Imbong vs Ochoa Case Digest
IMBONG VS. OCHOA KEY TAKE-AWAY: The Reproductive Health Law is a consolidation and enhancement of existing reproductive laws. It seeks to enhance the population control program of the government in order to promote public welfare. However, when coercive measures are found within the law, provisions must be removed or altered in order to ensure that it does not defy the Constitution by infringing on the rights of the people. PONENTE: MENDOZA, J. FACTS Petition: to declare provisions of Republic Act No. 10354 as unconstitutional Factual Antecedents December 21, 2012: Congress enacted RA No. 10354 also known as the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RH LAW) The president’s imprimatur and support for the said law lead to a range of petitions against the law leading to iuris controversy in court. Petitions for certiorari and prohibition were placed by numerous parties. All in all, 14 petitions and 2 petitionsin-intervention were filed. March 15, 2013: the RH-IRR or enforcement of the law took place March 19, 2013: After deliberating the issues and arguments raised, the court issued Status Quo Ante Order (SQAO) which lead to a 120 day halt on the implementation of the legislation Due to further arguments and debates from opposing parties, the SQAO was extended until further orders of the court last July 16, 2013 Statute Involved: Republic Act 10354, “The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012” Position of Petitioner: o Petitioners claim that the provisions of RA 10354 are unconstitutional as they violate the rights to life, to health, to freedom of expression and speech, to the privacy of families, to academic freedom, to due process of law, to equal protection, and against involuntary servitude. They also intrude on the autonomy of local governments and the ARMM, and violate natural law. Furthermore, they claim that Congress’ delegation of authority to the FDA in determining which should be included in the EDL is invalid. Position of Respondent There is no actual case or controversy and, therefore, the issues are not yet ripe for judicial determination Some petitioners lack standing to question the RH Law
The petitions are essentially petitions for declaratory relief over which the Court has no original jurisdiction. ISSUES Procedural o Whether or not the Court may exercise its power of judicial review o Whether or not there is an actual case or controversy o Whether the Court may apply facial challenge o Whether or not the petitions are praying for declaratory relief o Whether the petitions violate the One Subject/One Title Rule Substantive o Whether or not the RH Law is unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates Right to Life Right to Health Freedom of Religion and the Right to Free Speech The Family Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom Due Process Equal Protection Involuntary Servitude Autonomy of Local Governments/ARMM Natural Law o Whether or not Congress’ delegation of authority to the FDA in determining which should be included in the EDL is valid HELD Procedural o Whether or not the court may exercise its power of judicial review - YES While the Court may not pass upon questions of wisdom, justice or expediency of the RH Law, it may do so where an attendant unconstitutionality or grave abuse of discretion results. The following requisites for judicial review were met: (a) there must be an actual case or controversy; (b) the petitioners must possess locus standi; ( c) the question of constitutionality must be raised at the earliest opportunity; and ( d) the issue of constitutionality must be the lis mota of the case o Whether or not there is an actual case or controversy – YES Considering that the RH Law and its implementing rules have already taken effect and that budgetary measures to carry out the law have already been passed, it is evident that the subject petitions present a justiciable controversy. As stated earlier, when an action of the legislative branch is seriously alleged
to have infringed the Constitution, it not only becomes a right, but also a duty of the Judiciary to settle the dispute. Moreover, the petitioners have shown that the case is so because medical practitioners or medical providers are in danger of being criminally prosecuted under the RH Law for vague violations thereof, particularly public health officers who are threatened to be dismissed from the service with forfeiture of retirement and other benefits. o Whether the Court may apply facial challenge – YES The scope of application of facial challenges extends to the regulation of free speech, but also those involving religious freedom, and other fundamental rights. Consequently, considering that the foregoing petitions have seriously alleged that the constitutional human rights to life, speech and religion and other fundamental rights mentioned above have been violated by the assailed legislation, the Court has authority to take cognizance of these kindred petitions and to determine if the RH Law can indeed pass constitutional scrutiny. o Whether or not Locus Standi applies – YES Regardless of whether the petitioners are directly injured of affected by the RH Law or not, the Court leans on the doctrine that "the rule on standing is a matter of procedure, hence, can be relaxed for non-traditional