I Support the RH Bill: A Speech I Would’ve Delivered if I were a Legislator

Reproductive health supporters and volunteers

(NOTE: This is a speech I would’ve delivered if I was a member of the House of Representatives. I just wanted to share what’s on my mind.)

Mr. Speaker,

As a Centrist Democrat, my world view tells me that I should craft legislation to provide people with equal opportunities; opportunities for them to live, work, and be contributors to nation-building. I am obliged by my world view to legislate with the end goal of providing my constituents not only with choices, but with opportunities as a result of their choice, however it may swing. It’s not only my obligation to my belief but to constituency which I serve.

For more than a decade, this Congress has attempted to pass legislation that provides women with choices, and the opportunities that shall bring fullness to their choice. For more than a decade, we have been attempting to pass legislation that shall provide women with choices on how to control family-size based on their physiological and economic contexts; and to support their choice with state-sponsored opportunities to back their choice.

Mr. Speaker, let it not be believed that I am against the divine and natural obligation of birthing children. I believe that children are the hope and the future of our nation. Let it not be believed as well that I am in favor of curtailing the freedom of choice for Filipino families. I am in favor of them; thus, my support for this legislation.

Our constitution has vowed to protect the interests of women by making it a matter of principle to recognize women’s role in nation-building. And true nation-building can only be achieved if a state makes itself a conducive seedbed of free choice and opportunity. The state has an obligation, under a democratic system, to ensure that women are actively involved in affairs of the state; and with that said, I’m sure the Constitution wants our active women to be healthy.

Mr. Speaker, I am one with the anti-RH supporters in the view of their right to life. I share their view that life begins with conception, and that abortion is a crime. I am a Catholic, a believer in the Judeao-Christian concept of life.

In my view, I see no provision on the measure supporting or condoning abortion. In fact, the RH Bill does not only protect one life, but two. The RH Bill protects the life of the child and the mother. Through the assurance of pre-natal and post-natal health services to mothers, the RH Bill is one with our cause and obligation to protect life.

As to the allegations of the bill promoting abortion, I ask this back: since when did free choice lead to abortion, Mr. Speaker? Since when did informed and educated choices lead to death? Since when did empowerment and education led to an immoral decision? Mr. Speaker, our legislative duty to provide alternatives and choices must not be misconstrued to lead a certain type of life or lead towards a certain type of decision. I oppose abortion, Mr. Speaker. But I also support the RH Bill. Who can tell me I cannot support both at once?

The RH Bill presents a medical approach to contraception, which welcomes the aid of artificial contraceptives such as condoms, pills, and injectibles. But the bill does not outlaw the calendar method, to which I personally believe on. The bill provides the people with choices, and opportunities to undertake their choice. The issue of how the family should be controlled is a personal and familial issue. Many may opt to use calendar method, but that does not eliminate our obligation to provide other choices. A democracy values the presence of several alternatives; there is no single way out all the time.

Mr. Speaker, if we ask our conscience to weigh in on the matter of reproductive health legislation, should we not also consult reason and facts? If we were to make choices for our constituents, as I believe we are empowered to make, will we not give our constituents the choice to control the way they put gaps between births in search of a comfortable, decent life? Will we not give our youth the opportunity to learn that sex is a natural phenomenon that entails responsibility? Will we not give the poorest Filipino women a fighting chance to live and rear for their newly-born children? Will we deprive our constituents with the constitutional guarantee of their right to life, their right to living, and their right to choose?

My conscience, my belief, and my object reality is one, Mr. Speaker. I believe in the right to live. And I believe that I am obliged to protect it against any element that will prevent it from its fullness.

I support the RH Bill.

Sendong

I can still remember how Ondoy spat at the streets of Cainta with unimaginable amounts of water. The rains, which have been non-stop for one full day, began filling the streets and sank one-third of our municipality in deep and murky water. There was no electricity for days in Cainta, and it took my mother two days to go home from Central Market in Manila to Valley Golf in Cainta.

Our mayor and Vice Mayor, Mon Ilagan and Atoy Sicat, were quick to respond to the needs of their people. The local government was quick to organize civil defense personnel to respond to residents on the roofs of their homes, while the rest of the employees began packing relief packages for the hardest-hit. Our mayor and Vice Mayor, whose homes were in the lowlands of Cainta, were there to respond in spite of the damage to their own home.

