Wednesday, January 20, 2016

99. Back to the Past

At the January 5, 2016 conference for adoptees, adoptive families, and foundlings, human rights lawyer Glenda Itong said that she found the Royal Decree issued by King Charles IV in February 19, 1794 extending legal protection to foundlings. The decree was effective in all of Spain's colonies, including the Philippines.

Subsequently, the Spanish Civil Code was enacted and the essence of King Charles IV's foundling decree was in the provision on Spanish citizens which deemed that all foundlings found in Spanish territory are deemed Spanish citizens. When the Philippine Civil Code was enacted in 1950, however, this provision on foundlings was left out in the text. Curiously, the Family Code which was enacted in 1987  also left this out. This makes me wonder how the best legal minds of the 50s, including Arturo Tolentino whose Annotations on the Civil Code are standard texts in law schools, missed it. The repealing clauses of the Spanish Civil Code, the 1950s Civil Code and the Family Code are expressed, such that the Family Code appears to be the actual state of the applicable law on foundlings, which sadly does not state anything. In Tecson v. Comelec, the Supreme Court said that "(A)n accepted principle of international law dictated that a change in sovereignty, while resulting in an abrogation of all political laws then in force, would have no effect on civil laws, which would remain virtually intact." Is it possible therefore to argue that the King Charles IV's Royal Decree on Foundlings is still good law? For, indeed, how can a new law repeal something and be totally silent on a specific provision and therefore discard a centuries old legal framework on the protection of perhaps the most vulnerable human beings on the planet? An entire vacuum has been left out and that leaves King Charles IV greatest achievement as King of Spain in the dustbin. As Justice Marvic Leonen asked in yesterday's oral arguments before the Supreme Court, "Are we called to be legalists, or are we called to be justices?" I'm sure Rizal would be turning in his grave if he learns that the Spanish Crown treated foundlings better than the sovereign Philippines. And Manuel L. Quezon, who preferred a government run like hell by Filipinos, would be cursing at the lawyers who messed up.

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