Pro-RH groups won't appeal SC ruling

By Paolo Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Apr 29 2014 02:40 AM | Updated as of Apr 29 2014 10:40 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Former Albay representative Edcel Lagman said yesterday the government and most advocates of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law are not filing an appeal before the Supreme Court, which had struck down some provisions of the statute as unconstitutional.

Lagman, the principal author of the law in Congress, said the “voided provisions barely scrape the epidermis of the law whose heart and soul remain unsullied.”

“The option not to seek reconsideration sends the clear message that the provisions declared unconstitutional have peripheral effect on the law, whose main import and general efficacy have not been diminished and its implementation unhampered,” Lagman said in a statement.

He said the decision not to file a motion for reconsideration will enable the government to concentrate its efforts on fully implementing the law.

“The supposedly infirm provisions pertain to exceptional circumstances like ‘conscientious objectors,’ ‘spousal and parental consent’ and ‘dissenting or renegade’ public officials, and their minor effects on the RH Law can be tempered or altogether quashed by remedial legislation,” he said.

Lagman, however, said some RH advocates who are also parties to the case as respondent-intervenors may file reconsideration as a matter of right.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) is revising the implementing rules and regulations of the controversial RH Law for the IRR to conform with the recent ruling of the Supreme Court, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said.

The high court declared the RH Law constitutional but considered eight provisions as unlawful.

Among those declared unlawful was the provision mandating penalties to RH providers who fail or refuse to disseminate information regarding RH services and programs.

Ona said the DOH is hoping to comply with the provision of drugs and devices for reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health care.

He said the DOH would purchase and distribute these directly to all government health facilities, midwives and nurses who would administer lifesaving drugs.

“Mothers may now be able to practice healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy within the context of free and informed choice, and taking into account fertility intentions and desired family size,” he added.

Ona also said that the DOH is committed to the immediate implementation of the RH law and expressed optimism that the court ruling did not weaken the RH Law that would enable the country to achieve its goal of reducing maternal and infant mortality nationwide.

“We are quite confident that the portions of the RH Law and its implementing rules not found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court will provide the necessary health policies and directives that will readily synergize with the critical areas,” he said.

As of 2011, the maternal mortality rate in the Philippines is at 221 per 100,000 live births, while infant deaths are at 22 per 1,000 live births.

Under the Millennium Development Goals, the DOH aims to lessen infant deaths to 19 per 1,000 live births and bring down maternal mortality ratio to 52 per 100,000 live births. – With Mayen Jaymalin