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Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Monday, December 01, 2008

RH ROCKS! A Concert in Support of the Reproductive Health Bill HB5403

TIME: 6PM - 12 MN
DATE: December 9, 2008, Tuesday
Liwasang Aurora, Quezon City Memorial Circle
(Fronting Philcoa and Commonwealth Ave.)
Super close to UP Diliman
Cost: FREE!

Featuring (So far):


Hosted by: Carlos Celdran

Come sit under the stars and listen to great music as we show the world that the time for the Reproductive Health Bill to be passed has come. Preserve the Dignity of the Filipino Family.

Pass HB5043 now.

Brought to you by:

Lungsod ng Quezon Pilipinas
Jam 88.3

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Date: Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer (Philippines)
Author: Rina Jimenez-David

MEXICO -- ENVY IS A PREVALENT FEELING among us Filipino reproductive health advocates on this study tour. With funding from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, and managed by the Health Action Information Network (Hain) and the Leadership Development for Mobilizing Reproductive Health (LDM) program of the Institute for International Education, the study tour was planned to acquaint us with the various players in Mexicos reproductive health movement. More specifically, were looking at how policymakers, implementers, civil society and even young people work together to get the program going despite challenges raised by a conservative government and an increasingly strident Catholic opposition.

There is much the Philippines and Mexico have in common. Most obvious is the Catholicism of the majority of the population, as well as a history of colonialism (in fact, the Philippines was governed largely by the colonial administration of Mexico). We also have a history of anti-clericalism, although in Mexico this tradition was expressed more formally and forcefully in its laws. We are also both countries of stark contrasts. Although Mexico has been classified as a middle-income country, some parts of it have health, social and economic indicators rivaling that of poor Third World countries.

A glaring difference is the status of our national family planning and reproductive health programs. In the Philippines, reproductive health has not only been neglected, the term itself is looked on with hostility by President Macapagal-Arroyo. The family planning program has been reduced to the promotion of a single, unreliable methodthe so-called natural family planning which so far, despite the millions spent on its promotion, is still largely rejected by couples and women. And in Congress, a reproductive health bill is facing stiff opposition from religious conservatives, although a growing number of legislators have been supportive.


IN CONTRAST, the family planning program of Mexico has been, said Dr. Marco Antonio Olaya Vargas, head of the program at the Ministry of Health, one of the programs with the most experience in the country, having been established in the 1970s.

Today, Mexico boasts of 70.9 percent contraceptive coverage for women of reproductive age (compared to about 45 percent in the Philippines). Twenty years ago, said Olaya Vargas, the average fertility rate in Mexico was seven children, and the population growth rate (PGR) was 3 to 4 percent. Today, the fertility rate has fallen to 2.1 per woman, and the PGR is down to 1.9 percent.

Family planning is a national policy and therefore it is mandatory and must be enforced in all the states (Mexico follows the federal system), replied Olaya Vargas when asked about the possibility of conservatives in state governments simply refusing to implement the program in their areas. In cases where a local leader imposes his own personal beliefs in the implementation of the program, we will have to go to that state and investigate, ask them what the problems are and how we can work to solve these problems. But so far, said Olaya Vargas, no state has openly said no to family planning.

THE INFLUENCE of the Catholic Church, the health official said, hasn't been an obstacle. He reminded us that there is separation of church and state in Mexico, and that means the church cannot interfere in national government policies.

A bigger problem for the program is the disparities in access and availability of supplies and services across Mexico.

Olaya Vargas said the governments policy is to ensure that services get to all the people, and that is why our services are given free. While the national rate for unmet need (the percentage of women and couples who want to use family planning but cannot avail of the services) is a mere 12 percent (compared to around 20 percent in the Philippines), he says he is aware that the rate is twice or thrice among the rural population and adolescents.

For teens, he said, the problem seems to be their reluctance to access reproductive health services, including protection from sexually transmitted infections, through official government health enters. Instead, they have found that as much as 80 percent of Mexican teens go to drugstores and pay for their contraceptives even if we have free family planning services. One solution to this is the creation of what he calls youth-friendly services in health centers, with no questions asked regarding the young clients sexuality.


MEXICO, said Olaya Vargas, is a diverse country, with different characteristics and socio-cultural traits and ethnicity. Mexico is a varied mosaic.

Health-wise, he says while there is good health coverage in the north and central areas of the country, in the southeast, which has the biggest number of indigenous and rural people, with populations more spread out, there is low coverage and it is not so easy to gain access to services.

In its bid to reduce maternal mortality, the ministry has also launched an initiative called an equal start in life, with the objective of lowering maternal and newborn mortality, preventing breast and cervical cancer, and preventing family violence. They are organizing government bodies at the local level, holding censuses to identify where pregnant women live and arranging for ways of transporting these women when the time comes for their delivery. And when pregnant women come to health centers for pre-natal consultations, there is already a plan to counsel them on post-delivery contraception, with caregivers advising them to space the next pregnancy for at least two years.

Now that’s an integrated plan.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Reproductive Health Not Limited to Population Control says Women’s and Doctors’ Groups


The Gabriela Women’s Party and the Health Alliance for Democracy asserted that the issue of reproductive health should not be limited to population control but is a part of the people’s right to health and thus, a component of a comprehensive, accessible, and relevant health care system for the people.


Proponents of House Bill No. 5043 or the Reproductive Health and Population
Development Act of 2008 said the bill aims to promote responsible parenthood, informed choice, birth spacing, among others. The bill is pending at the Lower House.

In a forum organized by the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), Oct. 17, lawyer Clara Rita Padilla of EnGendeRights, Inc., presented the salient points of the bill.

Padilla said under the bill, contraceptives are classified as essential medicines that need to be procured by every local and national hospital.

The bill also directs all public hospitals to make available to indigent mothers, upon request, the procedure of ligation without cost to the patient. It also states that the cost of tubal ligation, vasectomy and intrauterine device insertion (IUD) for indigent clients shall be fully subsidized by PhilHealth.

Private reproductive health care service providers are encouraged to render such services free of charge or at reduced professional fee rates to indigent and low-income patients.

The bill also requires each Congressional district to implement a Mobile Health Care Service funded by the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). As part of the said service, a van would be provided to deliver reproductive health care goods and services as well as disseminate knowledge and information on reproductive health.

Reproductive Health Education will be taught to students from Grade 5 up to Fourth Year High School, including non-formal education.

Also contained in the bill is the employers’ responsibility to provide “reasonable” quantity of reproductive health care services, supplies and devices to all workers whether organized in unions or not.

Ramon San Pascual, executive director of the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD), said that as of Oct. 9, there are 130 legislators supportive of the bill, while 81 are against and 27 are neutral.

Pascual said he is hopeful that the bill would be approved by the bicameral committee of both houses of Congress by next year. He noted that legislators have crossed party lines in their vote on the bill. “Even Arroyo’s closest allies are in favor of the RH bill,” said Pascual.

“Wrong framework”

Meanwhile, Dr. Gene Nisperos, vice chairperson of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), criticized the framework of the RH bill.

Nisperos said that while they recognize and appreciate the effort to address the issue of reproductive health, the RH bill is essentially “flawed” in its framework of population management and development.

In its Declaration of Policy, the bill states that the RH policy is anchored on the rationale that sustainable human development is better assured with manageable population of healthy, educated and productive citizen.

Nisperos said that the current level of discussion must be broadened beyond the issue of population control.

Nisperos asserted that the reproductive health issue has political and economic aspects. He said that the poorest experience the worst implications of poor reproductive health care. He said that mortality rates of the newborn, infant, and children under-five are significantly higher among the poor than among the well-to-do.

The Poor Have it Worst

Only 25 percent of poor women give birth with assistance of health professionals while 92 percent of women belonging to the upper class have professionals attending to them.

Nisperos said, “Unless the health of the poorest improves, the population will become increasingly poor and unhealthy.”

He added, “Reproductive health should be part of a comprehensive, accessible, and relevant health care system for the people.” He said that the present health care system does not respond to the needs of the Filipino people, especially poor women.

For this reason, Nisperos said that the Department of Health (DoH), not the Population Commission, should be the primary government agency that will ensure reproductive health.

Nisperos also deplored that the deteriorating health care system has shifted the burden of health care, including reproductive health care, to women themselves.
“It remains the State’s responsibility to ensure the well-being and health of its people,” said Nisperos. He said that the government should provide free reproductive health services and materials.

