Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Let us mention the obvious: the proposed ‘Renewable Marriage’ bill will not be given serious attention in the 15th Congress. We can’t even pass a divorce law. A miracle is needed to convince lawmakers that shock laws are needed to reform the marriage institution.

It is easy to dismiss the ‘Renewable Marriage’ proposal as a publicity stunt; an outrageous idea in aid of elections. But this unique proposal, however ridiculous it seems, deserves a rational public discussion. It has been enunciated already; its novelty should be recognized. We can debate its philosophical register without committing to promote it in the legislature.

According to the proponents of ‘Renewable Marriage’, they want an escape option for women who are trapped in loveless relationships. They decry the expensive annulment cases which discourage incompatible couples from filing annulment petitions in the courts. The group’s intentions are laudable. It’s time to make annulment proceedings more accessible to the masa. It’s time to review marriage laws which are unfair to women in society.

Maybe the group came up with an insanely radical solution to protect women’s rights because it is up against an insanely stubborn institution: the all-powerful Catholic Church. Maybe the ‘Renewable Marriage’ idea is a response to the strong opposition of the Church to the legislation of divorce or any related measure that seeks to promote the interest of women. The first act of provocation was not the ‘Renewable Marriage’ bill but the feudal behavior and thinking of Church authorities.

The loudest argument against the ‘Renewable Marriage’ proposal is directed against the proponent’s statement comparing marriage license to a passport and driver’s license. A marriage license with an expiration date? A marriage license which can be renewed every ten years? Indeed, what a bold proposal! For many sectors, this unmentionable idea is anti-family, anti-Filipino, and anti-women.

Bold, yes it is. But it is a 21st century idea which reflects the norms of a postmodern (oh I hate this term) world that we inhabit. Aren’t we opposed to everything that claims to be infinite? Aren’t we the species that worship the finite in the planet? Aren’t we political subjects who desire and accept values, things, and ideas which are measurable?

The original sin is not ‘Renewable Marriage’ but marriage itself. Love is supposed to be infinite, timeless, eternal, free. Isn’t marriage the imposition of finite form over an infinite concept? Isn’t marriage a bourgeois institution which legally binds a woman to her husband – a modern and acceptable form of slavery? It is telling that critics of ‘Renewable Marriage’ invoke the welfare of kids and the complications to property relations if the bill is passed into law. It reveals that marriage has been reduced into two related affairs: parenting and husbanding (ironic term, indeed) of properties. A couple is recognized as truly married if they have children and if they have properties. It seems 21st century marriage has nothing to do anymore with free love, real love.

‘Renewable Marriage’, therefore, is not genuinely radical (definitely not revolutionary). It is an innovation. It seeks to amend the terms that govern the marriage institution.

What it affirms is the temporal character of human relationships. It is an appropriate proposal in today’s material world, a ‘throwaway society’. We prefer objects and ideas that can be discarded after some time. We measure a person’s worth through his/her paycheck. We are capable of loving and supporting an idea only if it is a time-bound, limited affair. We do not want to surrender, sacrifice, and risk everything to an unknown, unfamiliar event. We are afraid to lose; we do not want to commit forever; we have lost the capacity to embrace the infinite. We deserve absurd proposals like ‘Renewable Marriage’.

When I first heard the ‘Renewable Marriage’ bill, I ignored it. I rejected it. I laughed at it. Then I realized its appropriateness, its grim familiarity with the dominant political behavior in our society. We practice risk-free politics; we reject political projects that demand long-term commitments.

Through the ‘Renewable Marriage’ proposal, we can discuss the philosophical and political link of love and marriage, life and family, revolution and state, politics and elections. They are categories of infinite and finite.

Love. Life. Revolution. Politics. Infinite. True love is possible if we grasp eternity. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Related articles:

Church and RH, Rizal Bill
Divine interventions
Women and legislation
Garbage bins

3 Responses to “Renewable Marriage and politics”

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  2. It’s another attempt to increase women’s mobility in this feudal society. It would be interesting to see how this bill will go through the legislative mill. And the public debate around it will be shaped.


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