Garin laments TROs on reproductive health initiatives

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 27 2016 08:34 PM

If the incoming administration wants to include the implementation of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law in its economic agenda, it must first seek high court's help, an official said.

Outgoing Health Secretary Janette Garin told ANC's Headstart on Monday, temporary restraining orders on key policies must first be taken out.

"The first order in the house, the TRO should be lifted," she said.

READ: 'Vigorous implementation of RH law under Duterte'

Garin said the administration of President Noynoy Aquino--from the president himself, to the Finance and Budget departments, to congress--had the political will, but the Supreme Cpurt prevented its execution through the issuance of TRO.

"Pero ang problema, may Supreme Court e…The killer TROs should be lifted," she said.

The high court issued the TRO on subdermal implants in 2015, prohibiting the DOH from "procuring, selling, distributing, dispensing or administering, advertising and promoting" them.

Garin said these implants have been in the market for a long time, but has been priced at around P5,000. When the RH Law was passed, she added, the Gates Foundation helped them through a subsidy, which allowed them to buy the implants at P500.

"Initially, we bought, I think, 200,000, then there was 400,000, and there was supposed to be a procurement of 1,000,000 implants—all subsidized by the Gates Foundation," she said.

However, when the TRO was issued, the deliveries had to be halted.

"We have around 400,000 implants just in the warehouse na sayang naman. The problem is the TRO covers all," said Garin.

Subdermal contraceptive implants involve the delivery of the steroid progestin from capsules or rods placed under the skin, according to the US-based National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Garin said this particular contraception method has a "quite high" acceptance rate best suits teenage mothers.

"I have been going around, nakakausap ko yung mga nanay na nabuntis, they want to go back to school. Alam naman natin na maski may anak yan, single yan, you can’t prevent circumstances of getting them pregnant again," she said.

She maintained, this method is not an abortifacient.

"We are still hoping that the TRO will be lifted, because there is also another TRO which prohibits the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) to renew licenses and to issue licenses for all family planning commodities and devices," said Garin.

The licenses issued by the FDA, she said, have a three-to-five-year expiry period.

"The other TRO is a killer TRO because it prohibits issuances of permits and renewals of permits," she said.

Without these licenses, the implants may not be sold locally, both in the private market and government.

"In like 2018, late 2018, all those who would be needing family planning commodities and devices will have to buy it abroad," she said.

However, with the designation of Dr. Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial as the incoming health secretary, who she said is supportive of the RH Law, Garin is hopeful they can rally for the lifting of these TROs.

"We have endorsed the situation to her. I have also endorsed it to the incoming NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) secretary (Ernesto Pernia), and to the transition team because they are the critical people to inform the incoming solicitor-general," she said.

BUDGET CUT

Meanwhile, Garin clarified that although they have savings from their 2015 budget, it could not easily be utilized in 2016 for RH commodities.

Senator Loren Legarda has earlier said funds for contraceptives are still intact despite the supposed P1-billion cut from the DOH's 2016 budget, as the DOH still has unused funds from 2015 to fill the slashed allocation.

[embed link in 'contraceptives are still intact':http://news.abs-cbn.com/nation/v1/01/18/16/legarda-budget-for-contraceptives-available-despite-doh-cut]

But Garin maintained the department's unused funds were savings from the infrastructure programs they bid out.

"It’s not easy to just use that for family planning commodities, because it’s a line-item budgeting process. You can only use that for the specific purpose by which it was budgeted," she said.

She lamented that by the time that the savings in this year will be generated, the licenses of many RH commodities would have lapsed and may not be renewed due to the TRO.

"Nag-bid na kami sa last quarter of last year and very early of this year so that award na kaagad, kasi hinahabol naming, mag-eexpire yung licenses, and the TRO says FDA cannot renew it," she said.

Garin, who has previously served as a representative of the first district of Iloilo, considers this obstacle as a "wider learning" experience.

"Coming from the legislative at napasok ako sa executive, nakita kong ang daming magagandang batas na ipinasa, pagdating sa executive, ang daming bottlenecks sa implementation," she said.

"Lalo na kapag yung gumagawa ng IRR, wala dun yung authors nung law, dun ngayon nagkakaroon ng pagkakasalungat sa pagkakaintindi paano ba at ano baa ng purpose ng ginawang batas," she said.