By William M. Esposo (The Philippine Star)
The Catholic Church in our country is so messed up that it cannot...
STATEMENT ON THE RESPONSIBLE PARENTHOOD, REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT ACT BILL
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:
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/ firstname.lastname@example.org
United Nations Population Fund:
Arlene Calaguian, Information & Communication Officer/ 09175153559/ email@example.com
United Nations Children’s Fund:
Marge Francia, Media Officer/ 09178589447/ firstname.lastname@example.org
United Nations Information Centre Manila:
Teresa Debuque, National Information Officeremail@example.com
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.
Women and men of the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network