OPPOSITIONISTS: 11 PROVISIONS ALLOWING COUPLES' CHOICE TO SUPPRESS LIFE, VIOLATES CONSTITUTION

The SC did not use the term “constitutional” in deciding on the legality of the RH Law, saying it used the double negative term since the constitutionality of the assailed law was assumed in the case. The grounds used by the high court in making the decision, however, were not immediately known as copies of the ruling as well as those of separate opinions had not yet been released. Associate Justice Jose Mendoza penned the decision, while Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno wrote her separate opinion in Filipino. At Malacañang, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the executive department is ready to implement the law. “We have been ready from the day that it was signed by the President,” Valte told a news briefing, but clarified they haven’t read the SC decision yet. “We would have to wait to read the entire decision, especially given the fact that the report states that some parts were declared unconstitutional,” she said. “Given that the Responsible Parenthood Law has several important aspects, we would like to be given the time to read the main decision,” Valte said. “I would need to read the entire decision, as well as the votes, the concurring opinions, as well as the dissenting opinions, if any,” she added. In defending the law before the SC, the government had the support of several private groups and individuals who acted as “intervenors” in the case. Aside from former congresswoman Risa Hontiveros and former health secretary Esperanza Cabral, the other intervenors were principal RH Law authors Sen. Pia Cayetano and former Albay congressman Edcel Lagman, former health secretaries Jamie Galvez-Tan and the late Alberto Romualdez Jr., the group of 2005 Bar topnotcher Joan de Venecia, the Catholics for Reproductive Health and Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood Inc.READ MORE...

ALSO: "May God forgive them" - Battle not over yet,’ say bishops, pro-life groups in Visayas

“May God forgive them,” said Fr. Amadeo Alvero, Palo Archdiocese spokesperson, referring to the justices who voted in favor of the RH lawThe Supreme Court ruling that declares the reproductive health law as constitutional has not deterred the spirit of the Visayas-based pro-life advocates who vowed to continue fighting the law, which they have described as “immoral.” . He stressed that the high court ruling would not change their conviction that the “RH Law is not a law willed by God but a law made by anti-life people.” The Church, he added, would continue to “uphold, respect and promote life which God wants.” Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra said the provisions that were thumbed down by the Supreme Court should be considered as a little triumph. “We need to take action and make a careful study and strategic pastoral response to this, because this battle is not over yet,” he said. “In fact, it has just begun and the event today only makes us stronger,” he added. Navarra stressed that they would continue to speak against the law and condemn it as an “immoral” measure constituting a grave violation of the principles of the right to life and the dignity of the human persons in the light of the authoritative doctrine of the Catholic Church. “The challenge is to form and inform the consciences of our faithful because the real fight against the artificial contraceptive methods which are not accessible, is fought with in that sanctuary of conscience and where one makes a choice,” he said. READ MORE

ALSO: SC ruling on RH law: Win-win; PROs cheer ruling as ANTIs also claim victory

There was jubilation on both sides. Cheers from pro-reproductive health (RH) law advocates who wore purple rang out in front of the Supreme Court building here when the tribunal’s spokesperson announced Tuesday that the high court had unanimously declared the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 “not unconstitutional.”
But the Supreme Court, on its annual summer session here, rejected eight of the law’s provisions, something that Catholic Church leaders and other opponents of the law found laudable. They also claimed victory. The provisions include those pertaining to providing minors access to contraceptives without parental consent; penalizing healthcare providers for refusing or failing to disseminate information about RH programs and requiring parental consent from a minor in nonemergency situations; and penalizing public officers who refuse to support RH programs. “The [high] court, after a scrutiny of the various arguments and contentions of the parties in the foregoing consolidated cases consisting of 14 petitions challenging its constitutionality and two interventions to uphold its constitutionality, unanimously held that Republic Act No. 10354 is not unconstitutional based on the grounds raised, except with respect to [eight] items,” Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te said, reading a prepared statement. Opponents have 15 days to ask the court to reconsider its ruling, Te said. It was Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza who penned the opinion of the court on the petitions. The ruling came more than a year after the suspension of the law’s implementation following petitions from Pro-Life Philippines Foundation Inc. and other Catholic Church groups to declare the law unconstitutional. Catholic groups assailed RA 10354, signed by President Aquino in December 2012, because it would allow the state to use public funds to educate the youth on RH matters and provide couples with contraceptives.


