Overwhelming majority of Filipinos (92%) believe it is important to mitigate fertility and plan their family
Filipinos do not only recognize the importance of family planning, they also strongly approve of government’s allocation of funds for modern contraceptives.
The latest Pulse Asia Survey concluded just before the 2007 elections showed an overwhelming majority of Filipinos (92%) believe it is important to mitigate fertility and plan their family.
A fourth committee of the House of Representatives has endorsed H.B. 5043
A fourth committee of the House of Representatives has endorsed House Bill 5043 or the proposed “Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development Act of 2008” principally authored by Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman.
The Committee on Rules approved today the plenary consideration of the controversial bill which mandates government to provide information and services on all forms of family planning and allocate adequate funds for the reproductive health program.
“It is distressing that the miracle of life means death to 10 mothers daily in the Philippines,” Rep. Edcel C. Lagman of Albay stressed during the 2nd National Multi-Sectoral Conference on Population and Development last August 15, 2007.
The Bicol solon is the principal author of House Bill No. 17 or the “Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development Act of 2007”.
Presidential Approval of 2008 GAA Affirms Executive-Legislative Common Agenda
The Presidential approval of the P1.227 trillion 2008 General Appropriations Act with minimal direct item vetoes is a reaffirmation of the Executive-Legislative common agenda of providing adequate basic social services and enhancing infrastructure development.
It also signifies the Executive’s guarded concurrence with the congressional thrusts on non-confrontational debt service reduction policy and accelerated impartial stress on reproductive health and population management.
On Jan. 23, 2002, the Supreme Court in Gerardo Rivera et al. vs. Hon. Eduardo Espiritu et al. rendered an unprecedented and unsettling decision legitimizing the abrogation of the collective bargaining agreement between Philippine Airlines and the PAL Employees Association and banning the forging of a CBA for a period of 10 years.
That CBA abrogation, coupled with the enforced absence of a CBA for one decade, was malevolently machinated by the PAL management, inordinately supported by then President Joseph “Erap” Estrada and finally sanctioned by the Supreme Court. It eroded the gains of trade unionism in the Philippines and set back the labor movement by decades.
“Can you eat the CBA?” was Erap’s admonition to PAL workers at the height of the PAL-Palea labor dispute in September 1998. It was either an expression of patent bias against workers or a reckless endorsement of the inflexible antilabor position of management.
“Workers eat their CBAs,” meaning that workers eat precisely because they have their CBAs. This was the retort of a crusading and fearless labor advocate and leader, whose assassination 13 years ago was marked last Feb. 6.
The Supreme Court’s unanimous and controversial decision was in the agenda of the 2002 annual conference in Geneva of the International Labor Organization, where the Philippines’ antilabor policies were widely criticized—to no avail. The decision became final and executory even as the local labor movement was stunted and imperiled.
Today, the data on the labor scenario are pathetic. Of the total active workforce, 34,388,000 are from the private sector and 2,922,000 from the public sector. Of those employed in private enterprises, only 1,420,286 or 4.13 percent are unionized; of the total government employees (national government agencies, local government units, government-owned and -controlled corporations or GOCCs, and state universities and colleges), only 518,047 or 17.7 percent are union members.
Of the 17,029 registered labor unions in the private sector, only 1,227 or 7.2 percent have existing CBAs. And of the 1,824 registered personnel associations or unions in the government sector, only 360 or 19.7 percent have collective negotiating agreements.
These are truly dismal figures. But what is more tragic is the dwindling number of actual strikes for the past five years, with only eight strikes in 2010, two in 2011, three in 2012, one in 2013, and two in 2014 recorded nationwide, not because of better work conditions, increased wages or industrial peace, but because of stunted unionism which is aggravated by globalization and unremitting contractualization.
The proliferation of strikes is never encouraged. Strikes are lawful weapons of last resort when reasonable bargaining and negotiations fail. But the absence of strikes is not indicative of workers’ contentment but of their apathy and helplessness under the overwhelming ascendancy of capital and the indifference or pressure of government.
