Depopulation bill – absolutely everything to do with degrading the health of women by hoodwinking with the Orwellian title “Reproductive Health” Bill phrase – was very much rejected by the nationwide viewing audience in a much awaited live and public debate. 65% voted to JUNK the RH Bill. Diana Uichanco reports:
Pro-lifers demolish pro-RH arguments in TV debate
MANILA, May 10, 2011—It was a dynamic discussion on sex education, population and poverty, health issues and the beginning of life as representatives of different sectors debated on Sunday night’s “Harapan/ RH Bill: Ipasa o Ibasura” on ABS-CBN.
After the bill’s primary author, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, kicked off the debate with reasons why the measure ought to be approved, Paranaque Rep. Roilo Golez pointed out serious health factors that made the bill’s reproductive health measures objectionable.
Besides stressing the link between contraceptive use and breast cancer according to the World Health Organization and the US-based National Cancer Institute, Golez expressed concern over the perceived protective power of prophylactics against sexually transmitted diseases.
As an example he cited Thailand, where the high contraceptive prevalence rate has not curbed the incidence of AIDS, now numbered at some 600,000 cases.
“Bakit ganon? Kung totoong tama ang RH eh bakit ubod ng laki ang kanilang HIV cases?” he asked.
The solon also presented charts illustrating the downward trend of the country’s population growth rate. The Philippines does not need a reproductive health law as a means to arrest population growth, he said, because the growth rate of 3 percent in 1960 has decreased to 1.95 percent in 2010.
When life begins
The protection of unborn people as provided by the Philippine Constitution and the issue of when life begins came up several times, with a lawyer and the physicians from both sides tackling the matter.
“The State shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception,” said Alliance for the Family Inc. (ALFI) President Atty. Girlie Noche.
“Sinasabi na po ng Constitution [na] may life—life of the unborn from conception. So I think there’s no question anymore. There’s already life at conception.” The lawyer added that her study of the proceedings of the 1986 Constitutional Commission revealed that the members of the body used the terms “conception” and “fertilization” interchangeably.
“So this is a non-issue. Life begins at conception,” Atty. Noche added.
The medical aspect was presented by bioethics and embryology professor Dr. Josephine Lomitao, reminding everyone that “the best evidence of the beginning of proof of life should be something objective, therefore scientific.”
The OB-Gyne then briefly explained the process of reproduction, ending with “once the fertilized egg or zygote has been formed, it starts to divide. What other proof of life do you want? This division is purposeful, coordinated, and [the zygote] will be unable to implant if it weren’t alive because implantation—which other groups claim to be the beginning of life—is a complex process.”
The advocates of the bill—titled The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act of 2011—have been fighting for revised definitions of terms, specifically the move to make “conception” (thereby “fertilization” too, as per the Constitutional Commission’s definitions) synonymous with “implantation.”
Rise in population = poverty?
The debate became even more animated when talk shifted to population and poverty. “Mahirap ba tayo dahil marami tayo? That is the question,” said former senator and governor Joey Lina. What followed was a zealous exchange of ideas about overpopulation possibly leading to poverty.
After presenting a brief explanation of demographics and standard of living as regards the local scenario, Lina blasted the commonly used reasoning of attributing poverty to an increasing population.
“Tayo ay mahirap hindi dahil sa tao. Tayo ay mahirap dahil ninanakaw ang pera ng bayan. Iyan ang dahilan kung bakit tayo mahirap!” he declared.
“P200 billion [ang] nawawala, according to certain studies. Ang [University of the Philippines nag-conduct ng] study, 30-40 % of our budget is lost due to corruption. So kung ‘yung perang ninanakaw sa fertilizer scam, sa mga… NBN deal, diyan sa mga conversion, highways, katakot-takot na road users’ tax, kung yung daang bilyong piso na ninanakaw ng mga nanunungkulan ay nagagamit para mapabuti ang kalagayan ng bayan, napatataas ang antas ng edukasyon, nakapagtatayo ng maraming eskwelahan, nakapagtatayo ng maraming ospital at nakakabigay ng mataas na sweldo sa ating mga doktor at nurses, mawawala ang mga problemang ‘yan.”
School-based sex education
Another explosive topic in the nearly two-hour debate was that of sex education. House Bill 4244 mandates a six-year “Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education” program for all private and public schools.
The bone of contention was whether or not the rights and duties of parents were being undermined by this portion of the measure, which will integrate the said program in several subjects starting with Grade 5 students. Though she believes in the parents’ role as primary educators of their children, former legislator Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel asserted that some parents are not willing and able to tackle certain issues with their family, and this is where the school will come in.
Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) head Elizabeth Angsioco agreed, pointing out that the government’s program was being put in place merely as a support to parents.
Fr. Melvin Castro, Executive Secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL), zeroed in on the RH advocates’ concurrence that mothers and fathers indeed have the primary duty to educate their young ones.
“Bakit hindi ‘yon ang tutukan ng gobyerno? Bakit didiretso ang gobyerno sa intervention sa mga kabataan? Precisely po, sapagka’t kung ang mga magulang ang ideal teachers then let’s [focus on] the ideal. Kaya ‘yun ang ating palakasin.