ALSO: Enough funds for RH – DBM

There are enough funds to ensure smooth implementation of the Reproductive Health Law this year and in 2015, Malacañang and the House of Representatives said yesterday. They gave the assurance in the wake of concerns expressed by some lawmakers that the RH battle would soon shift to funding RH services. “There is enough funding for RH programs for 2014 and certainly for 2015,” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said in a text message to The STAR. Asked about the amounts, he said he was out of the country “and will need to check the figures” when he returns. The Department of Health (DOH), the principal implementer of RH programs, has a budget of P83.7 billion this year, while the Commission on Population has P299.8 million. Abad’s wife Henedina, who represents their province Batanes in the House, voted for the RH bill. The chairman of the House appropriations committee made a similar assurance on funding reproductive health programs. “With the Supreme Court declaring the law as constitutional, we will certainly provide enough funds for its implementation, which ultimately benefit the poor sector of our society,” Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab said. His committee is the panel that scrutinizes the annual budget. He said he and his colleagues would most likely endorse whatever amounts the DOH or President Aquino would seek for RH services. Ungab, who belongs to the ruling Liberal Party, voted for the bill. However, some members of his committee voted against it. They included Davao Oriental Rep. Thelma Almario, a committee vice chairperson who belongs to Lakas, the ruling party during the Arroyo administration. READ MORE...

ALSO: Govt can’t force RH on people, SC warning

THE Supreme Court decision this week to strike down several provisions of the reproductive health law limits the government’s ability to exercise its coercive powers on population issues. The decision, released Wednesday, warned the government against forcing people to abide by measures to control the country’s ballooning population. The Court also said that it nullified provisions of the law that gave the government coercive powers. “Indeed, at the present, the country has a population problem, but the state should not use coercive measures (like the penal provisions of the RH Law against conscientious objectors) to solve it,” the decision written by Associate Justice Jose Mendoza said. This was the primary reason the Court struck down seven mandatory provisions in the law and a section in its implementing rules and regulations. The Court ruled that the RH law is “a mere compilation and enhancement of the prior existing contraceptive and reproductive health laws, but with coercive measures,” citing the Population Act (R.A. No. 6365), the Contraceptive Act (R.A. No. 4729) and the reproductive health for women or The Magna Carta of Women (R.A. No. 9710), sans the coercive provisions of the assailed legislation. “All the same, the principle of ‘no-abortion’ and ‘non-coercion’ in the adoption of any family planning method should be maintained,” the Court said. The Court also raised questions on practicality. It cited, for instance that population control “may not be beneficial for the country in the long run” based on experiences of European and Asian countries, which embarked on such a program generations ago and are now burdened with aging populations.


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RH Law: 11 provisions violates Constitution


Groups opposing the RH Law led by Pro-Life Philippines stage a protest in Baguio City after the Supreme Court upheld the controversial measure yesterday. ARTEMIO DUMLAO

BAGUIO CITY, APRIL 14, 2014 (PHILSTAR) By Edu Punay - Voting unanimously, the Supreme Court upheld yesterday Republic Act No. 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, but struck down certain provisions.

In summer session here, justices of the high court voted to declare unconstitutional eight provisions in the controversial law and in its implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

Voided were portions of Section 7 of the law, which require private hospitals owned by religious groups to refer patients to other health facilities and allow minors suffering miscarriage access to modern family planning methods without the consent of their parents.

The SC also struck down Section 17, which requires healthcare providers to grant free services to indigent women as prerequisite to securing PhilHealth accreditation.

Also voided were provisions in Section 23 penalizing health workers who fail or refuse to disseminate information on RH programs regardless of his or her religious beliefs, or those who refuse to refer non-emergency patients to another facility regardless of religious beliefs, or public officials who refuse to support RH programs regardless of his or her religion.

Also branded as unconstitutional is a provision in the IRR allowing married individuals not in an emergency or life-threatening case to undergo RH procedures without the consent of their spouses.

The high court also declared unconstitutional Section 3 of the law’s IRR, which defined “abortifacient” as only contraceptives that “primarily” induce abortion.

The magistrates, who came up with 10 different opinions, voted differently on these provisions.

But except for the eight provisions, all 15 justices voted to declare “not unconstitutional” all other provisions questioned in the consolidated petitions.

The SC did not use the term “constitutional” in deciding on the legality of the RH Law, saying it used the double negative term since the constitutionality of the assailed law was assumed in the case.

The grounds used by the high court in making the decision, however, were not immediately known as copies of the ruling as well as those of separate opinions had not yet been released.

Associate Justice Jose Mendoza penned the decision, while Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno wrote her separate opinion in Filipino.

Ready for implementation

At Malacañang, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the executive department is ready to implement the law.

“We have been ready from the day that it was signed by the President,” Valte told a news briefing, but clarified they haven’t read the SC decision yet.

“We would have to wait to read the entire decision, especially given the fact that the report states that some parts were declared unconstitutional,” she said.

“Given that the Responsible Parenthood Law has several important aspects, we would like to be given the time to read the main decision,” Valte said.

“I would need to read the entire decision, as well as the votes, the concurring opinions, as well as the dissenting opinions, if any,” she added.

The high tribunal issued on March 19 last year a 120-day status quo ante order halting the implementation of the law signed by President Aquino in December 2012.

When the order expired in July last year, the SC voted 8-7 to extend it for an indefinite period.

The decision of the SC effectively lifts the status quo ante order, according to a court insider.

In defending the law before the SC, the government had the support of several private groups and individuals who acted as “intervenors” in the case.

Aside from former congresswoman Risa Hontiveros and former health secretary Esperanza Cabral, the other intervenors were principal RH Law authors Sen. Pia Cayetano and former Albay congressman Edcel Lagman, former health secretaries Jamie Galvez-Tan and the late Alberto Romualdez Jr., the group of 2005 Bar topnotcher Joan de Venecia, the Catholics for Reproductive Health and Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood Inc.

Opponents of the RH law argued that it “negates and frustrates the foundational ideals and aspirations of the sovereign Filipino people as enshrined in the Constitution.”

They cited Article II, Section 12 of the Constitution, which stipulates that the state “recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution.”

They also cited constitutional provision mandating the state to “equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.”

“The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of government,” they said, quoting the Constitution.

Petitioners said at least 11 provisions in RA 10354, which reportedly allow couples the choice to suppress life, violate the Constitution.

They added that the new law, once implemented, would violate constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion and expression.

The consolidated petitions were filed by couple James and Lovely-Ann Imbong,
-non-profit group Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines Inc. (ALFI),
-Serve Life Cagayan de Oro City,
-Task Force for Family and Life Visayas Inc.,
-lawyer Expedito Bugarin,
-Eduardo Olaguer of the Catholic Xybrspace Apostolate of the Philippines,
-Philippine Alliance of Ex-Seminarians Inc.,
-Dr. Reynaldo Echavez,
-former Sen. Kit Tatad and his wife Ma. Fenny,
-a group of doctors represented by lawyer Howard Calleja,
-Millennium Saint Foundation Inc.,
-Pro-Life Philippines Foundation Inc.,
-a group of Catholic students represented by the legal office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
-Catholic lay group Couples For Christ Foundation (CFC) and Almarim Centi Tillah and Abdul Hussein Kashim. – Delon Porcalla

FROM THE INQUIRER

‘Battle is not over yet,’ say bishops, pro-life groups in Visayas Inquirer Visayas 7:24 pm | Tuesday, April 8th, 2014


A Catholic church in Bacolod has cut in half a tarpaulin that tells the faithful whom to vote for and whom to junk in the May 2013 senatorial elections (“Team Buhay, Team Patay”). INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

CEBU CITY, Philippines — The Supreme Court ruling that declares the reproductive health law as constitutional has not deterred the spirit of the Visayas-based pro-life advocates who vowed to continue fighting the law, which they have described as “immoral.”

“May God forgive them,” said Fr. Amadeo Alvero, Palo Archdiocese spokesperson, referring to the justices who voted in favor of the RH law.

He stressed that the high court ruling would not change their conviction that the “RH Law is not a law willed by God but a law made by anti-life people.”

The Church, he added, would continue to “uphold, respect and promote life which God wants.”

Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra said the provisions that were thumbed down by the Supreme Court should be considered as a little triumph.

“We need to take action and make a careful study and strategic pastoral response to this, because this battle is not over yet,” he said.

“In fact, it has just begun and the event today only makes us stronger,” he added.

Navarra stressed that they would continue to speak against the law and condemn it as an “immoral” measure constituting a grave violation of the principles of the right to life and the dignity of the human persons in the light of the authoritative doctrine of the Catholic Church.

