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 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)]

Philippines Supreme Court identifies issues to be addressed in hearing

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]

Philippines Supreme Court sets new date for RH bill hearing

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]

Philippines Supreme Court suspends controversial Reproductive Health Law

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

[Manila Bulletin]

Freedom of conscience in Philippines impacted by Reproductive Health Act

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]

Philippines RH Act: Rx for controversy

Sean Murphy*

. . .  the exercise of freedom of conscience is made impossible or ridiculous, and exposes those who claim the exemption to prosecution for human rights violations. . . it is not clear whether this part of the bill has been deliberately constructed as an obstacle to conscientious objection, or if it is simply the product of appalling legislative draftsmanship. Full Text