RH LAW ON HOLD

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At the start of the year, the DOH and its partners worked on the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act No. 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood-Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law to beat the required 60-day deadline after the law became effective on January 17. The IRR places primary responsibility on the DOH to lead the implementation, as well as the role of local government units (LGUs), health professionals, barangay health workers, as well as private and non-government health care institutions in delivering reproductive health services, information and supplies.

In March, the draft IRR went on marathon public consultations in Manila, Cebu City and Davao City. On March 15, Secretary Ona signed the IRR at the Corazon Aquino Health Center and Lying-in Clinic in Baseco, Tondo, Manila. Barely four days later, the Supreme Court issued the 120-day period of the status quo ante (SQA) order, and said more debates are needed as the new law faced at least 14 petitions seeking to declare it as unconstitutional.

The oral arguments were started on July 9 and on July 16, the lapse of the 120-day period, the high court with a vote of 8-7 decided to indefinitely extend the SQA. The oral arguments  concluded on August 27, and Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno instructed the petitioners against and for the RPRH Law to submit their memorandums on their arguments within 60 days. There have been concerns on whether or not the Supreme Court is the appropriate venue for the debates. The Chief Justice herself stressed that the Supreme Court must exercise “judicial restraint,” because the justices are not qualified to take up questions regarding medical science.

As it is, the fate of the RPRH Law is now in the hands of the 15-member Supreme Court. Can they finally decide on its constitutionality before the anniversary of the law's signing by President Aquino on December 21?

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