“‘Yung pinagpipilitang State intervention,” he added. “Itanong ko lamang po sa mga nagpo-propose ng bill na ito: Pinagdududahan po ba natin ang kakayahan ng mga magulang?”
Afterwards, the legal basis for shooting down the proposed bill was again brought up, as Noche underscored that the Constitution states clearly that “the parents have the primary right and duty to develop the moral character of their children. Ang gobyerno po ay supporting role lamang. Hindi gobyerno ang may karapatan na humubog sa moralidad ng mga bata,” the lawyer stressed.
However, the RH bill makes sexuality education mandatory—and in both private and public schools, Noche pointed out. In addition, it is the government—not the parents—who formulate and finalize the program’s curriculum. “Gobyerno. Hindi po dito kasama ang mga magulang…”
“At ang hindi ko maintindihan dito, bakit kinakailangang sampung taon pa lamang ay mag-aral na ng sexuality education. From grade 5 to 4th year, so anim na taon. Ano po ito? Kailangan po ba ng PhD para sa sex education?,” Noche asked.
Dubious values formation
Among the other protests to the mandated sex education portion of the bill is the absence of values formation that put the lessons in the context of deeply held Filipino family values.
Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin, one of the bill’s co-authors, was quick to point out that among the topics in the sex education program was “values formation.” However, one of the long-time technical experts involved in monitoring the government’s population education/sex education programs asserted otherwise.
Bioethics professor Dr. Angelita Aguirre related that very few are aware that this method-based, values-free kind of sex education has been making its way into school curricula for nearly 40 years, since the late President Marcos’ Presidential Decree 79 resulted in the formulation of the “pop ed/sex ed modules” that have been carried out since 1972.
As for specifics when it comes to the proposed bill’s program, “Ang tinuturo po ay hindi values education. Nakita po namin ang modules, binasa po namin ito. Wala pong sinasabi doon na mag-asawa ka muna bago ka mag-relasyon. Kung hindi ka na makapagpigil, basta hindi ka magbuntis at hindi ka magkasakit, puwede,” Aguirre described.
The doctor explained that it’s the content that she and other pro-life groups object to. If the goal is really to help children learn about the reproductive system, it should be taught in Biology, in a scientific context, she said. The emotional, social and spiritual dimensions, she added, should be made part of Character Education. This was her group’s recommendation to the Department of Education at a previous time.
“Bakit kailangan mong ituro ng anim na taon? At sa lahat ng subjects—math science literature and everything. And you know, this was patterned after the Sex Information and Education Council in the US, [translated to Tagalog] lang. We saw it. Kung ano yung nasa Amerika, [ginawang Tagalog] lang ‘yon,” Aguirre pointed out.
Toward the end of the debate, Lina summed up what he had picked up so far, based on the arguments brought out by those in favor of a reproductive health law as a solution to poverty:
“The RH proponents, ang gusto nila, ang solusyon sa kahirapan is to reduce the population growth rate. All your statements are bolstering the argument that we are poor because we are many. That is the premise. That’s why we are saying, we are poor not because we are many; we are poor because of the mismanagement of our economy. We are poor because of graft and corruption. If there is proper management of resources just like what’s being done in other countries, we will not suffer the fate that we are suffering now. The solution you are offering is not the solution.”
Fr. Castro summed up his position on the RH bill by saying why the country has no need for such a legislative measure.
“Palagi nating reference ang ibang bansa sa reproductive health. Iyan ay pag-amin din na isang banyagang konsepto ang RH. Bakit nating pinaggigiitan na yakapin ‘yan ng Sambayanang Pilipino [samantalang] nakakubli nga diyan ang.access to ‘safe’ and legal abortion. Bakit natin pinagpipilitan ang isang banyagang konsepto sa isang bansa na tulad natin na likas na maka-pamilya at likas na maka-buhay. We reject the RH bill at huwag nang ipasa ‘yang batas na ‘yan dahil hindi kailangan ng Sambayanan.”
The other speakers for the anti-RH side were George Balagtas of the Pro-Life Coalition of the Philippines, and Dr. Johnrob Bantang, spokesperson of a position paper against the RH bill by individual UP faculty, students and alumni.
Other members of the pro-RH panel were former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, Bishop Rodrigo Tano, Chairman of Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood, UP Center for Women’s Studies Director Dr. Sylvia Estrada Claudio, and tour guide and RH supporter Carlos Celdran.
The “Junk the RH bill” side garnered more votes, based on the results of the online and text survey held during the debate. As for 12:40am of May 9, the result was—Ipasa: 34.62% ; Ibasura—65.38%. (Diana Uichanco)
Related blog posts:
I’m a fully qualified healer (see my website credentials and the people I have helped) and this RH Bill has nothing to do with addressing women’s health. That is the ruse they play “women”… in fact, all the contraceptive promotion they promote is DETRIMENTAL to women’s health.
and the status of RH Bills in Congress and Senate at http://alfi.org.ph/2011/category/congress-watch/