Presuppositions of Law

I would like to make a few comments on some statements made in an article that appeared in the Inquirer.

In the July 10, 2013 issue, in the headline article about the Supreme Court hearing on the oral arguments about the Reproductive Health Law we read: “Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno said the high court was not there to answer ‘metaphysical’ and ‘theological’ questions but to balance the interests of the unborn child with other Constitutional values and objectives.”

As far as what the Supreme Court should do is concerned I think Justice Sereno was judicial in defining the job of the Court: “to balance the interests” of various parties involved in a case. She was correct to say it is not the competence of the court “to answer metaphysical and theological questions”.

But here is the catch: even if the court does not have to answer metaphysical and theological questions, it cannot escape doing its work — that of formulating its decisions — within a frame of mind that includes presuppositions that are philosophical, metaphysical and theological in nature. In this matter the judges of a court must have answers. The justices have in their minds notions of what are law, right, justice, persons, mind, willfulness, knowledge, intention, life, freedom, happiness, and many other concepts that can only be understood and explained in philosophical and metaphysical terms. Law does not exist in an intellectual vacuum.

Even her statement about the Court’s competence is a philosophy in itself.

In the case of the RH Law the crucial presupposition involved is the concept of a just law.

Another point: Justice Sereno’s concept of the job of the court as balancing interests of parties involved is, I think, a rather impoverished idea of what the court should do. The Court’s supreme job is to administer justice and justice means to give to each one the good that is his due. The concepts of good, truth and what is due are so important that if these are lost or set aside then we end up with a caricature of justice which is precisely just to “balance interests”. Without any reference to the good and truth, any claim can be as good as any other and so the courts will just have to balance claims or interests. What is worse, what usually happens when the reference to the good and truth is set aside, might becomes right. Whoever has the power, or whoever has the numbers gets what he wants.

The main argument against the RH Law in my estimation is not about interests but about a good that it harms. It is not easy to understand this good but I think it is worth the trouble trying to grasp it. The good is responsible parenthood. This is understood as the willingness of parents to raise as many children as they can and the readiness to practice self-mastery over one’s sexual powers so that parents can practice periodic continence when needed. The RH Law, under the guise of “responsible parenthood”, promotes contraception. And contraception simply means enjoying sex and doing away with its consequences: no need for self-mastery here. It is really neither responsible nor parenthood, a kind of double evil.

I agree with two saints — St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas — who considered civil laws that contravene true human goods as unjust laws. I submit that the RH Law contravenes a true human good: responsible parenthood. Ergo, it is unjust.

The headline article also reported: “Leonen also asked whether the issue on the RH law was “justiceable” when there was no actual controversy on the law.” Justice Leonen’s concept of justice seems limited to what is “legal” or stipulated by law. In this we can see his philosophy of law. I would differ from his view because for me justice cannot be separated from true goods that are owed to persons. I think that there is really something justiceable about the RH Law: the true human good I mentioned above.


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