MANILA, Philippines ? Twenty residents from depressed areas in the City of Manila yesterday asked the Court of Appeals to nullify Executive Order 003 which they said deprived them of their right to practice responsible parenthood.
Among those who filed the petition were Alexander Pesimo and his wife, Victoria, who have six children. Alexander works as a guard at a billiard hall and earns around P150 to P300 a day.
According to Victoria, she used to get her supply of oral contraceptives from the Manila Health Center. But after then Manila Mayor Lito Atienza signed the order in February 2000, Victoria said she could no longer get birth pills from the city?s health centers. As a result, she gave birth to six children over the years because she could not afford to buy the pills on her own.
The Pesimos and the other petitioners also asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order against the implementation of the EO which ?upholds natural family planning? and discourages ?the use of artificial methods of contraception like condoms, pills, intrauterine devices, surgical sterilization, and other.?
They said that by implementing the EO, the respondents ? the Office of the City Mayor and the Manila City Health Department ? prejudiced their right to health and well-being.
According to the petitioners, the ban resulted in the deterioration of their reproductive health because it deprived them of access to health care and health development and resulted in numerous pregnancies. The poor are the most affected, they added.
?In the meantime, petitioners? children suffer the consequences of economic hardship and higher risk of infant mortality brought about by the strain of multiple unintended pregnancies left unaddressed by the respondents? token implementation of a natural family planning program to the complete exclusion of access to available and affordable artificial methods of contraception,? they said.
Lawyer Harry Roque, who represents the petitioners, said they filed the case only now because his clients were apprehensive about the repercussions of filing a suit against Atienza while he was still mayor.
Atienza was appointed environment secretary last year after he finished his third and last term as city mayor in June.
Elizabeth Pangalangan, who also represents the petitioners, said her clients met earlier with Mayor Alfredo Lim to talk to him about recalling the order, but the latter seemed reluctant to do so.
She added that it was better to let the court decide whether or not the EO violated the Constitution and the country?s laws so that other local government units would be guided accordingly.
According to the petitioners, Atienza violated the government?s constitutional duty to defend their right to found a family consistent with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood.
They claimed that the EO favors only natural family planning methods and thus imposes a single or unitary view of family planning on all Manila residents, depriving them of any ?real? or ?informed? choice.