MANILA — Catholic bishops expressed willingness to sit down and meet with noted constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas after he announced his position on the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill, a Church official said.
In an opinion piece for the Philippine Daily Inquirer last May 23, Bernas said neither the government nor the Church has the right to stop people from practicing responsible parenthood whichever way they prefer.
“Public money is neither Catholic, nor Protestant, nor Muslim or what have you and may be appropriated by Congress for the public good without violating the Constitution,” he said.
Consistent to Catholic Church teachings, Bernas expressed his opposition to sex education in public schools “without the consent of parents” and support for the provision that strengthens the illegality of abortion.
Quoting the Compendium on the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church, he said that the government’s responsibility is to interpret the good of everyone and “not only according to the guidelines of the majority.”
However, what drew impassioned criticism from many anti-RH bill advocates and even Church officials is Bernas’s dismay at priests who say supporting the measure is a serious sin and called them as “irresponsible.”
“I have been called a Judas by a high-ranking cleric, I am considered a heretic in a wealthy barangay where some members have urged that I should leave the Church (which is insane),” Bernas lamented, whose article spawned 8,335 Facebook “recommends” and 1,729 shares as of press time.
In the end, Figura believes that as a priest, Bernas is still “pro-life and he is towards the anti-RH bill side.”
Meanwhile, a non government organization has called on the voting public to “learn its lesson” in the next elections and withdraw support from politicians who proposed measures that restrict access to contraceptives.
According to EnGende-Rights, these legislators include Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ralph Recto and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., and Reps. Roilo Golez (Paranaque), Pablo Garcia (Cebu), Rufus Rodirguez (Cagayan de Oro) and Amado Bagatsing (Manila).
“Those who believe in respecting, promoting, and upholding the rights of women should use their power as citizens to vote for people who will uphold the rights of women. Women are the ones who bear the brunt of the delayed passage of the RH (reproductive health) law and any restriction on their access to the full range of contraceptive methods,” lawyer Clara Rita Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights, said in a press statement.
On Monday, the Senate bills providing for the safety and protection of the unborn will be heard in the Committees on Youth, Women and Family Relations, Constitutional Amendments, and Revision of Codes and Laws.
Last week, the anti-choice bill of Rep. Bagatsing was heard in the House Committee on Revision of Laws with Golez, Garcia, and Rodriguez supporting it. (Virgil Lopez and Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)
MANILA, Philippines—In a tiny house at a resettlement area in Valenzuela City, a woman recounts a scene: watching her eight children devour half a kilo of rice among themselves.
Pregnant again, 37-year-old Salve Paa says she is just as hungry. But she tells herself that a mother must make sacrifices, and waits for her turn to eat.
Minutes later, one of the boys starts to cry, a little finger pointing at the empty plate before him.
The scene, though seemingly surreal, is typical in Salve’s life. Until recently, she has not heard of family planning and has no idea of the reproductive health (RH) bill, and admits that having so many mouths to feed has made such an episode a general norm.
It’s something she laments, especially because she and Alfredo Francisco, her partner of 22 years, do not make much. (Alfredo, 64, has a first family from whom he is separated.)
“It’s difficult. The little that we earn just goes to food and other expenses in the house,” Salve tells the Inquirer in an interview at Northville, where families dislocated by the North Rail project were resettled by the city government.
P5,200 a month
Salve works in a plastics factory (but she is temporarily off the grind because she is due to deliver another child this month).
She is paid based on her output: On good days, she earns P1,500; on bad, P700. Alfredo earns P150 a day selling cotton candy.
In all, they take home an estimated P5,200 in a month.
“But minus the expenses, we can barely make ends meet. We can hardly complete three square meals a day,” Salve says.
She details the monthly expenses as: P200 for the house, P200 for electricity, P300 on the average for water, “which is only retailed to us,” and food for 10 people, among others.
As a result, a regular breakfast for the family consists of rice porridge (lugaw) bought at P3 a cup. Small galunggong, the so-called poor man’s fish, bought at P20 a handful, are “delicacies.”
“If there is enough, we have bread for breakfast, but that is very rare,” Salve says.
Because of the money constraints, not one of the 37-year-old’s children has been able to finish his or her studies.
Ana Liza, 21, managed to complete the sixth grade—the highest educational attainment in the family. She is married but often visits.
Her brothers—Aries, 15, and Albert, 12—reached the first grade and prep school, respectively.
Throw ’em out
“We can’t afford to send the children to school,” Salve says. “It’s already a struggle to put food on the table for them every day.”
Then there’s the space problem.
The family lives in a 32-square-meter enclosed space with two tables and a makeshift wooden bed. A hole in the ground serves as the toilet.
The windows consist of square holes covered with leatherette.
During the rainy season, the water easily seeps through the concrete walls and onto the floor, Salve says.
In the summer, the sun’s rays easily heat up the structure. “The roof has not been fixed,” she explains.
At night, Salve has a hard time making the children fit on the “bed.” She says she manages to squeeze herself in, and shows the Inquirer how it’s done.
Alfredo sleeps on the floor.
The situation has moved Salve to throw out two of her elder sons—Alvin and Alfred—several times in the past.
She says that with the two fending for themselves, she figured that she could concentrate on feeding and caring for the rest who cannot as yet survive alone in the world.
Take Angelito, the sickly 3-year-old who has been in and out of the hospital in recent months. The bills for his blood transfusions alone have amounted to some P16,000, Salve says.
