Thursday, December 2, 2010

Constitutional Commission: Conception = Fertilization

Records of the Constitutional Commission

Thanks to Senator Joey Lina and son for copying the original text and sending it to the prolife coalition.

R.C.C. No. 85

...MR. AZCUNA: Commissioner Villegas is not in the hall at the moment, but the committee will be willing to answer.
MR. GASCON: Thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer.
As I mentioned in my speech on the U.S. bases, I am definitely pro-life, to the point that I would like not only to protect the life of the unborn, but also the lives of the millions of people in the world by fighting for a nuclear-free world. I would just like to be assured of the legal and pragmatic implications of the term "protection of the life of the unborn from the moment of conception." I raised some of these implications this afternoon when I interjected in the interpellation of Commissioner Regalado. I would like to ask that question again for a categorical answer.
I mentioned that if we institutionalize the term "the life of the unborn from the moment of conception," we are also actually saying "no," not "maybe," to certain contraceptives which are already being encouraged at this point in time. Is that the sense of the committee or does it disagree with me?
MR. AZCUNA: No, Mr. Presiding Officer, because contraceptives would be preventive. There is no unborn yet. That is yet unshaped.
MR. GASCON: Yes, Mr. Presiding Officer, but I was speaking more about some contraceptives, such as the intra-uterine device which actually stops the egg which has already been fertilized from taking route to the uterus. So, if we say "from the moment of conception," what really occurs is that some of these contraceptives will have to be unconstitutionalized.
MR. AZCUNA: Yes, to the extent that it is after the fertilization, Mr. Presiding Officer.
MR. GASCON: Thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer.
My second question is with regard to the population program. How would this provision affect the existing population program being implemented by the Population Commission? Second, if there is an approval of this provision here, because Commissioner Villegas said that he shall make a motion for deletion of that provision on population at the proper time, does it necessarily mean that the provision in the General Provisions Article on population will have to be deleted?
MR. NOLLEDO: Mr. Presiding Officer, not necessarily because family planning is consistent with the provision in Section 9 that there should be protection to the unborn. Before this proposed provision was formulated, taking into account the pertinent provision of the 1973 Constitution, family planning would include preventive pregnancy and even killing the fertilized ovum. But now, if we adopt the second sentence of Section 9, family planning would refer respectively only to preventive pregnancy as stated by Commissioner Azcuna. LLphil
MS. ROSARIO BRAID: Also, at the proper time, in the General Provisions we will discuss the population policy. The Commissioner will note it is no longer population control but population policy, which means that there are other ways of limiting population such as economic development, improving the education of women which is an indirect means of population control; or as in the case of Singapore, at one time it had a 1-2 child policy, but today they realize that they need to increase their population. And so, their population policy now is to have more children, whereas, 10 years ago they were limiting; they are now increasing. So, population policy would, therefore, mean that at a certain time when our population shall have stabilized, we can even have a policy towards increasing population. We will discuss this at the appropriate time in the General Provisions.
MR. GASCON: So, Mr. Presiding Officer, what this provision merely implies is that there will be certain programs as they are being implemented now which will have to be stopped, but not the whole program itself.
I have one last point on the issue of abortion, Mr. Presiding Officer. Have there been studies made with regard to the issue of the legalization of abortion being directly proportional to the population rate of other countries? I notice that in the past, about five or ten years ago, the trend was towards world population control program in industrialized countries; but now because they have succeeded, in one way or another, through population control programs or through legalization of abortion, they have a problem of a lull in their birth rate to the point that they are, as mentioned already, encouraging more births than discouraging births.
MR. AZCUNA: Yes, Mr. Presiding Officer, with respect to population policy, the studies have been made but the correlation coefficient is not conclusive. Suffice it to say that what is known as ZPG, zero population growth, is somewhere at 2.2 percent, the .2 percent being what is required to replace in addition to the father and the mother who do not reproduce, like the celibates. At 2.2 percent, population is maintained at its present level regardless of natural attrition. So, if a country falls below 2.2 percent in population growth, then it is actually decreasing in number. It is below zero population growth. Also, what is important in demography is what is known as the net reproduction growth rate; that is, the number of girls who will be born and who will bear children. That is very important. Is the net reproduction growth rate — the number of girls that are born and will bear children.
MR. GASCON: So, abortion does not have any direct relation to population growth.
MR. AZCUNA: As I said, the studies are not conclusive on the correlation coefficient.
MR. GASCON: Thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer...