“The challenge is to form and inform the consciences of our faithful because the real fight against the artificial contraceptive methods which are not accessible, is fought with in that sanctuary of conscience and where one makes a choice,” he said.

The second challenge would be for the church to strengthen its various family ministries, he said.

“We shall make our resistance known and felt in every nook and cranny starting from the basic ecclesiastical communities and parishes. This is our commitment and with ever greater intensity and energy, we shall not waver from it,” he said
A church leader in Iloilo also expressed dismay over the Supreme Court ruling.

“A disastrous day for life!” reacted Msgr. Meliton Oso, social action director of the Jaro Archdiocese.

He said the Catholic Church has always stood by its belief that the law “opens the door for abortion and abortifacients.”

If the decision of the high court would not be reversed, Oso said the Church would intensify its campaign and teachings on life and natural planning.

While seeing flaws in the law, the women’s group Gabriela in Panay welcomed the ruling of the high court, especially in addressing needs of women and children.

“The ruling also serves as a challenge to the government to prioritize health care as its basic responsibility to the people,” said Roxanne Arsaga, spokesperson of Gabriela Panay.

She said the government should ensure that free, accessible and comprehensive reproductive health would be available to women and children especially those coming from poor families.

For a church-based group in Cebu, the Supreme Court ruling did not mean the battle was over.

“We (pro-life groups) will regroup and discuss what strategies went wrong and improve it. Tuloy ang laban (The fight continues). This is not yet the end of the battle,” said Dr. Rene Bullecer, country director of Human Life International Philippines.

He, however, said they were a “bit happy” that some provisions were declared unconstitutional. Reports filed by Carla P. Gomez, Joey Gabieta and Carmel Matus, Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Inquirer Visayas

SC ruling on RH law: Win-win PROs cheer ruling as ANTIs also claim victory By Christine O. Avendaño Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:39 am | Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—There was jubilation on both sides.

Cheers from pro-reproductive health (RH) law advocates who wore purple rang out in front of the Supreme Court building here when the tribunal’s spokesperson announced Tuesday that the high court had unanimously declared the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 “not unconstitutional.”

But the Supreme Court, on its annual summer session here, rejected eight of the law’s provisions, something that Catholic Church leaders and other opponents of the law found laudable. They also claimed victory.

The provisions include those pertaining to providing minors access to contraceptives without parental consent; penalizing healthcare providers for refusing or failing to disseminate information about RH programs and requiring parental consent from a minor in nonemergency situations; and penalizing public officers who refuse to support RH programs.

“The [high] court, after a scrutiny of the various arguments and contentions of the parties in the foregoing consolidated cases consisting of 14 petitions challenging its constitutionality and two interventions to uphold its constitutionality, unanimously held that Republic Act No. 10354 is not unconstitutional based on the grounds raised, except with respect to [eight] items,” Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te said, reading a prepared statement.

Opponents have 15 days to ask the court to reconsider its ruling, Te said.

It was Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza who penned the opinion of the court on the petitions.

The ruling came more than a year after the suspension of the law’s implementation following petitions from Pro-Life Philippines Foundation Inc. and other Catholic Church groups to declare the law unconstitutional.

Catholic groups assailed RA 10354, signed by President Aquino in December 2012, because it would allow the state to use public funds to educate the youth on RH matters and provide couples with contraceptives.

Catholic leaders considered the law an attack on the Church’s core values and said it would promote promiscuity and destroy life. The government said it would help the poor manage the number of children they have and provide for maternal healthcare. Aquino had certified the legislation as urgent, aiming to reduce maternal deaths and promote family planning in the impoverished country that has one of Asia’s fastest-growing populations.

Double negative

The UN Population Fund counts 3.4 million pregnancies in the Philippines annually; half are unintended and a third are aborted, often in clandestine and unsafe procedures. The fund says 11 women in the country die of pregnancy-related causes every day.

A briefer from Te included a footnote explaining the use of “not unconstitutional” in the high court’s decision. It said the double negative was used because “all laws are presumed to be constitutional and the burden of showing that a law is unconstitutional is on the petitioner.”

“Failing that burden, the declaration is in the double negative—not unconstitutional,” the briefer said.

“To assert that it is unconstitutional would presume that the law operates on a starting point of unconstitutionality, which is not the situation,” it added.

