Quest for Truth

Posted by on Aug 3, 2015 in Breaking News

In the interest of balanced airing of views and opinions, allow me to discuss today the editorial last July 9, of the Philippine Daily Inquirer about the Supreme Court’s recent issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) on “the selling, distributing or dispensing of contraceptive drugs and devices, including Implanon and Implanon NXT.”

The editorial said that TRO was issued on petition of Alliance for Family Life Foundation, Philippines Inc. (ALFI), “a Catholic group that describes the implants as possibly abortifacient” even if they have “already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for distribution and dispensation by the Department of Health as they are thin rods inserted under the skin that release hormones preventing pregnancy for up to three years.” Hence the editorial concluded that this latest petition of ALFI against Implanon “appears like another delaying tactic” mainly instigated by Catholic Groups which “seem bent on sabotaging” the implementation of the RH law by “bringing up imagined dents and wrinkles for legal scrutiny.”

Obviously, this conclusion is a denunciation of the SC resolution finding merit in ALFI’s petition for the issuance of a TRO. In fact the editorial even cited the alleged “realities on the ground” that “more than 4,000 maternal deaths yearly could have been prevented by the full implementation of the RH law.”

The paper also reminded these Church-affiliated groups of Pope Francis’ message “not to sacrifice mercy and compassion to an obsession with doctrine,” so they should “respect the 14-year process that the RH Law hurdled, in which the concerns they are again bringing to the high court were meticulously, repeatedly and pointedly addressed” by defining family planning resources as “a full range of safe, affordable, effective, non-abortifacient, modern, natural and artificial methods of planning pregnancy … as determined by the FDA.”

Thus the opinion piece urged these groups to respect the “individual’s preferences and choice of family planning methods that are in accordance with their religious convictions and cultural beliefs, taking into consideration the State’s obligations under various human rights instruments because by stopping or delaying the implementation of the RH Law, they are “callously snatching away that choice.”

In reply to this editorial, ALFI wrote that “it does not delve on created issues premised on conjectures and underhanded allegations but respects the rule of law and has chosen the Supreme Court as the proper venue for legal discourse on issues of transcendental significance“

By a vote of 14-1, the Supreme Court voided as unconstitutional the implementing rules and regulations of the RH Law (RH-IRR) on ‘abortifacient’ and ‘contraceptive,’ because they would effectively “open the floodgates” to the approval of abortifacients. But it is disturbing that the RH-IRR posted on the DOH website to serve as guidelines of its personnel in the implementation of the RH law still contain said sections which have been declared unconstitutional

The Court recognized the definition of ‘abortifacient’ under the RH Law as “any drug or device that induces abortion, that is, which kills or destroys the fertilized ovum or prevents the fertilized ovum to reach and be implanted in the mother’s womb.”

The Court further pointed out that “not a single contraceptive has yet been submitted to the FDA pursuant to the RH Law,” and that contraceptive drugs and devices shall only be purchased by the DOH after they have been “tested, evaluated, and approved by the FDA,” through a “proper scientific examination” and using the “constitutional yardstick” which the Court expounded in its decision.

Therefore, every contraceptive drug and device, before it is purchased by the DOH and allowed to be sold or distributed to the public, should have undergone proper and scientific testing and evaluation by the FDA following the constitutional yardsticks and statutory standards set by the Supreme Court.

In this case, only three days after the Senate conditionally approved the over-one-billion peso budget for contraceptive commodities on Nov. 24, 2014, or on Nov. 27, 2014, the FDA already registered or re-certified some contraceptive drugs or devices as non-abortifacient and safe without any clear and transparent procedure and despite the opposition filed by ALFI which was neither acted upon nor resolved. The opposition, which was amply supported by scientific evidence, showed the abortifacient character and the harmful effects on the health of the contraceptives. This notwithstanding, the DOH proceeded to procure, distribute, administer, advertise and promote them.

The task imposed by the RH Law on the DOH and FDA is impressed with great public interest because the generations of countless unborn whose very life and future are at stake are completely defenseless and dependent on them. Therefore, the public and those who care enough to represent the unborn cannot be excluded or disregarded in the process. They have the right to know, and the DOH and the FDA have the obligation to provide, the information about the process or procedure used, the studies made, the actions taken, and the bases for the conclusions arrived at.

With regard to maternal deaths, contraception is a very inefficient way of reducing them. We may think we are saving a life but in the process we are actually sacrificing another life — the equally valuable life of the unborn. The rational way to address such deaths is to provide good medical care to mothers — all mothers, but especially the poor. After all, they do the most important work of ensuring humanity’s existence.

We cannot have a blasé attitude towards life. We cannot deal with probabilities where life is at stake; we have to ensure that life is protected at every instance and at every moment. To this end, everyone has a duty, and no one has a choice but to protect and defend life.

The Catholic Church has become a convenient ‘whipping dog’ of those who espouse the opposite view. True, Pope Francis reminded the faithful to be merciful and compassionate. It is also true that the Pope, in his clear message to a crowd of 86,000 in Manila, enjoined the faithful to ‘(B)e sanctuaries of respect for life, proclaiming the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death’

The issue, however, is not about religion and we advance no religious arguments; it is about life and health which the State and its agencies are duty-bound to safeguard and protect, and respect for the Constitution.

If there is anything about the Catholic doctrine that ALFI is obsessed about, it is its commitment to the truth. Because that is exactly what ALFI’s Petitions are about — a steadfast quest for truth.”

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