SP in silent mode on RH Bill issues?
COMFORTING HANDS. An elderly woman, (above photo) victim of the buhawi that struck Jagna, embraces Gov. Edgar Chatto during his visit distributing financial assistance to rebuild houses and ruined fishing boats.
WHY the deep silence of provincial legislators? What happened to the proposed Reproductive Health Ordinance as supposed local counterpart measure of the controversial RH Bill filed in Congress? Is the sound of silence inside the halls of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Bohol a calculated political tact as the election nears?
This silence was noticed after the church remained firm and steadfast in blocking the controversial ordinance. The church who packs hundred in thousands of voter-members maintains its stand and issued earlier a 10-point statement expressing its “strongest and most unequivocal objection” against the most “deplorable” RH Ordinance.
In the national scene, the tug-of-war between those for and against the RH Bill had grown louder even as Congress decided to end the debate on the issue.
SP presiding officer Vice Gov. Concepcion O. Lim, who is a medical doctor by profession, could be reached for her comments on this controversial ordinance.
For his part, board member Cesar Tomas Lopez, author of the ordinance, earlier said that all the legislative processes in the passage and eventual approval of the said Ordinance are faithfully observed giving ample time to all concerned.
He hinted that if ever the Boholano populace wants it scrapped, the possibility of “archiving” it for good may not be farfetched. Prudence may also pave the way of just waiting for the approval of the RH Bill pending in Congress instead
Lopez said the committee on health he chaired before had been conducting public consultations the past years with regards to the provincial version of RH bill in the form of an ordinance. He said that until the RH bill is passed by Congress, there’s still no RH ordinance to talk about. To be consistent with the RH Bill, the proposed provincial RH ordinance emphasizes responsible parenthood policy, reproductive health care that “values human dignity and offers full and equitable protection to women, children, men, young people and families.”
Hence, the local RH measure largely depends on the outcome or approval of the national version, Lopez added.
Some political leaders in the municipalities being interviewed simply do not comment and just kept mum about the issues involved apparently because of imminent political repercussion considering that it’s election time again next year.
Bishop Leonardo Medroso has called for everyone to a solidarity prayer vigil last week at the St. Joseph cathedral “Believing in the power of prayer, we gather together to pray especially for the enlightenment of our lawmakers that they may find courage to defend the sanctity of life and family so that they cast their votes according to their conscience and never to be persuaded by any party vote or whatever. We also pray for the enlightenment and conversion of those who are deceived and have become willing agents of the culture of death.”
The Church said that the ordinance is “gravely immoral” since it mocks the constitutional rights. It also deplored the measure as attempts to wreck the institution of marriage, “by guaranteeing universal access to reproductive health care services, methods, devises, supplies.”
“Indeed it is extremely immoral for the provincial government of Bohol to guarantee through this ordinance the accessibility of family planning commodities, to all women and men of reproductive age.”
Other points the church raised about the Ordinance: The Ordinance grossly violates the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion; the ordinance while purportedly promoting freedom of choice, actually curtails it by mandating sex education from Grade 5 up to 4th year high school; it grossly contradicts to the promise of a fulfilling and safe sex life; far from empowering women, the ordinance is actually an insult and injustice to women.
The clergy’s statement is clear and urged the provincial officials being pro-life is to “respect, cherish and nurture this gift of life, not extinguish them. Gift of life refers to fertility or the ability to conceive and bear children is a beautiful gift of God, not a disease or curse.” The church still maintains and endorses the practice of sex by abstinence and other means that are morally in consonance with the teachings of the Church.
The public policy forum courtesy of Philippine NGO Council on Population, Health and Welfare, Inc. (PNGOC), Philippine Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) Foundation, The Forum for Family Planning and Development (FORUM) and Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN) with Commission on Population as their partner was held here earlier to drum beat support of the bill in Congress which has not voted yet.
“It aims to gather local NGOs, media, LGUs, local health workers, civic organizations, government agencies and other stakeholders to raise their understanding and appreciation on HB 4244 and in the process generate support to the proposed national population policy,” the organizers said.
Similar forum thru telecast was held here involving Bohol pro-RH bill represented by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) on family planning at the Capitol attended by mostly the health sector, including the Provincial Health authorities led by Dr. Reymoses Cabagnot. Similar gatherings were held in other provinces.
The forum aims to increase the knowledge and understanding of Filipino Catholics about RH and their situation; to help strengthen the grassroot level advocacy for RH; to provide a venue to share the RH situation and experiences of Catholic clergies from other countries in local and national perspectives; and to strengthen the network of Catholic RH advocates pushing for policies on RH and rights especially for passage of RH Bill.