Citing data from the DoH’s Health Policy Development and Planning Bureau, Nisperos said the Philippines lags behind neighboring countries when it comes to maternal health.

Health Indicators Selected Asian Countries

Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said that reproductive health is part of women’s rights and should be treated as a human right.

Ilagan said that the Philippine Constitution guarantees the right to health of all citizens. She said that United Nations agreements such as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) also recognize reproductive health as women’s rights.

Ilagan, who was a teacher for 41 years, underscored the importance of women’s right to information and of the youth’s right to be educated on reproductive health.

Nisperos said, “The recognition of women’s rights, including reproductive health, must be framed on the overall pursuit of human rights, including the right to health and the right to development. These rights can only be realized if we dismantle the unequal and unjust socio-economic and political structures that cause poverty and the marginalization of women.” (Bulatlat)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Bishops becoming isolated in battle over birth control


By Christine F. Herrera

THE Catholic Church is increasingly becoming isolated on the issue of family planning as other major religious groups have joined forces to support the reproductive health bill in Congress.

So far, that alliance includes the Iglesia Ni Cristo, the Jesus is Lord Movement, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, and Muslim leaders who see value in curbing the country’s rapid population growth.

The bill, which seeks to establish a national policy on family planning, has also won support from various government agencies, the academic community, and civil society, workers’ and women’s groups.

The Catholic Church opposes the bill because it supports artificial birth control methods such as the use of condoms, and has launched a vociferous campaign against it.

But the measure’s principal author, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, says the divisions are not theological.

“This is not a religious war. Most of the co-authors are also devout Catholics,” Lagman said of some 108 lawmakers who had agreed to co-sponsor the bill.

“But there is an emerging victory of progressive advocacy over orthodox dogma.” The bastion of opposition to the bill, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, has not conceded the fight, and a ranking member yesterday urged lawmakers who support the bill to resign and “stop pretending they are representing the people.”

Mati, Davao, Bishop Patricio Alo said these lawmakers should listen to their constituents, referring to the fact that most Filipinos are nominal Catholics. But Lagman countered that Alo was refusing to see that many Catholics wanted to control their fertility and plan their families.

He added that 90 percent of Catholics in a recent Pulse Asia survey said the state should finance the use of modern contraceptives, which are expressly prohibited by the Church.

All the authors and the religious groups supporting the bill reject abortion as a method of family planning, but they realize something must be done to slow down population growth, estimated at about two million babies a year.

Religious leaders outside the Catholic Church informed Congress of their support once they made their official positions known to their respective members. Eddie Villanueva, leader of the Jesus is Lord Movement, had his son, Rep. Joel Villanueva, co-sponsor the bill on Wednesday to signal his support. Iglesia members have also confirmed that their leaders are encouraging them to lobby Congress to pass the bill.

“We, in the Iglesia Ni Cristo, recognize that the population problem, especially in our country, is real. There is a problem because apparently our country’s resources cannot cope with the rapidly growing population,” the Iglesia said in a position paper it submitted to the House committee on health. “While it is sometimes said that the population explosion is not the cause of poverty in our country, you will certainly agree that it is not the solution either.

“In view of this, the Iglesia Ni Cristo supports the efforts of government and non-government organizations to curb the population growth to a sustainable level in order to ensure a decent life for our people. We do our part by exhorting the members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo to become responsible parents and to have only as many children as they can afford to sustain.”

In a scathing rebuff against the Catholic lobby, the Iglesia leaders urged their members to reject the “natural method” supported by Catholic bishops, nuns and ultra-conservative lay organizations as the acceptable alternative to modern methods of family planning such as the use of condoms, contraceptives and injectables.

The influential Catholic Church, through the Couples for Christ, has used P50 million in state funds to exclusively promote the natural method of family planning. Nuns and members of the Catholic Women’s League have also gone to Congress to denounce the proponents of the bill.

But big business, led by the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, has been among the first to throw its support behind the bill.

Among the government agencies that endorsed the Lagman bill are the Interior and Social Welfare departments, Commission on Population, National Academy of Science and Technology, National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, Commission on Higher Education, and the National Economic Development Authority.

“A major factor affecting the delivery of reproductive health products and services in the country is the lack of a comprehensive and definite policy on reproductive health,” Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral has said in position paper.

“Along with this comes the persisting unresolved issue of population increase, which also exacerbates the problems of malnutrition, illiteracy and unemployment.” With Arlie Calalo

Can Catholics support the RH bill? Yes!

Mary Racelis | 10/06/2008 6:56 PM

Can one be a Catholic and still support the Reproductive Health bill?

Growing numbers of professional and educated lay Filipino Catholics believe they can. Increasingly uneasy that the unshakeable position of the Church contradicts directly their own understandings of Philippine realities, many are actually reading the bill to see for themselves – and emerging as its supporters.

Catholic NGO workers, social workers, and social science researchers working in poor rural and urban communities overflowing with malnourished, out-of-school children and youth have particular problems with the Church position. They find it difficult to accept that poor mothers and fathers who want to avoid a fourth or fifth pregnancy or wait a few years before the next one, should be condemned for choosing reliable, contraceptive family planning methods.

One urban poor woman was asked what the Church might say about her practice of saving part of her meager earnings to buy birth control pills every month. Her reply: “Ang simbahan ba ang magpapakain sa mga anak namin?(Will the Church feed my children?)”

Then there is the deafening silence of the Church on how to respond to the thousands of poor women who undergo clandestine, unsafe abortions for lack of access to modern family planning. In 2000, 473,000 women had induced abortions, 79,000 of them winding up in hospitals from complications, and 800 leaving as corpses.

The World Health Organization estimates that this already alarming 2000 statistic may by 2008 be as high as 800,000! Yet the Church remains in denial. Its spokespersons claim that their calculations yield “only 200,000” induced abortions.

Meanwhile, desperate women eking out a meager living for four to eight children and possibly supporting an unemployed or chronically drunk husband as well, consider the prospect of another child to be unthinkable - and go for an abortion.

Safe and effective choices

The bill recognizes this reality by offering poor women safer and more effective choices for preventing unplanned or unwanted pregnancies. Because it enables women to reject the unsafe abortion route, the bill can legitimately be called anti-abortion. The Church’s position, on the other hand, poses the ultimate irony. By opposing contraceptive options for women but offering no other viable alternatives, it is in effect contributing to those 473,000 abortions.

The low priority given to women’s needs results in their appalling health status. Ten die each day, or 3,650 per year, from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes. One Filipina out of 140 faces the risk of maternal death in her lifetime. Contrast this with one in 500 for Thai women, and one in 560 for Malaysian women.

Maternal mortality rates in the Philippines are unacceptably high at 162 per 100,000 live births. The corresponding ratio for Thailand is 110 and for Malaysia 62. Skilled attendants are present at birth for 60% of Filipinas, while the comparable figures for Thai women reach 97% and Malaysian women 98 %. Buddhists and Muslims seem to do better by their women than Catholics.

Moreover, when a mother dies in labor because she has not gone for prenatal check-ups, her baby is also likely to die in the first year if not the first month of life. Surviving toddlers are similarly at risk. An estimated 10 million Filipino women incur post-partum disabilities every year owing to poor obstetric care. Class disparities come starkly to the fore as fully 96% of women with higher education receive post-natal care from a health professional, compared with only 33% of women with no education.

Comprehensive family planning services

Catholics who support the bill appreciate the accountability it demands of government in mandating as national policy specific benefits to women and families, “more particularly to the poor and needy.” Examples include mobile health care services in every Congressional district, and one emergency obstetric hospital per 500,000 population.

Midwives and skilled birth attendants must be available in every city and municipality to attend to women during childbirth in a ratio of one per 150 deliveries per year. Maternal death reviews will be conducted locally in coordination with the Department of Health and Popcom. Hospitals will handle more complex family planning procedures.

Given these and other benefits, educated Catholics feel vindicated in supporting a bill that offers women and families comprehensive health and family planning services as a matter of right and choice. Church proclamations alleging that House Bill 5043 is “anti-poor,” “anti-women,” “pro-abortion,” and “immoral” ring hollow in the face of empirical evidence to the contrary. The bill reads exactly the opposite as pro-poor, pro-women, anti-abortion, and respectful of human life.

