SC denies plea to lift TRO on distribution, sale of implants
MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday, September 13, denied the plea of the Office of the Solicitor General to lift the temporary restraining order (TRO) on the health department's distribution and sale of implants, a contraceptive that can prevent pregnancies for up to 3 years.
The TRO has been in place since June 2015 This was after the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines alleged in their complaint that the Food and Drug Administration had certified two types of implants – "Implanon" and "Implanon NXT" – which supposedly have abortifacient character.
Even then, however, the health department had stressed that these implants are safe and not abortifacient.
The group also alleged that the FDA registered and/or re-certified other contraceptive drugs and devices without holding any hearing or consultation.
On Tuesday, the SC ordered the FDA to find out whether certain contraceptive drugs and devices are abortifacients or not. (READ: Use of modern family planning methods in PH rose in 2015 – report)
"The Court found that the FDA certified, procured and administered contraceptive drugs and devices, without the observance of the basic tennets of due process, without notice and without public hearing, despite the constant opposition of petitioners," the High Court said.
It added: "The Court is of the view that the certifications and re-certifications and the distribution of the questioned contraceptive drugs should be struck down as violative of the constitutional right to due process."
The SC then remanded to the FDA the consolidated petitions that sought to stop the health department from "procuring, selling, distributing, dispensing or administering, advertising and promoting the hormonal contraceptive 'Implanon' and 'Implanon NXT.'"
It agreed with petitioners that the FDA should "observe the basic requirements of due process by conducting a hearing, and allowing petitioners to be heard."
The government agency was directed to come up with rules of procedure as to the screening, evaluation, and approval of all contraceptive drugs and devices under the reproductive health (RH) law, which was declared constitutional in 2014.
The High Court said such rules should observe the minimum requirements of due process, including publication, notice, and hearing, as well as allowing interested parties to intervene.
It should, according to the SC, also strictly follow the standards laid down in the Constitution and the RH law on what are allowable contraceptives: those which do not harm or destroy the life of the unborn from conception.
Moreover, the SC said the FDA, when weighing evidence, should resolve all reasonable doubts in favor of the protection of the life of the unborn from conception
FDA has 30 days from the receipt of the SC's decision to conduct the hearing. (READ: Most contraceptives to run out by 2018 – PopCom)
The SC also directed the health department to coordinate with other concerned agencies in formulating rules and regulations for the purchase and distribution of contraceptives that have been certified by the FDA as non-abortifacient.
To standardize information in all health care service providers, the health department was also directed to come up with a complete and correct list of the government's RH programs and services under the law. – Rappler.com