MANILA, Aug. 6, 2012—After proponents and supporters of the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill have claimed repeatedly that the Philippines is duty-bound to carry out RH programs by international agreements, a specialist in international law points out that the country is under no such obligation.
“Not all international documents are treaties. Some are like resolutions or just declarations, which carry no international commitments,” explained Atty. Jemy Gatdula
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have often been used to cite the Philippines’ supposed commitment to meeting targets set by the global community regarding universal access to reproductive health – which, as has been established by now, includes abortion on demand.
The MDGs are eight international development goals officially established following the Millennium Summit in 2000, where world leaders present adopted the United Nations Millennium Declaration. The 193 UN-member states plus over 20 international groups agreed to achieve the MDGs by 2015.
Though the Philippines does have an obligation to comply with treaty obligations, “the MDG, I believe, is not a treaty. At most it is a soft law that carries no actual commitment or obligations,” the lawyer and BusinessWorld columnist said.
Discussions about which takes precedence in cases of conflict between a nation’s Constitutional laws and international laws – or commitment to international agreements – have come up repeatedly in debates as to whether or not the Philippines is obligated to comply with principles set by foreign groups but go against the Philippine Constitution. According to Gatdula, the first thing to consider in cases like this is whether or not the document concerned is a treaty.
“Secondly, treaty obligations are not necessarily specific. Because they are not specific, there is a necessity to examine carefully the wording of the treaty itself,” he continued. The [International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights]…in fact, no international obligation contains specific wording that requires our government to provide contraception. Hence, no commitment on the part of the Philippines to provide contraception.”
A day after tens of thousands of Filipinos answered the call of the Catholic Church to demonstrate their opposition to the RH bill at the EDSA Shrine – with thousands more in at least 13 cities around the country holding prayer rallies – the UN applied pressure anew on President Benigno Aquino III for the bill’s passage, with UNFPA country representative Ugochi Daniels expressing her confidence that the House of Representatives could come up with a big enough number to ensure the bill’s passage.
The RH bill has been coming under heavy fire for the billions in taxpayers’ money it requires for the procurement and distribution of birth control drugs and devices — including those that have been found to be abortifacients, or abortion-causing.
“So, bottom line, is there an international obligation that requires the Philippines to provide contraception – and with that, to legalize divorce and to accept same-sex ‘marriage’? The answer to all that is no,” the international law expert emphasized.
“There are no international obligations that the Philippines has to comply with the abovementioned. Anybody who says otherwise is lying or is very ignorant about international law.” (CBCP for Life)