Supreme Court of the Philippines majority opinion on the RH Law

The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012

Extracts of opinions supporting freedom of conscience

MAJORITY DECISION

Introduction:

The Supreme Court of the Philippines has issued a decision concerning the controversial Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 ( RH Law).  The ruling confirms the Protection of Conscience Project’s criticism of the parts of the law that adversely affected freedom of conscience among health care workers.  Those sections have been struck down by the Court.

The Supreme Court of the Philippines consists of 15 judges.  With respect to the issue of freedom of conscience among health care workers and institutions:

  • 11 judges held that the mandatory referral provision in the law was an unconstitutional violation of freedom of conscience;
  •  10 of the 11 also ruled that forcing an objecting health care worker to provide “complete and correct information” about contraception was a violation of freedom of conscience
    • The eleventh judge held that this was not, but added that the provision could not be used to suppress the freedom of objecting health care workers to express professional or other opinions concerning contraception.

Sections of the majority and individual opinions supportive of freedom of conscience are reproduced on the Project website.

Philippines: Church encourages conscientious objection to contraception

The country’s bishops have issued a document recalling that abortion has not been legitimized and that a person’s right to life is still inviolable

Vatican Insider | Lastampa

Paolo Affatato

Conscientious objection is the best way to defy the Reproductive health bill in December 2012 which the Supreme Court officially approved last April. After Parliament approved the controversial provision in December 2012, despite strong opposition from the Philippine Church, some Catholic politicians presented a series of appeals in a final desperate attempt to contest the constitutional legitimacy of the law. The verdict issued by the court means all provisions relating to contraception and sex education are now enforceable. The idea is to spread a culture of family planning and encourage birth control. The Philippine bishops who have been holding a plenary session in recent days, have tried to save the situation by issuing a “pastoral guide“. . .  [Full text]

Pastoral Guidance on the Implementation of the Reproductive Health Law

Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Philippines

While we would have wanted the Supreme Court to nullify the RH Law (Republic Act No. 10354), we must now contend with the fact that it has ruled rather to strike down important provisions of the law in deciding Imbong v. Ochoa, G.R. 204819 (April 8, 2014) and companion cases. It is our pastoral duty to pass the necessary information and instruction to our Catholics who, as health care workers (physicians, nurses, midwives, medical aides, medical technologists, etc.), are employed in health facilities, whether public or private, so that they may know what their rights are under the law as passed upon by the High Court. . .
Full Text

Supreme Court of the Philippines supports freedom of conscience

Sean Murphy*

The Supreme Court of the Philippines has issued a decision concerning the controversial Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 ( RH Law).  The ruling confirms the Protection of Conscience Project’s criticism of the parts of the law that adversely affected freedom of conscience among health care workers.  Those sections have been struck down by the Court.

The Supreme Court of the Philippines consists of 15 judges.  With respect to the issue of freedom of conscience among health care workers and institutions:

  • 11 judges held that the mandatory referral provision in the law was an unconstitutional violation on freedom of conscience;
  •  10 of the 11 also ruled that forcing an objecting health care worker to provide “complete and correct information” about contraception was a violation of freedom of conscience
    • The eleventh judge held that this was not, but added that the provision could not be used to suppress the freedom of objecting health care workers to express professional or other opinions concerning contraception.

In particular:

  • Five judges concurred with the majority decision as written.
    • Jose Catral Mendoza
    • Presbitero J. Velasco
    • Lucas P. Bersamin
    • Martin S. Villarama, Jr.
    • Jose Portugal Perez
    • Diosdado M. Peralta
  • Four judges wrote concurring opinions to supplement the majority decision
  • Four judges concurred with and dissented from the majority decision.
    • Mariano C. Del Castillo
      • Concurred with the finding that mandatory referral was unconstitutional.
      • Dissented from the finding that mandatory provision of “complete and correct information” was unconstitutional
        • But held that this provision cannot be used to suppress freedom of expression by objecting health care workers.
    • Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe
      • Dissented from the finding the mandatory referral and mandatory provision of information was unconstitutional
    • Bienvenido L. Reyes
      • Dissented from the finding the mandatory referral and mandatory provision of information was unconstitutional
    • Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno
      • Dissented from the finding the mandatory referral and mandatory provision of information was unconstitutional
  • One judge dissented.
    • Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen
      • Held that the law was constitutional in all respects.
      • Held that the court should not have permitted the case to proceed, and should, instead, have waited for actual cases to arise based on enforcement of the law.
      • Held that objecting objecting health care workers are morally and ethically obliged to refer patients for the contested procedures.

 

Philippines government demands referral by objecting physicians even if not “right”

In the closing hearings into the controversial Reproductive Health Law, judges of the Philippines Supreme Court questioned a provision in the law that makes it a crime to provide “incorrect information” about contraceptives.  When Senior State Solicitor Florin Hilbay explained that the Philippines Food and Drug Administration will determine what is “correct,” a judge pointed out that this would mean that no dissent from that would be allowed.  Another judge raised the possibility  of the imprisonment of physicians who disagree with the FDA about the safety of a drug.

Hilbay also claimed that objecting physicians have a “professional obligation” to facilitate the provision of the services to which they object by referral, asserting that refusal to refer makes a patient a “victim.” He insisted on this even though he admitted that referral might not be “right.” The court gave lawyers for both sides 60 days to submit memoranda concerning their arguments. [Manila Standard] [Philippine Daily Inquirer] [Inquirer.net]

Philippines Supreme Court hearings on the Reproductive Health Law

The Supreme Court of the Philippines has resumed a hearing into the constitutionality of the controversial Reproductive Health law (the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012) .  The operation of the law was suspended by the Court pending the outcome of litigation against it.  Luisito Liban, a lawyer representing some of those opposed to the bill, told the court that his clients were “speaking on behalf of true Catholics” who do not use contraceptives.   He also criticized the section of the law that requires objecting physicians to refer patients for morally contested services. [GMA (Philippines); ABS-CBN News (Philippines)]