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Sunday, March 30, 2008

2008 US Presidential Candidates on ABORTION

One of the main issues asked to US Presidential Candidates for 2008 is ABORTION. Needless to state, this has always been associated with RH advocacy, which is actually false, unfair, and misleading. For one, as an RH advocate, I personally do not subscribe to such. But then again, I am all for informed choices and respect for the rights of women and couples to exercise such right, as guaranteed by the Constitution. Corollary to that, ARH (adolescent reproductive health) Education is aimed at reducing unwanted pregnancies among teenagers, thereby also reducing cases of abortion in these age group.

Having said that, it bears stressing then that access to RH care and services in this country is greatly influenced by the relationship existing between the US and the Philippines. The latter, as earlier pointed out by Carol in the previous post, being a long time recipient of USAID funding on matters of population and health. And although the success of RH/PopDev advocacy in the country greatly depends on the strengths and capacity of the advocates to deal with the challenges that goes with it, it cannot be denied that to some extent, the results of the 2008 US Presidential Elections in the "super power of the world", will affect the same.

Here's a peek of what the candidates have to say:

Barack Obama: Democratic Senator from Illinois

Supports Roe v. Wade;

criticized Supreme Court decision that upheld ban

on partial-birth abortions.

Hillary Clinton: Democratic Senator from New York

Supports Roe v. Wade;

opposes ban on partial-birth abortions;

judges should protect women's rights.

John McCain: Republican Senator from Arizona

Wants to overturn Roe v. Wade, but has been supportive in the past;

supported Supreme Court decision that upheld ban on partial-birth abortions;

"strict constructionist judges."

What is Roe vs. Wade?

Argued December 13, 1971; Reargued October 11, 1972; Decided January 22, 1973

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) is a United States Supreme Court case that resulted in a landmark decision regarding abortion. According to the Roe decision, most laws against abortion in the United States violated a constitutional right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision overturned all state and federal laws outlawing or restricting abortion that were inconsistent with its holdings. Roe v. Wade is one of the most controversial and politically significant cases in U.S. Supreme Court history. Its lesser-known companion case, Doe v. Bolton, was decided at the same time.

The central holding of Roe v. Wade was that abortions are permissible for any reason a woman chooses, up until the "point at which the fetus becomes ‘viable,’ that is, potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid. Viability is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks. The Court also held that abortion after viability must be available when needed to protect a woman's health, which the Court defined broadly in the companion case of Doe v. Bolton. These court rulings affected laws in 46 states.

The Roe v. Wade decision prompted national debate that continues to this day. Debated subjects include:

a.) whether and to what extent abortion should be illegal;

b.) who should decide whether or not abortion is illegal;

c.)what methods the Supreme Court should use in constitutional adjudication,


d.) what the role should be of religious and moral views in the political sphere.

Roe v. Wade reshaped national politics, dividing much of the nation into pro-Roe (mostly pro-choice) and anti-Roe (mostly pro-life) camps, and inspiring grassroots activism on both sides.

Click here to read more about what the candidates have to say on this issue.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Global Gag Rule Sensationalizes Abortion

This has been posted by Carol last February 4, 2008 in the RH Reality Check website but found about it just now so I am posting it here.

Read on...

Global Gag Rule Sensationalizes Abortion
By Carolina Austria
Created Feb 4 2008 - 8:50am

This is the final installment of the Reproductive Health 1 2007 Roundup on the Philippines. This time we turn to the "ideological battles" that were (and continue to be) waged through words and popular media, especially in the context of the struggle to "legitimize" RH claims in law and policy. While similar contests are also taking place on the international level, given that US Politics has long played a major role on the character of US foreign policy on sexual and reproductive rights 2, of close interest to the Philippines is the prospect of US Elections in 2008.

A War of Wor(l)ds: The Politics of Reproductive Health

"The theoretical links between reproductive health, gender and sexuality constitute a complex and unstable fabric." Sonia Correa (2005)

Sexual and reproductive rights activist Sonia Correa notes that historically, "reproductive health" emerged as an "umbrella" term after the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo and the 1995 World Conference of Women in Beijing, within which "radical" notions of reproductive rights and sexual health, as well as issues related to sexual rights, were initially subsumed.

However, the legitimization of the term "reproductive health" eventually led to its use in ways that responded to the needs of different interest groups and actors, which no longer necessarily incorporated the frameworks of gender equality and socially transformative agendas.

The Media's Discussion of Reproductive Health

In 2007 in the Philippines, much of the popular debate around reproductive health in the country was still happening on the basic level of legitimation and recognition. Popular media was engaged on all sides of the discussion but media was rarely a source of enlightenment.

