Saturday, October 25, 2008

Legislation by popularity contest

A LAW EACH DAY (Keeps Trouble Away) By Jose C. Sison
Friday, October 24, 2008

As a law student and as a lawyer it never occurred to me nor have I ever thought that enactment of laws will be made to depend upon survey results. I always believed that laws are passed for the general welfare and the common good and that legislative power is "limited and confined within the four walls of our Charter". But in case of Reproductive Health and Population Development Act (HB 5043), it appears that the SWS survey result supposedly showing the popularity of the bill is now being used to convince our legislators in the lower house of Congress to pass it. This is indeed quite alarming if not weird.

The power to make laws and to alter and repeal them is assigned by our sovereign people to the Congress of the Philippines consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives. In the exercise of that power they are expected to study and decide on whether the contents of a proposed law are constitutional or not, beneficial or harmful, right or wrong, good or bad for the country and the people they represent. If the bill and its contents are inherently wrong or harmful or unconstitutional our legislators should not enact them into law. The great number of people favoring and supporting said bill and its contents will never make them right and constitutional. Bills are enacted into law because of their inherent validity and integrity rather than popularity.

One of the policies of the RH bill guarantees universal access to modern methods of family planning including the use of artificial contraceptives and devices (Section 2). Time and again it has been pointed out to its sponsors and supporters that some of these artificial contraceptives either block the implantation of, or expel the fertilized egg or ovum (biologically known as zygote) as medical science has already established. In other words they cause abortion which is illegal and punishable under the Revised Penal Code. The bill's proponents have not squarely disproven this fact by another credible medical finding to the contrary. To be sure they even impliedly admit it in the bill which mentions "post abortion complications" .

Furthermore, Section 12, Article II of the Constitution mandates the State to protect the life of the unborn from the moment of conception or the beginning of pregnancy when the egg and the sperm merge at fertilization to form the zygote or the fertilized ovum. The after-effects of these contraceptives and devices that the bill in its section 10 considers as essential medicines to be included in the regular purchase of all local and national hospitals clearly endanger rather than protect the life of the unborn and therefore run counter to this constitutional precept. Indeed this precept was incorporated in our Charter precisely to avert the possible adoption in this jurisdiction of the doctrine laid down by the US Supreme Court in Roe vs. Wade (410 US 113 1973) which allows abortion anytime during the first six months of pregnancy. Under the bill, pregnancy is considered some sort of a disease that has to be feared.

Aside from promoting abortion-causing contraceptives however, there are other sections in the bill that apparently violate rights guaranteed by the Constitution or undermines basic and inviolable institutions that should be protected by the State.

Section 12 of the bill requiring reproductive health education of children from Grade 5 to fourth year high school impliedly to enable them to have a "satisfying and safe sex life" described in section 4 apparently interferes with the inherent right and duty of the parents in the rearing and education of their children and the development of their moral character in accordance with their religious beliefs and convictions.

Section 17 compelling employers to provide reproductive health care services, supplies, devices and surgical procedures (including vasectomy and ligation) infringes on the religious beliefs and convictions of individuals especially Catholics whose doctrines give the highest value to human life. The same is true with Section 21 (a) par. 1 that compelling health care providers to provide their patients with health care services which they believe are contrary to the teachings of their religion.

The same Section 21 (a) par. 2 that allows a spouse to undergo ligation or vasectomy without the consent or knowledge of the husband or wife as the case may be, intrudes into and undermines the inviolability of marriage as a social institution and the rights of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and demands of responsible parenthood (Article XV Section 3 [1] Constitution) . It also desecrates the sanctity of family life and weakens the family as a basic autonomous social institution founded on marriage.

Worse is Section 21 (a) par. 3 permitting children who are still minors and therefore under parental authority, to seek reproductive health care services without their parents' consent. This clearly undermines parental authority and invades the sanctity of family life. It is manifestly detrimental to the solidarity and total development of family as the foundation of the nation and therefore contrary to the postulates of Article XV Sections 1 and 2 of the Constitution.

Capping the constitutionally objectionable aspects of this bill is the injection of a coercive policy in trying to achieve its hidden goal of population control by family size limitation. It imposes a penalty of imprisonment ranging from 1 to 6 months or fine ranging from P10,000 to P50,000 or both, at the court's discretion. It is clear however from the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission (V Record 41 pp 58-59) that coercive methods limiting family size is definitely prohibited.

Obviously this is the same method being pushed by the foreign groups and foundations that initiated this population control movement to achieve its racist's objective of breeding "quality children" mainly through universal access to abortion. The inclusion of this method in the bill therefore reveals to us its real source.

And so in the deliberations on this bill our legislators should always bear in mind that "the Constitution is the shore of legislative authority against which the waves of legislative enactment may dash, but over which they cannot leap".