Case Digest
The World’s Worst Valentine’s Day
“Parting is already a sorrow. It need not be more than what it already is.” J. Leonen, Ponencia, Tan-Andal vs. Andal
Feb 14, 20223 min read
The World’s Worst Valentine’s Day

“Parting is already a sorrow. It need not be more than what it already is.”

-J. Leonen, Ponencia, Tan-Andal vs. Andal

People who’ve been in love say that love just fatefully came—that they didn’t have control over who to fall in love with. Others say that love was their conscious choice—that they had to nurture it and choose it over and above other options. They may both be wrong.

Both groups would be wise to agree that love, whether by fate or by choice, may hurt a lot or may make you a little bit as happy as Princess Fiona. Certainly, lovers, as did the courts, can take judicial notice of the fact that many have died single—either because their love was tested, but failed, or they gave everything for love, but she and her partner just didn’t fit.

This Valentine’s Day is not only a day for lovers. It is also a day for remembering past pains caused by them. Drowning in sadness for being alone is just as true today as the glee of dating one’s lover or doing anything romantically inclined. The state-imposed sorrow this Valentine’s Day is real and palpable.

Bad Valentine’s Day is happening to many people all around the world today. But the worst of its kind can only happen in the Philippines and, maybe, Vatican City—the only two countries in the entire world which outlaws absolute divorce. Many spend today alone despite being married. They are imprisoned by virtue of their marriage certificates. How does that sound?

Those who disagree with the possibility of having absolute divorce in the Philippines argue that there is no need for absolute divorce as we already have legal separation (limited divorce). But in limited divorce, the couple wanting to separate are still tied by marriage. They are only separated a mensa et thoro (from bed and board), but they cannot marry another.

There are also those who contest the need for absolute divorce as the Family Code allows for the nullification of marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity. This view is apathetic of the plight of a spouse who, although armed with the right ground to have her marriage dissolved, must wait for almost two (2) decades for the final disposition of her case.

That’s 20 Valentine’s days celebrated alone. Or if not alone, then celebrated illegally in the eyes of the law and of the condemning backwards society. The bitterness that this adds to the injury caused by having chosen a wrong person as spouse cannot be overemphasized.

This long waiting happened to Rosanna in the case of Tan-Andal vs. Andal. She filed on August 6, 2003 a petition for declaration of nullity of her marriage with her husband, Mario. It was only on May 11, 2021, that her marriage with Mario was voided with finality by the Supreme Court.

Many like Rosanna and Mario are still bound to a loveless-spouseless marriage. And with absolute divorce still outlawed due to religious discrimination (the Muslims are allowed divorce), rigorous requirements must still be complied with by these ill-fated couples just to be free from the shackles of marriage. The Tan-Andal case offers a glimmer of hope.

The choice to stay in a marriage is a constitutional right that should be exclusive to the individual. It should be free from unnecessary religious-societal opinion, and court or state interference. Associate Justice Marvic MVF Leonen, who was the ponenciaof the Tan-Andal decision, stated in his dissent in the case of Matudan vs. Republic:

“The choice to stay in or leave a marriage is not for this Court, or the State, to make. The choice is given to the partners, with the Constitution providing that “the right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and demands of responsible parenthood.” Counterintuitively, the State protects marriage if it allows those found to have psychological illnesses that render them incapable of complying with their marital obligations to leave the marriage. To force partners to stay in a loveless marriage, or a spouseless marriage as in this case, only erodes the foundation of a family.”

Let us remember, as we celebrate Valentine’s Day, the many Filipino adults—men and women adjudged by the Constitution as capable of deciding for themselves, who are still unwillingly bound by their unhappy marriages.

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