SC extends RH law TRO indefinitely

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PRO-RH LAW Proponents of the RH law gather in front of Supreme Court displaying portraits of poor children. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

The Supreme Court on Tuesday extended indefinitely its order stopping the government from implementing the reproductive health (RH) law but two justices sided with five others against stopping the law’s implementation.

Voting 8-7, the high court extended the status quo ante order (SQA) it issued for 120 days on March 19. The order was supposed to expire Wednesday.

Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te said the latest SQA order was effective immediately and would be in effect “until further orders.”

The eight justices who voted to indefinitely extend the hold on the RH Law were Associate Justices Jose Catral Mendoza, Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Roberto Abad and Jose Perez.

Seven justices, on the other hand, wanted to extend the status quo ante order for 90 days only. They are Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justices Martin Villarama, Mariano Del Castillo, Bienvenido Reyes, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Marvic Leonen.

When the high court first issued the SQA order, the vote was 10-5.

The 10 justices who voted for the SQA order in March were Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo de Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama Jr., Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza and Bienvenido Reyes.

The five justices against the SQA order were Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justices Estala Perlas-Bernabe, Mariano del Castillo and Marvic Leonen.

No law to implement

Except for Sereno, Leonen, Bernabe and Reyes who are appointees of President Aquino, all the rest are appointees of former President Arroyo.

An SQA is issued to preserve the last uncontested status before the litigation or filing of a petition, which means it is as if there is no law to implement yet.

The high court extended its SQA order as the second round of oral arguments on the RH law is scheduled to be held on July 23.

During the first oral arguments on the RH law last week, the hearing centered on the age-old debate on when life begins. The hearing saw some justices questioning whether the high court had jurisdiction over such a “metaphysical” and “theological” question.

A number of bishops and pro-Church groups want the tribunal to declare the RH law unconstitutional.

The law, signed by President Aquino in December last year, allows the state to use public funds to educate the youth on RH matters, improve maternal health and provide couples with contraceptives.

At the hearing last week, justices asked petitioners against the law to explain their position that life begins with the union of the egg and the sperm and that this was why they wanted the court to stop its implementation.

The petitioners claimed that hormonal contraceptives were abortifacients.

Lawyer Concepcion Noche defended the position of the anti-RH petitioners that conception began in fertilization. By contrast, pro-RH advocates said that life began when the fertilized egg embedded itself in the uterus of a woman.

Some justices led by Carpio and Leonen expressed skepticism on the competence of the court to rule on the constitutionality of the RH law.

“It is now a question of when does conception occur—the time of fertilization or upon the implantation from the walls of the uterus. So, you are asking the 15 members of this court, none of whom are doctors, to decide when conception happens?” Carpio asked Noche, the first speaker in the oral arguments.

Leonen said that the petitioners were giving an “awesome” responsibility to the magistrates to make such a determination, and not the 24 senators, the 200 members of Congress and the President who were elected, and in the process “making us a super agency.”

Chief Justice Sereno said the high court was not there to answer “metaphysical” and “theological” questions but to balance the interests of the unborn child with other constitutional values and objectives.

Sereno said the petitioners had put the high court whose members were not elected in a difficult position, especially because the Constitution did not define conception as fertilization.—With a report from Tetch Torres-Tupas, INQUIRER.net

Originally posted: 12:05 pm | Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

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