plaintiffs like ordinary citizens, taxpayers, and legislators when the public interest so requires, such as when the matter is of transcendental importance, of overreaching significance to society, or of paramount public interest." The RH Law falls under transcendental importance as it drastically affects the constitutional provisions on the right to life and health, the freedom of religion and expression and other constitutional rights. o Whether or not the petitions are praying for declaratory relief - YES Most of the petitions are praying for injunctive reliefs, not declaratory reliefs, and so the Court would just consider them as petitions for prohibition under Rule 65, over which it has original jurisdiction. Where the case has farreaching implications and prays for injunctive reliefs, the Court may consider them as petitions for prohibition under Rule 65. o Whether the petitions violate the One Subject/One Title Rule – NO In a textual analysis of the various provisions of the law, both "reproductive health" and "responsible parenthood" are interrelated and germane to the overriding objective to control the population growth. Thus, the Court finds no reason to believe that Congress had the intention to deceive the public regarding the contents of the said law. Substantive
o Whether or not the RH Law is unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates Right to Life – NO Constitution intended that 1.) conception to refer to the time of fertilization and 2.) the protection of the unborn upon said fertilization Not all contraceptives are to be banned (only those that kill a fertilized ovum) Contraceptives that prevent union of sperm and egg are thus permissible It is the intended by the framers of the 1987 Constitution to prevent the enacting of a law that legalizes abortion. RH law prohibits abortion RH law recognizes that abortion is a crime RH law prohibits abortifacients Right to Health - NO With the provisions of RA 4729 still in place, the status quo on the sale of contraceptives is maintained and the Court believes that there are adequate measures that ensure that the public has access to contraceptives that have been determined safe following testing, evaluation, and approval by the FDA Freedom of Religion and the Right to Free Speech – NO and YES RH law does not violate guarantee of religious freedom via the statesponsored procurement of contraceptives, which contravene the religious beliefs of the people including the petitioners. This is because in doing so, the state would be adhering to one religions, making a de facto state religion which is contrary to religious freedom. The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable There limits to the exercise of religious freedom (compelling state interest test) Benevolent neutrality RH law does not violate the guarantee of religious freedom by requiring would-be spouses, as a condition for the issuance of a marriage license, to attend a seminar on parenthood, family planning, breastfeeding and infant nutrition (sec.7, 23, 24) However, RH Law violates the guarantee of religious freedom by compelling medical health practitioners, hospitals, and health care providers, under pain of penalty, to refer patients to other institutions despite their conscientious objections The Family - YES Section 23(a)(2)(i) of the RH Law, which needs only the consent of the spouse undergoing the provision in order to undergo reproductive procedures intrudes into martial privacy and autonomy and goes against
the constitutional safeguards for the family as the basic social institution. Not only that, but the exclusion of parental consent in cases where a minor undergoing a procedure is already a parent or has had a miscarriage (Section 7 of the RH Law) is also anti-family and violates Article II, Section 12 of the Constitution, which declares that the rearing of children by parents is a natural right. Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom – UNDECIDED The court decided that making a ruling on Section 14 of the RH Law, which mandates the State to provide Age-and Development-Appropriate Reproductive Health Education, is premature. The Department of Education has not yet created a curriculum on age-appropriate reproductive health education, thus the constitutionality of the specifics in such a curriculum still cannot be determined. The exclusion of private educational institutions from the mandatory RH education program under Section 14 is valid. There is a need to recognize the academic freedom of private educational institutions especially with respect to religious instruction and to consider their sensitivity towards the teaching of reproductive health education. Due Process - NO The definitions of several terms pinpointed by the petitioners in the RH Law are not vague. Private health care institution = private health care service provider. “service” and “methods” are also broad enough to include giving information and performing medical procedures, so hospitals run by religious groups can be exempted. “incorrect information” connotes a sense of malice and ill motive to mislead the public. Equal Protection - NO It is pursuant to Section 11, Article XIII of the Constitution, which states that the State shall prioritize the needs of the underprivileged, sick elderly, disabled, women, and children and that it shall endeavor to provide medical care to paupers. Involuntary Servitude - NO The State has the power to regulate the practice of medicine in order to ensure the welfare of the public. Not only that, but Section 17 only encourages private and non-government RH service providers to give pro bono service; they do not incur penalties if they refuse. Conscientious objects are exempt if their religious beliefs do not allow them to provide the said services. Autonomy of Local Governments/ARMM – NO
