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In support of others

/ 02:08 AM January 14, 2016

There were two good columns and one Talk of the Town commentary in this paper last Jan. 10. The columns were by former chief justice Artemio Panganiban and by Rina Jimenez-David; I recommend a read, on the Supreme Court justices (Panganiban’s), the senators (Jimenez-David’s), and the Metro Manila traffic (Rene S. Santiago’s). Another good column, by Oscar Franklin Tan, was run last Jan. 11; it suggests something I’d like to see done.

Art Panganiban’s column comes down to what I’ve incessantly argued: The law is the servant of society. It is not an entity unto itself. The phrase “dura lex sed lex” (the law may be harsh, but it is the law) has no place in law. If the law is harsh, then it must be reexamined to find out if it serves the best public interest—and changed if it doesn’t. As Art mentioned, it should be “salus populi est suprema lex,” or that the welfare of the people is the supreme law, and this is what the Supreme Court justices must keep in mind in their deliberations if they are to truly be the supreme decision-makers as designated by the Constitution. There is no room for myopia, or decisions restricted by dubious technicalities. Intent is what matters. The best for society is what matters.

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A commentary by two lecturers of law (Cristina Montes and Jemy Gatdula, “The SolGen turns to wizardry,” 1/11/16) disputes this by arguing that the issue is simple: You must adhere strictly to the wording of the Constitution, and that doesn’t define foundlings as natural-born—hence they aren’t. I couldn’t disagree more. It’s not the wording of the Constitution, it’s the intent. And I can’t imagine that the Constitution’s authors intended to exclude foundlings. The probability that both Grace Poe’s parents were foreigners is so small as to be completely discounted. Simple logic and clear basic humanity say she’s natural-born. Whether she’s sufficiently loyal, having taken up US citizenship at one time, as Rodrigo Duterte argues, is a separate matter entirely. That’s not a constitutional or legal issue, but one that should be up to the electorate to decide.

As to Rina’s well-written column, the Reproductive Health Law has been passed, the Supreme Court has ruled on it, and the legislative and executive branches are obliged to adhere to it.

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Last week the Economist talked about Vietnam and how the abortion rate is so high. An exact figure is not known, but it is believed to be around a staggering 40 percent, for a basic reason: ignorance. The young are not taught about sex. Well, that was opposed here, too, until the RH Law was passed, and sexual education was introduced. To restrict the ability to do this in any way does a great disservice to the young. Ignorance, in anything, is to be condemned.

But the main focus of Rina’s column was on contraceptives. Some 200 mothers per 100,000 births dying annually are not acceptable. Hundreds of thousands (the number is estimated at around 600,000) of illegal, and hence very risky, abortions are totally unacceptable. The poor can’t afford contraceptives, not even enough food, let alone another mouth to feed. To deprive them of contraceptives if they want these is a cruel act. If your religious beliefs stop you from using contraceptives, don’t. But don’t stop others if that’s their choice. They have a constitutional right to that choice.

Then there was the piece by Rene Santiago. His basic, well-researched conclusion: There’s no hope for Metro Manila. Perhaps he doesn’t say it quite as strongly, but that’s the message. You can’t build new, or wider, roads; there’s no room. Train lines need difficult-to-obtain or unobtainable rights of way. There are no parks, the lungs a city must have, except for Luneta.

Mind you, there is one immediate (in relevant terms) traffic solution that appeals to me, and that’s the use of tunnels. Build lots and lots of tunnels for road and rail—no dislocation during construction, and relatively easy to do. There are giant machines today that you just point at the ground and say: Dig. Congress probably needs to pass a law to make it quite clear that the government has the right to ownership (through the right of eminent domain) of the underground routes.

But the ultimate solution, it seems to me, is a second city for another. With global warming, Manila will be underwater within 50 years, and a Venice it’s never likely to be.

The Clark/Subic corridor seems the obvious place. The two needed ports of international level are already there. They are well above sea level, and close enough to Manila to make for a successful conjunction of cities. And as I argued in previous columns (“An IT vision,” 5/21/15, and “An appeal to the President,” 8/6/15), an initial concentration on making the area the “Silicon Valley” or “Bangalore” of the Philippines would be a good way to start.

But it needs far-sighted, long-term thinking. I wonder which of the presidential contenders has it.

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Finally, there’s the column where Oscar Tan suggests that others, especially government officials, take my 5-part series seriously and act on it. Obviously I agree, and that was the whole intent of my special report. It was not to just criticize government actions; it was to alert government officials, particularly the President, to the harm done on investment and business development by these actions—and act forthrightly to correct them. It was certainly not to defend them, as the responses have tried to do—responses I will address shortly because, whether others join me or not, the President should. He can fix all this. He only has five months, but five months are all he needs.

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E-mail: [email protected] Read my previous columns: www.wsallacebusinessforum.com.

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TAGS: Clark, Constitution, contraceptives, Elections 2016, Grace Poe, law, Metro Manila, reproductive health law, Subic
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