REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH BILL

LEGAL

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH BILL: ARE YOU FOR OR AGAINST?

Reggie Rullan-Borromeo, Manila, Philippines

Published in the Daily Tribune Life
September 8, 2011

The Reproductive Health (RH) bill and its predecessors have been in the public and legal debates for many decades now, and the dust is yet to settle. Those circling the raging public debate claim that the issues raised are “much ado about nothing.” Yet this oft-repeated observation about the RH bill has to contend with the fundamentals of faith and economics all in one piece of legislation. To date, achieving an acceptable balance between both has proven to be tricky on all sides.

Existing laws

Article 2, Section 15, of the Philippine Constitution provides for the protection and promotion of the right to health of the people. The duty to abide by the obligations of the Philippines under international law is the raison d’être for the Philippines to become party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Convention on the Elimination of All

Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Article 12 of the ICESCR recognizes the right to “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”
Article 12 of the CEDAW also mandates state parties to “take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, access to health care services, including those related to family planning.”

Again the same mandate of the Philippine government is found under the International Conference on Population and Development Program of Action(ICPD-PoA), the Beijing Platform of Action (BPA) and the Millennium Development Goal 5 (MDG 5).

Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto argues that the main provisions of the RH bill are already provided for in other laws, namely, the Local Government Code (LGC). The LGC mandates that local government units provide their own basic services and facilities, including primary health care and maternal and child care, to their constituents.

Sotto also cites Presidential Decree (PD) 442 as amended, the Labor Code, which provides incentives for family planning; or Republic Act (RA) 7883 or the Barangay Health Workers Benefits and Incentives Act of 1995, which provides health education, training of barangay health workers and community building and organizing.

Other health-related objectives of the RH bill are also provided for in RA (Republic Act) 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women; RA 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act; RA 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act; RA 7875 or the National Health Insurance Act of 1996 and RA9501 or the Cheaper Medicines Act.

In addition, PD (Presidential Decree)603 or the Child and Youth Welfare Code and PD 965 also require applicants for marriage licenses to undergo family planning and responsible parenthood seminars. AO (Administrative Order)2008-0029 of the Department of Health provides strategies on how to rapidly alleviate maternal and neonatal issues.

Even RA 8424, the National Internal Revenue Code, provides a curbing effect on having more than four children as the fifth child is no longer covered as a minor dependent for tax deduction purposes.

Is there a need?

For pro-RH advocates, particularly Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, these mandates, while already covered by current legislation, do not prevent the passage of a more specific law.

The six main provisions of the RH bill that have been the subject of heated public debate are the:
1. Protection of the lives of the mother and the unborn child;
2. Provision of adequate reproductive health information;
3. Provision of access to health care facilities and skilled health professionals before, during and after delivery;
4. Prevention HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases;
5. Provision of access to different family planning methods; and
6. Institution of age and development appropriate reproductive health education.

The next question to ask, then, is that if these main provisions are in current implementation and are already being paid for by Filipino taxpayers, is there really a need for further legislation executing these provisions and consequently additional funding for the same?

Considering that the government has already provided for an estimated P154 million for health promotion, P233 million for health human resource development and P7 billion for health facilities enhancement, in addition to the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s conditional cash transfers, which cover expenses for prenatal care; assisted childbirth by skilled healthcare professionals; attendance in family planning learning sessions; preventive health checks ups, and; vaccines for children, is there really an urgent need to allocate additional further funding under the RH bill?

Moral vs legal issues

The purple ribbon symbolizing the fight for the passage of the RH bill was launched not long ago at the Crowne Plaza Galleria Manila by Reps. Edcel Lagman and Janette Guarin with Lea Salonga and other pro-RH advocates.

In this conclave of well-heeled women and men of ample means, the woman of meager means is the icon that bears up pro-RH common sense arguments of responsible parenthood and the provision of reliable and accessible means of family planning.

For the formidable Roman Catholic Church and other like-minded religious organizations, the RH bill is yet another piece of legislation that will use taxpayers’ money for advocacies that profoundly challenge the claim of
infallibility in their teaching on morals and doctrine. The Anti-RHers tout that the RH bill is a floodgate for promiscuity and immorality, heralding the triumph of economics over personhood.

Even with the much sought-after endorsement of President Noynoy Aquino for the urgent passage of the RH bill, and his AO 2010-0010, the revised policy supporting the achievement of the 2015 MDG to decrease maternal and neonatal deaths and AO 2010-0036, the Aquino health agenda to achieve universal healthcare for all Filipinos, its actual passage remains to be a numbers game in the House of Congress and is still being deliberated upon in plenary for the third and final reading.

While the outcome of the legal debate is left to those in elected office in the said House, the public debate between the moral and legal issues continue to rage. And the question remains the same.

For the Filipino woman with meager means and whose life the RH bill is deigning to fight for, will the provision of greater access to contraception actually address her plight? Will less children actually mean a better life and greater access to natural and government resources? Will a child who has undergone formal sex education under the RH bill emerge appropriately sex educated and enabled to make discriminating sexual decisions to prevent a population outburst?

As with other laws of a man made kind, the answer will always depend on good governance and on the political will to uplift the plight of those who have less in life. Under the RH bill, will those who have less in life really have more in law?