Moreover, its provisions satisfy Catholic consciences as being compatible with the Church’s social teachings, including the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the human person, the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, integral human development, and the primacy of conscience. In this light they urge that the Church listen to them as responsible Catholic laity who offer their Church the advantage of evidenced-based approaches to the evolving needs of 21st century Philippine society.

By ceasing its attacks on the bill, allowing it to pass, and concentrating instead on monitoring implementation, the Church will convey an important point to its uneasy, increasingly critical lay members – that despite its hierarchical structure and celibate, all-male leadership, it can still respond meaningfully to the needs and aspirations of poor women and their families. At the very least, let us hope the Church resists the temptation to “shoot the messengers” who dare to articulate alternative but realistic Catholic views.

Mary Racelis is a sociologist with INCITEGov, Pasig City.

as of 10/07/2008 12:32 AM

Monday, September 29, 2008

RH Website

For more info on Reproductive Health, please visit:



Howie Severino's I-Witness Documentary

Airing Monday: September 29, 2008

Most parents go through an awkward stage when they need to try to explain sexuality to their children. Howie Severino is entering that stage now with his curious six-year-old son Alon, who has been asking how and when he will get either a brother or a sister.

That innocent query begins Howie's search for a way to answer a child's vital questions. The search takes him to a bishop, a teacher, a youth advocate, a lawyer, a health worker, and other young kids -- but also to discoveries about the state of sexuality education in the Philippines. He
brings Alon to a progressive school where gender issues are openly discussed with small children, and to a kids workshop in Malabon on gender and sexuality where even pre-teens are introduced to ways of protecting themselves against sexually transmitted disease.

It is the same place in Malabon where Howie returns to learn about widespread youth problems that advocates say are borne out of inadequate information about sexuality: irresponsible sexual practices, the alarming spread of gonorrhea, teen pregnancies. Howie meets earnest youth advocate Kiko who overcomes taboos to talk to teens about knowing their bodies, the proper use of condoms, and identifying disgusting diseases contracted through sex.

Debate is raging now in Congress over the future of sex education. But the real battleground may be in places like Malabon where the stakes are life and death, and the future of its young residents.

Howie Severino's insightful documentary on sexuality education airs this
Monday late night over GMA-7.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Lagman laments moot attacks vs reproductive bill

By Ephraim Aguilar
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:08:00 09/27/2008

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines—Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman deplored the “irrelevant attacks” on the reproductive health bill thrown by opposing lawmakers during deliberations in Congress on the controversial population measure.

Lagman, principal author of House Bill No. 5043 on reproductive health, referred to the long-winding debates, which were mostly queries or objections on the procedure and technicalities of the bill’s approval at the committee levels.

The bill was approved by four committees in the House of Representatives—health, population and family relations, appropriations and rules.

Deputy House Speaker Raul del Mar raised alleged “technical defects” in the approval of the bill by the health committee and the population and family relations committee, which jointly approved the bill without a dissenting vote.

Del Mar questioned the legitimate funding support and reproductive health advocacy of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation Inc.

In a statement sent to the Inquirer, Lagman said he was confident the bill would still be passed despite the “dilatory tactics” of those opposing the measure.

“Delay is not victory,” he said.

Lagman’s daughter, Tabaco City Mayor Krisel Lagman-Luistro, also defended the bill from ParaƱaque Rep. Roilo Golez who proposed that discussions on the bill be deferred.

Golez said the bill not only divided the country but also took away focus from the more important task of addressing the world financial crisis.

Lagman-Luistro said that when “financial crisis” was on the table for discussion, so should “population” and “quality of life.

We have to understand that the reproductive health bill is not only a measure on population management but also a way of uplifting the Filipinos’ quality of life, especially in these dire times,” she said.

Lagman-Luistro also hit lawmakers who said the bill was not necessary since artificial contraceptives were already available in stores.

Availability does not necessarily mean access. This bill will eventually have funds to ensure people’s access to contraceptives,” she said.

She added that there were now at least 99 lawmakers supporting the measure.

When Lagman-Luistro represented the first district of Albay in Congress in 2001, she authored House Bill No. 4110 or the “Reproductive Health Care Act,” which served as the basis for her father’s HB 5043.

The bill promotes the use of both artificial and natural means of family planning, among others, which is being opposed by the Catholic Church, religious groups and even President Macapagal-Arroyo.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sparks fly anew in debate on birth control bill

Now what do we make out of this "occurrence" at Congress' session hall?


By Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:29:00 09/24/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Argument on procedure marred the beginning of floor debates at the House of Representatives on a controversial reproductive health bill.

Deputy Speaker Raul del Mar, echoing the objections of the Catholic Church, launched the opening salvo Tuesday night against House Bill 5043 that would expand the promotion of birth control methods -- both natural and artificial -- through government health and education programs. It also mandates sex education classes in schools.

Del Mar called the population control bill, principally authored by Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, “totally unnecessary and deceptive.”

He said it was unnecessary because government programs for reproductive health, responsible parenthood, and population development were “already in place, pursued under existing programs, both by private and public initiatives.”

“There’s really no problem -- couples are absolutely free to choose which method of family planning they wish, natural or artificial,” contended Del Mar, an ally of Lagman in the ruling coalition.

He charged that “even abortifacients are openly sold as plain contraceptives without any warning whatsoever about their abortion-causing qualities.”

The bill was deceptive, he contended, because it was “neatly packaged with a title that would gain the support of practically everybody.”

“For how can anybody argue against a measure strategically titled ‘An Act Providing for a National Policy on Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development.’”

Del Mar said HB 5043 should be more accurately labeled “An Act Providing for a National Policy Promoting Artificial Methods of Birth Control” or “An Act Providing for a National Policy Promoting Contraceptives and Sterilization.”

The Catholic Church is lobbying against the use of contraceptives such as condoms to prevent unwanted pregnancies and control the spread of AIDS. The government has largely given in to pressure to promote only the Church-endorsed natural family planning method.

Lagman defended his bill, saying commercial “availability” was not the same as “access,” especially to marginalized people.”

Lagman, batting for more active campaigns, said freedom of choice was limited “as long as there are myths on artificial methods.”

Del Mar’s interpellation, however, was cut short when the presiding officer, Representative Del de Guzman, stopped another representative from taking the floor.

Quezon City Representative Annie Susano, another critic of the family planning bill, stood up to inject a manifestation but was rebuffed, causing Senior Minority Leader Roilo Golez to raise a point of order.

“The presiding officer cannot arbitrarily interrupt a member of the House,” Golez said, accusing De Guzman of violating Susano’s “right and prerogative to speak.”

De Guzman answered that he was trying to impose proper decorum and adjourned the session at 7:22 p.m., before Del Mar had finished his attack on Lagman’s bill.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Population exec clings to hope for RH bill

By Joey A. Gabieta
Visayas Bureau
First Posted 02:56:00 09/18/2008

TACLOBAN CITY – The head of the Commission on Population (Popcom) in Eastern Visayas expressed hope that Congress would approve the controversial reproductive health bill to address the continued rise in the country’s population that the bill’s proponents blamed on poverty.

Susan Tejada, Popcom regional officer-in-charge, said the bill authored by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman would boost the government’s efforts to manage the country’s burgeoning population.

Open minds

“The bill is advocating responsible parenthood, which means that parents should only have children that they can afford to feed and send to school, among others,” Tejada added.

While she said she respected the view of the Catholic Church on House Bill No. 5043, Tejada urged the Church to be open-minded on the issues and the concerns that the bill would address.

“The proposed bill is not advocating abortion. That is really a no-no. We at the Popcom do not advocate abortion. We are also against it,” Tejada said.

Catholic Church leaders accused proponents of the bill of promoting abortion in the guise of artificial family planning methods.

Tejada said the Lagman bill includes some of the elements of reproductive health currently practiced by various government agencies, such as promoting the use of breast-feeding, which the Department of Health has been advocating.


Tejada also lamented the decision of all the 12 congressmen in Eastern Visayas to withdraw their support for the Lagman bill.

On the other hand, the Church welcomed the support of the congressmen and their withdrawal from the reproductive health bill.

“The archdiocese of Palo is very happy that many lawmakers are not supporting the RH bill. Our congressmen and congresswomen here in the region ... gave their assurance to the Church that they will not support the RH bill,” Fr. Amadeo Alvero, media liaison officer of the Palo Archdiocese, said in a text message.

