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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Francisco Tatad's Testimony to the Committee on Population and Family Relations

Given to the Committee on Population and Family Relations,
House of Representatives, 24 November 2010

Former Senate Majority Leader
Board Member, International Right to Life Federation, Cincinnati, Ohio;
World Youth Alliance, New York, NY

There are six bills before the Committee. Three bills bear the same title---AN ACT PROVIDING FOR A NATIONAL POLICY ON REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH, RESPONSIBLE PARENTHOOD AND POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES. The other three have slightly different titles. But it may not be inaccurate to say that the six bills are six versions of the same Reproductive Health (RH) bill. To simplify matters, I shall simply speak of “the bill” as though they had been consolidated into one.

This bill continues to be described as a health bill. But while the old bill had been under the primary jurisdiction of the Health Committee, with secondary referrals, the present bill has been referred to the Population Committee, and to no other. This invites some curiousity, but it allows the public to see that this is essentially a population control bill.

The bill has two major, shall we say core, proposals, namely:

1. To make the State the official provider of contraceptives and sterilization agents to the public: these, to be distributed as essential medicines in all national and local hospitals and other government health units; and

2. To impose a mandatory sex education on all schoolchildren from Grade V to 4th year High School, without parental consent.

The proponents have given us a long litany of reasons why these proposals are being made. First, they say they want to guarantee women’s right to an “informed choice” on the use of contraceptives and sterilization agents. But that isn’t quite so. There is no law that prohibits anyone from contracepting and getting sterilized, so they are freely contracepting and getting sterilized, and the national contraceptive prevalence rate is at least 51 percent. Then there are the economic, social, demographic reasons. They may not all be bad economics, sociology or demographics. But the solution to the problems they describe is not in the bill, which could instead create worse problems than it proposes to solve.

The first problem with the bill is that it directly invades the natural, private, and inviolate sanctuary of the family, which our Constitution describes as the foundation of the nation, and which in turn is founded on the inviolable social institution of marriage. The family is the basic unit of society; it precedes both the society and the State. It has rights that do not emanate from any political authority and are far beyond the authority of the State to abridge or regulate.

The married couple’s right to bear children is not only a God-given right. It is above all a God-given duty, given to the first man at the dawn of Creation in Genesis (1:28): “Increase and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth.” (I believe Congressman Manny Pacquiao, the finest world boxing champion of our time, and the only world-class celebrity in this Congress, recently referred to this in a press conference here in the House.)

But in giving man and woman the duty and “right to procreate”--- the word “reproduce” was reserved for the lower animals--- God, who sees everything before it happens, did not tell husband and wife what to do before, during and after sexual intercourse; He left that to the loving couple’s good judgment, but He left no doubt that he meant business when, while sparing Cain after the murder of Abel, he took away Onan’s life for spilling his seed instead of fully honoring his brother’s widow. Now the RH bill proposes to make contraception and sterilization an institutional component of marriage, and the State as the official and ultimate supplier of contraceptives and sterilization agents.

This raises one overarching prejudicial question, which precedes any discussion of the merits or lack thereof of the proposals being made. The question is this: Congress may pass no law abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances. The government may not tell a journalist, a broadcaster or a Member of Congress what to say on anything, how to say it, and how much time to use in saying it. Does the State now have the right and authority to abridge the most fundamental right of married couples, and instruct them what to do, in the privacy of their bedrooms, before, during, and after sexual intercourse? I am sure we can all agree it does not. Now, does Congress have the right or the authority to give the State a power it does not have and which it has not been so constituted to possess?

“The Philippines is a democratic and republican state” (Art II, Sec 1, Constitution). Its powers are limited, not absolute. Those powers do not allow it to reach into the most intimate sanctuary of the private lives of its citizens. It can only does so by turning totalitarian and arrogating unto itself the power of God. So I raise the overarching question: Does the Philippine State have the right or the authority to instruct married couples what to do in the privacy of their bedrooms, before, during and after sexual intercourse? Does Congress have the right or the authority to give the State a power it does not have and which it has not been so constituted to possess?

My answer to both questions is no, and I trust the Committee and the Congress have the same answer too. Assuming their answer is in the affirmative, I now propose the next question: Can the Constitution, properly understood, lend validity to the RH proposals? What exactly do I mean?

Well, Section 12 of Article II of the Constitution 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.”

The first part , which guarantees State protection for the life of the unborn, is an outright ban on abortion. It is also a ban on state-contraception and sterilization, as distinguished from contraception and sterilization with no state participation. Why so? Because the State cannot possibly protect the life of the unborn from conception while simultaneously engaged in a program of contraception and sterilization whose purpose is to prevent women from conceiving. The two actions are contradictory; they cannot co-exist at the same time; either we uphold the Constitution or welcome the totalitarian state.

But, the Constitution does not define conception, we are told. When does it happen? We say upon fertilization, others say upon implantation. That is not at issue now and we need not resolve it here. But at whatever point conception takes place----whether upon ferilization or upon implantation----the duty of the State to protect the life of the unborn is constant, it does not change. Women could contracept and get sterilized on their own and in so doing deprive the State of unborn life to protect. But the State cannot on its own engage in contraception and sterilization and say that its duty to protect the life of the unborn from conception is limited to those who will get past its program of contraception and sterilization, if any. That would be absurdity on stilts, and it could not be part of any reasonably sane constitution. That is why the State cannot be part of any such program of contraception and sterilization. If that is not clear enough, I hope we would have the time outside of this Committee hearing to demonstrate it further in the plainest, most illustrative language possible.

The same with mandatory sex education. If parents are the natural and primary educators of their children, what right has the State to impose a mandatory sex education on minor school children without parental consent? Because the parents are unable or unwilling to perform their duty? Whatever the reason, the constitutional duty of the Government is to support, not replace, the parents. State takeover of parents’ rights and duties happens only in totalitarian states, and we do not need to get there.

Finally, is there need to provide for a national policy on reproductive health, responsible parenthood and population development? Congress provides a policy on anything if and when such a policy is needed, and no such policy yet exists. Now, the term “reproductive health” is a new coinage, and is not a univocal term: WHO, the various UN agencies, the G-8 if not G-20, and especially the US Secretary of State say the term includes “access to abortion,” while the proponents of the RH bill tell us it does not include “access to abortion.” As far as that goes, we do not yet have a validly legislated “RH policy.” But we have been carrying an appropriation for RH in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for years, and P2 billion has been appropriated for it this year. How have we been able to do so without a policy in place?

Indeed, there is a policy, and there is a program, except that both are patently unconstitutional. And there is the constitutional policy, if not policies, in Article II, and Article XV of the Constitution, related to child-bearing, parenting, youth and women, other aspects of family life, health, population development, etc. ---the very things sought to be covered by the bill, except that the term “reproductive health” is not used for the reason earlier stated.

The duty of Congress is to implement the non-self-enforcing constitutional policy with an enabling act, not replace it with a new policy which, in this case, is in direct opposition to what the Constitution provides. The RH bill cannot possibly fly, even on this lone objection alone, so long as the Constitution is not cavalierly set aside. To swamp us with sheer numbers without regard to truth and reason is simply mob rule, not lawmaking, which always begins with truth and reason for the common good.

I admire the apparent resolve to fast-track this bill. But these efforts would certainly bear good constitutional fruit if they were directed at complying with the policies spelled out in the Constitution, and by deleting the unconstitutional appropriation for RH in the present budget, and reorienting and reorganizing, if not abolishing altogether, the Population Commission.

Thank you for listening.

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