(Question I, Political Law, 2018 Bar Exam)
Congress enacted a law to provide Filipinos, especially the poor and the marginalized, access and information to a full range of modern family planning methods, including contraceptives, intrauterine devices, injectibles, non- abortifacient hormonal contraceptives, and family planning products and supplies, but expressly prohibited abortion. To ensure its objectives, the law made it mandatory for health providers to provide information on the full range of modern family planning methods, supplies and services, for schools to provide reproductive health education, for non-governmental medical practitioners to render mandatory 48 hours pro bono reproductive health services as a condition to Philhealth accreditation, and for couples desiring to marry to attend a family planning seminar prior to the issuance of a marriage license. It also punishes certain acts of refusals to carry out its mandates. The spouses Aguiluz, both Roman Catholics, filed a petition to declare the law as unconstitutional based on, among others, the following grounds:
(a) It violates the right to life, since it practically sanctions abortion. Despite express terms prohibiting abortion, petitioners claim that the family planning products and supplies oppose the initiation of life, which is a fundamental human right, and the sanction of contraceptive use contravenes natural law and is an affront to the dignity of man.
(b) It violates the constitutional prohibition against involuntary servitude because it requires medical practitioners to render 48 hours of pro bono reproductive health services which may be against their will.
(c) It violates the Freedom of Religion, since petitioners’ religious beliefs prevent them from using contraceptives, and that any State- sponsored procurement of contraceptives, funded by taxes, violates the guarantee of religious freedom.
Rule on each of the above objections. (2.5% each)
(a) The law does not violate the right to life. Answer
Under jurisprudence, contraceptives that kill or destroy the fertilized ovum should be deemed an abortive and thus prohibited as it violates the right to life. Conversely, contraceptives that actually prevent the union of the male sperm and the female ovum, and those that similarly take action prior to fertilization should be deemed non-abortive, and thus, constitutionally permissible. Rule
In the case at bar, the law provides for the second kind of contraceptives which prevent fertilization. Apply
Thus, the law is consistent with the Constitutional right to life. Conclusion
(b) The law violates the constitutional prohibition against involuntary servitude. Answer
Under jurisprudence, the notion of involuntary servitude connotes the presence of force, threats, intimidation or other similar means of coercion and compulsion. Rule
In the case at bar, it is mandatory for health providers to provide the medical services provided for in the law, including rending mandatory 48 hours pro bono reproductive health services as a condition to Philhealth accreditation. Non-compliance therewith comes with penalties. Apply
Thus, the health providers are being subjected to involuntary servitude. Conclusion
NB: In Imbong v. Ochoa (2014), the Court noted that there was no violation on involuntary servitude since the RH Law only encourages private and non- government reproductive healthcare service providers to render pro bono service and thus it is not mandatory. Under this bar exam question, the law in question is in the reverse as it made it mandatory.
(c) The law does not violate the freedom of religion nor the establishment clause. Answer
Under jurisprudence, a region cannot cause the government to adopt their particular doctrines as policy for everyone, nor can they not cause the government to restrict other groups. Indeed, the State is not precluded to pursue its legitimate secular objectives, such as population control, without being dictated upon by the policies of any one religion. Rule
However, this is subject to one exception involving a health provider who may be a conscientious objector. A conscientious objector should be exempt from compliance with the law. If he would be compelled to act contrary to his religious belief and conviction, it would be violative of “the principle of non-coercion” enshrined in the constitutional right to free exercise of religion. Rule
Thus, the law is consistent with the freedom of religion and the non-establishment clause. Conclusion
(Notice: The suggested answers simulate those that a bar examinee may provide, and thus specific citations are not provided. Notwithstanding, in the reviewers, the bar exam question is answered under the appropriate topic which discusses the concepts and principles, as well as provide for specific citations. Accordingly, please refer to it on the reviewer or in the Library.)
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