Supreme Court order on RH law welcomed

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

BENGUET Bishop Carlito Cenzon believes the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) to suspend the implementation of the reproductive health (RH) law is a welcome sign for more amendments.

The Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) to temporarily stop the implementation of the RH law last Tuesday with justices voting 15-5 in favor of petitions stressing the law offends religious beliefs and fosters abortion.

Cenzon said the 120-day TRO gives ample time for more oral arguments prior to the implementation of the bill, which according to the Catholic Church, has objectionable provisions.


He said voting held in Congress during the bill’s passage was vague. The TRO will now enable the Church to state their objections especially on issues involving abortion and contraception.

“Ang mga kongresista kasi noon ay hindi nakayanan ang pagkakataon na gumawa ng desisyon ayon sa kanilang konsensya,” he said.

Cenzon also said the posting of the Team Buhay tarpaulins in front of the Baguio Cathedral was not a decision of the diocese and the parish priest, but was a decision of lay people opposed to the practice of contraception.

He said the Team Buhay and Team Patay tarpaulins, which started in the Diocese of Bacolod, are a testament of the people’s contention to contraception and the RH law.

The tarpaulin lists down senatorial candidates and party-list groups according to their position in the RH bill during its congressional deliberations and are asking for conscience votes of the people.

The Bishop hopes the posting of these posters has an effect on the people and politicians.

He said the diocese has come up with knock-out criteria in voting this election which include their vote during the congressional deliberation of the controversial bill and the rest will be based on performance of the candidate.

Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood Law, which provides state funding for contraceptives, was passed by lawmakers late 2012 despite the Church’s opposition, but the SC decided on Tuesday to issue a TRO in favor of at least 10 separate petitions from the opposition.

Voting 15-5 in favor of 10 separate petitions, the SC justices issued a status quo ante order, which has the same effect of stopping an assailed ruling but is issued to preserve the status before the filing of a petition, said SC Public Information Office chief Theodore Te.

The 10 justices who voted for the issuance of the SQA were Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo De Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama Jr., Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza and Bienvenido Reyes.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno joined Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Justices Mariano del Castillo, Estela Perlas Bernabe and Marvic Leonen in the minority.

Te said the law’s implementation has been stopped until June 18, when both the government and 10 petitioners who questioned the law’s constitutionality will argue their cases before the court.

Catholic leaders also consider the law an attack on the Church’s core values and said it promotes promiscuity and destroys life. The government said, however, that it helps the poor manage the number of children they have and provides for maternal health care.

Nearly half of all pregnancies in the Philippines are unwanted, according to the UN Population Fund, and a third of those end up aborted in back-alley clinics. The Philippines has a population of 94 million and one of Asia’s highest birth rates.

Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr., however, found the schedule of the oral argument suspicious.

“At the onset, I’m disappointed. It’s bad enough majority of the SC voted to suspend the implementation but why wait until June for oral argument to be heard when this has been one of the most debated laws in history of Congress?” said Baguilat, also the deputy spokesperson for the ruling Liberal Party (LP).

President Benigno Aquino III risked the clash with the Church and Church-backed politicians to sponsor the law and lobby for its passage. He signed the law in December, and the Department of Health last week drafted and approved its implementing rules, setting it into motion.

The law makes sexual education compulsory in public schools, and mandates government health centers to provide universal and free access to nearly all contraceptives to everyone, particularly the country’s poorest, who make up a third of the population.

So far, such access has been patchy, expensive, and hinged on the political will of local governments. In the past, for instance, some mayors banned free distribution of condoms in their areas.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 21, 2013.

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