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High court stops RH Law

By Rey E. Requejo | Mar. 19, 2013 at 11:01pm
Justices vote 10-5 for 120-day postponement

The Supreme Court on Tuesday stopped Malacañang and other government agencies from implementing Republic Act 10354, or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, for a period of four months.

Voting 10-5, the high court approved the 120-day status quo ante order and set the oral arguments on the consolidated cases assailing the constitutionality of the RH law on June 18.

“SC en banc issued a 120-day status quo ante order in the consolidated cases involving the RH Law. Vote was 10-5,” the high court’s Public Information Office said in a text message.

Catholic Church officials hailed the high court’s order, while lawmakers praised or criticized it according to their position on it.

Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez thanked God for the high court’s order, while Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon and Digos Bishop Guillermo Afable praised it.

Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said the order was good news.

Those who voted for the SQA order were Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama Jr., Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza and Bienvenido Reyes.

Those who dissented were Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Aranal-Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Justice Mariano Del Castillo, Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Justice Marvic Leonen.

Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te said the order was “preliminary” and the possibility of the high court ruling in favor of the legality of the law remained.

The SQA order was directed at Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa Jr., Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Education Secretary Armin Luistro, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II who were all named respondents in the case.

The consolidated petitions against the RH Law were filed as early as January by couple James and Lovely-Ann Imbong, the non-profit group Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines Inc., Serve Life Cagayan de Oro City, Task Force for Family and Life Visayas Inc., lawyer Expedito Bugarin, Eduardo Olaguer of the Catholic Xybrspace Apostolate of the Philippines, former Senator Francisco Tatad and his wife Maria Fenny, and a group of doctors represented by lawyer Howard Calleja.

The RH Law guarantees universal access to the methods of contraception, fertility control, sexual education and maternal care.

Congress passed that law on Dec. 19 last year and President Benigno Aquino III signed it two days later despite the strong opposition from the Catholic Church, which approves only of the natural family-planning methods.

The government would have released the laws implementing rules and regulations on Easter Sunday, but the high court resolution preempted it.

The petitioners against the RH Law argue that it “negates and frustrates the foundational ideals and aspirations of the sovereign Filipino people as enshrined in the constitution.”

They claim that at least 11 provisions of that law, which allow couples to choose to suppress life, violate the Constitution.

Malacañang on Tuesday expressed confidence that the government would be able to defend the RH Law.

“We will observe the status quo ante resolution,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

“We are confident that the government will be able to defend the merits of the Responsible Parenthood Law.”

Former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros said the status quo ante resolution “upholds a status quo marked with maternal deaths, desperation and hopelessness for many Filipino families.”

Former Senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr. said the high court’s decision was “unfortunate” even if it was just a “temporary setback.”

“We need the law for certain,” he said.

Assistant Health Secretary Eric Tayag said he hoped the high court order would not last for four months because the law was for Filipino women.

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, an RH Law critic, welcomed the high court order.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and and Reps. Simeon Datumanong and Edcel Lagman, all pro-RH, also welcomed the high court order and said it was a temporary delay.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Babuilat said he saw no basis for the high court’s order.

Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara said the status quo ante order would give the high court time to decide on its legality.  Reps. Sherwin Tugna and Mel Senen Sarmiento said the high court order was a “temporary setback.”

Senator Francis Escudero and former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar said the public should respect the high court’s order. With Joyce Pangco Pañares,  Macon Ramos-Araneta and Maricel V. Cruz
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