The Right to the Free Exercise of Religion in the Philippines

In: Asia-Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law
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  • 1 DPhil (Oxon)Professor, Department of Philosophy, College of Social Sciences & Philosophy, University of the Philippines Vice-Chairman, Department of Jurisprudence and Legal Philosophy, Philippine Judicial Academy

The Philippines Supreme Court’s controversial Reproductive Health (rh) Law case gave occasion for a probing inquiry into legal doctrines and policy issues. The ‘conscientious objection’ provisions incorporated into the Law were probably the most divisive issue in the case. The provisions were intended to protect the religious scruples of health care providers. While the duties to extend contraceptive information and services to a patient were imposed on them, there was an opt-out clause in the event a provider conscientiously objects to these duties, so long as he refers the patient to another health care provider, who does not share his objection, to attend to her needs. The Court found this imposition of a duty to refer to be legally unacceptable relying on the United Kingdom (uk) case of Doogan and Wood v nhs Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board. This resort to uk jurisprudence was misguided in that the decision was overruled on appeal. There were, moreover, methodological differences between the two jurisdictions as to the resolution of conscientious objection cases. This article attempts to learn from and gain some insight into the issue of conscientious objection from a more comprehensive examination of uk jurisprudence, as well as from underlying moral, political, and philosophical principles of the Philippine Constitution.

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