SC deals another blow to RH law
by Joel R. San Juan – September 13, 2016
The government’s reproductive-health program suffered another setback, after the Supreme Court (SC) ordered concerned agencies to formulate rules on the evaluation and distribution of contraceptive drugs and implants before fully implementing the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.
The SC issued the order as a consequence of its decision to nullify the certification and recertification issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) covering 77 contraceptive drugs and implants. The FDA was also ordered to determine whether the contraceptive drugs and devices are abortifacients.
At a press briefing following the regular en banc session of the magistrates, SC Spokesman Theodore Te said the Court issued the order due to the failure of the Department of Health (DOH) to observe and comply with the basic requirements of due process.
“The Court found that the FDA certified, procured and administered contraceptive drugs and devices, without the observance of the basic tenets of due process, without notice and without public hearing, despite the constant opposition of petitioners,” the SC said.
“The Court is of the view that the certifications and recertifications and the distribution of the questioned contraceptive drugs should be struck down as violative of the constitutional right to due process,” it added.
However, the Court remanded to the FDA the two consolidated petitions filed by the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines (AFFP) and a certain Maria Concepcion Noche seeking to stop the government from “procuring, selling, distributing, dispensing and administering, advertising and promoting” contraceptive drugs and implants, such as Implanon and Implanon NXT with alleged “abortifacient” side effects.
The Court agreed with the petitioners that the FDA should “observe the basic requirements of due process by conducting a hearing, and allowing petitioners to be heard” on the matter.
In light of this, the SC directed the FDA to formulate rules of procedure in the screening, evaluation, and approval of all contraceptive drugs and devices that will be used under Republic Act (RA) 10354, or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.
It should contain, according to the Court, the minimum requirements of due process, such as publication, notice and hearing; allowing interested parties to intervene; strictly following the standard laid down in the Constitution and RA 10354 as to what constitute allowable contraceptives should be followed.
“Allowable contraceptives” are those which do not harm or destroy life of the unborn from conception/fertilization; and in weighing evidence, all reasonable doubts should be resolved in favor of the protection and preservation of the right to life of the unborn from conception/fertilization.
Meanwhile, the Court tasked the DOH in coordination with other concerned agencies to formulate the rules and regulations, which will govern the purchase and distribution of contraceptives covered by the certification from the FDA that the product will not be used as an abortifacient.
The DOH was also directed to come up with the complete and correct list of government reproductive-health programs and services under RA 10354, which will serve as the template for the complete and correct information standard and to distribute the same to all health-care service providers covered by the law.
The Court has given the FDA within 30 days from receipt of the decision to start the conduct of the hearing. The SC also denied the plea of the Office of the Solicitor General to lift the temporary restraining order (TRO) it issued on June 17, 2015, enjoining the government from “procuring, selling, distributing, dispensing and administering, advertising and promoting” contraceptive implants.
The Court granted the plea of AFFP for a TRO barring the DOH from acquiring and distributing contraceptive products Implanon and Implanon NXT to the public.
The implants, thin rods inserted under the skin, release hormones that prevent pregnancy for up to three years.
The group claimed that the use of Implanon was against the spirit of the reproductive-health law.
It also accused the DOH of implementing the reproductive-health law “without observance of due process and with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.”
The SC issued the TRO a year after ruling that the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 was constitutional. The law became effective on January 17, 2013.