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Rm. N-411, House of Representatives, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines
+63 2 931 5497, +63 2 931 5001 local 7370

  

       Notwithstanding the full recognition of the fiscal autonomy of the Supreme Court and constitutional bodies with the return to said agencies of their respective funding for unfilled positions with only a reportorial  requirement prescribed, and the grant of P5,000,000.00 for the publication of the Philippine Collegian, the students’ newspaper of the University of the Philippines, I nonetheless cast a dissenting vote because the appropriations for the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) and for Public Private Partnerships (PPP) are inordinately overstated and excessively funded, which budgets could have been reduced to augment the appropriations for education, SUCs, health and infrastructure.

  • CONTINUING ASSAULT ON THE CONSTITUTION
  • AND MOCKERY OF THE SUPREME COURT
  • (Privilege Speech delivered by Minority Leader Edcel C. Lagman
  • on 21 November 2011)

 

             Mr. Speaker and distinguished colleagues:

             The malevolent game plan of the Aquino administration is to defy the Supreme Court at all cost in order to fully realize its all-consuming obsession to persecute and incarcerate former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The administration’s newly invented mantra is if the Executive can implement the law, it has likewise the option not to implement the law.

             The Aquino administration is ready to impair, and has even trampled upon, civil liberties like the constitutional right to travel, presumption of innocence and freedom from arrest except upon independent finding of probable cause by the judge after due process.

            There was only one primary purpose for the (1) defiance of the Supreme Court’s TRO allowing GMA to leave for medical treatment abroad; (2) bullet train resolution by the Joint DOJ-COMELEC Panel for the filing of the electoral sabotage case against GMA despite the pending petition in the SC challenging the constitutionality and jurisdiction of the Joint Panel; and (3) the issuance with precipitate alacrity of the warrant of arrest against GMA by the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City, and the singular purpose is to prevent GMA from exercising her constitutional right to travel and detain her in the country, albeit arbitrarily and illegally.

           We should not forget that adjudications of the Supreme Court and all inferior courts must be based on real facts and legal verities, and not on imagined fears and partisan speculations.

           In the case of the right to travel of the former President, the real facts are: (a) at the time she was barred from travelling on the night of November 15, 2011, there were no pending cases filed against her in any court of law; (b) there is no hold departure order (HDO) issued against her by any competent court; and (c) former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is suffering from a rare ailment necessitating her treatment abroad.

            The legal verities are:  (a) the liberty to travel is guaranteed under the Bill of Rights; (b) the right to travel cannot be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety or public health as provided by law, not one of which obtains relative to the projected travel of the former President, even as the Congress has not yet enacted the implementing law pursuant to the directive of the Constitution; (c) the watchlist orders issued by Justice Secretary Leila De Lima are not equivalent to an HDO; (d) the Supreme Court has issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) upholding GMA’s right to travel and restraining the enforcement of the DOJ Circular No. 41 and the WLOs issued by Secretary De Lima; and (e) the Supreme Court has junked the Government’s motion for reconsideration even as it is entrenched in our jurisprudence that a motion for reconsideration cannot stay a TRO.

            These factual and legal realities cannot be overlooked or supplanted by the Aquino administration’s mere imagined fears and baseless speculations that the former President is a flight risk and would seek political asylum abroad. There is no single credible and competent evidence presented by the Aquino administration to substantiate its fears and speculations.

            The propensity of this arbitrary and despotic agenda feeds on two perceptions: (1) the former President is unpopular so much so that the bastardization of her rights will not incense the people and may even get popular approval; and (2) the uniformed forces – the military and the police – are supportive of the administration.

            The foregoing constitutes feeble anchorage for supplanting the Constitution and the rule of law.

            The issue of justice, fair play and constitutionality are not to be determined by opinion polls or the public pulse. These are justiciable issues for adjudication by the judicial forum, more particularly the Supreme Court.

            Moreover, it is a condescending assault on the people’s ultimate judgment on arrogance of power, which is no different from a cacique’s insulting the intelligence of his unlettered tenant.

