MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte again slammed Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno for supposedly "sitting on" decisions on contraceptives, leading to a delay in the full implementation of the Reproductive Health law.
"We already bought the medicines, expecting that it would, you know, be needed by government so we can already start it and until now, it’s two years ago, the medicines have expired, Sereno is sitting on it," said Duterte on Tuesday, August 29, in a mix of English and Filipino.
"What’s the problem, ma’am? We spent for it, we bought the medicines only for them to expire," he added.
If the Supreme Court had only been decisive from the start, he claimed, the government would not have purchased the "medicines" and would have thus avoided wasting taxpayer's money.
"A simple presentence would say if you are going to deny it, 'We denied it because it is an abortive substance.' Until now, nothing," said Duterte.
It was a repeat of his remarks at his second State of the Nation Address when he blamed the Temporary Restraining Order issued by the SC for compromising the effectivity of the RH law.
The TRO, issued by the SC in 2015, temporarily stopped the health department's distribution and sale of implants, a contraceptive that can prevent pregnancies for up to 3 years.
The High Court also prohibited the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from "granting any and all pending application for reproductive products and supplies, including contraceptive drugs and devices."
This has led many to believe the TRO applies, not just to implant brands Implanon and Implanon NXT, but to contraceptive pills.
Sereno, in response to Duterte's SONA remarks, said that the ball is in the FDA's court, not the SC's.
She said that the TRO will be lifted when the FDA rules that the two implant brands are not abortifacient. This could happen sooner if only the Department of Health would conduct summary hearings.
But the FDA reacted saying that the TRO ordered it to revise all its procedures on reviewing all contraceptives and to decide on all applications based on the new procedure.
This has the "net effect of burdening and restraining the FDA from performing its mandate and regulatory functions in a timely and efficient manner," said the FDA, according to a PhilStar article.
The agency also refuted the SC's clarification that the TRO only covers the two implant brands.
To the FDA, the TRO's "language" orders it to suspend certification and re-certification of all contraceptives.
What's at stake
If the TRO is not lifted soon, almost 90% of contraceptive brands will no longer be available by 2018, making the RH law "ineffective." according to the Commission on Population (PopCom)
With the expiration of the FDA certificates, PopCom said couples will have limited brands of contraceptives to choose from.
"Filipino women will be left with a limited number of expensive products by then as the more affordable products will lose their certificates in 2017," the commission said.
Meanwhile, the subdermal implants bought by government and are now on stock in the health department's warehouses "will all go to waste" because these will expire by 2018. – Rappler.com