SC UPHELD RH LAW CONSTITUTIONAL, STRUCK DOWN IMPORTANT PROVISIONS

The Supreme Court's ruling on the constitutionality of the Reproductive Health Act on Tuesday was found favorable in various degrees by opposing sides in the decades-long debate. The Purple Ribbon led by proponents of the measure in Congress thanked the high court for upholding the law albeit striking down some of its important provisions. "This day is made more meaningful by the Supreme Court by giving justice to years of struggle for the law and recognizing the contribution of everyone who fought hard to have this law," the group said in a statement. The United Nations congratulated the Philippine government for affirming sexual and reproductive health in a bid to address poverty. The anti-RH camp, meanwhile, also displayed optimism with the SC decision, which was perceived to have neutralized divisive provisions. The anti-RH Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, meanwhile, encouraged the faithful to maintain esteem for the Supreme Court and uphold the "sacredness" of life and dignity. "Although the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the RH law, it has truly watered down the RH law and consequently upheld the importance of adhering to an informed religious conscience even among government workers," Bishop Socrates Villegas said.

ALSO: SC waters down RH Law

The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the constitutionality of the controversial Responsible Parenthood and the Reproductive Health (RH) Law, but struck down some of the major provisions. Voting unanimously, the magistrates upheld the law's provisions granting the Department of Health to procure and distribute contraceptives as well as provide RH education to adolescents. The high court, however, declared unconstitutional part of Section 7 requiring private health facilities and medical centers owned by religious groups to provide family planning methods. Also deemed unconstitutional was Section 23 or prohibitions against health care providers who refuse to perform reproductive health services. The court thus allows medical practitioners to refuse to refer a patient to avail of RH services, public officers including mayors and governors to refuse RH programs within their area of jurisdiction, and married individuals to avail of RH procedures only with their spouses' consent. By declaring the prohibitive clauses illegal, the court similarly gives way to the discretion of health care providers and institutions on matters related to family planning and contraceptives. Also dropped was Section 17 mandating gynecologists, obstetricians, medical centers and institutions to provide free RH services in order to be accredited by PhilHealth. The high court similarly rejected characteristics of abortifacients as contraceptives which "primarily" induce abortion. This means that even contraceptives that have abortion only as a secondary effect are illegal.

ALSO: SC: RH law constitutional, nullifies major provisions

The Supreme Court upheld Tuesday the constitutionality of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 but nullified some of its provisions. “The Court, after scrutiny of the various arguments and contentions of the parties…unanimously held that Republic Act No. 10354 is not unconstitutional,” high court’s Information Chief Theodore Te said, announcing a ruling that struck down more than a dozen petitions against Republic Act No. 10354 by church groups. President Benigno Aquino defied church pressure and signed the law into effect in December 2012, but the Supreme Court quickly suspended it after church groups filed petitions arguing it was unconstitutional. “This monumental decision upholds the separation of church and state and affirms the supremacy of government in secular concerns like health and socio-economic development,” Representative Edcel Lagman, the principal author of the law, said immediately after the verdict. “A grateful nation salutes the majority of justices for their favourable ruling promoting reproductive health and giving impetus to sustainable human development.” The Catholic Church, which counts over 80 percent of the country’s 100 million population as members, had led street protests denouncing the law as “evil”, and at one point in its opposition campaign threatened Aquino with excommunication. VIEW INFOGRAPH BELOW ON HOW JUSTICES VOTED

ALSO: Santiago on RH decision: It’s ‘triumph of reason over superstition’