Due to the heavy rains in Metro Manila and the floods that came with it during “Ondoy”, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took the MRT to get to Camp Aguinaldo, where she directly coordinated civil defense efforts in most, if not all, of the provinces hit. Not long after, she went to Cainta and presided the NDCC meeting in Cainta’s Municipal Council Session Hall with Vice President de Castro, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Rizal Governor Junjun Ynares, then Rizal 1st District Congressman Jack Duavit, and Cainta Mayor Mon Ilagan.

If Ondoy taught something to the people of Cainta, Marikina, and the rest of Ondoy victim places, it’s that the mere presence of the Chief Executive serves as a big moral boost in the direst situation. The Chief Executive is our source of strength and our source of hope in the worst of disasters.

Which leads us to the question: Where was President Noynoy Aquino on the night when Sendong was pounding on Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, and the rest of the Visayas? Answer: In a party.

The President has all the right to go to a party, more so, in the party of his closest guards, the PSG. But at such a time that a storm is approaching, the President can do better. As the servant of his “boss”, he should’ve ensured that Northern and Western Mindanao, as well as the entire Visayas, are cushioned to withstand the impact of Sendong.

The true character and strength of a leader is measured on the manner and speed to which he responds to the worst tragedies. In this case, we have seen the President with almost conscious non-desire to respond to the disaster in the South.

As of this writing, Cagayan de Oro and Ilagan City have 600 people dead, with funeral parlors not having the sufficient capabilities to service the bodies all at the same time. The Secretary of Social Welfare, Dinky Soliman, was a guest at DZRH this morning. Meaning, most of the officials are still in Imperial Manila when the disaster happened 800 kms. down south. They said they’re letting the Army do the work. So does this mean that they’re left here to go finish the parties in the President’s schedule?

The funny part is that the Aquino sisters tried to defend their brother’s action. That’s easy to say for people living in the secured abodes within Forbes Park, Valle Verde, and Times Street.

If there’s one thing that Sendong left us as a lesson, it’s the reality that our President is incapable to govern, and that he is out of touch with his boss, the people.

Congress has impeached the wrong official.

Our constitution tows the line clearly with respect to the powers and functions of the three co-equal branches. The executive, headed by a President, executes and implements the laws of the land. The legislature, composed by the House of Representatives and the Senate, is tasked with the creation of laws and providing specifics to provisions where the Constitution speaks vaguely. The judiciary, composed by the Supreme Court and all the courts created by the Constitution and other laws, is tasked with interpreting the laws of the land; determining whether any branch of the government has exercised excessive discretion in its decision-making, and deciding on constitutionality of disputed legislation. Looking at this simple, freshman college explanation of how our government works, one can see that the judiciary plays a crucial role in the growth and continuing existence of a democracy.

Many like myself have not been graced with the honor of studying the law in extensive detail. But there is one thing I know for sure; the Supreme Court serves as the final interpreter of any dispute. The Supreme Court holds the tremendous obligation of delivering their take on issues, knowing that what they promulgate forms part of the law of the land. No other branch of government is bestowed with such an obligation.

The events of last week has threatened the very concept of the judiciary and of the High Court. In the impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Renato Corona by PNoy’s 188 House cohorts, the complaint included as a salient feature the pro-Arroyo voting record of the Chief Justice in issues such as the Truth Commission and Administrative Circular 41, the complainants argued that the Chief Justice has betrayed the people’s trust.

In my opinion, the impeachment complaint on this basis supersedes the constitutional authority of the Court to interpret the law. The legislature, by elevating this impeachment on the matter of sufficiency in substance, has, in effect, exercised grave abuse of discretion. The legislature’s role is to legislate and create laws, not interpret whether the Court has gone too far in its role of interpreting the law.  I’m not even sure if that constitutes an impeachable offense; for if it does, then the judiciary has surrendered its power to the legislature.

Many of the legislators believed that the Chief Justice is an obstruction to PNoy’s quest for accountability. In my view, the Chief Justice has not been the obstruction; it is the incapability of the President and his men to build strong cases against the Arroyos. Let us take as an example the issue of the Truth Commission. It would’ve been legal if PNoy investigated all former Presidents, with the inclusion of his mother, for such shall not be a violation of the equal protection clause. But Pnoy chose to focus on Gloria, and this focus led to the Truth Commission’s death.

The Supreme Court issued a TRO against administrative circular 41, citing that there is no constitutional basis nor an enabling law for Secretary de Lima’s order. Secretary de Lima replied saying that there is a “higher cause”; to bad such words are not in the Constitution. She then said that CGMA issued the order herself, but I’m sure she understood that it did not make it legal. She then violated the Court’s order by disallowing CGMA to travel despite a Court order.

At face value, it seems that President Noynoy Aquino’s actions more strongly reflect an impeachable offense than that of CJ Corona.