Partially granted
Te did not release a copy of the decision but during the briefing, he read its dispositive portion, saying that the petitions were “partially granted.”

FROM PHILSTAR

Enough funds for RH – DBM By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 12, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - There are enough funds to ensure smooth implementation of the Reproductive Health Law this year and in 2015, Malacañang and the House of Representatives said yesterday.

They gave the assurance in the wake of concerns expressed by some lawmakers that the RH battle would soon shift to funding RH services.

“There is enough funding for RH programs for 2014 and certainly for 2015,” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said in a text message to The STAR.

Asked about the amounts, he said he was out of the country “and will need to check the figures” when he returns.

The Department of Health (DOH), the principal implementer of RH programs, has a budget of P83.7 billion this year, while the Commission on Population has P299.8 million.

Abad’s wife Henedina, who represents their province Batanes in the House, voted for the RH bill.

The chairman of the House appropriations committee made a similar assurance on funding reproductive health programs.

“With the Supreme Court declaring the law as constitutional, we will certainly provide enough funds for its implementation, which ultimately benefit the poor sector of our society,” Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab said.

His committee is the panel that scrutinizes the annual budget.

He said he and his colleagues would most likely endorse whatever amounts the DOH or President Aquino would seek for RH services.

Ungab, who belongs to the ruling Liberal Party, voted for the bill. However, some members of his committee voted against it. They included Davao Oriental Rep. Thelma Almario, a committee vice chairperson who belongs to Lakas, the ruling party during the Arroyo administration.

Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez, who voted for the measure after proposing some amendments, said he foresees that fireworks would again erupt when the House tackles funding for the RH Law in both the committee and plenary levels.

“The very nature of this issue has always been divisive. It will remain so for some time,” he said.

Benitez said among the amendments he and his colleagues from the Visayas had proposed was the scrapping of penalties for institutions and health care workers who would not participate in the implementation of the law.

“The deletion of provisions relating to punishment was carried in the House version. However, during the bicameral conference on the bill, these provisions were returned. It’s good that the Supreme Court scrapped them and deemed them as unconstitutional. We feel vindicated,” he said.

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, whose father Rodolfo Albano voted for the bill, has also said funding would be the next contentious issue that pro-RH and anti-RH lawmakers would wrangle over.

He said RH supporters inside and outside Congress would try to lobby for as much funds as possible for the implementation of the law.

On the other hand, RH opponents would attempt to reduce funding for it by putting pesos and centavos to provisions that the Supreme Court has struck down, he said.

He suggested that the DOH should now estimate the amount needed for the implementation of the law and include it in its proposed 2015 budget.

“If the needed amount is part of the budget that President Aquino will submit to Congress, it will be difficult for the House and the Senate to reduce it. Even if anti-RH lawmakers succeed in making a reduction, the President can always veto it and restore his original proposal,” he stressed.

The original RH bill carried an appropriation of P3 billion, but anti-RH senators and House members succeeded in removing it.

The bill narrowly won second-reading vote in the House, 113-104. Administration allies led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. mustered enough support for it. The margin widened in the final and third-reading vote, 133-79, after Aquino certified the measure as urgent. The Senate approved it by a vote of 13-8.

Speculation

Meanwhile, Belmonte branded yesterday as mere speculation reports that his chamber will next prioritize bills legalizing divorce, gay marriage and even abortion.

The House leader said what the chamber has lined up for deliberation and approval in the coming weeks are the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill and Resolution of Both Houses No. 1, which seeks to relax restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution to boost foreign investments.

“After the Supreme Court decision upholding the RH Law was announced, speculations have flooded media on the divorce bill being the next priority as well as gay marriage and even abortion. They are all just that right now – speculation,” Belmonte said in a statement.

He said while a bill seeking to legalize divorce was earlier filed in the House, his personal views on the issue as well as those of other lawmakers would be irrelevant at this point.

He said like any measure filed, the bill would have to go through the regular legislative process, including committee hearings.

“Divorce is not a legislative priority as there are vital pending measures that need attention including the Bangsamoro, the proposal to revise economic provisions in our Constitution and even the FOI as well as other measures that need to be addressed, mostly aimed at moving the country ahead and affording our people with a better quality of life,” Belmonte said. With Paolo Romero and Rainier Allan Ronda

FROM MANILA STANDARD

Govt can’t force RH on people, SC warning
By Rey E. Requejo, Coercive powers should not be used to control population growth—SC | Apr. 11, 2014 at 12:01am

T

THE Supreme Court decision this week to strike down several provisions of the reproductive health law limits the government’s ability to exercise its coercive powers on population issues.

