MANILA – The Philippine government is stuck with soon-to-expire contraceptives due to a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court in 2015, President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday.
“I am not for abortion, I am not for birth control, but certainly I am for the giving of the freedom to a Filipino family the size ng pamilya niya,” Duterte said in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA).
“Ang nangyari nitong TRO, may nag-file doon sa Supreme Court tapos nag-issue kayo ng TRO two years ago. In the meantime, itong gobyerno nagbili ng medisina. It was not really a reckless purchase, it was for the implementation of the law,” he added.
In 2015, the Supreme Court issued a TRO that limits the distribution of certain contraceptives.
The TRO prohibits the Department of Health to procure, sell, distribute, administer, advertise and promote the hormonal contraceptive “Implanon” and “Implanon NXT” which have been certified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “to have abortifacient character.”
The President said he has ordered Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial to donate the contraceptives to another country rather than let these go to waste.
“I told Ubial, the health secretary, to find out if there is a nation which would allow it and i-donate na lang rather than go to waste. I do not blame you, you might be very busy or something,” he said.
Should the TRO be lifted, it would pave the way for the full implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Act, passed in 2012.
The controversial law guarantees universal access to all methods of modern contraception, comprehensive sexuality education, and maternal and child care.
The Supreme Court earlier affirmed the TRO, saying the high court cannot lift the stay order prior to the summary hearing to be conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the safety, efficacy, purity, quality, and non-abortiveness of the contraceptives.
“To grant its prayer to lift the TRO would be premature and presumptuous. Any declaration by the Court at this time would have no basis because the FDA, which has the mandate and expertise on the matter, has to first resolve the controversy pending before its Office,” the ruling said.
SC Spokesman Theodore Te added: "The decision only names two specific brands as abortifacients. If they want to lift the TRO, they should ask the [FDA] not to classify those two brands as abortifacients. It is a provision in the decision."