Even as a handful of local reporters and columnists in major newspapers like Rina Jimenez David 3, Michael Tan 4, and Dr. Alberto Romualdez 5 were leading the discussion of "reproductive health" as rights, many in media continued to frame the debate simplistically as a case of "Catholic Church versus the Population Control forces."

Reporters continued to label "RH advocates" as population control forces and align the RH bill with population control policy 6, harking back to the days of the Marcos dictatorship when policy around population was backed by a demographic imperative in the Constitution. In turn, it had the tendency to portray the Catholic hierarchy's position as an opposition to a supposed push for draconian State policy.

In truth, neither population control nor the Catholic hierarchy's conservative anti-reproductive health positions respected the right of persons to decide on their reproductive well being. Likewise, the 1987 Constitution as well as subsequent commitments made by the Philippines to the ICPD and the Beijing Platform demonstrated a clear departure from a population control framework. Unfortunately, many in media still missed out on this distinction and save for the better informed journalists, and the popular discussion of the issue continued to be framed along these terms.

RH advocates fought back, of course, with a measure of success in not only updating allies within media on the rights-based character of claims for reproductive health services, but also in addressing the most difficult but pressing issues like clandestine abortions. Reproductive Health Networks like PhilMADE and Media Advocates for Reproductive Health (MAHRE), have made headway in many areas, especially among local media networks.

In a previous blog I noted how MAHRE and Likhaan, a local women's NGO advocating for sexual and reproductive rights, recently turned things around by zooming in on the rising trend of abortions in the Visayas region 8 in the Philippines. MAHRE and Likhaan even got sympathetic write-ups 9 in two editorial/opinion pieces (see another here 10) in local media, demonstrating the way forward to compassionate and sensible discussions on what was always perceived as a divisive issue.

Meanwhile, dominant media continued to rely on "abortion clinic raids" as sensational news staples 11. Unlike their local counterparts in media which were already beginning to take a more sober and informed approach to tackling the issue of abortion, popular, self-styled "crusading" journalists on TV reported on abortion clinic crackdowns without delving into the complexities of the issue or even bothering to ask why despite the more than hundred year old prohibition, studies continue to peg abortions in the Philippines at 473,000 cases annually.

Continue reading here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sulu passes its own RH CODE

Sulu marks today the launching of its Provincial Ordinance Number 01-2008, otherwise known as “An Ordinance Providing for the Sulu Reproductive Health Code of 2008.”

Ms. Florence Tayzon, UNFPA Assistant Country Representative, who was its guest of honor said “we are happy that finally Sulu had embraced Reproductive Health and the RH code is the living testimony to this.”

The gathering celebrates the first provincial RH ordinance to be passed not only in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), but also in the entire Mindanao region said Tayson.

While there are already a good number of municipal and city governments in Mindanao that have successfully passed RH ordinances, it remains a challenge among provincial governments.

“It is UNFPA’s hope that more provincial governments in Mindanao will follow the example of Sulu Province ,” Tayson said.

UNFPA has three major projects in the country Reproductive Health, Population Development Strategies and Gender which all the programs were embodied in the Sulu RH Code.

The UN project is currently working in on ten (10) provinces in the country, namely; Ifugao, Mountain Province , Bohol, Eastern Samar, Masbate , Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Lanao Sur, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

This is UNFPA’s first visit to Sulu since the program has started in 2005, but because Sulu has always been tainted with conflict, UN security assessment prevented UN workers to visit Sulu.

Ms Tayson said “that our coming here today is an indication that peace is changing and improving”.

Sulu Vice Gov Nurana Sahidulla said “the ordinance aimed at addressing the various reproductive health concerns of the province of Sulu, including but not limited to, high population growth rate (3.15%), high maternal deaths (102 deaths recorded in 2006 due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth), high infant mortality rate (64 infants below 12 months died out of 11,824 live births), high unmeet need for family planning, unavailability of FP commodities, rising STI cases, and rising violence against women and children (VAWC) cases (89 reported cases in 2006).

The briefing made by Vice Gov Sahidulla to the UN representative aim to make clear the certain need for improved access to contraceptives and other reproductive health supplies in order to help break the cycle of poverty and early deaths of mothers and children.

Services to be offered included in the Code are, adolescent reproductive health (51% of Sulu population are 19 years old and below), PAP Smear for women, digital rectum examination for men, RH Counseling Service, STI and HIV/AIDS screening, women and children protection unit in the Provincial Hospital, family planning programs, comprehensive communication plan for intensified information drive, and establishment of birthing homes and basic emergency maternity and obstetric care health facilities.

Funds for these services shall be earmarked annually from the Provincial GAD Fund (5% of the total GAD fund).