            History is replete with the people’s mass protests and resolve against rulers who have bludgeoned the rule of law. The EDSA People Power Revolution is not too distant as to be forgotten.

            The military and police officials and men are sworn to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution. While the President is Commander-in-Chief, he detaches himself from the chain of command when he impairs the Constitution. An unlawful order or unconstitutional command is not a mandate to be followed.

            Again, history is replete with heads of State cast in isolation and oblivion for flaunting the Constitution and denigrating the rule of law.

            I beseech the distinguished Members of this Chamber to shed off their partisan loyalties and uphold fealty to the Constitution and support the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of justiciable issues.

            I defer to the High Tribunal the resolution of the legal and constitutional issues on the raging controversy. And I earnestly hope that once the Supreme Court has ruled, the political departments would obey and follow its ruling.

            Thank you, Mr. Speaker and distinguished colleagues.

 

 

 

THREAT AND COERCION BY TEXT MESSAGING

(Privilege Speech of Minority Leader EDCEL C. LAGMAN on 21 March 2011)

  

          The impeachment proceedings against the respondent Ombudsman have increasingly degenerated into an inordinately partisan enterprise.

           While it is conceded that impeachment is generally political in character, nonetheless it is impressed with a quasi-judicial nature, for which reason the immutable tenets of due process should be accorded to both the complainants and the respondent.

           The partisan alacrity to doom the Ombudsman was started by the President himself when he unabashedly and publicly rallied the members of his party to impeach the Ombudsman – targeting the Ombudsman as public enemy number one, who is not even charged with graft and corruption, but with contrived sins of omission.

           The President imprinted his own logo on the impeachment proceedings unmindful that under the Constitution he has no role or participation whatsoever in impeachments.

           While the House of Representatives acts as prosecutor and the Senate sits as the impeachment court, and the Supreme Court can, in proper cases, exercise judicial review, the President is shut out of the proceedings, except when he is the respondent himself.

           Under Section 19 of Article VII, the President is even prohibited from granting pardons in impeachment cases.

           After the President opened the floodgates for the impeachment of the Ombudsman, the partisan inundation intensified.

           It reached a chilling level with the circulation last weekend of the following text message:

           “Frm Cong. Abaya – Favor kindly disseminate to all reps – LP and non-LPs. This shud b made clear to all. Those who will vote no or absent/abstain on impeachment will get 0 as in zero. At least walang sisihan that there was no forewarning. Thank you.”

           The unmistakable import of this text message is crystal clear:

           1. The message purportedly came from “Cong. Abaya” in reference to our distinguished colleague, Rep. Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya, the Chairman of the powerful Committee on Appropriations.

           2. There will be no funding releases to any Member of the House who votes against the impeachment or abstains or is absent.

           3. The non-release is “0 as in zero.”

           4. It is not even a “fair warning” but a “forewarning” as in “beware, you know the adverse consequences.”

           Aside from being the apex of partisanship which is unparalleled in the annals of Congress, this “forewarning” demeans Members of this House as salivating mercenaries who would trade their judicious discretion and conscientious conviction for SAROs and NCAs.

           The “forewarning” desecrates democracy in a deliberative assembly and reduces our debates into haggling bouts in the marketplace.

           The “forewarning” insults the integrity of the Members of this August Chamber and goads them to dance like unthinking puppets to the orchestrating baton of the President.

           This is also blatant bribery! This is a crime!

           Honorable Colleagues, I am certain we are not taking lying down this subversion of our independence and integrity.

           Let us rise as one to denounce this transgression and protect the supremacy and freedom of our hallowed Institution whose Members are the duly-elected Representatives of the sovereign people.

           Let us vote on the Articles of Impeachment with an open and fair mind. Let us be extremely judicious. Let us resist outside dictations, and follow only the well-meaning dictates of our respective consciences.

           Of course, expectedly, the Honorable Abaya has disavowed authorship of the threatening text message. I believe him. He cannot do this to his colleagues on his own. His name and position were used with aggravating premeditation. The Office of the President has not even categorically disclaimed privity to such damning message.

