Thursday, October 30, 2008

Retire the Reproductive Health Bill

House Bill No. 5043 is titled “An Act Providing For National Policy On Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development and For Other Purposes.” Until it reached the floor for debate, I had thought it sufficient to dwell simply on the general principles of legislation and the basic provisions of the Constitution on human life, family and marriage to show that the bill has no place in our law.

The first point I tried to make is that there are certain activities of man as man, which are not subject to state regulation of any sort. These involve fundamental human rights that precede and transcend the State, such as the right to breathe, the right to think, the right to feel, the right to love, the right to hope, the right to believe.

The State has no business instructing the citizen, by law, how to breathe, how to think, how to feel, how to love, how to hope, how to believe. Under our Constitution, it may not even instruct congressmen how to interpellate, journalists how to write, broadcasters how to read the news.

Anyone who understands what has been said so far should have no difficulty understanding that the State has no business instructing married couples that they should first contracept or get themselves sterilized before they could engage in sexual intercourse.

The bill’s proponents seem completely unable or unwilling to grasp this rather plain and simple point. They seem to believe that they can legislate anything they want to legislate simply because they sit in Congress. This is a serious moral and intellectual disorder which finds support only in totalitarian states where the legislator need not sit in Congress. We are not yet a totalitarian state.

The second point I tried to make is that no proposed statute can possibly prosper which seeks to amend, or go around or against the Constitution outside of the constitutional amendatory process. And HB 5043 more than amply does this.

Article II, Section 12 of the Constitution is, or ought to be, a sufficient bar to HB 5043. “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.”

The provision, though not self-enforcing, needs no interpretation. Family life is sacred; it possesses a quality that belongs primarily to God. The family is the starting point of society and should be left alone to do its work as a family; the State’s duty is to protect it against all threats, including those coming from the State itself. The moral character of the youth is not likely to be developed by concentrating their minds on hedonistic sex.

By this provision, the Constitution bans abortion, but not contraception or sterilization. But can the State be an honest protector of the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from the moment of conception if its first business is to prevent women from conceiving? Of course, not. So the necessary implication of Sec. 12, Article II is a ban on state-sponsored or state-mediated contraception and sterilization, even though there is no such ban on private parties.

Even without the above provision, the whole Article XV on “The Family” should suffice. This recognizes marriage as “an inviolable social institution,”“the foundation of the family,” which shall be “protected by the State.” It further recognizes the Filipino family as the “foundation of the nation” and obliges the State to “strengthen its solidarity and actively promote its total development.” It further obliges the State to defend “the right of spouses to found a family according to their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood.”

Unless the Constitution has become a mere scrap of paper, these provisions should have barred the House of Representatives from approving HB 5043 at committee level. Even if all the economic justifications, which had been thoroughly discredited, had more teeth, the moral and constitutional bar, which the bill has failed to hurdle, should have prompted the committees to send it to the archives.

But there was a brazen attempt to steamroll the bill. Four reproductive health bills had been referred jointly to the House committees on health and on population and family relations. On April 29, 2008, the committees heard three of the four bills. They set a second hearing for May 21, 2008. But when the committees met on that date, the presiding officer announced that they would now deliberate on “the substitute bill” to the four bills. And on one member’s motion, the committees approved “the substitute bill.” No further hearing.

This was in violation of the constitutional provision, and a rule of the House, which mandate adequate consultations with families or family associations. The statement that the same bill had been heard in previous congresses, even if true, is irrelevant and immaterial, since all bills that fail to be acted upon by a particular congress die at the end of that congress. If any bill be refiled in a new congress, it should go through the legislative mill as though it was being filed for the first time.

Nowhere in the records does it appear that the joint committees ever instructed any officer or group of officers to consolidate the bills into one. The chair’s statement and the member’s motion spoke of “the substitute bill” as already in being, without need of a motion that it first be created.

Normally, bills are consolidated by a technical working group (TWG) created by the committee or joint committees upon a member’s motion to consolidate. There was no such motion, and no TWG was ever created. Where then did the substitute bill emanate?

