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Still no halt order from SC on RH Law

MANILA, Philippines - The government may still proceed with Republic Act 10354 or the Reproductive Health (RH) law after the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday did not issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) being sought to stop implementation of the law.

The SC tackled the petitions seeking a TRO and declined to issue one, instead ordering that the opposition of former Akbayan party-list representative Risa Hontiveros be consolidated with the six petitions filed last month questioning the RH law.

“There’s no ruling on a TRO yet. The new petitions have been consolidated with the earlier petitions,” the SC public information office told reporters in a text message.

Without the TRO, the RH law remains in effect since its implementation on Jan. 17.

Hontiveros sought intervention to the case last Jan. 28 and asked the high court to dismiss all six petitions questioning the constitutionality of the RH law.

Hontiveros led others against any deferment of the law, namely Sylvia Claudio, Clarita Eneria, Merry Jane Arroyo, Geraldin Navarra, Almira Dizon, Evelyn Ornopia, Amor Esperela, Ma. Yolanda Parocha, Felisa Avila, Leticia Lubong, Corsinnie Barbecho, Emily Ragub and Rubelyn Tonido.

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They questioned the legal standing of the six petitioners that asked the SC to issue the TRO enjoining the government from implementing the law.

Hontiveros and her group argued that contrary to the fears expressed by various sectors, the RH law does not legalize abortion.

The six petitions were filed by 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 and Eduardo Olaguer of the Catholic Xybrspace Apostolate of the Philippines.

They argued the RH law “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 and said at least 11 provisions in RA 10354, which allowed couples to choose to suppress life, violated this provision.

They also argued that the new law violates Article XV of the Constitution, which imposes on the government the duty to “strengthen (family) solidarity and actively promote its total development” and provides for “inviolable marriage” and “right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood.”

They added the new law violates constitutional freedom of religion and expression of those who will continue to oppose it and also creates doubtful or spurious rights called reproductive health rights.

Despite strong opposition from the Catholic Church, Congress passed the RH bill on Dec. 19. Two days later President Aquino signed it into law.

Meanwhile, supporters led by the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development Foundation Inc. (PLCPD) honored Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and other lawmakers for successfully pushing the enactment of the RH law.

The citations were given to 133 lawmakers from the House of Representatives and the Senate, who voted yes to pass the RH bill in Congress in December last year.

During the PLCPD’s general assembly at the Luxent Hotel in Quezon City on Monday, the citations were given to Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the principal author of the RH bill, Reps. Janette Garin (Iloilo), Josefina Joson (Nueva Ecija), Luzviminda Ilagan (Gabriela party-list), Teddy Baguilat, (Ifugao), and Aurora Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo.

Castillo was the first lawmaker to file the RH bill 14 years ago.

Other guests were former health secretary Esperanza Cabral, lead convenor of the Purple Ribbon for RH Movement, and Anna Lindenfors, country director of Save the Children organization.

Belmonte delivered the solidarity message while Lagman made the keynote speech. Artists Cooky Chua and Noel Cabangon made their respective performance.

Lagman said the RH law is not only a statute that will protect the infant and reproductive health of Filipinos but also boost calamity-risk reduction and climate change mitigation efforts.

“Throughout the long years of campaigning for the enactment of the RH law, I have always maintained that the absence of a comprehensive and national policy on RH also contributed to the level of devastation and impact of climate change on the lives of people,” Lagman said.

“The nexus among population, reproductive health and climate change are empirically given as they are well-established and validated,” he said.

Lagman said the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change defined climate change as “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity.”

He said the RH law upholds the basic human right to reproductive self-determination where couples and women are empowered to freely and responsibly determine the number and spacing of their children, thus mitigating the population growth rate.– With Paolo Romero

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