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Dear all,

Greetings of peace.

Please find attached an UPDATED and EXPANDED List of Signatories to the Declaration of Support for HB 4244 (the “RH Bill”) by individual faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU). Last Monday, 13 August 2012, we sent you the Declaration which then had 160 AdMU individual faculty signatories.

We have decided to reissue our Declaration of Support (entitled “Human Rights, State Obligations, and the RH Bill) because the number of our signatories has changed significantly from 160 (as of 13 August) to the current 192. This is a result of two developments:

  1. We have deleted the name of one signatory who had not indicated support for the RH Bill. Because of our inadvertent inclusion of his name to our list, we are issuing a public apology to him (please see attachment for the public apology to Mr. Arturo A. Valencia). 
  2. We have added 33 names to our signatory list, for a total of 192 signatories. These 33 faculty members were able to confirm their intent to be signatories to the Declaration only after it had been released last Monday, 13 August, at 6:30 a.m. Many of them said that because of poor weather conditions, they were not able to open their emails during the period August 7 to 12 when we were soliciting faculty signatures (please see attachment of the Declaration of Support with the updated and expanded list of signatories). 
Once again, we would like to stress that the 192 faculty who signed and crafted this Declaration are speaking only for themselves (in their individual capacity), and are in no way speaking for the Ateneo de Manila University, the Society of Jesus, or the rest of their colleagues.

The 192 individual faculty signatories come from various campuses of the Ateneo de Manila University: the Loyola Schools, and the Professional Schools which include the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health (ASMPH), the Ateneo Law School (ALS), the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG), and the Ateneo Graduate School of Business.

As stated in our Declaration, the 192 individual AdMU signatories believe that the RH Bill “is a vital piece of legislation that needs to be passed urgently. It upholds the constitutional right of couples to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions; honors our commitments to international covenants and conventions; and promotes the reproductive health and reproductive rights of Filipinos, especially of those who are most marginalized on this issue—our women, poor families, and young people.”

We would appreciate it very much if you could disseminate/post this Declaration of Support for HB 4244 by individual AdMU faculty, as well as the public letter of apology to Mr. Arturo A. Valencia, to your concerned publics.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely yours,

Marita Concepcion Castro Guevara
Assistant Professor, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies
School of Humanities, Loyola Schools
Ateneo de Manila University

From the Manila Standard Today:

Solons troop to Palace for marching order

President Benigno Aquino III has invited lawmakers to the Palace today for a final push to win support for the reproductive health bill ahead of a crucial vote on Tuesday.

“The President wants to convey his thoughts on responsible parenthood. The President has been very clear and consistent on where he stands on the matter,” said Transport Secretary Manuel Roxas II, president of Mr. Aquino’s Liberal Party.

“The multi-party meeting has been scheduled to ensure that the President is not misinterpreted and his words are not misappropriated. We expect a very good turnout of about 200 lawmakers.”

Congress is set to decide on Tuesday if it will end the debates on the bill that have lasted for more than a year to move it closer to a final vote. The lawmakers who oppose the bill have sought to delay its passage by dragging out the debates, a tactic that succeeded in the previous Congresses.

The United Nations on Sunday called on Congress to pass the bill, noting that the time spent debating the proposal was measured by the lives of 15 women lost to maternal death daily.

Presidential political adviser Ronald Llamas accused Catholic bishops of bullying lawmakers into voting against the RH bill and saying contraception was a form of corruption.

“It’s unfair but not unexpected. From the start the anti-RH campaign has been characterized by false claims and misinformation,” Llamas said.

In its statement Sunday, the UN dismissed the concerns raised by the Catholic Church.

“The United Nations believes that apprehensions such as exposure of people to risks of contraceptive use, encouragement of sexual promiscuity and legalization of abortion have no basis,” the UN said.

Read the full article on the site.

From Inquirer.net:

Critics demanding that Senator Tito Sotto resign as majority leader for his stand against the population control bill should think twice.

Sotto said he could resign his post but becoming a “regular senator” would allow him to filibuster and block passage of the contentious measure.

An obviously peeved Sotto told the Philippine Daily Inquirer he has been getting a lot of flak on networking sites for his critical stance against the reproductive health (RH) bill that would require the government to distribute or make available contraceptives and other forms of artificial birth control pills to poor couples.

Read the full article on the site.


05 August 2012

More than 40 years ago, during the International Year for Human Rights, the Philippines joined the global community in proclaiming that individuals have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children.

Since then, the Philippines has ratified international conventions that recognize these rights, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The Philippines also became a signatory to the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, among others.

In 2000, along with 191 other UN member states, the Philippines committed to fully support the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when it signed the Millennium Declaration. MDG 5, which aims to reduce maternal death and provide universal access to reproductive health, is, however, the goal that is least likely to be achieved by the Philippines by 2015.

In the recent Family Health Survey (FHS), which was conducted in August-September 2011 with a recall period of six years for the data, it was estimated that for every 100,000 live births, there are 221 women dying due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth. This was a 36% increase from the 2006 Family Planning Survey data, which showed 162 estimated deaths per 100,000 live births. The FHS also estimated that, across all regions in the Philippines, the number of girls 15-19 years old who have delivered live births was 54 per 1,000 live births from 39 in 2006. For the 20-24 age group, the increase was to 159 per 1,000 live births from 149 in the 2006 survey.

Having extensively studied the provisions of the Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act bill, the United Nations in the Philippines views that the proposed law will fundamentally enable the government to meet its commitments to its citizens. It will also aid President Benigno Aquino III to deliver on his obligations as articulated in his Social Contract with the Filipino people.

As in many other countries where similar policies have been introduced, enacting a law that would address the reproductive health needs of the Filipino people would, over time, vastly improve health and quality of life and support development through:

  • Giving couples information about and access to voluntary family planning methods
  • Helping couples space pregnancies more effectively so as to reduce the risk of premature birth and low birth weight
  • Making it less likely that mothers and infants will die during pregnancy, childbirth or soon after delivery
  • Reducing the increasingly worrisome spread of HIV/AIDS, especially among young people
  • Promoting breastfeeding
  • Preventing teenage pregnancy by educating schoolchildren in an age-appropriate manner about normal human development, including reproductive health
  • Allowing poor women to exercise their right to have the number of children that they want

Crucially, by preventing unintended pregnancies, a reproductive health law would help prevent recourse to life-threatening abortions.

The current high economic growth of more than 5% per year promises to lift millions of Filipinos out of poverty. But hopes of future prosperity could turn to dust if the country is not able to deal with the population growth by giving men and women access to the information and means to freely and responsibly exercise their human right to have just the number of children they want. If current trends continue, as the country grows richer, the number of people living in poverty will increase. At present, about 20 million Filipinos live in slum conditions. Urban population is growing at a rate of 60%, and it is estimated that by 2030, 75% of the Philippine population will be living in urban areas. While cities may look better off on the average, deeper in-city analysis exposes the urban poor to be among the most vulnerable to natural disasters and economic shocks.

As important as it is to point out what the bill addresses is to clarify the misinformation about it. The United Nations is confident that enacting the bill would not lead to the imposition of coercive measures such as a two-child policy. The United Nations has long resolved that given correct and appropriate information on family planning, individuals and couples will be able to exercise their exclusive right to determine their family size. The United Nations also believes that apprehensions such as exposure of people to risks of contraceptive use, encouragement of sexual promiscuity and legalization of abortion have no basis.

Instituting a reproductive health policy is consistent with the government’s duty under the Constitution “to protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.” In its working group session last May, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which examines the human rights performance of all 193 UN member states, noted the lack of access to reproductive health services, especially among the poor, in the Philippines. The working group recommended that the country adopt a national reproductive health policy and “intensify efforts to meet the MDG5 on maternal mortality, including ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.” The country’s human rights performance will once again be assessed at the UPR plenary session at the Human Rights Council in September.

The United Nations is mandated to serve the people of the Philippines. It takes seriously its mandate to work with the government and all other stakeholders for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the advancement of public health.

Reproductive health is not about population numbers. It is about ensuring a life of health and dignity. Issues around the reproductive health bill have been addressed and clarified for over a decade now. Time spent discussing these issues repeatedly is measured by the lives of the 15 women we lose to maternal deaths every day. Everyone must come together to secure a better future for all Filipinos, especially the young and future generations, and there is no better time than now. Current circumstances present this opportunity, and it is in the hands of policy-makers to make it happen.

For more information, please contact
World Health Organization:
Cora Acosta, Communications Officer/ 09175553873/acostac@wpro.who.int
United Nations Population Fund:
Arlene Calaguian, Information & Communication Officer/ 09175153559/ alano@unfpa.org
United Nations Children’s Fund:
Marge Francia, Media Officer/ 09178589447/ mfrancia@unicef.org
United Nations Information Centre Manila:
Teresa Debuque, National Information Officer/09175000622/teresa.debuque@unic.org

Press Release

5 August, 2012

Legislators should have little difficulty choosing between the Bishops-GMA tandem and the Pnoy-Filipino people alliance!

Thousands of supporters of the RH Bill will stand by the House of Representatives on August 6 and 7 to support RH Bill champions who will vote to end the years of pointless interpellations on the bill and proceed with the process of amending and then finally passing the measure. In the countdown before these dates rroRH legislators have been barraged by bishops’ phone calls, visits, invitations to dinner, and various “soft” and “hard” appeals to change their vote or desist from voting. The August 7 vote will sift not merely the proRH legislators from anti-RH legislators, but legislators aligned with President Arroyo and the Catholic Bishops Conference, and those aligned with President Aquino and the rest of this country which supports the bill.

“This is a historic time,” Dr. Alberto Romualdez, former Secretary of Health and President of the organization, Catholics for RH said. “That a law so obviously beneficial to the poor majority of Filipinos and so decisively supported in all opinion polls has taken more than a decaded to be approved is one of the strange quirks of the Philippine political system strongly influenced by the Catholic hierarchy and its wealthy elitist supporters.” Former Secretary Romualdez and a roster of Philippine dignitaries from government, business, and civil society will join representatives of poor communities in the gallery of the House of Representatives to witness this historic vote.