“When he becomes ill, I take him to the National Children’s Hospital on España. They care for Angelito there, free of charge,” she says.
But despite having been driven away repeatedly, Alvin and Alfred always came back, and Salve took them in with open arms. After all, she says, she is still their mother.
The family should have been much bigger because Salve has given birth to 12 of Alfredo’s children.
Christian and Trisha, then 4 and 7 years old, respectively, died in 2006, followed a year later by Sarah Fe, then 10. Doctors said the three died of sepsis, or the invasion of the body by pathogenic microorganisms.
In 2008, Alvin was accidentally run over by a bus in La Union. Salve lamented the loss of her son, also because the then 18-year-old, who worked as a truck helper, was a big financial help to the family.
Salve admits that her family experiences financial difficulties primarily because she has too many children.
It was only when she was 26 that she learned out about artificial contraceptives. But by then, she had already borne eight children.
In an effort to lessen the number of mouths they were obligated to feed, she and her partner also tried abstinence. But the attempt did not work.
“At one point, I slept at the factory just so I could get away from Alfredo. But he followed me there,” Salve recalls with a chuckle.
Planning a family
Salve does not know what the RH bill is, or what it stands for. But when asked, she says that she is not opposed to sex education.
Had she known about the importance of family planning much earlier, she would not have allowed herself to get pregnant so many times, she says.
This view is in line with some of the provisions of the measure that proposes the integration of sexual awareness in school curriculums and offers couples an informed choice in ways to plan their families.
The proposed legislation is being debated upon in the plenary in the House of Representatives. If passed, it will be sent to the Senate, which can choose to adopt it or pass another version of it.
President Benigno Aquino IIi himself has expressed support for the RH bill. But the Catholic Church and a number of lawmakers remain firmly opposed to the measure and have vowed to block its passage.
“If we had fewer children, then we won’t have most of our financial problems,” Salve muses.
She says that in her community, large families are the trend because some, if not most, of her neighbors do not become aware of family planning methods until much later.
She cites as an example her elder sister who, in her 40s, has seven children.
Salve says that like herself, her sister has to carry on her shoulders the responsibility of feeding too many kids with very little income.
“If you don’t have much money, having too many children is too stressful,” she says. “You’re always thinking of ways to get them through the day.”
Because of her newfound knowledge, Salve plans to undergo tubal ligation to avoid getting pregnant again.
Her ninth (or 13th) child is due, but she says she cannot even think of celebrating. “Our earnings are better spent on food on the table,” she says, smiling weakly.
“I’m ready to rumble!” said the gray-haired, rotund challenger to Manny Pacquiao on the House floor on Wednesday. But the boxing icon and Sarangani rep was apparently the one not ready.
Instead of debating with Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman on the RH bill the latter sponsored, Pacquiao – the new face of the anti-RH camp – read awkwardly from a prepared set of questions and had little to say after Lagman’s lengthy responses.
In a letter to the President, dated May 17, CBCP president Nereo Odchimar said the action was taken as the “prevailing circumstances where a healthy atmosphere for dialogue on the matter was wanting.”
File Photo source: examiner.com
Fresh from a meeting Tuesday with the bishops, Pacquiao seemed willing to project their point of view in Congress where the the second day of plenary debate resumed Wednesday.
(For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV)
Earlier in the day, it was announced that Pacquiao would open interpellations on the floor once the debates resume. The boxer was supposed to interpellate a day earlier but opted to move it to Wednesday because he needed “more time to prepare,” heightening the anticipation.
Pacquiao opened the round of questions by saying it would be better for the government to focus on making laws that would solve poverty.
Lagman answered, “Isa sa solusyon sa kahirapan ay ang RH Bill. Pero hindi ito exclusive sa iba pang solusyon na pwedeng gawin ng gobyerno. Kung marami tayong solusyon at pagsama-samahin ay maaaring sagot ito sa poverty alleviation.”
He followed the first question by asking Lagman about the technicalities of the bill. If it was about poverty alleviation, why was it forwarded to the Committee on Population?
Lagman answered, “That is moot and academic.”
He added: “Kung nakinig tayo sa sponsorship ng chairman ng population, [makikita mo na] halos lahat ng bill ay ni-refer sa population and family relations.”
Several times during the interpellation, the Sarangani congressman found himself repeating questions which had already been answered the day before, when the plenary session on the controversial RH bill started.
At one point, Pacquiao asked about exemptions to the mandatory health education classes. “Hindi kaya magkagulo n’yan dahil ‘yung right nila ay masasagasaan?” asked Pacquiao when Lagman said that parents and children had the right to abstain from sexuality and reproductive health classes.
“Sa sinabi mong chaotic situation ay hindi mangyayari ito,” said Lagman. “Let’s stop these scare tactics.”
Absent from his legislative duties for months while he trained for the Mosley fight, Pacquiao in unscripted moments has cited mostly religious arguments, leading to taunts from Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago.
“I would like to say if this is going to be a debate of biblical quotes, then I will counter with a quote: ‘The devil can cite Scripture for its purposes,'” Santiago said.
House Minority Leader and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman broke the ice by telling Pacquiao, “I’m ready to rumble. I will not run away like Mosley.” Laughter echoed throughout the hall. Lagman was referring to the world champion’s most recent opponent Shane Mosley, who lost miserably in a lackluster fight.
