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Op-Ed

R.A 11166: Anong wala sa iyo na sana meron kami?

With the IRR of the new RA 11166 being drafted, Posit Bo recommends developing an implementing policy that will actually benefit the PLHIV community instead of just pretending to do so.

Photo by Valentin Salja from Unsplash.com

#HIVPOLICYBATASNA, but it does not end there.

Babala, asawa ni…: The views in this entry are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher, or any affiliated organizations. Samakatuwid, ikinakaila ng lahat ang author! Chos!

On January 9, 2019, the President signed the “Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy act (HIV POLICY).” Like all other laws passed by Congress and signed by the President, the HIV policy must have an Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).

HIV and AIDS Policy Act signed into law

Under Sec. 54 of R.A. 11166, it states that PNAC (the council from R.A. 8504 by holdover capacity) SHALL promulgate the necessary IRR within 90 days from effectivity of the law.

Under this provision, the law makes a directive to create an IRR within 90 days but not mandatorily within that period. Note that the manner of the legislators crafting the provision lacked a mandatory term like “SHOULD” before the phrase  “WITHIN 90 DAYS.”

Ano daw? Kung di naintindihan, pabayaan na. Next!

I personally don’t see the need to rush in creating an IRR that’s half-baked due to time constraints. This is a crucial and integral part of the HIV policy.

The IRR of our laws must consists of detailed necessary guidelines not found in the principal law. In essence, therefore, an IRR must indicate requirements, qualifications, periods, and clarificatory provisions of ambiguously worded provisions of the law. If certain guidelines are not reflected on the principal law nor IRR, it becomes vulnerable to a question of law, which may only be judicially resolved. This is what an IRR seeks to prevent.

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Department Orders (DO), Manual of Procedures (MOP), and other documents of the same nature do not have the same force and effect as the principal law nor IRR. Prudence would dictate that between now and the time of release of the IRR of the HIV policy, stakeholders must cautiously plan what and what not to include in the IRR. Otherwise, we’ll encounter a number of deadlocks not curable by mere issuance of DO or MOP, as legislation is within the jurisdiction of the legislative and questions of law is within the jurisdiction of the judiciary.

So, beshies, kalma, huwag madaliin. As my former professor would often say: “Basahin. Intindihin. Ulitin.” Eh ‘yun inulit ko nga subject ko sa kaniya.

I) ON THE DEFINITION OF TERMS:
#HIVPOLICYBATASNA but what more can be done?

Oo, madami akong issues sa buhay, kasi may kakulangan sa pakahulugan.

Sec. 3(d) of R.A. 11166 defines Civil Society Organization (CSO). Unfortunately, the definition is not clearly in consonance to the Corporation Code that is the governing law for CSOs, as non-stock non-profit corporations. CSOs under the Corporation Code are not merely considered as organizations but a corporation. 

Sec. 19 of Corporation Code provides that: a corporation (CSO) acquires legal capacity to act as such only upon the issuance of certificate of incorporation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In the case of Cagayan Fishing Dev’t v. Sandiko (65 PHIL 233), the Court held that Cagayan Fishing Dev’t. Corporation was not a legal entity nor did it posses juridical capacity to act absent the issuance of certificate of incorporation by SEC.

Five minutes break. Tissue muna, beshie. . .Okay, ano daw? So eto na nga…

In the absence of a clear qualification of CSOs under R.A. 11166, the IRR must distinctly provide the criterion for CSOs applying for PNAC Membership under Sec. 6, par 13 – 21, of R.A. 11166 must comply in accordance with the Corporation Code; otherwise, non-compliant CSOs must be denied application for membership n PNAC absent juridical capacity to act.

Sa madaling sabi, mainam talaga na para magkaroon ng kahulugan, lagyan ng LABEL YAN! Bago mapakanta ng “best thing I never had.”

