CBCP HEAD LAUDED SC DECISION; ALSO CALLED LAW 'UNJUST'

In a statement, CBCP president and Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villages said that although the SC upheld the law's constitutionality, "it has truly watered down the RH law" by "[upholding] the importance of adhering to an informed religious conscience even among government workers" and "[standing] on the side of the rights of parents to teach their children." Villegas, however, also called the law "unjust." "On the part of the Church, we must continue to teach what is right and moral. We will continue to proclaim the beauty and holiness of every human person. Through two thousand years, the Church has lived in eras of persecution, authoritarian regimes, wars and revolutions. The Church can continue its mission even with such unjust laws," he said. Villegas admitted that the anti-RH side cannot see eye-to-eye with the pro-RH, “but we can work hand-in-hand for the good of the country.” “Let us move on from being an RH-law-reactionary-group to a truly Spirit empowered disciples of the Gospel of life and love. We have a positive message to proclaim,” Villegas further said.

ALSO: Palace: Gov’t ready to carry out RH law

Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the much-debated Republic Act No. 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RH law), the government is gearing to implement the measure sans any legal impediment. In a media briefing Tuesday afternoon, Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte said that the government, through the Department of Health, has been ready to implement the polarizing law since President Benigno Aquino III signed it on Dec. 28, 2012. “We have been ready from the day it was signed by the President,” Valte said. She said that the temporary restraining order that the high court first issued to debate the law’s constitutionality was their only road block.

ALSO: RH Law: The arguments the SC justices heard

After all the sound and fury about the RH Law, will it signify anything? After much deliberation, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled on the constitutionality of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law (RH Law). There were 14 petitions questioning the RH Law, with six intervenors or those who are not petitioners wanting to participate in the case also giving their positions. Among the more contentious parts of the law are its supposed promotion of artificial contraception, which the petitioners claimed would result in more abortions. Lawyer Maria Concepcion Noche said oral contraceptives and intra-uterine devices (IUDs) have "abortive capacity" and can be used as abortifacients. Former senator Francisco Tatad, who opposes the law, expressed his fear that Republic Act 10354 would "rewrite the mandate of the Constitution by imposing population control to state-mandated contraception." Tatad claimed that under the controversial law, couples are only given the options of periodic continence and contraception. The petition said giving couples the "freedom to choose the means or method by which to carry out the decision made for them by the State... would violate the sanctity and privacy of family life." Another prominent aspect of the health issue that was tackled during the oral debates was on when life begins. Noche said that life begins during conception, when a sperm cell meets an egg cell and forms an ovum or zygote. "A fertilized ovum is alive. It has life. This is a vital sign of life. Fertilized ovum is human. There is human life on conception," she said. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, during oral arguments on the issue last year, admitted that the "complexities" of the medical issues like that "may go beyond the court to address." Like Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio also said the petitioners seemed to be asking the high court to decide on the "medical issue" of whether conception begins during the union of the sperm and egg cells or when a fertilized ovum is implanted into the uterus. "Medical authorities are not even sure. They are divided. So how do you expect us to settle this?" Carpio had said. Carpio also said the petitioners have the burden to prove that the law was unconstitutional. "This is a facial attack, so [the petitioners] have to prove that under all circumstances the law is unconstitutional," Carpio added. READ MORE...

ALSO: Consigning them to darkness

Supreme Court justices, meeting today in Baguio City, are set to deliberate, and soon hand down a decision, on the constitutionality of the Reproductive Health Law. The 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. 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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CBCP, pro-RH Law side laud SC decision


Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines president Archbishop Socrates Villegas

MANILA, APRIL 14, 2014 (GMA NEWS TV)  By AMITA LEGASPI - In a statement, CBCP president and Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villages said that although the SC upheld the law's constitutionality, "it has truly watered down the RH law" by "[upholding] the importance of adhering to an informed religious conscience even among government workers" and "[standing] on the side of the rights of parents to teach their children."

Villegas, however, also called the law "unjust." "On the part of the Church, we must continue to teach what is right and moral. We will continue to proclaim the beauty and holiness of every human person. Through two thousand years, the Church has lived in eras of persecution, authoritarian regimes, wars and revolutions. The Church can continue its mission even with such unjust laws," he said.

Villegas admitted that the anti-RH side cannot see eye-to-eye with the pro-RH, “but we can work hand-in-hand for the good of the country.”

“Let us move on from being an RH-law-reactionary-group to a truly Spirit empowered disciples of the Gospel of life and love. We have a positive message to proclaim,” Villegas further said.

An 'incomplete' victory

Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, one of the authors of RH bill during the 15th Congress, viewed the decision as a victory for the people.

"For as long as the State is still mandated and empowered to implement a reproductive health program with the appropriate funding necassary for it to reach Filipinos in need, the historic Supreme Court decision is still a victory for the people, albeit incomplete," she said in a statement.

Parts of the Law's Sections 7, 17 and 23 were struck down, thus limiting the scope of its coverage even while preserving its core of requiring the state to deliver the full range of family planning services to the public.

Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez, also an advocate of the law, said they will study if there is still a need for them to file a motion for reconsideration on the SC decision.

He said the SC should have given more weight to the extensive discussions the law went through.

“I'm happy the law was upheld—finally after more than 15 years in Congress and a year in the SC, the law which aims to allow poor Filipinos access to family planning information and services can be implemented. I'm disappointed that parts were declared unconstitutional. I wish the SC had given more weight to the extensive discussions this law went through,” he said in a text message to GMA News Online.

He said that while the SC decision left the Law's core principle—government support for RH information and services—intact, he admitted it will be harder to implement.

“It will be harder to implement given the religious exemptions granted to publicly licensed health professionals and public officers,” he said.

Key provisions kept

Former Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, also one of the authors of the RH bill, said the “few provisions whose constitutionality was not upheld will not diminish the efficacy of the law and deter its full implementation.”

He said what is important is that the SC did not touch the salient provisions such as: Sec. 3(a), on the mandate of the government to provide and distribute for free to marginalized acceptors reproductive health services and supplies. Sec. 9, on the Philippine National Drug Formulary which shall include hormonal contraceptives, intrauterine devices, injectables and other safe, legal, non-abortifacient and effective family product and supplies as determined by Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Sec. 10, on the procurement and distribution of family planning supplies by the Department of Health (DOH) for distribution to local government units.

Sec. 14, on the provision on age- and development-appropriate reproductive health education to adolescents in all schools. The role of local government units in the implementation of the RH law as provided in various sections of the law. Sec. 20, on public awareness and nationwide multimedia campaign for the protection and promotion of reproductive health and rights.

Lagman added the SC ruling is a challenge to the Executive to fully and faithfully implement the RH Law and to Congress to provide adequate and meaningful appropriations to fund reproductive health programs and to resist attempts to repeal or weaken the RH Law.

“The much-awaited decision positively responded to the consistent clamor of the people for the enactment and implementation of the RH Law and for government to give reproductive health services and supplies to marginalized and poor acceptors of family planning,” he said.

The group Purple Ribbon for RH thanked the High Tribunal for upholding the law and giving it a chance to be implemented saying the decision is “the victory of women, children, youth, the family, the future of Filipinos and democracy.”

“From this day forward, we can expect that the government will be with us and help every Filipino in advancing their right, their health and their freedom to make informed decision. This day marks the beginning of a brighter tomorrow,” the group said. — BM, GMA News

FROM THE INQUIRER

Palace: Gov’t ready to carry out RH law By Bong Lozada INQUIRER.net
4:24 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. PHOTO BY EV ESPIRITU/ INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

MANILA, Philippines—Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the much-debated Republic Act No. 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RH law), the government is gearing to implement the measure sans any legal impediment.

In a media briefing Tuesday afternoon, Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte said that the government, through the Department of Health, has been ready to implement the polarizing law since President Benigno Aquino III signed it on Dec. 28, 2012.

“We have been ready from the day it was signed by the President,” Valte said.

She said that the temporary restraining order that the high court first issued to debate the law’s constitutionality was their only road block.

FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

RH Law: The arguments the SC justices heard By MARK MERUEÑAS, GMA NewsApril 8, 2014 1:25pm 52 101 0 194


ARGUMENTS SC JUSTICES HEARD

BAGUIO CITY – After all the sound and fury about the RH Law, will it signify anything?

After much deliberation, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled on the constitutionality of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law (RH Law).

There were 14 petitions questioning the RH Law, with six intervenors or those who are not petitioners wanting to participate in the case also giving their positions.

The landmark RH Law was signed in December 2012, but the SC stopped its implementation for 120 days in March 2013. Subsequently, the high court extended its ruling to stall the law's implementation “until further orders.”

Under the new law, the government will promote programs that allow couples to have their desired number of children with due consideration to the health of babies and women. Resources will also be made available to parents in accordance with their personal and religious convictions.

It also aims to inform young people between the ages of 10 to 19 years old about reproductive health issues and responsible teenage behavior, among other things.

Four issues

When it started oral arguments on the issue last year, the high court sought to clarify four things about the law: autonomy of local government and equal protection of the law, right to life and health, natural law and intergenerational responsibility, and freedom of religion, speech, and academic freedom.

Right to life and health: The issue of contraceptives

Among the more contentious parts of the law are its supposed promotion of artificial contraception, which the petitioners claimed would result in more abortions. Lawyer Maria Concepcion Noche said oral contraceptives and intra-uterine devices (IUDs) have "abortive capacity" and can be used as abortifacients.

Former senator Francisco Tatad, who opposes the law, expressed his fear that Republic Act 10354 would "rewrite the mandate of the Constitution by imposing population control to state-mandated contraception."

Tatad claimed that under the controversial law, couples are only given the options of periodic continence and contraception. The petition said giving couples the "freedom to choose the means or method by which to carry out the decision made for them by the State... would violate the sanctity and privacy of family life."

The former lawmaker insisted that the law does not equally protect the lives of mothers and their unborn children. "That is simply putting family, its most intimate and private life, and their liberties under state supervision," he said.

