G.R. No. 204934: ALLIANCE FOR THE FAMILY FOUNDATION PHILIPPINES, INC., et al. v. Hon. paquito n. ochoa, jr., Executive Secretary, et al.

Petitioners Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines, Inc. (ALFI), et al. filed a Petition for Prohibition with Prayer for the Urgent Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction challenging the constitutionality of RA 10354, Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012. ALFI, a foundation duly organized and existing under the laws of the Republic of the Philippines, was incorporated “to undertake every kind of initiative in order to foster and defend the sanctity of marriage, to promote family solidarily, and to protect life at all stages of development.” ALFI, which was actively involved in efforts to prevent the passage of the then Reproductive Health Bill in Congress, is represented by its President Atty. Maria Concepcion S. Noche, who is also a petitioner in her personal capacity. All the petitioners who are Filipino citizens are bringing this suit because of far-reaching implications of RA 10354 to their life, their family, and their faith.

Named as respondents are public officials in charge of the enforcement and administration of RA 10354. They are Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona, Education Secretary Armin A. Luistro, Solcial Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel A. Roxas II, Budget and Management Secretary Florencio B. Abad, and Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balicasan.

Also named respondents are the Philippine Commission on Women through its Chairperson Remedios Ignacio-Rikken, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation through its President Eduardo Banzon, League of Provinces of the Philippines through its President Alfonso Umali, League of Cities of the Philippines through its President Oscar Rodriguez, and League of Municipalities of the Philippines through its President Donato Marcos.

In assailing the RH law, petitioners raised the following grounds:

  1. RA 10354 violates the right to life and protection of life from conception under Section 12, Article II of the Constitution in allowing the use of abortifacient devices and drugs;
  2. RA 10354 violates the right to health under Section 15, Article II of the Constitution in mandating the universal access to dispensation and use of harmful substances and devices;
  3. The delegation of certain powers and duties to the Food and Drug Administration which are not found in its enabling law constitutes undue delegation of legislative powers;
  4. RA 10354 violates the right to free exercise of religion under Section 5, Article III of the Constitution; and
  5. RA 10354 violates the right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions under Section 3(1), Article XV of the Constitution in making reproductive health education mandatory, hence interfering in the right of the parents to educate their children in the manner they deem fit under Section 12, Article II.

ARGUMENTS/DISCUSSIONS:

RA 10354 violates the right to life and protection of life from conception under Section 12, Article II of the Constitution in allowing the use of abortifacient devices and drugs

The 1987 Constitution holds sacrosanct the right to life from conception. Section 12, Article II, in no uncertain terms, recognizes the existence of life at conception and guarantees the protection of that life from conception. Therefore, the Constitution acknowledges the right to life of the unborn from conception.

Concomitant to the protection of life and the recognition of the right to life from conception, the Constitution likewise protects the right to health.

Based on the record of its deliberations, it is clear that the members of the Constitution Commission agreed that: (a) the meeting of the egg and the sperm is referred to as fertilization which results in a fertilized ovum. And conception as appearing in the proposed constitutional provision (which eventually became Section 12) likewise refers to fertilization; (b) the fertilized ovum has life; (c) the fertilized ovum is human; and (d) that life that exists in the fertilized ovum is human life.

The framers of the 1987 Constitution decided to include in the Constitution a statement on the beginning of life because they acknowledged that, as since itself has determined, life begins from the moment of conception.

The constitutional mandate to protect life, particularly the life of the unborn from conception, was passionately and meticulously deliberated upon by our constitutional fathers, as documented in the records of the Constitutional Commission.

On the deliberations regarding contraceptives, in relation to the protection of the unborn from conception, it was also recognized that, among others, contraceptives that “deter the rooting of the ovum in the uterus” or “stop the opportunity for the fertilized ovum to reach the uterus” are abortifacients.

RA 10354 violates the right to life because it provides for abortifacient contraceptive products and supplies to be included in the “regular purchase of essential medicines and supplies of all national hospitals.” The assailed law, based on the reading of its text as a whole, allows abortifacient devices and substances to be used in family planning.

While the term “non-abortifacient” is used in the text of RA 10354 several times, such use is merely in connection with the definition of terms and the guiding principles of the law. On the other hand, the specific provisions detailing its application – those which will specifically be implemented – in fact, allow abortifacient contraceptive supplies and devides.

Section 9 of RA 10354 “clearly creates and provides an environment open to the use of abortifacient contraceptives.” Similarly, the same provision provides that hormonal contraceptives are also to be included in the National Drug Formulary System.

