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Thursday, November 22, 2007

In Quezon City, things heat up!

The media monitor for the past two days will show that things are heating up in Quezon City with their local RH/PopDev Ordinance. Thanks to Dino for this media monitor.

QC Council defends proposed population management policy

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 / Philippine Star

The majority leader of the Quezon City Council denounced yesterday an alleged disinformation campaign launched by the Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco against a proposed ordinance on population and reproductive health management.

Council Majority Leader Ariel Inton said a provision mandating sex education for students, as indicated in the proposed ordinance, will focus on reproductive education and not on the sexual aspect, contrary to statements issued by Ongtioco.

”I would prefer that my child get sex education in school with professional teachers rather than learning it on the streets as what the critics of the ordinance are trying to point out,” he said.

Inton said Ongtioco’s campaign, directed at the authors of the proposed measure, is premature since the ordinance is due for deliberation by the city’s legislative body.

Ongtioco’s spokesman, Fr. Aries Sison, said Church officials are campaigning against the proposal during Mass and Councilor Joseph Juico would understand the Catholic Church’s opposition to his “anti-life” ordinance “if he belongs to a family that is staunchly Catholic and was brought up well.”

“If only he sought our guidance and attended Masses regularly, then this would not have happened,” Sison added.

Inton, however, called on Church officials to participate in public hearings on the proposed measure to voice their objection to it.

“The Quezon City Council will not allow the passage of any bill that promotes abortion and other illegal means or any anti-Christian provisions. There is no need to exorcise our members,” Inton told The STAR in an interview.

Inton pointed out that every councilor has the right to file any proposal as part of the democratic process that must be respected and not taken against the person.

He said Juico’s proposed ordinance seeks to answer the population explosion in the city and every sector is welcome to air their input on the measure. – Perseus Echeminada

Quezon City defends reproductive ordinance

Jefferson Antiporda Reporter / Manila Times / 21 November

Quezon City is determined to control its population growth despite attacks from the Catholic Church on a reproductive health ordinance its council is drafting which was branded by a bishop as “against the teachings of the Church.”

Nonetheless, Quezon City council Majority leader Ariel Inton assured the measure will not have any provision that would run counter to the Constitution and traditional Filipino values.

Inton made this pronouncement after Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao, Quezon City, branded the ordinance as against the Catholic Church’s teachings.

The proposed ordinance of Councilor Joseph Juico seeks to establish a reproductive health program for the city. Inton said the constitution is very clear and on the protection of the rights of the mother and unborn.

“We are not about to pass local measures that would later on be invalidated based on constitutional ground,” he said.

However, Inton is calling those opposing the measure to participate in an open and public debate and to avoid issuing statements that misleads the public over the real issues of population growth and reproductive health management.

Under the proposed ordinance, students from Grade 5 to Fourth-year high school will be taught how to be responsible towards sex and reproductive health. The ordinance is being pushed to control Quezon City’s ballooning population, and to help address the issues of family planning and unwanted pregnancies.

The ordinance will also help discourage abortion and minimize pregnancy complications by including provisions for maternal, prenatal and postnatal education, and health care services.

“The city needs a policy on population and reproductive health to complete the process of developments that we have envisioned,” Inton said.

Parents advised to discuss human sexuality with children

First posted 23:07:21 (Mla time) November 20, 2007 / Kristine L. Alave / Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- Parents should be more open when talking about human sexuality to their children, youth sexuality experts said on Tuesday.

The experts say openness would help parents regain influence on their teenagers’ lives even as they warn that this influence has been slipping away, thanks to the power of the media and peer pressure.

Majority of Filipino teenagers still valued sex as a special gift for the person with whom they would share their lives. This was shown by a study bared on Tuesday by the "I Am Strong" youth program and the Developmental Advocacy of Women Volunteers, along with the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at the University of Navarre, Spain, and the Rome-based InterMedia Consulting.

But intention has been quite different from the reality and many students admitted to having sexual relations even if they intended to postpone sex until getting married, thanks to the “misleading messages” from their peers and the media, the survey’s commissioners said.

