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SC should have upheld entire RH law, says Santiago

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court should have upheld the eight provisions of the Reproductive Health Law that it struck down as unconstitutional, pro-RH law Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said Wednesday.

Santiago, an expert on constitutional law, said the RH law enjoyed a presumption of constitutionality and opponents of the measure failed to overcome this presumption in their petition to the court to declare the law unconstitutional.

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The lawmaker, who has missed Senate sessions due to chronic fatigue, said she would support “with enthusiasm” motions for the court to reconsider its ruling and uphold as well the constitutionality of the provisions it deemed unconstitutional.

“The RH law enjoys a presumption of constitutionality, based on the respect of the judiciary for the legislature.  The presumption of constitutionality dictates that doubt should be resolved in favor of the law; and that the Court should reconcile the law with the Constitution,” Santiago said in a statement.

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“With respect to the provisions that did not pass muster, the court should have granted to Congress the presumption of good faith and the presumption that legislative determination of factual issues is correct,” she added.

The Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the following provisions:

•  Section 7, which (a) requires private health facilities and nonmaternity specialty hospital and hospitals owned and operated by a religious group to refer patients, not in an emergency or life-threatening case, as defined under Republic Act No. 8344, to another health facility which is conveniently accessible and (b) allows minor-parents or minors who have suffered a miscarriage access to modern methods of family planning without written consent from their parents or guardian; (RA 8344, otherwise known as the no-deposit law, prohibits the “no deposit, no admittance” rule in emergency or serious cases);

•  Section 23 (a) (1) as it punishes any health care provider who fails or refuses to disseminate information regarding programs and services on reproductive health regardless of his or her religious beliefs;

•  Section 23 (a) (2) (i) as it allows a married individual, not in an emergency or life-threatening case, as defined under RA  8344, to undergo RH procedures without the consent of the spouse;

•  Section 23 (a) (3) as it punishes any health care provider who fails and/or refuses to refer a patient not in an emergency or life-threatening case, as defined under RA 8344, to another health care service provider within the same facility or one which is conveniently accessible regardless of his or her religious beliefs;

•  Section 23 (b) as it punishes any public officer who refuses to support RH programs or shall do any act that hinders the full implementation of an RH program, regardless of his or her religious beliefs;

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•  Section 17 which renders pro bono RH services, insofar as they affect the conscientious objector in securing PhilHealth accreditation;

•  Section 3.01 (a) and (j) as it uses the qualifier “primarily” for contravening Section 4 (a) of the RH law and violating Section 12, Article II of the Constitution; and

• Section 23 (a) (2) (ii) as it penalizes a health service provider who will require parental consent from the minor in nonemergency situations.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said the Supreme Court ruling “truly watered down” the RH law.

Lito David, the spokesperson for anti-RH litigant Pro-Life Philippines Foundation, said the Supreme Court decision rendered the law “toothless.”

Santiago said the petitioners against the measure failed to present arguments that could have overcome the presumption of constitutionality of the eight provisions.

“Very humbly, I emphasize that the burden of proof lies on the party who alleges unconstitutionality.  In the eight provisions, the petitioners failed to discharge this burden,” Santiago said.

“It is not entirely clear what quantum of proof was applied by the court to overcome the presumption of constitutionality,” she added.

Santiago said that in many instances, “petitioners failed to show that the eight provisions are unconstitutional; instead, petitioners depended only on the argument that there was reasonable, substantial, or rational doubt.”

“But I very respectfully emphasize the rule that mere preponderance of evidence is not enough,” Santiago said. “Hence, I support with full enthusiasm the move to file motions for reconsideration.  I am fairly confident that a more exhaustive study of the principles of constitutional law will support a reconsideration of all eight provisions.”

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