be considered “immoral” by the church.
The Family Code of the Philippines (FCP) offers three different ways to terminate a marriage:
1) Legal separation. This does not allow individuals to remarry, since the parties are still legally married to each other.
2) Annulment. In annulment cases, the marriage can be voided within a limited period of time by proving one or more of the following grounds:
- one or both parties were too young, and there was no without parental consent
- either party was of unsound mind,
- consent of party was obtained by fraud,
- consent to marry was obtained by force, intimidation, or undue influence,
- one or both parties is physically incapable of consummating the marriage
- one or both parties is afflicted with sexually transmissible disease.
3. A petition for declaration of absolute nullity of marriage. This refers to grounds that render the marriage void from the beginning (ab initio) and there is no limitation of period of time to file it. The most common ground currently is “psychological incapacity by any party to the marriage”; others include underage marriages without parental consent, marriages performed without a license, and bigamous/polygamous marriage (where one or both parties is already legally married to some else).
Annulment is a relatively expensive process in the Philippines, which means it may not be an option for the country’s poor – which in turn may force some citizens to stay in unhappy, oppressive, or even violent relationships. However, in November 2014, Pope Francis suggested that the Roman Catholic Church’s annulment procedures need to be simpler, faster, and cheaper – possibly even free – for Catholics seeking to end their marriages. This may offer a ray of hope to unhappily-married Filipinos who currently have to way to end their unions. Read more about the Pope’s statement here.