R.C.C. No. 86

MR. OPLE: The answer is satisfactory. I would like to proceed to the next sentence closer to the heart of Commissioners Bacani and Villegas which reads:
The State shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from the moment of conception.
Yesterday, I had the good fortune to listen to some of the interpellations precisely on this sentence. Commissioner Villegas on behalf of the committee then said, "This could be related to some statements in the general provisions on family planning." Does this mean that, in providing for the protection of the life of the unborn from the moment of conception, this is going to be taken as a signal to dismiss the relevance and validity of all family planning programs in the Philippines? Is that how the committee views this?
MR. VILLEGAS: No. As we made it very clear yesterday, any contraceptive that is not abortifacient can still be legal, according to this specific provision.
MR. OPLE: I will vote for this provision, Madam President. I think that in writing a constitution, we write not only provisions of a fundamental law. We set the tone whether we like it, or the tone of a whole civilization, and that is why I also voted for the elimination of the death penalty under certain conditions, subject to certain powers of Congress to provide for exceptions in the case of heinous crimes. Overall, we should raise the tone of our public and social morality through a constitution; and the reverence for life, that time and life is, of course, being rendered cheap by all the threats to our safety in a very disorderly environment. Still a commitment to the protection of life, even in its incipient stage, is a declaration of a commitment to a higher tone of our civilization. But at the same time, I would be very concerned if the committee now taking off from its forthcoming victory on this Section 9 will start considering this as a mandate to discredit, to actually dismiss family planning programs in this country. I heard Commissioner Villegas say that purposeful programs to limit the size of families have failed everywhere. He quoted President Reagan, whose wisdom might lie in other fields than in family planning, as having said that social and economic development is the only key to the reduction of human populations. He referred to the new U.S. policy, which is driving Mr. Salas and his UNFPA to a new lookout. He has applied to be transferred to Tokyo because of this new restrictive atmosphere on family planning in the United States.
But, of course, may I say that family planning is not a rigid idea. May I tell the body that in the Soviet Union, which I know a little bit since I have traveled there no fewer than seven times, even within that vast country, there are two kinds of population crises. In the European part, it is the crisis of a steadily diminishing population; and, therefore, the State holds up medals of heroism for heroic mothers who would give birth to more than eight children. But in the Asian part of the Soviet Union, there is a reverse problem. They are reproducing at a faster rate. This possesses momentous political and economic implications for the Soviet Union after the year 2000, when the Asiatic population begins to match the European population. And what will we have — crisis of leadership about distribution of leadership and power, especially in the higher strata of the Soviet policy and bureaucracy. But India is different. Japan is different. The Philippines is different. We are a developing country. If my data are still current — I used to sit in the Population Commission — about 10 years ago, our population growth rate was 3.5 percent according to the University of the Philippines. Then it declined over 10 years to only about 2.6 percent. The NEDA now says it is 2.4 percent if I am not mistaken. And yet, these were years of stagnation in manufacturing. As a matter of fact, Philippine manufacturing has never exceeded 14 percent of the total employed force of this country since 20 years ago. Commissioner Villegas is an authority on that. He uses this argument very fiercely in the debates on protectionism.
Since we did not really grow spectacularly in those 10 years, still the rate of growth of the population dropped precipitously from 3.5 to only 2.4 percent at this time. Will we not give the population policy of the government and of the nongovernmental organizations some credit for having accomplished this small miracle in population control?
MR. VILLEGAS: That is one of the most statistically debatable issues. Although this is a completely separate question which is not related to Section 9 of the Article on the Declaration of Principles, still my position is that it is subject to the flux and the changes in economic policy, in urbanization and in industrialization. It should be something that should not be found in a constitution, but should be subject to legislation. If family planning is found necessary, let it be in the legislative process. However, as I said, that is a completely separate question. LLphil
MR. OPLE: This is a slight revision of the views which the Commissioner gave yesterday, but I hope this is the official one.
MR. VILLEGAS: What I stressed yesterday was to support in the separate discussion on the Article on the General Provisions the idea of deleting any reference to population policy precisely because today it may be that we want to limit population. Tomorrow it may be that we want to increase population.
MR. OPLE: Thank you very much for that clarification.
I want to ask now: Does this belong to the province of Commissioner Villegas or Commissioner Bacani? We say, "Protect the life of the unborn from the moment of conception." Is there in jurisprudence anything now that will help us visualize the precise moment, the approximate moment when conception begins and, therefore, the life of this new human personality entitled to all the protection of the laws in the Constitution begins? Is there any standard legislature or jurisprudence that will support an interpretation of the moment of conception?
MR. VILLEGAS: Jurisprudence? None. Precisely, this is one thing that we have to obtain from the declaration of natural scientists. In this regard, I would like to read this specific statement by natural scientists about when human life begins. This is taken from the Handbook on Abortion by Dr. and Mrs. J.C. Wilke. The most distinguished scientific meeting of recent years that considered this question of when human life begins was the First International Conference on Abortion held in Washington D.C. in October 1967. It brought together authorities from around the world in the fields of medicine, law, ethics and the social sciences. They met together in a think tank for several days. The first major question considered by the medical group was: When does human life begin? The medical group was composed of biochemists, professors of obstetrics and gynecology, geneticists and so forth, and was represented proportionately as to academic discipline raised in religion. For example, only 20 percent were Catholics. Their almost unanimous conclusion, 19 to 1, was as follows:
The majority of our group could find no point in time between the union of sperm and egg which is the fertilization or, at least, the blastocyst stage and the birth of the infant at which point we could say that this was not a human life.
Parenthetically, the blastocyst stage is shortly after fertilization and would account for twinning. They continued:
The changes occurring between implantation, a six-week embryo, a six-month fetus, a one-week-old child or a mature adult, are merely stages of development and maturation.
There has not been before a more important or a more qualified body of natural scientists who, as a group, has thoroughly discussed and come to conclusion on this subject until such time as some other groups of equal scientific importance might possibly come to a different conclusion. We believe that the abortion debate from a scientific standpoint must proceed on the assumption that this is human life. So, human life begins at fertilization of the ovum.