Congress has impeached the wrong official.

A Show of Strength is a Sign of Weakness

Sometimes, the only tool available to the weak is the show of brute and the indecent cry for public approval. And we can clearly see that now; a President constantly reinforcing his authority by virtue of public approval.

How can we entrust our government to a leader who constantly cries for public approval? As it shall, he will not make bold decisions that can change the course of the country to the positive, in fear of losing favor from the people.

But if there is one reality surrounding the people (and not just the Filipino people) is that we always think in the spirit of convenience. Take for example, going to the third floor of the building; we would rather take the elevator, regardless of its sedentary nature, than take the stairs which is good for the health. We often would opt to take the easy way out; notwithstanding long-term effects and impacts of our actions. Our President is no exception to this. He would rather be a popular president than be a good one. He would rather defy institutions than lose his grace from the people. He would rather bring us all down to dust in terms of economic policies, than spend the funds as mandated.

Yesterday, the President spoke in front of his allies in the mid the impeachment case filed against the Chief Justice, Renato Corona. He speaks proudly of it like an achievement, expecting that his Congressional allies will clap with approval. Knowing that the impeachment is now in the hands of the Senate, who shall then sit as judges, it would’ve been proper for him to be silent and appeal only for speedy resolution and impartiality.

Instead, he reinforces the deed of his Congress, a deed that was denied by his spokeswoman. He comes to their bosom like the righteous man, at a time when he knows that he needs it the most. This action is a sign of weakness in the strongest possible terms, and now cuts the fine line between democracy and tyranny.

English: Cropped picture of President Marcos i...

Former President Ferdinand Marcos

I would like to recall a little history in generals. Dictators have risen mostly because of their claim that they have the people on their side. And so they demolish institutions, carrying the so-called blessing of the people. The President’s own family rival, the Marcoses, have risen to power in almost the same manner. But if there was a difference, Marcos was wiser. Marcos believed still in the power of the Courts, and has made himself still subservient to the prevailing Constitution. At the standards of the time and of the 1973 Constitution, he was not above the law. This President, however, in an effort to elicit political vendetta, bastardizes the very Constitution his mother had a hand to, in the spirit of political convenience.

People, how do we want to be governed? Would we rather be governed by a Goliath; full of himself and confident even at the point of wrong? Or by a David who is humble and recognizes that he is weak and nothing without a Higher force, and who clearly took upon himself without volition to fight Goliath.

I would rather be governed by a person who is strong in the face of threats; than by a weakling who is threatened by the own ghost that he created.

Mr. President, Remember Joseph Estrada.

CJ Corona Impeached: “Tuwid na Daan” Takes a “Biglang Liko”

With 188 votes, more than the 1/3 constitutional requirement, the House of Representatives transmitted the Articles of Impeachment against Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. These articles are now in the hands of the senators, who shall now become senator-judges, to either convict or acquit the Chief Justice.

I respect the move of the House of Representatives in exercising this constitutional power. All public officers should be held accountable for their actions. Public office is public trust. However, the constitution also guarantees “due process”, which means giving the respondent time to respond to the allegations against him.

In the impeachment system, the House of Representatives is like a prosecutor. As one, its primary function is to determine probable cause. Should it be found, then it shall transmit its articles to the Senate and become prosecutors, or lawyers, on behalf of the complainants.

The salient feature of the complaint is Corona’s voting pattern in favor of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former President and now Pampanga Congresswoman. I do not even think that this constitutes betrayal of public trust. It may just be an incidental trend. Assuming without conceding that Corona had this pattern, are we not also supposed to file impeachment cases against the three Aquino appointees, who also have a consistent voting pattern for the incumbent President?

Clearly, this complaint was filed under the wrong and dangerous presumption of the powers-that-be that the Supreme Court and its Justices must always vote on their favor. The Supreme Court is independent, and however their vote swings in one question must be within the bounds of law, reason, and jurisprudence, to which Corona, as a Justice, has done. The Supreme Court is beholden to none except to the people and to their own conscience.

I would like to touch base on the allegations that the impeachment complaint was signed in exchange of the PDAF release. If this is true, then this President has no difference to the rest who came before him. If true, then the tuwid na daan has taken a biglang liko; how can we trust a President who promised to bring us to new heights and admonish the deeds of the past if he does the same in the spirit of personal interest?

The only tool the people have now is vigilance. Let us be vigilant.

A Government that Can Do Better

When Noynoy Aquino rose to prominence after the death of his mother, the Filipinos were led to believe that it will be a Golden Age in Philippine Post-EDSA politics; after almost ten years of having only one President at the tiller, many Filipinos looked forward to a new breed of leadership.

