Survey: 1 in 2 Filipinos agree to divorce for 'irreconcilably separated' spouses

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 10) — Half of adult Filipinos believe divorce for spouses who are "irreconcilably separated' should be legalized.

These are the results of a 2017 Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey that was released on Friday.

Among the 1,200 respondents nationwide, 30 percent strongly agreed with the policy, while 23 percent somewhat agreed. Meanwhile, 22 percent strongly disagreed with it, while 10 percent somewhat disagreed.

The remaining 15 percent were undecided.

Subtracting those who disagreed from those who agreed, net support for the policy is +21, which the SWS classifies as "moderately strong."

This is slightly lower than the +25 recorded in 2016.

The SWS also found support for the policy was "very strong" for women with live-in partners (+44), men with live-in partners (+37), and widowed/separated men (+33).

Meanwhile, it was "moderately strong" among widowed/separated women (+24), women who have never married (+24), men who have never married (+21), married men (+19) and married women (+12).

In terms of geography, support for divorce was strongest in Metro Manila at +35 ("very strong"). Meanwhile, support from the rest of Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao was "moderately strong" at +23, +14 and +15, respectively.

For religious groups, support was strongest for Catholics at +23, followed by other Christians at +12. However, members of the Iglesia ni Cristo were felt "neutral" about it at -8.

The SWS said although it interviewed Muslims, the results were not relevant as divorce is legal in Shari'ah Law.

Divorce bill hurdles House

The SWS survey results came after the House of Representatives committee on population and family relations approved on February 20 a measure that would allow divorce in the Philippines.

Read: House panel approves substitute bill on divorce

Under the bill, married couples may end their marriage for several reasons, including abuse, infidelity and irreconcilable differences.

The proposed measure also allows spouses separated for at least five years to file for absolute divorce.

However, there is currently no divorce bill proposed at the Senate.

At present, the Family Code of the Philippines currently provides two ways for couples to separate.

First is legal separation — which allows spouses to split up, but not to remarry — and annulment, which allows spouses to remarry because the marriage is considered invalid from the start.

Taguig Rep. Pia Cayetano, whose own marriage was annulled, said on February 23 that couples tend to stay in broken or abusive marriages because getting an annulment is a long and expensive process.

"For someone — and usually it's a woman — to obtain an annulment, she would have to prove that the person is psychologically incapacitated," she said. "On its own, beating up your wife or not being a responsible partner by coming home drunk everyday is not a ground to annul the marriage."

However, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines also said divorce is "anti-marriage and anti-family."

Read: CBCP: Divorce bill 'anti-marriage and anti-family'