Bernardo M. Villegas
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Marriage and Family in the Constitution

         Within the next six years, it is highly probable that the Philippine Constitution of 1987 will be amended most probably through a Constitutional Assembly rather than a Constitutional Convention which President Duterte and his advisers consider too costly.  Although the Duterte Administration will focus on such amendments as changing the form of government from unitary to federal parliamentary and removing the restrictions against Foreign Direct Investments, it is possible that some members of Congress who will constitute the Con-Ass may be tempted to propose other amendments to any another provision or provisions.  As one of the members of the Constitutional Commission appointed by former President Cory Aquino to draft the Philippine Constitution that was ratified in 1987, I would like to strongly suggest that there be provisions in the present Constitution that should not be touched and should be considered literally sacred.  Actually, one of the reasons I am happy that the present leadership decided to go the Con-Ass route is that there will be more reason to focus on a few amendments for speed and expediency rather than to completely revamp the entire Philippine Constitution of 1987, which will be too time consuming and may actually jeopardize the ratification of the revised Constitution by the Filipino people.

          As a member of the Philippine Commission appointed by former President Cory Aquino, I spent most of my time crafting with my Committee on the National Economy, of which I was Chairman, the provisions referring to the Philippine economy. My most important contribution to the entire Constitution, however, was to give my wholehearted support to the late Justice Cecilia Munoz Palma, President of the Constitutional Commission, who championed all the provisions regarding marriage and the family, as the most basic foundation of Philippine society.  Those of us who literally defended these provisions with our lives just wanted to be true to the words of the very Preamble of the Constitution which starts with “We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society…”  We considered it impossible to build a “just and humane society” without founding it on the Filipino family and on marriage as an “inviolable social institution”, which in turn is the foundation of the family (see Section 1 of Article XV of the 1987 Philippine Constitution).

         The whole of Article XV should remain intact, especially those referring to the duties of the State to defend:

         --The right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood.

         --The right of children to assistance, including proper care and nutrition, and special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation, and other conditions prejudicial to their integral human development.

         --The right of the family to a family living wage and income; and

         --The right of family and family associations to participate in the planning and implementation of policies and programs that affect them.  This provision should especially apply to the primary role of parents as the first educators of their children.

         Considering the increasing tendency of developed societies to consign the elderly to very impersonalized institutions for the aged, we should make sure we retain Section 4 of Article XV which states that “the family has the duty to care for its elderly members…” without denying that the State has also the obligation to care for the elderly through just programs of social security.

         Even more untouchable are those provisions under the Declaration of Principles and State Policies (Article II) which refer to the family.  Among these is Section 12 which states that “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. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.”  As I have pointed out in many occasions in support of legislation, “conception” here was defined by the majority of the members of the Constitutional Commission as the “fertilization of the ovum” and not implantation.  This should help the Philippines to retain the honor of being one of the last countries in the world to criminalize the killing of unborn babies, the worst manifestation of the culture of death.  Unborn babies are the most defenseless among human beings.

         The inviolability of marriage is directly related to the provision of Section 13 of Article II which states that “the State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being.  It shall inculcate in the youth patriotism and nationalism, and encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs.”  Myriad of studies of social sciences all over the world present evidence linking marriage to an impressive array of positive outcomes for children.  Both social and biological mechanisms seem to account for the value of an intact marriage in children’s lives.  From a sociological perspective, marriage allows families to benefit from shared labor within the household, income streams from two parents, and the economic resources of two sets of kin.  A married mother and father typically invest more time, affection, and oversight into parenting than does a single parent; as importantly, they tend to monitor and improve the parenting of one another, augmenting one another’s strengths, balancing one another’s weaknesses, and reducing the risk that a child will be abused or neglected by an exhausted or angry parent.  The trust and commitment associated with marriage also give a man and a woman a sense that they have a future together, as well as a future with their children.  This horizon of commitment, in turn, motivates them to invest practically, emotionally, and financially at higher levels in their children than cohabiting or single parents.  These findings are summarized in a publication entitled “Marriage and the Public Good” (The Witherspoon Institute, Princeton, New Jersey).  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia