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‘Prove contraceptives are not abortifacients’

The Supreme Court (SC) gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 60 days to determine if the contraceptive drugs and implants sought to be procured and distributed by the Department of Health (DoH) under the Reproductive Health Law are “abortifacients.”

In an order dated April 26, the SC Special Second Division ruled its temporary restraining order (TRO) on the drugs and implants, which includes Implanon and Implanon NXT, “would be deemed lifted if the questioned drugs and devices are found not abortifacient.”

The SC ordered that the FDA, which is conducting hearings to make the determinations, “to decide the case within sixty days from the date it will be deemed submitted for resolution.”

Instead of going to the Court of Appeals (CA), the high tribunal added that any appeal regarding the final resolution which will be released by the FDA should be forwarded to the Office of the President.

The SC issued the order as it denied the omnibus motion of the DoH which sought to lift the TRO.

“To grant its prayer to lift the TRO would be premature and presumptuous,” said the SC.

“Any declaration by the Court at this time would have no basis because the FDA, which has the mandate and expertise on the matter, has to first resolve the controversy pending before its Office,” it pointed out.

The TRO was issued in July 2016 in response to the petition filed by the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines Inc. (Alfi) which claimed that the DoH implemented Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RH Law) disregarded due process and considered a grave abuse of discretion.

On Friday, the Commission on Population (POPCOM) said more than 300,000 women have signed a petition urging the SC to lift the TRO against contraceptives.

“The Commission on Population joined the more than 300,000 women, to date, who signed the petition requesting the SC to lift the TRO on the distribution, dispensing and promotion of subdermal implants, then on the certification and re-certification of FPC (family planning commodities). Today, more than a hundred men and women from urban communities went to the SC to submit the signed petition,” POPCOM Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III said in a press conference.

As a result of the TRO, Perez said 15 certificates of product registration (CPR) expired in 2016 while 10 expired as of May this year, leaving only 23 contraceptives available for the public.

By 2020, no contraceptives can be procured from the market, according to Perez.

“CPR expirations will lead to a total phase out of FPC in the market before 2020. Without family planning commodities, the Philippines’ national family planning program will definitely put into a halt,” Perez said.
(with a report from Charina Clarisse L. Echaluce) (JEFFREY G. DAMICOG)