No more stopping RH Law implementation

By Edu Punay, The Philippine Star

Posted at Apr 10 2014 02:09 AM | Updated as of Apr 10 2014 10:09 AM

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – With its legality upheld by the Supreme Court (SC), Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act can now be implemented.

Court sources said the status quo ante order earlier issued by the high tribunal on the RH Law has been lifted with the promulgation of the ruling on Tuesday.

This means concerned agencies such as the Department of Health (DOH) can now enforce the law and its implementing rules and regulations, except for eight provisions struck down by the SC as unconstitutional.

The status quo ante order had been in effect since the SC issued it in March last year.

“The status quo ante order is no longer in effect for provisions struck down by the court,” one of the sources said.

A member of the high court agreed, noting the halt order was deemed lifted upon promulgation of the decision.

The sources refused to be named as the SC has yet to officially release copies of the decision penned by Associate Justice Jose Mendoza, along with at least nine opinions of other magistrates.

They said the exact wording on the lifting of the status quo ante order would be included in the dispositive portion of the ruling to be released today or tomorrow.

Lawyer Romulo Macalintal does not agree with this view, saying petitioners could still appeal the decision within 15 days from receipt of notice as provided under the Rules of Court.

“Pending the motion for reconsideration, the decision, including the lifting of the status quo ante order, is not yet final and executory,” Macalintal said.

He cited the rulings on Tolentino vs Secretary of Finance or the VAT cases in 1994 and in the Samad vs Comelec case in 1993, where the high tribunal lifted the temporary restraining orders only when the rulings became final.

Macalintal believes the anti-RH group won the battle, noting the high court did not say the law was constitutional, but merely used double negative “not unconstitutional.”

“In other words, its constitutionality was merely assumed by the SC. But the SC was very clear and emphatic in declaring seven significant provisions of the RH Law unconstitutional, which clearly indicated the triumph of the Anti-RH group,” he said.

But former Albay congressman Edcel Lagman, one of the principal authors of the RH in the previous Congress, believes otherwise.

Lagman said there is no more hope for any kind of appeal such as another motion for reconsideration on the final decision of the high court on the RH Law.

“There was a unanimous decision among the members of the Supreme Court in favor of the RH Law. So it’s futile to file such motion,” he said.

The best option, he said, is not to file another MR, as it would not affect the full implementation of the law.

“The law is intact and the core provisions of the law have been approved, that’s why there is no more problem in its implementation,” he said.

He said the rejection of some provisions would not diminish the effects of the law and its full implementation.

Lagman said it would now be up to the government to fully implement the law and to provide adequate funding for it.

Another author, Rodel Batocabe of party-list group Ako Bicol, said the SC ruling is a victory for the people who have the right to be informed and to decide on what is good for them and their family.

RH intact

House leaders said the objectives of the RH Law would still be achieved even as the SC struck down several provisions as unconstitutional.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the heart of the RH Law remains intact despite the trashing of some provisions.

“When the law finally sees full implementation, it will be a step toward truly safeguarding the health of Filipino women, many of whom have been fighting for this for the last 16 years,” Belmonte said.

He said an overwhelming majority of Filipinos supports reproductive health.

A recent survey by the Social Weather Stations showed seven in 10 Filipinos favor reproductive health.

For his part, Vice President Jejomar Binay said the SC ruling on the RH Law has addressed the contentious issues squarely.

Binay said the SC recognizes and upholds the rights of women to choose and defines the role of government.

“Now that the highest court has spoken, I am confident that we can all put this divisive issue behind us,” he said.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said the law’s effects may have been reduced to a certain extent, but its heart and soul are still there.

Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said the law was somewhat weakened by the SC ruling, but all’s well that ends well as both parties seemed happy with the decision.

DOH ready for RH

A day after the SC upheld the constitutionality of the RH Law, the DOH is already urging women nationwide to avail themselves of the free contraceptive pills and other reproductive health services offered by the government.

“We are ready to implement it and collaborate with local government units, which are mostly involved in the implementation,” Health Undersecretary Ted Herbosa said.

The DOH, Herbosa said, has been preparing to implement the law since it was approved and signed last year.

He said women could now freely learn about reproductive health and avoid unplanned pregnancies.

“Women will now have access to these pills and other contraceptive products. We will make these available to all, especially to poor women as the law is really for them.”

Herbosa dismissed claims the DOH would force women to use contraceptives, saying it would be up to them and their religious beliefs.

SC ruling welcomed

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) welcomed the SC decision declaring the RH Law constitutional. It said the decision would lead to a comprehensive education on gender sensitivity and women empowerment.

“Once fully enforced, this law will not only guarantee availability of medicine and services in local government units but will provide education on gender sensitivity to protect women from exploitation as well as stress to the public the importance of equal respect for people with diverse sexual orientation,” said Commissioner Jose Manuel Mamauag.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community also lauded the high court, noting the RH Law would benefit poor women and adolescent girls.

Clara Rita Padilla, executive director or EnGenderRights, hailed the high tribunal for keeping the important provisions of the law.

Private sector groups such as the Makati Business Club (MBC) commended the SC, saying the RH Law will not only promote good health but also contribute to the government’s goal of making economic growth inclusive.

“This law will not only impact our people’s health, but is a critical component of a strategy to reduce poverty and guarantee sustainable and inclusive growth,” the MBC said.

The Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines expressed support for the SC decision, noting it will improve the well-being and reproductive health of the current and future generations in the Philippines.

Earlier, the MBC along with the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, Management Association of the Philippines and Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the government would need to immediately implement the RH Law as such is an important part in the country’s efforts toward poverty reduction and improved maternal and child healthcare. – With Jess Diaz, Mayen Jaymalin, Celso Amo, Paolo Romero, Helen Flores, Louella Desiderio, Rhodina Villanueva, Jose Rodel Clapano