Upon interpellation, the sponsor, who surprisingly is not the committee chair endorsing the bill, but rather the principal author himself, was reported to have said that the authors of the four component bills did it.

If true, it was highly irregular. Why? Because at that stage the bills were already under the joint committees’ jurisdiction and control, and nothing on record shows they had asked the authors to consolidate.

If false, which seems more likely, a serious ethical question arises, which completely vitiates the integrity of the proceedings, and which must be resolved by the House ethics committee, before which it should now be raised.

This is not a trifling technicality. There is loud talk in the House that the substitute bill, as well as the original component bills, was produced by a foreign-funded non-government entity, called the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD). PLCPD falls under the classification of “foreign agent,” according to the Foreign Agents Act of 1979, which I had the honor of initiating at the interim Batasang Pambansa.

The fact that all the reproductive health bills in the House and the Senate tend to read and sound alike, both in style and in content, and that PLCPD had been running ads urging passage of the bill, while David and Lucile Packard Foundation, one of its foreign funders, had criticized the government for the slowdown in its purchase of contraceptives, seem to provide more than ample basis for the loud talk in the House.

What foreign interests are behind the wild and moneyed push for this bill? Why are so many foreign-funded NGOs, featuring brand and customary “nationalists”, trying to ride roughshod over the Constitution and Catholic objections to it on moral and constitutional grounds?

The answer may be downloaded on the internet. Population control has a long history. It began in antiquity, but it became an invasive global political force in 1974 after Henry Kissinger came up with National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM) 200, titled “Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for US Security and Overseas Interests.”

This secret document created the template for the global population action plan that called for a two-child family worldwide by the year 2000. Since then the greying and dying of the population of the West has exposed the folly of this plan. But some people still want to dance the dance. Just who are making them dance?

Regardless of the motives and agendas imbedded in HB 5043, as a piece of legislation, it is shot through with holes. It cannot survive an honest House. As stated in the beginning, the bill is titled, “An Act Providing For A National Policy On Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development, And For Other Purposes.”

The Constitution provides that “every bill passed by the Congress shall embrace only one subject which shall be expressed in the title thereof.” The bill’s failure to reflect its penal nature is a constitutional violation; the fact that it contains three separate subjects – reproductive health, responsible parenthood, and population development -- which it tries, unsuccessfully, to link together, is another.

But the bill’s most obvious and ultimately insurmountable defect is that it seeks to “provide” a national policy where the Constitution already provides one. You read this in Article II, Declaration of Principles and State Policies, eloquently spread out from Section 9 to Sec. 18 or further.

Congress can only implement the policy laid out in the Constitution. It cannot hope to replace or revise it. Of course, one may now try to amend the title to say that the bill is “implementing” the constitutional policy rather than trying to provide a new one. That, however, cannot stand. The contents of HB 5043 do not at all reflect the substance of the constitutional policy; they rather seek to deny, assault and pervert the same.

One final point. Assume (arguendo) that the constitutional policy did not at all exist, the government’s contraceptives and sterilization program – illegal as it is – already exists. You only need to play back then Health Secretary Johnny Flavier’s proud boast before his NGO crowd at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo to confirm it. The fat outlays inserted in the present and next year’s budgets for reproductive health further confirm it.

After all is said and done, is HB 5043 not, in fact, an attempt to legalize an illegal program that has been there for years?

Friday, October 24, 2008


Now come the latest SWS surveys.

These are a fitting climax to the high-octane propaganda campaign on reproductive health (RH). In numerous forums, RH propagandists had repeatedly bragged about alleged surveys showing popular support for HB 5043, and warning politicians against the wrath of the voters should they fail to support it. They will never get reelected, according to the propagandists.

It is an old con game. In 1992, before the seat of my pants ever touched my chair in the Senate, I attended a workshop for newly elected senators. Out of the blue appeared SWS’s Mahar Mangahas with an alleged survey claiming that if a senator did not support the government;s family planning, he would never get reelected.

Then Mangahas said, “You see, Senator Tatad, there’s no such thing as a Catholic vote.”

To which I replied, “In a Catholic country where most candidates are Catholic, there is no such thing as a Catholic vote. But try running a candidate whose program is to destroy the Catholic faith, and you’ll have a Catholic vote against that candidate.”

