MANILA (Mabuhay) -– Both the advocates and opponents of the Reproductive Health Law are claiming victory following the decision of the Supreme Court (SC), but the measure’s supporters believe they are the bigger winner.
Former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, one of the staunchest advocates of the divisive measure, said RH Law advocates have the bigger reason to celebrate after the SC declared the measure ”not unconstitutional” except for eight of its provisions.
”Kumbaga nanalo man pareho, makikita natin kung sino ang mas nanalo ng malaki, sa laki ng ngiti at tawa ng mga pro-RH at anti-RH groups,” Cabral said.
The high court on Tuesday announced that the law is not unconstitutional except for provisions that ”require ‘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”; and allow minors who have suffered miscarriage to have access to family planning without parental consent.
The SC also struck down provisions punishing a health care provider who refuses/fails to disseminate information on reproductive health programs or refer a patient to another health care service provider.
It also declared unconstitutional the provisions that punish any public officer who will refuse to support or hinder the implementation of reproductive health programs.
Also struck down were the provisions allowing a married individual, except in emergency or non-life threatening cases, to undergo reproductive health procedures without the consent of the spouse; and penalizing a health service provider who will require parental consent from the minor in non emergency or serious situations.
Another section struck down is section 17 of the law’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR) but only insofar as the rendering of pro-bono RH services will ”affect the conscientious objector in securing PhilHealth accreditation.”
Section 3.01.a and j of the IRR was also struck down since it uses the qualifier ”primarily”. By using the qualifier, the law contravenes section 12, article II of the Constitution.
Key provisions untouched
Despite the dropping of these provisions, Cabral believes that the essence of the law remains.
She said the mandate of the government to provide family planning services to the marginalized sector and provide ”age- and development-appropriate reproductive health education” were left untouched by the SC.
”Iyun ang pinakamahalaga at iyun ang pinaka-kontrobersyal. Iyun ang ayaw ng anti-RH, na magbibigay ang pamahalan ng kontraseptibo sa mahihirap at magbibigay ng kaaralan sa pamilya at kabatan. Iyun ang ayaw nila, pero iyun ang pinasa ng Korte Suprema,” she said.
Cabral also said the national government may find a way to go around the SC ruling that struck down the provision punishing public officials who will refuse to support or hinder the implementation of reproductive health programs.
”Para doon sa municipality na iyon, halimbawa kung ayaw niya, ay gagawa pa rin ang national government ng paraan para makapagbigay ng serbisyo. Direct service na po,” she said.
‘RH Law has no teeth’
Lawyer James Imbong, who was the first to file petition against the RH Law along with his wife Lovely-Ann, believes the law has been watered down by the high court after the latter struck down most of the prohibited acts under the measure.
The Imbong couple filed the suit on behalf of their two children and the Magnificat Child Development Center Inc.
”Ang batas gaya ng kapag tumawid ka habang nasa red light. Kapag hinuli ka, matindi ang kapit ng batas. Kapag wala ng panghuhuli, ang gagawin na lang ng pulis, kikindatan ka na lang,” Imbong said.
”Ibig sabihin hindi ganoong ka-importante ang panukalang batas dahil wala naman siyang parusa.”
Nonetheless, Imbong conceded that the anti-RH side is dismayed by the upholding of the other provisions of the law.
Imbong said he and fellow petitioners will study their next move following the SC decision, but he warned that the Philippines is heading towards the wrong direction with the upholding of the law’s constitutionality.
The pro-RH side has already declared intent to ask the SC to reconsider its decision declaring the eight provisions unconstitutional. (MNS)