The Center applauds the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (PCHR) for its strong statement calling for the revocation of Manila City’s ban on contraception, categorizing it as in violation of human rights obligations, and urging the Council to apologize. The Center has documented the devastating impact of the ban and urged the PCHR to take action against it.
For a decade, the ban, known as Executive Order 003 (EO 003), has effectively prohibited public health facilities funded by the Manila City government from providing or counseling about modern methods of contraception, including condoms, birth control pills, injectables, and intrauterine devices.
PCHR Chair Loretta Ann Rosales stated that, “By the issuance of EO 003, the City of Manila, an instrumentality and essential element of the state, committed a clear breaches of CEDAW obligation. By adopting an ordinance that limits the choice to natural birth control methods, it reneged on the obligation to protect health including the safeguarding of the function of reproduction, to provide healthcare and enable women to access services related to family planning, and to allow women to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of children.”
The PCHR has asked the Manila City Council to ensure that modern family planning commodities, including pills and injectables, be made available in health centers and hospitals, and to encourage private healthcare providers, hospitals, and health centers to sell them.
The PCHR has also requested the City Council to issue an apology to those who have been denied access to facilities and services as a result of the policy, including women and the children of the families affected.
The Center’s report, Imposing Misery, documents the violations of women’s human rights under the contraception ban. In 2008, based on the findings of this report, several of the interviewees filed a lawsuit against Manila City for the ongoing violations of their constitutional and international human rights. Their lawsuit, now pending in the Regional Trial Court of Manila, asked that the court declare EO 003 unconstitutional and demanded the ban’s revocation.
In 2009, the Center submitted a letter together with Likhaan, a local reproductive health organization, to the PCHR citing the findings of Imposing Misery and the grave violations of women’s reproductive rights as guaranteed under CEDAW and other human rights treaties. In 2010, the Center submitted a second letter to the PCHR requesting action against the ban, which was followed by a meeting in September between the petitioners from the lawsuit and the Commission. The meeting was coordinated by our local partner, Attorney Elizabeth Pangalangan of ReproCen.
In its advisory, the PCHR has conveyed the critical role that the courts, and litigation, play in ensuring the incorporation and protection of women’s human rights into everyday life: The PCHR has encouraged the regional court, to which the lawsuit was remanded, to consider the Philippines obligations under international and regional entities, including the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations, as it decides on the case.
We are hopeful that the mayor of Manila City will comply with the PCHR’s recommendations to put an end to the human rights violations resulting from the ban and take urgent steps to restore access to the full range of family planning services and information to the women and men of Manila City.
PCHR’s statement is particularly timely given that a Philippine Congressional committee is about to consider a reproductive health bill that proposes national funding for reproductive healthcare services, including contraception.