Alvero said the Church strongly opposes the bill because it is “promoting an anti-life mentality in our society.”

Tejada claimed that because of the “good implementation” of the government’s other population-related programs, the country’s population growth rate has declined considerably.

“In fact, here in the region, our population growth also saw a decline. From the previous 1.51 percent, our population growth rate is now down to 1.12 percent,” she said.

Tejada also cited the rate of out-migration, or flight of Filipinos to destinations abroad, as another reason for the population decline.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The PDA Theme Song and the PDS MTV revived!

Below is a post originally published in this blog about two (2) years ago. It was presented at the UNFPA Christmas party. PDA or the Pinoy Dream Academy Season I of ABS CBN just wrapped up back then and needless to state, I was a fan of the show and of the winner Yeng Constantino. One of the challenges presented to them was to come up with their own composition of a song that could serve as PDA's theme. Yeng's song was the winner.

Hearing its lyrics one day made me realize that it can be very well suited for advocacy as it generally speaks of differences between people and their belief system. But in the end everyone simply want to reach their goals... achieve their dreams. It talks about never giving up, believing in yourself and showing the world that you can make it... that it can be done!!!

Ding ding ding!!! Sounds like a great song for the passage of the RH Bill!

And so, when we were asked to prepare a presentation for UNFPA's Christmas party, I informed Paolo, the project assistant I worked with at that time, of the idea and work on getting specific photos I listed to match the words in the song. Also, I did little tweaks in the lyrics as we sang the song to suit our advocacy. We rehearsed the song at POPCOM hours before the party. I remember Yela of POPCOM being so supportive and "game" while rehearsing the song.

I am re-publishing the post given its timeliness, as PDA Season II recently ended and this theme was repeatedly played over the show and heard on TV and more importantly to emphasize the fact that this was something we did two (2) years ago. And up to now, the bill continues to be adamantly opposed by the Church, with support from GMA.

The possibility that we might fail should not deter us from fighting for the cause we believe to be just.

And the fight lives on...
The PDS Academy

Watch the MTV we did, using the Pinoy Dream Academy (PDA) theme as music...

The PDS (Population Development Strategies) Advocacy Cluster namely, POPCOM-PMO, PNGOC, PLCPD, ECOP and FORUM presented this MTV during the UNFPA party last December 15, 2006 held at J.V. Del Rosario Ballroom, 4th Floor, AIM Conference Center, Legaspi Village, Makati City...

Guided by its lyrics, Paolo and I chose pictures to match the song...

This was the way we sang the song... (we changed some of it to suit our advocacy: read below)

Watch the MTV and sing with it... =)

and to Paolo, special thanks for the effects and the logo of "PDS Academy" in the MTV...


Ang bawa't tao'y magkakaiba
Iyong makikita

Iba't Ibang istorya... Iba't Ibang paniniwala

Ngunit... Nagsisikap
Para sa Pangarap
pawis binubuno

Nagbabago... Ganyan ang tao...
Itanim sa puso dahil.....


Nais nating marating
Di kami titigil
papatunayan sa buong mundo
Kayang kaya natin to...
Di kami susuko...


Nag-iisang damdamin
ang ating aawitin
ihahayag ating mithiin

Itatayong Bandila, ng "adbokasiya"
Pilipino taas ang kamay, umawit ka at...

Ika'y magsikap...
Para sa pangarap...

Pawis Ibuno...

Ika'y matuto
Ganyan ang tao...

Itanim sa puso dahil....


Nais nating marating
Di kami titigil
Sisigaw sa buong mundo
Kayang kaya natin to...
Di kami susuko...


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Anti-population bill solons block Lagman speech Lack of quorum forces deferment

Lack of quorum forces deferment

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
First Posted 19:02:00 09/16/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- Lawmakers at the House of Representatives opposed to the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill succeeded in blocking the delivery of the sponsorship speech by its author that would have formally opened floor debates.

With only 101 of the more than 200 congressmen present after the roll call, the House leadership adjourned the session for lack of a quorum.

The bill’s troubles were further compounded when Congresswoman Amelita Villarosa withdrew her signature from House Bill 5043 or An Act Providing for a National Policy on Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development, bringing down the number of co-authors to 95.

But Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, the bill’s main author, was unfazed and expressed confidence that the bill would still hurdle the plenary debates.

Anti-reproductive health bill lawmakers have tried to stop Lagman’s sponsorship speech early in the session.

Cebu Representative Pablo Garcia raised a point of order, saying that copies of the bill have yet to be distributed for the members of the House to study.

Quezon City Representative Mary Anne Susano echoed Garcia's view and said the measure was being pushed because of the millions in pesos appropriated for it in the budget.

But Majority Leader Raul del Mar said that there was an agreement among lawmakers that they would allow Lagman to deliver the sponsorship speech and that interpellation would begin next week to give time to the lawmakers to study the bill.

Susano then raised a point of order anew and said that there was no longer a quorum that prompted a suspension of the session.

Before a packed gallery composed of the supporters of the bill from mostly civic organizations on one side and pro-life advocates and religious groups in blue on the other side, Lagman was supposed to deliver his four-page sponsorship speech.

The bill promotes the use of both artificial and natural means of family planning, among others.

"The bill is principally about rights, health, and sustainable human development. The bill is fully transparent. There is no hidden agenda. There are no caveats," Lagman said in a copy of his speech.

"The use of contraceptives for family planning does not make acceptors bad Catholics. But having more children whom parents can ill-afford to feed, educate, medicate, guide and love makes hem irresponsible regardless of their religion," he added.

The Catholic Church, religious groups, and even President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have expressed opposition to the bill.

"While the bill may not be the panacea to all our ills, it is definitely not the source of baseless paranoia," Lagman said.

On September 9, the committee on rules approved the plenary hearing of the controversial House Bill 5043 or the "Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development Act of 2008."

Arroyo, a devout Catholic, is backing the Church's position against artificial contraception as Congress tries to legislate a population management policy.

Lagman, the bill's author, hailed the endorsement of the bill for plenary consideration as a "victory for Reproductive Health advocates who have been waiting for the enactment of this bill for almost a decade and the 96 co-authors of the measure who are unwavering in their support for the bill's eventual enactment."

The bill was first jointly referred to the committee on health and committee on population and family relations which approved it in June.

In August the committee on appropriations approved the appropriation cover of the measure.

Iglesia backs population bill but rejects ‘rhythm’ way

Now this is quite interesting. =) Not only does Iglesia ni Cristo supports the passage of the RH Bill, it even REJECTS the idea of "natural" family planning methods endorsed by the Catholic Church...

Sex... definitely a "hot" issue, even drawing the differences between religious sects ...

Philippine Daily Inquirer

First Posted 22:46:00 09/16/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The Iglesia ni Cristo announced Tuesday its stand on the issue of family planning, virtually expressing support for the proposed Reproductive Health Act pending at the House of Representatives.

In a statement, INC spokesperson Bro. Bienvenido C. Santiago said, “The Iglesia ni Cristo accepts modern family planning methods or the use of what others call ‘contraceptives’ as long as they are not abortifacient in nature and they do not impose prolonged abstinence from sexual intercourse among married couples.”

Santiago explained that the INC is against abortion because it is a clear violation of the fundamental commandment “Thou shall not kill.”

He clarified, however, that INC rejects the rhythm method and other so-called “natural” family planning methods because “it is really contrary to nature.”

Among other things, he said, “That method runs counter to the apostolic teaching to all married couples which states “Do not deny yourselves to each other unless you first agree to do so for a while in order to spend your time in prayer; but then resume normal marital relations’ (I Cor. 7:5).”

Sunday, September 14, 2008

ON REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH BILL 'Stoop down to grassroots,' Catholic hierarchy told

By Ephraim Aguilar
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 21:38:00 09/13/2008

TABACO CITY, Albay -- If there were one staunch advocate left of the controversial reproductive health bill aside from its principal author, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, it would be Krisel Lagman-Luistro.

More than being the lawmaker's daughter, she is the mayor of Tabaco City and a nurse by profession.

By being a local chief executive and a health worker, Lagman-Luistro claims to be among the grassroots, where the society's perennial problems that the bill seeks to address lie.

“Every time I wed couples, I ask them how many children would they want to have. Most couples would say two,” the lady mayor said.

“But I would be interested to know, if after five years, the couple's desired family size was achieved,” she added.

