SC ruling on RHLaw disappoints Catholic leaders

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014


CATHOLIC Church officials in Cebu are disappointed with the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) to declare the Reproductive Health (RH) Law, except for some provisions, constitutional.

In a GMA 7 Balitang Bisdak interview yesterday, Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal said he was sad because he expected the decision to lead to more “anti-life and anti-family” laws.

“Knowing that they (the Supreme Court) has considered it constitutional, others will eventually follow. If you open the door too widely, then what do you expect to happen?” the retired archbishop said.

The SC justices voted yesterday to uphold the RH Law, which the Aquino administration has pushed as a potential remedy to maternal deaths and unwanted pregnancies arising from a lack of education about sex.

The SC, however, voided eight provisions, including penalties for health care providers who refuse to provide RH procedures or who refer a patient to another provider, for religious reasons.

Also voided were provisions that exempt minors who got pregnant or had a miscarriage from seeking parental consent for RH services and devices (Section 7); require 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); allow a married person to undergo RH procedures without the spouse’s consent (Section 23); and punish any public officer who refuses to support the implementation of RH program (Section 23).

A chance

A busload of RH advocates from Manila celebrated the ruling with cheers outside the SC building.

“Let’s set aside past hurt and animosity caused by this law. Let’s give it a chance to work,” said former Akbayan representative Risa Hontiveros in a chance interview.

The National Youth Commission, in a 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.

A group of anti-RH individuals led by Fr. Melvin Castro from the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) also waited for the release of the decision written by Associate Justice Jose Mendoza, who has two brothers who are priests.

“It’s still a victory because it is now a toothless law. The penal clauses are no longer there,” said Lito David, a former senatorial candidate from Church-backed Ang Kapatiran Party.

He said they will study the option to file a motion for reconsideration within 15 days.

Teaching

CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas has said the Catholic Church will still continue teaching the value of life despite the ruling.

“We must keep on teaching about the sacredness of life, the dignity of the human person and the holiness of life of the human person from conception until death. It does not depend on any law,” he said.

Enacted in December 2012, Republic Act 10354 was supposed to be implemented in March 2013. The SC had 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 arguments for two months to hear the 14 petitions that challenged the law. 

In Cebu, Msgr. Esteban Binghay, one of the Archdiocese’s episcopal vicars, also shared Cardinal Vidal’s view on the SC’s decision.

“Its passage will further reinforce the wrong attitude toward life,” he said. “Manakod gyud na siya (That attitude will spread).”

Dr. Rene Josef Bullecer of Human Life International said that with the approval of the RH law, pro-life groups in Cebu are preparing for the discussion on the other “anti-life laws” such as divorce and euthanasia. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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

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