In a news conference Wednesday, ACT Teachers partylist Representative Antonio Tinio said the 120 lawmakers, which include the 97 who were co-authors of the bill, are expected to increase as more get exposed to the issues behind the controversial measure during debates in plenary.
Some 90 lawmakers are opposed to the bill, while about 60 are still undecided, Tinio added.
The House has 284 members. A majority vote is needed to pass the bill on second reading.
DIWA partylist Representative Emmeline Aglipay said that among the 140 neophytes, 20 have already firmed up their position to back the bill.
“As neophytes, we want to express out voices, too, in supporting the bill,” she said, adding they will participate in the deliberations in plenary when given the chance.
Manila Representative Sandy Ocampo said that lawmakers are discussing among themselves the bill and some are “convincing each other” to either support or junk the bill.
Gabriela partylist Representative Emmi de Jesus said the RH bill covers the advocacy of the group for women empowerment.
“Asserting women’s full access to reproductive health services and programs should not be reduced to just the issue of contraceptives. We need to focus on our universal respect for the human life. We need to ensure that the phenomenon of 11 women dying each day due to pregnancy-related causes will become a thing of the past. Indeed, we don’t want to be short of responsibility to our constituents,” she said.
Ifugao Representative Teodoro Baguilat Jr. said the passage of the bill would put in place a policy on a reproductive health and responsible parenthood that the country needs to address concerns on poverty and maternal health.
Plenary debates started Tuesday with at least 38 lawmakers opposed to the bill enlisting for interpellation.
Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) partylist Representative Sherwin Tugna called on his colleagues to “stick only to secular issues and debate on empirical facts that can be analyzed and measured” so that the debates will have a conclusion.
“We have to reign the debates to stay on a reasonable level and avoid dragging God and the heavens into the issue,” he said. “Questions on the deliberation must be limited to secular questions, not on morals, beliefs and religion. Debates must be issue based and not on belief in God.”
By Jocelyn R. Uy, Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Boxing champion Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao avoided the question like a left hook coming from his defeated American challenger Shane Mosley.
Asked on Tuesday how he and his wife Jinkee were managing the growth of their family amid a published report that the latter was using birth control pills, the Sarangani lawmaker replied in Filipino: “You know, in reality, even if the RH (reproductive health) bill has not yet been passed, many people are already using condoms or [birth pills]. So why do we still need to pass it when people are already using them?”
Purple is the color adopted by RH advocates. “[But] this tie has nothing to do with the issue … Actually my wife prepared this for me,” Pacquiao said in a subsequent press conference with the bishops, eliciting laughter from reporters who had pointed out the oversight to him.
He confidently said he could get away with it because he was already known in Congress as among those speaking out against the legislative measure that seeks to provide Filipinos an informed choice on the family planning method best suited for them.
Pacquiao said he was against artificial contraception because, he claimed, it was against the will of God.
“God said, ‘Go forth and multiply.’ He did not say ‘Go and have just one or two children,’” he said.
But in an interview with reporters, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said the eight-division champion was behaving like a religious “fundamentalist” who had no business interpreting the Bible to support his position.
Pacquiao’s interpretation of God’s injunction to “go forth and multiply,” Santiago said, “sounds very much like God is encouraging us to go out and copulate in public.”
“God said in the Bible, ‘Go forth and multiply.’ That meant that God wanted man not necessarily to literally multiply, but to go out to work with the rest of the human beings of this planet and to apply the stewardship theory. Meaning to say, taking care of each other, who are all in the planet together,” she said.
The senator said her comments were “facetious,” but warned the boxing superstar against interpreting the Bible literally.
“It is very dangerous to quote the Bible and apply it literally, as Pacquiao is doing,” she said. “Bakit mo papasukan ito e kaming mga senador hindi papasok sa pagboksing? Pero kung gusto mo, eh di puwede rin (Why are you venturing in it when we senators would not venture into boxing? But if you like, maybe we can).”
Santiago said there was an “element of hypocrisy” in Pacquiao’s position on the RH bill, pointing out that while his wife had been quoted as saying that she was on the pill, he himself was reported to have said that he was applying discipline to space their children.
“In that case, apparently, Pacquiao would have to use violence on his wife because she is not living in conformity with his beliefs,” the senator said.
Santiago downplayed the impact of Pacquiao’s “star power” in the Catholic Church’s campaign against the RH bill.
She heaped praise on Pacquiao’s remarkable accomplishments in boxing but warned her fellow legislator: “We cannot be know-it-alls. It will be very misleading to use his celebrity status to enter into what is, after all, a great debate on the political economy.”
Corruption to blame
Pacquiao had earlier expressed his stand against artificial contraception and urged couples to practice sexual abstinence and natural family planning.
He said there would not have been a Manny Pacquiao if his parents, who were poor and had no jobs, used artificial birth control methods.
Pacquiao is the third child in a brood of four. He has four children with his wife Jinkee, who was quoted in a published report as saying that she was on the pill because she did not want another child after their youngest, Queenie.
In reiterating his stand against the RH bill, Pacquiao on Tuesday said the Philippines’ big population should not be blamed for the plight of the poor.
“We should blame corruption because the money that is supposed to help the poor goes to the pockets of officials who are already rich,” he said.
Pacquiao called on his fans nationwide to rally behind the Catholic Church and “follow God’s command, not man’s.”
