By Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 09:10:00 04/02/2011
MANILA, Philippines—The head of all local government units has spoken.
Barangay councils enacting ordinances banning the sale of contraceptives in their localities without a doctor’s prescription are overstepping their authority, according to Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo.
In a memorandum, Robredo advised village as well as provincial, city and municipal councils against enacting local laws to counteract the reproductive health (RH) bill pending in Congress.
He said restricting the sale of condoms and other contraceptives was “ultra vires,” or beyond the powers or authority of local governments to do.
He cited a provision in Republic Act No. 5921 or the Pharmacy Law which stipulates that the Board of Pharmacy “is the exclusive body authorized to regulate, supervise and control the practice of pharmacy in the country.”
“In no provision of the Pharmacy Law does it state that such power has been delegated or can be delegated to a different body or agency, like the local councils,” Robredo said.
The interior secretary issued his directive after the barangay council of Ayala Alabang in Muntinlupa City prohibited the sale of condoms and other contraceptives in their locality without a physician’s prescription.
Seven barangays in Balanga City, Bataan, followed suit and adopted a similar ordinance.
Robredo said ordinances enacted by local councils should not contradict the Constitution or other existing laws and “must not be unfair or oppressive.”
“(They) must not be partial or discriminatory and must be general and consistent with public policy,” he added.
Robredo said only the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was “vested by law to ensure the safety and quality of food, drugs, devices, household products and other health products.”
“The FDA is the proper agency to classify whether a drug or chemical product or device is indeed capable of provoking abortion or preventing conception and to determine what drugs and devices can be sold with or without a prescription,” he said.
The RH bill would mandate the government to provide for free to the public artificial means of birth control and to include in the grade school curriculum sex education to preteens.
It has caused intense debate between its proponents and those who are opposed to it. The local Catholic Church has taken a staunch anti stand, saying it goes against the biblical injunction to “go forth and multiply.”
Legislators and other backers point to the runaway population growth and increasing poverty as reasons to enact the bill into law.