Q: My husband and were married in the Philippines 10 years ago. In 2009, he left to work in Canada and has since attained an immigrant status. Our relationship of course suffered because of the distance, but still I was surprised when recently I received divorce papers from a court in Canada, signed by him, with no explanations whatsoever. Can he really do that, can we become unmarried because of that? How can our laws here in the Philippines protect me?
No to Divorce
A: Dear No to Divorce,
To answer your question, I need to clarify some things first: (1) When your husband filed for divorce, was he still a Filipino or had he already obtained a Canadian citizenship? (2) You say that you received “divorce papers signed by him”—do you still need to sign the divorce papers and send it back to him, or did you receive a final decree declaring that the two of you were already divorced?
These details are important because the answers will determine your next course of action, which I will get to in a bit.
But first, I think a brief history of divorce in the Philippines is necessary. Contrary to popular belief, divorce was not always banned in the Philippines. As early as 1917, Act No. 2710 was passed, which allowed for divorce on two grounds only: adultery on the part of the wife, and concubinage on the part of the husband—in other words, sexual infidelity of either spouse. This was the only divorce law in effect for almost three decades, until a "New Divorce Law" (Executive Order No. 141) was enacted during the Japanese Occupation on March 25, 1943. This Divorce Law repealed Act No. 2710, and added ten more grounds for divorce. So aside from sexual infidelity, a divorce may also be granted for the following reasons: (1) attempt against the life of the other spouse, (2) a second subsequent marriage, (3) incurable insanity, (4) loathsome disease, (5) impotence, (6) violence against spouse, (7) unjustified desertion for 1 year, (8) intentional absence for 3 years, (9) slander by deed, or (10) grave assault. But this law was immediately repealed after a year, when the Americans established the Philippine Commonwealth in 1944. In its place, the old divorce law, Act No. 2710, was restored. For the next several years, divorce was alive and well in Philippine Law.