The RH Law does not infringe upon the autonomy of local governments. Under paragraph (c) of Section 17, unless a local government unit (LGU) is particularly designated as the implementing agency, it has no power over a program for which funding has been provided by the national government under the annual General Appropriations Act, even if the program involves the delivery of basic services within the jurisdiction of the LGUs. Not only that, but LGUs are merely encouraged and not compelled to provide RH services. Provision of these services are not mandatory. Lastly, Article III, Sections 6, 10, and 11 of RA 9054 deor the Organic Act of the ARMM merely outlines the powers that may be exercised by the regional government and does not indicate the State’s abdication to create laws in the name of public welfare. Natural Law – disregarded Natural law, according to the Court, is not recognized as proper legal basis for making decisions o Whether or not Congress’ delegation of authority to the FDA in determining which should be included in the EDL is valid- YES Under RA 3720, the FDA, being the primary and sole premiere and only agency that ensures the safety of food and medicines available to the public, has the power and competency to evaluate, register and cover health services and methods Final Ruling o Petitions partially granted. The RA 10354 is declared constitutional, and Status Quo Ante Order lifted with respect to provisions of RA 10354 that have been declared as constitutional. However, the following provisions and their corresponding provisions in the RH-IRR have been declared unconstitutional: Section 7 and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR insofar as they: a) require private health facilities and non-maternity specialty hospitals and hospitals owned and operated by a religious group to refer patients, not in an emergency or life-threatening case, as defined under Republic Act No. 8344, to another health facility which is conveniently accessible; and b) allow minor-parents or minors who have suffered a miscarriage access to modem methods of family planning without written consent from their parents or guardian/s; Section 23(a)(l) and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR, particularly Section 5 .24 thereof, insofar as they punish any healthcare service provider who fails and or refuses to disseminate information regarding programs and services on reproductive health regardless of his or her religious beliefs.
Section 23(a)(2)(i) and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR insofar as they allow a married individual, not in an emergency or life-threatening case, as defined under Republic Act No. 8344, to undergo reproductive health procedures without the consent of the spouse; Section 23(a)(2)(ii) and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR insofar as they limit the requirement of parental consent only to elective surgical procedures. Section 23(a)(3) and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR, particularly Section 5.24 thereof, insofar as they punish any healthcare service provider who fails and/or refuses to refer a patient not in an emergency or lifethreatening case, as defined under Republic Act No. 8344, to another health care service provider within the same facility or one which is conveniently accessible regardless of his or her religious beliefs; Section 23(b) and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR, particularly Section 5 .24 thereof, insofar as they punish any public officer who refuses to support reproductive health programs or shall do any act that hinders the full implementation of a reproductive health program, regardless of his or her religious beliefs; Section 17 and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR regarding the rendering of pro bona reproductive health service in so far as they affect the conscientious objector in securing PhilHealth accreditation; Section 3.0l(a) and Section 3.01 G) of the RH-IRR, which added the qualifier "primarily" in defining abortifacients and contraceptives, as they are ultra vires and, therefore, null and void for contravening Section 4(a) of the RH Law and violating Section 12, Article II of the Constitution.
Dissenting Opinion Leonen, J. I. Preliminary Considerations None of the petitions properly present an “actual case or controversy” which deserves the exercise of judicial review. The consolidated petitions do not provide the proper venue to decide on fundamental issues. The law in question is needed social legislation. An actual case or controversy is “one which involves a conflict of legal rights, an assertion of opposite legal claims susceptible of judicial resolution; the case must not be moot or academic or based on extra-legal or other similar considerations not cognizable by a court of justice.”
