MANILA, Philippines – No, the battle is not over for the reproductive health (RA) law that the Aquino government passed just before Christmas last year. Set for implementation on Easter Sunday, the law has been ordered shelved by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, March 19.
Voting 10-5, the high court issued a status quo ante order on Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012. The court will study for 120 days the petition to declare the law unconstitutional. Oral arguments have been set for June 18.
The order was made on the same day that the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on whether the Team Patay and Team Buhay tarpaulins being displayed by the Bacolod archdiocese – and adopted in 6 other dioceses across the country – should be covered by the election commission’s rules on campaign propaganda.
Team Patay is the Catholic church’s nickname for senatorial candidates who, as senators and congressmen, voted for the RH law and are therefore supposedly anti-life. Team Buhay is composed of candidates who voted against the measure are there supposedly pro-life.
Six senatorial candidates reacted to the SC order to hold the implementation of the RH law. Two of them are with the so-called Team Patay (Risa Hontiveros, Sonny Angara); 3 with Team Buhay (Koko Pimentel, Gringo Honasan, Marwil Llasos). One is a returning senator (Ramon Magsaysay Jr), who favors giving the law a chance to provide family, especially women, with choices.
The aspirants all acknowledged that the battle over the RH law is not over, and expressed confidence that the Supreme Court will act according to their respective arguments.
The delay in the implementation of the RH Law is immoral. Nililibing nila nang buhay Ang mga Nanay. Laban para sa RH! — risa hontiveros (@risahontiveros) March 19, 2013
In an official statement, Hontiveros said: “The filing of the anti-RH petitions means that we cannot fold our banners yet. Not a single provision of the RH law should be conceded in the name of irresponsible sectarianism.
“A status quo ante order upholds a status quo marked with maternal deaths, desperation, and hopelessness for many Filipino families.
“For 15 years we struggled to have the RH bill enacted, and this legal hurdle is just another roadblock. It is supremely ironic that on Women’s Month, the SC decided to withhold the enforcement of a law that champions the rights of women.
“We fought hard for this law, and we’ve always overcome. Come June 18, we will be ready to defend our law. I am confident that the SC will provide a definitive solution to this issue, that they will side with mothers and women, and they will uphold the RH law's constitutionality.”
In a text message: “I think that's customary and normal to give the court enough time to decide on the issue. This doesn't mean though that they have decided the case in favor of the pro or the anti.”
In a text message: “I agree with the SC's cautious approach. If there is serious ground to entertain challenge to the law's constitutionality, then it's better to temporarily stop a law's effectivity.”
In an interview with @rapplerdotcom #PHvote: "Good. This Supreme Court is showing signs of life."
"We in Kapatiran are pleased to hear this good news. We are on record as against then RH Bill, now RH Law." (Part I, Statement) — Marwil N. Llasos (@iluvmarwilop) March 19, 2013
"As a lawyer, I have always maintained that the RH Law has unconstitutional provisions." (Statement, Part II) — Marwil N. Llasos (@iluvmarwilop) March 19, 2013
"I believe that the SC had enouh time to study the petitions which made it finally to issue our much awaited SQAO." (Statement, Part III) — Marwil N. Llasos (@iluvmarwilop) March 19, 2013
"We are positive that the cases will be resolved voiding the RH Law. This is a momentous victory." (Statement, Part V) — Marwil N. Llasos (@iluvmarwilop) March 19, 2013
In constitutional litigation, the issuance of SQAO/TRO means that the petition is meritorious. It points to a good outcome. May laban tayo! — Marwil N. Llasos (@iluvmarwilop) March 19, 2013
In a statement: “The decision of the High Court is unfortunate. We trust the Executive department and the legislators who pushed for its passage will defend the constitutionality of the law. We need a law for certain. The RH Law is simply to give options to the family.”