By 10:34 AM, the RH Bill passed the House appropriations committee Wednesday with 20 Yes and 3 No votes. The RH Bill will tap on the P731M under family health program of DOH. The Pro-RH rally started at 8:00 AM before the Appropriations Committee started hearings at 10:00 AM.
Over one thousand advocates pushing for the passage of the RH Bill marched on the House of Representatives Feb 16 and 8 AM to protest unusual delays in the Appropriations Committee.
The group called “RH, Ipasa Na! Campagin” hogged the Batasan’s South Wing Gate with banners that read: RH DELAY = DEATHS and “Cong. Joseph Abaya, Time to Stand Up for Women!” Abaya (LP, Cavite) who heads the Appropriations Committee was urged to expedite the hearings on the RH Bill. Earlier, Reps Rufus Rodriguez and Karlo Nograles had requested DOH Sec Enrique Ona to be the resource person, saying the DOH resource person was not qualified.
The Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN), composed of forty (40) NGOs and community-based organizations with 10,000 members said the opponents of the RH Bill had been using the Appropriations Committee hearing to inadvertently delay the RH Bill’s move towards the Plenary scheduled for March 2011. Vowing to mount bigger protests in the coming weeks, the women assailed what they called “obstructionist maneuvers” by the opponents of the RH Bill.
Dr. Junice Melgar, RHAN Secretary General and Executive Director of LIKHAAN Center for Women’s Health, Inc. said: “RH opponents have shown that they will do all sorts of obstructionist maneuvers to delay this bill. Delay means death for women and children. Unfortunately, anti-RH hardliners are convinced that their religious beliefs may trump the welfare of the poor and their families.”
Melgar denounced the call from Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (Lakas, Davao), Rep Karlo Nograles (Davao) to have DOH secretary Ona when the former had sent Dir. Honorata Catibog of the Bureau of Maternal Health and Communicable Diseases.
“Dir. Catibog has worked in the Maternal and Child Health programmes of the DOH for the last 13 years. How can Rep. Nograles say she is not qualified? We are certain that if Secretary Ona were to be the resource person, he would have no other resource but Dir Catibog. This is plain dilatory tactic on the part of Reps. Rodriguez and Nograles,” said Melgar.
Catibog, for her part, explained that the 2011 DOH budget for maternal and child care emphasized the ten (10) elements of Reproductive Health over the last six years. These include Emergency Obstetric Care, comprehensive check-ups for cancers, HIV and AIDS, post-abortion management, and family planning. All of the DOH-funded programs mentioned are the same elements of the proposed RH Bill no wpending in congress.
Magdalena Bacalando, 44, assailed the anti-RH tactics saying the opponents took so much time to delate the merits of the RH Bill. “It’s clear that these debates are not for the Appropriations Committee. We have to be vigilant, because we know that they are trying to delay the RH Bill.
Every delay means more poor mothers dying,” said Bacalando, who also runs a clinic in Malabon’s Paradise village, a former dump site now housing 60,000 residents.
The RH Bill, which was consolidated into the Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population Development Bill last January 30 was passed on First Reading by the Committee on Population and Family Relations with close to 100 authors, headed by Reps Edcel Lagman and Janette Garin (Iloilo).
The RH Bill has to be approved by the Committee on Appropriations before it goes into Plenary where debates, pros and cons are heard, before coming to a vote. (Note: it was approved during the hearing on Wednesday)
PRO-POOR, HUMAN RIGHTS MEASURE
Heralded as a pro-poor, democratic, and human rights measure, the RH Bill, its proponents say, protects mothers by providing emergency obstetric care for the 300,000 maternal complications occurring yearly that result in 11 needless deaths every day. It also provides RH education and services for couples and individuals, not only for family planning methods of their choice, but also access to health facilities for prenatal, infant care, infertility, STI’s, HIV/AIDS, and cancer detection.
The RH Bill also mandates giving accurate and positive sexuality education to young people. “We insist on young voters’ education for elections that occur once every few years, but do nothing that guides the young in the new relationships they face daily,” says LIKHAAN spokesperson Sheila Conde who, at 24, is pregnant for the first time.
“I had a long time to think about having a child,” said Sheila. “So I made sure we both had jobs and some savings, then we decided together. Unfortunately, there are too many teenager mothers who have not been given the right information and access to RH services like me.”
DIALOGUE WITH PNOY URGED
RH Ipasa Na! coming from Antipolo, Malabon, Quezon City, Pasay, Cavite, and Bulacan also made clear their dismay that the RH Bill had been dropped from the list of “Urgent” House Bills by Malacanang and urged President Aquino to sit down with poor women. Bearing home-made placards that said, “PNOY, Bakit Puro Obispo ang Kausap Mo?” (PNOY, why do you talk only with bishops?). The women said they deserved to be heard by the President more than the CBCP’s bishops.
“Nagbahay-bahay kami para kay PNOY dahil alam naming maglilingkod siya sa mga maralita,” said Maphil Sungahid, 21, who heads 3k. “Sa delay ng RH Bill, kaming maralita ang naghihirap, nalalgasan.” (We campaigned for PNoy believed that he would serve the poor. With the delay of the RH Bill, it is us, the poor, who suffer and die.”)
Various groups including youth and civil society organizations have registered their disgust with President Aquino’s apparently reversal of his campaign promise on so-called “responsible parenthood”. Protests over the decision to drop the RH Bill from Malacanang’s list of urgent bills have been palpable via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other social networking sites.