POSTSCRIPT / July 24, 2007 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Human life begins only at onset of ma's labor?

SONA CHECKLIST: The State of the Nation Address of President Gloria Arroyo yesterday turned out to be mostly an update of her SONA 2006 as summarized in our Postscript last Sunday.

I liked that, because the SONA should tell us what our present situation is versus what was promised same time last year.

Substantially the same plans and projects, particularly infrastructure, listed last year were mentioned yesterday with new figures on their current status.

With her report of managed progress all around, plus her assurance that the state of the nation was strong, the President received a well-deserved standing ovation.

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HUMAN LIFE: When is the unborn considered a human with a life of its own? The debate on this basic question — from the overlapping viewpoints of law, philosophy, ethics and biology — is still raging.

The pro-life answer prevalent in the Philippines is that human life begins at the moment of conception, when the chromosomes of the father and the mother unite. At that point, a new human is deemed to have been formed and infused with life.

Authorities in various fields met in the First International Conference on Abortion held in Washington, DC, in October 1967 and, on the question of when human life really begins, unanimously concluded:

“The majority of our group could find no point in time between the union of sperm and egg (or, at least, the blastocyst stage) and the birth of the infant, at which point we could say that this was not a human life.”

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LABOR PAINS: We recall this point because the Supreme Court of South Korea ruled two weeks ago that an unborn child will not be considered human until the mother goes into labor.

That legal definition came by way of a decision of the Korean SC clearing a midwife of negligent homicide charges. It is way off the general assumption of most Catholic Filipinos that life begins at conception.

A Korean woman consulted in 2001 a midwife at a facility in Seoul as her expected delivery date approached, although she felt no labor pains. The midwife told her to wait two weeks, during which time the baby died of cerebral damage.

In its ruling early this month, the Korean Supreme Court upheld the acquittal of the midwife, ruling that the unborn baby was not yet a human being — and thus no homicide took place.

“Even if a Caesarean section was possible,” the ruling said, “the mother did not have labor pains, which is the beginning of childbirth, thus the unborn baby cannot be recognized as a human being.”

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SOCIAL SETBACK: Reacting to the ruling, Fr. Lee Dong-ik, professor of medicine at the Catholic University of Korea and a member of the bioethics committee of the Korean bishops’ conference, said:

“Every country has slightly different legal grounds on when to consider an unborn a human being, but no country has such a definitive ruling that an unborn baby is not a human being.”

Describing the sentence as a “social defeat,” Lee said: “We are living in an era in which a 21-week unborn child can be saved with an incubator. It is unacceptable to see a verdict where a 42-week unborn is not considered a human being.”

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PRICE FIXING: The Energy Regulatory Commission said last June 9 it has found evidence that the National Power Corp. may have influenced the trading at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) in a manner that amounted to price manipulation.

In an order, the ERC cited letters of Napocor President Cyril del Callar to the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (Psalm) recommending policies that the commission said could amount to price fixing.

One such policy called for Psalm and Napocor to agree in advance on the price they would offer at the WESM, a supposedly open and competitive market, based on the revenue requirements for their power plants.

The ERC said this is a price-fixing arrangement violating the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (Epira).

* * *

DEL CALLAR IDEAS: The ERC said it was highly inappropriate and irregular for Del Callar to have written such letters to Psalm regarding WESM bidding. In one letter, he proposed:

1. Bidding policies should be based on the true pricing of electricity. Napocor and Psalm trading teams should be responsible for delivering the minimum revenue required to cover the production costs of their plants. Napocor and Psalm should agree on the revenue requirement for each trading team.

2. Psalm trading teams should bid based on the established merit order of Napocor-owned plants and those of Independent Power Producers (IPPs). At the very least, Psalm trading teams should bid prices based on ERC-approved rates.

Del Callar’s letters, which are public record, must not be hidden from taxpayers.

* * *

PSALM DISAGREES: The ERC investigating team reported that it saw no prima facie evidence of price manipulation by Psalm.

But Psalm disagreed with Napocor, saying that the adjustments will not be easy considering, it said, that “we are now operating in a different policy regime far from the highly regulated milieu that prevailed for decades.”

Psalm said that for it to agree to Napocor’s suggestion, “we would be subverting the goals and objective of Epira,” which Napocor and Psalm are supposed to champion as the lead agencies responsible for its implementation.

Considering the dominant position of Napocor and its influence over Psalm and the bidding behavior of the trading teams, Del Callar’s proposal has been widely seen as an invitation to collude in price fixing.

ERC Chairman Rodolfo Albano has been quoted as saying that while their investigation was on the alleged price fixing of Psalm, it may set another probe of Napocor in the light of Del Callar’s letters.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 24, 2007)

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