This ominous trend must be reversed. Otherwise, the partnership between labor and capital will crumble with the continuing marginalization of Filipino workers.
The expanded membership of the association of rank-and-file personnel in GOCCs and government financial institutions or GFIs is a beacon of hope in public-sector unionism. Kamaggfi (Kapisanan ng mga Manggagawa sa GOCCs at GFIs) includes in its roster the workers’ unions in profit-generating government agencies. The combined net profits in 2014 of the Social Security System, Government Service Insurance System, and Land Bank of the Philippines alone amounted to P102.2 billion.
Kamaggfi, chaired by Amorsolo Competente, the president of Alert and Concerned Employees for Better SSS, must hurdle serious challenges. Its most formidable challenge is waging a successful campaign for the enactment of a long-delayed statute implementing the constitutional grant of the right to strike to government personnel. There is no pending bill of this import in the 16th Congress.
Section 3 of Article XIII of the 1987 Constitution provides: “[The State] shall guarantee the rights of all workers to self-organization, collective bargaining and negotiations and peaceful concerted activities, including the right to strike in accordance with law.”
The right to strike by private-sector workers is safeguarded, implemented and regulated by the Labor Code. But there is no counterpart legislation for public-sector employees on this matter. Hence, executive and administrative issuances deny the right to strike to government employees in the absence of an implementing law. This vacuum persists despite the Supreme Court’s suggestive observation in Social Security System Employees Association et al. vs. Court of Appeals et al. (1989) that “in the absence of any legislation allowing government employees to strike, recognizing their right to do so, or regulating the exercise of the right, they are prohibited from striking.” There is thus critical immediacy for the enactment of an implementing statute.
The right to strike by public-sector employees is imperative in government enterprises engaged in banking, insurance, transport, utilities, tourism infrastructure and energy. These are precisely the state businesses whose personnel unions are Kamaggfi members. These government employees must share in the fruits of their labor above the minimum benefits provided by law, which enhancement can be achieved through collective negotiations and concerted activities, including the staging of strikes, if necessary.
Philippine unionism badly needs a shot in the arm. The Kamaggfi can administer the requisite initial dose. Its activism can influence the revival of unionism in the public and private sectors. Legitimate, responsible and vigilant unions are indispensable institutions to preserve the partnership of workers with private capital and the government.
Edcel C. Lagman is a former representative of the first district of Albay.
It is said that “fictions arise from the law, and not law from fictions.” Thus, legal fictions have been established in law and given statutory and jurisprudential recognition, even constitutional approbation. The doctrine of legal fiction assumes and creates a fact, situation or condition with legal effect apart from the obtaining facts or even contrary to the factual milieu.
A classic example of legal fiction is adoption, where the adoptee becomes the legitimate offspring of the adoptive parents to the exclusion of the natural parents. This is filiation by legal fiction.
A corporate person is also the product of legal fiction where a duly organized corporation is vested with many of the legal attributes, rights and responsibilities of a natural person, including the right to sue and be sued. This is juridical personality by legal fiction.
Under Article 89 of the Civil Code, children conceived or born of marriages that are void from the beginning and those conceived after the annulment of voidable marriages are called natural children by legal fiction. They are entitled to support and proportionate inheritance, among others.
The right of representation is a legal fiction sanctioned by Article 970 of the Civil Code which provides that “representation is a right created by fiction of law, by virtue of which the representative is raised to the place and the degree of the person represented, and acquires the rights which the latter would have if he were living or if he could have inherited.” The representative is called to the succession by virtue of the law in order to foreclose a void in the transmission of inheritance. This is heirship by legal fiction.
Even the Constitution enshrines at least two instances of legal fiction: grant of executive clemency or pardon, and grant of amnesty. Section 19 of the 1987 Constitution provides: “Except in cases of impeachment, or as otherwise provided …, the President may grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons, and remit fines and forfeitures, after conviction by final judgment. He shall also have the power to grant amnesty with the concurrence of a majority of all the Members of the Congress.”
