The constitutional quality requirements for a Chief Justice are no other than the basic requirements of “competence, integrity, probity, and independence.” No one can possess all these qualities in a degree higher than all the other nominees. Not one of the nominees, for instance, can be considered as possessing the highest degree of competence in all fields of law. The field of law is so broad that necessarily there are varying fields of specialization. Precisely the Supreme Court is a collegial body in recognition of this fact and in order for it to be able resolve the variety of problems that can be brought before the Court. In term of competence, it can be assumed that all the nominees have sufficient competence to engage in the give and take debates within the Court.
The qualities of integrity, probity, and independence are interrelated. How the nominees are ranked according to these qualities is crucial for the President’s choice. Which of those are the most important for the goals that the President has in mind? The expressed dissatisfaction of the President with those listed might give us an idea of what kind of Chief Justice he wants.
Amending HB 4244. Those who are seriously studying the RH BILL should take a look at the amendments already offered by the authors of the Bill themselves. They are contained in a letter of Edsel Lagman to Congressman Rogelio J. Espina, Chairman of the Committee on Population and Family Relations. However, to understand the proposed amendments one must read and study House Bill 4224 and not just rely on criticism by some who may never have read it much less studied it.
Yes, there are good number of misconceptions about the RH Bill and there can be dishonest critics who set up straw men they can merrily attack. One may ask, for instance, how many among the church authorities have read and studied HB 4244? This is an import question because I see the amendments as efforts to adjust to the transition from an established Catholic church whose word was law to the demands of freedom of religion today.
I propose in this column to pull together the various amendments already accepted by the authors of the Bill. I shall take up the pertinent sections of the bill one by one.
Section 13. Role of barangay health workers. Instead of saying that they should “give priority to family planning work” simply say they should “help implement this Act.” This should obviate the complaints that family planning is being given undue emphasis.
Section 15. Funding Mobile Health Services. Charge the funding to the National Government instead of to the Priority Development Fund of Congressmen (PDAF) while at the same time allowing individual lawmakers to use their PDAF.
Section 16. Mandatory Age Appropriate Sex Education. Give parents the option not to allow their children to attend mandatory sex education while at the same time giving assistance to parents who want assistance in this matter. This is in conformity with the primary right of parents.
Section 20. Ideal Family Size. Delete the entire provision. This will preclude further misinformation about the meaning of this provision.
Section 21. Employers’ Responsibility. Delete this because it is simply a restatement of Article 134 of the Labor Code. Deleting it will preclude further debate.
Section 28(e) Prohibited Acts. Delete the provision which penalizes “any person who maliciously engages in disinformation about the intent and provisions of this Act.” There already are penal limits on freedom of expression.
In addition to the above amendments already proposed by the authors of the consolidated bill there are others which are worth considering. Let me mention a few:
On Age-Appropriate Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education
1. Private schools can opt to provide an alternative sexuality education curriculum based on the school’s religious beliefs or values. The government will monitor that there is a curriculum being implemented, whether the standard one or the alternative one.
2. If a public school cannot provide enough adequately trained teachers or there are public school teachers who cannot teach the government’s curriculum because of religion-based objections, the proper government agency would send trained instructors to teach the sexuality education classes.
3. An additional topic for the curriculum is the role of religious freedom and conscience in choosing the means of planning families.
On Prohibited Acts
Any healthcare service provider, whether public or private, who shall require a person to undergo a sterilization as a condition for providing basic health care or emergency care or health care assistance to indigents shall be penalized.
I realize that there are other urgent matters which Congress must consider. But the effort of some to block the period of amendments merely as a tactic for preventing the approval of the bill at any cost does a disservice to the nation.
20 August 2012