Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - January 14, 2016 - 9:00am

It is really quite alarming to note that some people, including those in the media, are giving their own interpretations and conclusions about certain items currently hugging the headlines. This is very noticeable especially in the latest development on the Grace Poe disqualification cases pending in the Supreme Court (SC) as well as the recent news on the reduction of the  Department of Health (DOH) budget by P1.315 billion for the implementation of the RH law (RA 10354).

The danger here lies in two aspects: first, they are influencing the public into believing that those conclusions are correct and second they may eventually stir up mob dissension if the public perceptions formed turn out to be wrong or not true at all. This danger is more imminent especially in the Poe DQ cases as they may pressure and influence the SC in the resolution of the issues presented.

Grace Poe disqualification

Very noticeable in the Poe cases is the implication given to the TROs issued by the SC as a clear indication that she will eventually emerge victorious or that she has won the first round. It must be pointed out however that such TRO is just the standard course of action adopted by courts to preserve the status quo while they are deliberating on the cases and resolving them. This is necessary so that the case may not be rendered moot and academic. It is also used as a means to prevent an irremediable situation arising while the case is pending. It has nothing to do with the merits of the case. In fact it is more of a tool to show the impartiality of the courts. Thus in the case of Poe, if the SC did not issue the TRO, the Commission on Election (COMELEC) could have proceeded to delete her name in the ballot’s list of candidates virtually rendering her case moot and academic or creating a situation which entails enormous public expenditure to remedy.

Another alarming aspect here is the repeated ascribing by Poe’s backers that the Justices of the SC who dissented in the SET ruling and the COMELEC Commissioners who voted to disqualify her are “biased against her. This stance is really quite dangerous if not absurd. It is the usual stance of parties losing in a case. Losers always say that decisions against them are unfair while winners say that decisions in their favor are correct and impartial.

But it cannot be said that these justices and commissioners are patently biased against Poe. Bias is shown if they ruled against her without sufficient basis in fact and in law. Their dissents or decisions however are not entirely baseless and unfounded, or clearly wrong conclusions of fact and of law. Besides, it is not Poe or her lawyers who can authoritatively say that they are wrong but only the SC which is the final arbiter in our justice system. What is wrong here is to brand decision makers as biased simply because their decisions are not favorable. This is a dangerous practice that should be stopped.

Another development in the Poe case which is detrimental to the administration of justice is the recent airing of a political ad depicting Grace Poe as undergoing the same fate as her late adoptive father Fernando Poe Jr., against whom a petition for disqualification was also filed but who was eventually allowed to run for the presidency. From any point of view, the political ad seems to pressure the SC justices to come out with the same ruling in her case. It is quite prejudicial to the administration of justice and thus should be also stopped.

RH law budget cut

Advocates of the RH law are up in arms because of the budget cut for contraceptives amounting to P1.315 billion. They accused some Senators particularly Vicente Sotto and Loren Legarda of sabotage, for reducing the funds to be utilized by the DOH for family planning. They say that the reduction is a serious step backward for Filipino women and low income families. They point out that unintended pregnancies in the Philippines grew by 50 percent due to unavailability modern contraceptive services.

But what they overlooked or simply dismissed is the fact that the Supreme Court has declared eight provisions of the RH law as unconstitutional. And most of these provisions run counter to Section 12 Article II of the Constitution requiring the State to equally protect the life of the unborn from conception. In its ruling the SC categorically resolved the issue of “when life begins” It flatly rejected the theory that life begins only upon implantation of the fertilized ovum and not upon the fertilization of the ovum. Thus it has declared as unconstitutional the definition of contraceptives as referring only to those which “primarily cause abortion.” It ruled that all contraceptives, whether primarily or secondarily inducing abortion, are abortifacients and are therefore prohibited by law. Thus the SC required the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to first determine, pursuant the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), which of these hormonal contraceptives, ultra uterine devices, family planning products and supplies are “safe, legal and do not have abortive effects.”

Despite this ruling of the SC, no IRR in conformity with said decision has so far been issued and/or published up to now. So obviously, the FDA has not yet come out, as indeed it cannot yet come out with a list of contraceptives and family planning devices, products and supplies which are safe, legal and without abortive effects. In fact if the definition of abortifacients as laid down by the SC is strictly followed, practically all contraceptives should be prohibited because they induce abortion secondarily or primarily. Even the US Supreme Court where contraceptives originated and are now widely used categorically declared in the case of Planned Parenthood vs Casey, that “contraception means abortion.”

Hence in view of the SC ruling and the lack of IRR, the RH law cannot be implemented yet. So the DOH budget for this purpose should not only be reduced but should be scrapped.

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E-mail: attyjosesison@gmail.com


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