Saturday, October 17, 2009

Beyond Big Brother

NOBODY watches like Big Brother.

In George Orwell’s “1984,” Big Brother embodies the chilling concept of a totalitarian state that is omnipotent in its access to the innermost recesses of the life of Everyman.

Currently, some women regard the state with ambivalence, uncertain whether to take Big Brother as their last resort or the final blow in the arena of sexual politics.

Take, for instance, the National Statistics Office (NSO) -issued Certificate of No Marriage Record (Cenomar), which indisputably proves that a man or woman is single and thus free to enter into marriage.

Women attested that they and their children were easy to jettison because their common-law partners have a Cenomar attesting that they are unencumbered by an existing marriage.

In this paper’s columns published on Sept. 13 and 20, and Oct. 4, 2009, I’ve also written about other women who used the Cenomar to their advantage. For verifying a suitor’s true status, a Cenomar is cheaper than a private investigator and more reliable than a card reader.

More importantly, a Cenomar also opens doors for a woman to leave an exploitative relationship and move on to independence or a better relationship.
However, even Big Brother has limits.

A reader who wondered if the NSO can track the number of marriages her overseas husband contracted outside the country will not find anything in his Certificate of Marriage (Cemar) to confirm or negate her suspicions.

Lawyer Rosemarie Olaño-Versoza, a Cebu Media Legal Aid member and University of the Philippines in the Visayas Cebu College lecturer on media, law and ethics, confirms this. “If the marriage was entered into outside the country, then our country will never have such a record… Hers will always remain a suspicion until she can get someone to confirm that her husband indeed is having another relationship abroad.”

Warned by friends about the other family, the same reader tried to clarify the matter with her husband, who instead quarreled her. Alienated by her husband’s physical and emotional distance, this reader wonders who can help her and her children.

Versoza notes that, “with or without her husband marrying the ‘other woman,’ that… is still marital infidelity. Of course, if the husband indeed married the other woman abroad, he can be criminally liable for bigamy.”

Worse than emotional and sexual disloyalty is financial neglect. Two readers have long excised their unfaithful partners from their lives. One thing still rankles, though. Eight years after her separation, this reader still fights for her daughter’s rights. “(My ex) supports (our child) but only (when) he wants to.”

She considered filing a petition for support in court but hesitated due to her finances. “Under our Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) law, failure to provide support to the children is now a crime: financial abuse. So, fathers who don't provide support to their children can now be criminally charged under VAWC,” opines Versoza.

According to the June 17, 2009 special report by Cherry Ann T. Lim of Sun.Star Cebu, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa), the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (CBCP-Ecmi) and Lihok Pilipina help wives locate their overseas husbands.

Lim quoted Owwa data ranking as the top complaint the non-remittance of financial support by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). “On the surface, the problem is non-remittance… But usually this is a manifestation of other ‘hidden problems,’ like a conflict in the relationship of the couple, or the OFW having vices or another family already.”

Aside from the free legal assistance given by the Department of Justice’s Public Attorney’s Office (DOJ’s PAO) to the indigent, Versoza says that the Children’s Legal Bureau Inc. (CLB) “assists cases involving child custody and support.
Sometimes, these services are for free if the woman can show that she is financially incapacitated. But if the woman can afford to pay, they ask for legal fees, which is actually lesser compared to those that are being charged by private lawyers.”

Readers can be updated on the rights of women and children by following the weekly column of lawyer Joan Saniel, CLB's executive director, and published in Sun.Star Superbalita (Cebu) and

While nobody watches like Big Brother, no one can help you like yourself. 09173226131

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Oct. 18, 2009 issue of the “Matamata” column

No comments: