Duterte signs order pressuring SC to lift contraceptives ban

The Duterte administration is forcing the hand of the Supreme Court (SC) to lift the temporary restraining order (TRO) slapped on the distribution of modern contraceptives through the President’s latest executive order (EO).

In a news briefing in Malacañang on Wednesday, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said EO 12 has been signed by the President.

The EO aims to allow national and local government, as well as non-governmental organizations, the private sector and even donor-agencies, to fully implement the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) law by providing support and funding for it.

“[The EO also aims to] motivate, urge to even pressure the Supreme Court to stop dilly-dallying on this TRO. A year-and-a-half is too long a wait. I don’t know why the Supreme Court cannot act swiftly,” Pernia said.

“It’s been declared not unconstitutional, and yet they continue to listen to the small minority, small noisy minority. So, it’s really a tyranny of the minority,” he added.

The administration wants to fast-track the lifting of the TRO because by 2018, the government may only have one or two contraceptive methods to peddle to women who want and need access to family-planning methods.

Population Commission (Popcom) Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III said with the TRO in place since
June 2016, around 15 contraceptives have been “left out of the market,” since their certificates of product registration (CPRs) have expired.

Perez said this year, another 15 contraceptives will be taken out of the market due to expiring CPRs. This will leave only tubal ligation, vasectomy and natural family-planning methods available for Filipino families by 2018.

“If the Supreme Court does not lift this TRO, then the authority of FDA [Food and Drug Administration], as well as those that can import pills and condoms and IUDs [intrauterine devices] will gradually expire,” Pernia said.

Pernia said while the EO was not intended to skirt the SC’s order, it will allow the government to make house-to-house calls and map the women in need of access to modern family-planning methods.

The government can also offer women family-planning options, except those covered by the TRO, particularly Implanon, which is an injectable.  Pernia said the EO will help address the rising number of teenage pregnancies, as well as prevent unwanted pregnancies and maternal deaths.

The Philippines failed to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on Maternal Health due to the country’s high maternal-mortality ratio of 231 deaths per 100,000 live births. The target of MDG 5 was 52 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Perez said the EO also aims to help the government achieve its goal of supporting the contraceptive needs of 2 million women in the next two years and increase this to 6 million by 2022.

Perez also said under the RPRH law, the Department of Health, Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Popcom are tasked to reach out to these women.

He said that for 2017, the DOH has a budget of over P200 million while Popcom has allocated P400 million for the implementation of the RPRH law.

This will allow the country to reach a contraception prevalence rate of 65 percent from the current 40 percent. Some of the country’s peers in the region have a contraception prevalence rate of 75 percent.

Apart from this, Perez said with the effective implementation of the EO, the government can also get closer to its goal of slowing the country’s population growth rate.

The Philippines’ population growth rate is around 1.7 percent. This means that if there are 104 million Filipinos, another 1.6 million will be added every year.

But with the RPRH Law, the population growth rate will ease to only 1.4 percent a year by 2022.

While the government refuses to limit the number of children similar to the one-child policy of China, Pernia said the government encourages couples to have the number of children they can support and raise.

“The specific number of children cannot be legislated. What the President was saying is to urge or to encourage families not to have more children than they can afford to take care of and provide for such that the children would really be able to achieve their full potential,” Pernia said.

In 2008, Secretary Pernia led 27 University of the Philippines professors in a united stand in support of the RH Bill.

The UP professors said poor families are especially burdened when they end up with more children than they desire.  They also said larger families make less investments per child, reducing their chances of breaking the chain of inter-generational poverty.

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