Parents, the experts noted, did not seem to be of much help to the youths, who preferred to get the information they needed from outside the family, like their friends, magazines, and the Internet.

The organizers surveyed around 4,000 high school and college students in seven regions, with ages ranging from 14-24.

According to the findings, about 85 percent of the total respondents said they would like to wait until marriage before having sex. However, the survey also noted that 23 percent of the respondents had sexual experience already.

“If this statistic isn’t enough to call our attention, there’s also the average age of 17 during which these young adults perform such acts. Sadly, more than 50 percent of those who have had premarital sex admitted that they are not even ready for a steady relationship,” said Dr. Jokin de Irala, an assistant director of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Navarre in Spain.

The study also pointed out that about 33 percent of the minority that initiated sexual activity said they did it because they "felt like it" and 39 percent admitted "wanting to know what it was like."

“Most reasons for having sex could be prevented with character education,” De Irala said.

Around 70 percent would like to know more about how to manage their feelings and sexual impulses better, and how to distinguish between desire, sexual attraction and love, the survey said.

When asked about their future relationship goals, the most highly scored was wanting their marriage to last all their lives, the survey noted.

Lora Tan-Garcia, convener of the I Am Strong program, said Filipino parents were easily embarrassed when talking about sex and relationships with their children. Many parents also do not have the time to discuss such issues with their teens, according to her.

She noted that Filipinos in general were not open to frank sexual talk. “Filipinos are shy in general. We have a culture that tells us that good girls don’t talk about sex,” Tan-Garcia said.

Antonio Torralba, a dean at the University of Asia and the Pacific, said he observed that most Filipino parents have not been talking much about sex and have just been crossing their fingers that their sons and daughters would turn out good.

There were also parents who felt it was enough to warn their daughters against getting pregnant, he added.

But Tan-Garcia said parents would greatly help their cause of positively influencing their children’s perception of sexuality through openness about sexual issues. She added that parents should integrate values education in their lessons to strengthen their sense of self and empower them to make good decisions.

De Irala said parents should not limit their lessons to human biology only, but should also talk about human relationships. “This is not veterinary biology,” he said.

The experts said they considered information from the parents better than the ones teenagers got from the media, which they thought were full of inconsistencies.

Condom, for instance, has been portrayed in the media as the surefire way to avoid pregnancy and HIV, which is false, according to De Irala. “Condom only reduces the risk, it doesn’t eliminate it,” he noted. “Safe sex and safer sex are just not the same information,” he added.

Opinion / At Large ./ Rina Jimenez - David / Philippine Daily Inquirer / 20 November

‘Tale of two cities’

MANILA, Philippines - From 1996 to 2006, writes Dr. Jonathan Flavier, “there were two divergent family planning policies in Quezon City and the City of Manila. With the leadership of Mayor Sonny Belmonte, family planning was encouraged; and an essentially non-existent budget for family planning services and commodities was increased to more than P10 million per year. On the other hand, Mayor Lito Atienza started his three terms by issuing a notorious executive order that discouraged most of the modern methods of family planning. He constrained family planning choices throughout those nine years in office, and “rewarded” families with many children.

“As a result, women have cried out in misery in Manila while more cheered the availability of opportunities to space pregnancies and to manage family size in Quezon City.”

Culling data from the Department of Health’s Field Health Service Information System, Flavier tracks just two indicators: live births per 1,000 population, and maternal deaths per 100,000 married women of reproductive age in the two cities in the decade he mentions. The graphs alone tell a most obvious and moving story.

While the birth rate declined rather steeply in Quezon City -- from 35 per 100,000 in 1996 to just three or four per 100,000 in 2006, it basically remained the same in Manila -- from 27 per 100,000 in 1996, to 23 per 100,000 in 2006. The figures for maternal mortality -- deaths of women due to causes related to pregnancy or child birth -- tell an even more dramatic tale. Maternal mortality declined in Quezon City, from 10 per 100,000 in 1996, shooting up to 14 per 100,000 in 1997, then tapering off to about three per 100,000 in 2006. In Manila, maternal mortality rates rose steadily: from about seven per 100,000 in 1996, reaching a peak of about 12 per 100,000 in 2005 and tapering to about seven per 100,000 in 2006. (I suspect the data for 2006 was still incomplete, thus the small numbers.)

