By: Elizabeth Angsioco
Published in Manila Standard Today
Dated February 26, 2011
The Ayala Alabang Village is among the poshest places in the country. Entering this gated and highly secured village is not easy. You need a private vehicle or cab or risk walking far to your destination. You need clearance by the homeowner before fully armed security guards allow you in. Roads there pretty much approximate the size of EDSA, perhaps to accommodate the numerous cars owned by each of the about 4,000 families living in huge and imposing houses. AAV is home to many of our powerful and rich politicians and personalities like Former President Fidel Ramos, Senator Pia Cayetano, Representative Rodolfo Biazon, former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, and international artist Lea Salonga. These are people you don’t want to mess with.
Village residents should feel content and secure. Yet, serious trouble is brewing because of the barangay council’s approval of Ordinance 01, Series of 2011 entitled, “An Ordinance Providing for the Safety and Protection of the Unborn Child…; Fixing Penalties for its Violations, and for Other Purposes.”
Residents led by staunch reproductive health advocate Cabral are preparing to mount a multi-faceted campaign against this ordinance. They want the council accountable and the ordinance repealed.
First, let us understand the ordinance in question.
The following are among its declared policies: upholds the duty of the State “to equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn child from conception;” endorses view that hormonal contraceptives such as pills, and the IUD may kill children and injure the health of women using them; condemns the irresponsible and indiscriminate use of contraceptives as they undermine the solidarity of families by promoting premarital sex, giving rise to more fatherless children, more single mothers, more poverty and more abortions when contraceptives fail, and causing a decline of legitimate marriages; and denounces the use of condoms as they promote and sanction immoral sexual relations among the unmarried and the young…
Among its objectives are to: acknowledge the unborn child as a human being with human personality, extend legal protection from the moment of his/her conception or fertilization; mandate that delivery of health services to the mother during pregnancy shall be done without prejudice to the unborn child; and promote and provide Natural Family Planning (NFP) services to married couples and those engaged to be married…
The ordinance defines ‘abortifacient’ as any device, medicine, substance or practice which may damage, injure, interfere with the natural development, endanger or cause the expulsion or death of an unborn child. This includes IUDs and hormonal contraceptives.
This ordinance declares illegal: the prescription of abortifacients by health care providers within the Barangay; advertising, selling, offering for free, endorsing, promoting, prescribing or distributing abortifacients within the Barangay; subjecting an unborn child or his/her mother to acts that may endanger or expose the unborn child or mother to injury or death; and soliciting, accepting, dispensing contraceptives by Barangay employees or agencies.
Ordinance 01 regulates dispensing of “anti-conceptional” substances and devices by 1) requiring medical prescription from buyers; and 2) ordering pharmacists to register in a “book for abortives and anti-conceptionals” data about the prescribing physician and the purchaser.
Finally, this ordinance metes out penalties to violators in the forms of: fines of at least P1,000.00 to more than P5,000.00; imprisonment of at least a month to one year;
civil liability; dismissal from office and getting barred from holding any public office if violator is a barangay employee; and revocation of business permits in addition to the first three if violator is a business enterprise or educational institution.
I take serious issue with this ordinance on several grounds.
First, the Council misquoted the Constitution and went well beyond its boundaries as mandated by the Local Government Code.
Article II, Section 12 of the Philippine Constitution reads, “The State … shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception…” Note that the ordinance inserted the word “child” after the “unborn” when it quoted this exact provision. This may be due to carelessness but I entertain the idea that it is intentional because the ordinance says that the unborn is a child, a human being with personality. The misquotation gives the impression that the Constitution actually says that the unborn IS a child when it does not.
The Constitution likewise guarantees people’s right to privacy [Art. III, Sec. 3. (1)] Thus, requiring those purchasing contraceptives to surrender personal information may be a violation of this right.
I asked lawyer Kiko Acero if people can go to jail for violation of barangay ordinances. I was told that the autonomy of LGUs is derived, meaning they have no power that is not delegated to them under the LGC. Chapter 4, Sec. 391 (a) (14) of the LGC mandates barangay councils to: “Prescribe fines in amounts not exceeding One Thousand Pesos (P1,000.00) for violation of Barangay ordinances.” Nothing more follows on this matter. Compare this with Art. III, Sec. 458(a)(iii) which clearly empowers City Councils to imprison violators of City ordinances.
Recall that the ordinance in question metes out several forms of penalties: fines exceeding allowed limits, imprisonment, removal from office and revocation of business permits.
There is reason to believe then that the barangay council overstepped its authority.
Second, the ordinance coerces residents into adhering to faulty assumptions.
By declaring that contraceptives are abortifacient, prohibiting distribution, regulating sale through prescription, and penalizing violators, the Council forces residents into submission even if they do not similarly believe.
The World Health Organization has repeatedly and officially said that contraceptives, including hormonal and IUDs are NOT abortifacient. In fact, the WHO includes contraceptives in its List of Essential Medicines which attests to their safety and efficacy. The WHO is the world’s most respected and authoritative expert on this matter. Governments listen to what it says. Is the AAV Barangay Council better?
More on this next week.