Malacañang on Thursday welcomed the suit filed in the Supreme Court against the new reproductive health (RH) law, but belittled the arguments raised by the petitioners.
Secretary Edwin Lacierda, presidential spokesperson, said it was “good” that lawyer-couple James and Lovely Ann Imbong filed a case because “now the government through the Office of Solicitor General will be prepared to defend the RH law.”
In a press briefing Thursday, Lacierda said the petitioners did not raise any new issues that had not been brought up and answered during the congressional debates.
“The contention that was raised by Mr. James Imbong is not something new, it had already been raised during the debates,” he said.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said it was the right of the Imbongs to question Republic Act No. 10354—the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law—but “whether they would succeed was another matter.”
“They have to overcome the strong constitutional (as already cogently argued by eminent constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas), jurisprudential, equity and practical (both local and international experience) foundations upon which the much delayed responsible parenthood policy stands,” said Abad in a text message.
The RH law mandates the state to provide reproductive health services, including access to contraceptives and information on family planning, to couples that ask for it, and age-appropriate sex education to schoolchildren.
Arguing that this was unconstitutional, the Imbongs petitioned the high court to stop the government from enforcing the law.
Negating PH aspirations
In their petition for certiorari and prohibition, the Imbongs said the law introduced policies that “negate and frustrate the foundational ideals and aspirations of the sovereign Filipino.”
The law is to take effect on Jan. 17, or 15 days after its publication in a periodical of general circulation. It was quietly signed into law by President Aquino on Dec. 21, apparently to avoid stoking the passions that had surrounded it since its inception, especially on the part of the local Catholic Church.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said Thursday it supported the Imbongs’ petition although it did not have a direct hand in its filing.
Petition was lay initiative
Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission On Family and Life, said the petition was a lay initiative and was not orchestrated by the bishops who had been blocking passage of an RH law for 14 years.
He said the fact that James Imbong was the son of CBCP legal counsel Jo Imbong was “only incidental.” Jo Imbong is a “collaborating counsel” in the case.
“We are glad the ordinary Catholic faithful are taking the initiative to further the discussion on the RH bill. Its enactment into law would not end our opposition to it,” Castro said.
The law’s principal author in the House of Representatives yesterday rushed to its defense.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman belittled the petition filed by the Imbongs, saying it was “premature because it seeks to prevent the implementation of a law which is not yet in effect.”
“(It) is completely constitutional and will surmount any attack or test on its constitutionality,” Lagman said in a statement.
‘Flawed and fallacious’
Lagman also said that questioning the RH law based on the state guarantee of equal protection for the “life of the mother and the life of the unborn was flawed and fallacious.”
“The Constitution mandates the protection of the life of the unborn from conception. In other words, no less than the Constitution acknowledges that life begins when conception sets in, and it is upon conception that there is an ‘unborn’ which is entitled to protection,” he said.
Another coauthor said the challenge to the RH law gave its proponents
one more opportunity to further explain its merits to the people, including its critics.
“I see no legal infirmity or illegality in any of its provisions,” Akbayan party-list Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, a lawyer, said in a phone interview. “If they want to question it, this is a good opportunity to explain it more to them.”
Senators both for and against the RH law also welcomed the Supreme Court case.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, one of the main proponents of the RH bill in the upper chamber, noted the measure survived intense scrutiny during heated debates in the Senate.
Subject to intense scrutiny
“The controversies and divisiveness attached to the measure while undergoing the legislative processes involved in lawmaking added more interest and caution before it was finally approved in both houses of Congress,” he said in a text message.
Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto, who opposed the measure, said he believed the Supreme Court would intensely scrutinize the law but his concern was still that it was imposed on Filipinos by foreign powers to influence or regulate the Philippine population.
“That’s why even if my amendments were accepted, I still voted against it,” he said. With reports from Cathy Yamsuan, Christian V. Esguerra and Leila B. Salaverria
First posted 12:31 am | Friday, January 4th, 2013