* * *

Jondi Flavier, son of Juan Flavier, a former health secretary and former senator, and who is himself a health and family planning advocate, concludes that “the reports from the health departments of these two cities give us some basis to decide what policy is better for women, couples and their children. Supporting family planning reduces the deaths of women that are often caused by getting pregnant too often or too many times, getting pregnant at very young or old ages, and when the woman is too sick or unable to nurture more children.”

There’s a saying in the women’s movement that “the personal is political.” In the case of reproductive health policy, the reverse is also true -- “the political is personal.”

A local executive’s decision to support or hinder reproductive health programs, particularly family planning, for whatever reason, has a real, visceral impact on the health and lives not just of women, but even of their male partners and their children. An untimely (and probably unwanted) pregnancy endangers not just a woman’s health and life, but also her children’s chances of survival. A UNICEF study notes that the biggest cause of death of children under five is “the birth of another sibling,” that comes before the child is three years of age because this means the cessation of breastfeeding, and even less food for everyone.

Then-Mayor Atienza used to “reward” big families with a sack of rice and some money whenever he came to visit depressed areas. But this not only fostered an alarming sense of mendicancy, it was also obviously inadequate. On one hand he tried to help the parents, with irregular, unreliable subsidies, to care for their growing broods. On the other he took away their ability to limit the size of their families and to decide for themselves how best to raise their children.

* * *

Perhaps aware that Mayor Belmonte is on his third term (he ran unopposed in the last election) and that his successor could very well overturn his policies -- if he or she had a mind to -- the Quezon City Anti-poverty Task Force, composed of 12 departments of the city government, drafted a proposed ordinance to “protect” the city’s reproductive health program.

City Councilor Joseph “Sep” Juico agreed to be the main sponsor mainly because he also believed such an important policy, which has vital implications on the health and lives of the poor, needed to be “institutionalized,” protected as it were from partisan bickering and budget uncertainties.

But from the moment he filed the proposed ordinance in August, Juico has come under fire from the Catholic Church and has been called names, one of which is being an “abortionist.”

In a privilege speech he delivered last Nov. 12, Juico responded to accusations that the ordinance is “pro-abortion.” “This ordinance explicitly opposes abortion; in no way does it encourage or support abortion,” he said. “The ordinance underscores that abortion is illegal and is punishable under our criminal laws…. Abortion is not the same as preventing conception from taking place -- which is what condoms, pills, IUD and the like do.… At bottom, the goal of the ordinance is to prevent abortions from ever taking place.”

* * *

In an interview, Juico says all he wants to do at this point is “to listen to all the sides, and use their views to refine the ordinance.” He says: “I appeal to everyone, not just to the Catholic leaders, not to jump to conclusions and to wait for the proper venue, like a public hearing, to make themselves heard.”

But in the noise and din that church authorities are whipping up in Quezon City, it’s difficult to make oneself heard, much less have a meaningful dialogue. If it’s noise they want, then perhaps it’s time women, men and children also had their say in Quezon City.

Opinion / To Take A Stand / Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. / Business World

The Church's Diminishing Influence

I was amused and at the same time incensed when I read Rina Jimenez - David's piece in last Sunday's Inquirer on the intense campaign the Catholic Church authorities and lay leaders in Quezon City are waging against Councilor Joseph Juico. I was amused to the extent to which they would try to dissuade Juico from pushing in the city council the proposed ordinance to formulate a population and reproductive health management policy.

I was incensed by the inconsistency of the Catholic Church leadership in Quezon City in the treatment of transgressors of the moral order.

Specifically, the proposed ordinance will urge the city to adopt a policy on responsible parenthood, effective population management, and sustainable social development that values the dignity of every human person and affords protection to people's rights. I glean from Jimenez-David's article that to Quezon City Bishop Honesto Ongtioco the ordinance would mean the promotion of the killing of unborn children.

