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Conscience Magazine

Government Confident that Philippines RH Bill Will Survive Supreme Court Challenge

September 16, 2013
RH Bill supporters hold a vigil outside the Philippines Supreme Court in March to protest the delay in implementing the law signed in December by President Benigno Aquino III.
RH Bill supporters hold a vigil outside the Philippines Supreme Court in March to protest the delay in implementing the law signed in December by President Benigno Aquino III. © AP Photo/ Bullit Marquez, 2013

The Philippines’ Reproductive Health Bill (RH Bill), signed by President Benigno Aquino III last December, will overcome its opposition and be implemented soon, according to presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte in an interview with the Philippines Star in July. Not accepting the defeat of its campaign against the RH Bill, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) lodged complaints about the legislation, which makes contraception more available to lower-income women, with the Supreme Court.

In mid-July, the Supreme Court allowed for an indefinite amount of time to consider arguments against the policy, partially because there is debate among the justices themselves about whether the Court is the correct place to decide medical matters. Justice Antonio Carpio told Philippines GMA News Online that the matter should have been brought to the Food and Drug Administration before taking it to the Supreme Court. Former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral remarked to GMA that “when you do not have a medical background, you are not competent enough to interpret what you read.”

Claiming “we are not a lobby group,” the CBCP’s new president, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, stated that the bishops’ conference was involved in the Supreme Court challenges to the RH Bill because “our spiritual mission mandates us to do that,” the Philippines Daily Inquirer reported. Other Catholics are taking the opposite side in the court proceedings, with Filipino Catholic Voices for RH joining other organizations in refuting the CBCP and other petitioners’ claim that their religious freedom is being infringed upon by the RH Bill, according to the Inquirer.