His remark drew applause from the audience, mostly lay people who had provided for the hearty lunch and arranged his meeting with the bishops.
Among those who lunched with Pacquiao were Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar (the CBCP president), Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, Bishops Ramon Villena, Pablo Virgilio David, Arturo Bastes, Leonardo Medroso, Gerardo Alminaza, Emmanuel Cabajar, Romulo Valles and Honesto Ongtioco and Msgr. Juanito Figura.
All are members of the CBCP Permanent Council, which convened on Tuesday for its usual quarterly meeting.
“We are happy to have him with us, that he came on his own accord to be one with us and to assure us that he is with us in this fight, to defend human life,” Odchimar said at the press conference.
Odchimar said Pacquiao’s promotion of “the culture of life” was a big boost to the Catholic Church in contesting the bill “because people listen to him.”
“We welcome anybody who is as popular as Manny or an ordinary person who would promote the value of life,” the bishop said.
During the press conference, Pacquiao doused speculations that President Benigno Aquino III had snubbed him because of their opposing views on the RH bill.
He said he was not taking it against the President that he was not received in Malacañang when he flew in from the United States on Saturday following his victory against four-time world champion Mosley.
“I understand that he had other important things to do that day and I would like to make it clear that my stand against the RH bill doesn’t mean that I am opposing his government,” Pacquiao said of Mr. Aquino.
He said the President had his full support when it came to government measures countering corruption.
Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office head Ramon Carandang told reporters on Sunday that that Catholic leaders should be open to the debate on the proposed measure, which is an “issue of national importance.”
“There are different and opposing views, but our way of explaining our side should be within the means of the law…What the President is saying is there is room for debate,” said Carandang.
The Catholic hierarchy had pulled out of the talks on the RH bill, saying “holding talks is futile as President Aquino said no one can stop him from pushing the measure.”
Msgr. Juanito Figura, CBCP secretary general, said the talks “would not yield any further positive results.” He said the consolidated RH bill in the House and Mr. Aquino’s five-point responsible parenthood agenda were basically the same.
“The bishops do not see any reason to further undertake a serious study/dialogue on HB 4244 with the administration as was proposed by Pres. Aquino, himself,” said Figura, reading a statement of the CBCP.
But Carandang said the issue “should not degenerate to illegal acts or anything like that.”
Earlier, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles stopped short of calling Aquino a modern Herod after the latter warned anti-RH groups that they were courting sedition for threatening not to pay taxes if the measure would become law.
“He can put us all in jail. We are willing to pay the price to save the unborn from modern Herods and save the executioners from the grasp of the evil one,” Arguelles said.
Meanwhile, Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said that Aquino should be allowed to “charge all of us bishops, priests, religious, all the faithful with sedition because it is better to obey God rather than men and immoral laws,”
Aquino said calls for a tax boycott from the Citizens Alliance for the Protection of Human Life is a serious offense and may qualify for sedition charges.
“Sedition would be the charge for not doing your civic obligation, if you encourage others not to pay taxes,” the President added.
Aquino said the responsible parenthood bill, Malacañang‘s version of the proposed measure, would be included in his administration’s priority legislative measures during the next Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council.
The House of Representatives is expected to begin plenary debates on the RH bill on Tuesday, May 17.
On Sunday, Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros launched a “text brigade” appealing to the public to pray for “pro-life” legislators. “Our prolife legislators ask for prayers as they plan on May 17 their moves in this month-long session of congress. Let us pray for them.” – with reports from Pots de Leon
ON SO fundamental a proposal as the Reproductive Health bill (HB 4244), there is bound to be wide and passionate disagreement. The bill touches on matters that lie within the scope of three basic institutions: the State, the Church, and the family. Although differing views on such matters may not always be reconcilable, they can be made—in the spirit of democracy—to accommodate one another.
To get to that point, it is essential that the parties must give up the use of threats or coercion to bolster their respective position. The mere mention of excommunication or criminal prosecution in the course of an ongoing debate is enough to fuel extreme reaction. Debaters and discussants must stick to the main issues, avoid name-calling, and not indulge in polemics. They must try hard to see issues from the standpoint of the other, instead of privileging their own way of seeing as “commonsensical” or “rational” or truly “moral.” Such words can be conversation-stoppers.
On this issue, I don’t expect much from the encounter between the Church hierarchy and the leaders of the State. Each side will reiterate and promote its own definition of reality. More than that, both institutions will try to stretch their sphere of influence on society to the extent they can. The Church cannot be expected to view the world from the standpoint of secular leaders. That is not its role. In like manner, political leaders in a modern state cannot allow decision-making to be controlled by any religion without violating the autonomy of politics that is crucial to a democracy.
In transitional societies like ours, the vulnerability tends to hobble largely the political side. We see this in the way political legitimacy is routinely and brazenly sought from religious leaders—not only during elections but especially during times of crisis. When citizens habitually ask bishops to sanctify the political choices they make, they make it hard for them to back off on all other matters of state. Perhaps at no other time was the vulnerability of government to religious interference as evident as during Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s presidency. She served as the clergy’s principal conduit to Congress. She made sure that the RH bill would not move an inch during her term, even if her own allies were among the bill’s fervent supporters. In turn, the Church rewarded her by softening public criticism of her governance.
In contrast, we have today a president who not only supports the bill but also risks antagonizing the Church by repeatedly expressing his stand in public. Instead of allowing the fate of the bill to be decided at closed-door meetings, this administration has encouraged free and open discussion of its merits and demerits.
