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This law cannot stand

By Francisco S. Tatad | Feb. 15, 2013 at 12:01am
With no vain thought of trying to divert attention from Pope Benedict XVI’s renunciation of the Petrine ministry, or from President Aquino’s bid to make himself the exact  equivalent  of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Haji Murad,  I went to the Supreme Court on Valentine’s Day  to seek a constitutional declaration of nullity  of the Republic Act 10354, otherwise known as the 2012 Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act.

I am convinced beyond doubt the law  cannot command obedience not only because it is a bad or stupid law, but above all because it is an unjust law, and therefore no law at all.

At the launching of the protest movement against the said law in the Diocese of Bacolod in January, I told the diocesan congregation that citizens have a duty to obey even a bad law or a stupid law, but they have no duty to obey an evil law.  As far as I am able to recognize truth and reason, the RH law legislates a moral evil, violates  the Constitution, and is therefore null and void ab initio.

My wife, who has faithfully shared my work  for human life and the family through the  years,  together with our lawyer-friend, Prof. Alan Paguia, joined me in my petition.  Several other petitions had preceded ours, and possibly a few more would follow.  But  we raised the most fundamental constitutional issues which were completely sidetracked, if not  muted and suppressed, during the legislative and public debates.

With the global population control lobby  leading the charge,  the debates then had focused on why one side, for all the arguments ad misericordiam,  ad vaculum and ad hominem, wanted the law and why the other side did not; but  never on whether or not the Constitution could or should allow it to stand.

The pro-RH side said the law would solve poverty; the anti-RH side said it would not.  The pro-RH side said it would prevent abortions and maternal deaths; the anti-RH side said it would not.  The pro-RH side, with copious support from the conscript media, succeeded in simplifying the issue as follows:  Do women have the “right” to use contraceptives or not?

At the end of  the day,  even the legislators who voted on the measure seemed  convinced that the law was all about  that “right.”   Aquino himself may have been led to believe he was soldiering on for the same “right” when he rolled out the pork barrel to corrupt the legislators’ consciences (or votes) on  RH. The RH poster boy Celdran may have convinced himself he was fighting for the same  “right” when he disrupted  an ecumenical Bible meeting inside the Manila cathedral in September 2010 and won a jail term for it.  The general public may have concluded it was that “right” that  won the day (or night) during the final vote.

But not by a long shot.  That “right” was never the issue at all.  Despite the Church teaching against contraception, there is no law that prohibits it, and  everyone who wanted (or wants) to practice it was (is) free to do so without need of an RH Law. They would remain free to do so after the law shall have been declared unconstitutional and shall have become history.

The real issue was (is)—and this is what the RH Law is all about—whether the State can, as a general principle, routinely invade the privacy of married couples in the exercise of their most intimate rights and duties to their respective spouses.

Or, more specifically, whether the RH Law  can impose birth control on married couples, regardless of their moral convictions or religious belief on the rightness or wrongness of birth control, especially contraceptive birth control,  much less impose birth control on those who hold as a matter of moral conviction or religious belief that contraception is intrinsically evil?

Or, whether the RH Law can attack the constitutional existence of Filipino “posterity,”  defined as “all the descendants of every Filipino in a direct line t the remotest generation”?

Finally, whether the State can enact a law that is contrary to public morals and destructive of the harmony and peace of society?

These are the real constitutional issues.  And these are the issues we raised before the Court.

We explained that the individual has the right to live his or her intimate family life with utmost dignity without any undue interference from the State; that this right to personal and family privacy is a natural right that belongs to the human person before it belongs to the citizen, and to the family as the basic autonomous social unit, and is not subject to regulation by the State.

We further explained that the State cannot impose birth control even on those who see nothing wrong with it, much less can it impose contraception on those who hold as a matter of moral conviction or religious belief that it is intrinsically evil.  That would amount to religious persecution.

There is so much more to be said, but  space does not allow it. The bottom line is: the  Constitution and the RH Law cannot coexist.  One must live  by declaring the other  dead.
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