           The ominous text was sent purposely to deliver a coercive message. It has boomeranged.

           Fund releases are not for the personal benefit of Members of the House. They are for the benefit of their constituencies. Our constituents should not be deprived or punished for the votes we cast.

          Due to the negative publicity the text has generated, Malacañang belatedly announced that the PDAF will be released, irrespective of one’s vote, which should be the case. But the damage has been done and the fear it was designed to create has taken its toll.

         I ask the leadership of the House of Representatives to assure a full-blown debate on the Report of the Committee on Justice and the proposed Articles of Impeachment, not only to afford fair and thorough deliberation but to dispel any suspicion that we have been cowed to subservience by any threat or promise of gold.

           I also ask the leadership to immediately cause the investigation of this latest assault against our Institution. More than the impeachment proceedings, the preservation and protection of the independence and integrity of our Chamber must be upheld and prioritized.

           The investigation must be undertaken by a Committee of the Whole because the entire Membership was maligned and threatened.

           Pending the results of the investigation, the consideration of the Report of the Committee on Justice must be suspended.

            Anyway, the Plenary has sixty (60) session days from the submission last Tuesday, March 15, 2011, of the Committee Report and the accompanying Articles of Impeachment to consider, deliberate and dispose of the same (paragraph 2 of Section 8, Rule III of the House Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings). And according to the Senate, it can only take up the impeachment case, if ever referred to it, only by May when the sessions resume after the Lenten break.

           Our integrity and independence have been impeached even before we could even act on the impeachment of the Ombudsman. Silence and inaction, even more so subservience, are shameful epitaphs for this Congress of the People.

“ENACT THE RH BILL NOW”

(SPONSORSHIP SPEECH ON HOUSE BILL 4244

delivered by REP. EDCEL C. LAGMAN on 08 March 2011)

  

        March is the month we celebrate worldwide Women and Womanhood. The centenary of International Women’s Day falls on March 8 this year. It is only fitting that today, March 08, 2011, we begin the sponsorship and eventual plenary debates on the reproductive health bill – a measure that will help safeguard the future of millions of Filipino women and their families and will have a host of positive multiplier effects on the health of women and children, and enable sustainable human development for our country and people.

         This is the third time in as many Congresses that I have stood before this August Chamber to deliver my sponsorship message on the RH bill. I am confident that the saying, “third time’s the charm”, will abide with us.

         The 15th Congress will be remembered as the Congress that passed the RH bill.

         The country needs an RH law because:

         First, it will protect and promote the following basic rights:

         (a) It will afford parents the opportunity to exercise their right to freely and responsibly plan the number and spacing of their children as enshrined in the Declaration of Tehran to which the Philippines was a signatory almost 42 years ago. The RH bill is rights-based, and central to the measure is freedom of informed choice.  Consistent with freedom of choice, this bill has no specific demographic targets. It is not a population control measure. The moderation or deceleration of population growth is consequential to the promotion of reproductive health and sustainable human development.

             The bill mandates the access to all forms of family planning, both natural and modern, by women and couples, who are voluntary acceptors as long as they are legal and medically-safe, and truly effective.

             It is important to underscore that neither the Church nor the State has the right to dictate on the faithful or citizens which form of family planning they should use. That choice primarily and ultimately belongs to the couple, but most especially to women who bear the brunt of pregnancy, childbirth and child care.

        (b) It will enhance the right to health as it improves maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition, and reduces maternal, infant and child mortality.

             With all the talk about sex and religion that unfortunately dominates discussions about RH, people tend to overlook the fact that notwithstanding its positive impact on population and development, the bill is also a health measure.

             The death of 500,000 women worldwide annually due to complications related to high risk pregnancies which could be prevented by access to effective family planning, and lack or absence of skilled attendance at childbirth is both an aberration and a gross social injustice.

 

             Multiparity or having many children is positively associated with maternal mortality because with each additional pregnancy, a woman’s lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes progressively increases.