While ecstatic over the Supreme Court’s decision that declared the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) law constitutional, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago threw her support behind any move to file a motion for reconsideration (MR) on several provisions that were struck down by the court. “Thank you, Supreme Court! I love you, because you have faced the fears of a nation, and swept them away like cobwebs,” said Santiago, a strong advocate of the law, in a statement on Tuesday. Santiago described the SC opinion, to quote a landmark case, was a “decision upon clashing interests resolved exclusively by the force of reason, according to law, without the power of armies, the weight of patronage, or imposing pomp.” “In short, it is a triumph of reason over superstition,” she said. Santiago was also confident that the high tribunal would reconsider its decision to strike down several provisions of the law as she expressed support behind any move to appeal the ruling on the said provisions. She indicated that an MR on the provisions struck down by the court had a good chance, noting that the law “enjoys a presumption of constitutionality, based on the respect of the judiciary for the legislature; the presumption of constitutionality dictates that doubt should be resolved in favor of the law; and that the Court should reconcile the law with the Constitution. “With respect to the provisions that did not pass muster, the Court should have granted to Congress the presumption of good faith and the presumption that legislative determination of factual issues is correct,” said Santiago.

ALSO: RH Law morally wrong even with SC nod – Head of CBCP

Even if the Supreme Court declares the Reproductive Health (RH) Law constitutional, the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said the measure remains morally wrong. “Maybe for the moment because of the numbers available in the Senate and Congress they had approved it as law but it remains to be morally wrong,” CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in an interview. He added that what is right is not determined by numbers. “Maybe they have the numbers, but that does not mean they are right because right cannot be determined by numbers. Right is always right and wrong is always wrong,” said Villegas. The CBCP head said regardless what the outcome of the SC decision will be, the Church will still continue preaching about the sacredness of life and the dignity of the human person. “With or without the SC’s decision, it is the duty of the Church to teach about life. Our duty does not depend on civil laws, our duty comes from God. So with or without the law … we must keep on teaching about the sacredness of life, about the dignity of the human person, about the holiness of life of the human person from conception until death. It does not depend on any law,” he said To recall, the RH Law was passed by the 15th Congress in December 2012 and was later signed into law by President Benigno S. Aquino III. The constitutionality of the RH law was later questioned by various sectors at the SC.

ALSO: Consigning them to darkness

The RH law was passed by both Houses of Congress and was signed by the President in late 2012, but it has not yet been implemented because of a status quo ante order issued by the same court while several petitions against it are being heard. Some of the arguments against the law are offered by staunch Catholic individuals and groups who insist that the law violates the constitutional protection of the life of the unborn child and freedom of religion, among others. The fact that majority of Filipinos are Catholics is being used not just as a legal but a moral justification for the rejection of the law. But as we have observed all too often, those who pontificate and speak the loudest on any issue are the most ignorant about what the situation is really like. It is easy to get lost in the political circus in this country and become engrossed in the rivalry between our leaders, and how this seems to distract them from doing their jobs. In the end, however, what would matter are the lives of the silent millions who have for many years been clamoring to be given a more active voice in deciding the quality of life they wish to provide their children. Those who would rather consign these women, who demand to know more and to know better, to the darkness may as well belong to a bygone age.


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SC upheld RH Law constitutional; Opposing camps pleased with RH ruling


Supporters and protesters of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, which the Supreme Court upheld on Tuesday. The high tribunal, however, also rejected some of its major provisions. CBCPForLife/RHBill.org

MANILA, APRIL 14, 2014
(PHILSTAR)
By Camille Diola — The Supreme Court's ruling on the constitutionality of the Reproductive Health Act on Tuesday was found favorable in various degrees by opposing sides in the decades-long debate.

The Purple Ribbon led by proponents of the measure in Congress thanked the high court for upholding the law albeit striking down some of its important provisions.

"This day is made more meaningful by the Supreme Court by giving justice to years of struggle for the law and recognizing the contribution of everyone who fought hard to have this law," the group said in a statement.

The United Nations congratulated the Philippine government for affirming sexual and reproductive health in a bid to address poverty.

"The Supreme Court ruling ... comes at a crucial time. The full and speedy implementation of the law will be critically important in reducing maternal mortality and ensuring universal access to reproductive health care," the international organization stated.

The anti-RH camp, meanwhile, also displayed optimism with the SC decision, which was perceived to have neutralized divisive provisions.

Lawyer James Imbong, who lodged the first petition contesting the legality of the RH Law before the high tribunal, said that the penalty clauses rejected by the court makes a much weaker measure.

