Human rights group hits suspension of RH Law

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - New York-based Human Rights Watch yesterday assailed the Philippine Supreme Court (SC)’s decision to suspend implementation of the Reproductive Health (RH) law as it puts women at unnecessary risk.

Human Rights Watch Asia director Brad Adams said Filipino women and families have waited long for the passage of the RH law to address grave health risks. 

“The Reproductive Health law was passed by Congress to address the many grave health risks faced by Filipino women. By delaying implementation of the law for at least four months – a long time for an interim order – the Supreme Court is putting an untold number of women and girls at unnecessary risk,” Adams said.

“While we respect the judicial process in the Philippines, Filipino women and families have waited and suffered long enough,” he said. Malacañang said the SC hold order would stop the law from being implemented but the government will have to argue the merits of the law before the high court.

On Tuesday, the SC issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the implementation of the RH law for 120 days.

Oral arguments on the consolidated petitions against the RH law are scheduled on June 18.

A day after the SC order, the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the RH Law were published yesterday in major dailies.

Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said the publication of the IRR was not intended to antagonize the high tribunal or those opposing the legislation.

“Even before the order was issued, the IRR was already set for publication. It was not intentional,” he said.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said they respect the freedom to question the constitutionality of the law, so “we’ll follow the legal judicial process of defending the law.”

“And we are confident that our government through the Office of Solicitor General will defend the RH law,” Lacierda said.

Various groups supporting the RH Law said it already took the controversial measure more than a decade to be passed and it was still continuing to face challenges.

The Human Rights Watch hailed the enactment of the RH law last December, saying it was a victory for Filipino women who have waited long enough for this day to happen.

The RH bill, Human Rights Watch said, marked the start of an era in which public policies in the Philippines can save lives, promote healthy family planning, and respect human rights.

Women’s rights groups in the Philippines played a key role in pushing the RH bill in both houses of Congress and keeping it alive in the national agenda despite overwhelming odds. Human Rights Watch said the Aquino administration and the legislators should be commended for standing up for women’s health and rights. President Aquino pushed for the enactment of the law but signed it without fanfare apparently to avoid offending the Catholic Church and other groups against the law.  With Jess Diaz, Paolo Romero, Christina Mendez, Marvin Sy, Helen Flores, Sheila Crisostomo, Danny Dangcalan

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