Amnesty partakes of the nature of legal fiction because contrary to the ascertainable and culpable facts, political offenses committed by certain groups of offenders are obliterated as if no crime has been committed in order to bestow forgiveness, forge unity and extend political accommodation. The beneficiaries can avail themselves of the amnesty within a limited period.
Some of those granted amnesty in the past were: guerillas during the Japanese Occupation who had committed crimes in their efforts to resist the enemy (Proclamation No. 8 dated Sept. 7, 1946); leaders, members and supporters of the Moro National Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Army (Presidential Decree No. 1082 dated Feb. 2, 1977); all persons who, in the furtherance of their political beliefs, may have committed acts penalized by existing laws (Proclamation No. 80 dated Feb. 28, 1987); members of communist rebel groups (Proclamation No. 1377 dated Sept. 6, 2007); and participants in the Oakwood mutiny, Marine standoff and Manila Peninsula incident (Proclamation No. 75 dated Nov. 24, 2010).
Executive clemency or absolute pardon likewise entails the doctrine of legal fiction since a convict is cleansed of his guilt and freed from criminal liability after his final conviction. The convict’s penalty is consigned to oblivion. His freedom ensues as a legal consequence because he is purged of culpability by fiction of law upon the grace or mercy of the President.
This brings us to the import and effect of the pardon that then President Gloria Arroyo granted to former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada who was found guilty of plunder by the Sandiganbayan and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The dispositive portion of the Sandiganbayan decision dated Sept. 12, 2007, pertinently reads:
“WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered in Criminal Case No. 26558 finding the accused Former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of PLUNDER defined in and penalized by Republic Act No. 7080, as amended. x x x Accordingly, accused Former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua and the accessory penalties of civil interdiction during the period of sentence and perpetual absolute disqualification.”
That is the reality of Erap’s guilt and conviction.
However, on Oct. 25, 2007, 43 days after his conviction, Erap was granted absolute pardon by President Arroyo. The transcript of the document of pardon partially reads: “I hereby grant executive clemency to Joseph Ejercito Estrada, convicted of plunder by the Sandiganbayan and imposed the penalty of reclusion perpetua. He is hereby restored to his civil and political rights.”
That is the legitimized fiction of Erap’s
Although pardon, unlike amnesty, only obliterates the penalty and not the offense, legions of Erap supporters could claim that his absolute pardon is a declaration of his innocence as the penalty imposed on him was lifted and his civil and political rights restored. This is innocence by legal fiction.
For the masses that still idolize Erap, his freedom equates with his innocence. To them, only the guilty are incarcerated, while the innocent are set free.
However, the reality is that the Sandiganbayan found Erap culpable of plunder. This is an undeniable historical fact. It is recorded in Philippine criminal proceedings, if not jurisprudence. On the other hand, the fiction is that he is “innocent” consequent to his absolute pardon. Any discerning assessment of Erap, whether as a candidate for public office, government functionary or private citizen, by the Filipino people must not fail to distinguish the reality of his guilt from his fictionalized innocence, albeit legal.
Edcel C. Lagman is a former representative of the first district of Albay.
The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which is House Bill No. 4994 and Senate Bill No. 2408, is riddled with constitutional infirmities. No less than Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the House ad hoc committee on the BBL, has pledged to purge it of constitutional flaws.
Retired Supreme Court Justices Vicente Mendoza and Florentino Feliciano, both constitutionalists, have detailed before the Senate the BBL’s various provisions which are violative of the Constitution. The former even declared that the creation of a Bangsamoro substate could be a prelude to its secession from the republic.
The Philippine Constitution Association, whose president emeritus is former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, has debunked in a 74-page position paper the BBL as unconstitutional due to a litany of transgressions. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has also warned that the BBL must not surrender the country’s territorial integrity.