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II) #HIVPOLICYBATASNA but PNAC should say ‘not even a whiff of corruption’:
ON REPRESENTATIVES OF CSO PNAC MEMBERS

“Hi! Do you remember me? I’m the senator who died, but I came back to life.” –Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago

Under Sec. 6 of R.A. 11166, CSO PNAC Members are entitled to have representatives in the Council, as sitting member. However, the law is silent as to the qualifications of the CSO representatives being a sitting member of PNAC, a government corporation created by special law.

I am strongly advocating that a minimum requirement for representatives of CSO PNAC as sitting members of a government corporation must come with qualifications that should be provided on the IRR. Absences of qualification will raise a valid question of law grounded on their legal capacity or competence to act for and on behalf of the CSO they duly represent. Unless, the legislation is intended to keep this open for more clientele in the legal profession. Panalo ang mga abogado!

A minimum requirement would set the tone that these representatives are not capable of being involved in any criminal offenses in relation to their office and that of PNAC, to wit:

  • Malversation of Public Funds Art. 217 of the Revised Penal Code;
  • Violation of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act;
  • Violation of the provisions of HIV Law or any other law realted thereto.

If only the legislation of HIV policy was precisely worded, I would not question: “who are qualified representatives of the CSO PNAC members?” The hope to determine this matter depends upon the stakeholders and legal consultants drafting the IRR.

Absence of a minimum requirement that clearly establishes LEGAL CAPACITY COMPETENCE free from whiff of corruption must be meted out on the IRR; otherwise, it’s a missed opportunity to clear an ambiguity on the HIV policy.

I was once asked: “what could be the measure of integrity or character” as a prerequisite to becoming a representative of CSOs PNAC member, the law provides for the measure but it must be appropriately appreciated; otherwise, failure to appropriately apply it on HIV policy, PNAC becomes a sitting duck.

If I were to put a measure of integrity on the IRR, it could be stipulated in this manner:

A representative of CSO PNAC members must not have been convicted, in the past # years for the following crimes or offenses:

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Malversation of Public Funds with an attached penalty of Civil Interdiction as defined under Art. 34 of the Revised Penal Code in relation to Art. 38 of the New Civil Code;

Violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act;

Violation of the HIV Policy and related laws thereto.

And during their term of office as representative for CSO PNAC Member must not be charged of the crimes as above-mentioned, in addition thereto:

Estafa or Swindling under ART. 315 of the RPC; Bribery under Art. 210 of the RPC; Violation of BP 22; and Violation of Anti-Money Laundering Law.”

All of the abovementioned crimes are in relation to monetary transactions. Considering that PNAC as a government corporation under the new law has its own SEPARATE BUDGET under GAA.

Yes, mga besh, ang tamang attitude: “A whiff of corruption makes me sick.” Sa isip, puso, gawa, at di lang puro SALITA, di ba TATAY DIGS?

I would not want a sitting member previously convicted of any of those crimes become a member of PNAC as it would be a mockery of the legality pertaining to my OWN community. In the words of the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago: “We should have ‘moral’ excellence. Dapat ibinoboto natin, walang bahid sa kaniyang record.” #NotAWhiffOfCorruption

Mga mumsch, dun na tayo sa moral excellence, mahirap na, balikan niyo prefaratory ko. Baka mabuhay ang patay. Kayo rin?

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III) #HIVPOLICYBATASNA but who are the members of PNAC?:
ON LIST OF PNAC MEMBERSHIP

Paramihan interpretasyon, ang maubusan, uwi na lang luhaan! 

Under Sec. 6 of R.A. 11166, it provides that: “The following agencies and CSOs shall be represented in the PNAC xxx” or “Ang mga sumusunod na sangay at CSOs ay magkakaroon ng katawan sa PNAC”

HIV policy failed to clearly state under this provision it’s intent to specify with exclusivity that this is the list PNAC membership. I would have rather stated it as: “THE PNAC shall only be composed of the following agencies and CSOs as members.Specific. Exclusive. Direct

(Note. The term ‘composed’ and ‘represented’ are two different terms, as used. Please see above statements of the law and suggestion.)

