Possession of legal drags | Inquirer Business

Possession of legal drags

Bet you—the Food and Drugs Administration, this regulatory agency FDA, is going to be dragged into the legal row over the contentious RH Law.

From what I’ve heard, FDA is ready to release its findings on certain contraceptives that are the subject of an extended case before the Supreme Court.


Some years ago, certain groups—all against the RH Law —filed the case and claimed that the contraceptives were “abortifacient” (okay, they could induce abortion).

Their use thus violated the same RH Law.


The Supreme Court issued a TRO in August last year against the use of those contraceptives. It reaffirmed the TRO just last April.

And so in his second State of the Nation Address (Sona) last July, the motorbiking Duterte Harley chastised the Supreme Court for the TRO.

It turned out that the Department of Health already had some 400,000 units of the contraceptives for distribution to the public. The TRO effectively stopped the distribution.

It so happened that the contraceptives were about to hit their expiry date.

What a waste, according to Duterte Harley, who then ordered DOH to give them away to other countries.

Just three days after the Sona, however, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno personally issued a statement to media that the TRO would be lifted, if and when FDA would certify that the contraceptives were not “abortifacient.”

By the way, the TRO also stopped FDA from approving the use of all other contraceptives. Not just those questioned in the case!


The statement from the Chief Justice nevertheless averted what could have been a major collision between two branches of government: Malacañang versus the Supreme Court.

It nevertheless did not stop Duterte Harley from attacking Sereno subsequently, even calling for her impeachment, together with Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.

Anyway, the RH Law has been a contentious issue in this country in the past 17 years or so, having been initiated in Congress during the truncated administration of Joseph Estrada.

Opposing it were groups that called themselves “pro-life,” mainly backed by the Catholic Church, while the supporters called themselves “family planning” advocates.

Rep. Edcel Lagman, who is a staunch critic of Duterte Harley, sponsored the RH Law as we know it now, and so they seem to be on the same side in supporting its implementation.

Congress actually passed the law five years ago in 2012 when the Aquino (Part II) administration flexed its political muscle to support it.

But it is still awaiting implementation up to now, precisely because of the case pending before the Supreme Court, thanks to the TRO that got Duterte Harley riled up.

Anyway, after his outburst against the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice clarified that, to lift the TRO, the Supreme Court simply needed a certification from the FDA that those contraceptives were not “abortifacient.”

In other words, the Supreme Court passed the ball to the FDA.

All it needed was the technical and scientific expertise that the FDA possessed. The issue on whether or not those contraceptives were “abortifacient” would be settled. Pronto.

FDA started its review last August. Word now is that the FDA is ready to release its findings.

From what I’ve gathered, the “pro-life” advocates are preparing to attack the FDA on some legal grounds, apparently to cast doubt on the review, perhaps fearing that FDA would be against their position.

They were said even to have recruited a former Supreme Court justice to join their team of legal experts.

At the same time, FDA director general Nela Charade Puno issued a statement that the review would be “aboveboard and transparent,” seemingly trying to anticipate the legal issues on its evaluation process.

After all, attacks already flew all over social media in the internet against the FDA, accusing it of lack of transparency in the evaluation.

Such a strategy could actually work well against Puno. She is not a lawyer. She only topped the pharmacy professional board examination.

To question her ability on the science regarding those contraceptives, really, would be rather difficult, because her technical credibility seems ironclad.

Well, it was what the Supreme Court wanted from the FDA in the first place.

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