Lagman-Luistro said there was a widening gap between the couple's right to found a family based on a desired size and the attainment of that right, something that the government must address.

“If each family desires only two children and is able to achieve that, how much savings would that bring the government?” she said.

“There would come a time when people would no longer have to wait in long queues just to get free medicine. We would have sufficient social services,” she added.

On Friday, Lagman made a bold statement ahead of the plenary debates on the proposed bill, also called House Bill 5043.

He said the Catholic Church would be rendering itself “irrelevant” to its flock by continuously opposing the measure and that an overwhelming number of Filipinos “strongly approve the government's allocation of funds for modern contraceptives.”

“If the Catholic Church wants to continue to become significant in the lives of the faithful, (it) must listen to (its) flock or risk becoming irrelevant,” the Albay lawmaker said.

His daughter said the Church should keep itself relevant by growing with the “nuances of today.”

She said the only thing the Church opposes is the use of contraceptives.

“The times are very much different now. We are more overpopulated than before. Providing for the basic needs of the people is more Christian,” she said.

Lagman-Luistro said the parish priests who are meeting people face-to-face could tell their superiors of their community's problems with unwanted pregnancies, spread of sexually transmitted diseases, overpopulation and poverty.

“But the problem with the Catholic hierarchy is that it has become even more political than the government,” she said.

Lagman-Luistro said that contrary to the belief of some, HB 5043 does not promote abortion but rather even prevents unplanned pregnancies.

“We simply want to give people more choices on family planning,” she clarified.

President Macapagal-Arroyo has been vocal in upholding the Church stand on the bill.

Ms Arroyo also pushed, instead, for the promotion of natural family planning methods.

Lagman-Luistro said they also support natural family planning as another option but it could be very impractical in cases when the couple could not plan their family efficiently together.

“If your husband is drunk how would you be able to tell him you could not have sex with him,” she said, adding that the bill also promotes gender equality.

Lagman-Luistro said the Church and the government should allow people to choose a legal, safe and effective means to plan their families.

“I cannot, as a leader, choose for my people. In the same way that the Church leaders could not choose for their flock. We are promoting choice,” she said.

When Lagman-Luistro represented the first district of Albay in Congress in 2001, she authored and proposed House Bill 4110 or the “Reproductive Health Care Act,” which was where HB 5043 originated.

“When opposition to HB 4110 arose, it's signatories withdrew one by one. The bill only reached the committee level,” she recounted.

“But this time, my father still sees the nation's need for [a population management law] so he continued our [reproductive health advocacy],” she added.

Lagman-Luistro said she saw brighter prospects for the reproductive health bill this time.

“First, there is a new breed of lawmakers. Second, the need for such a law to be passed is clearer because people are experiencing poverty,” she said, adding that after the food and economic crises that hit the country this year, the effects of overpopulation have become more vividly real.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Secular Rights and Monopolies of Morality: Reframing the Abortion Discourse in the Philippines

You are all invited to join a discussion entitled "Secular Rights and Monopolies of Morality: Reframing the Abortion Discourse in the Philippines" on September 17, 2008 at the UP College of Law 2-5 PM (Sta Ana Room, 3rd Floor, Malcolm Hall).

The presentation is based on Atty. Carolina Ruiz Austria's LLM Thesis submitted to the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto. Dr. Sylvia Estrada Claudio and Prof. Elizabeth Pangalangan will be the panelists/reactors.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Reproductive health bill up for debate at lower house

After so many years, so many revisions, so many debates and demonstrations, finally... the RH Bill is up for plenary discussions!!! So many Congress Sessions have opened and ended without this bill reaching the plenary for debates. And now, finally....

Ok guys, the HEAT is definitely ON!!!

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
First Posted 19:07:00 09/09/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Amid strong opposition from the Catholic church and from no less than President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, reproductive health bill proponents at the House of Representatives are pushing for the measure, seen to curb the country's ballooning population.

On Tuesday, the committee on rules approved the plenary hearing of the controversial House Bill 5043 or the "Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development Act of 2008".

Arroyo, a devout Catholic, is backing the church's position against artificial contraception as Congress tries to legislate a population management policy.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, the bill's author, hailed the endorsement of the bill for plenary consideration as a "victory for Reproductive Health advocates who have been waiting for the enactment of this bill for almost a decade and the 96 co-authors of the measure who are unwavering in their support for the bill's eventual enactment."

The bill was first jointly referred to the Committee on Health and Committee on Population and Family Relations which approved it in June. In August the
Committee on Appropriations approved the appropriation cover of the measure.

"The bill is not about condoms and pills and neither is it about religion. It is primarily about health and rights," Lagman said in a statement. He added that the measure would be "an indispensable development tool given that rapid population growth impacts negatively on all aspects of human development."

The controversial bill was scarcely mentioned during Tuesday's budget hearing of the Department of Health at the House committee on appropriations.

The DoH is seeking a P33.3 billion budget from Congress for 2009.

Catholics in Pampanga vow to gather 1M signatures vs RH bill

Well, because they heard about the RH advocates' move to gather 1M signatures in support of the RH Bill, they, too, would like to gather the same. Well well well... COPYCATS!

By Tonette Orejas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:19:00 09/09/2008

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines—All 91 parishes under the Archdiocese of San Fernando buckled down to work on Tuesday, in gathering at least a million signatures from Catholics in Pampanga against the proposed Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008.

The signature drive rolled a day after Archbishop Paciano Aniceto launched it during the 52nd canonical coronation anniversary of the Virgen delos Remedios, the patroness of the province.

"Let's fight the culture of death, the anti-life conspiracy. [Let us] oppose the reproductive health bill," Aniceto, 71, told some 30,000 devotees who gathered for a Mass on the open field of the Villa del Sol here.

"We have given out the forms. We will gather at least one million signatures against the RH bill," he told reporters at the close of the event.

Aniceto said the RH bill, which he said promoted the use of modern contraceptives, was part of a global conspiracy against life. The Catholic Church accepts only the natural form of planning in population management and considers abortion a mortal sin. The RH bill does not contain any provision allowing abortion but Catholic bishops fear that the measure would lay the groundwork for the legalization of abortion in the country.

"The conspiracy is not only in the Philippines; it involves the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), affluent nations, NGOs (nongovernment organizations) in America with business interest here whose purpose is to generate profits for their pharmaceutical industry,” Aniceto said in a mix of Filipino and English.

“It is not the health or dignity of the family that is being defended here. It is greed and profit motive that is the main goal of this conspiracy against life," Aniceto said.

For lack of time, he said he did not read the manifestoes from the Family Life Forum chapters in Bicol, Cebu and Mindanao that earlier expressed support for the effort of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines' commission on family and life to have the RH bill rejected in Congress.

The signature campaign in Pampanga will be completed in two months, according to Aniceto, chair of the CBCP commission.

At the event's venue, parish pastoral councils hung about 20 streamers that either condemned the RH bill or asked Catholics to protect the sanctity of lives and families.

"Ito ay isang pagpapahayag ng aming paniniwala bilang miyembro ng Archdiocese of San Fernando na kami'y tutol sa RH bill dahil hindi nito ginagalang ang sagradong origin, kahulugan, valor ng buhay ng pamilya lalo na mga babae at mga anak (We, as members of the Archdiocese of San Fernando, are doing this to show that we oppose the RH bill because this does not respect the sacred origin, meaning and value of life of families, especially of mothers and their children)," Aniceto said.

He said the launch was timed with the anniversary of the coronation of the patroness, she being the mother of life.

"Mama Mary gave life to the light, the way and truth, who is Jesus Christ," he said.
He said he already gave up hopes for dialogues with the author of the bill, Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, adding the latter had issued statements expressing his position to push the measure into law.

"For the Church, there is no compromise for morality and the Ten Commandments. The Fifth Commandment is, 'Thou shall not kill,'" he said.

In July, Aniceto asked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to clarify her position on the RH bill.

Lagman said Arroyo should respect the decision couples would make on which family planning method to use.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Behavior, not condoms, will stem AIDS, says Church

An interesting article on sex, religion and the RH bill was written by the Jester-in-Exile. Personally, one of the few blogs I check out every now and then.

Anyway, to the Catholic Church - Here you go again....

Read on:

Behavior, not condoms, will stem AIDS, says Church

By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:28:00 08/30/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- The Catholic Church wants the health department to stop promoting the use of condoms to prevent the spread of the AIDS-causing HIV virus.

