March 28, 2017
Advocates and stakeholders once again called on decisionmakers of the government, particularly the justices of the Supreme Court (SC) of the Philippines, to remove barriers to the full implementation of the Reproductive Health and Responsible Parenthood (RPRH) Law.
This call was made during a national dialogue on reproductive health organized by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLPD) on 28 March, in partnership with five other non-governmental organizations and with the support of the European Union and Oxfam. Called “Lifting Roadblocks to RH,” the national dialogue gathered almost 200 stakeholders representing government agencies, civil society organizations and people’s organizations, and development partners from the National Capital Region (NCR) and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Enacted almost five years ago in December 2012, the law has not been free of legal and practical obstacles to implementation, the most challenging of which is the August 2016 decision of the Supreme Court to deny the government’s motion to lift the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the SC in 2015 on public promotion, procurement, and distribution of select family planning supplies and on registering and certifying family planning products. The August 2016 decision also instructs the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Health (DOH) to develop rules governing the registration or re-certification and procurement of family planning products, including the conduct of public hearings as part of the process for issuing product registration.
“The law took more than one decade to pass in Congress. When we were debating this, we provided scientific evidence and data supporting the importance of RH and family planning. The law also recognizes the authority of the FDA to determine which products are medically safe and effective,” said Ifugao Representative and PLCPD Chair Teddy Baguilat, one of the authors of the RPRH Law.
“Determination of the safety and effectiveness of family planning products should be the job of technical experts, and not the court,” Baguilat added.
Meanwhile, Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD executive director, called on the public to support the campaign for the lifting of the TRO affecting family planning.
“This TRO affects more than 13 million women, including those who are currently using modern family planning methods and those with still unmet needs. With the TRO in place, we can expect that there will be fewer and fewer choices, which is contrary to the very principle of freedom of informed choice, which the RPRH Law espouses. This is a disservice to the women and men who choose to practice family planning and whose right to this is guaranteed under the law,” Dongeto said.
Meanwhile, development partners expressed their continuing support to advancing sexual and reproductive health in the Philippines.
“Ensuring access to services on family planning and reproductive health and empowering women are and should be an integral part of any poverty reduction and development effort. Oxfam will continue to be of help in initiatives that contribute to meeting the needs for such services of Filipinos, especially women,” said Mr. Richard Mawer, Oxfam Philippines’ country director.
For its part, the European Union Delegation to the Philippines has also expressed its commitment to supporting the government and the Filipino nation in ensuring that access to information and services on family planning and reproductive health as an integral part of women’s human rights and empowerment.
The national dialogue is the first of a series of annual stakeholders’ dialogue to be organized by PLCPD under the ARCHES project. ARCHES stands for “Improving the Availability of RH Services in the ARMM.” It is a five-year project supported by the European Union and Oxfam. Aside from PLCPD, the other implementing organizations of the project are the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) and four ARMM-based non-governmental organizations: Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation (AMDF) for Lanao del Sur, Pinay Kilos! (PinK!) for Basilan and Tawi-tawi, Tarbilang Foundation, Inc. for Sulu, and United Youth of the Philippines(UnYPhil)-Women for Maguindanao.