One can immediately see the effect of this readiness to debate in the boldness of the growing number of legislators who support the bill. But, it is obvious as well in the stance taken by those who oppose it. Though their objections are fundamentally religious, they find themselves having to couch these in non-religious language. They frame their arguments in moral and constitutional terms, raise issues of practicability, or argue from economic and political rationality. They do not flash the religious card, knowing they are legislating for an entire nation and not for a particular religious community. That’s how it is supposed to be in a democracy.
But though it may not be obvious at first glance, rapid ferment is taking place within the Philippine Church itself. One cannot think of any other time when there was more open questioning by the faithful of the hierarchy’s rigid position on reproductive health than today.
The key issue is whether the ban on contraception is dogmatically defined and thus irreformable. The famous Catholic theologian Karl Rahner does not think that the papal encyclical “Humanae Vitae” can be considered “irreformable doctrine.” Still, he believes that “the presumption should be in favor of the Pope’s declaration.”
But so complex are the issues, Rahner goes on to say, that many may be unable to accept the Pope’s doctrine. A cogent summary of his highly nuanced position, written for a German publication in 1968, has been provided by Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., who taught religion and society at Fordham. (http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id= 10722) It is useful to cite Rahner at this time because he shows the Church to be the living institution it should be, staunchly defending its place in a changing world while remaining sensitive to dissenting voices within it.
“Bishops,” Rahner makes clear, “should surely instruct the faithful about the meaning and weight of the pope’s decision, and warn the faithful to take it seriously…. On the other hand, bishops should not act as though the encyclical were irreformable or as though everyone who dissented were guilty of contempt of authority or were separating himself from the church. They should refrain from imposing canonical penalties on persons who respectfully and discreetly propose another view…. If no one could voice his opposition to reformable doctrines, the development and correction of the Church’s official teaching would be seriously hampered.”
Rahner’s views stand in contrast to the intolerance with which some members of our clergy have treated those who differ with the official teaching on contraception. My sense is that, in the last analysis, the strength of the Church will be tested not by what happens to the RH bill but by the grace with which it is able to deal with the dissenting voices within it.
Howie Severino (H): May isang issue ngayon na mainit na pinagtatalunan ng bansa. May mga nagsasabi na posible itong maging sagot sa lumalalang kahirapan — ang Responsible Parenthood bill o ang dating tinatawag na Reproductive Health bill. Kasama nating ngayon si Dr. Junice Melgar, executive director ng Likhaan Center for Women’s Health at isang organizer ng Day of the Purple Ribbon na gagawin ngayong araw. Siya ay pro-RH.
Kara David (K): Syempre dito sa News to Go, balanse tayo Howie. Para naman sa kabilang panig, ito po ‘yong anti-RH. Narito naman si Atty. Dindo Garciano, director and immediate past president ng Alliance for the Family at nakasama rin sa RH panel ng Catholic Bishops Conference on the Philippines (CBCP).
H: Unahin natin si Dr. Melgar. Sa dinami-dami ng argumento, ano ang pinakalamakas na basehan para ipasa ang RH o ‘yong tinatawag na Responsible Parenthood bill?
Dr. June Melgar (JM): Medical doctor ako kaya ‘yong health aspect. Una, nag-aattempt talaga ito na ilatag yung services that will l provide life-saving services for pregnant women and their babies. No. 2, it will also provide services that will prevent abortion and unintended pregnancies which are the root of abortion. So kasama do’n ‘yong sexuality education. Tingin ko part ‘yon ng prevention. No. 3 is that it will try to fix some of the weaknesses in the health system. Like making sure na meron kang enough midwives and health professionals attending birth, na meron kang enough facilities, meron kang emergency obstetric facilities that can attend not just to obstetric emergencies pero magagamit din ‘yan pag napilayan, yung mga ganyang emergencies, medical emergencies. No. 3, it will make sure that Philhealth assists people in need, ‘yong mga mahihirap through their benefits.
K: Atty. Garciano, kayo naman. Ano sa tingin niyo ang pinakamatibay na basehan para hindi naman ipasa itong RH bill?
Atty. Dindo Garciano (DG): Bilang nagtuturo naman ng Policy sa University of Asia and the Pacific, naniniwala ako na ang RH bill is a legislative initiative therefore, a policy initiative. Ang polisiya ay isang gamot. Kung gumawa ka ng policy, meron kang ginagamot. Ang sabi ng mga proponents ng RH bill ay ang gusto raw gamutin dito ay ‘yong high incidence of pre-natal deaths and post-abortion cases.
DG: So naniniwala ako, bilang na-train sa Policy Sciences, na hindi naaakmang gamot o hindi magiging responsive na gamot ang isang legislation para dito sa sinasabing sakit na ito. Sapagkat itong legislation na ito ay may apropriasyon na tatlong bilyong piso taun-taon na mag-iincrease ng an average of 15% a year. So on the part of the Policy Sciences, on the policy perspective, hindi sound policy na gumastos ka ng tatlong bilyong piso taun-taon para lang maipambili mo ng condom at artificial methods para gamutin itong sakit na ito. Sapagkat meron naman tayong mga tinatawag na executive remedies, bakit hindi gumawa ng mga administrative remedies? Bakit kinakailangan ng isang panukalang batas na kontrobersyal?