According to the article, there is even talk that should priests of that city spot Juico and other proponents of the ordinance lining up for Communion, they will be denied the Host. A Church official was supposed to have warned Juico that what pro-life groups did to advocates in Congress of family planning bills would be nothing compared to what they will do to him. This is what infuriates me, the resolve of Church leaders to punish a public official merely for sponsoring a proposed ordinance that is assumed by the bishop and his faithful followers to promote birth control and even abortion in sharp contrast to the apathy of the same overzealous religious leaders toward the highest officials of the land glaringly involved in colossal venalities, and in the case of Erap, declared guilty of plunder by the proper court.

Is sponsorship of a proposal that may encourage the use of contraceptives a more grievous sin to these Church leaders than entering into a contract involving taxpayers' money amounting to $329 million, with about $100 million to be kicked back to national officials? Is it more grievous than the distribution of cash bags containing hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' money to already fabulously compensated congressmen for them to keep or use as they please? Is it more grievous than subverting the people's will by ordering the padding of one's votes by one million?

Why is the sponsor of a mere proposal that may not necessarily promote family planning using artificial methods, definitely not promote abortion, threatened with denial of the Church's sacraments while national officials evidently guilty of large-scale anomalies and massive electoral fraud are received in Church weddings in pomp and pageantry, seated in exalted places, and served Communion at their places by the main celebrant, a bishop in some instances, of the Mass?

Why are the same Church leaders not enraged by the mockery of justice when a man convicted of plunder by a court of law and sentenced to 40 years in jail is given executive pardon without him spending a day in jail? Why hasn't Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, who has expressed disapproval of his flock attending Mass in casual attire, expressed revulsion at a polygamous man convicted of plunder receiving COmmunion in the Cardinal's archdiocese and even sprinkling holy water at the remains of a prominent person before they are laid to rest? When this same man was shown on television several years ago being given Communion by a priest belonging to a religious congregation, the priest was exiled to NOrthern Luzon, believed by many at the prodding of Cardinal Jaime Sin.

This benign attitude of present-day Church dignitaries toward immoral characters brings to mind the temperate statement of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines against those who tampered with the electoral process last May. The CBCP condemned, "The dirty conduct of elections in some provinces, the buying, padding, and selling of votes have embarrassingly become systemic and threaten to become a cultural element of our decisions." It protested "against the injustice done to people as their right to choose their leaders are desecrated. We are horrified by the violence inflilcted on innocent people during the campaign and election periods."

It called for a full revamp of the COMELEC, beginning with the appointment of a new chair and commissioners with unquestioned integrity and competence, and making accountable to the people those responsible for immense fraud in the past elections as well as the ones held last May.

For the CBCP to make such a statement, the bishops must have known for a fact who bought and padded votes, who inflicted violence on innocent voters, which COMELEC officials tampered with the election results. Not one bishop though named the guilty and resolved to deny the Catholics among those denounced the sacraments.

Jesuit priest John J. Carroll wrote in his contribution to the book about the People Power Revolution of 1986, Looking Forward, that the Philippine Catholic bishops warned through their pastoral letter dated January 28, 1986, that those who might attempt to subvert the election scheduled that year by fraud or violence would sin grievously and make themselves "unworthy of the Body of the Lord", suggesting that such persons could be denied Holy Communion. He wrote further that Augustinian friars who accompanied Legazpi to the Philippines refused Holy Communion to Spanish soldiers guilty of plundering the goods of the Indios and unwilling to restore what they had stolen.

The Church leaders' benign attitude toward high-ranking public officials ostensibly guilty of big-tme graft and corruption and massive electoral fraud juxtaposed with the dire warnings to a city councilor endorsing an ordinance meant to alleviate poverty in his district can be expected to diminish the Catholic Church's influence on her faithful when it comes to matters of morality.

Warriors for safe motherhood

First posted 22:36:56 (Mla time) November 20, 2007 / Rina Jimenez-David / Philippine Daily Inquirer

Dr. Jondi Flavier writes in, clarifying some points in the “Tale of two cities,” a comparison of the impact of contrasting policies on reproductive health in Manila and Quezon City, that I wrote about in Tuesday’s column.

