Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Atty. Joe Sison responds to Fr. Joaquin Bernas
A response to Fr. Joaquin Bernas' column, My Stand on the RH Bill
A LAW EACH DAY (Keeps Trouble Away) By Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star)
Updated May 27, 2011
In taking a stand on difficult issues, it is always advisable to have an open mind and to consider all angles. The better attitude is to think that there are wiser and more intelligent people who are experts on certain fields and whose views are much respected and often cited. One of them is of course Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, SJ. His opinions are really persuasive and count a lot to us who are still learning and trying to grasp the correct meaning and answer to certain constitutional questions especially those arising from the highly controversial RH bill that is now being heatedly discussed.
It is thus very fortunate that Fr. Bernas has categorically declared that he “adheres to the teaching of the Church on artificial contraception” even if he is “aware that it is not considered an infallible doctrine by those who know more theology” than he does. This means therefore that to Fr. Bernas, contraception or “any action taken before, during or after the conjugal act which is aimed at impeding the process or the possible fruit of conception”, is morally wrong. It is morally wrong because it “separates the unitive and procreative aspects of the conjugal act.” In other words it is like the spouses telling each other, “I love you as long as we do not give birth.” (Catechism on Family and Life (CFL) December 27, 2009).
Another very helpful clarification from Fr. Bernas is his unequivocal stand that “sacred life begins at fertilization and not at implantation” so that “there is already abortion any time a fertilized ovum is expelled” because the “Constitution commands that the life of the unborn be protected from conception”. This is very important because the principal authors of the bill anchor its legality on an entirely different and contrasting concept that life begins at implantation. Following Fr. Bernas’ pronouncement to which we adhere as we highly value his opinion on this issue, the consolidated bill (HB 4244) entitled “An Act for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, Population and Development” is therefore inherently unconstitutional.
It is inherently unconstitutional because its main purpose as reflected in its title is to depopulate our country by promoting, distributing and making available to the people especially the poor, a full menu of modern artificial methods of family planning that prevent the implantation of the fertilized ova based on the belief and concept espoused by its authors that life begins only at implantation. But in the light of Fr. Bernas’ explanation that is diametrically opposed to the authors’ concept of when life begins, the bill will in effect legalize the expelling of fertilized ova which is nothing but mass murder of innocent babies.
On this specific point alone, the RH bill should be junked. It is not necessary anymore to go into other constitutionally objectionable features of the bill like the provision on the mandatory sexual education in public schools without the consent of parents which is clearly against the constitutional provision recognizing the sanctity of human family and the natural and primary right of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character as Fr. Bernas said.
We really look up to Fr. Bernas for guidance on this controversy but perhaps because of our limited understanding and intelligence, several questions still came up as we try to discern his stand on the RH bill, more specifically the following:
1. Can the RH bill nevertheless be enacted into law even if its underlying premise – that life begins at implantation – is clearly contrary to the Constitution mandating the State to protect the life of the unborn from conception or, as he said, from fertilization not implantation? This question still cropped up because of his statement that “if we have to have an RH law”, he intends “to contribute to its improvement as much as (he) can”.
2. Is it alright to have an RH law initiated by and originating from foreign countries and International organizations trying to impose a population control (“development”) policy designed to protect their own interest? This question also crops up because up to now the alleged foreign connection and intervention has not been denied or rebutted.
3. Since the bill prohibits abortion because it is an assault against the right to life, should the “question of scientific fact” on what are the abortifacient pills and devices be settled first so that the bill could already specify them or at least set guidelines in determining them before delegating this function to the Food and Drug Administration? How does the bill define abortion? Is it expulsion of fertilized ova at any time or only after implantation?
4. Are not the bill’s “valuable points in its Declaration of Principles and Policies that can serve the welfare of the nation and especially of the poor women who cannot afford the cost of medical service” already part and parcel of existing laws promoting public health and welfare which are, or should be, given by the various departments and government agencies particularly the Department of Health and the Department of Social Welfare and Development?
5. Is it in accordance with the Constitution to spend public money for the promotion of “reproductive health” that entails the use of contraceptives just to have “a safe and satisfying sex” even if it runs counter to the religious beliefs of some sects like the Catholic Church? Can Congress appropriate public money to enforce the use of birth control pills and other contraceptives which is against the religious beliefs and moral convictions of some religious groups?
6. Is the Church or the people of God who merely voice their objection to the RH bill particularly to President Aquino in the exercise of their freedom to act on their religious belief really “compelling the President to prevent people from acting according to their own religious belief”? Are not other sects favoring the bill also doing this?
Indeed this RH bill has only caused deep division and serious rift among our people including some clerics. Our country will be better off without it. It is not so necessary after all. There are more effective and less divisive ways of licking poverty here.
Note: Books containing compilation of my articles on Labor Law and Criminal Law (Vols. I and II) are now available. Call tel. 7249445.