“This latest step is just another indication of (the Church’s) refusal to heed the views of a majority of our people. It is sad that the Supreme Court should be instrumental in revoking human rights already claimed by our people under the RH law.” – UP Center for Women’s Studies, UP Law Center Institute of Human Rights
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Groups criticized the status quo ante order issued by the Supreme Court against the Reproductive Health (RH) Law.
In a statement, the UP Center for Women’s Studies and the UP Law Center Institute of Human Rights said they are concerned that another delay “will add to the death count of women dying in the act of giving life.”
“Based on the Philippine government’s family health data, 14 maternal deaths a day occur because of the lack of basic reproductive health services. This amounts to 1,680 women who will die in the 120 days that the order is effective,” the groups said.
The two groups said the high court order stopping the law for four months was “particularly insulting” as the order came during Women’s Month.
In a statement, Rom Dongeto, executive director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD) said the ten justices who voted for the order “will be held accountable to 15 women who die each day due to pregnancy related circumstances, to the teenagers who will bear children due to lack of reproductive health education, to the Persons Living with HIV due to lack of information and protection, and to the Filipino people in general who have only wished for better health care once this law is fully implemented.”
New York-based Human Rights Watch also expressed disappointment with the SC decision. “By delaying implementation of the law for at least four months – a long time for an interim order — the Supreme Court is putting an untold number of women and girls at unnecessary risk,” Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said.
Dongeto said that the RH Law is a product of 14 years of debate.
“The Filipino people have waited long enough and this decision of the Supreme Court is another attempt to delay the implementation of the landmark legislation,” Dongeto said.
Speaking during the launch of the Purple Vote, March 20, Elizabeth Aguiling Pangalangan, director of the
UP Law Center Institute of Human Rights, said the RH bill went through the rigorous process of Congress and the authors ably defended it.
“Nothing is unconstitutional in the law,” Pangalangan said. “I hope the SC will not allow themselves to be swayed by political forces but will look at the arguments.”
The status quo ante order was issued after Catholic lawyers questioned the constitutionality of the law.
“This latest step is just another indication of (the Church’s) refusal to heed the views of a majority of our people. It is sad that the Supreme Court should be instrumental in revoking human rights already claimed by our people under the RH law,” the statement of UP Center for Women’s Studies and the UP Law Center Institute of Human Rights said.
“There are times when legal processes and exhaustive measures no longer serve the purposes of democracy and social cohesion. Times when the hard institutional power of government and social entities must yield to the urgent needs of those most in need of succor,” it said.
Dr. Esperanza Cabral, lead convener of the Purple Vote campaign, said she is saddened by the development. “That is part of our democracy. I believe that in the end, the RH Law will stand.”
Sylvia Estrada Claudio, director of the University of the Philippines Center Women’s Studies, said they are ready to present during the oral arguments.
“We are willing to hold a demo on how we counsel the poorest and the most uneducated on the RH Law,” Claudio said. “If the justices would be willing to conduct field visits in our clinics, they are welcome.”
No to population control
For its part, Gabriela Women’s Party said the suspension of the implementation of RH Law “affirms that the struggle for women’s health continues. “
Gabriela Women’s Party has opposed the population control agenda in the RH Law. “The RH Law’s population control framework effectively defeats its publicized intent to provide health services and unmasks the Aquino government’s duplicity amid the privatization of government hospitals and health services,” the group said.
The Gabriela Women’s Party maintained that the growing population is not the root cause of poverty but rather the government policies that cause unemployment, landlessness, low wages and high prices.