“While we can only present trends,” writes Jondi, “what we see is the decreasing birth rates and lowering maternal mortality rates in Quezon City. We also believe that because of the lack of family planning services for women in Manila, there is a more level trend in birth rates there and tragically, there is an increasing trend in maternal deaths.”

He adds, though, that data on birth rates and mortality rates and other indicators in the two cities would need more testing for significance, perhaps by statistics experts in the University of the Philippines Population Institute or the Population Commission.

What he considers “more distressing,” though, is that, based on a limited sample, “we have also seen that the abortion rate in Manila is now greater than in Quezon City.” Jondi suggests that researchers “obtain a bigger sample for abortion comparisons.” Even so, this seems a most logical, if not natural consequence of a policy severely limiting, if not withholding, family planning and other reproductive health services from women.

What the policy wrought was not a greater “love for life” but rather more desperation, such that women facing unwanted, mistimed pregnancies considered abortion as the solution to their very real problem. Indeed, as declared by Quezon City Councilor Sep Juico, main sponsor of the controversial reproductive health ordinance, the ordinance is in fact an anti-abortion measure, as it would provide couples who wish to avoid pregnancy or to better space their children the information and means to do so. Without such information and services, they would increasingly turn to abortion for relief -- a point that so-called “pro-life” advocates can’t seem to get into their thick skulls.

* * *

“What we can say now is that, contrary to the unfounded circular of Bishop (Ongtioco) and the dominantly male anti-family planning and anti-women Catholic Conservative minority -- Councilor Juico, Mayor Feliciano Belmonte, Vice Mayor Herbert Bautista and the Quezon City Council are in fact warriors fighting for safe motherhood, and a better quality of life for families,” writes Jondi. “Catholic educational formation, or the lack of it, should not be blamed on our QC legislators and executives -- I would believe that the finger points back to some Catholic ‘priests’ who are less than good examples of morality. Cancers are too sweeping a problem to be pinned down on family planning and in fact, the fight of Councilor Juico in Quezon City will be toward preventing abortions and decreasing the deaths of women and newborn babies.”

An observer notes that the increasingly strident attacks on Juico and other supporters of the reproductive health ordinance and policy are indicative of the critics’ growing panic. While they succeeded in intimidating the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration into essentially abandoning the family planning program -- with responsibility for it thrown to local governments -- they face a tougher battle dealing with local governments. Right now, three provinces have already adopted comprehensive reproductive health policies, and if Quezon City succeeds in institutionalizing its program, it will be the first local government in Metro Manila to do so.

Quezon City could very well open the floodgates, which is not such a remote possibility in Metro Manila, with local government executives grappling daily with the consequences of population growth. No wonder the church conservatives have thrown everything but the baptismal font at Sep Juico, even before he could call his first public hearing on the proposed ordinance.

* * *

This and on succeeding weekends, make time to watch “Into the Woods,” which the New Voice Company is mounting at the Music Museum.

The musical is a clever, witty reworking of the most beloved fairy tales from the Western pantheon. The most familiar characters are present here: Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack of beanstalk fame, the poor baker and his wife, not one but two Prince Charmings, Rapunzel, and, of course -- what fairy tale would be complete without one? -- the ugly witch.

But while the first act brings all these disparate stories to a satisfying, coherent “happy ever after,” the second act poses the question: “What happens after ever after?”

What happens, it seems, is real life, and the pressing need to “grow up,” with the characters forced into confronting their real-life problems and working out solutions to them.

Director Rito Asilo must be congratulated for whipping all the characters and story arcs into coherent shape, doing so briskly and energetically. The cast is generally superb, with outstanding performances from Lynn Sherman, who makes for quite a bewitching witch, Michael Williams as the baker finding his manhood, and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, who is in fine voice and form as the baker’s wife bewildered at her own unhappy ending, despite getting her life’s wish.

* * *

At the entrance of the Music Museum, I bumped into a glowing Monique Wilson, who said she was “thrilled at being here and not being involved in the show!”

Now based in London, Monique comes home to Manila and to New Voice Company usually to star in or direct a production. But I can understand her excitement: being in Manila and watching the other members of New Voice mount a production on their own, is a sign that the company has come into its own, maturing and claiming autonomy much like the fairy tale characters after “ever after.”