K: So ang problema niyo po ay ‘yong pondo? Masyadong malaki ‘yong pondo na ilalaan para do’n sa ganitong klaseng services?
DG: You know, ang ating pangulo ay nagcertify as urgent ng isang fiscal responsibility bill. Sinasabi niya na maraming unfunded mandates, na hindi mapondohan sapagkat kakarampot ang ating pananalapi. Kaya malaki ang ating fiscal deficit. Dapat daw i-certify as urgent. Kung magdadagdag ka pa ng tatlong bilyong gastusin para lamang pambili mo ng contraceptives, ng condom para sagutin itong sakit na sinasabing ito ay hindi magiging akma ito sa sinasabi ng pangulo na dapat nating i-manage ‘yong fiscal deficit natin. Kaya nga pinapa-certify as urgent do’n sa state of the nation address niya ‘yong fiscal responsibility bill. Because the RH bill o HB 4244, for us, for me, personally, for the advocacy, is a subsidy bill. Ginagawang libre ang distribution ng condom at contraceptives sa grass roots level. At alam ko po ito sapagkat ako’y dating punong-bayan. Mayor ako dati ng Baras, Rizal. At nakita ko, tinutulan ko noong ako ay mayor na gawin ito ng mga health centers sapagkat saganang akin, hindi dapat makialam ang estado sa kagustuhan ng mga mag-asawa kung ano’ng gusto nilang gawin.
H: Dr. Melgar, tamang paggamit ba ‘to ng taxes?
JM: Tingin ko ‘pag binilang natin ‘yong maternal deaths, tapos ‘yang maternal deaths may kaakibat na infant death, because infants whose mothers die actually do not (usually) survive beyond the first month after their delivery or even beyond the year. So ang bilang na 4,500, that’s very conservative, ang sinasabing 2800, 2700. Actually, if you count that, that ranks among the top 9, top 10 causes of mortality of women, across all ages na ‘yan. So talagang tingin ko, urgent siya and very preventable. Very preventable by the measures na nasa bill, yung maternal care but also family planning because family planning alone can reduce at least 35% of the deaths. No. 2, hindi lang ‘yong mga namamatay na ‘yan, malaki ‘yan, pero ‘yong nagko-complicate mula sa pregnancy and child birth, 400,000 ‘yan. That’s the number 1 cause of morbidity. It’s higher than tuberculosis, higher than hypertension. Definitely the highest form of morbidity for women. So kung hindi yan urgent, hindi ko na lang alam kung ano ang urgent.
H: Attorney, naniniwala ba kayo na malaking problema talaga ang maternal mortality?
DG: Well, kung sa statistics na sinasabi ng mga pro-RH na malaking problema ito, bakit kailangang legislative ang kailangang pag-usapan? Palagay ko po, ako’y naging mayor nga, ‘yan po ay trabaho ng local chief executive. ‘Yan po ay trabaho ng chief executive, ng administrative bodies, ng executive bodies, ng Department of Health. In fact, pag ginawa mong batas ito, nagiging contoversial sapagkat sa paggawa ng batas, sa paggawa ng polisiya, may mga tinatawag tayong mga iko-consider na policy players. And major policy players are always considered in the crafting of policy so that there will be no implementation problem. And one of the major policy players in the country, in the world, of course, is the Catholic Church. It’s a policy player.
K: Atty. Garciano, ang sinasabi niyo, in principle, naniniwala kayo sa RH bill? Ang ayaw niyo lang is to make it a legislative act?
DG: No, no. Hindi ako naniniwala sa RH bill.
K: Hindi rin talaga kayo naniniwala? Not just because it’s a legislative act?
DG: No, because the RH bill targets population and not poverty. It targets limiting our population by promoting and advertising the free distribution of condoms.
K: So do’n kayo may problema, ‘yong promotion ng artificial contraceptives?
DG: Yes. And looking at the problem from the population perspective, there are a lot of economists and experts who say na walang kinalaman o walang correlation, walang causality ang populasyon at ang kahirapan. So the focus of this RH bill is not poverty. The focus of this RH bill is to lessen the population. That is why there is an initiative to promote.
K: So ayaw niyo pong i-lessen ang population?
DG: Well, there is no problem with respect to population.
K: Ok, Dr. Melgar?
JM: Tingin ko po merong problema sa population dahil malaki ang bilang ng unintended, unwanted pregnancies. For example, ang contrast niyan sa rich, gusto nila ng 1.7 children, they have 1.9. So talagang napakalapit. Kung ikaw ay napaka-poor, ‘yong poorest segment, they only want 3 children but they’re having 5. So you multiply that across all the poor women, ang dami no’n. I call it parang “surfeit”, ‘yong sobra sa kaya at gusto nila na births and pregnancies.
K: May sinabi si Attorney kanina na ang ayaw daw nila ay ‘yong pinangungunahan ng estado kung anong family planning method ang gagamitin ng mga mag-asawa ‘pag nagpamudmod daw ng mga artificial contraceptives. Hindi ho ba kayo naniniwala do’n?
JM: Naniniwala kami sa ebidensiya ng survey. And when you study the surveys, actually, ang un-met need natin napakalaki. ‘Yong women that would not have wanted to be pregnant but got pregnant, 20% yon. Ang estimate nila if you total women not using any contraceptives but don’t want to have children and the women not using effective contraceptives, mga 50% ‘yon. ‘Yon tingin kong kailangang habulin kasi ‘yon ang may gusto.