MR. OPLE: But we would leave to Congress the power, the mandate to determine.
MR. VILLEGAS: Exactly, on the basis of facts and figures they would obtain from experts.
MR. OPLE: Yes, to legislate a kind of standard so that everyone will know what moment of conception will mean in terms of legal rights and obligations...

R.C.C. No. 95

...MR. RAMA: Madam President, may I call on Commissioner Uka to present an amendment.
THE PRESIDENT: Commissioner Uka is recognized.
MR. UKA: Madam President, Commissioner TreƱas and I are cosponsors of this motion to delete Section 13.
There are valid and strong arguments against inserting the provisions of Section 13 of Proposed Resolution No. 531 in the new Constitution, the most cogent among which are the following:
(1) There is a wealth of statistical evidence that proves that population growth has been a major stimulus for economic development and progress in countries that are now industrialized.
(2) The major determinants of a country's economic development are economic policies and political system. Very densely populated countries like Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Hongkong and Singapore reached heights of economic progress much before any organized population programs.

(3) It is very dangerous to give the State a constitutional mandate to determine what is an optimum population. This can lead to a gross violation of human rights like in the case of some Asian countries that implemented forced sterilization programs, such as the more recent attempt of an Asian leader to limit childbearing only to the educated women, making the extremely objectionable assumption that poor women give birth to less intelligent babies.
(4) In the Philippines, population control programs have been an unmitigated disaster. Hundreds of millions, as a matter of fact, close to P340 million, have been spent for these population control programs from 1981 to 1986. And, of course, hundreds of millions of pesos have gone down the drain without any real impact on alleviating mass poverty.
As the current Minister of Social Services, Mita Pardo de Tavera has recently declared, funds for population control are better utilized in providing social services to the existing population. Population policies should be exclusively population welfare policies. It has been proved beyond statistical doubt that economic development and social justice will automatically lead to the slowing down of population growth as increased urbanization and industrialization are achieved. There is no need for the State to take an active role in determining the optimum level of population. Once the State is wrongly given the mandate to interfere in the basic rights of parents to determine the number of children they will have, all the qualifying limitations about respecting individual consciences are often more honored in their breach as can be gleaned from the experience of developing countries in Asia.

