by Joel Roja/Asianjournal.com
MANILA – Twenty Manila residents Tuesday asked the Court of Appeals (CA) to declare null and void the eightyear-old executive order issued by former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza banning the use of artificial methods of contraception in the city.
In a 64-page petition for certiorari and prohibition, the petitioners, mostly housewives, through their counsels led by Harry Roque, asked the appellate court to issue a temporary restraining order directing the Manila City government from further implementing E.O No 003 until the petition is resolved.
The petitioners claimed that since the order was issued on February 29, 2000, the city government has continuously denied them any access to public information and artificial contraceptive such as condoms, pills, intrauterine devices, surgical sterilization,among others.
Under E.O. No. 003, the Manila City government declares its policy to “promote responsible parenthood and uphold natural family planning not just as a method but as a way of self-awareness in promoting the culture of life while discouraging the use of artificial methods of contraception.”
The petitioners noted that since the order was implemented, the city health department has deprived Manila residents access to reproductive health information and artificial contraceptives in health centers and public hospitals.
The petitioners noted that the order has resulted to the high rates of unplanned pregnancies in Manila City,which has socioeconomic and health consequences.
“Families are driven to extreme poverty due to the proliferation of unintended pregnancies, since losing free supplies of contraceptive pills strained household budgets and forced such women to spend on food and subsistence for their growing families rather than contraceptive pills,” the petitioners argued.
The implementation of the order, according to the petitioners, amounts to the absence of any family planning program since some Manila health facilities have refused to provide information, counseling, or referrals for family planning, interpreting the vague wording of the policy as a sweeping ban.”
Former UP Law Dean Raul Pangalangan, one of the counsel of the petitioners said the EO deprived citizens of their right to decide for themselves.
The housewives said health centers in Manila have reportedly deprived them of family planning services directing them to get help from other DOH centers like Fabella hospital.
The petitioners, however did not implead Atienza who is now Environment Secretary in their petition for certiorari and prohibition but the Office of the Mayor hoping to set a legal precedent that will deter other local government units from issuing similar orders and policies.
The petitioners want the CA to decide whether a local government unit like the City of Manila unilaterally prohibit its constituents any and all access to artificial contraceptives and reproductive health information in favor of natural family planning methods?
“The freedom of choice in marriage and family relationships are at the core of the right of privacy. There is a private realm of family which the state cannot enter,” they told the Court.
They insist that “it is the right of every individual to make decisions relating to marriage, procreation, childbirth, child-rearing and family relationships because these are vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness of free men and women.”
“Regulation impinging on the right of privacy is subject to strict scrutiny – it is the burden of the government to show that its measure is justified by some compelling state interest narrowly-drawn to promote such objective,” the petitioners added.