Senators confident legality of RH law will prevail

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Thursday, March 21, 2013


MANILA – Senators have expressed optimism that the legality of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law will prevail, despite the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) to issue status quo ante order for the implementation of the newly-signed law.

Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood Law, which provides state funding for contraceptives, was passed by lawmakers late 2012 despite the Church’s opposition.

The SC, however, temporarily stopped on Tuesday the implementation of the RH or the law Responsible Parenthood Law, which is set to take effect on Easter Sunday, March 31.

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Voting 15-5 in favor of 10 separate petitions, the SC justices issued a status quo ante (SQA) order, which has the same effect of stopping an assailed ruling but is issued to preserve the status before the filing of a petition, said SC Public Information Office chief Theodore Te.

The law’s implementation has been stopped until June 18, when both the government and 10 petitioners who questioned the law’s constitutionality will argue their cases before the court.

“As a lawyer, I can understand that the SC’s status quo ante order is just a part of our judicial process,” Senator Pia Cayetano said.

Cayetano and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago co-sponsored the RH bill when it was debated in the Senate.

“It does not in any way say anything against the validity of the RH Law,” she said.

“I’m confident that the legality of the RH Law will prevail and our people will start to benefit from it,” Cayetano added.

Cayetano, however, expressed concerns on many lives that will be lost during the 90-day period given for the oral arguments.

“How many more mothers will die of birth complications? How many infants will get sick and die, and how many abortions will take place? I would like to think that it is not the intention of our SC to deprive the poor of RH services from the government,” said Cayetano.

Earlier, Malacañang also expressed confidence that the Aquino administration could fully defend the merits of the RH law, but said it respects the High Court's decision to stop its implementation for four months.

Supporters of the controversial law in the House of Representatives are also not at all worried about the roadblock set by the SC.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, the main proponent of then RH bill in the House, said the SQA issued is "only a temporary delay" to allow the SC "to fully assess the merits and demerits of the pending petitions challenging the constitutionality of the RH law."

"I firmly believe that eventually, the constitutionality of the RH law will be sustained. The RH advocates had prevailed in the legislative and executive departments, and they will likewise triumph in the High Court," Lagman said.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the House respects the Court and hopes that the implementation of the RH law will be decided upon immediately.

Aurora Representative Sonny Angara, an administration candidate whose name was included in the so-called "Team Patay" campaign of the diocese of Bacolod, said the SC's decision does not mean that the justices have already voted in favor of the pro or anti.

The Catholic leaders who consider the law an attack on the Church's core values hailed on Wednesday the SC’s decision bucking the controversial RH law.

Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, who heads the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, said the Church will pursue its opposition on the RH law.

Aniceto said, “Heaven has heard our prayers.”

“This is very good news to all pro-life advocates. It brings hope to us who value life as embodied in the teachings of our Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ,” he added.

Aniceto said the SC’s move is a good news to Pope Francis, who is against the distribution of contraceptives in Argentina.

“We will remain vigilant as this is just temporary,” Aniceto added.

Benguet Bishop Carlito Cenzon believes the decision of the SC to suspend the implementation of the RH law is a welcome sign for more amendments.

Cenzon said the TRO gives ample time for more oral arguments before the implementation of the law, which according to the Catholic Church, has objectionable provisions.

He said voting held in Congress during the bill’s passage was vague, adding that the TRO will now enable the Church to state their objections, especially on issues involving abortion and contraception.

Cenzon also said the posting of the ‘Team Buhay and Team Patay’ tarpaulins in front of the Baguio Cathedral was not a decision of the diocese and the parish priest, but a decision of lay people who opposed the practice of contraception.

He said the tarpaulins, which started in the Diocese of Bacolod, are a testament of the people’s contention to contraception and the RH law.

The tarpaulin lists down senatorial candidates and party-list groups and their position during the RH law’s congressional deliberations.

President Benigno Aquino III risked the clash with the Church and Church-backed politicians to sponsor the law and lobby for its passage. He signed the law in December, and the Department of Health last week drafted and approved its implementing rules, setting it into motion.

The law makes sexual education compulsory in public schools, and mandates government health centers to provide universal and free access to nearly all contraceptives to everyone, particularly the country’s poorest, who make up a third of the population.

So far, such access has been patchy, expensive, and hinged on the political will of local governments. In the past, for instance, some mayors banned free distribution of condoms in their areas. (JM Agreda of Sun.Star Baguio/Jovi T. De Leon of Sun.Star Pampanga/PNA/Sunnex)

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