Negating the RH Law

The Reproductive Health Law is again under attack and opponents seek to ban ALL family planning supplies, particularly contraceptives from the market.

The Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines, Inc. (ALFI), headed by lawyer Maria Concepcion Noche filed a Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition and Mandamus with the Supreme Court against the Department of Health (DOH), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Center for Drug Regulation and Research (CDRR).

The more than 100-page petition “questions the manner of implementation of the RH Law... as being contrary to the RH Law and the Judgment of the Supreme Court and carried out without observance of due process and with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction”.

It will be remembered that ALFI also petitioned the SC to declare the RH Law unconstitutional because according to them, all hormonal contraceptives are abortifacient and result in killing the unborn. This remains as their basic premise in the present petition (beyond the technical aspects of contraceptive registration and law’s implementation).

According to III. The Parties, “... the instant Petition is being filed on behalf of all generations of Filipinos yet unborn who are in danger of being deprived of the right to life ...” (emphasis and underscoring supplied). This is how extreme their position is prompting RH advocate Alfredo Melgar to quip, “Now, life begins from imagination and no longer from conception”. Beyond the unborn that has actually been conceived, Noche and party are also protecting those they imagine will be conceived.

Because of this positioning, the rights and lives of women, both rich and poor are put in peril. In their Prayer, they want the Highest Court to:

Issue a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Prohibitory and Mandatory Injunction to order respondents and their agents to:

1. Stop registration or re-certification, procurement, sale, distribution, or administration of all RH supplies including contraceptives; and,

cancel or withdraw all registrations or re-certifications already done on all RH products and supplies including contraceptives; withdraw these from the market; and prohibit further purchase, sale, distribution, and use of these RH supplies.

2.   Annul all orders, resolutions and all actions done or issued by respondents and their representatives for registration, purchase, and distribution of RH supplies including contraceptives.

3.   Order the FDA to draw up rules for evaluation and testing of contraceptives; and for DOH to formulate rules in the procurement, distribution, and dispensation of RH supplies particularly contraceptives.

4. Approve all rules and guidelines previously mentioned and for the TRO to be effective until this is done.

I am confident about no. 3 because these rules are in place. Besides, the law is quite clear in terms of the process of registering or certifying contraceptives. Also, the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) outlines in detail processes of DOH and FDA.

In 4, Noche asks the SC to approve the rules that she demands from DOH and FDA. I do not know how the Justices will consider this as it seems to set precedents. Does this mean that on controversial issues, the SC can be asked to scrutinize and approve all related rules and procedures? This is unnecessarily burdening the SC. Worse, is the Highest Court now being asked to perform functions of lower administrative agencies? Is SC being demoted?

Granting ALFI no. 2 will set government back in implementing the RH Law. DOH will need to start again. It took government many months to prepare so it can fully implement the law. Structures from the local to national levels had to be organized, all sorts of guidelines were drawn up, education activities were implemented so implementors are on the same page. Now that all these are done and things are set, Noche demands everything to be rescinded.

The same is true with the FDA. Based on records, the FDA spent many months in scrutinizing,   testing, and evaluating contraceptives that applied for registration or re-certification. It employed the services of and consulted with experts before approval was released. Now, ALFI wants these revoked.

ALFI succeeded in partially getting no. 1. The SC’s second division issued a TRO ordering the FDA from further registering or re-certifying contraceptives with pending applications. It also orders the DOH and its representatives to stop purchase, distribution and use of two brands of subdermal implant contraceptives, Implanon and Implanon NXT.

The FDA has already approved 50 contraceptive brands. Only three applications remain pending and thus, affected by the TRO. Government and its representatives now cannot distribute and use the two implants BUT can continue doing family planning services using all other approved contraceptives.

This is not what the anti-RH want. They are asking the SC to BAN ALL HORMONAL CONTRACEPTIVES FROM THE MARKET. In Noche’s letter to Sec. Janette Garin dated 19 March 2015 (Annex L of the petition), she said that ALFI was opposing the applications for re-certification of all contraceptives because they are all abortifacient.

This was her same position during the Oral Arguments on the RH Law. On July 9, 2013, she was questioned by Chief Justice Sereno whether a poor, unhealthy woman with already too many children using contraceptives is violating the constitution. Noche said YES.

She also said that an infertile woman who wants to get pregnant and managed to fertilize eight (8)   eggs through artificial means should carry all those eggs to full term unless she proves that she will die in doing so.

This is how small Noche regards living women compared with the unborn. The CJ in response said that with Noche’s statements, it has become the duty of the women to put themselves at risk because of the Constitution.

Imagine if the SC via the TRO granted all of ALFI’s demands? Then ALL Filipino women will no longer have access to contraceptives! RH advocates fought many years for the rights of economically disadvantaged women to have the same access to family planning supplies with those who can afford to buy, Noche’s group wants to remove this access even from women who buy their contraceptives.

While the TRO did not grant all of ALFI’s demands, the danger remains. The SC still needs to decide on the petition with finality.

It is time for all women (and allies), rich and poor, who want their reproductive health and rights respected to unite against these sinister moves to undermine what we fought for.

In the name of the LIVING Filipino women, we are not going to allow the RH law to be rendered inutile.


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