MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, July 24, appealed to the Supreme Court to lift its two-year-old temporary restraining order (TRO) on contraceptive implants.
The President directed his appeal to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno who was among the guests invited to listen to his State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa on Monday. He called the issuance of TROs, in general, "a "bane to efficiency."
"May nagfile sa inyo sa Supreme Court, nag-issue kayo ng TRO (Someone filed a petition before the SC, and you issued a TRO). In the meantime ang gobyerno nagbili ng medisina, mga pills (the government bought medicine, pills), it was not a reckless purchase, it was preparation in the implementation of law. Medicines will expire next month," Duterte said in his SONA.
Duterte even apologized to Sereno for using the SONA to raise the issue. The last time he mentioned Sereno in a speech was in August 2016, while addressing troops in Cagayan de Oro in August 2016: he warned the Chief Justice that he would declare martial law if she kept harping on his war on drugs. (READ: Duterte to Sereno: Want me to declare martial law?)
"Maybe I am at fault, I am sorry, if I misquoted, or I didn't have the information," Duterte told Sereno who was caught on camera smiling in response.
Still, Duterte said the government should be allowed to implement the Reproductive Health Law.
"I am not for abortion, I am not for birth control, but I am for the freedom of the Filipino family to decide," the President.
TRO on implants
In 2015, the SC stopped the health department from distributing and selling implant brands Implanon and Implanon NXT. It also prohibited the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from "granting any and all pending application for reproductive products and supplies, including contraceptive drugs and devices."
It has created some sort of confusion among RH advocates who complained that Filipino women may not have access to contraceptive pills in the future.
In its latest resolution last May, the SC clarified that the TRO only stopped the DOH from "registering, recertifying, procuring, and administering" implant brands Implanon and Implanon NXT.
The SC said then that "respondents have only themselves to blame" for the supposed delay in the distribution of the "subject drugs" that are "due to the review of the FDA decision."
The TRO includes asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to rule whether implants have abortifacient agents. SC said that the FDA can sooner resolve this if only the DOH would conduct summary hearings.
In a statement issued after the SONA on Monday, SC Spokesman Theodore Te said: "The TRO is dependent on the FDA certifying that the two implants are not abortifacient. The TRO will be lifted as soon as FDA certifies."
Duterte said in his SONA that because of the TRO, certificates of product registration (CPR) of contraceptives have begun expiring. (READ: Most contraceptives to run out by 2018 – PopCom)
"I told (Health Secretary Paulyn) Ubial, if there is a nation in need of it, i-donate na lang (just donate it)," the President said.
'Bane of efficiency'
Duterte said that TROs have caused the delay of government projects, especially projects in the provinces.
"TRO is the bane of efficiency," Duterte said
Duterte said he asked the Congress to "find him a law" that would allow government agencies to counter the TROs.
"If may bidding naman, kung regular, dapat ang korte or somebody else should not delay the process (If there is bidding, if it is regular, the court or somebody else should not delay the process)," he said.
Duterte said losing bidders are often the ones who file TROs. – Rappler.com