Bernardo M. Villegas
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The Sanctity of Human Life (Part 2)

             If the reader, like the former  Planned Parenthood Director Abby Johnson, feels like vomiting after  reading  the piece by piece killing of the baby being aborted in the account of Bishop Robert Baron, let me say that such a horrible scene was never contemplated even by the most heartless Americans when I was residing in the U.S. prior to the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade decision allowing the aborting of the fetus in case of rape and limited to the first trimester of pregnancy.  Those who were vehemently against that decision already had enough common sense to predict that sooner or later, once you disregard the right to life of the fertilized ovum, there is no limit to what will be permitted in infanticide sooner or later.   Their fears actually were confirmed by subsequent decisions of the courts that progressively allowed abortion at later stages of gestation until a baby about to be delivered by the mother could still be killed in such a horrible manner.  That is why, whatever our religion or no religion, Filipinos should never allow a constitutional amendment that will remove the provision that “the State shall equally protect the mother and the unborn.”  We should defend that provision literally with our lives if we don’t want to be a nation of murderers of infants in the way the U.S. has become because of the Roe Vs. Wade decision.  We should be wary about the presence of such international organizations like the Planned Parenthood, the UN Population Commission and similar agencies pushing for what they euphemistically call “responsible parenthood” or “reproductive health.”   The worst kind of colonization in today’s circumstances is what has been called “ideological colonization” that can be surreptitiously introduced through so-called development aid programs.

            As one of the framers of the Philippine Constitution of 1987, I can authoritatively state that such a basic law of the land was written with the strong assumption that there are truths that are self-evident, that do not need to be supported by empirical evidence, whether from the physical or social sciences.  The sanctity of the family, the right to life, the right to the pursuit of happiness, the right to private property, the principle of subsidiarity, the principle of solidarity and the common good are all part of human nature. These truths are instilled in the mind of every human being, no matter how uneducated or illiterate.  They are part of what is commonly referred to as natural law.

            With very few exceptions (the leftist members of the Constitutional Commission of 1986 appointed by former President Corazon Aquino), the overwhelming majority of those who drafted the Constitution accepted the fact that there are truths that are based on human nature.  As fully explained by one of the most brilliant constitutionalists, the current Palawan Governor V. Dennis M. Socrates, in an article that appeared in the IBP Journal (April-September 2011), the sanctity of family and life proceeds from the natural-law thinking that is inherent to the Philippine Constitution of 1987. Let me summarize his lucid explanations.  He boils down the controversy to the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate, which in countries like the United States and practically all of Europe has been resolved in favor of the pro-choice proponents.  On one hand, according to Governor Socrates, pro-life thinking holds that the right to life demands respect and protection from pre-conception (marriage and the conjugal act) through birth and education (family life), to its terminal stages (the aged and the dying).  The pro-choice proponents, however, take the opposite stand:  they argue that human life—and corollarily, the institutions of marriage and the family—may be subject to the free choices of individuals.  Pro-choice proponents assert the licitness of divorce, contraception, abortion, and so on.

            Governor Socrates suggests focusing on the wording of the article mandating the equal protection to be given to the life of the mother and the life of the unborn.  The article, as cited in the first of this series, starts with “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life….”  He is struck by the term “sanctity” which ordinarily means holiness or union with God, thus articulating a straightforward acknowledgement of the family as something directly related to God the Creator.  He then brings up the issue of separation of Church and State.  Is it possible still to use “sanctity” in a secular, non-religious sense.  His answer is affirmative.  Because men and women of reason, from diverse cultures agree on the existence and providence of the Divine, it is possible to discuss sanctity to some extent from a natural, human point of view, as in natural law thinking.  Only by invoking the existence of a natural law that applies to all human beings, regardless of religious beliefs, can one understand the many declarations contained in the Philippine Constitution of 1987 concerning the rights to life, liberty, happiness, freedom, etc. etc.

            Natural-law thinking understands human law, in the well-known definition of St. Thomas Aquinas as “an ordinance of reason for the common good promulgated by one who is charged with the community.”  Natural law thinking in jurisprudence teaches the existence of a set of norms (the natural moral law) higher than the norms of the legal system (human positive law) and to which these latter must conform.  Thus, the legal system is a participation (by society through political authority) in the natural moral law.  The norms of the natural moral law derive from the truths of unchanging human nature and are discernable, albeit with difficulty, by human reason. Let me interject here a comment provoked by the national consternation concerning the large number of illiterate Filipino youth as evidenced by their very poor performance in international academic achievements tests.  As an Indian head of an NGO providing illiterate people with employable skills quipped:  “An illiterate person may not know how to read or write; but he is not stupid.”  Indeed, numerous illiterate people from among the poorest of the poor in our country can be taught many useful technical skills that people with the highest academic degrees may never be able to cultivate.  In the same vein, illiterate people still have the power of reasoning for them to understand the difference between good and evil!

            Governor Socrates goes on to cite the truths that can be discerned even by illiterate people.  Among them  are that man is essentially a spiritual soul (the “form” or “formal cause”, which gives man the “act” of being man) in a material body (the “matter” or “material cause” which gives man the capacity to become man); that man comes into existence by a direct act of the Creator with the cooperation of the parents—procreation—in the “marital act” and the rearing and education of offspring (the “efficient cause”); and that human existence is ordained towards the “end” of eternal happiness—union with God or sanctity—by knowing, loving and serving his Creator ( the “final cause”).  From the very beginning of human history, even the most primitive people recognized, no matter how dimly,  the existence of a deity.

            Because of the natural law imprinted in every human being, human life is considered sacred or “holy” because it directly belongs to God from beginning to end.  In the same vein, the sanctity of the family lies in the intimate relation to human life whose cradle is precisely the family, the most basic unit of society and prior to the State. These are some of the truths that are considered self-evident in the Philippine Constitution.  To be continued.