I have absolutely no reason to like House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez — in fact he has fashioned himself as one of the worst Presidential allies, who spreads about as much false information as government’s social media army, and lays it on even thicker by being an unapologetic misogynist boor.
Now, I do not doubt that he has pushed for Congress to work on the dissolution of marriage bill so that he can get out of his own marriage, and continue living with the woman / women he so chooses — he has after all admitted to having fathered eight children with three different women. But that’s just it: without meaning to, and no matter what he says, Alvarez has revealed how he is in fact the best example of why women need a kinder, more compassionate, way to end marriages that have long been dead.
Surprisingly — and sadly — the House Speaker’s wife, Emily Alvarez, is not quite ready to let go of or leave her husband, despite all he has said about his other women and his own marriage. According to Emily she had been abandoned after the 2016 SONA, and that she is still hurt. While Alvarez has since left their home, she was deciding to stay put:
“For me, why will I give up? My relationship is not illicit. ‘Yung mga sinasabi mong to go on ito yung mga illicit affairs eh but mine is not. <…> Ang sinasabihan mo lang ng ‘You move on’ kung the other woman ka eh di ba? But mine is not. But for me, life should go on I leave it to God.”
This of course reveals how one of the worst parts of being part of a dying marriage is one’s ability to absolutely deny one’s role in the continued oppressive state of affairs. Here, Emily makes very little sense: why would the other woman imagine “moving on” or “letting go,” when she is the woman chosen by your husband? This is ultimately not about which affair is illicit and which one’s legal: it’s about who the man has chosen. And in this case, it’s not the wife — so she is the one who is burdened with letting go and moving on.
Emily also believes that infidelity is nothing but normal — something that her husband also has normalized, as has President Duterte, the past year:
“Well, his other relationship I’ve been aware of that long, long time ago because as husband and wife, it’s but normal that the husband and wife would have an affair.”
Now these pronouncements from Emily would be fine if it were clear that this is solely about her and her relationship with the Speaker, and not at all about taking a stand against the dissolution of marriage bill. In fact were she using this to merely discredit the Speaker’s push for this bill, I would be on her side (see first paragraph).
But Emily is using this opportunity to take a stand against the dissolution of marriage bill, only revealing how utterly misinformed she is about what many women go through in this country, and absolutely blind to what many women (and men) in dead marriages actually need.
“For me, this is not a priority bill because number one, I’m talking now I’m speaking in behalf of the Filipino people… I’m saying that the bill is gender biased palagi na lang talo ang babae. <…> what I would want to say, dapat sa mag-asawa magkasama kayo sa hirap at ginhawa. Ako andoon ako all the time sa hirap. ‘Yung happiness ewan ko na lang.”
When Emily had this interview on July 28, we had yet to get a sense of what the bill looked like, so it’s unclear what it was she was referring to. On August 6, we find out that House Bill 6027 was in fact filed on July 24. And actually, looking at the document now, there is absolutely nothing there that is anti-woman, and certainly no sense that we will be on the losing end of the deal.
Emily’s insistence meanwhile that married couples should stay together despite all difficulties is nothing but her own beliefs being imposed on the rest of us. No, not all couples want to stay together, and no, you cannot tell everyone to just stick it out with our difficult marriages — we had the freedom to get into it, and should have the right to opt out of it. Everything else is based on nothing but beliefs that are subjective and personal and should not be imposed on the collective.
Sure you can decide to stay and wait for your husband to come back. But those who want freedom should have the right to that freedom under the law, too. It’s all quite simple really, you wonder why we didn’t get divorce, dissolution of marriage, two decades ago.
Ah, but Emily Alvarez reveals why as well. She is the best example of why many women stay in bad marriages, but more importantly, how so many women are oppressed by the conservative-religious beliefs that underpin policy and law in this country. In fact, Emily believes that she can “save” the Filipino people and our women, by just filing “separation of marriage” <sic> from her husband. She is fashioning herself as hero, in the guise of sacrificial lamb:
“My only thing that I would say is for me to be a sacrificial lamb para lang di matuloy yang bill na yan…I could be a sacrificial lamb, I could even file the separation of marriage anytime just to save the Filipino people. ‘Yun lang naman ang problema ‘di ba? ‘Wag na natin idamay ang mga babae dito sa Pilipinas.”
That she even imagines that it would be a terrible sacrifice to legally separate from Speaker Alvarez, who has said that his marriage has long been dead, who has had many women other than his wife, who speaks about the children he has sired with other women, is truly a sad state of affairs for Emily.
One hopes Congress refuses to listen to her, and that this time around we get somewhere with a kinder, more compassionate, cheaper process of ending marriages properly, with the least amount of pain and suffering for all parties, children included.
Now that would not only be freedom for those who have long been tied down to dead marriages, it would be freedom for a society that can finally be mature enough to admit that happy endings don’t happen for all couples, and marriages can’t subsist on romance or faith.
One hopes someone tells Emily Alvarez that she can’t quite depend on God to save her marriage, when Speaker Alvarez says he doesn’t believe in the same god. In fact, he had converted to a religion that allows polygamy, and didn’t even tell Emily.
How’s that for a dead marriage. ***