We’ve heard all these arguments before. The detour to the Supreme Court may be a necessary stage in the long struggle to turn the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law into daily reality—but truth to tell, the case against RH policy being made at the ongoing oral arguments is a rehash of everything else that has been thrown at it. We really have heard all of these before.

The only difference is: Having lost the vote in both chambers of Congress, anti-RH advocates are repeating their arguments before the Court.

Those advocates include lawyer Concepcion Noche, who argued against the constitutionality of the RH Law in the first session of the oral arguments, on July 9, and lawyer Luisito Liban, who spearheaded the fight against the new law in the second session, on July 23. In the third session, on Aug. 6, the burden of arguing the anti-RH position fell on a sitting justice: Associate Justice Roberto Abad.

In particular, the questions Abad asked Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza advanced a telling, if all-too-familiar, position: RH kills.

Again and again, the Ateneo de Manila law graduate (1968) and University of Santo Tomas law dean (2008-2009) returned to the same RH-Law-violates-the-right-to-life argument. Indeed, that’s how he started his interpellation of Jardeleza, by presenting three tests of constitutionality of the right to life. This right, in his perspective, is the crux of the issue—because the only way the Supreme Court can invalidate the new law is to find that it offends that basic constitutional principle.

It would be next to impossible for the justices to hold that the tortuous passage of the controversial law, after a decade and a half in the legislative labyrinth, was a grave abuse of discretion, amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. That new category of the unconstitutional, an innovation of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, updated decades of jurisprudence on the so-called political question, raising the bar for judicial intervention.

As Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno phrased it in the second session of the oral arguments: How can you attribute arbitrariness to a law that has been debated for 14 years?

So it’s the right to life provision that Abad focused on. (The quotations that follow are from the highly useful, cogently written Twitter account of the Supreme Court’s Public Information Office, which “live-tweeted” each of the first three sessions.)

Abad made the case for outlawing abortion. “Positive norms (right to life of unborn, right to health) could imply a negative right (abortion is illegal).”

He questioned whether the black letter of the law could be trusted: “The language of the law suggests that contraceptives as a class of medicine are non-abortifacient.” (His point, already raised before, is that some contraceptives are in fact abortifacient, and therefore the language of the law is dangerously misleading.)

He sought to undermine the pro-RH findings of the World Health Organization by asking Jardeleza: “Did you bother to find out if WHO is impartial on the issue of contraceptives?” (He also answered his own question: “WHO is working to promote family planning by producing evidence-based guidelines on safety and delivery of contraceptive methods.”)

He took aim at possible forms of market failure, in the contraceptives market. “Are we protected from manufacturers who would make misrepresentations?”

Not least, he offered a simple, sweeping conclusion: “We will be in big trouble if this law is declared constitutional.”

But the safeguards against abortion and the use of abortifacient contraceptives have already been integrated into the law—precisely because Abad’s arguments have been raised before. The answers to all of Abad’s questions have also been offered or proposed before—because his arguments are rehashed from years of often bitter debate.

We do not mean to suggest that Abad should not have asked his questions in the first place; that is his responsibility, as a member of the Court. We only wish to reiterate that, precisely because it took a decade and a half of relentless struggle before becoming law, the ground on which the RH Law case is being fought is not terra incognita.

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  • Mang Teban

    To say that contraception has been debated for 14 years is the same as saying that the arguments against the RH law are rehashed. Weird but funny – the editorial writer is defending the RH law arguments as if the arguments have not been revised several times until, finally, the vote on the 3rd reading saw a lopsided avalanche of votes from legislators who changed sides at last minute after a sumptuous lunch at the Malacanang served with a 100% promise of pork barrel releases in time for the May electoral campaigns.

    The position of the anti-RH law is the same and has to be repeated because the Supreme Court justices are familiar with the proceedings on hearing petitions. Honestly, the editorial writer has to use sarcasm to weaken the opposition against the obnoxious RH law.