Pangasinan Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ Commission on Family and Life, said promoting the use of condoms was "dangerous and ineffective."

He was reacting to a statement of Health Undersecretary Mario Villaverde, who said last week that condom use is one of the most effective ways of stopping the spread of the AIDS-causing HIV virus.

Also, two senators -- Edgardo Angara and Pia Cayetano -- have called on the government to strengthen laws on AIDS prevention and control, including more seriously educating the public on how to avoid it by using protection, such as condoms.

But Archbishop Aniceto relayed the view of the Church in a statement issued on Saturday: “We are constrained to express grave concern over the press statement attributed to Undersecretary of Health Mario Villaverde that the Department of Health will now promote the nationwide use of condoms, allegedly as a means to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.”

Condom use will not effectively protect one from contracting the virus, the prelate said, adding that the prophylactic was not 100-percent foolproof.

“It is the duty of the DOH never to propose for general public use any prophylactic that could increase the incidence of the disease it is supposed to prevent,” the archbishop said.

“It is, therefore, irresponsible, imprudent, and dangerous for the department to declare that the use of the condom, without any change in unhealthy sexual behavior, will prevent sero-positive cases from transmitting HIV/AIDS to their sero-negative spouses,” he added.

The prelate said Villaverde’s statements coincided with the recent population report of the David and Lucille Packard Foundation and the intense debates on the reproductive health bill in the House of Representatives.

“We are inclined to view this as an underhanded way of subverting our strong moral and constitutional objection to the proposed legislation, and confronting the nation with a fait accompli bereft of any moral or constitutional basis,” Aniceto said.

The prelate said the most effective way to prevent the spread of the virus was to have a change in sexual behavior.

The idea of “safe sex,” he said, lulls men and women into complacency, thinking that using condoms would protect them from the disease.

“We must encourage men and women to live morally upright lives, and to practice marital fidelity and chastity within and outside marriage, instead of telling them that risky sexual behavior is acceptable, provided they wear a condom to protect them and their partners from HIV/AIDS,” he added.

The DoH said the country was still under the low prevalence group but the designation was not a cause for comfort. Last year, the health department said an average of 29 new cases is reported each month, an increase from the 20 cases in the previous years.

From 1984 to 2007, the number of registered cases stood at 3,061, with 2,754 still alive.

But the actual figure could be higher, said the DoH and the World Health Organization. In 2007, the two agencies estimated that there could be 7,490 people living with HIV in the Philippines, up from the 6,000 estimate in 2002.

Worldwide, the Vatican is under fire from health advocates for sticking to its hardline stance against artificial contraception, including condoms, in the face of the tragedy of AIDS.
With a report from Cynthia D. Balana

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Signature Campaign for the passage of the RH Bill

Dear Friends,


The struggle for the passage of the Reproductive Bill (RH) in Congress rages on. The Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN) through our org, the Democratic Socialist Women of the Phils. (DSWP) initiated an online petition that we request you to support by attaching your signature. Please go to this site:

We hope to gather ONE MILLION SIGNATURES to show our legislators that there is a wide support base for the bill's passage despite what the opposition says. We will present the signatures both to the House of Representatives (HOR) and Senate within September as we are waiting for the schedule of plenary deliberations in the HOR and the release of the Senate Committee on Health's report.

Please support the petition. It will not take more than 5 minutes of your time. More than 10 women die daily due to pregnancy and childbirth-related causes. The big bulk of those who die are poor women at the prime of their lives. This is simply unacceptable and must be stopped. Congress has the power to do this.

Kindly forward this mail to all your friends.

Thank you very much.

Beth Angsioco
National Chair, DSWP
Secretary General
Reproductive Health Advocacy Network, RHAN

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Arroyo really pro-artificial birth control, says group

By Desiree Caluza, Tonette Orejas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:27:00 08/16/2008

BAGUIO CITY – Health officials and population experts here said President Macapagal-Arroyo is supporting artificial family planning methods although she is more vocal about the natural family planning method.

Aurora Quiray, Cordillera director of the Commission on Population, said Ms Arroyo has ordered the Department of Health, the commission and local governments to educate families on choices of family planning methods because the government considers population as a development issue.

Quiray said the government’s family planning program wants couples to have a choice in controlling their family.

“The government wants to balance artificial and natural family planning method and how they will be carried in the advocacy. In her State of the Nation Address, the President asserted the natural family planning method, but there is a mandate from her for DOH and Popcom on how the local government units will take charge of artificial family planning methods and contraceptives. The natural family planning method is a supplementation,” she said in a press forum here on Wednesday.

She said they held a region-wide consultation with Cordillera leaders on how to strengthen the program on population and development.

She said the consultation clarified the controversial reproductive health bills pending in Congress.

Quiray said it was also in the consultation that the support for artificial family planning method by the government was discussed.

In Pampanga, couples in Central Luzon appeared to favor more the use of modern than natural forms of family planning.

There has been a decline in the use of oral contraceptive pills from 50.56 percent in 2006 to 46.96 percent in 2007 but pills continued to be the first method of choice, according to data from the DOH’s field health service information system in seven provinces and 12 cities in Central Luzon.

The second most popular method – injectable contraceptive, which is done once every three months – also saw a declining number of users from 19.21 percent in 2006 to 16.62 percent in 2007.

More men went for vasectomy, which sharply rose from 0.05 percent in 2006 to 13 percent last year.

An increasing number of women, from 11.77 percent to 15.03 percent, resorted to tubal ligation.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Agencies defy GMA on family planning

By Efren L. Danao
Senior Reporter
The MANILA Times

Five line agencies of the government expressed support on Monday for the reproductive health bills pending before the Senate, thus openly defying the stand of President Gloria Arroyo on artificial methods of family planning.

During a public hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, the Education, Health and Social Welfare departments and the Higher Education and Population commissions all recognized the “urgent” need for a national policy on reproductive health.

The Senate bills call for state-funded information on artificial and natural methods of family planning and access to services after individuals or couples had decided on what method to adopt. President Arroyo had toed the stand of the Catholic Church that natural methods are the only acceptable ways and that artificial ones promote abortion.

“The bills pending in the Senate move away from the stereotypical idea that women only exist to bear children, therefore giving light to other aspects of women’s health needs like the prevention and management of reproductive-tract infections and other gynecological conditions, elimination of violence against the sector and sexually-related education and counseling, among others,” a position paper of the Social-Welfare department said.

Health Undersecretary Mario Verde said the Health department supports the Senate bills’ calls for responsible parenthood, complete information on reproductive health and freedom of choice on size of family.

Non-government agencies also backed the passage of a law on reproductive health services. Pro-Life Philippines said the issue of reproductive health boils down to the individual right of women to phase their children as they deem appropriate and based on individual circumstances. The group described contraceptives as a health need. It said health is a human right and so the state should provide for it.

Former Sen. Francisco Tatad opposed the bills, saying they are unnecessary and are destructive of public morals and family values.

“Not only are they hedonistic, they are above all eugenicists. They seek to eliminate the poor and the socially unfit while paying lip service to their cause. While they neither mandate a two-child family nor legalize abortion, they prepare the ground for both,” Tatad added. Eugenics is the science that deals with the improvement, as by birth control of human mating, of hereditary qualities of a race or breed.

Sen. Pia Cayetano, the committee chairman, said she is willing to impose stiffer sanctions on abortion just to show that the Senate is against any law that would allow it.

She indicated that her panel would endorse reproductive health services funded by the state and assured pro-life groups that this policy is not a state intervention into bedroom activities.

Cayetano said the Committee on Health would hold one more hearing before preparing a draft committee report.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Wake up call for Filipinos

Manila Times
Sunday, July 27, 2008

By Lisi Owen

I arrived in Manila to intern with EnGendeRights, a women's legal NGO, almost 10 weeks ago. As I'm preparing to return to the US next week, I'd like to offer my thoughts on reproductive health policy in the Philippines. My departure conveniently coincides with the CBCP's recent vow to vehemently oppose the reproductive health bill pending in the House of Representatives as part of its "pro-life" stance on family planning, so this letter is all the more appropriate.

As I've never spent a significant amount of time in a developing country, living in the Philippines has been an enlightening experience for me in many ways. One thing I've learned is that whenever I think to myself, "It can't be that bad," it turns out that it can be that bad, and might be even worse than I can even imagine. That is certainly the case with the reproductive health (RH) policy here.