The 1935 Constitution did not include any provisions on population. The only reason why a population policy was included in the 1973 Constitution was that there was a strong lobby supported by the USAID, which at that time was aggressively committed to population control. Since that time under the new policy of President Reagan, American aid programs have been focused on such positive solution as food productivity and the development of small-and medium-scale industries.
Very recently, America stopped all financial support to the U.N. Fund for Population Activities because of the latter's involvement in China's population program, which the United States has reason to suspect, contains the widespread use of compulsory abortion.
The new Reagan doctrine on population was first announced in the 1984 Population Meet in Mexico. It states that the most effective solution to the population problem is economic development and social justice.
Given appropriate policies in economic development and social justice which have been our concern in this Constitution, the Philippines today can comfortably accommodate as many as 100 million Filipinos given the present technology. The Philippines is far from being overpopulated. Existing mass poverty in the Philippines can be attributed to an unenlightened economic policies and the wrong political leadership in the past. CDTInc-
THE PRESIDENT: Commissioner Uka, I am sorry I have to interrupt you because your three-minute time has expired.
MR. UKA: One minute more, Madam President. What is one minute among friends.
THE PRESIDENT: The Commissioner is granted a one-minute extension.
MR. UKA: Thank you, Madam President.
Today, every major nation is both modern and free; it is also on a fertility trap, which will lead to a substantial loss in population. Why should we target our CPG when other nations want to have more babies? In fact, President Francois Miterrand of France recently argued that the decline in birth rate constitutes a grave menace to the West.
So we can see that the modern nations in Europe are even having a problem of decline in population. And some of them are even sending their people here to adopt Filipino children. What does this mean? If Rizal said that the youth, the conceived child in the womb included, is the fair hope of the Fatherland, then the Western contraceptive is already preventing that to happen in our country. There will be no more hope — children or youth — for our Fatherland.
I cannot resist the temptation to quote Jesus on this subject when he said:
Suffer little children and forbid them not to come unto me for such is the Kingdom of Heaven.
We should welcome children, not kill them...


WillyJ said...

On a recent debate on ANC TV (Harapan) someone from the pro-RH bill side said something like:

The framers of the Constitution decided upon the term "conception" - not "fertilization" - because it intentionally left open the issue of the start of life to be decided upon by society.

Based on this transcript of the Commission's proceedings, would it be legally sound to assert that the spirit of the fundamental law has already determined so? (Conception = Fertilization). Therefore is legislation that would allow abortifacient drugs (that have known effects of inhibiting implantation), legally flawed?

Thank you.

Raul said...

Thanks for your comment, Willy, and thanks to for your blog which I have also read with much fruit. :)

The best answer I can find to your question is what Constitutional Commissioner Villegas himself wrote: "It was, therefore, the intent of the large majority of the framers of the Constitution of 1987 to define conception as fertilization."

Here is also the testimony of another Commissioner, Bishop Bacani: Commissioner Cirilo Rigos asked Commissioner Bernardo Villegas, a sponsor of the provision, “When is the moment of conception?” Commissioner Villegas replied, “…it is when the ovum is fertilized by the sperm that there is human life.” No one in the Commission argued against the reply of Commissioner Villegas. The provision was passed, practically unchanged".

Bernas says the same thing: "the intention is to protect the “life” even before implantation in the uterus, that is, from the moment biological life begins"





Raul said...

