High court upholds RH bill

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014


REPRODUCTIVE Health Bill advocates rejoiced after Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te announced Tuesday afternoon the constitutionality of the measure.

Waving purple ribbons and silent applauses, advocates rejoiced as SC magistrates upheld the RH Bill pushed by the Aquino administration to curb unwanted pregnancies, solve high maternal deaths and preserve women’s and children’s health.

Te, however, said several provisions of the controversial bill were voided by Justices including provisions exempting minors who got pregnant or had miscarriage from not seeking parental consent when accessing RH services and devices (Section 7); requiring health care providers to render 48 hours of free service annually to indigent and low-income patients as a requirement for PhilHealth accreditation (Section 17); and punishes any public officer who refuses to support or hinder the implementation of RH program (Section 23).

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Section 3.01 (a) and (j) of the implementing rules and regulations were also stricken down as it uses the qualifier "primarily”, contravening Section 4(a) on the definition of abortifacient and the right to life of the mother and the unborn, said SC spokesperson Te in the press briefing.

Former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral said the decision is a success for medical professionals who have long batted for reproductive health rights especially to the marginalized sector.

Former Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros said the landmark decision from the SC remains a success after more than a decade of the bill placed in the sidelines in Congress until approved by President Benigno Aquino III.

Hontiveros said RH advocates believe the bill has not been watered down in its totality with several important provisions still enforceable by the government.

But she stressed provisions deemed unconstitutional by the high court will be discussed by various groups forming the purple ribbon coalition for whatever legal remedies and motions but added they will abide by the present ruling.

"Let's set aside past hurt and animosity caused by this law. Let's give it a chance to work," she said.

The National Youth Commission, in a press statement, said the law is an important investment for the future of the young.

“It is not only a social justice and health legislation, it is also a youth development and empowerment measure," the statement read.

“It's still a victory because it is now a toothless law. The penal clauses are no longer there," Lito David of ProLife, meanwhile, said after the SC press briefing.

David said they are not against the RH Bill in its entirety but cited several provisions which have been stricken out in the law by the Justices.

Enacted in December 2012, Republic Act 10354 was supposed to be implemented in March 2013 but the SC issued a 120-day status quo ante order (SQAO), which was extended indefinitely in July of the same year.

The SC then held five rounds of oral arguments for two months to hear the 14 petitions challenging the law's constitutionality.

Baguio-Benguet Bishop Carlito Cenzon yesterday led a vigil at the Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral Monday praying for a favorable decision from Supreme Court justices.

This as he said he is not buying the recent survey released by the Social Weather Stations showing 72 percent of Filipinos are in favor of the RH bill.

He said these surveys reflect the view of only a few and an insignificant number compared to the millions of people against the controversial measure.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on April 09, 2014.

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