No president has coerced and corrupted members of Congress the way President B. S. Aquino has. In 2012, to remove Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona and to railroad the widely opposed, morally abhorrent and constitutionally disputed Reproductive Health Act (R.A. 10354), Aquino used the now-outlawed Priority Development Assistance Fun and the yet-to-be outlawed Disbursement Acceleration Program.
Aquino has so far escaped popular sanction.
Bribery by President Aquino to cause Corona’s removal is now a established fact. Some legal luminaries say that nullifies Corona’s impeachment. Corona is now being prosecuted for his alleged tax liabilities, which the conscript press is one-sidedly reporting. Corona has refused to fight back.
On the RH Law, will Aquino and the Supreme Court risk a Catholic Revolt?
Opponents of the R. A. 10354 have been waiting for the Supreme Court to declare it null and void. The Manila Times’ banner story of Monday, April 7, says the Court is poised to declare it constitutional.
Is this scoop by Times reporter Jomar Canlas true? Will Aquino and the Supreme Court risk a Catholic Revolt?
Although the oral arguments had been terminated and the case submitted for resolution before the end of last year, the Court has taken time to rule on it because of other competing cases. One such case is the constitutionality of the PDAF which allowed legislators to fund projects of their own choice, to the tune of P200 million per senator and P70 million per congressman each year.
The Court has since struck down the PDAF as unconstitutional, but the ruling focuses solely on the legislators. From the moment the General Appropriations Act becomes effective, says the Court, “any provision of law that empowers Congress or any of its members to play any role in the implementation or enforcement of the law violates the principle of separation of powers and is thus unconstitutional.” However, the Court says nothing about the involvement of the Executive Department in the whole mess.
Having paid off the members of Congress to pass RA 10354, President B. S. Aquino now seems determined to pressure the Court into validating the diseased law with all its constitutional infirmities, and despite its having been the product of an infected process. Although it seems unthinkable that even a despot could collectively coerce or corrupt an entire Supreme Court, fear exists that some of the 15 Justices may not be able to resist the President.
After Corona’s removal, the members of the Court have been put on notice that anyone could be next in line, should they ever offend or fail to please the President. Malacanang is reported to have been collecting dossiers on everyone, and some extremely partisan congressmen are on standby to threaten to impeach any Justice who proves to be particularly difficult. It is not fair to expect any of them to behave like heroes. They are merely human and may not want to exchange the peace and quiet of their everyday lives for the completely avoidable cost and consequence of standing up to the all-powerful president. At the same time Aquino has his own loyalists.
During the oral arguments on the RH law before the SC en banc, at least two Aquino-appointed justices kept harping on their doubtful competence as “unelected” magistrates to pass upon the validity of a law that has been “enacted” by Congress and approved by the President, the two “elective” branches of our tripartite system. They sounded like they had never read US Chief John Marshall’s famous dictum in Marbury v. Madison (1803): “It is emphatically the province and duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is.”
One of the Justices took pains to point out that the House had passed the measure on third reading with an overwhelming vote of 133 to 79, with seven abstentions, after a close vote of 113 to 104 on second reading, as though that had any bearing on the core constitutional question. He tried to make a capital case of it, as though the “pork barrel bribery” which had preceded the voting never happened at all.
But even if the RH law had been passed in a free and completely honest voting, which it was not, what is at issue before the Court is whether or not the law complies with the mandate of the Constitution. Nothing more, nothing less. And what is the mandate of the Constitution?
Sec. 12, Article II provides: 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.
And Article XV provides:
Section 1. The State recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation. Accordingly, it shall strengthen its solidarity and actively promote its total development.
Sec. 2. Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.
Sec. 3. The State shall defend:
· The right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood;
· The right of children to assistance, including proper care and nutrition, and special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation and other conditions prejudicial to their development…
RA 10354 seeks to accomplish the opposite of these provisions.