Construed as a whole, RA 10354 authorizes and prescribes the use of abortifacient family planning methods: first, by prescribing the use of intrauterine devices (IUDs) and hormonal contraceptives; second, drugs which have the capacity of being abortifacients may be included in the Essential Drugs List (EDL), and are in fact included in the National Drug Formulary System; third, the prohibition extends only to the purchase of “abortifacients which will be used for that purpose:, hence, the purchase of abortifacients is possible under the provision – all in derogation of the right to life of the unborn, and the right for the protection of that life.

RA 10354 violates the right to health under Section 15, Article II of the Constitution in mandating the universal access to dispensation and use of harmful substances and devices;

RA 10354, in guaranteeing universal access to hormonal contraceptives and devices, ensures access of women to carcinogenic drugs, in further violation of the right to life, which necessarily includes the right to health as guaranteed in Article II, Section 15 of the Constitution.

Studies have established use of oral contraceptives increases the risk of breast and cervical cancer.

The delegation of certain powers and duties to the Food and Drug Administration which are not found in its enabling law constitutes undue delegation of legislative powers;

An agency of the government cannot go beyond the powers conferred on it by its enabling law; otherwise, the agency’s acts would be ultra vires.

A close look at the coverage of its duties shows that the Food and Drug Administration has been tasked by RA 10354 to cover not only reproductive health products and supplies and devices, but also services and methods. FDA’s enabling law, RA 9711, however, makes clear that FDA’s functions only cover health establishments, health products and supplies….Nowhere in the enabling law is there any mention that FDA is tasked to evaluate, register or cover health series as well. The task therefore that RA 10354 has allotted to the FDA to cover reproductive health services constitutes a peculiar instance of undue delegation of power to the FDA which is not so granted by its enabling law. In the absence of a specific mandate from its enabling law allowing the FDA to look into health services, this undue delegation of power is void.

RA 10354 violates the right to free exercise of religion under Section 5, Article III of the Constitution; and

The whole policy of the State under RA 01354 to promote a reproductive health program that disseminates information about, disburses public funds for, encourages the use of, and distributes the products related to artificial contraception, as well as mandates children and the youth to undergo a sex education program that is against their moral conviction and religious belief, infringes upon religious freedom.

Specifically, Section 15 of RA 10354 makes it mandatory for couples to undergo a seminar or program on responsible parenthood and family planning covering even the use of artificial contraceptives as a pre-requisite to securing a marriage license, even if these acts go against their moral conviction and religious belief.

Section 23 of RA 10354 enumerates the prohibited acts under it that violate the free exercise of religion.

A health care service provider is constrained to provide information regarding programs and services on reproductive health, even if these programs and services are offensive to him or her as they violate his or her moral conviction and religious belief. Moreover, the health care service provider is compelled to extend health services and disseminate information regarding the said programs and services, even if these acts are against his or her moral convictions and religious belief. In the case of a public official who is elected or appointed, specifically charged with the duty to implement the provisions of the Act, he or she personally or through a subordinate, is required not to prohibit or restrict the delivery of legal and medically-safe reproductive health care services, including family planning, and not to refuse to allocate, approve or release any budget for reproductive health care services. Moreover, such public officer is constrained to support reproductive health programs; and he or she shall not do any act that hinders the full implementation of a reproductive health program as mandated by RA 10354, even if these acts go against his or her religious beliefs.

If the State is allowed to compel its citizens to submit to a State policy under RA 10354 which violates their moral conviction and religious belief, then the State would be allowed to abdicate, nay disregard and trample upon, the very duty that it is mandated to do – to give the highest protection to the most fundamental rights of its citizens.

RA 10354 violates the right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions under Section 3(1), Article XV of the Constitution in making reproductive health education mandatory, hence interfering in the right of the parents to educate their children in the manner they deem fit under Section 12, Article II.

RA 10354 constitutes an unlawful and unconstitutional intrusion into the right of parents to found a family according to the beliefs and convictions that they hold as well as rear and educate their children in the most appropriate manner they deem fit. The questioned law legislates criteria for parents to observe in raising their family and educating their children which may run counter to their personal beliefs, and religious convictions.

The State violated the sanctity of the family home and usurped the rights and duties of parents to rear and educate their children in accordance with their religious conviction by forcing some rules and State programs for reproductive health contrary to their religious belief. In the matter of education, and especially sexuality education, the parents have the primary duty to undertake this task for their children. For the State to interfere in such a delicate parental task is unwarranted and should not be countenanced because the duty of the State is merely to support, nor supplant, the parents in their moral duty to form the consciences of their children.

