THE HEAD of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has called on the government to respect the Supreme Court’s order to temporarily stop the implementation of some provisions of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RP/RH Law), after President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order accelerating its implementation.
“There is still the TRO (temporary restraining order) of the Supreme Court. The legislators and executive both have to respect the TRO issued by the Supreme Court,” CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas told the Varsitarian.
Duterte signed Executive Order No. 12 last Jan. 9 calling for “modern family planning services, modern contraceptives to be adopted by women of reproductive age.”
While most of the provisions of the RP/RH Law were upheld by the Supreme Court in 2014, the tribunal ordered the Department of Health (DOH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to certify or re-certify artificial contraceptives to make sure these were not abortifacients.
Pro-life groups however pointed out that the agencies did not observe due process in the certification scheme, and secured a TRO from the Supreme Court in July 2015.
The TRO in particular stopped the distribution of hormonal contraceptive implants Implanon and Implanon TXT, which the pro-life group Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines said had abortifacient effects.
The DOH, along with the Office of the Solicitor General, filed a motion for reconsideration against the TRO, but the high court denied the motion in September 2016.
The tribunal required the DOH to craft guidelines and procedures in the screening, evaluation, approval, purchase and distribution of contraceptives, and observe due process such as the issuance of notices and the holding of hearings.
No clear process
Nelson Logronio, a faculty member at the Faculty of Civil Law, said there was no clear process in implementing the high court’s decision on the RP/RH Law.
“The meat of RP/RH law has been removed, particularly full access where everyone has to be informed. The Supreme Court said it is unconstitutional to force the health care providers to do something against their freedom of religion, belief and their conscience,” Logronio said in an interview with the Varsitarian.
The Catholic Church supports family planning using natural methods. However, it regards artificial contraception and sterilization as morally unacceptable.
Logronio said no bills had been filed to amend the RP/RH Law following the high court’s 2014 ruling and subsequent TRO.
The Supreme Court struck down parts of Sections 3, 7, 17 and 23 of the RP/RH Law, regarding sanctions on health personnel, government employees and health institutions for refusing to comply because of religious beliefs.