Congress and the executive passed Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act way back in 2012, but the Supreme Court has indefinitely restrained its implementation. Now President Duterte has issued an executive order, enjoining local government units to implement RH programs. Will the LGUs also sabotage the EO?
While LGU executives are elected, there are ways for Malacañang to influence local programs and inspire compliance with its order, short of employing the methods of Oplan Tokhang. Malacañang can dangle carrots to local executives who support a program that is one of the 10 priorities outlined by the President in his socioeconomic agenda.
At the same time, the President can see to it that his next appointees to the Supreme Court are genuine supporters of reproductive health. By the time his term ends, the President would have appointed a majority of the SC justices.
Apart from ensuring support for the RH Law, he must determine their capability and commitment to institute long overdue reforms that will speed up the administration of justice. When the SC itself issues a temporary restraining order that has remained in place for nearly two years now, you can’t expect lower courts to work any better. And this is a TRO on a law whose constitutionality the SC has already upheld.
That TRO was in answer to a petition with the same argument that has been debunked and debated to death during congressional deliberations on the RH Law, that contraceptives promote abortion. RH proponents have given the same counter-argument: since conception is prevented, what is there to abort?
With the President’s order, millions of underprivileged women can have what their counterparts with better income and education have long enjoyed freely: access to RH services, and the choice to space pregnancies and plan the size of their families.
Reproductive health is a right that every woman deserves to enjoy, regardless of one’s income level. Universal access to RH programs is one of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals that the country has committed to attain. The President must see to it that his order is fully implemented.