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PRESS STATEMENT/OPINION – April 9, 2014
Miracles indeed still do happen these days. After all the victorious claims made by the Pro-RH Law when Supreme Court (SC) spokesperson Theodore Te announced that the court ruled that the RH Law “is not unconstitutional”, a deeper look into the decision as excerpted by Te revealed that the Anti-RH group was the victor.
Let it be noted that the SC did not say that the law is “constitutional”. It used the double negative term “not unconstitutional” because it said that it is “assumed” that it is constitutional. In other words, its constitutionality is merely assumed by the SC. But the SC was very clear and emphatic in declaring seven (7) significant provisions of the RH law as “unconstitutional” which clearly demonstrate the triumph of the Anti-RH group.
This is so because it is not the “constitutionality” of the RH Law that was in issue at the SC. The substantive issues as defined by the SC in its guidelines before the oral arguments and as enumerated by the Solicitor General were limited to whether or not certain provisions of the law violated the right to life and health; freedom of religion and speech; right to protection against hazardous products; rights of parents in caring for their children; and right of families to participate in family planning.
In resolving these issues, the SC practically said “Yes”, all these rights were violated. On the right to life and health protection against hazardous products, the telling blow against the RH Law is when the SC ruled that the word “abortifacient” does not only include contraceptives that “primarily induce abortion” which means that all contraceptives that have abortion as “secondary effect” will be illegal. Thus, before the Department of Health could even purchase contraceptives for distribution to end-users, it has to prove that they do not induce abortion whether primarily or secondarily. And the Anti-RH group could question any such purchase if it has evidence that such contraceptives have abortion as primary or even secondary effect.
On the issue of freedom of religion and speech, the SC decision said that the law cannot penalize any health care provider who fails or refuses to disseminate information nor any public officer which includes local elective officials who refuse or fail to support the RH program or shall do any act that hinders its full implementation regardless of their religious beliefs. Even medical schools owned by religious groups cannot be forced to provide family planning methods nor medical practitioners be compelled to provide free RH services to be accredited by PhilHealth.
On the rights of parents to care for their children, the SC ruled that the RH Law cannot penalize a health service provider if he requires parental consent from minor in not emergency or serious conditions which is a recognition of the rights of parents to care for their children. The SC also decreed that minor-parents cannot be allowed access to RH methods without written consent from their parents.
In other words, nothing of sort was mentioned as to whether or not the RH Law in its entirety is constitutional which is an admission that its constitutionality is not really the crux of the case. Perhaps what the decision conveys is the recognition of the constitutional right of Congress to enact a law, but that does not automatically guarantee that all its provisions are constitutional until it is so declared by the SC when their constitutionality is questioned.
ATTY. ROMULO B. MACALINTAL
Las Pinas City