MANILA (UPDATED) – "Let us move on."
This is the message of Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas following the decision of the Supreme Court upholding the constitutionality of the divisive Reproductive Health (RH) Law.
In a statement, Villegas said despite the SC decision, the church "will continue to uphold the sacredness of human life, to teach always the dignity of the human person and to safeguard the life of every human person from conception to natural death."
Villegas added the church will continue to teach what is right and moral and proclaim the beauty and holiness of every human person.
The RH Law aims to provide contraceptives to the country's poor who would not otherwise be able to afford or have access to them. The measure also mandates that sex education be taught in schools.
These contentious provisions deeply divided sectors of the country, as the Catholic Church lobbied strongly against the RH Law.
But Villegas said it is now time to move on. He also appealed to Catholics "to maintain respect and esteem for the Supreme Court."
"The Supreme Court has decided on the RH issue based on existing laws in the Philippines.
"We cannot see eye-to-eye with our pro-RH brethren on this divisive issue but we can work hand-in-hand for the good of the country. Let us move on," he said.
Villegas said the Church has survived eras of persecution, authoritarian regimes, wars and revolutions, and it can definitely continue with its mission even in the presence of "such unjust laws."
"Let us move on from being an RH-law-reactionary-group to a truly Spirit empowered disciples of the Gospel of life and love. We have a positive message to proclaim," he said.
Villegas believes that although the SC has upheld the law's constitutionality, it watered it down by striking down certain provisions.
"Although the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the RH law, it has truly watered down the RH law and consequently upheld the importance of adhering to an informed religious conscience even among government workers. It has also stood on the side of the rights of parents to teach their children," Villegas said.
The high court partially granted the petition of pro-life advocates by declaring several provisions of RH Law unconstitutional, including several provisions in Section 7.
Section 7 provides that: "All accredited public health facilities shall provide a full range of modern family planning methods, which shall also include medical consultations, supplies and necessary and reasonable procedures for poor and marginalized couples having infertility issues who desire to have children…"
The SC, however, said Sec. 7 is only unconstitutional insofar as the law "requires private health facilities and non-maternity specialty hospitals and hospitals owned and operated by a religious group to refer patients, not in an emergency or life-threatening case…to another health facility which is conveniently accessible."
Section 7's provision on "allowing minor parents or minors who have suffered a miscarriage access to modern methods of family planning without written consent from their parents or guardians" was also struck down.
Section 23.a.1 was also struck down insofar as “it punishes any health care provider who fails or refuses to disseminate information regarding programs and services on RH regardless of his or her religious beliefs.”
Section 23.a.2.1 was also declared unconstitutional only insofar as it allows “married individual, not in an emergency or life-threatening case…to undergo RH procedures without the consent of the spouse.”
Section 23.a.3 was also struck down insofar as “they punish any health care provider who fails/refuses to refer a patient not in an emergency or life-threatening case…to another health care service provider…”
Section 23.b was also dropped insofar as it punishes public officials “who refuse to support RH programs…or hinder the full implementation” of the law.
Section 23.a.2.ii was also adjudged unconstitutional insofar as “it penalizes a health service provider who will require parental consent from the minor in not emergency or serious situations.”
Another section struck down is section 17 only insofar as the rendering of pro-bono RH services will “affect the conscientious objector in securing PhilHealth accreditation.”
Section 3.01.a and j of the IRR was also struck down since it uses the qualifier “primarily”. By using the qualifier, the law contravenes section 12, article II of the Constitution.