- NOTE: This article was first posted on my old site on Jan. 2, 2013.
Good grief! Less than two weeks after it was enacted into law, the still controversial Reproductive Health Law, otherwise known as Republic Act No. 10354 or the “Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012″, was challenged as unconstitutional in the Supreme Court on the ground that it “mocks the nation’s Filipino culture”.
This is unbelievable. No, this is madness!
Yes, perhaps the new law mocks ‘our’ collectivist, welfare or palamuninculture, but there are better, more urgent reasons why it should be invalidated by this impoverished land’s court of last resort.
Petitioners, couple James and Lovely Imbong, on behalf of their young children and the Magnificat Child Development Center, filed a 25-page petition for a writ of certiorari, claiming the measure, which aims to promote contraception, sexual education and family planning programs and is strongly opposed by the country’s Roman Catholic Church, is invalid and should be nullified.
“This case will present the illegality of the Act as it mocks the nation’s Filipino culture–noble and lofty in its values and holdings on life, motherhood and family life–now the fragile lifeblood of a treasured culture that today stands solitary but proud in contrast to other nations,” petitioners said.
Named respondents are Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, Education Secretary Armin Luistro and Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II.
Here’s a piece of advice: If the Catholics really want to stop the law, they should file a more serious, more legal-plus-secular-sounding petition.
I disagree with their shallow evaluation or argument that is obviously grounded in religion.
The RH law is unconstitutional, invalid, immoral and evil because it violates individual rights. This is the only reason why we must all oppose the law. It is not evil because it’s against the Catholic doctrines. It is evil because it’s against- and it contradicts- rights. This is why I’ve argued repeatedly in the past that the proper concept of rights is what is at stake in the RH bill debate. This is because the RH law, which allegedly seeks to promote women’s rights, according to lawyers Miriam Defensor Santiago and Pia Cayetano and their ilk, simply bastardizes the real essence of rights.
For once, the Catholic Church needs to embrace Thomism. It needs to take a closer look at thesecular teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, the most secular of the ancient Catholic intellectuals who rediscovered the philosophy of Aristotle, particularly on rights and justice. Perhaps Fr. Joaquin Bernas, a Jesuit (and the Jesuits are known for being sympathetic to socialism), is an Augustinian.
To guarantee women’s rights, the government can now force certain people or sectors (e.g., Catholic Church’s institutions and hospitals, doctors and employers, etc.) to deliver/provide certain services that violate their faith, religion and freedom of conscience.
To help the poor, the government can now use legal coercion against doctors (e.g., Catholics, religious, non-religious or atheists) to render mandatory pro bono (which is a contradiction in terms) services, while anyone who dares oppose the measure would be labeled as greedy, anti-poor, anti-women or anti-progress. Isn’t this a great way to bankrupt and divide a nation?
To promote sex education, the government can now indoctrinate our schoolchildren– what to think, not how to think-– and force Catholic and religious schools to adopt certain subjects that are against their faith, freedom of religion and of conscience.
This still unfinished battle is all about rights; this is not just about religion. Lest we forget, secularism does not merely demand the separation of church and state; it also establishes the right of every individual to practice religion or to embrace any form of faith.
Unknown to many, the separation clause is a LIMITATION strictly applied against the state, not against private individuals or private groups (e.g., Catholic Church, Iglesia Ni Cristo, etc.). It does not limit the right of religious individuals or groups to worship their god or anything they like; rather it limits the state from making special favors or making a law respecting an establishment of religion.
Since the separation doctrine prohibits the government from giving favors to certain religious sects or organizations, it follows that it also prohibits the state from arbitrarily interfering with religion and religious institutions’ and individuals’ practices and freedom of faith. Thus, the government should have no right at all to force Catholic schools at gun point to teach sex education that is against their doctrines and faith. It should also be powerless to force Catholic hospitals and doctors to violate their freedom of conscience.
In essence, the law is ideologically and philosophically Machiavellian in nature, as it seeks to serve its intended beneficiaries at the expense of others.
Can the government force a Muslim food-trader to sell pork?
Lest we forget the government also funds and manages thousands of basic schools and over 100 states colleges and universities throughout the country. With billions of taxpayers’ money at its disposal the government can simply activate its massive machinery of indoctrination to spread the alleged value of sex education and to keep the status quo and the people’s collective ignorance.
Now, the so-called pro-women, pro-poor RH law (a very absurd claim that’s utterly debatable or questionable), which is undeniably a population control measure (thank goodness they deleted the provision on malicious disinformation which is so vague and ambiguous), is unconstitutional due to the following reasons:
- It violates the equal protection clause guaranteed by the Constitution. Certain provisions of the law show an apparent government take over of the medical industry or of the whole medical system, which will impact an “underinclusive” class (composed of doctors and healthcare providers). The law speaks of two classes- the beneficiaries and those who will be obliged by it to deliver the necessary RH services (healthcare providers and employers).
- It breaches the freedom of religion. As stated, the law uses force/compulsion against religious institutions, including employers, to provide RH services that violate their faith.
- It breaches the separation clause (as already explained above). Contrary to the claim of many pro-RH supporters, the Catholic Church is not in breach of the separation clause. This is what most Filipinos fail to understand. Only the government and its agents (law-implementing officials and lawmakers) can bastardize this separation doctrine by– 1) giving in to religious pressures (which they can simply ignore), 2) interfering with religion, religious practices and affairs, 3) preferring religion to irreligion or vice versa, 4) establishing a state religion.
