MANILA: President Benigno Aquino has quietly signed the Reproductive Health (RH) bill into law, although the exact date of the signing is not yet clear.
Sources said there is discussion on whether to hold a ceremonial signing of the bill, but officials are inclined to avoid any fanfare so as not to fire up emotions whipped up by the debates over the issue.
President Aquino had called for national unity after both chambers of Congress ratified the committee report on the measure shortly before they went on their Christmas break.
The measure – now Republic Act 10354 – has been strongly opposed by the Roman Catholic Church.
Asked to confirm the signing, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said she did not know.
“So far, we have not received any advice from the OES (Office of the Executive Secretary) if it has been signed already,” she told reporters.
On the law’s implementing rules and regulations, Valte said the Department of Health (DOH) is in charge of the matter.
“I would have to ask DOH if they’ve already started on the implementing rules,” she said.
The Catholic Church on Thursday urged the faithful to tie a million red ribbons across the Philippines as a sign of protest against the RH measure.
Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said lay groups were behind the One Million Red Ribbons for Life and Family Movement launched on Friday as the Church marked the Feast of the Holy Innocents.
Last Sunday, a pastoral letter read in churches accused Malacañang of using all its forces to have the RH bill passed.
“The President has a five-point statement on responsible parenthood. His number one position is he is against abortion,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
“As to the other actions that the Church is going to take, there is a big democratic space for expression of your own ideas and opinions and we certainly respect their opinion. We will not comment further on that,” he said.
Despite opposition from the Catholic Church and other sectors, the President certified the bill as urgent, emphasising that the measure is pro-choice and is meant only to teach couples the ways to plan their families.
“I am in favour of giving couples the right to choose how best to manage their families so that in the end, their welfare and that of their children are best served,” the President said in his five-point position on responsible parenthood.
“The state must respect each individual’s right to follow his or her conscience and religious convictions on matters and issues pertaining to the unity of the family and the sacredness of human life, from conception to natural death,” Aquino’s five-point position read.
“In a situation where couples, especially the poor and disadvantaged ones, are in no position to make an informed judgment, the state has the responsibility to so provide; in the range of options and information provided to couples, natural family planning and modern methods shall be presented as equally available,” it added.
Fierce debates preceded the final approval of the RH bill, with some leaders of the Catholic Church even exhorting the faithful to reject politicians who supported the measure. Church leaders believe the RH bill legalises abortion and will set the stage for the legislation of other “anti-family” measures.
President Aquino’s decision to certify it as urgent was widely believed to have provided the final push for the passage of the controversial measure.
Senator Pia Cayetano, principal author of the measure in the Senate, along with her House counterpart, Representative Edcel Lagman of Albay and Representative Janette Garin of Iloilo, acknowledged that the President’s certification of the bill was a turning point in their struggle to have the measure approved.
The Philippine Star