K: Ng RH bill?
JM: Oo, ng modern methods because the no. 1 choice of method by women is pills. No. 2 is ligation. So, actually, makikita mo do’n na gusto talaga nila ‘yong effective. I think that speaks of the very stark need of women to control, kung marami sila, attorney, na pagbubuntis na hindi talaga nila kayang pakainin din. Kaya hindi ko alam kung ano’ng mas moral pa do’n? Di ba dapat tinutulungan sila ng gobyerno para they can have the children they would like to have, that they can feed, that they can send to school, na ma-assure din nilang ‘yong kanilang quality of life?
DG: Alam niyo binanggit niyo po ang pagkain, binanggit niyo ang kahirapan. Ang solusyon ay hindi condom, hindi contraceptives. Ang solusyon ay iukol sa pagkain, iukol sa kalusugan, iukol sa pabahay, iukol sa ikabubuhay ‘yong tulong ng gobyerno. Hindi ‘yong… ‘yong tatlong bilyon. Marami ka nang mabibiling pagkain do’n. Maitutulong mo na ‘yon sa conditional cash transfer ni (DSWD) Secretary Soliman. Bakit hindi mo ibigay ‘yan kay Dinky at ipagpatuloy yung CCT dahil maganda ang CCT. Pero bakit ka gagawa ng isang legislation na maglalaaan ng tatlong bilyon taun-taon para lamang ipambili mo ng condom at contraceptives? Hindi po iyon akma sa tamang pamamahala ng ating pananalapi. ‘Yan po, kaya sinabi ko kanina, ‘yan po ay executive remedies. It may be the job of Secretary Soliman, it may be the job of Health Secretary Ona but definitely, it is not the job of the legislature. And if you will be targeting the population, you know, one of the factors of production is labor. Alam niyo sinasalba na po tayo ng ating mga OFW. Ang daming mga naka-deploy na mga OFW at karamihan po dito, if not 70 to 80%, ay nanggagaling po sa mga mahihirap na pamilya. Bakit po natin pipigilin ang pagdami ng ating mga kababayan na pwede nating pakinabangan in the future? There is an Indian economist by the name of Jagdish Bhagwati. Sinabi ni Jagdish Bhagwati that human resources pave the way for economic difference. Kasi kung wala kang tao, wala kang resource, di ba? So kung sinasabi na there is overpopulation…
K: So you don’t think we’re over populated?
DG: No we’re not. Maybe we are overpopulated in the metropolis but definitely we are not overpopulated as a country.
H: Pero sinasabi ni Dr. Melgar na dapat bigyan ng choice or options ‘yong mga pamilya.
DG: Ang sinasabi ay choice so dapat hindi makialam ang state. Because if there is legislation, there is compulsive authority. So compulsive authority is intrusion to the exercise of private initiatives.
JM: Can I respond to that? Because I think if you read the RH bill closely, lahat po ay rights-based ang informed choice. Kung ikaw po ay isang babae na gusto mong sampung pregnancies, ang gagawin ay tutulungan ka talaga to achieve that, if that’s your wish. Ang gagawin ng estado ay to make sure that each of those pregnancies will not put the woman in jeopardy. Hindi siya mamamatay. Walang gano’n po na kapag gusto mo ng sampu ay babawalan ka. Ngayon, kung ikaw ay isa lang ang gusto mo o ayaw mong magkaanak, dapat tinutulungan ka whatever your wish is.
K: So kunyari, kung pumunta ka sa health center at sabi mo “gusto ko natural family planning,” tuturuan ka? Halimbawa gusto ko IUD, ganyan?
JM: Oo. How to do it properly. It will be method-based.
DG: Sinasabi nga po, I’ve been there. Naging mayor po ako.
H: So sinasabi niyong may coercion involved dito?
K: Na ‘pag sinabi mo natural, sasabihin sa’yo, “hindi, mag-pills ka na lang?”
DG: Mag-pills ka, bibigyan ka ng condom libre. Batas e, that’s why it’s coercive.
JM: Hindi. Kasi kaya nga gusto natin i-legislate ‘yong tamang standard ng family planning kasi kami sa NGOs, we’ve been doing that. ‘Yong respectful ka, you respect, you facilitate their decision and enable them to implement their decision. Kaya gusto nating ipalaganap ‘yong ganon, walang judgment, whatever. You need a law because attorney, ‘yong local governments tsaka DOH natin, hindi nagkakatugma. So you just need to have uniform standards applied to all.
K: Kasi I understand na meron ding mga local governments na kahit gusto mo ng pills, hindi ka pwedeng makakuha.
DG: Pag meron kang batas, kasi wala pang batas e, may litigation. Pag may violation ng batas may litigation, may aawayin sigurado. Magkakaroon ng set ng kanya-kanyang interpretasyon. Why put a law that is (1) controversial and offends a major policy player, (2) will pave the way for litigation, (3) will appropriate P3 billion a year which is not a sound policy, (4) will have a coercive effect? Sa sinasabi ni Doctor na problema, why not intensify the campaign administratively on the executive levels? That is the job of the local chief executives. Ang sinasabi ni doktora kailangan ng batas, ngayon ang provisions ng RH bill o ‘yong HB 4244 na ‘yon are already covered by respective legislations. The rights of women, for example, are covered by the Magna Carta for Women. The other provisions of the RH bill right now are covered by international commitments we have signed. There is only one provision in that RH bill na hindi covered. ‘Yon ang provision on appropriation.