- It seeks to regulate or legislate morality.
- It mandates involuntary servitude to private and nongovernment reproductive healthcare service providers (under Section 17).
- It criminalizes the practice of faith and religion as well as other acts (called crimes mala prohibita) that are not inherently evil or against public policy or morality. For example, a religious institution or a conscientious Catholic healthcare provider who withholds information regarding programs and services on reproductive health may be held liable under the law.
- It authorizes the government to control (directly or indirectly) the private education sector, medical industry and employers.
- It is socially and economically unjust and destructive. The law justifies the imposition of new taxes and higher tax rates, government borrowing, price controls and distortions, and massive regulations that will affect not just the entire economy but also people’s rights. Furthermore, LGUs have no competence, managerial skills and professional expertise to run and manage health clinics and centers.
- It will benefit certain businesses and industries in a monopoly or a crony system. Where will the government buy contraceptives, pregnancy test kits, RH products and equipment, among others? And does this law demand the partnership or merger between the government and the medical industry, and the government between the government and the education sector? There’s a term for this very dangerous political phenomenon and its called Corporatism or Fascism. As fascist leader Benito Mussolini once said: “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”
- There are already dozens of RH laws or RH-related laws enacted in the past. It seems all of them didn’t work, did they?
With respect to the equal protection clause, its necessary requisites are as follows:
- must rest on substantial distinction
- must be germane to the purpose of the law
- must not be limited to existing conditions only
- must apply equally to all members of the same class
The requisites suggest that individuals must be protected against any form of hostility or undue favoritism from the government. Since we borrowed this concept from the Americans, let me state that this is one of the founding principles of limited government, which means that the only proper purpose of government is to protect rights. However, many welfare provisions of the 1987 Constitution contradict the classical American principles consistent with Republicanism, limited government and individual rights.
The Court has repeatedly stated in a long line of cases that: “Arbitrariness in general may be challenged on the basis of the due process clause. But if the particular act assailed partakes of an unwarranted partiality or prejudice, the sharper weapon to cut it down is the equal protection clause.”
The Court also stated the following in previous cases:
- “According to a long line of decisions, equal protection simply requires that all persons or things similarly situated should be treated alike, both as to rights conferred and responsibilities imposed.”
- Equal protection “requires public bodies and institutions to treat similarly situated individuals in a similar manner.”
- “The purpose of the equal protection clause is to secure every person within a state’s jurisdiction against intentional and arbitrary discrimination, whether occasioned by the express terms of a statue or by its improper execution through the state’s duly constituted authorities.”
- “In other words, the concept of equal justice under the law requires the state to govern impartially, and it may not draw distinctions between individuals solely on differences that are irrelevant to a legitimate governmental objective.”
Thus, the law should be challenged only on secular, constitutional grounds.
However, we have to admit it will be a lot harder to nullify the law because of our self-contradicting Constitution that compromises individual rights and establishes a semi-socialist politico-economic system. (We are a mixed economy with higher degree of statism or more government control and intervention).
We’re now faced with this divisive, immoral law because of our collectivist culture and collective belief that the government should take care of us and pay for our basic services from womb to tomb. The law is immoral not because it’s against the Christian religion but because it negates individual rights! This is why the proper concept of rights is at stake here, as we currently have lawmakers and politicians who naively believe that rights are contradictory and cannibalistic. That is, that in order to serve the welfare of Juan the government must steal from–or use force or coercion– against Pedro.
We are indeed a fucked up nation…
ADDITIONAL BLOG RANT:
The ObamaCare in the United States, which the SCOTUS (the Federal Court) called a “tax law” and which is more than a thousand times worse than P-Noy’s RH law, was nullified by several states months after its ratification thanks to America’s long-cherished Federalism that gives power to the states to strike down unconstitutional, oppressive federal laws.
This should inform us about the beauty of Federalism. This system empowers states to protect the rights of their people should the Federal government turn to tyranny.
With our centralized republican-democratic system, the provincial or local governments are utterly powerless to defend their constituents’ rights. Under our system, the only last resort left is the Supreme Court, which was undoubtedly weakened by Executive branch.
We must start to consider changing our Charter and adopting Federalism, because as statedhere:
[Under Federalism], State governments may oppose or reject coercive, anti-freedom, anti-rights National Government programs, reforms, measures and policies. For example, under federalism the States of Ilocandia or Cebu may oppose the Reproductive Health bill or the Antitrust Law. State courts may also declare vague, totalitarian measures like the Cybercrime Law unconstitutional.
In the Philippines, the atmosphere or culture which too much prevailed in the media and academic institutions is to view religious freedom or freedom of conscience with contempt, suspicion or jealousy. This is because a lot of people fail– or refuse– to understand this concept.
Historically and philosophically, freedom of religion is the ultimate, logical result of the separation clause. The America’s founding fathers, who were deists (not Catholics or Christians, according to historians), ratified the First Amendment that guarantees, among others, free exercise of religion, because the “government must be neutral among religions and nonreligion: it cannot promote, endorse, or fund religion or religious institutions.” Hence the birth of secularism.
This is to say that the concept of religious freedom is secularist in nature. This is actually what the framers of the 1987 Constitution (including the previous ones) miserably failed to grasp– that this right to faith and to practice it is as sacred and important as the rights to free speech, to peaceably assemble, etc.
Freedom of religion simply recognizes the inalienable right of every individual to believe in or worship anything and to act on that belief. Others call it a “natural right”. The founding fathers were proponents or theorists of natural rights.