Friday, October 7, 2016

Silverio Vs. Republic: A Modest Victory for Conservatives

Several weeks ago, a friend brought a legal case to my attention, and I think that it’s something evangelicals ought to be informed about. Because the topic is quite technical, this article is longer than my typical posts, but I would encourage you to read through it carefully, because it really is significant. And if you’d like to contribute your thoughts, or provide me with further leads relevant to the pro-LGBT agenda in the Philippines, I invite you to leave a comment.

All emphases in quotations are supplied.

The Facts1


In November 2002, Rommel Silverio petioned the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila to have his first name and sex changed in official documents. His basis: he is “anatomically male but feels, thinks and acts as a female” and has always identified himself with girls since childhood.

Prior to his petition, he had consulted with several doctors in the United States,2 and received psychological examination, hormone treatment, and breast augmentation. Finally, he underwent sex reassignment surgery in Bangkok, Thailand.

Upon the filing of his petition with the RTC, Silverio was even engaged to be married to a certain Richard P. Edel.

The court ruled in favor of Silverio. It gave the following reasons:
  • It was “more in consonance with the principles of justice and equity…. Petitioner’s misfortune to be trapped in a man’s body... should not be in any way taken against him”;
  • Likewise, “no harm, injury [or] prejudice will be caused to anybody or the community”; and
  • There was no reason presented to the court to deny the petition.
The RTC’s decision was problematic, however, and in August 2003, the Republic of the Philippines filed for reconsideration to the Court of Appeals (CA).

In February 2006, the CA overturned the RTC’s decision, stating, “There is no law allowing the change of either name or sex in the certificate of birth on the ground of sex reassignment through surgery.”

Silverio then appealed to the Supreme Court (SC), which responded to each point raised by the RTC.

First, to the RTC’s reference to “principles of justice and equity”, the SC replied, “Petitioner believes that having acquired the physical features of a female, he became entitled to the civil registry changes sought. We disagree.” With regard to change of name, “The State has an interest in the names borne by individuals and entities for purposes of identification. A change of name is a privilege, not a right.” The State allows for change of name in situations where a citizen “will be prejudiced by the use” of his name. Silverio, however, failed to demonstrate this.

Second, the SC disagreed that no harm would come of granting the petition, stating that it “may only create grave complications in the civil registry and the public interest.” For example, in light of Silverio's intention to marry his male fiancé, enabling him to change his legal sex to “female” would entail massive implications on marriage and family laws. Also, such a reassignment would require similar changes in laws relating to women.

Third, the SC took an entirely different posture toward the law than did the RTC. The RTC essentially took the stance that the court should grant the petition because there was "no reason to deny it". The SC, however, recognized that the RTC was acting beyond the authority of the Judiciary. The SC mildly chastised the lower court by stating something that even higher-grade students should know: “The duty of the courts is to apply or interpret the law, not to make or amend it.”

In short, the SC ruled that “The petition lacks merit.”

A Modest Victory

The outcome of the Silverio Case is certainly something that Filipino evangelicals should be relieved and thankful for, especially since this set a precedent for deciding future cases. But we also need to recognize that this modest victory was in 2007, and was clearly not the end of our struggle against the movement for LGBT “rights”.

Some concluding statements of the SC ruling make this clear. For example, it pointed out that the fatal flaw in Silverio’s petition was that “there is no such special law in the Philippines governing sex reassignment and its effects.” It also recognized the possibility, however, of the Legislature passing such laws in the future.

What can Christians take away from this?

First, let’s remember that our Lord’s purpose is not to create a Christian civilization, but to build His church (Matthew 16:18). He will accomplish this, not through government policies or a cultural movement, but through the faithful proclamation of the gospel (Galatians 6:14; 1 Corinthians 15:3). So, while we should stay informed of what’s happening in our government and the culture at large, the most important thing by far is for us to treasure the gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone, on the basis of Scripture alone.

Second, let’s repent of any hint of self-righteousness and lovelessness we may have toward LGBTs. The Bible declares that there is only one difference between sinners who are under God’s wrath and saints who are forgiven, adopted, and born again. That difference is the free, unmerited grace of God. And having received such grace and such love from God, we are then called to invite others to receive the same, and to do it in a way that reflects God’s heart.

Third, when the opportunity comes up, we can gently correct some of the common assumptions of our pro-LGBT neighbors.
Assumption: It’s my right to choose my own gender/sex. 
Answer: You and I are privileged to live in a country with freedom of religion and freedom of speech, so we’re free to believe what we want. But as far as legal status is concerned, our laws have established that a person’s sex is determined at birth, based on genitalia, and can’t be changed. 
Assumption: Allowing for homosexual marriage isn’t going to harm anyone. 
Answer: I think that it will harm society, but in ways that we don’t see right away. For example, it will require a massive renovation of our legal system in relation to marriage, family, and women’s rights. LGBTs actually comprise only a very small minority (about three percent). I don't think the other ninety-seven percent should have to bear the financial cost and practical complications that will result. (At this point, it might help if we could present evidence of the consequences of endorsing the LGBT lifestyle.)

Conclusion

Filipino evangelicals should take note of the Silverio Case because it helps us to better understand the relation between the law and LGBT "rights" in our country. It also serves as an example of how the pro-LGBT agenda tries to make headway by increments. It will appeal for concessions that seem small and relatively harmless, but actually have massive implications for government and society. So let's stay informed while persevering in the Lord's work.

1 "Silverio vs. Republic of the Philippines", Supreme Court (2007). For a synopsis, see The Law IsCool, “Silverio v. Republic”.

2 Why the U.S.? Probably because the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and other relevant bodies, now support the LGBT rights movement.

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