Though marred by allegations of fraud and thuggery, PGMA’s administration was one that’s hard to beat. During her term, she has stabilized the national currency, built infrastructure, and raised to country from an Asian kitten to a second world tiger. Admit it or not, everyone can clearly see the difference of the Philippines from 2000 and today. And like any constitutionally elected leader, she knew her time to step down would come.

And so we see her former student in Ateneo now at the helm of government. But unlike the teacher whose focus was on the economic fundamentals, the student had one focus altogether; the jailing of his teacher. That was clearly seen on the first day of his leadership; establishing a Truth Commission to specifically find evidence against the former President. And successful he was not; for in the eyes of the Constitution, it is against the bill of rights to specifically create a body to persecute or prosecute a single person.

A year and some months have passed and we have not seen a concrete program from this administration. People now see the return of street crimes, at higher rates than before; the incidence of hunger and poverty among many of our citizens; and economic fundamentals once at the peak now falling apart. Add to these injuries the seemingly bratty behavior of an unico hijo President, bashing institutions of his liking in his liking, regardless of the time or place, falsely illusioned that he still has the people on his side.

This government can do better; but it chooses not to. The government has elected the persecution of Congresswoman Arroyo to be its crowning glory? Of course, at the expense of a poor performing economy, height of crime, and destruction of institutions. Why can’t this government seem to find another subject to keep its political hard-on? Why not focus its energies on dividing the Luisita lands expediently? Or providing electricity to all the country’s barangays? Or address population growth through the Reproductive Health Bill? I still believe that this government can do better.

This government can be compared to the game of the L.A. Galaxy and the Philippine Azkals. Mr. President, sometimes, looks (or the lack thereof) are not enough. Governance requires hardwork; it requires the constant movement for the betterment of this nation.

Enough of the sweet talk, Mr. President, the campaign is over. You’ve won. And though not exactly convinced, I still believe you can do better.

A Concoction Called Democracy

A democracy is measured on its capability to balance its three coequal branches. This is a democracy’s tricky rope work; acknowledging that they have to live as individuals but need each other, at the right formulation, to survive.

Political analysts would classify nations on the basis of this balance, and also on the people handling the institutions in it. This is why political and legal brightminds begin to tag a country names when any of its three branches go too far. It can be compared to a medical concoction; put a little more of one ingredient and its effects vary from its original formulation.

Our constitution and the concept of republicanism has clearly defined the independence and interdependence of the executive, the legislature, and the courts. And in order for our democracy to work in the light of its purest, unadulterated form, this balance should be maintained.

Our executive power is vested to the President. His balancing capability includes, but is not limited to, his power to veto legislation and his power to appoint members of the judiciary (with guidance of the JBC). The legislative power is vested in the Congress, with balancing capability of confirming presidential appointments and the penning of legislation with the highest degree of qualification and clarity. They can also remove the President through the process of impeachment. The judiciary is the interpreter of the law, with a balancing power of being non-partisan; thus the reason why they are not elected and retire at a constitutionally designated age. Like the president, members of the High Courts can be impeached by the legislature. This is how democracies work.

In today’s times, even the blurriest of eyes can see that the executive may be in a bit of “power overdose”. If this is a mere sign of political will or an exhibition of its machismo is only for them to know. But nonetheless, we can see that it has gone a bit too far. And a bit too far is dangerous.

We have seen how the Executive Branch has aggressively gone against rulings of the Court, and how it has been on a national campaign to convince the people that the Supreme Court cannot be trusted. It has even come to an extent of asking the Chief Justice to resign due to bias. While the Executive has the prerogative to say what it has to say, it must not cross the borders of respect and protocol when speaking about a coequal branch, or its representatives. If somebody owes the people an explanation, or a resignation, it must be the executive for showing poor ethical conduct.

Given this action, the democratic concoction has turned bitter, due to an overpour of one of its ingredients, the executive.

I am one with the Filipino people that CGMA must have her day in Court. This will either convict her or acquit her. Cases are now filed in the Courts, and the executive must respect the way proceedings turned out as decided by the Magistrates. He has done the furthest an executive can do; to initiate the prosecution. Speaking about a case in court is not only unethical, but also contemptuous. Lucky for him he’s immune from that.

So, with all of these said, the President should begin to recognize the line between the branches. He is part of one branch, the Supreme Court is another branch. Though interdependent, they are INDEPENDENT from one another. Basic Constitution and Governance classes teach us of that.