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SC extends stay order on RH law

Justices vote 8-7; Palace unhappy The Supreme Court on Tuesday extended indefinitely the effectivity of its status quo ante order against the implementation of the Reproductive Health Act, which has drawn fierce opposition from mostly Catholic groups. Voting 8-7, the Court extended the 120-day order it issued last March 19, which was set to expire today. Court spokesman Theodore Te said the decision would mean that the status quo would remain in effect “until further orders from the court.” Te did not make public the justices who voted to extend the order. Earlier, the justices had voted 10-5 to issue the status quo ante order. After hearing the oral arguments from those who questioned the constitutionality of the law, two justices joined the minority opinion, but Te declined to identify them. The Palace, which supported the law, described the extension as “unfortunate” but said it would abide by the Court’s decision. Senator Pia Cayetano, the law’s sponsor in the Senate, said she was “extremely disappointed” by the extension of the status quo ante order. “I believe that the evidence was very clear during the oral arguments last week that the case presented by the petitioner was quite weak,” she said. She added that the decision would further delay the implementation of the law and send the wrong message to women. Oral arguments before the Court are set to resume on July 23. The petitioners argued that the law violates the right to life under Section 12, Article 2 of the Constitution as it introduces a new definition of conception – implantation or when the fertilized egg cell reaches the uterus. They said this is contrary to the true definition of conception, which is fertilization. Lawyer Ma. Concepcion Noche, one of the petitioners representing the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines, had presented this argument before the Court. But some justices said the Court might not be the correct venue to resolve the issue of when life really begins, which the medical profession itself has not conclusively answered. In the next hearing, lawyer Luisito Liban is expected to argue that the law violates the right to religion, free speech, academic freedom, and the “proscription on involuntary servitude.” Lawyer Luis Gana is scheduled to argue that the law violates the Organic Act of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr. has also submitted his arguments that the law violates the autonomy of local government units. The 15 consolidated petitions were filed by couple James and Lovely-Ann Imbong; non-profit group Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines Inc.; Serve Life Cagayan de Oro City; Task Force for Family and Life Visayas Inc.; lawyer Expedito Bugarin; Eduardo Olaguer of the Catholic Xybrspace Apostolate of the Philippines; Philippine Alliance of Ex-Seminarians Inc.; Reynaldo Echavez; former senator Francisco Tatad and his wife Ma. Fenny; a group of doctors represented by lawyer Howard Calleja; Millennium Saint Foundation Inc.; Pro-Life Philippines Foundation Inc.; a group of Catholic students represented by the legal office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines; Catholic lay group Couples For Christ Foundation; and Almarim Centi Tillah and Abdul Hussein Kashim. After the petitioners present their arguments, the Office of the Solicitor General will defend the RH law along with six intervenors who support the measure. Named respondents in the case were Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa Jr., Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Education Secretary Armin Luistro, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II. The six intervenors, on the other hand, are losing senatorial bet and former Akbayan Rep. Ana Risa Hontiveros; former secretaries of Health Esperanza Cabral, Jamie Galvez-Tan and Alberto Romualdez Jr.; the group of 2005 Bar topnotcher Joan De Venecia; Cayetano; the Catholics for Reproductive Health and Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood Inc.; and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, author of the law in the House of Representatives. With Joyce Pangco Pañares and Macon Ramos-Araneta
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