Congratulations, then, to Monique as well for finding her own “ever after,” as both an artist and company manager.

Opinion / ARH / Enthusiasms and Forebodings / Rene Q. Bas / Manila TImes / 21 November
Congress for Chastity Education

More and more twelve-year old girls are getting pregnant without being forcibly—not just statutorily—raped. Some resort to abortion. Others get married. Often the poor girls’ lives are ruined. Their boy friends also suffer.

This growing problem disturbs a lot of people. So they do something to arrest it. Most parents, regardless of religious belief or the absence of it, really want their children to save the joy of sex for marriage. Parents have grouped themselves with similarly-minded educators, community workers and social scientists to start movements to reinforce the “old-fashioned values” of character-building, self-discipline, chastity, responsibility and self-respect.

Young people all over the world are themselves in the forefront of these movements. In campuses, in work places and in their neighborhoods students and young adults have formed clubs to make chastity and the struggle to be responsible persons a shining virtue. To them virginity and chastity—for both unmarried men and women—are cool. Streng­thened by the certainty they are doing what is right, they view with pity those who live the opposite and promiscuous lifestyle as silly, immature, self-destructive losers.

These virtue-empowered girls know giving in to a hormone-shattered boy who says “let’s do it” is an idiotic weakness. And to these virtue-empowered boys and young adults the ability to master the urges dictated by their body chemistry is proof of real manhood. More often than not, these young people are also their schools’ top achievers in sports and academics and their offices’ model performers.

Last Monday, the 2nd International Congress on Education in Sex, Love and Life started. Delegates from Australia, Singapore, the USA, Mexico, Chile, China (Hong Kong and Macau), Taiwan, Spain, Italy, the Philippines, among other countries, are at the EDSA Shangrila. The 1st congress was held last year in Mexico. Next year, the 3rd congress will be in the USA.

The delegates exchange their experiences in putting up and running movements and pro­jects to educate young people on chastity and responsibility through self-discipline and character formation.

One of the projects is the Manila-originated “I Keep Love Real (iKLR)” campaign. It was launched with the nationwide iKLR Song-Writing and Documentary Film-Making Competition and a research study for over 4,000 youth respondents across the Philippine archipelago.

The 2nd SLLEA Congress wants to move parents, teachers, the media, the government, NGO’s, businessmen and youth leaders to take individual responsibility for teaching chastity and self-discipline through character education.

The Congress director, Dr. Antonio Torralba, a well-known Filipino educator, tells a message that the DepEd supports. “Youth education is the key to future social development. Some aspects of education are both difficult and yet supremely crucial. Helping the young prepare themselves for love and life has been a matter of growing concern for families and other educators. It deserves the proper attention of all social institutions and authorities.”

One of the organizers of this congress is the “I Am S.T.R.O.N.G. . . .I am Responsible” program. Founded by young people, it is probably the most effective youth character-building support group and values-formation undertaking in today’s Philippines. It has branches in several high schools, colleges and universities.

The other congress organizers are:

InterMedia, a not-for-profit organization that serves as a consultant and gives worldwide support to social entrepreneurs and non­profit organizations that promote good values in the education, family, mass media and entertainment fields. It has offices in Rome.

EDUCHILD (or Education for the Upbringing of Children), also not-for-profit, is an organization of parents helping fellow parents and educators in the delicate task of rearing a family and educating their children. It has been doing international service since 1976.

The Developmental Advocacy for Women Volunteerism (DAWV) Foundation, Inc., another non­profit organization, was started as a personal initiative of a few women to help in the social development and liberation from poverty of Filipino women.

The urgent and critical work of the organizers and the delegates to the congress, unfortunately, rarely gets media attention. (Continued tomorrow)


the jester-in-exile said...

yep, the fight's on. a bit of it happened on my post on rina jimenez-david's column.

you've my support, guys. kudos!

PhilMADE said...

hey jester-in-exile, thanks for dropping a line. I know you're one prolific blogger, especially on very significant issues. =)