             Effective contraception leads to better spacing of pregnancies, helps women avoid unwanted pregnancies, reduces the chances of malnutrition for mothers and therefore contributes to their overall well-being.

         (c)  We need an RH law to effectuate the people’s right to sustainable human development.

               It is beyond debate that an exploding population impacts negatively on all indicators of human development like education, health, employment, housing, food security and the environment.

               Development experts affirm that population and development are inextricably linked. The Asian Development Bank, in a 2004 review entitled “Poverty in the Philippines: Income, Assets, and Access,” listed an expanding population as one of the major causes of poverty in the country.

              Local economists have also declared that there is greater incidence of poverty in larger families and that large family size is a significant factor in perpetuating poverty across generations. (Orbeta and Pernia)

             The annual UN Human Development Reports also show that countries with higher population growth invariably score lower in human development.

             The Philippines is the 12th most populous country in the world and placed 97th out of 169 countries in quality of life in the UNDP’s latest Human Development Report.

             China, the world’s most populous country ranks 89th; India, which is on the heels of China, is 119th; and Pakistan and Bangladesh which rank 6th and 7th, respectively, in terms of population, are 125th and 129th in human development.

             On the other hand, the top three countries in human development, Norway, Australia and New Zealand, all have extremely lean total populations and low population growth rates.

             Second, an RH law will definitely help lower the incidence of abortion by preventing unplanned, mistimed and unwanted pregnancies – the very unintended pregnancies which are terminated through abortion principally by young, Catholic and married women who could not afford another child.

             (a) There is an inverse relationship between contraception and abortion. Studies conducted by the Guttmacher Institute reveal that correct and regular use of contraceptives can reduce abortion rates by a staggering 85%. Truly, the RH bill is an anti-abortion measure.

             (b) A pregnancy that is planned and wanted will not be aborted. It is therefore only logical to conclude that the more women can avoid unintended and mistimed pregnancies through effective family planning, the less the incidence of abortion will be.

             (c) If the incidence of abortion is considerably diminished by appropriate, legal and effective contraception, it stands to reason that there is no justification for the legalization of abortion. The RH bill will not lead to the legalization of abortion.

         Third, an RH law enhances the ability of the Philippines to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), whose common denominator is reproductive health and family planning.

         Virtually all the MDGs, but especially the goals which pledge elimination of gender-based discrimination; decrease in infant deaths; safe motherhood; and the prevention of the spread of HIV and AIDS, are closely related to reproductive health and family planning.

         Fourth, an RH law will buttress the country’s anti-poverty agenda. The authors of the RH bill do not claim that it is the panacea to underdevelopment or a universal remedy to poverty. It is not a magic pill.

         However, I would like to emphasize that without a clear policy on RH, government’s anti-poverty strategies will continue to be undermined by a ballooning population as an inordinately huge population growth rate aggravates existing poverty.

          The Philippines’ very own Rafael Salas, the first Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund emphasized that there are “crucial links between population and development and (there is) need to take population factors into account in development plans.”

         Fifth, the promotion of reproductive health is cost effective. It is much cheaper than the mega projects of government which have much lesser beneficiaries and riddled with corruption. The improvement of maternal and infant health and reduction of maternal and infant mortality and morbidity also generates multi-billion savings for the government in terms of reduced expenses for maternal and infant medical care which could be channeled to education and other basic services.

         Research by Likhaan and the Guttmacher Institute shows that government allocates a minimum of P5.5 billion in healthcare costs each year for the management of unintended pregnancies and their complications.

         This kind of health management is not a cost-effective public health spending because only P2.0 to P3.5 billion annually is needed to fund a comprehensive range of voluntary family planning services for the entire country according to the same study.

         Investing in family planning services would then mean savings of several billion pesos which can be used for other badly needed social services.

         The UNICEF way back in 1992 asserted that “family planning could bring more benefits to more people at less cost than any other single technology now available to the human race.”