That was 16 years ago, but very little has changed. The population control lobby is poorer now, with the collapse of the global financial system. But it can still fund surveys, and remains as determined as ever to change our concept of human life, marriage and the family, and prevent us from becoming a threat to the security and economic interests of our richest friends. And the local conscripts proliferate.

Their claim of popular support has no factual basis at all. In 2007. the biggest voter-getter among the party-list parties was “Buhay” which won the most number of seats in the House of Representatives on its pro-life, pro-family program. No other party won a single seat on the basis of an anti-life, anti-family program.

HB 5043 is losing ground, and SWS had to shore up its sagging fortunes. But the survey questions were so skewed that one wonders why they were made public at all. All you have to do is read those questions, and wonder why SWS failed to report a 100% support for the bill.

The question SWS asked about the HB 5043, according to, is as follows:

Ang “Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2007” ay isang panukalang batas sa mababang kapulungan ng kongreso na magbibigay ng katungkulan sa gobyerno na magtaguyod ng programa ukol sa responsableng pagpapamilya o responsible parenthood sa pamamagitan ng sapat na impormasyon sa publiko at pagkakaroon ng mga ligtas, legal, mura at de-kalidad na serbisyong pang-reproductive health sa mga taong may gusto nito. Kayo ba ay PABOR o HINDI PABOR sa panukalang batas na ito?

It is devious. It neither mentions the basic provisions of the bill nor does it define the basic terms used. People expect “reproductive health” to promote reproduction, but in the bill it is meant to promote contraception instead. The intention to deceive is patent. SWS must have been disappointed it did not get a 100-% endorsement.

In the survey reportedly commissioned by Forum for Family Planning and Development, SWS asked the following questions (http://www.sws.orgph/pr081016b.htm):

1) “The usage of legal contraceptives like condoms, IUDs and pills can also be considered as abortion. Agree or disagree?”

It is also a devious one. While HB 5043 describes “artificial contraceptives” as “modern”, SWS describes them as “legal.” This subtly endorses the contraceptives as unobjectionable. Now, IUD is an abortifacient, some pills (not all) are also abortifacient, condoms are (barrier) contraceptives with a high rate of failure. No one is saying the use of condoms, IUD or pills is abortion; but by asking that question, SWS is suggesting it is one of the points of contention. Thus, SWS is able to claim points for contraceptives, etc. simply by creating a strawman for everyone to shoot down.

2) “There should be a law that requires gov’t to distribute legal contraceptives like condoms, IUDs, and pills to people who want to avail of them. Agree or Disagree?”

Again, “legal.” The respondent’s normal inclination is to think that if the contraceptives are legal, then the government should be able to distribute them. It is a clever way of skirting the moral and constitutional issues altogether. Again, the intention to deceive is patent.

3) “If family planning would be included in their curriculum the youth would be sexually promiscuous. Agree or disagree?”

Once more, it is an exercise in deception. No one is objecting to “family planning,” properly understood. What is objected to in this instance is the proposed“mandatory sex education” for children from Grade V until high school, without parental consent.” What is at issue is not just the kind of sex “education” to be imposed, but above all the right of parents as the primary educators of their children to decide what kind of sex education their children will get, where, and from whom?

The core issue is not about family planning at all. It is whether or not we shall allow the State to stamp its boot on our most basic human rights in the name of population control. This involves moral and constitutional issues which cannot be decided by any opinion survey, especially one conducted by pollsters who are themselves advocates of population control.


Fouteen “Ateneo professors” argue that the highly controversial reproductive health bill “adheres to Catholic social teaching” and that “Catholics can support it in good conscience.” They ask “our bishops and fellow Catholics” not to block passage of House Bill 5043.

How should a “fellow Catholic” respond?

With profound humility, I suppose, but with a firm resolve not to be misled.

The “professors” identify themselves as “individual faculty” whose opinions “do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Ateneo de Manila University nor the Society of Jesus.”

It is a crafty disclaimer. If they truly wanted to speak as individual Catholics, they could have done so without using the Ateneo label. But they clearly did not mind cashing in on Ateneo’s Catholic reputation.