As to your question on whether the constitution effectively bans abortifacient drugs, the reply is yes, according to the framers:

Villegas: any contraceptive device (e.g. the “morning after” pill, the IUD, etc.) that can be medically demonstrated to be abortifacient, i.e. killing the fertilized ovum before implantation, will always be declared unconstitutional, whether or not the RH bill is passed. As far as the present Constitution is concerned, attacking the fertilized ovum is killing a human life.

Bacani: Hence, logically, all contraceptive drugs and devices that prevent not only fertilization of the ovum by the sperm but also the implantation of the fertilized ovum must be said to be banned under our present Constitution. It would be unconstitutional for our Congress to provide, as House Bill 5043 does, “That the full range of family planning methods, both natural and modern shall be promoted,” because among available modern birth control methods some (like the IUD, pills and injectables) prevent the implantation of the fertilized ovum.

WillyJ said...

Thank you sir. Those are very valuable information. The commission's proceedings on record appears clear enough. It is a wonder why the RH-bill sponsors see otherwise. In the event that it is passed by Congress and is signed into legislation nevertheless, I suppose there is merit in questioning its constitutionality before the Supreme Court.

Raul said...

Indeed, the Supreme Court is the last resort of the prolife cause. It is a strong last stand given our prolife constitution.

Nevertheless, as you very well know, the prolifers are committed to fight this evil every step of the way, as the great wars of old were fought.

Elmer Baguioro said...

Thanks for sharing this, Raul. This removes all vagueness that some people try to inject in the meaning of UNBORN in Article 2 Section 12. This is very important material for the PRO-LIFE cause!

Raul said...

Indeed. Much of the problem we now face is a matter of ignorance. We have to share the facts to many-- constitutional, scientific, medical, economic, etc.

Lead Philippines said...

Hi there, this seems to settle once and for all the constitutional issue and would render the use and promotion of most contraceptive pills illegal (I said most because most if not all of contraceptive pills now has multiple action among them avoidance of implantation).

However, are you sure these are only the transcripts available from the Constitutional Commission on the said issue? I will be surprised if this is, knowing that there are some leftists and liberals on the commission..

Raul said...

Thanks for your comment.

I like your question because that is exactly the same question I asked Senator Lina who was the one who sent me this transcript.

His answer is yes.

However, to tell you the truth, that question still lingers in my mind because there are other excerpts that I know of (e.g. the query of Rigos mentioned by Bacani) that are not found in this transcript. I've asked other friends to get a copy of the actual proceedings. And this is still a work in progress....

WillyJ said...

The latter part of R.C.C. No. 86 relates an exchange b/w Mr. Ople and Mr. Villegas as follows:

MR. VILLEGAS: ...So, human life begins at fertilization of the ovum.
MR. OPLE: But we would leave to Congress the power, the mandate to determine.
MR. VILLEGAS: Exactly, on the basis of facts and figures they would obtain from experts.
MR. OPLE: Yes, to legislate a kind of standard so that everyone will know what moment of conception will mean in terms of legal rights and obligations...

Thus this particular exchange appears to support the claims of the RH Bill proponents that the Constitution left out the precise meaning of conception, in order for legislation to define it out later,"on the basis of facts and figures".

However, Dr Bernie Villegas, in an MB article states:

"In the Philippine Constitution of 1987, conception is defined as fertilization, the moment the egg is fertilized by the sperm. This was the majority decision (32 to 8) of the members of the Constitutional Commission of 1986 convoked by the late President Corazon Aquino. This majority decision was made after the most thorough debate..."

If indeed a conclusive vote was carried out precisely to define conception as fertilization, then I would suppose the earlier statement in the proceedings of Mr Ople ("But we would leave to Congress the power, the mandate to determine" - which Mr Villegas agreed to), would be immaterial. This, assuming that a definitive vote was decided upon to conclude the matter.

Raul said...

Yes, indeed, Willy, that's another example of other excerpts we know of that are not included here.

WillyJ said...

Hi Sir Raul,
I emailed Dr Villegas to further clarify. Here is his response:

"The exchange between the late Blas Ople and myself was not subjected to a vote. Therefore, it was just a personal opinion expressed by each one of us. While the vote of 32 to 8 was precisely on the definition of conception as fertilization."