At 3 in the afternoon of September 23, 1972, Francisco Tatad, Minister of Public Information and the youngest member of Ferdinand Marcos’ cabinet, read to the public the text of Proclamation 1081. The declaration of Martial Law effectively began the decade-long reign of what the world called the conjugal dictatorship, and what the country called the longest, darkest night in Philippine history.
In the years to follow, hundreds of activists, journalists and protestors were tortured, killed, or permanently disappeared.
After the 1986 People Power Revolution, Tatad ran for the senate under the right-wing Grand Alliance for Democracy. He lost. He ran again in 1992, this time winning under the Nationalist People's Coalition spearheaded by Marcos' crony Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. Tatad served consecutive terms as a senator, and made it one of his core advocacies to prevent the passing of the Reproductive Health (RH) measure.
At 3 in the afternoon of July 9, 2013, Francisco Tatad again declared war against the people. This time, he included the world.
The declaration began midway through his 9-minute opening remarks in his petition to stop the implementation of the RH law before the Supreme Court. In his diatribe of doom, Tatad creates the image of a nation gone to hell. His Philippines is a totalitarian state where government stands grim watch over terrified couples inside bedrooms. These are the people he protects, he says, the men and women forced to “surrender our God-given rights and liberties to state supervision and control.”
For Tatad, to allow the existence of Republic Act 10354 is to permit the slaughter of millions of innocents. It is a violation of the constitution. It is a violation of freedom. It is a violation of the most stringent of international laws.
It is genocide.
RH law a violation of int'l law
So sayeth Tatad, now the brave protector of human rights, in the half-whispered, half-ringing tones of Hamlet gone mad. He claims passing RA 10354 puts the country in violation of the convention against genocide, one that punishes any act “imposing measures intended to prevent births.”
“State-mandated birth control is one such measure.”
He says he is unwilling to make the country a test case for genocide.
In the late 1940s, a Polish Jew named Raphael Lemkin decided to put all his efforts behind an international law to prevent racial mass murder. He called it genocide—“genos” for race, and “cide,” for killing. Lemkin himself lost 40 of his family, including his wife and children, after Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939.
The world knew, said Lemkin, and did nothing.
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was signed into law in 1948. It was ratified by the Philippines in 1950. The world agreed that genocide is a crime so terrible, so horrific, that to accuse a state of genocide is to declare war against that nation.
The convention did not stop the Khmer Rouge’s holocaust in Cambodia that killed an estimated 3 million, or the ethnic cleansing in the early 1990s targeting Muslims in Bosnia. Instead, as in Iraq, when Chemical Ali stopped hundreds of thousands of Kurds in their tracks with poison gas, international superpowers chose to avoid even using the word genocide.
There was carnage, they said, there might have been human rights violations, but nations evaded the question of whether the specific and wholesale massacre of men, women and children demanded a commitment to war. In the years after, the United States would regret their refusal to declare genocide in 1994 when Hutus slammed machetes against the skulls of praying Tutsi women in village churches. It was a refusal that left a fifth of Rwanda’s population bleeding on the fields of East Africa.
This is the war that Francisco Tatad declared. He has called every nation with state-sponsored reproductive health programs guilty of genocide, pushing the country—on the off chance he is taken seriously—into the brink of a metaphorical war against the world. A free latex balloon is a murder weapon; a voluntary injection is a massacre. He insults the brutal killings that have plagued humanity for generations with his holocaust of sperm cells, the same sort of heinous activity resulting from a 14-year-old masturbating in a bedroom papered with Spiderman posters.
It is true that the law against genocide includes among its definitions "acts preventing births” along racial or religious lines. Nothing in genocide’s definition, and in the reading of those who have made it their life’s work to prevent genocide, has anything to do with contraception. Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch, chair of the International Alliance to End Genocide, defines the clause as “involuntary sterilization, forced abortion, prohibition of marriage, and long-term separation of men and women intended to prevent procreation.”
The words are clear—forced and involuntary. Stanton refers to the same program that sterilized over 400 German Africans in Rhineland and enforced compulsory abortions on women to minimize the weakening of the Aryan race.
This was genocide, the world called it the Nazi Holocaust, and the number of dead rose in the millions.
Forced to choose
If Tatad's logic is followed to its logical conclusion, the government is also guilty of genocide for permitting a whole slew of acts hostile to impregnation—natural family planning, withdrawal, marital conflict, homosexuality, poverty, even Just Say No clubs. Tatad will need to sue the state for supporting the exodus of overseas workers, thus making procreation impossible by causing “the long-term separation of men and women.” He must sue mothers for breastfeeding their children, as breastfeeding creates a hostile environment for the implantation of zygotes. Perhaps he should also remind the allegedly abstinent priests of the Catholic Church that their choice puts the nation at risk of crimes against humanity.
All of these are murderous to imaginary children in the imaginary world populated by the men and women who call Tatad a patriot.
There is nothing in the RH law that compels anyone to swallow a pill or take an injection. The law makes options available, promotes informed decision-making, and hopefully prevents the sort of misinformation that makes a man think a condom should be put over his thumb during sex.
Tatad worries that people “cannot choose not to choose between the two methods.” They are forced to use contraceptives, “or else suffer the consequences.”
It is the RH law’s belief that an individual has a right to choose those consequences. Tatad says this is unfair, perhaps because he understands that all threats of hell and damnation does not matter to a population whose God may or may not be Tatad’s own.
On Tuesday, July 23, 2013, the congregation of Francisco Tatad will again take a stand at the oral arguments against the RH law before the Supreme Court. They will contradict themselves. They will insult the collective legislative houses. They will rail and pray and scream bloody murder, and they will not understand why judges ask them, again and again, why they believe their wisdom is greater than that of the people.
This is the stand Tatad takes. He believes that to let the public choose is a danger to the nation. He insults the people whose votes he campaigned for in a political career that spans a quarter of a century. The poor, the class that this law seeks to empower, may be respectable enough to elect presidents, fill churches and storm national highways, but God help them if they are allowed to decide when to use a condom. – Rappler.com