Assuming arguendo,that this provision provides the composition of PNAC membership regardless of how it was stated, it is still ambiguous as to exclusivity of enumeration. The law uses the term “shall” without any exclusionary term being added. In Auction In Malinta INC. v. Warren Embes Luyaben, GR NO. 173979, the Court held that: “It must be shown that the stipulation is EXCLUSIVE. In the absence of qualifying or restrictive words such as ‘EXCLUSIVELY xxx SHALL ONLY xxx the stipulation is deemed merely an agreement xxx not as a limit.”

AMP! Sobra na, indefinite break…Balik kung kailan niyo gusto….

While it is true that ‘shall’ connotes mandatory character of a statute; this, however, is not an absolute rule in statutory construction of laws. In Gachon & Guevarra v. Hon. Devera, etc., et al., G.R. No. 116695, the Court held that: “The import of the word ultimately depends upon the consideration of the entire provision, its nature, object, and consequences that would follow from construing it one way or another.” 

Thus, the interpretation of the HIV policy is wanting of a clear stipulation as to PNAC membership under Sec. 6 but what it provides are those agencies who have definite representation in PNAC but not necessarily members of PNAC. (Note: The term ‘composed’ and ‘represented’ are two different terms)

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Again, there’s today until the release of the IRR to cure the ambiguities in the principal law.

It’s not you, it’s me; kasi, umuwi akong sugatan, duguan, at yun na nga luhaan. Di naman naubusan, di lang nagka-unawaan. 

IV) #HIVPOLICYBATASNA echoing human rights in the absence of CHR Representation in PNAC:
ON PNAC AND HUMAN RIGHTS PROVISION

Tara! Laro tayo! Taguan…taguan ng kinatawan! Hindi ako anti-CHR nor Presidential fan/follower pero beshties, napa hashtag talaga akong #NasaanKaCHR.

Under Sec. 2 par. 3 of R.A. 11166, the law proudly introduces human rights as an integral part of the HIV Policy, as it states: “The state shall respect, protect, and PROMOTE HUMAN RIGHTS as the cornerstones of an effective response to the country’s HIV and AIDS situation.”

In Art. 8 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, it provides the right to an effective remedy by competent ‘NATIONAL TRIBUNAL’ for acts violating fundamental rights granted by the Constitution or Law.

Eh anong pakialam niyo sa United Nations Avenue, Malate, Manila?

This generally accepted principle of international law is applicable in our country by virtue of the Doctrine of Incorporation under Sec. 2, Art. II of the 1987 Constitution.

AHHH Parte siya ng Pilipinas. Oh eh ano naman kung parte siya ng Pilipinas?

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The importance of the provision fleshed out on the United Nations Declaration of human Rights is highlighted by the term “NATIONAL TRIBUNAL’, through R.A. 11166 a law reconstituting the PNAC could act not as a tribunal but rather the KEY ORGANIZATION to provide immediate and necessary legal action and aid concerning HUMAN RIGHTS in relation to HIV and AIDS through appropriate representation of legal consultants from the Commission on Human Rights with guidance of representatives of CSO PNAC Members as to advocacy aspect.

While it is also true that under Sec. 10 of R.A. 11166, it mentions protection of human rights through PNAC’s COLLABORATION with DOJ and CHR. Collaboration as a term for purposes of advancing human rights in implementation of HIV policy is not the most sustainable action in respecting, protecting, and PROMOTING HUMAN RIGHTS.

Ahh! Kailangan ng specific address kasi di madedeliver ang deliverables pag wala un specific number ng street?

A mere collaboration without a clear mandate imposed against DOJ and CHR in their participation through ‘representation’ in PNAC is  ‘weaker than weak.’

I understand that DOJ was a member of PNAC under the old HIV Law of 1998 (R.A. 8504), it might have few occasions of missing the PNAC meetings; but, our government being as it is, remains – complacent.