"Ang alam natin ang lakas ng batas ay nasa penalty clause so kung 'yan ang dineclare na unconstitutional ... wala nang ngipin 'yang batas na 'yan," Imbong said in an interview over dzMM.

The anti-RH Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, meanwhile, encouraged the faithful to maintain esteem for the Supreme Court and uphold the "sacredness" of life and dignity.

"Although the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the RH law, it has truly watered down the RH law and consequently upheld the importance of adhering to an informed religious conscience even among government workers," Bishop Socrates Villegas said.

SC waters down RH Law By Camille Diola (philstar.com) | Updated April 8, 2014 - 1:34pm 112 438 googleplus0 0


File photo of Supreme Court magistrates led by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

MANILA, Philippines —The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the constitutionality of the controversial Responsible Parenthood and the Reproductive Health (RH) Law, but struck down some of the major provisions.

Voting unanimously, the magistrates upheld the law's provisions granting the Department of Health to procure and distribute contraceptives as well as provide RH education to adolescents.

The high court, however, declared unconstitutional part of Section 7 requiring private health facilities and medical centers owned by religious groups to provide family planning methods.

Also deemed unconstitutional was Section 23 or prohibitions against health care providers who refuse to perform reproductive health services.

The court thus allows medical practitioners to refuse to refer a patient to avail of RH services, public officers including mayors and governors to refuse RH programs within their area of jurisdiction, and married individuals to avail of RH procedures only with their spouses' consent.

By declaring the prohibitive clauses illegal, the court similarly gives way to the discretion of health care providers and institutions on matters related to family planning and contraceptives.

Also dropped was Section 17 mandating gynecologists, obstetricians, medical centers and institutions to provide free RH services in order to be accredited by PhilHealth.

The high court similarly rejected characteristics of abortifacients as contraceptives which "primarily" induce abortion. This means that even contraceptives that have abortion only as a secondary effect are illegal.

The decision on Tuesday effectively releases the measure from a status quo ante or halt order, which was imposed on March 19, 2013.

FROM THE INQUIRER

SC: RH law constitutional By Tetch Torres-Tupas INQUIRER.net
1:31 pm | Tuesday, April 8th, 2014


Advocates of the Reproductive Health Law waited for more than a day for the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the RH law, and as the court sat en banc at its summer courthouse in Baguio on Tuesday April 8 , actress Giselle Toengi found time to shoot a selfie with the crowd. This was moments before the court decided that the law was constitutional, and the purple crowd went wild. Some broke into tears. EV ESPIRITU/ INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—The Supreme Court upheld Tuesday the constitutionality of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 but nullified some of its provisions.

“The Court, after scrutiny of the various arguments and contentions of the parties…unanimously held that Republic Act No. 10354 is not unconstitutional,” high court’s Information Chief Theodore Te said, announcing a ruling that struck down more than a dozen petitions against Republic Act No. 10354 by church groups.

A total of 14 petitions were filed in the high court and a series of oral arguments was held to determine the constitutionality of the controversial birth control law that supporters said would transform the lives of millions of poor Filipinos, in a stunning defeat for the powerful Catholic Church.

The Supreme Court first stopped the implementation of the law for four months after it took effect on March 18, 2013. It issued a status quo ante order after Pro-Life Philippines Foundation Inc. and Catholic Church groups questioned the law, saying it violated the constitutional provisions guaranteeing the right to life.

Before the four months was over, the Supreme Court extended indefinitely its status quo ante order last July.

Sex education

The law requires government health centers to hand out free condoms and birth control pills, as well as mandating that sex education be taught in schools.

The law also requires that public health workers receive family planning training, while post abortion medical care is also legalized.

The Catholic Church had until Tuesday led a successful campaign for more than 15 years against any form of family planning laws in the Philippines.

