OFWs in Hong Kong support marriage dissolution bills

MANILA, Philippines – Several groups of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Hong Kong expressed support for the bills proposing to simplify the process of ending marriages in the Philippines. 

Members of the House of Representatives spoke with some 200 OFWs on Sunday, October 1, to seek the latter's position on the 7 measures that seek to amend the Family Code of the Philippines. 

Based on transcript of the consultation, as provided by the House, Hong Kong-based Filipino journalist and lawyer Daisy Mandap said the Philippines should have a divorce law to limit the burden on OFWs who want to end their marriage.  

Migrant workers are often victims of broken relationships due to their physical distance from their spouses. (READ: Divorce: Yes, we need to talk about it

“Lawyer Raymond Fortun said that annulment costs P50,000 to P300,000. It’s too much for an OFW. That already amounts to their life savings. The money that they need to shell out to get out of a bad marriage could be spent on their family. Why are we making them suffer?” said Mandap. 

She also highlighted that there used to be divorce in the Philippines, before the Spanish colonization. It was also allowed during the time of the Americans. It was only banned in 1949 with the enactment of the new Civil Code. 

Meanwhile, the group United Filipinos in Hong Kong said OFWs worry about the future of their investments when their estranged spouses are legally entitled to these under the Family Code. 

This is the exact dilemma of an OFW whom the group Mission for Migrant Workers is assisting. 

“We have a case wherein she was able to single-handedly send their children to school and build a house on the land of the relatives of her husband. With her responsibility done – all her kids graduated from school – she is now seriously considering what her future is, considering that her husband is now cohabiting with another woman in the house she built with her own sweat and tears,” said Cynthia Abdon of the Mission for Migrant Workers. 

“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?” she added. 

According to Abdon, 8% to 10% of the 2,000 cases they handle annually involve female OFWs with marital problems.

Other OFW organizations in Hong Kong that support the pending bills include the Philippine Association of Hong Kong, Global Alliance Hong Kong, Gabriela (Hong Kong), Filipino Ministerial Fellowship International, Hong Kong Musician’s Union, the House leadership said.

However, faith-based group Chaplaincy for Filipinos in Hong Kong is opposed to the proposals and emphasized that marriage is man’s participation in “the plan of God.” 

“Marriage is a mission; it is a way to live a life of holiness and sanctity. The couple must understand that as they enter into marriage their goal is to live a life of sanctity,” said the group. 

For them, divorce would only promote infidelity and encourage couples to stop working on their commitment. 

The Hong Kong leg was the first of a series of consultation lawmakers are set to hold. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, himself an author of one of the bills, earlier said he wants to get the opinion of OFWs on this issue. 

Divorce is a touchy subject in the Philippines since its population is dominantly Catholic. Progressive lawmakers have consistently filed and re-filed related measures for years, the bills fail to hurdle the legislative mill amid polarized positions on the issue. – Rappler.com 

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.

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