Eliminating DOJ’s ‘representation’ in PNAC does not necessarily resolve the problem at hand but it further causes a problem. Collaboration is a discretionary function of DOJ AND CHR under the HIV policy, therefore, there may or maybe no collaboration.

What do we do now in the absence or failure of collaboration between DOJ, CHR, and PNAC? The HIV POLICY says. . . *birds chirping*

If they fail to comply to their mandate perhaps in the IRR, a mechanism to sanction negligence of agencies with representation in PNAC must be included; but this cannot be done with the status quo,  if collaboration is retained without them being included in the representation in PNAC, as there’s no clear accountability for refusal or failure under the HIV policy. Collaboration denotes discretion, absent compelling term for it to qualify as mandatory in order to raise a legal cause of action that falls within the ambit of jurisdiction of the courts.

It is important to note DOJ’s collaboration with PNAC being discretionary in nature on the argument that they may be compelled to act upon such collaboration. Applying the doctrine of qualified political agency, DOJ as an executive organization is an agent of the Chief Executive. Therefore, they may not be compelled to perform discretionary function through judicial action. In the case of Pimentel v. Executive Secretary, G.R. NO. 158088, the Court held that: “The court has no jurisdiction to enjoin the President in the performance of his official or discretionary duties.” 

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While, CHR’s exclusion to a representation in PNAC exemplifies an echo of silence. Art. XIII, Sec. 18 (3) of the 1987 Constitution indicates the function of CHR to provide appropriate legal measures for the promotion of human rights. While it is true that CHR, on its own may act upon human rights violation in relation to HIV Policy, PNAC could have included in its functions a recommendatory power to CHR representation in PNAC (should they be included) Again, PNAC in accordance to UDHR could have establish in the principal law or possibly in the IRR to act as a KEY ORGANIZATION in assisting the PLHIV Community with regards to legal matter affecting their human rights in relation to HIV POLICY.

But there’s still hope until the IRR. Perhaps, if stakeholders and legal consultants would consider the inclusion of either or both DOJ and CHR as agencies that shall be represented in PNAC considering that the ‘representation’ under Sec. 6 of R.A. 11166 does not provide exclusivity as earlier discussed. So as to avoid, #NasaanKaCHR?

Nagsimula ang batasan ng laruan kung tawagin ay taguan ng kinatawan, #NASAANSILA? Sumagot si Gloc-9: “walang natira, nag-abroad sila”

V) #HIVPOLICIYBATASNA and its misinformation:
ON MISINFORMATION AS A PROHIBITED ACT

Ignorantia legis non excusat, pero yong batas mismo inignore ka, SEENZONE, BESHIE!

Under the Sec. 22 of R.A. 11166 entitled “MISINFORMATION ON HIV AND AIDS” the provision includes: misleading advertising and claims in any form of media xxx of the promotional marketing of drugs, xxx without approval from DOH and FDA xxx claiming to be a cure or fail-safe prophylactic for HIV infection shall be prohibited.

BESHIE ANYARE. Misinformation on HIV and AIDS wer na u, dito na me.”

The law prohibits advertising of cure without DOH and FDA approval. In short “besht, bawal ka na magbenta ng pinakulong talbos ng kamote na gamot sa HIV without DOH and FDA approval.

The law neither sanctions the misleading information on HIV transmission nor prohibits purveyors sharing information of HIV transmissions through the following: watermelon to human transmission, coke to human transmission, at ang iba pang makakamandag na transmissions.

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Tuloy ang ligaya ng kamag-anakan natin na nagpapakalat ng mga makakamandag na information drive campaign sa Facebook na may itinusok na HIV+ na dugo sa pakwan, mag-ingat, nakakamatay.

Under Sec. 3 (n)(x) of R.A. 11166, the law made it known to the public by legislative notice on what is HIV and how it is transmitted.

The HIV policy is heading towards an HIV-educated and informed society but is it?