         Sixth, the RH bill goes beyond family planning. RH is all- encompassing. Aside from family planning information and services, its expansive coverage includes:

  • Maternal, infant and child health and nutrition, including breastfeeding;
  • Prohibition of abortion and management of  abortion complications;
  • Adolescent and youth reproductive health and sexuality education;
  • Prevention and management of sexually transmittable infections (STIs), like HIV-AIDS;
  • Elimination of violence against women;
  • Treatment of breast and reproductive tract cancers and other gynecological conditions and disorders including infertility and sexual dysfunction in both men and women; and
  • Male responsibility and participation in reproductive health;

         Seventh, the RH bill is constitutional. It maintains unconditional fealty to Section 12 of Article II on State Policies which pertinently provides: “It (the State) shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.”

         The overriding purpose of this provision is to preempt the Congress and the Supreme Court from legalizing abortion.

         House Bill No. 4244 is indubitably against abortion. It unequivocally provides that “nothing in this Act changes the law against abortion”.

        The genesis of the aforequoted constitutional provision shows that the proposal to include in the Bill of Rights that the “right to life extends to the fertilized ovum” was rejected by the Constitutional Commission of 1987. The phrase “fertilized ovum” was never constitutionalized, just like the phrase from “the moment of conception” because the Commissioners were unable to determine when the precise moment of conception is.

         Contraceptives are not banned by the Constitution. This is so because contraceptives like pills, injectables, condoms and IUDs are not abortifacients.

         The principal purposes of contraceptives are: (1) to prevent ovulation, in which case there is no egg to be fertilized and no fetus to abort; and (2) to prevent the sperm from reaching the egg, in which case there is no fertilization and no fetus is formed.

         Medical authorities define abortion as “termination of pregnancy after implantation and before the conceptus has become independently viable.” [International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO)]

         Legal jurisprudence defines abortion as “the expulsion of the foetus before it has acquired the power of sustaining an independent life.” [Philippine Legal Encyclopedia]

         Clearly, there can be no abortion before the onset of pregnancy or conception when the blastocyst is implanted in the uterine lining or the woman’s womb.

         A couple or a woman who uses contraceptives or a physician who prescribes contraceptives cannot be accused of the crime of abortion because contraceptives do not expel or detach the fetus from a pregnant woman’s womb. Contraceptives prevent conception or pregnancy but do not pre-terminate pregnancy. Verily, contraceptives are contra-conception.

         The reason why the issue of RH is almost always linked exclusively with family planning – especially the use of condoms, pills and IUDs – is because the Catholic hierarchy, which is the main critic of the bill, is not against the elimination of violence against women or the treatment of breast cancer or maternal and child health and nutrition and other elements of RH. It is only against making modern family planning methods available to women and couples and the teaching of sexuality and RH education to the youth.

          Therefore, the most vocal critics of the bill conveniently want the issue to be limited to the so-called evils of modern contraception.

           Verily, reproductive health transcends family planning as the full range of RH attests.

           We must be unwavering in the campaign to protect and promote every Filipino’s right to reproductive health, and the right of every woman over her own body and be liberated from unremitting pregnancies.

           We must not allow religious intolerance to consign mothers into early death because family planning services are not available to them so they could avoid high risk pregnancies.

           We will not allow antediluvian precepts to doom a progressive measure which promotes choice, not compulsion or even reward.

           We must all remember that the Catholic hierarchy’s stance against modern contraceptives is not categorized as an “infallible dogma”.

           Immediately after the release in 1968 of the encyclical Humanae Vitae, which was based on a minority report of the Papal Birth Control Commission and contrary to the majority position permissive of contraceptive use, Monsignor Fernando Lambrouschini, the then official spokesman for the Vatican, announced: “attentive reading of the encyclical Humanae Vitae does not suggest the theological note of infallibility… It is not infallible.”

           Honorable colleagues, I earnestly entreat you to join and help us pass the RH bill so that every Filipino child will be born wanted and the miracle of life will not mean death for 11 Filipino mothers daily.

           Help us enact the RH bill so that we can give premium to life and make every woman and child truly count.