The fatal infirmities of the BBL range from vesting the Bangsamoro with extraordinary powers that exclusively pertain to the national government, structural innovations that vitiate the presidential system, like the institution of the parliamentary setup in Bangsamoro, undue delegation of congressional prerogatives, and delimitation of the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review and appellate jurisdiction, to the duplication or even derogation of the authority of the constitutional commissions: the Commission on Elections, Commission on Audit, Civil Service Commission and Commission on Human Rights.
Yet what was underemphasized or overlooked is the mother of all constitutional infirmities: the projected abolition of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, whose creation was ordained under the 1987 Constitution. The precipitate dismantling of the ARMM is being effected through the enactment of a mere statute (BBL) without a prior constitutional amendment authorizing the ARMM’s replacement by the Bangsamoro, a much more powerful entity not envisioned in the Constitution. More than all the other violations, this infraction is the original sin of the BBL. This places the cart before the horse.
Section 15 of Article 10 of the 1987 Constitution unequivocally provides that “[t]here shall be created autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras.” Section 18 mandates that “[t]he Congress shall enact an organic act for each autonomous region” and “[t]he creation of the autonomous region shall be effective when approved by a majority of the votes cast by the constituent units in a plebiscite called for the purpose.” The immediacy of enacting the organic acts was underscored by the Constitution when it directed under Section 19 that “[t]he first Congress elected under the Constitution shall, within  months from the time of organization of both Houses, pass the organic acts for the autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras.”
The 8th Congress enacted on Aug. 1, 1989, Republic Act No. 6734, titled “An Act Providing for an Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” following the parameters on the limited powers of the ARMM. This was ratified in a plebiscite on Nov. 17, 1989. After its ratification, the ARMM was elevated to a constitutional entity or institution which could not be abolished and replaced through an ordinary statute like the BBL. The supremacy of the Constitution bars its amendment by a statute.
There are only three modes of proposing amendments to the Constitution: by Congress sitting as a constituent assembly, by a constitutional convention, and by people’s initiative. To reiterate, a statute cannot amend the Constitution.
The premature abolition of the ARMM is indelible in the BBL. No less than its title reads: “An Act Providing for the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro and Abolishing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Repealing for the Purpose … Republic Act No. 6734, entitled ‘An Act Providing for an Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.” Moreover, Section 5 of Article XVIII of the BBL provides: “Abolition of the ARMM.—Upon the ratification of this basic law, the Bangsamoro shall be deemed established, and the ARMM shall be deemed abolished.” Verily, the BBL incants the requiem for ARMM.
Nowhere in the Constitution is Congress authorized to abolish the ARMM and replace it with a formidable entity like the Bangsamoro. What the Constitution mandated was for Congress to enact the organic law for the ARMM. Since the enactment of the ARMM organic law is a constitutional mandate, the Congress is powerless to repeal this law without a prior constitutional amendment abolishing the ARMM and authorizing its replacement with another body.
This nonrepeal is an exception to the rule that Congress does not pass irrepealable laws because the enactment of the ARMM organic law was precisely ordained by the Constitution. The ARMM is constitutionally enshrined. It cannot be dethroned by ordinary legislation.
It is of no moment that the effectivity of the Bangsamoro depends on its ratification in a localized plebiscite. What is paramount is that the 1987 Constitution, which authorized the creation of ARMM, was ratified in a nationwide plebiscite. Consequently, the abolition of the ARMM must be preceded by a constitutional amendment ratified nationwide.
Congress cannot adopt the fatalistic attitude that anyway there is the Supreme Court that would act as the final arbiter on the constitutionality of the BBL. Congress must not saddle the high court with a manifestly infirm BBL. It must not also delude Filipino Muslims that Congress has done its task together with the President of enacting the BBL even as it is flawed.
Neither political expediency nor partisan accommodation is a viable anchorage for violating the Constitution.
Edcel C. Lagman is a former representative of the first district of Albay.