Under our Criminal Law, there is the long standing rule of IGNORANTIA LEGIS NON EXCUSAT or ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance. Furthermore, it recognizes Nullum crimen nulla poena sine lege or THERE IS NO CRIME WHEN THERE IS NO LAW THAT DEFINES OR PUNISHES IT.

In Dunlao Sr. v. CA, (G.R. No. 111342) the court held that: Crimes mala prohibita are acts that are made evil because there is a law prohibiting the same.

While it is true that ignorance of HIV and HIV transmission excuses no one from compliance, saying: “Hala kinain mo yong mansanas na may dugo ng HIV+ mahahawaan ka” will continue to horrify us in the PLHIV community. Though violation or mere ignorance of what’s in the HIV policy is a crime mala prohibita, ignorance or the misinformation of HIV AND HIV TRANSMISSION was not included in the HIV policy. Crimes mala prohibita under our criminal law need not be willful or with intent of wrong being done, mere violation of a prohibited act could be penalized as long as the law penalizes it.

HIV policy could have been the pioneer law in penalizing purveyors of FALSE OR MISINFORMATION; but it couldn’t because the law is more inclined in securing DOH AND FDA approval of cure or prophylactic.

HIV policy missed to specify a deterrent against the very “misinformation on HIV and AIDS” considering the multifarious provision on INFORMATION, EDUCATION, and COMMUNICATION. The misinformation on HIV and AIDS suddenly went missing in the prohibited acts.

As a member of the community, I’m disheartened to read misleading advertisement of drugs without DOH and FDA approval. Naamoy ko yong negosyo ng kapitbahay na inihaw na isaw without DOH approval. #BentaKaKulongKa

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I also listed several issues on provisions of Confidentiality under Sec. 44 to 48 of R.A. 11166  and provisions on Discrimination under the Sec. 49  of R.A. 11166 but I’m deciding to keep it confidential as it is not an exception for me not to be discriminated by my own community, where discrimination of ideas is a norm.

Loopholes? Maybe or maybe not.

Too technical? BESHIES, batas ang pinag-uusapan natin hindi lang kemerlot sa kanto. Ganyan talaga yan.

Advocacy over legality? It can be reconciled only if there’s willingness; otherwise, yeah, just shake your heads and say: “huwag na” without hearing what is there to be said. If no reconciliation is met, just leave it to the lawyers who are paid by our government to do their job and let’s just wait for what we deserve.

I welcome the HIV and AIDS Policy Act but we could have made it better. Like all other laws, there’s an imperfection as this was drafted also by humans, just like us. But we can still do better. Not perfect, BUT BETTER. The choice is yours: “Willing ba kayo mga besh?”

I fervently hope that the IRR will be able to tighten the HIV policy and seal its loopholes. Our best opportunity to clearly provide an IRR of the HIV policy is not when the circumstances so demands, but TODAY!

We address the legalities; an airtight HIV policy and IRR is what everyone from the community desires.

As a member of the PLHIV community, I hope that we can build bridges in between gaps of ideologies to resolve a legally sound IRR that reflects both the wisdom of LEGALITY and ADVOCACY. Let us not be constrained by our personal advocacies as this are purely intended as a framework for our laws and the IRR.

Lastly, I appeal to the legal consultants sanctioned to create an IRR that genuinely reflects the sentiments of the community within the legal bounds set by existing laws. Create an IRR of the HIV policy with compassion for the PLHIV community and perhaps not just because you are paid to make the draft.

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(Author’s note: I wrote this entry for purposes of self-satisfaction without any intent to belittle the efforts already made and that demanded taxing years from those in the advocacy and in the Congress. I recognized my apparent lack of authority for the time being but in God’s perfect time, I’m willing to share more than what I could for the PLHIV community as an individual but not as a part of any organization nor constrained by my personal convictions and advocacies. Mabuhay ang PLHIV Community! a luta continua vitória é certa!)

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