The decision, released Wednesday, warned the government against forcing people to abide by measures to control the country’s ballooning population.

The Court also said that it nullified provisions of the law that gave the government coercive powers.

“Indeed, at the present, the country has a population problem, but the state should not use coercive measures (like the penal provisions of the RH Law against conscientious objectors) to solve it,” the decision written by Associate Justice Jose Mendoza said.

This was the primary reason the Court struck down seven mandatory provisions in the law and a section in its implementing rules and regulations.

The Court ruled that the RH law is “a mere compilation and enhancement of the prior existing contraceptive and reproductive health laws, but with coercive measures,” citing the Population Act (R.A. No. 6365), the Contraceptive Act (R.A. No. 4729) and the reproductive health for women or The Magna Carta of Women (R.A. No. 9710), sans the coercive provisions of the assailed legislation.

“All the same, the principle of ‘no-abortion’ and ‘non-coercion’ in the adoption of any family planning method should be maintained,” the Court said.

The Court also raised questions on practicality.

It cited, for instance that population control “may not be beneficial for the country in the long run” based on experiences of European and Asian countries, which embarked on such a program generations ago and are now burdened with aging populations.

“The number of their young workers is dwindling with adverse effects on their economy. These young workers represent a significant human capital which could have helped them invigorate, innovate and fuel their economy. These countries are now trying to reverse their programs, but they are still struggling,” the Court said.

The Court also said that the government may be barking up the wrong tree in resolving the perennial problem of poverty and unemployment.

“Let it be said that the cause of these perennial issues is not the large population but the unequal distribution of wealth. Even if population growth is controlled, poverty will remain as long as the country’s wealth remains in the hands of the very few,” it said.

Nonetheless, the Court decided to uphold the legality of the RH law due to its “policy of non-interference in the wisdom of a law.”

“In general, the Court does not find the RH law as unconstitutional insofar as it seeks to provide access to medically-safe, non-abortifacient, effective, legal, affordable, and quality reproductive health care services, methods, devices, and supplies,” the Court said.

“The RH Law does not sanction the taking away of life. It does not allow abortion in any shape or form. It only seeks to enhance the population control program of the government by providing

information and making non-abortifacient contraceptives more readily available to the public, especially to the poor,” the Court said.

The SC also opted to keep its distance on the issue on when life actually begins and other moral and religious questions.

“Majority of the members of the Court are of position that the question of when life begins is a scientific, medical issue. That shouldn’t be decided at this stage, without proper hearing, evidence,” the ruling said.

“In the case at bench, it is not within the province of the Court to determine whether the use of contraceptives or one’s participation in the support of modem reproductive health measures is moral from a religious standpoint or whether the same is right or wrong according to one’s dogma or belief. For the Court has declared that matters dealing with “faith, practice, doctrine, form of worship, ecclesiastical law, custom and rule of a church... are unquestionably ecclesiastical matters which are outside the province of the civil courts,” the Court said.

The ruling was unanimously approved by all justices. Nine other magistrates, however, came up with their separate opinions either in concurrence or in dissent to the points raised in the main decision.

The decision also lifted the status quo ante order issued by the Court last year, which means the RH law, except the eight provisions voided can now be carried out.

Voided were portions of Section 7 of the law, which require private hospitals owned by religious groups to refer patients to other health facilities and allow minors who suffered miscarriage to access modern family planning methods without the consent of parents.

The Court also struck down Section 17, which requires granting of free services to indigent women as a prerequisite for health care providers in securing PhilHealth accreditation.

Also voided were provisions in Section 23 penalizing health workers who fail or refuse to disseminate information on RH programs regardless of religious beliefs, allowing married individuals to undergo RH procedures without the consent of their spouses, health care providers who refuse to refer non-emergency patients to another facility regardless of religious beliefs, health workers who require parental consent from a minor in non-emergency cases and public officials who refuse to support RH programs regardless of religion.

The Court also declared unconstitutional Section 3 of the law’s implementing rules and regulations, which defined “abortifacient” as contraceptives which primarily induce abortion


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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