Before I left the US I Googled "Philippine reproductive health policy," and hits about "natural family planning" (NFP) came up. Since when I hear "natural family planning" I think nineteenth century, and since I've never known anyone who actually thought NFP was a legitimate method of preventing pregnancy, I of course didn't believe that NFP-only was seriously the position of the Philippine government on family planning. And of course I thought to myself, "It couldn't be that bad."

But it is that bad, and yes, even worse than I could have imagined. The Philippines is in the dark ages of reproductive health. "Withdrawal" is not a method of family planning; it is how adolescents who don't know how to use a condom end up dropping out of high school to raise a baby at age 16 and even end up having three to four children by age 20.

I have a staunchly Catholic friend in the US with whom I shared all the recent news articles articulating the CBCP's position and vow to oppose the RH bill, and his response was that Filipino Catholics need to "wake up." Spain, Belgium and other Catholic countries have woken up and changed their laws on contraception, and even abortion, so why is the Philippines still sleeping?

I have seen 30-year-old women being taught how to use a condom. When I tell Filipino friends that I work for a pro-choice NGO, they ask their friends whether they are "pro-contraception." I have seen women begging, pleading for ways to prevent future pregnancies, to end their families' suffering.There is no excuse for this kind of ignorance and primitive mindset about reproductive health, and the misery it imposes on a rapidly growing Filipino population.

In response to the Church's so-called "pro-life" position, I have this to say: Life is more than the possibility of a fertilized egg. Life is children living in pushcarts on the sidewalk, wearing no pants. Life is women whorisk death every time they get pregnant, but continue to do so because their husbands beat them when they refuse sex in the name of "natural family planning." Life is sitting on your front step waiting to die, because you're that miserable, and have nothing else to do.

If the Church is pro-life, then I ask this of the bishops: How do you justify the suffering you cause? This is not a matter of the Church or the government sitting idly by and allowing people to suffer, but an active promotion of misery, and it is wrong.

I recognize the American imperialism that has preceded me in the Philippines, and how that might influence your opinion of my views. But before you dismiss me as another American trying to impose my heathenish, western views on a country that's seen enough outsiders meddling in its business, let me clarify my position: It is one of choice. If you want to practice natural family planning with your partner, that is your prerogative. If you want to capitalize on the benefits of scientific progress to control your own reproductive health, that is your prerogative as well.

It is not, however, the prerogative of the government to impose its own archaic, paternalistic religious views on the suffering people of a nation, (in violation of both the Philippine Constitution and international law, I might add) such that they are stripped of their power of autonomous
decision-making. That, my good Filipino friends, is dictatorship.

[Lisi Owen is a legal intern at EnGendeRights, Inc. and secretary, LawStudents for Reproductive Justice, University of Denver Sturm College ofLaw. Her email address is]

Thursday, July 31, 2008

It’s not over for population bills in House

By Christian V. Esguerra, TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:41:00 07/30/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Now that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has reiterated her preference for natural family planning in her State of the Nation Address (SONA), is it finally over for the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill at the House of Representatives?

No way, the leading proponents of the measure, mostly administration lawmakers, said Tuesday.

“It was not a statement of doom [but] only a statement of her preference,” said Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, principal author of the bill that seeks to provide couples a choice of natural and artificial methods of contraception.

Part of the President’s remarks in her report to the nation on Monday was this: “Informed choice should mean letting more couples, who are mostly Catholics, know about natural family planning.”

She also said natural family planning was a key factor in the low population growth rate.

Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin expressed “respect” for Ms Arroyo’s position but said she would still push for the passage of the bill set to be calendared for second reading by the House committee on rules.

“That was her personal opinion,” Garin said. “But to me, informed choice means you present everything, both artificial and natural methods, and let couples decide.”

Battle in rules panel

Senior Deputy Minority Floor Leader Roilo Golez, who is on the side of those opposed to the measure, including the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said its fate depended on Speaker Prospero Nograles and Majority Leader Arthur Defensor.

“The battle will be in the rules committee, which decides when a bill is calendared for plenary debate,” Golez said.

In a press conference Tuesday, Nograles invited congressmen to submit in writing their proposed amendments to the RH bill.

“It will not be as bloody as you think,” he told reporters, referring to deliberations on the measure. “We will collate all [the proposed amendments] and try to find out what we can accept and cannot accept … We will get a consensus.”

An issue that does not sit well with the opposing camp is the use of taxpayers’ money to purchase contraceptives such as pills, injectibles and intrauterine devices.

Lagman said this had to be so because the measure was aimed at providing not only “information” on but also “access” to all family planning methods.

“Once couples have information and decide on using artificial methods, access should be available,” he said.

Categorical stance urged

Despite Ms Arroyo’s plug for natural family planning in her SONA, CBCP officials were less than enthused.

“[Her] statement heavily favors the Church’s program on natural family planning, which is a very good start. But a more categorical [stance] is expected by the bishops—for her not to promote the [RH] bill which, [as] a whole, is a failure in rich and developed countries,” said Archbishop Paciano Aniceto of San Fernando, Pampanga, who chairs the CBCP’s Commission on Family and Life.

“It seemed she was more focused on accomplishments and projects for the improvement of the economy,” the archbishop said, adding:

“She said that by promoting natural planning and female education, the population has been curbed during her administration. This is the same conclusion of the New York Council on Planned Parenthood.”

According to Aniceto, the President should reject an RH program that promotes the use of artificial contraception because such a program has “wreaked havoc on the morality of families and youth in the West.”

Reiterating the CBCP stand, Aniceto urged the Arroyo administration to “translate population into human capital by providing more funds for programs on education, infrastructure and subsidy to farmers in all aspects of their agricultural needs.”

He also called for more support for poor overseas Filipino workers who, he said, “are the ones actually supporting the economy, not the rich.”

“In other words, her government must start an alternative development program that is in consonance with the dignity and moral values of the Filipino,” he said.

‘Good for her’

Archbishop Jesus Dosado of Ozamiz City reacted to Ms Arroyo’s statement of support for natural family planning with a tepid “Good for her.”

“What she should do should be according to the natural law,” Dosado said.

Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa City said Ms Arroyo should show her sincerity by explicitly opposing the Philippine Legislators Council for Population and Development, the umbrella group of lawmakers and private organizations lobbying for a national RH policy.

“Reproductive health bills really mean abortion,” Arguelles told the Church-run Radio Veritas.

Dosado, who had stirred controversy with a pastoral letter saying “pro-abortion” politicians would be denied holy communion, said those backing the RH bill in the House could suffer the same fate.

“I extend it to people legislatively for reproductive health,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on the phone.

“The bill hides many things. It doesn’t mandate abortion but there are things that are hidden in it that would lead eventually to abortion,” he said.

Dosado expressed concern over such provisions as mandatory sex education, widespread distribution of contraceptives, and the classification of contraceptives as essential medicines.

These and other provisions cloak the bill’s “anti-life” intentions, Dosado said.

“We have to be unambiguous with our wording. That is what we object [to in] the bill,” he said.

Not gov’t policy

In another phone interview, former Health Secretary Alberto Romualdez said Ms Arroyo’s pitch for natural family planning should not dissuade lawmakers from seeing the RH bill through.

“It’s a personal commitment that she’s not imposing on the rest of the government,” Romualdez said, adding that proof of this was Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral’s declaration that she was holding to her stand that couples should be given a choice between natural and artificial contraception.

Said Cabral over dzMM: “Whatever was my personal opinion before the SONA, that remains until today.”

But she said she would continue to promote government programs on responsible parenthood pending the approval of RH legislation by the House and the Senate.

“The existing directives like promoting responsible parenthood and promoting natural family planning, we will follow. What we just want is that apart from the natural family planning, we should have promotion and information on other methods,” Cabral said.

These are “not mutually exclusive,” she said.

Romualdez said that in his opinion, “it’s OK for the President to hold an extreme belief as long as she does not impose it on others.”

He said lawmakers should view Ms Arroyo’s reiteration of her position as a message: “She knows there’s a need to manage the population. So lawmakers should look at the bill as a population management method that we need to pass. Rather than be discouraged, they should be encouraged [to pass it].”