Petitioners pray that the Honorable Court:

  1. Issue a temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction enjoining the respondent public officers, and all persons acting on their behalf, from implementing the same;
  2. Issue a judgment declaring RA 10354, Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, as unconstitutional in violation of Section 12 and 15, Article II; Section 5, Article III; Section 2(2), Article XIV; and Section 3, Article XV of the 1987 Constitution; hence, null and void;
  3. Issue a judgment permanently enjoining the respondent public officers, and all persons acting on their behalf, to cease and desist from implementing RA 10354;
  4. Other reliefs just and equitable under the premises.

G.R. No. 204934: SJS President Samson s. alcantara v. Hon. paquito n. ochoa, jr., Executive Secretary; hon. florencio b. abad, Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management; Hon. Enrique T. Ona, Secretary of the Department of Health; Hon. Armin A. Luistro, Secretary of the Department of Education; and Hon. Manuel A. Roxas, Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government 

SUMMARY OF THE PETITION

FACTS:

Petitioner-in-intervention Atty. Samson S. Alcantara, President of Social Justice Society (SJS), files the Petition-in-Intervention as a taxpayer and as a citizen. He joins the several others who have filed several petitions (for Certiorari and Prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court with prayer for a permanent injunction against the Chief Executive and its instrumentalities) questioning the constitutionality of RA 10354, The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.

Named as respondents are the Executive Secretary Ochoa, Jr., Budget and Management Sec. Abad, Health Sec. Enrique T. Ona, Education Sec. Armin A. Luistro, and Interior and Local Government Sec. Roxas.

ISSUES/GROUNDS:

Section 23 (a) (1) of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 is violative of the guaranty of freedom of expression in prohibiting and penalizing speech not in accordance with state-mandated speech.

ARGUMENTS/DISCUSSIONS:

Freedom to speak is a fundamental right

Given the preferred status given to the freedom of expression, it follows that it demands more from the government to justify any restriction placed on speech, such as the provision in the RH Law prohibiting and penalizing the dissemination of ideas or views which may be characterized as incorrect just because it does not conform to the authorities’ ideas;

Section 23 (a) (1) of the RH Law is content-based regulation

Content-based restrictions – those which either approve or disapprove based on the contents of the expression, such as favoring or disfavoring some topics – are anathema to the guaranty of free speech because they “distort public debate, have improper motivation, and are usually imposed because of fear of how people will react to particular speech.” The government wants to outlaw and penalize speech that does not conform to its own speech.

Section 23 (a) (1) of the RH Law violates the overbreadth principle

There is really no unanimity as to what may constitute safe or beneficial as against dangerous or hazardous means or devices and substances when it comes to birth control. Thus, there is a great possibility that anyone not toeing the line as advocated by the government could be subjected to the penal provisions of the law. The law, accordingly, tries to do something in a manner that is overly broad threatening within its scope other constitutionally protected areas like freedom of expression, not to speak of the chilling effect it has on a very fundamental right to decide based on one’s own idea of a family and protection.

           
Section 23 (a) (1) of the RH Law is void for being vague

This provision prohibits and penalizes knowing withholding of information or restricting the dissemination thereof, and/or intentionally provide “incorrect information regarding programs and services on reproductive health including the right to informed choice and access to a full range of legal, medically-safe, non-abortifacient and effective family planning methods.”

The word “incorrect” is fraught with a lot of dangerous ramifications. The matter of determining what is “correct” or otherwise when it comes to the different means by which birth control could be implemented is something that is not readily capable of definitive determination.

Section 23 (a) (1) of the RH Law is violative of the due process clause

The void-for-vagueness and overbreadth doctrines are dictates of the Due Process Clause as that constitutional guaranty is a protection against arbitrary and unreasonable laws or government acts, or regulations which could only succeed in ensnaring the citizens in traps which were not clearly marked.

Petitioner-in-intervention found relevance in the Court’s jurisprudence in Chavez v. Gonzales regarding unwarranted restrictions placed on the freedom of expression brought about by overly strict application of laws. 

PRAYER:

  1. Declare Section 23 (a) (1) of RA 10354, The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, unconstitutional on account of vagueness as well as for overbreath;
  2. Declare unconstitutional other provisions of the law as assailed in G.R. No. 204934 (Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippine, Inc.);
  3. Other reliefs just and equitable