The RH Act (2012) in brief

Appendix “B” of Philippines RH Act: Rx for controversy

Sean Murphy*

An outline of principal sections of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 relevant to freedom of conscience.

SEC. 1. Title
  • [Not reproduced here]
SEC. 2. Declaration of Policy

The State recognizes and guarantees the human rights of all persons,1 including their right to equality and nondiscrimination of these rights, the right to sustainable human development, the right to health which includes reproductive health,2 the right to education and information, and the right to choose and make decisions3 for themselves in accordance with their religious convictions, ethics, cultural beliefs and the demands of responsible parenthood.4 . . . [Full text]

Philippines population control and management policies

Appendix “A” of Philippines RH Act: Rx for controversy

Sean Murphy*

Establishment of POPCOM

In 1967, President Ferdinand Marcos joined other world leaders in adding his signature to a Declaration on Population that had been made the previous year by representatives of 12 countries (often incorrectly cited in Philippines government documents as “the UN Declaration on Population”).1 Two years later, Executive Order 171 established the Commission on Population (POPCOM), and in 1970 Executive Order 233 empowered POPCOM to direct a national population programme.2

The Population Act

The Population Act [RA 6365] passed in 1971 made family planning part of a strategy for national development. Subsequent Presidential Decrees required increased participation of public and private sectors, private organizations and individuals in the population programme.3

Under President Corazon Aquino (1986 to 1992) the family planning element of the programme was transferred to the Department of Health, where it became part of a five year health plan for improvements in health, nutrition and family planning. According to the Philippines National Statistics Office, the strong influence of the Catholic Church undermined political and financial support for family planning, so that the focus of the health policy was on maternal and child health, not on fertility reduction.4

The Population Management Program

The Ramos administration launched the Philippine Population Management Program (PPMP) in 1993. This was modified in 1999, incorporating “responsible parenthood” as a central theme.3 During the Philippines 12th Congress (2001-2004) policymakers and politicians began to focus on “reproductive health.”5

Responsible Parenthood and Family Planning Program

In 2006 the President ordered the Department of Health, POPCOM and local governments to direct and implement the Responsible Parenthood and Family Planning Program.

The Responsible Parenthood and Natural Family Planning Program’s primary policy objective is to promote natural family planning, birth spacing (three years birth spacing) and breastfeeding which are good for the health of the mother, child, family, and community. While LGUs can promote artificial family planning because of local autonomy, the national government advocates natural family planning.3

Population policy effectiveness and outcomes

The population of the Philippines grew steadily from about 27million in 1960 to over 100 million in 2018. Starting from similar populations in 1960, Thailand, Myanmar and South Korea now have much lower populations (Figure 1) . . . [Full text]

Philippines RH Act: Rx for Controversy

Diatribe by Philippines’ President turns back the clock

Sean Murphy*

Abstract

Turning back the clock

In June, 2019, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte blamed the Catholic Church for obstructing government plans to reduce the country’s birth rate and  population.  “They think that spewing out human beings by the millions is a gift from God,” he claimed, adding that health care workers should resign if they are unwilling to follow government policy on population control for reasons of conscience.

Duterte’s authoritarian diatribe clashes with a ruling of the Supreme Court of the Philippines and turns the clock back to times of harsh and extreme rhetoric when the current law (commonly called the RH Act) was being developed.  The RH Act was the product of over fourteen years of public controversy and political wrangling. It was of concern when it was enacted because it threatened some conscientious objectors with imprisonment and fines. 

In January, 2013, the Project reviewed the Act in detail.  Project criticisms about the law’s suppression of freedom of conscience were validated in April, 2014, when the Supreme Court of the Philippines struck down sections of the law as unconstitutional.

Given the long history of attempts at legislative coercion in the Philippines and President Duterte’s obvious hostility to freedom of conscience and religion in health care, the Project’s 2013 review of the RH Act is here updated and republished.

Assuming that the Philippines government’s concern about population growth in the country is justified, it does not follow that it is best addressed by the kind of state bullying exemplified by President Duterte’s ill-tempered and ill-considered eruption.  Aside from the government’s enormous practical advantage in its control of health care facilities, it has at its disposal all of the legitimate means available to democratic states to accomplish its policy goals.  Not the least of these is persuasive rational argument, an approach fully consistent with the best traditions of liberal democracy, and far less dangerous than state suppression of fundamental freedoms of conscience and religion.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Turning back the clock

A history of coercive legislative measures

Background

The “RH Act” of 2012: General comments

The “RH Act” of 2012: Specific provisions

Freedom of conscience and religion

The Supreme Court weighs in

The way forward

Appendix “A”:  Philippines population control and management policies

Appendix “B”: The “RH Act” (2012)  in brief

Project Comments

Duterte blames Philippine Church for rapid population rise

Catholic opposition to family planning is main reason for high fertility rate, he says

UCA News

Joe Torres

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has blamed the Catholic Church for the rapid growth in the country’s population in recent years.

The Philippines is the 13th most populous country in the world, between Mexico and Ethiopia, with a growth rate of 1.72 percent between 2010 and 2015.

It is the second most populous country in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia and has the highest population-growth rate in the region. . . [Full text]

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

The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012

Opinions supporting freedom of conscience

Introduction:

In  April, 2014, the Protection of Conscience Project’s critique of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RH Act) was confirmed by a ruling of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. 

With respect to the issue of freedom of conscience among health care workers and institutions, of the fifteen Supreme Court judges:

  • 11 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 (Del  Castillo, J.) held that a requirement to provide complete and correct information was not unconstitutional, as long as it was not used to suppress the freedom of objecting health care workers to express professional or other opinions concerning contraception.
MAJORITY
Lucas P. Bersamin
Antonio T. Carpio
Jose Catral Mendoza
Diosdado M. Peralta
Jose Portugal Perez
Presbitero J. Velasco
Martin S. Villarama Jr.
Concurring opinions
Roberto A. Abad
Arturo D. Brion
Teresita J. Leonardo-de Castro
Concurring, dissenting in part
Mariano C.  Del Castillo (dissenting on providing information)
DISSENTING
Estala M. Perlas-Bernabe
Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen
Bienvenido L. Reyes
Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno

MAJORITY DECISION
Position of the Petitioners [P.60]
2. On Religious Accommodation and The Duty to Refer  [P.61]

Petitioners Imbong and Luat note that while the RH Law attempts to address religious sentiments by making provisions for a conscientious objector, the constitutional guarantee is nonetheless violated because the law also imposes upon the conscientious objector the duty to refer the patient seeking reproductive health services to another medical practitioner who would be able to provide for the patient’s needs. For the petitioners, this amounts to requiring the conscientious objector to cooperate with the very thing he refuses to do without violating his/her religious beliefs.190 . . . [Full text]

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)]