Celebrate the RH victory in the Philippines, continue the struggle
On the Supreme Court decision declaring the Reproductive Health Law constitutional
Akbayan Partylist welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Reproductive Health Law. While the ruling was not the complete victory many hoped for -- with some portions of the law being stricken down -- it nonetheless remains a historic triumph for women, for the poor and marginalized, and for the Filipino nation. It is a remarkable advance against ignorance and inequality, and a clear victory for social reform and progressive thinking. Now, the people have an important policy tool to wage the struggle against poverty and bring about the sustained and comprehensive development which has so far eluded our country. Now, millions of Filipino women and their families will have another chance at achieving a better quality of life.
We congratulate the Filipino people, particularly the courageous and unyielding women, who pushed for the enactment of RH legislation for the better part of two decades, for this outstanding victory. This would not have been possible if not for the unrelenting struggle that was waged by the Filipino women together with the social movements, civil society organizations and reform-oriented lawmakers to ensure universal access to reproductive health and maternal care for all. In the face of the name-calling, intimidation and misinformation resorted to by some of those who chose to oppose the implementation of the RH Law; our women have endured, persevered and emerged triumphant. Akbayan is proud to be one of the principal sponsors of the RH Law. We are proud to have been part of the long, difficult, and sometimes painful process of enacting this landmark measure which, hopefully, heralds the advent in the Philippines of sound and determined law-making, that is at the same time, sensitive to different constituencies and respectful of a plurality of opinions.
In the same manner, we commend President Aquino’s commitment in seeing to it that this law is passed under his term. President Aquino’s generous use of his political capital as well as his good exercise of leadership on this issue is truly laudable. The RH law will without doubt be one of the principal legacies of his Presidency.
But while we celebrate this historic triumph, we must express some measure of disappointment at the SC's decision to strike down some portions of the law. While seemingly narrow, the exceptions carved out by the Court in favor of "religious belief," particularly those involving public officers and publicly licensed medical practitioners may potentially create difficulties in ensuring the full and effective implementation of the policies and objectives of this landmark statute. It has always been our position that the RH law as enacted, already struck a delicate yet reasonable balance between individual belief and public necessity -- a balance reached after 15 years of extensive debate and discussion through the last five Congresses -- and it was our hope that the SC would give greater weight to this painstaking process.
We must also remind our fellow Filipinos not to be complacent. More than ever, we must exercise vigilance to protect and secure our hard-fought victory. Tuloy pa rin ang laban! First, we must ensure that the law is fully and immediately implemented. Second, we must work hard to reformulate and amend the provisions which were stricken out by the SC. The RH Law can only work best if most of its progressive provisions are intact. Akbayan pledges to exhaust all legislative measures to make certain that the law is truly responsive to the needs of the people. Lastly, the most regressive forces arrayed against the RH Law are still lurking in the dark, convalescing and concocting new schemes to once again prevent, or at the minimum delay, implementation of the RH law. We must not let them rob the Filipino people of this victory. We must not let them repudiate the people’s will.
But more than vigilance, our best weapons are compassion and understanding. While it was necessary and inevitable that lines were drawn during our struggle to uphold reproductive health and rights, now that the battle for the RH Law has been won, in the spirit of unity and reconciliation, those lines must be redrawn. The antagonism brought by our long drawn fight to push for the RH Law must now be left behind. After all, all of us share the dream of a society where women do not become mere statistics of maternal deaths, young people do not succumb to the burden of unwanted pregnancies, and where the poor need not want for the health care they need to attain a better quality of life for themselves and their families.
The RH Law is crucial to fulfilling this dream. Let’s all give it chance to succeed.