Opposition to House Bill 5043 arises mainly from the fact that it seeks, among other things, to legalize a State program of contraception and sterilization that will require married couples to contracept or sterilize themselves before engaging in marital sex, and make available contraceptives and sterilization devices as “essential medicines” even to unmarried individuals. It also seeks to impose a “mandatory sex education” on all children, from Grade V up to high school, without parental consent, to prepare them for “a safe and satisfying sex life.”

Church teaching condemns contraception and sterilization as intrinsically evil. It has no room for a State program of contraception and sterilization. Should Catholics accept “in good conscience” State intervention in the most intimate aspect of their married life? The last time I checked, it is still the bishops who exercise the Church’s teaching authority; no university faculty has the authority to pronounce what Catholics may or may not follow in good conscience.

No doubt quite a number of “Catholics” are contracepting and getting sterilized. They probably make up a good part of the country’s 50-% contraceptive prevalence rate. Does it mean the Church teaching is wrong, or is it simply because people are not sufficiently formed or informed? One explanation is that there is an aggressive government program bereft of any valid mandate, which includes monetary incentives for ligation and vasectomy. Foreign-funded NGOs are into it also. And the distribution, sale or use of contraceptives and sterilization devices is not restricted by law.

Thus, as far as HB 5043 is concerned, free access to contraceptives, etc. is no longer in issue. The real issue is whether or not the State should impose contraception and sterilization upon married couples; provide contraceptives and sterilization devices as essential medicines even to unmarried individuals; impose a “mandatory sex education” on all schoolchildren from Grade V until high school, without parental consent; propose a two-child family as “the ideal” family size for all; require couples to obtain a family planning certificate before they could get married; penalize anyone who talks “maliciously” about “reproductive health”; and expand the powers of the Population Commission, whose legal mandate had lapsed upon the promulgation of the pro-life and pro-family Constitution in 1987.

HB 5043 is a penal measure. But it masks itself as a simple proposal “to provide a national policy on reproductive health, responsible parenthood and population development.” However, Article II of the Constitution, “Declaration of Principles and State Policies,” and Article XV, “The Family”, more than abundantly provide such a policy; that renders any proposed new policy superfluous and unconstitutional.

Of course, Congress can “implement” the constitutional policy. And it well should. But HB 5043 cannot do so for the simple reason that almost everything in it contradicts the constitutional policy.

Under Article II, the State recognizes “the sanctity of family life.” Its mandate is to protect and strengthen the family as a basic, autonomous social institution; “equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception”; support the primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of their moral character; promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social wellbeing, etc.

Under Article XV, the State recognizes the Filipino family as “the foundation of the nation,” and marriage, “an inviolable social institution,” as “the foundation of the family.” Its mandate is to protect marriage, and to strengthen the solidarity of the family and promote its total development.

All these HB 5043 seeks to override. It seeks to put the State in control of family life, which the Constitution says is autonomous, inviolable and sacred. It seeks to set up State contraception and sterilization side by side with the State’s commitment to “equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.”

As we speak, the global financial system is breaking down. The irreparable flaws of a global order that worships material progress at the expense of what is sacred in man have exposed the ruinous follies of the West. Global agendas based on greed have failed. Demographic power has shifted to the East, and with it, economic and social power. We are part of that shift, if only because of our dynamic and vibrant population. Yet at the behest of unreconstructed population controllers, some of our politicians, economists, scientists, and university “professors,”seem determined to follow the old alien agenda that has ultimately failed.

We need the moral and intellectual reserves of the Church, the universities, the intelligentsia, the media and the great masses of our people to make sure we do what is right. It would be quite tragic if instead of guiding young minds into the light, our “professors” were to lead them into the dark.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Second Letter to Sen. Pia Cayetano

17 October 2008

Chairperson, Committee on Health and Demography
Pasay City

Dear Senator Cayetano:

I wish to thank you for your letter of 15 October 2008, signed by your Committee Secretary, and inviting me to send a representative to a Technical Working Group (TWG) meeting on 20 October 2008 on the six bills and one resolution on reproductive health and population management which had been referred to your Committee, and to five other committees, namely, the Committees on Youth, Women and Family Relations; Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development; Local Government; Ways and Means; and Finance.

