Aug 062013
The government, through Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, on Tuesday defended the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law or RH Law before the Supreme Court, with some justices grilling him while others seeming to give him support.

Jardeleza defended the constitutionality of the controversial law during the third day of oral arguments before the 15 magistrates of the high court. “What the law seeks is to subsidize for the benefit of poor women, marginalized and vulnerable, contraceptives that have been legally available for the past 50 years to their more affluent counterparts,” said Jardeleza.

Associate Justice Roberto Abad criticized Jardeleza and Congress – which passed the health bill – for consulting the World Health Organization during deliberations when the health measure was still in the legislation process.

Casting doubts on the partiality of WHO, Abad said the international organization “is heavily funded by USAid and supported contraception. They want to export to us their contraception culture.”

“If you want an impartial opinion on which is the best [method], would you go to Kris Aquino,” Abad asked Jardeleza.

The solicitor general answered in the negative, and said experts should be consulted instead.

“Yes, that’s the proper thing to do… and not [merely consult with] those whose advocacy is birth control,” Abad said.

Jardeleza however noted that Congress also sought opinions from 24 experts from the United Health Care Study Group, which he described as “patriots who we should be proud of.” He added these experts were not “funded employees” of the WHO.

Abad also said “the target of the RH Law is the community of poor and you want them to reduce their ranks. We want to eliminate their size.”

‘Christian and Islamic’

Upon questioning by Associate Justice Jose Mendoza, Jardeleza differentiated the Magna Carta for Women and the RH Law.

“The Magna Carta talks about rights but it doesn’t talk about subsidies. If you don’t give the marginalized subsidy, they can’t exercise their rights,” argued Jardeleza. “Where Magna Carta ends, the subsidy comes in. That’s why you need an RH Law.”

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said the RH Law does not impose immorality but instead, “acknowledges a reality that there are people that need more assistance so they can buy a condom, a contraceptive that is not abortifacient.”

Leonen also said the “spacing of children is in Christian and Islamic doctrine.”

“What we have here is a government initiative to allow the Food and Drug Authority to check viability of contraceptives, to check if it is safe and not an abortifacient,” Leonen said.

Leonen asked Jardeleza if he thinks the RH Law enhances the right to life. The solicitor general responded: “It improves the quality of life.”

Male contraception

Responding to a question by Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Jardeleza said: “I ask the honorable court, please give congress the leeway… At the end of the day, they have to make a judgement call. Are they correct? We do not know. But are they in grave abuse of discretion?”

De Castro, meanwhile, said she wondered by contraceptives in the market are mainly designed to prevent a woman’s production of eggs, instead of a man’s production of sperm.

“Why didn’t they study with the same vigor the possibility that if they really want to stop conception, they should also take into account the partner of the woman and why should the women be the one to take contraceptives every day, which some experts say is harmful to the health of the woman,” De Castro said.

“Maybe these pharmaceutical firms are dominated by male scientists,” she added.

In a supposed response to De Castro’s earlier observation, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio pointed out that there were also contraceptives available for men, including “heat method,” “ultrasound method,” and polymer gel, which is injected into a man’s vas deference.

Facial attack

For his part, Carpio stressed that the petitioners have the burden to prove that the law was unconstitutional.

“One of the conditions to facially attack a law is that under all or nearly all circumstances or set of facts, the law will be unconstitutional,” he said.

“Do you agree that the facial attack on this law requires petitioners to prove to us that under all sets of facts, there is a possibility of an abortion,” Carpio asked Jardeleza, who answered yes.

Abad, Mendoza, and De Castro all voted to issue a status quo ante order stopping the law’s implementation, while Leonen and Carpio voted against it. The law is indefinitely unimplemented.

In an earlier oral argument on the matter, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes had reminded the parties that the statements and questions uttered by her and the other magistrates do not necessarily reflect their conclusions yet.

Oral arguments are scheduled to resume on August 13, in which intervenors Rep. Edcel Lagman and Sen. Pia Cayetano are set to present their arguments before the magistrates. — DVM, GMA News

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