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With Due Respect

The delectable twins of Mar and Korina

Celebrity couple Mar Roxas, 61, and Korina Sanchez, 54, surprised the nation with their recent chat welcoming the birth of their delectable twins, a girl (4 pounds, 12 ounces) and a boy (5 pounds, 4 ounces). To use the Filipino colloquial, “Nabulaga tayo!”

Citizens feasted on the first pictures of the twins that were splashed on media. From Pennsylvania, USA, Korina gamely explained they were “born by surrogacy from our embryos” that were frozen “before my biological clock stopped ticking,” that is, before her marriage. As the offeror of water and wine during their Nuptial Mass on Oct. 27, 2009, I share their joy of parenthood.

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As I savored the media curiosities, I was reminded that the Supreme Court already tackled the legal implications of the new biosciences, including the surrogacy of implanted embryos; first, by inviting Dr. Franklin M. Zweig, president of the Einstein Institute for Science, Health and the Courts in Chevy Chase, Maryland, USA, to deliver a paper on “Life Technologies and the Rule of Law” on Nov. 14, 2000; and second, by sponsoring a judicial conference on “Bioscience and Biotechnology” on Aug. 26-29, 2003.

I was so enamored by the lecture that I attended two international judicial workshops on the new sciences in Kona, Hawaii on June 30-July 4, 2001, and in Ottawa, Canada on June 17-21, 2002.

Thereafter, in December 2003, the Supreme Court published my book “The Bio-Age Dawns on the Judiciary,” which discussed the legal and ethical implications of surrogate parenting, stem cell incubation, reproductive cloning, genetic engineering, patenting of genes, artificial mutations of animals and plants, etc.

Upon getting the book, Dr. Zweig invited me to two global bioscience conferences in Chile, where I delivered five lectures on March 1-5, 2004. These lectures were reproduced in another book I wrote, “Leveling the Playing Field,” published by the Court in December 2004.

Though less complicated than the more avant-garde reproductive cloning (the insertion of a cell nucleus extracted from a donor’s tissue into an egg cell whose original nucleus had been removed), “surrogacy from embryos” still presents formidable constitutional, legal and ethical questions.

For example, since the twins were born in the United States, we can assume they are Americans because the United States follows the jus soli principle. But are they also Filipinos?  Normally, if they were born directly from the womb of Korina, a Filipina, they would also be Filipinos because we follow the jus sanguinis principle.

But they were born from a surrogate who, presumably, is not a Filipino. If she was listed in the certificate of birth as the mother, then any claim of Filipino citizenship would be problematic. Will DNA testing be enough proof to issue them Philippine passports?

If the twins are Filipinos, are they natural-born? This is important, given the huge controversy that befell Grace Poe during her presidential candidacy.

According to Korina, the embryos were frozen even before she married. Does that legally mean the twins were already over 10 years old when born?

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There are more questions: Who exercises parental authority over the children? Can the surrogate claim to be the legal mother since she actually bore and gave birth to them? Can she be the beneficiary of the twins’ insurance? Can the children inherit from her and also from Korina and Mar?

These uncharted questions were not contemplated when our Constitution and relevant governing laws were enacted. But even so, under our Civil Code, “No judge or court shall decline to render judgment by reason of the silence, obscurity or insufficiency of the laws.”

Before warped judicial decisions are issued (like those on the party-list), our Congress should pass well-studied laws, which Mar can initiate if he wins a Senate seat in May. As guides, our lawmakers can refer to the judicial conferences I cited earlier and the books I humbly wrote.

Also, please watch out for the lecture of Prof. Elizabeth A. Pangalangan, one of the 13 holders of the CJ Panganiban Professorial Chairs on Liberty and Prosperity, focusing precisely on surrogacy and adoption, at the UP College of Law, Diliman on March 28 at 10 a.m.

Comments to [email protected]

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TAGS: artemio v. panganiban, biosciences, Korina Sanchez, Mar Roxas, Roxas twins, Surrogacy, With Due Respect
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