Those who support RA 10354 argue that the law is needed to eradicate poverty and maternal deaths caused by unwanted pregnancies and “overpopulation,” etc. The argument is malicious because false; it is irrelevant even if, assuming for the sake of argument, it happens to be true. The only issue before the Court is whether the Constitution allows the State to prescribe population control, and be the source and provider of contraceptives and other devices to carry out such policy of population control.
To their credit, the population control lobby has outsmarted the opposition in framing the public debate. By choosing its own set of parameters and premises, it was able to make the public believe that the real issue is whether or not one has the “right” to practice contraception, and that the legal conflict, if there is one, is between those who believe contraception is intrinsically evil and those who believe it is good for your body and soul. This was never the constitutional issue at all.
In an open and free society, one group can coexist with the other. And in our society, they have coexisted with each other for years. But in RA 10354 the real issue is whether the State has the right or the duty to impose birth control on the population. But this issue never entered the debate at all—not in the Congress, not in the media, not in the university forums, and not in court and in legal circles, until I articulated it during the Oral Arguments before the Supreme Court en banc.
State imposition of means to prevent births within a national, regional or ethnical group was condemned as a crime against humanity at the Nuremberg trials. It is condemned as genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948 and the statutes of the International Criminal Court.
But it has not received any attention even among legal luminaries here.
Simply by referring to the intrinsic dignity of the human being, without referring to any international document, the Catholic Church condemns contraception as intrinsically evil. And Catholic groups and individuals have opposed RA 10354, invoking their right to believe what the Church teaches and to practice what they believe. In legislating the RH law, the State has legislated a moral evil, as far as they are concerned. The evil is doubly injurious because it uses their tax money to fund the program that attacks a teaching of their Faith.
But even without the religious dimension, state-run contraception violates their most fundamental freedom. Whether the Constitution exists or not, the State has no right to intrude into the most intimate private life of the family and the individual. But the mandate of Sec. 12, Article II is clear. And this is where those who believe in contraception and those who reject it can stand together to assert their common stand against the State invading their utmost privacy and fundamental human freedom.
For under that provision, the State cannot be the provider of contraception and be the protector of the life of the unborn from conception at the same time. As protector of the unborn, it is ipso facto the protector of the process of conception. It takes so little to understand this point, but the State seems to have the utmost difficult in understanding it. This is why this point cannot be repeated often enough.
What verbal gymnastics or sleight of hand the State will use in order to validate population control is beyond my imagining for now. A Court ruling that validates it can only result, I fear, in an unjust judicial legislation. I pray nothing like it happens. For the consequences could be incalculable.
Natural moral law, which is the basis of positive law, teaches that an unjust law is not a law but an act of violence, which the citizen has the right (even the duty) to resist. Resistance could be passive or active, depending on the gravity of the violence. Passive resistance means simple disobedience of the unjust law, active resistance means using force, if necessary, to carry out one’s objective. This means civil disobedience at the very least, actual revolt at the most extreme. In his classic work L’Homme Revolte, Albert Camus writes that there is a point beyond which even the slave must rebel.
It is to be hoped that Aquino will do what he can to prevent the nation from reaching that point. At a time when he is doing everything to forge a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which will pave the way for Shar’iah law to reign supreme over the country’s laws in the so-called Bangsamoro political entity, he should exert every effort to show some respect for the rights and religious beliefs of the Catholic majority of all Filipinos. That could mitigate the evolving turbulence.
He cannot afford to believe that Filipino Catholics, being unarmed, law-abiding and non-violent, are easily imposed upon, and will take anything from his government. He cannot afford to believe that just because he has gotten away with so much, he could get away with everything. The RH issue is not a simple constitutional issue. It does not simply involve the basic human rights. It involves the life of the soul and the salvation of faithful Filipinos.
We may not be able to do anything about losing Sabah to Malaysia, or losing Ayungin Shoal to China, or losing Oyster Bay, General Santos and Subic to the Americans, but we cannot allow to lose our souls to the devil masquerading as friend and protector of the Aquino government. Some of us will want to defy the power of the devil and die as martyrs, if need be, in the only cause that gives us a chance to fight for something much bigger than ourselves.
Francisco S. Tatad is a former senator. He is a prominent pro-life leader. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org