Unconstitutional

Among the provisions declared unconstitutional are:
• Section 7 which is about access to family planning, as well as Section A and A of its implementing rules and regulations . Section A requires private health facilities and non-maternity specialty hospitals and hospitals owned and operated by a religious group to refer patients, not in an emergency or life threatening case to another health facility which is conveniently accessible. Section B allows minor-parents or minors who have suffered a miscarriage access to modern methods of family planning without written consent from their parents or guardians;
• Section 23 Punishable Acts (a) (1) and corresponding provision in the RH-IRR particularly Section 24 insofar as it punishes any health care provider who fails or refuses to disseminate information regarding programs and services on reproductive health regardless of his or her religious beliefs;
• Section 23 (a)(2)(i) and a provision in the IRR with regard to allowing a married individual, not in an emergency or life –threatening case to undergo reproductive health procedures without the consent of the spouse;
• Section 23(a)(3) and the provision in the IRR which punishes any health care provider who fails and/or refuses to refer a patient not in an emergency or life threatening case to another health care service provider within the same facility or one which is conveniently accessible regardless of his or her religious beliefs;
• Section 23(b) and the provision in the IRR which punishes any public officer who refuses to support reproductive health programs or shall do any act that hinders the full implementation of a reproductive health program, regardless of his or her religious beliefs;
• Section 17 on Pro bono services of indigent women and corresponding provision in the IRR regarding the rendering of pro bono reproductive health service, insofar as they affect the conscientious objector in securing PhilHealth accreditation;
• Section 3.01(a) and (j) of the IRR insofar as it uses the qualifier “primarily” for contravening Section 4(a) of the RH Law specifically the definition of abortifacient and violating Section 12 on right to life and protection of life from conception.
• Section 23 (a)(2)(ii) insofar as it penalizes a health service provider who will require parental consent from the minor in not emergency or serious situation.

Church pressure

President Benigno Aquino defied church pressure and signed the law into effect in December 2012, but the Supreme Court quickly suspended it after church groups filed petitions arguing it was unconstitutional.

“This monumental decision upholds the separation of church and state and affirms the supremacy of government in secular concerns like health and socio-economic development,” Representative Edcel Lagman, the principal author of the law, said immediately after the verdict.

“A grateful nation salutes the majority of justices for their favourable ruling promoting reproductive health and giving impetus to sustainable human development.”

The Catholic Church, which counts over 80 percent of the country’s 100 million population as members, had led street protests denouncing the law as “evil”, and at one point in its opposition campaign threatened Aquino with excommunication.

Church leaders have helped lead two revolutions that toppled unpopular presidents in recent Philippine history, and they continue to insist they have a right to influence the parliamentary and legal branches of government.

Another example of its enduring influence is that the Philippines is the only country where divorce remains illegal.

Less conservative views

Nevertheless, many people across the sprawling archipelago have embraced less conservative views in recent decades.

A recent survey carried by the respected Social Weather Stations polling group said about 84 percent of Filipinos agreed that the government should provide free family planning options such as contraceptives.

It said 72 percent were “in favor” of the law.

Women’s rights groups and other supporters of the law say it will be a powerful tool in fighting poverty and cutting the birth rate of 3.54, one of the highest in the world.

More than a quarter of the population live on the equivalent of 62 cents a day, according to the government, and experts say there is an urgent need to provide free reproductive medical services that the poor can not otherwise afford.

More than a third of Metro Manila’s 14 million population live in sprawling slums, according to a 2010 World Health Organization report, and many of them do not have access to proper sanitation, let alone health centres.

According to the British medical charity Merlin, which has backed the passage of the law, 14-15 mothers die daily in the Philippines in complications related to child birth.

Santiago on RH decision: It’s ‘triumph of reason over superstition’ By Maila Ager INQUIRER.net 6:32 pm | Tuesday, April 8th, 2014


Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – While ecstatic over the Supreme Court’s decision that declared the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) law constitutional, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago threw her support behind any move to file a motion for reconsideration (MR) on several provisions that were struck down by the court.

“Thank you, Supreme Court! I love you, because you have faced the fears of a nation, and swept them away like cobwebs,” said Santiago, a strong advocate of the law, in a statement on Tuesday.