Assuming that this TWG meeting is being held upon instruction of the Joint Committees, would it not be most appropriate that it be limited to technical people who are directly accountable to the Joint Committees? It would seem to me most desirable that they assume full responsibility for this work without the participation of outsiders who have no direct accountability to the Committees.

For this reason, I am unable to send a representative to the meeting. Additionally, I am of the view that most of the proposals under consideration are openly violative of the Constitution and should be sent to the Archives forthwith.

However, if the Joint Committees had decided to consolidate the proposals into a single text for the purpose of facilitating discussions during the hearings, I would be prepared to contribute further comments on the consolidated text. But if the intention is to consolidate the proposals into a single bill to be reported out on Second Reading with no further hearings, I would be obliged to point out that such a step is premature and inappropriate.

This is because the two hearings conducted on May 7, 2008 and on August 11, 2008 (which I attended) lacked the quorum required by the Rules. The first hearing was attended by two senators only; the second began with three senators, and a fourth one joined later. A quorum is needed before the Senate as a body or any of its committees can do business; the lack thereof vitiates the validity of the proceedings.

Rule 22 of the Rules of the Senate provides:

“One-third of all the regular members of the committee shall constitute a quorum but in no case shall it be less than two. The presence of ex-officio members may be considered in determining the existence of a quorum. However, the committee may authorize a few number of members to conduct public hearings on bills pending before it or to gather facts in aid of legislation.”

The first part of the first sentence expresses the general rule: one third of all the regular members of the committee shall constitute a quorum. The second part of the sentence ----“but in no case shall it be less than two”----constitutes the exception: where one third of all the members is less than two---as in a committee of three, or four, or five---the quorum shall always be made up of at least two members.
That is what the Rule means

Pursuant to this Rule, the Joint Committee hearings would need one-third of 78, which is the total regular membership of the six committees taking part in the hearings. This means 26 senators, and yet there are only 23 senators sitting. This is cured by the presence of four senators who are each members of the six committees and one more senator who sits in two of the six committees. However, there was no such presence in the two hearings.

Informed of the erroneous practice of most committees, I had formally raised this question in a letter to Senate President Manuel Villar, coursed through the Chairman of the Committee on Rules and Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan, dated 28 July 2008 and personally received by Sen. Pangilinan on the same date. You will kindly recall, and the records will bear, that I made reference to this matter during my intervention at the 11 August 2008 Senate hearing.

Regrettably, my communication to the Senate President never entered the Order of Business which normally reflects communications of this nature, and was not replied to within the 15-day period prescribed by Republic Act 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. Consequently, I had to write Senate President Villar a second letter on 01 Sept. 2008 to reiterate my request for a clarification on the matter.

On 17 Sept 2008 or thereabouts, I finally received a letter from Sen. Pangilinan dated 16 Sept 2008, saying he had forwarded my 28 July 2008 letter to the Senate President, and that he had included it in the issues to be discussed in the next meeting of the Committee on Rules, whenever it is called. A few days thereafter, I received a “Dear Kit” letter from the Senate President dated 03 Sept 2008 and signed “Manny Villar,” to inform me that he had referred my 01 Sept. 2008, and yet another letter dated 02 Sept. 2008 on the subject of foreign agents, to Sen. Pangilinan, without any reference to my 28 July 2008 letter.

You will perhaps understand if I say how confused I am by these developments. In any case, the Committee on Rules has not ruled on this issue until now, despite the fact that the committees are meeting every session day. But as a member of the Bar, the distinguished Chair of the the Joint Committee hearings can see very clearly what Rule 22 means. The hearings never had a quorum.

So much for the procedural question, although this appears to be in fact prejudicial.

At the 11 August 2008 hearing I made two basic points, which I should like to recapitulate:

First, there are certain human activities where the State may not at all intervene. How a married couple are to engage in sexual intercourse in the privacy of their bedroom is not subject to any law coming from the State. The State cannot require couples to contracept or sterilize themselves as a precondition to exercising their conjugal rights, without violating their basic dignity as a couple and as human beings. That would be a totalitarian imposition, which has no place in a democratic order.

