Blemished ‘Magna Carta’

Published by rudy Date posted on February 23, 2009

No Filipino is anti women. So a “Magna Carta for Women” would have been an acceptable piece of legislation. The versions of the bill simultaneously passed by the Senate (S.B. 2396) and the Lower House (H.B. 4273) admittedly has some provisions recognizing the dignity and worth of Filipinas and promote all their human rights and fundamental freedoms especially the marginalized sector.

Unfortunately it has been tainted by other provisions apparently designed to attain some of the objectives of the RH bill now still pending in the Lower House that are unconstitutional, contrary to law, morals and public policy because they are pro abortion, anti woman and anti-family. It is good that the BICAM has reportedly been cancelled so the bill could be thoroughly re-studied to remove or revise the objectionable features. Some of them are the following:

I. In the Senate version (S.B. 2396).

Section 2, fourth paragraph on “Declaration of Policy”, the first part of the sentence introduced by Sen. Santiago which states that “No one shall invoke religious beliefs or customary norms as a means of evading compliance with this Act or preventing another person from exercising her rights”, is contradictory and irreconcilable with the second part introduced by Sen. Pia Cayetano which provides: “That each individual shall make their own decision based on their respective religious, moral and cultural beliefs”.

Santiago’s proposal is in direct collision with Art. III Section 5 of the Constitution on religious freedom, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If it will not be deleted, religious belief and practice will now have to bend to the Magna Carta; the State will now decide what religious beliefs the people can practice, which are not in conflict with the proposed Act.

The last sentence, second par. of Section 3 stating that “Consequently, all human rights have equal status and cannot be positioned in hierarchical order”, is false and erroneous. The right to life precedes other human rights since without life, there is no human being to possess and exercise any other human right. Hence the Constitution itself provides that the State shall protect the life of the unborn from conception (Article II Section 12).

Section 13 © stating that “Expulsion, non-readmission, prohibiting enrollment, and other related discrimination of women students and faculty due to pregnancy out of marriage shall be outlawed”, is contrary to the constitutional provision on academic freedom which empowers schools to decide whom to admit and retain, and who will teach the students. It also runs counter to the constitutional mandate that schools shall strengthen ethical and spiritual values, develop moral character and personal discipline among students. The provision suggests that getting pregnant outside of marriage is a woman’s right which everyone must respect. It must be deleted or improved so as to conform to the constitution.

Section 17, on Comprehensive health services item (3) requiring “Family collaboration in youth sexuality education and health services gives the State the primary right and duty to educate their children and the parents merely collaborate, whereas under the Constitution (Article II Section 12) and moral law, parents have the primary right and duty to educate their children especially in matters of sexuality.

In the same Section 17 item (6), one of the accessible health services is “management of abortion complications”. With such clause, the State would be sending conflicting signals since abortion is a criminal offense. So it should be deleted. Anyway without it, women who are victims of accidental abortions would not be deprived of medical care while those who have willfully committed it also get medical care without any hassle since almost nobody gets prosecuted for abortion anyway.

Section 19 mandating the State to “take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relation and ensure (1) “the same rights to enter into and leave partnerships or relationships without prejudice to religious beliefs”, undermines marriage as an “inviolable social institution and foundation of the family which in turn is the foundation of the nation that shall be protected by the State. Hence this section runs counter to Article XV of the Constitution. Besides the terms “partnerships or relationships” are not recognized by the Constitution or the Family Code nor are they defined by the bill. The only relationship or partnership recognize by our laws is marriage between a man and a woman, and they can get out of said relationship only for causes provided by the Family Code. Hence this provision can be considered void for being contrary to law.

II. In the House version (H.B. 4273)

The definition of “gender” in Section 3 as “referring to the socially differentiated roles, characteristics and expectations attributed by culture to women and men” seeks to replace a person’s divinely and nature-ordained identity with self constructed gender arising from one’s sexual preference and orientation. A person’s sex has always been determined by nature as either male or female. But under this new concept adopting the UN documents and other international instruments, a person’s sexual identity is not limited to male or female, but may be expanded by personal choice and social construction. Thus one could be either male or female heterosexual, a homosexual, a lesbian, a bisexual or a transgendered individual, depending on one’s sexual preference or orientation.

Section 9 © is similar to the Section 13 © of the Senate version (SB 2396) that collides with the constitutional provision on academic freedom. Section 15 (a) corresponds to Section 19 (1) of SB 2396 that undermines the inviolability of marriage except that Section 9 (c) more explicitly uses “marriage” instead of “partnerships or relationships”. Hence the assault on the Constitutional provision on marriage is more direct.

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