Amnesty International: Gov't must not cave in to efforts vs RH Law

Posted at 04/09/2014 4:03 PM

MANILA – Two organizations focused on human rights welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) declaring as "not unconstitutional" the Reproductive Health (RH) Law.

In a statement, Amnesty International said the SC decision ''is an important victory for millions of Filipino women and girls."

“The Philippine authorities must resist all ongoing efforts to roll back the country’s landmark law on sexual and reproductive rights. Caving in to pressure would mean denying women and girls their human rights,'' said Hazel Galang-Folli, Amnesty International’s Researcher on the Philippines.

Amnesty International, however, described as "disappointing concessions" the declaration of the SC against eight provisions of the law.

It said these concessions ''are inconsistent with the state’s international human rights obligations."

The high court on Tuesday announced that the law is ''not unconstitutional'' except for provisions that ''require 'private health facilities and non-maternity specialty hospitals and hospitals owned and operated by a religious group to refer patients, not in an emergency or life-threatening case…to another health facility which is conveniently accessible''; and allow minors who have suffered miscarriage to have access to family planning without parental consent.

The SC also struck down provisions punishing a health care provider who refuses/fails to disseminate information on reproductive health programs or refer a patient to another health care service provider.

It also declared unconstitutional the provisions that punish any public officer who will refuse to support or hinder the implementation of reproductive health programs.

Also struck down were the provisions allowing a married individual, except in emergency or non-life threatening cases, to undergo reproductive health procedures without the consent of the spouse; and penalizing a health service provider who will require parental consent from the minor in non emergency or serious situations.

Another section struck down is section 17 of the law's implementing rules and regulations (IRR) but only insofar as the rendering of pro-bono RH services will ''affect the conscientious objector in securing PhilHealth accreditation."

Section 3.01.a and j of the IRR was also struck down since it uses the qualifier ''primarily''. By using the qualifier, the law contravenes section 12, article II of the Constitution.

Amnesty International said ''striking down these provisions of the law mean that some women and adolescents will be at risk of not accessing services they need and are lawfully entitled to receive."

Availability of medicines

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said the law will guarantee the availability of medicines and services in local government units.

"[It] will also provide for comprehensive education on gender sensitivity and women empowerment to protect women and girls from exploitation as well as orientate the public on equal respect for people with diverse sexual orientation,'' said Jose Manuel Mamauag, CHR's Focal Commissioner for Women and Gender Issues.

Mamauag said the signing of the controversial law was an unequivocal act of the government's compliance with its treaty commitment to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and other relevant treaties that set reproductive rights as human rights.