Before the vote, members of the Purple Ribbon Campaign will rally to support proRH legislators in front of the South Gate of the House of Representatives in the afternoon of August 6, 1-7 pm and in the morning of August 7, 9am to 2 pm. The Purple Ribbon campaign will have coordinated candle-lighting and noise barrage to fortify the vote at 6 pm of August 6.

“This, vote, is also a watershed for the country’s lawmaking” Dr. Junice Melgar of the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN) said. “Through the vote we will see  who among our politicians have the character to distance themselves from the Arroyo adminstration and its unholy alliance with the bishops which had suppressed women’s rights, including their right to life, for 9 long years. Women will be watching very closely and cheering proRH legislators along,” she said.

The RH Bill has languished in Congress since 2001. Its many versions since are meant to institutionalize the Department of Health’s Reproductive Health Program which was laid down in 1999 but immediately committed to oblivion upon the ascension of President Arroyo to the presidency in 2001. The Reproductive Health program addresses men’s and women’s reproductive health problems in a wholistic way and in a way that is respectful of basic human rights. Its key elements are Maternal Health, Family Planning, and Sexuality Education which are the the subjects of the RH Bill.

August 6, 2012

To our representative men and women in Congress,

Greetings of peace.

A day before the decisive vote on the RH Bill, we advocates for the bill would like to bring you one more message that you may have missed.

Your actions tomorrow may bring life or death to Congress’ relevance to our society.

True, to us ordinary citizens, there are more compelling consequences of your actions. Life or death to women and infants who bear the brunt of pregnancy and birth complications. Relief or deeper crisis to families at the limits of their capacity to raise their children. Hope or despair to young people who become parents without really meaning to.

But most of these consequences are points we have raised repeatedly over the last decade or so, and we must now trust that you are at least weighing them in your minds.

What we fear is that many of you may not show up at all tomorrow out of fear of the political consequence of your attendance. Such halfheartedness and failure to stand up for your convictions should have no place in Congress. All policies generate different opinions, division and, sometimes, discord. Differences and diversity are natural features of democracy, which is a pillar of our Constitution. Congress will become irrelevant if our lawmakers cannot decide on contentious bills through evidence, reason and deliberations.

Which brings us to our second fear, that some of you may vote based simply on your loyalty to to your church and religious leaders. We are also aware of the subtle and overt threats and blackmail issued by bishops of the CBCP. Please know that their coercive words and actions do not and have not swayed voters—almost all of Filipino Catholics have even said that they would vote for candidates who support all family planning methods.

Beyond the futility of coercion, we urge you to weigh the consequences of giving in to religious blackmail. When will it end? What will be the next demand? And who will be the next religious blackmailer?

We urge all representatives in Congress to protect the independence and relevance of this vital institution. Listen to the CBCP, but do not privilege their views. Listen, too, to those whose lives and future are threatened by reproductive health problems: women, young people, poor families. Use your hearts and minds. Then do your job: come to the session and vote.

Respectfully yours,
Women and men of the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer:

The bishops and their allies in Congress have just supplied the best arguments—not for rejecting the Reproductive Health bill but for approving it posthaste.

First by mounting an anti-RH rally consisting in the main of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s bishops and her herself. Yes, her bishops. The same ones who got SUVs from her, or indeed solicited them from her on the occasion of their birthdays. The same ones who found nothing wrong with “Hello Garci” and applauded the congressmen for killing the impeachment bids against her. The same ones who wondered what was so wrong with cheating in elections, “everybody cheats anyway.” The same ones who claimed God spoke through them while they screwed the country, quite apart from those they added to the population by.

Read Conrado de Quiros’s column at the PDI website.

From Interaksyon:

Prominent academics from the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Ateneo have expressed confidence that more than half of the House of Representatives will vote in favor of the Reproductive Health Bill.

Led by former University of the Philippines (UP) president Francisco Nemenzo, the academics said that 143 House members will support the bill, which guarantees universal access to and information on birth control, among others. 

"We have 143 members of the House of Representatives voting in our favor while 33 remain neutral," said the statement, which was signed by more than 15 noted academics. 

The group, including a retired official from the United Nations, came up with the number “based on actual interviews with the legislators themselves or their office staff.”

At the same time, the group asked Filipinos “to be critical of what they read in the newspapers.”

Read the full article on the site.

From Inquirer.net:

PRO-LIFE advocates in Cebu said they believe most congressmen will vote against the Reproductive Health bill but they don’t want to be complacent.

Dr. Rene Josef Bullecer, country president of Human Life International, said President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is pushing for the passage of the bill.

The anti-RH bill campaign found a supporter in Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.

“I have always been a pro-life advocate. Had there been RH law before, your mayor would not have been born,” he said.

Read the full article on the site.

The President and the Pulpit — A 25-minute documentary on the fight over the RH Bill’s passage, and the situation of the poor in the Philippines.

"I used to believe in the Church’s teachings on having lots of children."