Next in RH battle: Full implementation by DOH, LGUs

Rodneil Quiteles
Next in RH battle: Full implementation by DOH, LGUs
Advocates say the decade-long wait allowed for the mobilization of the public – the 'strongest method' to ensure implementation

MANILA, Philippines – It’s all systems go for the Reproductive Health (RH) law, and advocates now look to the Department of Health (DOH) and local government units (LGUs) to ensure its proper implementation.

“The bureaucratic infrastructure is [in] place. And now we have the legal infrastructure to support the bureaucracy. But more than that, the beneficiaries are there, and they are willing to accept options of family planning,” said former Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, principal author of the RH law in the House of Representatives.

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa on Wednesday, April 16, interviewed Lagman and Dr Sylvia Claudio – director of the University of the Philippines’ Center for Women Studies – about what’s next for the RH law. (READ: SC declares RH law constitutional)

The Supreme Court took more than a year to declare the constitutionality of what Claudio called a “permissive” law, on top of the 13 years and 4 months it took to pass Congress. But the long wait has its perks.

“What the 15 years has allowed us to do is to mobilize the public. And once a public that is mobilized know their rights, that’s your strongest method of ensuring that implementation will happen,” Claudio said. (READ: Health advocates rejoice over upheld RH law)

Support from health sector

Both Lagman and Claudio are confident that implementation will not be problematic in the days ahead, especially with a large support system from the country’s health providers.

“A lot of people from the Department of Health had been for reproductive health for very long…The majority of the health professionals – whether it’s the doctors, the obstetricians, the gynecologists, the nurses, and many of the professional societies – have already sent in long before their endorsements of this law,” Claudio said.

The controversial law requires government health centers to hand out free contraceptives, mandates sex education in schools, and legalizes post-abortion medical care. 

Watchdogs

Claudio also noted that not a few LGUs had already passed their own ordinances on reproductive health way before the RH law was enacted.

“What you’re seeing is a public that will not accept this sort of misbehavior on the part of its politicians, and a public that has fought for its rights,” she said, referring to contraception bans previously in place in Manila City and Ayala, Alabang.

The genius of the law, she said, is how it was based on what was seen on the ground, where people “wanted to give reproductive health services” but didn’t have the budget, the mandate, and the protection to do so.

While Lagman is confident most local executives will obey the law, he did not dismiss the possibility of some of them “who might try to invoke their right not to implement the law.”

This is where watchdog groups like non-governmental organizations will come in, he added. (READ: Appeal SC ruling on RH law, Miriam tells advocates)

Challenge in Congress, SC

In Congress, he said anti-RH forces may come up with maneuvers to derail the approval of an RH budget, or there could be attempts to repeal the law or weaken the law.

He also expects critics of the law to file a motion for reconsideration before the Supreme Court, but predicted it “would be practically doomed.” (READ: Lagman: Anti-RH law forces will never stop)

But both he and Claudio believe nothing from the 8 provisions struck down by the SC can prevent the full implementation of the “health, anti-poverty, and human rights” law. 

“The full implementation of the law will help our economy and we’ll be able to achieve sustainable development,” Lagman said. 

Watch Rappler’s #TalkThursday interview below.

– Rappler.com

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