H: Attorney, can I just bring up a final point? Nabanggit kasi kanina ‘yong maternal health, ‘yong public health. Di ba sinabi ni Pope Benedict na justifiable na ang paggamit ng condoms to prevent the spread of HIV o AIDS. Sumasang-ayon ba kayo dito na pwedeng gamitin ‘yong condoms para sa public health?
DG: Both of us are not churchmen, so both of us are not competent to discuss that. I think you should ask somebody who is knowledgeable on the interpretation on what the Pope says.
H: Pero ‘yong posisyon niyo dito ay bilang CBCP panel having dialogues with the government. Lumambot ba ‘yong posisyon niyo when it comes to condoms?
DG: Hindi. The Pope declaration as I have said is not my competence to interpret. But ang sinasabi ko nga, the CBCP’s position, I was in the panel up to now, has never softened. Matibay ang sinasabi ng mga obispo ngayon, lalong-lalo na na pinatibay ng pag-alis sa dialogue. There are non-negotiable stands na hindi pwede talagang pag-usapan. Asinasabi natin, the state should not spend precious resources just to target the population and just to buy condoms and contraceptives. That’s P3 billion a year. It’s a subsidy bill.
K: Ok. Maraming-maraming salamat. Marami pang pag-uusapan ang RH bill na ito at may debate nga dito sa News TV about that. Maraming salamat Dr. Melgar and Atty. Garciano. Para mas maging maalam sa usapin ng Reproductive Health, abangan po ang RH Bill: The Grand Debate dito lamang po sa GMA News TV.
H: Sa May 22 na po ‘yan, Linggo, mula 8:45 hanggang 10:45 ng gabi
The Day of the Purple Ribbon will be remembered for different reasons.
Some will remember the strong political statements made by RH champions, especially the call of former President Ramos for President Aquino to prioritize the RH Bill.
Others will remember the music, ranging from Noel Cabangon’s hearty original, “Ako’y Isang Mabuting Pilipino,” to Lea Salonga’s heavenly — yes, heavenly — rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Still others will remember it for the camaraderie: spending an afternoon remembering the journey we started, celebrating the progress we’ve made, and pledging to continue until the RH bill becomes law.
But what I’ll never forget about the Day of the Purple Ribbon is how secular it was. There was no opening or closing prayer. The pledge to support the RH bill, which could have easily included a line to ask for help from a higher power, was a pledge that even an atheist could recite with complete conviction. Grace was not said before the meal — at least not publicly.
And that’s the point. I’m sure most of the people there were Catholics who did say Grace before their meal, Catholics who attend mass every Sunday and who pray regularly for the passage of the RH bill.
As the majority in attendance they could have assumed that everyone else shared the same beliefs they did. But they didn’t. And that’s what secularism is about: focusing on the things you can publicly agree on and keeping personal practices and beliefs private.
The event organizers knew that what the people shared was support for the RH Bill, and that is what they made the event about — nothing more nothing less. For the RH Bill to pass, the government needs to practice secularism; RH Advocates are showing them how.
Compare this with priests who ask parishioners to kneel for a final prayer, not knowing that somewhere before the final Amen they’ll ask God to block the RH Bill — regardless of whether they support it.
And so it went that even without religious pledges or public prayers, the Day of the Purple Ribbon was a success. I’m sure even the Catholics there would agree.
Except maybe for this one Pro-Lifer who came uninvited. We recognized each other from the recent Anti-RH lecture at SM Megamall. He greeted us with a smile and said that he came with an “open mind.”
But after hearing Noel Cabangon’s song reach a secular stanza — which came after a torrent of secular and pro-RH statements — he left. I could almost see steam coming out of his ears.
It’s a good thing, too. If he’d stayed longer, Lea’s “Imagine” would have blown his mind wide open.
Belmonte Thursday said it would not be possible to put to a vote the consolidated House Bill 4244, or the “Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development Bill,” during the remaining session days of Congress.
He said the debates on the RH bill could very well spill over into the next State of the Nation Address (SONA), meaning into the opening of the next regular Congress session in late July.
“We have to continue the debates,” said Belmonte, noting that 50 congressmen have lined up to interpellate the controversial bill, principally authored by Minority Leader and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, during the remaining 13 days of the first regular session of the 15th Congress.
“We need not finish this (RH bill) in the last 13 days. We’re trying to get in as many bills as possible and these are bills considered for committee reporting or on second reading,” Belmonte said.
MANILA, Philippines—With the Church decision to discontinue its dialogue with Malacañang on a controversial family planning measure, the Palace said it was dropping its plan to draft its own responsible parenthood bill and was now looking at the possibility of supporting the consolidated bill in the House that Catholic bishops find objectionable.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) decision to end the talks aimed at working out a common position on the reproductive health bill was “unfortunate,” but “communication lines” would remain open, said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
According to Lacierda, Palace officials had met with CBCP secretary general Msgr. Juanito Figura and CBCP legal counsel Jo Ombong and were told of the Church decision.
Two reasons were given: President Benigno Aquino III’s decision to implement a five-point statement on responsible parenthood and his speech at the University of the Philippines graduation rites last month where Mr. Aquino said he would push for the passage of a responsible parenthood bill despite threats of excommunication.