EDITORIAL: Birth pains of the Philippine RH law

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - It was not unexpected. On the first working day of the year, the family of a prominent opponent of the Philippines' Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 petitioned the Supreme Court to declare the controversial new measure unconstitutional. The petition, unfortunately, is sincere nonsense.

Lawyers James and Lovely-Ann Imbong alleged that RA 10354 violated the Constitution because it "introduces policies that negate and frustrate the foundational ideals and aspirations of the sovereign Filipino" and because it "cannot be implemented without exceeding the boundaries of government action...."

The Imbongs' suit was summed up more simply, if somewhat melodramatically, by their "collaborating counsel," James' mother Jo Aurea Imbong. "The state has no business entering the bedroom," the older Imbong, a lawyer who works with the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, told Agence France-Presse.

At the level of mere sloganeering, Imbong's fatwa is only as strong, or as weak, as the inevitable retort: But the Church has no business in the bedroom either!

In truth, however, both state and religion are of necessity found in the modern-day bedroom; the laws against sexual abuse or violence against women, for instance, obtain in the bedroom just as much as freedom of conscience and worship. To argue that one or the other is off-limits is to display an impoverished view of what is truly at stake.

The Imbongs' petition-surely the first of many that will be filed-is based on a close but skewed reading of the RH law.

We will not gainsay their sincerity; however, we will take their arguments (we will focus on three) as characteristic of the anti-RH opposition.

First, we note with dismay the petition's blatant attempt to engage in class-baiting: "[S]ocial service, according to the Act, is about bringing the poor closer to having fewer children, because, after all, who else are at a social disadvantage in bringing forth children whom they can raise in a 'truly humane way?' The upper class? The middle class?The lower middle class? Or the poor?"

The Imbongs, in the act of standing up for the poor, make the mistake of condescending to them instead; they understand the law's emphasis on raising children in a "truly humane way" in narrowly economic terms. But the controversial last paragraph in the law's second section applies just as much to, say, "upper class" couples who are psychologically or emotionally incapable of discharging the duties of responsible parenthood. Uncharitably, the petitioners understand the provision only as applying to the poor.

Second, we note with increasing frustration the petition's appeal (made with great certitude) to a still-uncertain future. The new law, the Imbongs said, will lead to "an inexorable population decline" that would "effectively erase the modest but promising economic gains proudly claimed by the country's economic leaders and noticed by the world".

This kind of statistical speculation is out of place in a legal brief; it is related to the petitioners' doomsday argument that the law effectively disempowers the poor as "direct agents of change and direct beneficiaries of social services and economic opportunity"-when in fact the policy is clear about situating reproductive health in the context of "sustainable human development", a term defined in the law itself.

Third, we note with great disdain the petition's sweeping claim that the new law also "mocks the nation's Filipino culture-noble and lofty in its values and holdings on life, motherhood and family". This reading is possible only if every single reference in the law to these same values and holdings are expunged or ignored. Here, for example, is one provision (a guiding principle for implementation, no less) which the suit slights: "The State shall respect individuals' preferences and choice of family planning methods that are in accordance with their religious convictions and cultural beliefs, taking into consideration the State's obligations under various human rights instruments."

In what respect can this be read as mocking the "nation's Filipino culture"?

It is best to understand the Imbongs' petition as part of the new law's birth pains; it is what is keeping the law from being truly, fully, born.

COPYRIGHT: ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Philippines accuses China of turning water cannon on its fishing boats

    Filipino activists denounced China's coast guard on Tuesday for turning water cannon on Philippine fishing boats in disputed waters, near where hundreds of Filipino and American Marines landed on a beach in a mock assault.     The presidential palace in Manila said China's coast guard used water cannon on Monday to drive away a group of Filipino fishermen at Scarborough Shoal, damaging some of their wooden boats. Chinese ships rammed a fishing boat in the area a few months back. China in …

  • Pacmania sweeps Philippines ahead of Mayweather clash
    Pacmania sweeps Philippines ahead of Mayweather clash

    Manny Pacquiao's face is on shirts, dolls and postage stamps, his life story is playing in movie houses and millions are getting ready to party as the Philippine boxing hero's "fight of the century" nears. Pacmania is sweeping the Southeast Asian nation of 100 million people ahead of the May 2 Las Vegas bout against unbeaten Floyd Mayweather to decide who is the best boxer of their generation. Of course, it's the fight of the century," Manila film producer Lucky Blanco told AFP. …

  • Ex-Cavite governor gets PCSO top post
    Ex-Cavite governor gets PCSO top post

    After nearly a year, President Aquino finally made good his promise to a long-time ally – former Cavite governor and congressman Erineo Maliksi – to head the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), replacing Margarita Juico who resigned in May 2014. Maliksi must be officially elected by the PCSO board members as their chairman. Prior to his appointment to the PCSO, Maliksi faced graft charges before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the alleged illegal purchase of P2.5 million worth …

  • US, Phl military exercises to focus on sea defense
    US, Phl military exercises to focus on sea defense

    A massive deployment of aircraft, personnel and warships characterizes this year’s Balikatan between the two allies, which war games were launched 30 years ago. Commander Lued Lincuna, Philippine Navy public affairs chief, said the Marine Battalion Landing Team-4 (MBLT-4) will link  up with the US 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force. …

  • P-Noy seeking united Asean stand on China
    P-Noy seeking united Asean stand on China

    With China’s actions threatening to “considerably alter the way of doing business globally,” President Aquino will ask the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to take a united stand against Beijing’s massive reclamation activities and other provocative acts in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea. Aquino will raise the appeal to his ASEAN counterparts when they meet on April 27-28 in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi in Malaysia. Beijing reacted immediately to the plan, saying the …

  • OIC exec backs BBL, says passage to end extremism
    OIC exec backs BBL, says passage to end extremism

    The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) yesterday backed the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), warning that failure to see the peace process through with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) could open the door to extremism. OIC secretary-general Iyad Bin Amin Madani, who is in the country to rally support for the peace process and the BBL, told reporters at the Senate yesterday that the Philippines should not waste the opportunity to attain lasting peace in Mindanao, especially …

  • Senate plan to probe corruption in judiciary opposed
    Senate plan to probe corruption in judiciary opposed

    The head of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) is opposing the plan of the Senate to investigate alleged “justice for sale” in the judiciary. In an interview yesterday, IBP national president Vicente Joyas contested the pronouncement of Senate President Franklin Drilon that the Senate Blue Ribbon committee can probe the reported corruption in the judiciary, as it remains part of the scope of the Senate’s investigative power. “The plan of the Senate to push through with the …

  • PNP: Floyd camp charging P.2 M for pay-per-view
    PNP: Floyd camp charging P.2 M for pay-per-view

    The camp of Floyd Mayweather is reportedly charging the Philippine National Police P200,000 for a pay-per-view deal of his fight with Manny Pacquiao, a PNP official said yesterday. Director Danilo Constantino, the PNP’s Chief Directorial Staff, said the cost of the pay-per-view for the fight makes it difficult for the PNP to sponsor the free viewing for its personnel and their dependents at Camp Crame’s multi-purpose center. “We are currently negotiating for the pay-per-view and we ever …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options