(The principal author of HB 5043 claims it is fully within the police powers of the State to intervene. But police power, properly understood, refers to the exercise of the sovereign right of a government to promote order, safety, secuirity, health, morals and general welfare within constitutional limits” (Black’s Legal Dictionary). The intervention being proposed by the reproductive health bills is the kind that comes from a police state.)

Second, the Constitution is more than abundantly clear in proclaiming the sanctity of family life, and the duty of the State to protect and strengthen the family as an inviolable, basic, and autonomous social institution. Each of these words—inviolable, basic, autonomous---is sufficient to give the bills’ proponents pause, if they have the proper regard for the spirit and letter of the Constitution.

The constitutional policy on human life, marriage, and the family is generously spread all over Article II---Declaration of Principles and State Policies— and the whole of Article XV—The Family. There is nothing in that policy that would remotely justify any of the major proposals contained in the reproductive health bills.

Section 12, Article II alone, which guarantees that the State shall “equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception” is a clear, unmistakable and inviolable warrant against a State-sponsored or State-mediated program of contraception. The reason needs no extensive elucidation. For how could a State guarantee to equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception if its first business is to prevent women from conceiving? How can anyone who is doing everything to deny the emergence of new human life undertake a commitment to protect human life from its very beginning?

A large number of foreign-funded organizations, which fall under the classification of “foreign agents” under the Foreign Agents Act of 1979, and which may not have performed the legal acts required before they could lobby Congress on any issue, have been at the forefront of the campaign for the passage of the reproductive health bill in the House, and its yet undefined counterpart in the Senate. They have zeroed in on the “right” of women to have access to all types of artificial contraceptives and sterilization agents and devices, as though such access was restricted by law or banned.

As everyone knows there is no law prohibiting anybody from having access to and using any contraceptive or sterilization agent or device of their choice. In fact, while the bills seek to institute a state-funded contraceptives and sterilization program, the government has been dispensing contraceptives and sterilizing men and women for years, without a legal mandate. The program antedates the pro-life and pro-family Constitution, and has remained in place despite the fact that the Constitution has rendered its continued existence unconstitutional.

What the bills now want to do is to require couples, by law, to use contraceptives and sterilization devices and agents and for the State to provide contraceptives and sterilization agents and devices as essential medicines at the expense of the taxpayers who may or may not believe in the use of such contraceptives and sterilization agents and devices.

There can be no greater travesty of the Constitution and public morals.

There is a tendency to flood the market with all sorts of foreign-funded population control propaganda and to drown various forums with the sheer number of those who are pushing for the bill. The campaign has also begun to use academics who do not mind lending their credentials to the unconstitutional proposal and so-called opinion surveys showing massive support for a bill which none of the survey respondents had read or seen.

One SWS report makes this extravagant claim based on a survey reportedly conducted on Sept. 24-27, 2008 for the Forum for Family Planning and Development (FFPD), obviously a very rich (self-funded?) organization. Unfortunately, the FFPD executive present at the 11 August 2008 hearing tried to impress his audience with the results of such a survey during that hearing, over a month before it was allegedly conducted by SWS. Several other pro-RH bill campaigners had also been talking of such a survey even before the FFPD executive bragged about it in the Senate hearing.

The Joint Committees cannot allow this deception to influence their deliberations. Even if the so-called surveys were not fraudulent, the Committees must not forget that the truth is not determined by surveys or popularity contests; a law is valid only if it is based on truth and justice, otherwise it is an unjust law, and no majority vote can make it just and binding on anyone.

