(Click here for Part 1 of the sponsorship speech)
PART 2 : Constitutional and International Law
No Prohibition in the Constitution
There are a number of constitutional provisions that underlie the RH bill. But the most salient is what I would call the “Sanctity of Life” Clause found under Article 2, as a declaration of state policy:
Sec. 12. The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.
This provision does not mention the term “reproductive health” or any of its affiliate vocabularies. This is in the nature of a constitution. As explained in the 1930 case ofLopez v. de los Reyes, speaking of the Constitution:
It is an instrument of a permanent nature, intended not merely to meet existing conditions, but to govern the future. It does not deal in details but enunciates the general principles and general directions which are intended to apply to all new facts which may come into being, and which may be brought within those general principles or directions.
The Constitution should not be read like a newspaper story, on the basis of which each reader can feel free to express his own interpretation. Instead, to discover the intent and meaning of the Constitution, we have to turn to a process called “constitutional construction.”
In the 1938 case of Gold Creek Mining Corp. v. Rodriguez, the Supreme Court ruled that fundamental principle of constitutional construction is to give effect to the intent not only of the framers, but also of the people who adopted it. It is not sufficient to quote the opinion expressed in the records by one delegate to the constitutional convention; that would be only one person’s opinion. Neither would it be sufficient to claim that a certain interpretation was the intent of the people who approved the Constitution in a plebiscite.
Hence, we are left with the conclusion that the Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is. In other words, no legislator can authoritatively construe the meaning of the Sanctity of Life Clause, and it would be pointless to debate its meaning here in the legislature. We can save a lot of time in Congress by waiting for the proper branch of government to tell us what this Clause means – the Supreme Court.
To maintain peace and order, the sovereign people agreed to lend some of their sovereignty to the government, under terms which are defined in the Constitution. If there is no applicable provision in the Constitution, the implication is that the power has been reserved to the people in their sovereign capacity. Thus if there is no prohibition in the Constitution, then it is deduced that the people’s representatives in the Congress are free to legislate on the matter. In other words, the Constitution serves merely as a limit to the police power of the State.
Accordingly, the Supreme Court ruled in the 1924 case of People v. Pomar: “The state, under the police power, is possessed with plenary power to deal with all matters relating to the general health, morals, and safety of the people, and so long as it does not contravene any positive inhibition of the organic law . . . .” (Emphasis added.)
The Constitution, directly or indirectly, does not prohibit the RH bill. Therefore, in constitutional terms, this Senate is free to enact this bill. It is now well accepted in our jurisdiction that under the “rational basis” test, so long as an act of Congress bears some reasonable relationship to the grant of power to the national government and it is not otherwise prohibited by the Constitution, a reviewing court must find the law to be necessary and proper.
If the Senate passes the RH bill, our action would amount to a legislative construction of the Constitution. The rule is that a practical construction by Congress of a provision of the Constitution is entitled to great weight and should not be lightly disregarded. Hence, if we pass the RH bill, it will enjoy a presumption of constitutionality if it is questioned in the Supreme Court.
It has been said that even if we abolish the entire Bill of Rights, all the rights enumerated would still exist, provided that we keep the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause. These two great clauses are found in our Bill of Rights, which provides: “Sec. 1. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.” The right of the mother to protect herself and her baby from death-dealing poverty is a liberty protected under the Due Process Clause. Similarly, the right of the mother in the lowest social class is equal to the right of the mother in the highest social class, when both rights pertain to freedom of information. Thus, to make information on reproductive health accessible to the rich but not to the poor would be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.