Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno on Thursday corrected President Rodrigo Duterte after the latter assailed the Supreme Court over the temporary restraining order (TRO) supposedly issued against the Reproductive Health Law.
In a statement, Sereno said Duterte’s statement during his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) was inaccurate.
“After its decision on the partial constitutionality of the RH Law, the Supreme Court has never issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the implementation of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law,” Sereno said.
The chief magistrate pointed out that the TRO was issued only against two specific contraceptives regulated under the RH Law.
“This pertains to two implants—Implanon and Impanon NXT… As clearly stated in the decision dated August 24, 2016 and again in [the]April 26, 2017 decision denying the Motion for Reconsideration, the TRO is limited to only to those two implants,” Sereno explained.
She stressed that the stay order did not cover the implementation of the RH Law or any other contraceptive product.
‘FDA to blame’
Sereno said the lifting of the TRO on Implanon and Implanon NXT depended on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was already beyond the control of the high court.
“The TRO has a sunset provision – as soon as the FDA certifies as provided by law that they are not abortifacient, the TRO is lifted. The reason why the TRO has not been lifted yet is not within the Court but with the FDA,” she added.
The high court particularly mandated the FDA “to observe the basic requirements of due process by conducting a hearing, and allowing the petitioners to be heard, on the re-certified, procured, and administered contraceptive drugs and devices, including Implanon and Implanon NXT; and to determine whether they are abortifacients or non-abortifacients.”
The Supreme Court’s 2nd Division, in September 2016, slammed the certifications and re-certifications issued by the FDA on 77 contraceptive drugs and devices – including Implanon and Implanon NXT – for violating the constitutional requirement of due process.
The TRO was sought by Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines, Inc. and its president, Maria Concepcion Noche, who argued that the FDA did not follow due process.
On July 1, 2014, the court en banc ruled with finality that the RH Law is constitutional, but some provisions were declared unconstitutional.
The court ruled that the “principle of no-abortion and non-coercion in the adoption of any family planning method” must be maintained.
It also ruled that health workers cannot be forced to do a procedure if it is against their religious beliefs, and the only exception is when the life of the mother and the child are threatened.