Santiago described the SC opinion, to quote a landmark case, was a “decision upon clashing interests resolved exclusively by the force of reason, according to law, without the power of armies, the weight of patronage, or imposing pomp.”
“In short, it is a triumph of reason over superstition,” she said.

Santiago was also confident that the high tribunal would reconsider its decision to strike down several provisions of the law as she expressed support behind any move to appeal the ruling on the said provisions.

She indicated that an MR on the provisions struck down by the court had a good chance, noting that the law “enjoys a presumption of constitutionality, based on the respect of the judiciary for the legislature; the presumption of constitutionality dictates that doubt should be resolved in favor of the law; and that the Court should reconcile the law with the Constitution.

“With respect to the provisions that did not pass muster, the Court should have granted to Congress the presumption of good faith and the presumption that legislative determination of factual issues is correct,” said Santiago.

“Very humbly, I emphasize that the burden of proof lies on the party who alleges unconstitutionality,” she added.

In the eight provisions, Santiago said, the petitioners failed to discharge this burden.

“It is not entirely clear what quantum of proof was applied by the Court to overcome the presumption of constitutionality,” she said.

“I think that in many instances, petitioners failed to show that the eight provisions are unconstitutional; instead, petitioners depended only on the argument that there was reasonable, substantial, or rational doubt. But I very respectfully emphasize the rule that mere preponderance of evidence is not enough.”

“Hence, I support with full enthusiasm the move to file motions for reconsideration. I am fairly confident that a more exhaustive study of the principles of constitutional law will support a reconsideration of all eight provisions,” the senator added.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, banded the SC ruling a “big victory for the Filipino people who had patiently waited for 14 long years for the passage of the RH law.”

“While there are some provisions which could be crucial to the effective implementation of the law but have been stricken down, we are pleased that the Supreme Court has affirmed the right of the government and its citizens to seek advancements of reproductive health policies in the country,” Drilon said in a separate statement.

“I personally consider the RH law as one of the landmark and most pressing legislations passed in the 15th Congress which would not have been possible without the resolve shown by the members of the previous Congress amidst their differences, the vigilance demonstrated by its staunch advocates amidst strong pressure, and the strong political will of the Aquino administration,” he said.

With the SC’s ruling, Drilon said the government’s hands are all free to attend fully to the needs for maternal care of millions of mothers, especially those living in the far-flung areas where basic healthcare is proven insufficient.
The Senate, he said, will exercise its oversight function over the implementation of the law “to see to it that its desired outputs will be achieved efficiently and that its promised fruits will be felt by the Filipino people in a timely manner.”

“With the implementation of the RH law, our eyes should be on agencies tasked to implement it, specifically the Department of Health, to ensure that the much-needed programs that would prevent maternal deaths and other health complications affecting women, wives and mothers in the country will be put into operation,” Drilon added.

FROM MANILA BULLETIN

RH Law morally wrong even with SC nod – CBCP by Leslie Ann Aquino
April 8, 2014 (updated)                           

Even if the Supreme Court declares the Reproductive Health (RH) Law constitutional, the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said the measure remains morally wrong.

“Maybe for the moment because of the numbers available in the Senate and Congress they had approved it as law but it remains to be morally wrong,” CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in an interview.

He added that what is right is not determined by numbers.

“Maybe they have the numbers, but that does not mean they are right because right cannot be determined by numbers. Right is always right and wrong is always wrong,” said Villegas.

The CBCP head said regardless what the outcome of the SC decision will be, the Church will still continue preaching about the sacredness of life and the dignity of the human person.

“With or without the SC’s decision, it is the duty of the Church to teach about life. Our duty does not depend on civil laws, our duty comes from God. So with or without the law … we must keep on teaching about the sacredness of life, about the dignity of the human person, about the holiness of life of the human person from conception until death. It does not depend on any law,” he said

To recall, the RH Law was passed by the 15th Congress in December 2012 and was later signed into law by President Benigno S. Aquino III.

The constitutionality of the RH law was later questioned by various sectors at the SC.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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