    Okay, here is a recap of what the opposition to contraception for the benefit of the ordinary reader who will readily understand layman’s terminology:
    1. God is the Author of Life. Can anyone rebut this?
    2. God creates life at the moment of union of egg cell and the sperm cell. This union is a distinct and individual biological milestone where it is no longer two cells but a newly-formed matter. The male who contributed his sperm cell and the female her egg cell cannot possibly determine that there has been a union. And, neither can human science and human philosophy explain this event called conception.
    3. Conception is better understood if we use an example. If a person conceives or hatches a plan to steal money from another, that person is no longer the same person before. He has become new.
    4. Then, that person plans some more how he will undertake his evil plan. Thus, his plan is now being “fertilized” with more inputs and whatifs. That is the human person’s mind conceiving and fertilizing a plan.
    5. But God’s way of conception is different from human’s. God conceives and sets that distinct and individual biological being formed at the moment of the union of the egg cell and sperm cell apart. Each of us is set apart. Scriptures express God’s wisdom – “Before you were formed in the womb, I knew you.” Some translate it to be “I chose you.” What the RH law proponents have not thought of is the fact that a human person receives a soul from God. This is what sets us apart from other creatures like the apes or other mammals, reptiles, fishes, birds, amphibians, and the invertebrates.
    6. It is a fact that the mother and the father do not lose any part of their physical bodies to the newly conceived being. A mother does not lose an arm to form the arm of the baby. Neither does the father lose a single skin cell to form the face of the unborn baby. All the mother and the father did was to give themselves their love in the union of a single egg cell and a single sperm cell.
    7. It is a fact that a chemical reaction happens instantaneously at the moment of conception where a substance shoots up in the female reproduction system to stop the menstrual cycle. This explains why the mother comes to know that she is pregnant belatedly on the 4th or 5th week after the successful sexual intercourse that bears the conceived child now on its “fertilized” stage. Too late to prevent.
    8. Prevention of human life form is at the instance of conception also. Condoms prevent conception. Pills prevent conception. Vasectomy prevents conception permanently. Tubal ligation prevents conception. Since the Enemy of God cannot prevent conception because Satan is much, much inferior than God, Satan “created” the ways of preventing conception at the moment of conception.
    Therefore, ladies and gentlemen of the pro-RH law, this is why you will never understand and accept that condoms, for instance, is anti-God.
    A human soul is not created without the conception of the distinct and individual biological being.
    LISTEN – (Matthew 15:13) “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted shall be uprooted.” Okay? The RH law will be uprooted. It is not from God.

    • Antenor F Cevallos

      Nagagalak ako sa kagitingan at katalinuhan ni Kapatid Mang Teban. Ipinaliwanag niya ng mabuti at mga alituntunin ng Mahal na Simbahan. At tulad nga ng paliwanag niya, ang condom ay makasalanan. Kaya dapat death penalty sa mga gumagamit ng pills at condoms. Mabuhay ang Mahal na Simbahan! Mabuhay ang Opus Dei! Mabuhay si Kapatid Mang Teban!

      • Mamang Pulis

        ang condom ay makasalanan

        kayo po ba ay sanay sa wikang pilipino talaga?
        tao po ba ang turing nyo sa bagay?

        Kaya dapat death penalty sa mga gumagamit ng pills at condoms

        at yan po ang pagpapatunay na:

        hindi nyo alam sinasabi nyo
        o malamang, pambubuska lamang lahat ng sinasabi mo dito…..


    RH law was debated for 14 years because no Honest human can fathom when life begins. Life creation is mystery of nature that no human can replicate in perfection. Therefore no human can Perfectly say when life begins. It was this way for the past 14 years until a monkey had gained control over PDAF that the RH bill was passed through PDAF bribe to salivating, greedy and corrupt lawmakers. The century and half old RH bill testifies that it is clouded with doubt. But a monkey brain that simply jumps around when tickled got PDAF power. The bill was passed instantly in suspicious manner. (anti-RH lawmakers suddenly vanished on 2nd reading).
    The monkey may have power over PDAF but the independent SC is not under monkeys control. I hope and pray that justices in SC are humans with compassion for the poor that is about to be poisoned by RH pills. They may have conscience for humanity.

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