In front of a crowd of supporters and protesters of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law (RPRH Law), the Supreme Court (SC) while in session in Baguio City announced its decision on the constitutionality of the law on April 8, 2014. “The RH law is not unconstitutional” SC spokesman Theodore Te said summing up the unanimous decision made by SC Judges through a press conference that day.
Fast forward to 2015, champions and advocates gathered in Baguio city on April 8 again to commemorate the momentous decision on the long fight for the enactment of Republic Act 10354 or the RPRH Law. In a day they dubbed as “The Year After”, people from all sectors and parts of the country came together discuss, interact, plan and most of all to celebrate.
The celebration consisted of several activities that included a public forum, a parade with tying of purple ribbons around Session road, a luncheon meeting and a solidarity dinner at the Philippine Information Agency Regional Office. Champions who attended the event were RPRH Law author former Rep. Edcel Lagman, Akbayan Party Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel and Chair of the National Implementation Team for the RPRH Dr. Ezperanza Cabral among others.
The LGUs of CAR also showed their support to the controversial yet timely law through Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan who also was key supporter in passing the bill in his time as Representative and member of the House Committee on Constitutional Reforms and Ifugao Vice-Governor Pedro Mayam-o who attended the event.
Local and National Civil Society Organizations, who have been at the forefront of the fight for the passing of the law, also participated in the celebration. Those present were officers and members of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation Inc. (PLPCD), Forum on Family Planning and Development, Inc., Catholics for Family Planning, Likhaan Center for Women’s Health and others.
The Road ahead
Although it has already been a year since the RPRH Law has been approved, progress was only made in November 2014 through the creation of the National Implementation Team headed by the Department of Health. Since then, several engagements were conducted to create localized implementation teams in the regional, provincial and municipal levels. In CAR, a regional implementation team was formed through a consultation forum and meeting held in Baguio City on February 16, 2015 and a roll out forum on the Implementing rules and regulations of the law held in Prince Plaza Hotel, Baguio City on February 26, 2015.
There is still a need to amend several parts of the law to address the sections struck down by the SC on the same decision they made on 2014. Lagman in his message at the Solidarity dinner said that “appropriate bills must be filed in Congress to support it (RPRH Law)”. The SC in its 2014 decision fully or partially identified 8 sections of the law to be unconstitutional and therefore need amendment.
Civil society organizations and the general public also play a vital role in implementing the law. In her speech Dr. Cabral stated that “The government requires the cooperation of all of us. The RH law is not a law to be implemented only by the government but it is a law to be implemented by all of us”.
The implementation of the RPRH law will allow free access to reproductive health services to poor and disadvantaged families through local health centers and hospitals. Such lack in availability and access to services has lead the country to high maternal death rates, high teenage pregnancies and fast population growth in the last decade.
The fight for constitutional support to address the reproductive health concerns of Filipinos has been a long struggle as it has been in debate for almost 20 years. President Benigno Aquino III signed the RPRH Bill into law in December 2012 against pressure coming from religious groups and protesters saying that it is an “abortion law”. The SC decision upheld the President’s will and successfully put an end to the discussion on the law’s rationality.