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    Posted February 23, 2014 by

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    Philippine gov’t afraid of the Church?

    FOR the past seven months, the highest tribunal of the land has not yet decided on the fate of the controversial health law, which was passed by Congress 14 months ago. Most political observers viewed some pertinent provisions in the law as against the belief of the Catholic Church.
    The Catholic Church, along with private organizations and religious groups, filed a petition with the Supreme Court which sought a stop to its implementation. The court handed down a temporary restraining order (TRO) in favor of the petitioners.
    After more than seven months, Senate President Franklin Drilon urged the Supreme Court to finally render a judgment on the controversial Reproductive Health Act case.
    Drilon pointed out that the prolonged debacle on the law has stymied government efforts in addressing the necessity for much-needed maternal and infant care throughout the nation.
    “More than 14 months since the historic passage of the reproductive health law, the government’s hands are still tied when it comes to attending fully to the needs for maternal care of millions of mothers, most especially those living in the far-flung areas [that] barely had access to health services,” Drilon lamented.
    The Senate chief said the highest court’s ruling on the constitutionality of the law “is vital in freeing the government to act on maternal deaths and other health complications affecting women, wives and mothers in the country.”
    “The implementation of the RH law has been hanged in a state of limbo pending a court decision, leaving the government temporarily incapacitated on its legitimate goal of removing the stumbling blocks to providing maximum maternal and infant care throughout the country,” Drilon said.
    He noted that addressing maternal deaths is a commitment under the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, where the country is woefully lagging behind.
    He added: “Whatever the verdict of the Supreme Court, only then will be the government freed to either continue with the RH law, or proceed to formulate another national policy on this issue.”
    However, Drilon said that as he is calling for increased decisiveness by the high court, he also concurs on the issue with fellow Congressional leaders, such as House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., who had earlier called on the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of the RH law.
    The implementation of the controversial health law, which was passed by the 15th Congress in December 2012, was blocked by petitions filed before the high court on the ground that it’s against the sanctity of life.
    The high court on March 2013 issued a status quo ante order against the law.
    “The fact that the RH bill underwent more than 13 years’ worth of debates, studies and consultations before it was approved, is an undeniable proof that its passage went through an arduous and highly-publicized process, where it was subjected to the full rigors of the Philippine legislative system, and where all views –whether for or against its passage- were fully observed and taken into account,” Drilon said.
    The RH Law was passed by the 15th Congress in December 2012, and at the same month was signed into law by President Aquino. However, its constitutionality was brought to the Supreme Court, which in March 2013 issued a status quo ante order against the law.
    Professional opinion on the matter
    From then to now, the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) supports the passing of the RH Law. Herald News Reportorial Team managed to gather opinions from various doctors whose names are withheld for their personal anonymity.
    The first question that came to the picture was: how expert are the country’s legislators in giving opinions about this law?
    A veteran doctor from a provincial health center stated that “Our country is on the top 10 of births per year. We doctors do not really particularly endorse a certain contraceptive. It is not on our Hippocratic Oath to stand by a particular brand.” In light of this statement, it is safe to say that all doctors, whether local or overseas, regardless of their nationality are one in saying that the PMA’s stand on the RH Law is unbiased and has tangible basis.
    Another query that was brought up was: do the Filipinos, as a whole—or the Philippines as a country—have enough obstetrical care nationwide which promotes more than ample access to information about fertility; reproductive tract infectious diseases, contraception, abortion and cancer-risks and infantile immunizations?
    The answer to that did not come from the medical health professionals. It was nonetheless delivered by the marginalized sector of the nation who get in line every morning at the nearest barangay health center for their medical shots but a huge percentage of them come home medically unattended.
    “Kapag maaga ka, mauuna ka sa pila. Pero hindi pa din sigurado yun kung makakakuha ka ng bakuna” [If you get to the center early, you might be the first one in-line but it doesn’t guarantee you a chance to get vaccinated] says one mother of three. Her children are a year apart from each other by age and her husband does not have a permanent job. This goes to show how little knowledge people are about “reproductive health” which by the way are the initials and main concept of RH Law itself.
    In conclusion, what is the government afraid of in passing the RH Law; the church or the people it serves?
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