Health chief vows to carry out reproductive health law

By Leilani Junio

November 8, 2017, 9:05 am

MANILA -- Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said he will abide by his duty to fully implement the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law.

"We have to implement the law as a member of the executive branch and the bureaucracy. It is our duty to implement what is in the law," Duque told reporters in an interview Monday, adding that failing to do so would be a “dereliction or gross neglect of duty”.

In his first stint as health secretary under the administration of former president Gloria M. Arroyo, Duque was known to be an advocate of the natural family planning method.

He noted that his "strict stand" at that time was due to the absence of a law on reproductive health.

"There was no law yet (back then). Now, we have a law already," Duque said when asked why he did not push for modern family planning methods during his first tenure as head of the Department of Health (DOH).

Republic Act No. 10354 or the RPRH Law was signed by former president Benigno S. Aquino III. Its full implementation has been challenged several times, the latest of which is the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court on two contraceptive implants. The order requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine if the contraceptive products cause abortion or not.

The FDA, however, said the 2015 TRO requires it to “suspend its certification/recertification of all contraceptives”. It is currently assessing whether 51 contraceptives are abortifacient or not.

Meanwhile, Duque called on various groups to “exercise sobriety” over the issue on the recertification of the 51 contraceptives.

"We will have to wait for the FDA resolution... We have to let the FDA do its job," said the health chief.

"The process is technical and scientific in nature and not a political one. As scientists, we work with empirical evidence and we make sure that our conclusions are based on facts and not on hysteria,” FDA Director General Nela Charade Puno said earlier in a statement. (PNA)