No locus standi. Petitioners, by no stretch of the imagination, cannot be representative of the interests of “the entire Filipino nation.” Not all Filipinos are Roman Catholics. Not all Filipinos are from the Visayas. Certainly not all Filipinos have a common interest that will lead to a common point of view on the constitutionality of the various provisions of the RH law.
II. Substantive Discussions The court cannot make a declaration on the beginning of life. Any declaration on this issue will be fraught with contradictions. Even the Constitutional Commissioners were not in full agreement; hence, the use of the word “conception” rather than “fertilized ovum” in Article II, Section 12 of the Constitution. There were glaring factual inaccuracies peddled during their discussion. The Constitutional Commission deliberations show that it is not true that the issue of when life begins is already a settled matter. There are several other opinions on this issue. The Constitutional Commissioners adopted the term “conception” rather than “fertilized ovum.” Insisting that we can impose, modify or alter rules of the Food and Drug Administration is usurpation of the executive power of control over administrative agencies. It is a violation of the principle of separation of powers, which recognizes that “[e]ach department of the government has exclusive cognizance of matters within its jurisdiction, and is supreme within its own sphere.” The system of checks and balances only allows us to declare, in the exercise of our judicial powers, the Food and Drugs Administration’s acts as violative of the law or as committed with grave abuse of discretion. Such power is further limited by the requirement of actual case or controversy. The petitions have failed to present clear cases when the provisions for conscientious objection would truly amount to a violation of religion. They have not distinguished the relationship of conscience and specific religious dogma. They have not established religious canon that conflict with the general provision of Sections 7, 17 and 23 of the law. The comments in intervention in fact raise serious questions regarding what could be acceptable Catholic doctrine on some issues of contraception and sex as only for procreation.
Separate Concurring Opinion Carpio, J. I.
Preliminary Considerations The court is not competent to declare when human life begins. The issue with regards to this must be settled within the scientific and medical community.
Substantive Discussions RA No. 10354 protects the ovum upon its fertilization (without actually saying that life begins here). The issue then, of whether life begins during fertilization or when the ovum plants itself on the uterus wall, is covered as this protects at both stages. Although the law does not provide a definition of conception, it has provisions that embody the policy of the state to protect the travel of the fertilized ovum to the uterus wall. The law states that it will provide means which do not prevent implantation of a fertilized ovum as determined by the Food and Drug Administration.
Separate Concurring Opinion Brion, J. I. Preliminary Considerations The petitions are ripe for judicial review. The petitions allege actions by the legislature and by the executive that lie outside the contemplation of the Constitution. A controversy exists appropriate for this Court's initial consideration of the presence of grave abuse of discretion: and consequent adjudication if the legislative and executive actions can be so characterized. II. Substantive Discussions While the RH Law generally protects and promotes the unborn’s right to life, its Section 9 and its IRR fail in their fidelity to the Constitution and to the very terms of the RH Law itself. It fails to adopt the principle of double effect under Section 12, Article II of the 1987 Constitution. The Court should formulate guidelines on what the government can actually procure and distribute under the RH law, consistent with its authority under this law and Section 12, Article II to achieve the full protection the Constitution envisions. The attack on Section 14’s constitutionality is premature because that the lack of an implementing curriculum by the Department of Education makes it premature to rule on constitutionality. The court cannot determine yet how parental rights will be affected since the specifics of what would be taught under the RH education program do not yet exist. The RH Law’s implementation could have political and economic consequences. It could also produce social consequences by ushering in behaviors and perceptions about sex, marriage, and family that are vastly different (in a negative way) from the norm.
Section 23(a) (l) of the RH Law is an unconstitutional subsequent punishment of speech. It has overreached the permissible coverage of regulation on the speech of doctors and other health professionals. The existing information dissemination program found in the RH law is sufficient in providing information about available reproductive health services and programs, and the existing regulatory framework for their practice already sufficiently protects against such negligence and malpractice. Furthermore, the said section can create a chilling effect for those in the profession.