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Geraldine “Reggie” Rullan-Borromeo
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Malu Mora-Rullan
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PHILIPPINE LAW: VIOLATION OF AIRLINE PASSENGER RIGHTS

LEGAL

PHILIPPINE LAW: VIOLATION OF AIRLINE PASSENGER RIGHTS

Reggie Rullan-Borromeo, Manila, Philippines

NOVEMBER 7, 2014

What do you do when you have a first class ticket and you are forced by an airline to move to the tourist section?

Worse, can an airline deplane you upon suspicion that your travel documents are fake?

Article 1755 of the New Civil Code provides that: “A common carrier is bound to carry the passengers safely as far as human care and foresight can provide, using the utmost diligence of a very cautious persons, with a due regard for all circumstances.”

In the case of AIR FRANCE vs. RAFAEL CARRASCOSO, G.R. No. L-21438 (September 28, 1966), Rafael purchased a first class round trip ticket from Air France to fly for a pilgrimage to Lourdes on March 30,1958.
In Bangkok, the Air France Manager rudely forced him to vacate the “first class” seat that he was occupying because a “white man had a “better right” to the seat. Rafael refused and told the Manager that “his seat would be taken over his dead body.” Since many of the Filipino passengers got nervous in the tourist class and came across to plead with Rafael, he reluctantly gave up his first class seat.

Rafael later on filed a case in a Manila court which upheld his rights and the case was brought up to the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. The courts all held that the ticket, which is a contract to furnish a first class passage covering the Bangkok-Teheran leg, was dishonored with bad faith as Rafael was forced to leave his first class accommodation.

The courts rightly held that: “Passengers do not contract merely for transportation. They have a right to be treated by the carrier’s employees with kindness, respect, courtesy and due consideration. They are entitled to be protected against personal misconduct, injurious language, indignities and abuses from such employees. So it is, that any rule or discourteous conduct on the part of employees towards a passenger gives the latter an action for damages against the carrier.“

The 1966 decision of the Supreme Court awarded P25,000.00 as moral damages; P10,000.00, by way of exemplary damages, and P3,000.00 as attorneys’ fees for the inconvenience, embarrassments and humiliations Rafael suffered, causing him mental anguish, serious anxiety, wounded feelings and social humiliation.

Again, in JAPAN AIRLINES (JAL) VS. JESUS SIMANGAN, G.R. No. 170141 (April 22, 2008), the courts upheld the rights of a passenger under a contract of carriage. Jesus was to donate a kidney to his cousin, Loreto, in the U.S.A. He then purchased a round trip plane ticket from JAL. On the date of his flight, he checked-in at JAL’s counter and at the immigration counter where his plane ticket, boarding pass and his visa were examined. He was then allowed by JAL to board.

The turn of events began when JAL’s crew accused Jesus of carrying falsified travel documents and told him that he would only use the trip as a pretext to work in Japan. After the stewardess demanded to examine his travel documents, she arrogantly ordered him to deplane over his pleas and protests.

On the ground, Jesus was refunded the cost of his plane ticket less a deduction and was offered to be rebooked the next day after confirmed that his travel papers were in order. Jesus did not accept the offer and filed an action for damages against JAL with a Valenzuela City court, alleging that he suffered terrible embarrassment and mental anguish. The court decided the case in his favor and held that in “summarily and insolently ordering him to disembark while he was already settled in his assigned seat, JAL violated the contract of carriage which caused him embarrassment and besmirched reputation; and that when he was finally not allowed to take the flight, he suffered more wounded feelings and social humiliation.”

JAL’s attempt to rebook his flight did not relieve it from liability as the damage had been done to Jesus. Upon appeal, the Courts of Appeals cited Ortigas, Jr. v. Lufthansa German Airlines, (GR L-28773 June 30, 1975, and declared that “inattention and lack of care on the part of the carrier resulting in the failure of the passenger to be accommodated in the class contracted for amounts to bad faith or fraud which entitles the passengers to the award of moral damages in accordance with Article 2220 of the Civil Code.”

Again on appeal, the Supreme Court in a 2008 decision held that JAL was liable for P500,000.00 in moral damages, P100,000.00 in exemplary damages and P200,000.00 in attorney’s fee.

During the trial, however, JAL claimed to have suffered damages as Jesus caused the publications of his complaint against JAL in the newspaper. The courts further held that since JAL is a common carrier and it illegally bumped off Jesus, the publications involved matters about which the public has the right to be informed because they related to a public issue. The constitutional guarantee of freedom of the speech and of the press includes fair commentaries on matters of public interest was upheld and JAL’s claims for damages was denied.

Thus, once an airline issues a confirmed ticket to a passenger with a specified flight, class and date, a contract of carriage arises, and the passenger has every right to expect that he will board that flight, on that class and on that date. If any of these specifications on his ticket is changed, then the airline opens itself to a court action for breach of the contract of carriage.

“The breach of the contract of carriage creates against the carrier a presumption of liability, by a simple proof of injury, relieving the injured passenger of the duty to establish the fault of the carrier or of his employees; and placing on the carrier the burden to prove that it was due to an unforeseen event or to force majeure. “

These two cases illustrated that simply in a court action for breach of contract of carriage, all that is required of the passenger is to prove that he purchased a ticket and that the carrier failed to perform the conditions specified in the ticket.

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Dinah Sabal-Ventura
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Geraldine “Reggie” Rullan-Borromeo
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Malu Mora-Rullan
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