In order to simplify and expedite the hearing scheduled for 9 July to review the controversial Reproductive Health law, the Supreme Court of the Philippines has proposed that the petitioners for and against the bill concentrate on three constitutional themes during their oral submissions:
- proscription of involuntary servitude *
- equal protection clause (right to life, freedom of religion, natural law) **
- freedom of speech (academic freedom) ***
Sections of the Bill of Rights (Constitution of the Philippines) relevant to these proposals are:
- * Bill of Rights, Section 18(2): No involuntary servitude in any form shall exist except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.
- **Constitution, Section 1: No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.
- ***Bill of Rights, Section 4: No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.
- ***Section 5. No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.
[GMA News online]
As a result of continuing interventions, the Supreme Court of the Philippines has rescheduled a hearing into the controversial Reproductive Health law from June 18 to 9 July, 2013. The operation of the law has been suspended pending a review by the Supreme Court. [Sun Star]
The Philippines RH Act, which was to go into effect on 31 May, has been temporarily suspended by a 10-5 ruling of the Philippines Supreme Court. The court will hear arguments for and against the law on 18 June, 2013. The ruling is a result of nine petitions against the law filed in the court. The petitioners are
The Philippines Department of Health has signed the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 10354, otherwise known as the “Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law of 2012” (RPRH Act of 2012). The regulations have not yet been posted on the Department’s website. [DOH News Release]
The regulations will have an immediate impact on the exercise of freedom of conscience by health care workers. According to news reports, those who are privately employed must complete an affidavit setting out what they object to and why, and must post a prominent notice of what “reproductive health services” they will not provide. Government health care workers will apparently be forced to use some kind of civil service process to obtain approval for the exercise of freedom of conscience.
DOH Assistant Secretary Dr. Madeleine Valera stated that the law would be applied “liberally,” by which she appears to have meant that freedom of conscience will be restricted as much as possible so that purported “human rights” would be protected. [Sun Star]
Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, has published and editorial that extols the passage of the Philippines Reproductive Health Act. He argues that “family planning is a long established human right” and makes a claim for “reproductive rights,” and asserts that it is necessary to “tear down . . . barriers that prevent [people] from accessing information and services.”
The Philippines Senate and House of Representatives have passed a Reproductive Health Bill by signficant margins. Bills of this kind have been proposed repeatedly over the past 13 years and have always been highly controversial because of oppostiion from those opposed to contraception and other contentious aspects of the bills. However, it is unclear exactly what the new law will say, as the houses passed it in two different versions, and will have to compile an agreed-upon text before it can be signed into law by the president. [Modern Medicine]
23 health care professional organizations representing over a quarter of a million health care workers, including the Philippine Medical Association, held a press conference at the Philippine General Hospital urging the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill. [Philippines Inquirer] The bill is strongly opposed by those opposed to provisions in the bill that require the dissemination of contraceptives.
A new version of the controversial Reproductive Health bill is being circulated among Filipino lawmakers. The substitute bill, proposed by the sponsor of the original bill, is reported to include a number of changes responsive to concerns of the bill’s opponents. Some of the proposed changes deals with sections of the bill that could have an adverse impact on health care workers opposed to some birth control methods for reasons of conscience. The bill’s author is now prepared to remove the provision that threatens objectors with prosecution if they speak out, and to exempt denominational hospitals from a requirement to provide services that contravene their religious ethos. [Inquirer]
In an attempt to break a deadlock, the Philippines Senate has removed provisions of its version of the Reproductive Health bill that were thought to promote abortion and contraception. President Benigno Aquino wants the bill passed because he considers it essential to his economic development programme, but the bill remains highly controversial. [Philippine Daily Inquirer] [The Guardian]