MANILA: For well-off people like politician Pantaleon Alvarez, getting out of a bad marriage in the Philippines is pricey but feasible but for the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens it is nearly impossible.
That’s because heavily Catholic Philippines and the Vatican are the last two places on Earth where divorce is outlawed.
For the nation’s 100 million people, the only exit from a union gone wrong is an embarrassing — and labyrinthine process that often amounts to a luxury.
But lawmakers, including Alvarez, have launched a new legislative effort to legalise divorce which activists believe could transform the lives of impoverished women trapped in toxic marriages.
The bill has been propelled forward by Alvarez, who is speaker in the lower House of Representatives and an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte.
In an interview with AFP, he said ending his first marriage cost him a million pesos ($19,200), which is more than triple what an average family in the Philippines makes in a year.
Like thousands of Filipinos, he did it through a civil procedure called annulment, whereby a judge declares a marriage invalid, generally because the spouses had a “psychological incapacity”.
It requires applicants to undergo a mental exam, testify in court and sometimes even claim they or their spouse entered the union with a disorder like narcissism.