The petitioners said they were not asking the government to promote the Church teaching against contraception, but were "simply asking that the State not trample upon their religious beliefs and moral convictions."

When does life begin?

Another prominent aspect of the health issue that was tackled during the oral debates was on when life begins. Noche said that life begins during conception, when a sperm cell meets an egg cell and forms an ovum or zygote. "A fertilized ovum is alive. It has life. This is a vital sign of life. Fertilized ovum is human. There is human life on conception," she said.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, during oral arguments on the issue last year, admitted that the "complexities" of the medical issues like that "may go beyond the court to address."

Like Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio also said the petitioners seemed to be asking the high court to decide on the "medical issue" of whether conception begins during the union of the sperm and egg cells or when a fertilized ovum is implanted into the uterus.

"Medical authorities are not even sure. They are divided. So how do you expect us to settle this?" Carpio had said.

Carpio also said the petitioners have the burden to prove that the law was unconstitutional. "This is a facial attack, so [the petitioners] have to prove that under all circumstances the law is unconstitutional," Carpio added.

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the youngest and most junior member of the tribunal, said the RH Law does not impose immorality but instead, "acknowledges a reality that there are people that need more assistance so they can buy a condom, a contraceptive that is not abortifacient."

"What we have here is a government initiative to allow the Food and Drug Authority to check viability of contraceptives, to check if it is safe and not an abortifacient," Leonen said.

He also said the petitioners seemed to have given the SC an "awesome responsibility" to determine when life actually begins, whether during fertilization or implantation.

"That's an awesome responsibility given to some secular individuals, 15 of us, not 24 senators elected, not the 200 plus representatives, not the two of them acting together, not even the President elected by a popular vote," he said. He added: "We are not a political organ that vetoes an act of another organ."

Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta admitted not seeing any "infirmity" on Section 7 of the RH Law which gives the public access to family planning.

Associate Justice Roberto Abad had described hormonal contraceptives as "poison." Abad said manufacturers of contraceptives themselves have admitted their drugs can "prevent the normal function of a woman's body."

Abad had earlier read—during oral debates—portions of an information sheet for a contraceptive with a warning about its use once a woman is pregnant.

Abad said this means a child can be harmed, adding that "contraceptives attack healthy ovaries to make them dysfunctional. Court needs only common sense not medical experts to know this."

Abad also cast doubts on the partiality of the World Health Organization, which the government had consulted on the RH Law. Abad said the international organization "is heavily funded by USAID and supported contraception. They want to export to us their contraception culture."

Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro had said she wondered why contraceptives in the market are mainly designed to prevent a woman's production of eggs, instead of a man's production of sperm.

"Why are they focused on the prevention of production of eggs, production of ova? Why didn't they study with the same vigor the possibility that if they really want to stop conception, they should also take into account the partner of the woman? And why should the women be the one to take contraceptives every day, which some experts say is harmful to the health of the woman?" De Castro said.

"Maybe these pharmaceutical firms are dominated by male scientists," she added.

Abad and De Castro all voted to issue a status quo ante order stopping the law's implementation, while Leonen and Carpio voted against it. The law is currently indefinitely unimplemented.

Former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral had said Abad might have misinterpreted the information on the side effects of contraceptives.

"It is not true that oral contraceptives are harmful to ovaries of women in general. There is no science behind that. Maybe he misinterpreted the data that he read," Cabral, who attended the oral arguments, had told GMA News Online earlier.

She added that oral contraceptives only prevent the release of eggs from the ovaries, and that possible side effects of the contraceptives are outweighed by the benefits of it.

On Abad's doubts over the WHO, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza noted that Congress also sought opinions from 24 experts from the United Health Care Study Group, which he described as "patriots who we should be proud of." He added these experts were not "funded employees" of WHO.

Former Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, principal author of the RH law, maintained that the RH law did not "defile" the right to life enshrined in the Constitution.

"The RH law does not legalize abortion. In fact, it acknowledges that abortion is illegal and punishable and is not a family planning option or method," he said, adding the law "upholds" religious freedom and allows the government to support parents rear their children.

In defense of the law, former Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel claimed there is already a "vast array of medical evidence" to prove the efficiency of legal and government-approved contraceptives, the promotion of which is among the main thrusts of the law.

The petitioners also claimed the law violated a person's freedom of choice, as well as rights to life, health and religion. – KG/HS, GMA News

FROM MANILA STANDARD

Consigning them to darkness By Manila Standard Today | Apr. 08, 2014 at 12:01am

Supreme Court justices, meeting today in Baguio City, are set to deliberate, and soon hand down a decision, on the constitutionality of the Reproductive Health Law.

The 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.

The law seeks to do nothing else but inform women about their options about motherhood. It would be up to the woman to decide, depending on her convictions and financial means, what contraceptive method to use if she decides to use any at all.

These days, more than a dozen women die every day of pregnancy-related complications—problems which could have been avoided or treated had the knowledge, and access, been available to them.

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.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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