Now, to respond positively to the demand of women for family planning information and services, the Joint Committees would probably be well-advised to propose the following:

1. That married couples be free to practice family planning according to their moral and religious beliefs, using methods that are safe, legal and not contrary to public morals, without any coercion or intimidation from any third party;

2. That the State neither prohibit nor promote any specific family planning method, but make sure that only such methods which are safe, legal and not contrary to public morals be used;

3. That to safeguard and protect the health and wellbeing of women, the government require contraceptives manufacturers to disclose all possible side-effects of their products, and to label those that could induce cancer and other diseases accordingly;

4. That the State impose a distinction between abortifacients and normal contraceptives and prohibit the sale and distribution of abortifacients anywhere in the Philippines;

5. That the government establish basic and emergency obstetrics facilities in every barangay, and promote breast-feeding and proper nutrition especially for women and children nationwide, even without need of legislation;

6. That the State encourage and support community-based and family-initiated programs for the education of adult men and women on parenting and the development of the moral and civic character of children.

This list is simply illustrative of what can be done to serve the common good, using the tools made available to Congress by the Constitution, while resisting the intense pressure coming from outside to reshape and redefine our culture. I hope the Joint Committees use it as a point of departure for a truly good bill.

With renewed assurances of my highest esteem, I remain

Very sincerely yours,


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

No need to be wrong on contraception

It is painful and sad to see an academic justly admired for his usually helpful insights on legal issues melt down so badly on a subject where no one has any compelling reason to be wrong.

In his Sept. 26, 2008 column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (The clergy’s all-out war on contraceptives), Professor Raul C. Pangalangan, a former dean of the UP College of Law, criticizes Catholic objections to state-sponsored contraception as arising from an apparent confusion between contraception and abortion.

He suggests that if only the clergy (and the laity) knew how many abortions were being committed in the country, despite the fact that it remains a punishable crime, they would not object to a state policy and program of contraception. In many countries, they have used the purportedly high number of abortions to justify the legalization of the crime. It is like saying that since the number of unsolved murders is increasing, the State has incurred the duty to legalize murder.

The argument has not yet been raised here to justify the legalization of abortion. But it is being raised to justify a state policy and program of contraception. The numbers are being unduly fudged to heighten the argumentum ad misericordiam on behalf of “the poor.” But not even the poor are buying.

The unbroken historical record shows that in all countries that legalized abortion, legalization was unerringly preceded by universal contraception. The basic objection to state-sponsored contraception as proposed in House Bill 5043, however, does not arise from any confusion between contraception and abortion.

There is no such confusion. The objection is based simply on the fact that:

1) contraception goes against the conjugal moral order established by the Creator; and

2) state-sponsored contraception goes against the Constitution which proclaims “the sanctity of family life” and obliges the State to “protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution” and “to equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.” The Constitution recognizes marriage as the foundation of the Filipino family, and the family as the foundation of the nation.

That some contraceptives are, in fact, abortifacients presents an additional problem. That oral contraceptives have been established by the international research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) to be cancer-causing presents yet another problem. But the natural moral law would still hold contraception to be wrong even if it were shown that all contraceptives were 100-percent “medically safe” and non-abortifacient.

The fact that the Church has no way of compelling anyone to follow her teaching faithfully on this matter does not give the State the right to sponsor a program of contraception, to be funded, ironically, by those whose faith denounces it as morally unacceptable. Such State action does violence to the constitutional separation of Church and State, which not Pangalangan alone seems to completely misunderstand.

Deputy Speaker Raul del Mar correctly upholds this separation when he says the State cannot and must not compel Catholics to fund a program that is anathema to their faith. State intervention in the intimate conjugal life of married couples is totally impermissible. The duty of the State is to heed and respect the teaching of the Church on this question.

It is painful and sad when a writer of Pangalangan’s credentials shows no awareness of the outstanding pro-life and pro-family provisions of the Constitution, which are under direct and open attack in HB 5043. Even more painful, and sadder, when he describes the Church, which has produced the greatest saints and sages known to man, as one “that is fittingly founded upon Marian devotion.”

The Church venerates Mary in a special way (hyperdulia) as the Mother of the Son of God made man, but the Church is not founded on any devotion to her. The Church is the assembly of the people of God, founded by Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, who died on the cross to redeem fallen man from sin, but who rose again from the dead and remains perpetually present in the Holy Eucharist, the sacrament of bread and wine. It is necessary to know what the Church is to understand her role in the lives of men and women.