UNFPA cited the Social Weather Station survey that showed 71% of Filipinos “expressed support for the RH Bill, while only 8% are against it.” Another SWS survey, it said, also indicated that 71% of Filipinos said they are in favor of the proposed bill and “more than 90% of the respondents are Catholics.” This reflects that “it is about time that the true voices of Catholics are heard,” it said.
Family Planning is defined as a program which enables couple, and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information and means to carry out their decisions, and to have informed choice and access to a full range of safe, legal and effective family planning methods, techniques and devices.
Reproductive Health (RH) refers to the state of physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. This implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life, that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so, provided that these are not against the law. This further implies that women and men are afforded equal status in matters related to sexual relations and reproduction.
Proponents argued that the bill is needed to enable couples exercise RH right thru informed choice; to ensure maternal, infant and child health; to prevent abortion and prevent unwanted pregnancy and to prevent young adults to suffer consequences of early pregnancy.
Not anti-poverty measure
Rep. De Jesus said that the proposed law --- “Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act” of 2011 or HB 4244 --- is not intended, nor promises, to reduce or eradicate poverty or population but a matter of life and death.
This she emphasized to make clear the proponent’s stand on RH contrary to the opposition’s belief that the proposed law is to alleviate poverty and pro-abortion.
Congresswoman Emmi Amaya de Jesus of Gabriela women’s party-list said that RH Bill 4244 under section 3 provides for freedom of choice and the promotion of rights and welfare of couples, adolescents and women. It also makes abortion illegal and punishable. “Gov’t shall ensure all women needing care for post-abortion complications shall be treated and counseled in a humane, non-judgmental and compassionate manner,” she pointed out.
The proposed bill also provides access to family planning both artificial and natural as it provides that parents shall exercise the option of not allowing their minor children to attend classes pertaining to RH and sexuality education. It also deleted the provision of two-child policy and employer’s responsibility.
According to Mr. Lito R. Tacardon of the Commission on Population central office, who gave the report that some 11 mothers are dying every day or 162 of them die annually per 100,000 live births.
Three out of four childbirths among the poorest women occurred in the absence of “skilled birth attendants” because women lack access to family planning.
This may be resulted to some 473,000 abortions every year while 50% of women who have no access to family planning stand to face the unwanted pregnancy, according to government figures.
Tacardon report during last week’s forum bared that 23% of young adults already engaged in pre-marital sexual encounter and some one-fourth of them aged 20 begin childbearing.
The trend in abortion suggests for a need of family planning about 20% of those women, who have no access to family planning, bear the “unwanted” and “mistimed” pregnancies apiece while 29% “unmet” and 36% are considered “wanted” pregnancy. Seven percent of them tend to have “induced abortion,” said the report of Com on Population regional director Atty. Bruce N. Ragas, who reported on the national and regional RH situationer during the same forum.
Also, the trend in infant mortality per 1,000 live births is increasing from 1993 with only 23.6%; up to 28% and 31% in 2003 and 2008, respectively. In 1990, there was very high incidence with 55% and went down to 47% five later. Central Visayas population is growing from some 4.5 million in 1990 to 6.38 million in 2008, said Ragas. It had 5.01 million in 1995 and 5.7 million in 2000.
Ms. Regina Estorba-Macalandag categorically articulated before the stand of Asia Center for Sustainable Futures of which she is connected, saying the enactment of the bill is to advance of freedom of choice is central to the exercise of right fully guaranteed by the government. “We see RH not only as a personal issue but a social issue that translates into a state well-being and health for all,” she added. She shared with De Jesus with the idea that RH bill “is not a population control measure nor an anti-poverty measure but security of life highlights health and the sustainability of our futures.”
Mr. Kenneth C. Trajano of Ubay Teen’s Health Quarter told the forum of the youth’s support for the proposed bill because “we are pro-life and pro-quality of life.” He said that why the proposed bill still hanging when survey said that majority of Filipinos support it. “Is it is because several of our respected public servants don’t respect us and our decisions which they should stand on our behalf?”
Among those who made their support loud and clear include Pastor Elpidio Samputon, president of Ubay Christian Ministry Association; Ms. Maria Ira Pamat, executive director, Women’s Development Center; and Dr. Reymoses Cabagnot, provincial health officer and Ubay Mayor Eutiquio Bernales.
Prior to the culmination of the forum, pledging of commitment for support to get the bill passed in Congress and ceremonial pinning of purple ribbon as a symbol of being pro-life were undertaken led by executive director Dr. Eden Divinagracia of the PNGOC. (RVO)