Gut issues

A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - June 17, 2013 - 12:00am

It is good that the issues on the Petitions to declare the RH law invalid have been clearly delineated, simplified and narrowed down to gut level. Hopefully with this latest action by the Supreme Court (SC), the raging controversies surrounding this law that have deeply divided the nation will be conclusively and authoritatively settled. The debates and arguments will now be devoid of irrelevant, immaterial, misleading matters especially the alleged need for this law (1) to alleviate poverty in this land due to the alleged unchecked population growth, and (2) to supposedly curb the maternal mortality rate which allegedly continues to rise. Hopefully also the relentless and ruthless personal attacks on the main objectors to the law including the Catholic Church and its prelates will now be put to a stop.

As recently decided by the SC after a series of conferences with the 12 groups of petitioners and the seven sets of respondents, the issues on the RH law are now reduced to the following:

1. Whether or not it violates the autonomy of the local government and the equal protection of law;

2. Whether or not it violates the right to life and health;

3. Whether or not it violates natural law and disregards intergenerational responsibility; and 

4. Whether or not it violates freedom of religion and speech, and academic freedom.

Two of these four issues are apparently new and have not been previously raised or extensively discussed prior to the filing of the petitions. They are the violation of natural law and disregard of intergenerational responsibility as well as the infringement of the local government autonomy. The other constitutional issues particularly the right to life and health and to equal protection of law as well as the freedom of religion and speech and academic freedom, have been previously raised and discussed and are the main subjects of the petitions.

Obviously the violation of natural law and disregard of intergenerational responsibility is a “new” issue in the sense that it has been overlooked in the discussion on the use of contraceptives although it also involves such use. Admittedly, contraceptives are the device or drug used for contraception. They are made available by the RH law to couples who freely choose them for limiting the size of their family so that they could decently raise them in accordance with their means. And the RH law was passed mainly on the contention that the contraceptives which it makes available to couples with billions of pesos appropriation are those merely preventing conception and therefore does not cause abortion or expels conceived human beings in the womb of the mother. The RH law was therefore mainly passed on the issue of when life begins and on whether the RH law promotes abortion. The violation involved here is merely a violation of human law.

But contraception or “any action which either before, at the moment of or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation” also violates natural law. It violates natural law because engaging “in sexual intercourse while deliberately impeding its openness or orientation to transmission of life goes against the very purpose and innate structure of the conjugal act and against God’s plan in the creation of a new human being. Natural law is “based on human nature and on God’s plan for all humankind and is therefore applicable to all men and women no matter what religion they profess (Fr. Robert Latorre, Catechesis on Contraception). So even assuming that the contraception promoted by the RH law merely prevents conception and does not cause abortion, it still violates natural law.

Indeed the issue in this connection also mentions the “disregard of intergenerational responsibility”. “Intergenerational responsibility” is plain and clear enough and does not need any technical interpretation. It simply refers to the responsibility of a couple, the man and woman, husband and wife, in the function of begetting or procreating. A disregard of this responsibility is thus also a violation of natural law.

The other issue which is really a new one is the violation of the local government autonomy. Under the Article X of the Constitution, the territorial or political subdivisions enjoy local autonomy. This means that the local government units are free “from the well nigh absolute control by the legislature which characterized the local government under the 1935 Constitution (Fr. Joaquin Bernas, Primer-Reviewer on the 1987 Philippine Constitution).

So pursuant to this constitutional precept, the Local Government Code of 1991 (LGC) provides that local government units (LGUs) shall be “self reliant” and “shall discharge the functions, powers and responsibilities devolved to them (by the LGC) and such other powers, functions and responsibilities as are necessary, appropriate or incidental to the efficient and effective provision of the basic health and social services”. So it has been contended that mandating the LGUs to implement the RH law by promoting the use of contraceptives and other population control device may be an intrusion into their local autonomy.

It likewise advanced that the RH law is actually forcing the LGU employees to implement State policies therein set forth under threats of imprisonment and therefore likewise unconstitutional. The RH law also appears to divest the LGUs of its power to chart its own development plans and programs on basic health and social services and thus violate their autonomy. Finally, the provision on the RH law requiring LGUs to set aside funding for its programs and to earmark funds from its Internal Revenue Allotments also violates the local government autonomy and therefore unconstitutional.

With the foregoing issues now being joined the oral arguments set on July 9, 2013 and on another date if necessary will hopefully lead to a conclusive resolution of this long standing controversy.



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