DOH asks Supreme Court to lift TRO on contraceptives

MANILA. Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday, October 10, asked the Supreme Court (SC) to lift a temporary restraining order (TRO) it issued back in June 2015 that restricted the government from "procuring, selling, distributing, dispensing and administering, advertising, and promoting" contraceptive implants.

The DOH's 47-page motion for reconsideration also sought the reversal of a decision last August 24 that ordered the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine if certain contraceptive drugs and devices are abortifacients or non-abortifacients.

The SC gave the order while nullifying the certification and re-certification earlier issued by the FDA – for 77 contraceptive drugs and implants – due to the agency's failure to follow due process. (READ: SC denies plea to lift TRO on distribution, sale of implants)

The TRO was issued a year after the SC ruled the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RH law) was constitutional.

According to the SC, the FDA certified, acquired, and gave out contraceptive drugs and devices without observing due process. It also did not give notice or public hearings, despite opposition from petitioners, such as the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines (AFFP), and a certain Maria Concepion Noche.

The petitioners also accused the DOH of implementing the RH law "without observance of due process and with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction."

The DOH's motion for reconsideration, however, argued that restraining the RH law could put at risk the family planning program it is implementing with local government units and civil society sectors.

Commission on Population (PopCom) Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez warned that blocking the program could lead to higher mortality and morbidity rates among women and infants.

"If carried out, the SC decision could result in over 900 additional maternal deaths every year arising from almost one million unintended pregnancies that could have been addressed by the full implementation of the Family Planning Program," Perez said.

He added that opposition to the law is being expressed "through backdoor judicial dilatory tactics, but the millions of Filipinos who stand to benefit from the law will surely bring all of this to an end.” (READ: Most contraceptives to run out by 2018 – PopCom)

While the SC ruled to strike down the certifications and re-certifications and the distribution of the questioned contraceptive drugs, it sent to the FDA the petitions filed by the AFFP and Noche.

The tribunal said the FDA should "observe the basic requirements of due process by conducting a hearing, and allowing petitioners to be heard" regarding their issues.

It also told the FDA to create rules of procedure that would be used for the screening, evaluation, and approval of all contraceptive drugs and devices to be used under the RH law.

The SC also told the DOH and its other concerned agencies to craft rules and regulations that would be used in the purchase and distribution of contraceptives covered by the certification from the FDA that the products offered will not be used as an abortifacient.

The DOH was also directed to make a complete and correct list of government RH programs and services, which would then be given to health care service providers covered by the law. – Rappler.com