Romualdez held the health portfolio during the abbreviated term of President Joseph Estrada. He drew up a program to curb population, including distribution of contraceptives to the poor, but it had no chance to take off with Estrada’s unseating in January 2001. With reports from Tonette Orejas in Pampanga; Kristine L. Alave in Manila

Couples in need of birth control information

By Yolanda Sotelo-Fuertes
Northern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 23:23:00 07/29/2008

MANGALDAN, Pangasinan, Philippines—Ricky Palaganas, 21, and his girlfriend, Renelyn Bateng-as, 20, have a seven-month old child and are about to get married.

Palaganas, a family driver, said they decided not to have another baby soon because of his small income but had no idea how to space their children.

Palaganas and Bateng-as are among the 16 percent of married couples in Pangasinan classified as having an "unmet need" for family planning.

"Unmet need" refers to a situation when spouses have reached the desired number of children and do not want to have more children or want to space their children but have no access to any method of family planning.

"We welcome the debates on the proposed reproductive health bill as cases like this and the couples' need to plan their families are surfacing," said provincial population officer Luz Muego.

While the Catholic Church rejected the bill, Muego said Church officials might not be aware that many local governments have been using part of their funds to buy contraceptives for their poor constituents.

She said that since 2005, local governments have been implementing the population program without support from the national government and without a clear policy to enforce it.

In July 2005, the Department of Health issued Administrative Order 158 asking local governments to provide family planning services and guaranteeing the availability of contraceptives in their areas.

The order was issued because the United States Agency for International Development stopped the supply of free family planning commodities, Muego said.

She said some local governments have been reluctant to implement the order because of shortage of funds.

But with the passage of the RH bill, she said the national government would have to finance the population program in the country.

Muego said she did not believe that the bill would open the floodgates to contraceptive use as feared by the Catholic Church.

But she said that "the poor will be more marginalized if the government will not provide them free contraceptives."

She said under the proposed bill, contraceptives would be considered under the category of "essential medicines and supplies," that would be included in the regular purchase of national and local hospitals and government health units.

Vicky Sotto, Mangaldan town population officer, said couples should space or limit the number of their children as multiple births put the health of women at risk.

She said couples undergoing marriage counseling in the town wanted to plan their families due to poverty.

"But I tell them that they should consider the woman's health. Every pregnancy and birth affects the woman's health and it could take two to three years for her to recover under normal conditions. How much more if the couple is poor and the woman has no access to proper nutrition?" she said.

Mangaldan has an ordinance allowing the town government to buy family planning commodities that are given free to indigent couples or sold to those who can afford them.

Ifugao drafts guidelines for reproductive health code

By Desiree Caluza
Northern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 19:35:00 07/30/2008

BANAUE, Ifugao, Philippines—The home of the famed rice terraces has become the second province to carry out a reproductive health code that would give people a wider choice on family planning methods.

At a meeting of Cordillera's regional peace and order council here last week, Ifugao Governor Teodoro Baguilat said the province was finalizing the rules and regulations to adopt the code.

Aurora is the first province to have a local reproductive health code.

Joyce Niwane, provincial social welfare officer, said Ifugao would promote artificial and natural family planning methods to support the code.

"We believe that the people's choice here is artificial family planning method so that is what we give them," she said.

With close to 181,500 residents, Ifugao ranks among the Cordillera provinces with the highest population records.

Apart from easing population here, Niwane said they want to lessen the cases of violence against women and children by enforcing the code.

"The implementing guidelines will cover concerns on economic and human rights, violence against women and children, development issues, labor issues, prostitution and even entertainment," she said.

She expressed alarm over the rising cases of adoption in the province. "Adoption is not bad, but why are we giving away our children?" she asked.

During the meeting, the council, made up of officials from government agencies in Cordillera, approved a resolution supporting a conference on women and children that will be held in Baguio City in November.

Aurora Quiray, regional director of the Commission on Population, said the conference aims to improve peace and order in the Cordillera by curbing crimes committed against women and children.

"Peace and order continue to be a main concern not only of the police but of the Cordillera as a whole. In most instances of conflicts, women and children are the ones greatly affected," she said.
Describing women and children as "most vulnerable," Quiray said several laws have been enacted to protect them.

But, she said, there is still a low level of awareness of the rights and responsibilities of women and children and the laws to protect them.

Baguilat said the conference is expected to identify ways to deal with issues involving violence against women, including rape.

"The reason we have low statistics on rape is that these cases are settled through ‘areglo’ (out-of-court settlement) as dictated by some cultural practices," he said.

Niwane said Ifugao has one of the highest number of cases of abuse against women and children because residents are coming out openly.

GMA proudly imposes misery to Filipinos in 2008 SONA

Benjamin de Leon, President

The Forum for Family Planning and Development, Inc.,
former Executive Director of the Commission on Population and
former Presidential Assistant for Social Development,(UnderSecretary)
Office of Former President Fidel V. Ramos

GMA proudly imposes misery to Filipinos in 2008 SONA

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address is full of contradictions to say the least and an insult to the millions of poor and suffering Filipinos that she has repeatedly referred to in her speech. I find quite touching that President Arroyo said that she “spends time every day with the underprivileged and under represented who cannot get a grip on their lives in the daily, all-consuming struggle to make ends meet.” She said that she worries for the mothers who bear the burden of the families or the fathers who are out of work, the OFWs who are away from their families and the young graduates who want to find work.

President Arroyo talked about global problems that have an impact in the country today and in countries around the world. Despite the long lines of Filipinos queuing to buy a few kilo of cheaper rice, she said that “rice production since 2000 increased an average of 4.07% a year, twice the population growth rate.” And with this note, she spoke irresponsibly and inaccurately that the promotion of natural family planning and female education, have curbed population growth to 2.04% during her administration as against when artificial birth control was pushed. This is falsehood and no different from the lies and misleading statements that many religious and Catholic groups have continued to spread.

The President said that their “campaign spreads awareness of responsible parenthood regarding birth spacing.” And her concept of birth spacing in her own words is that “informed choice should mean letting more couples, who are mostly Catholics, know about natural family planning.”

I don’t know whether to laugh or to rally in the streets with this kind of statement and analogy. I am ashamed that the very government agency that should actively promote all methods of contraception in accordance with its mandate is now only advocating natural family planning. This is most unfair and even cruel as it deprives couples who want to use other methods of family planning. It is ironic that I served the same office as Executive Director many years ago. I am referring to the Commission on Population. Mrs. Arroyo also said towards the end of her speech that “where government can contribute nothing useful, stay away.” Therefore I say to POPCOM, please stay away from people unless you have the courage to really put their needs before your own. I strongly advise that you go back to the very mission and objectives of the Commission on Population; otherwise the population community and the very people you have committed to serve will surely lose their TRUST in you.

The true voices of the Filipinos are reflected in these scientific, accurate and truthful studies and surveys conducted by distinguished scientists, sociologists, demographers of our country whose credibility can not be questioned. Their work was done in pursuit of the truth and not to manipulate and create propaganda.

The Pulse Asia Survey shows that:

* 9 out of 10 Filipinos or 92 percent of the population consider family planning important
* 89 percent of Filipinos think that government should provide budgetary support for modern methods of family planning including modern contraceptives.

The National Statistics Office Family Planning Survey shows that:

* From 1996 to 2005, use of natural family planning methods have gone done from 1.0 to .04 percent while modern contraceptive use continue to rise from 18.5 to 26.2 during the same period.

The National Statistical Coordination Board last March 5, 2008 released a study which showed that “poverty has worsened in 2003-2006 from 30 percent to 33 percent. Defined in terms of families living in poverty, this percentage translates to 4.7 million families or some 27.6 million Filipinos, a 3.8 million increase from 2003.

Another dimension of poverty is the incidence of involuntary hunger. According to the Social Weather Station (SWS) Long term trends of self-reported involuntary hunger indicates an increasing prevalence of hunger among households from less than 10 per cent in July 1998 to 19 per cent in February 2007. What is disturbing is that according to this study, there are about 612,000 households or more than 3 million severely hungry Filipinos.

And so I ask our President to intelligently look at the realities before her and be the kind of leader that we expect her to be. You are the President of all faiths and not just of Catholics. Make intelligent decisions based on evidence and don’t derail the truth to suit or please the Catholic hierarchy. They are not the majority and they certainly can’t speak for the millions of Filipinos suffering daily. These priests have no business deciding for the lives of our women and young people.

In closing I say that we will support the Reproductive Health Bill and we will continue to fight for the rights of women and men to have access to accurate and safe family planning