A press conference sponsored by representatives from various sectors entitled “To Congress: Reproductive Health Bill, Pagbotohan na!” was held today, March 2, 2012 at 10 AM at the Dulcinea restaurant along Tomas Morato Avenue, Quezon City. Dr. Eden R. Divinagracia, Executive Director of the Philippine NGO Council on Population, Health and Welfare (PNGOC), Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, of the Party List and women’s group Gabriela, Ms. Rose Marcelino, POPCOM Deputy Executive Director, Bishop Rodrigo Tano of the Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood (IPPRP) and Dr. Junice Melgar, Chairperson of Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN) were all part of a panel which called on legislators to vote on the Reproductive Health Bill (RH) immediately.
Congresswoman Ilagan, a proponent of the RH Bill, emphasized that time is of the essence with regard to putting the RH Bill to a vote since next year is an election year and legislators will be more focused on campaigning for re-election rather than attending interpellations for the bill itself. She also expressed frustration that there have been moves to delay voting by interpellators who keep raising the same questions that have already been previously answered, as well as with legislators who keep coming up with excuses so that the Bill is not taken up. She further said that there are legislators who support the Bill but do not want to openly state their support out of fear of being pressured and demonized by anti RH Bill advocates, especially from the Catholic Church.
Her concerns were echoed by Rep. Angelo Palmones, Party List Representative for AGHAM, who revealed that the Plenary has not had a quorum for five weeks already as there have been no rolls called due to majority of legislators being absent. Rep. Palmones stated, “We ask the media to help pressure the congressional leaders to force our congressmen to attend the sessions and not use the impeachment as an excuse for non-attendance since they are not part of the prosecution panel anyway, so that debates on the RH Bill will continue.” He further said that anti RH Bill advocates in the Congress should not hide behind absenteeism to delay the debate and the vote on the Bill.
Ms. Rose Marcelino, Deputy Excutive Director of POPCOMM and representing the government sector in the forum also emphasized that the high incidence of maternal mortality is due to the lack of access to services. She says she is alarmed by the increase in teen pregnancies, and said that even parents of these teenagers lack the necessary knowledge themselves needed to guide their children vis-à-vis sex. “Hence there is a need for the government to create an enabling environment. We are calling for an immediate voting on the Bill so that we can have a stable and consistent population policy. Right now policies fluctuate so services are not continuous, which adversely affects the people. We might lose whatever gains we have achieved in socio-economic reforms especially among the poor. We do not want the poor’s condition to be aggravated due to lack of information and access.”
Bishop Tano of the IPPRP maintained that “there is nothing profound or complicated about the RH Bill. It is centered on the dignity and worth of a human person. All that we want to avoid regarding unsafe births and mortality of mothers and infants go back to ethico-religious basis that man has value.” He also disclosed that he was disturbed by distortions and inaccuracies from some religious persons that the RH Bill promoted abortions and moreover affirmed that the RH Bill is pro-life as it promotes the welfare and dignity of the human being, promotes the common good, and will help the country fulfill its Millennium Development Goals, particularly those that center on gender equality and the welfare of mothers and children.
Finally, Dr. Junice Melgar of RHAN said that they continue to gather stories and documentation of women dying due to maternal complications, She further noted that in their effort to push for the passage of the bill, “It has become ludicrous that we have to count every instance of tragedy just to show the faces of women who died and how many more children they left behind.” She also said that contrary to what opponents claim regarding sex education provisions of the Bill promoting promiscuity, the said provisions will actually emphasize to the youth the risks of abortion and the difficulties of having an unwanted pregnancy with the aim of preventing them. In fact, she said, according to the Guttmacher Institute, passage of the RH Bill will actually reduce abortions in the Philippines by as much as 85%, which is why they are adamant in calling for a vote for the RH Bill as soon as possible.
MrsUnlawyer is a lawyer turned housewife, pro RHBill advocate, mother to two boys. She obtained her JD from the Ateneo School of Law and loves to cook, eat and read, not necessarily in that order. Her twitter name is@mrsunlawyer
Photo by Noemi Lardizabal-Dado. Some rights reserved.