MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/8 April) – The Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously held that Republic Act No. 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 is constitutional, ending months of speculation over the fate of the controversial law.
However, in the decision penned by Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza, the High Court declared eight sections of the law as unconstitutional. These are Sections 7(a) and 7(b), 23(a)(1), 24, 23(a)(1)(i), 23(b); 17; 3.01(a) and 3.01(j), and 23(a)(2)(ii).
Dinagat Rep. Kaka Bag-ao admitted the nullification of these provisions has rendered the decision an “incomplete victory” for the Filipino people.
“But it is a historic victory nonetheless. For as long as the State is still mandated and empowered to implement a reproductive health program, we still won. One step at a time, but this is a significant step forward!” Bag-ao said in a statement.
For his part, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said the ruling has made the RH Law “lose its sting”.
“Although the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the RH law, it has truly watered down the RH law and consequently upheld the importance of adhering to an informed religious conscience even among government workers,” Villegas said in a statement posted on the CBCP website.
The bishop noted however that the even if RH issue will continue to be a point of contention, “both pro and anti-RH groups can work towards the common good.”
“We cannot see eye-to-eye with our pro-RH brethren on this divisive issue but we can work hand-in-hand for the good of the country,” he added.
He urged “staunch pro-lifers” to hold on to the Church’s teachings on family and life.
Villegas also asked the Catholic faithful “to maintain respect and esteem for the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has decided on the RH issue based on existing laws in the Philippines.”
Meanwhile, in a statement, the National Youth Commission called the SC decision a victory for and a gift to the Filipino youth.
“The full implementation of the RH Law will significantly curb the very high incidence of teen pregnancy in the country. With an average of 600 teenagers getting pregnant everyday, the Philippines has registered the highest rate of increase in the whole of Southeast Asia,” it said.
The Philippine Commission on Women also said it was happy over the SC decision.
It said it is optimistic that with the implementation of the RPRH Law, issues of poverty, high infant and maternal deaths, and teenage pregnancies will be addressed.
Popularly called the RH Law, RA 10354 had pitted its advocates and opponents in a legal battle that started in March last year, when the SC stopped its implementation pending decision on 14 petitions filed against it.
The petitioners, mostly Catholic Church groups, argued the law violated constitutional provisions guaranteeing the right to life for giving access to artificial family planning methods. The Catholic Church only endorses natural birth control methods.
In a survey made last month, the Social Weather Stations found that 72 percent of Filipinos are in favor of the RH Law, and 77 percent agree that “the RH Law follows what the Constitution should stand for, so it is only proper for the Supreme Court to allow it.”
The same survey says 68 percent are aware of the RH Law and 84 percent agree that “the government should provide free supply or service to the poor who wish to use any family planning method”.
The SWS said the survey results affirmed previous findings on public support for the RH Law. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)