SC resets vote on RH to April

By Edu Punay, The Philippine Star

Posted at Mar 05 2014 09:02 AM | Updated as of Mar 05 2014 05:09 PM

MANILA - The Supreme Court (SC) has deferred ruling on the legality of Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act.

The consolidated petitions were included in the agenda for the high court’s regular session yesterday, but the justices decided to reset voting on the controversial law to next month when they would be holding their annual summer session in Baguio City, according to an insider.

A member of the high court told The STAR that they are not yet ready to deliberate on the case.

It was learned that Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno was on sick leave and a few other magistrates were also not present.

Earlier, Senate President Franklin Drilon and other sectors prodded the SC to rule on the RH law case, which has been pending for the past 15 months.

Drilon said the delayed decision on the law has stymied government efforts for maternal and infant care nationwide. With the RH law in limbo, the government could not provide maximum maternal and infant care throughout the country.

He stressed that SC’s ruling on the constitutionality of the law is vital for the government to implement measures preventing maternal deaths and other health complications affecting women, wives and mothers.

He also noted that addressing the problem on maternal deaths is a commitment under the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

The high tribunal issued on March 19, 2013 a 120-day status quo ante order halting the implementation of the law signed by President Aquino in December 2012. When the order expired in July last year, the SC voted 8-7 to extend it for an indefinite period.

Five-part oral arguments were also held in July and August last year on the petitions filed by 15 groups.

The 15 consolidated petitions were filed by couple James and Lovely-Ann Imbong, non-profit group Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines Inc. (ALFI), Serve Life Cagayan de Oro City, Task Force for Family and Life Visayas Inc., lawyer Expedito Bugarin, Eduardo Olaguer of the Catholic Xybrspace Apostolate of the Philippines, Philippine Alliance of Ex-Seminarians Inc., Reynaldo Echavez, former senator Francisco Tatad and his wife Ma. Fenny, a group of doctors represented by lawyer Howard Calleja, Millennium Saint Foundation Inc., Pro-Life Philippines Foundation Inc., a group of Catholic students represented by the legal office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Catholic lay group Couples For Christ Foundation (CFC) and Almarim Centi Tillah and Abdul Hussein Kashim.

Petitioners argued that the RH law “negates and frustrates the foundational ideals and aspirations of the sovereign Filipino people as enshrined in the Constitution.”

Petitioners argued that at least 11 provisions in RA 10354, which allow couples to choose to suppress life, violate the Constitution.

They added that the new law violates constitutional freedom of religion and expression of those who will continue to oppose it and also creates doubtful or spurious rights called reproductive health rights.

The government, on the other hand, defended the constitutionality of the controversial law.

It was joined by six groups that stood as intervenors on the case: losing senatorial bet and former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros; former secretaries of health Esperanza Cabral, Jamie Galvez-Tan and the late Alberto Romualdez Jr.; the group of 2005 Bar topnotcher Joan de Venecia; Sen. Pia Cayetano, sponsor of the measure in the Senate; the Catholics for Reproductive Health and Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood Inc., and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, author of the law in the House of Representatives.