Sulu is one of the ten poorest provinces in the country. In 2000, more than two-thirds of its population is below the poverty threshold (67.7%). Aside from chronic poverty, the province is also wracked by violent conflicts, more recent of which were the series of kidnappings and hostage-taking activities by the Abu Sayaf group. It has been the hotbed of the secessionist movements since the 1970s.

The effect of armed conflict in the province manifests in its mortality pattern. The top 10 causes of mortality in Sulu include legal intervention by firearms, hypertension, diarrhea disease, pneumonia, myocardial infarction, pulmonary tuberculosis, malnutrition, accidents/injury, cancer, and malaria.

IPHO Chief Dra. Farah Tan Omar said Legal intervention by firearms is the top cause of mortality in males while hypertension is the leading cause of mortality in females. On the other hand, the top 10 causes of morbidity include upper respiratory tract infection, skin disease (infection), diarrheal disease, malaria, influenza, pneumonia, parasitism, hypertensive disease, bronchitis/bronchiolitis, and mucus-related disease.

‘Sisters Plus’ aids Angeles sex workers

By Tonette Orejas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:09:00 03/25/2008

ANGELES CITY – Apple strode in, wearing a blouse printed with Disney cartoon characters. Angel came like she was ready for a volleyball match, while Naomi looked every bit a fashion model bound for the ramp.

Pusit kami,” Apple said casually before plopping into a chair. Rushing to clear the confusion, she added: “I mean we’re not squids or octopuses.” As it turned out, “pusit” is their abridged term for “positive.” They laughed at their naming game.

“We’re HIV positive,” Apple said, crossing her forefingers in a plus sign. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system and causes AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).

Silence lingered. This was their first time to talk to a reporter. They laughed at the thought.

“Are our lives worth a story?” Angel asked.

What they are doing are worth telling.

Apple, 34, Angel, 21, and Naomi, 30, are the first HIV-positive people in Angeles City who have formed themselves into a group. Many others before them – 73 since 1985 – dealt with the ailment alone or with their families, a few close friends or with some doctors at the defunct Social Hygiene Clinic in the city.

Coming out

Sisters Plus,” the name these three women gave themselves in their coming-out event in a recent AIDS Summit in Angeles, signaled what may be the start of organized actions on the part of HIV-positive persons in the city. Although HIV has scarred their lives and may sooner or later develop into AIDS, they continue trying to find purpose in their lives.

They had stopped selling sexual services when tests confirmed them to be HIV-positive – Apple in 1994, Angel in 2006 and Naomi in 2007. But they chose to work right on Fields Avenue and Friendship Road, serving also Area, the poor man’s prostitution den, to be near those still active in the flesh trade and help them protect themselves from HIV.

In their reinvented lives, Apple, Angel and Naomi are counselors and peer educators to the commercial sex workers.

For Apple, this is an entirely new approach to the city’s battle against HIV/AIDS. “In late 2005, I asked Dr. (Teresita) Esguerra (former chief of the Reproductive Health and Wellness Center) to tap me as a peer educator and counselor because HIV/AIDS was about us. We came from the flesh industry. We know the life of a sex worker,” Apple said.

She recruited Angel and Naomi after the two were diagnosed to be “pusit.” Their hub has been the RHWC where, daily, between 480 and 600 clients come for the routine weekly smear checkup, RHWC chief, Dr. Lucielle Ayuyao, said. “They come confiding what they notice with their discharge or bodies,” Naomi said of her less than a year work at the RHWC.

Angel has been two years on the job. Spunky and patient, she helps doctors locate women whose tests showed them to be positive for HIV or sexually transmitted diseases. “Walang katapusang usap (We would have endless conversations),” she said of her encounters with problematic women.

Apple leads the training team that gives seminars on HIV/AIDS. While a janitress at the RHWC, she learned by observing doctors during lectures. In between cleaning duties, she talked to women who looked troubled. Wanting to do more, she took a counseling course with the Pinoy Plus, the first organization of people with HIV/AIDS.


Esguerra’s trust in her steeled her determination to excel in her work. “I hadn’t answered all the questions during the first seminar I gave and I admitted I didn’t know all. But I tried to improve myself because I knew the lives of other women were at stake,” Apple said.

In idle time during the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job, they help in clerical work, Ayuyao said.

Apple said this bouncing back and helping out began with Mercy, an HIV-positive woman. “Mercy chose not to run away or work again in the bars. She worked here (RHWC) as a janitress then became a counselor. It was through her that I got here. But even as she helped other women, she fought with depression. She died of depression, not from AIDS complications. I took care of her until her death [in 2005]. We cremated her,” Apple said.

“She’s an angel of courage,” she said of her friend who inspired her to continue working with other HIV-positive persons.

Apple, Angel and Naomi said they went into peer education and counseling only after they had accepted their situation. Each went through a difficult process of admission, battling with discrimination within their families, seeking cure, changing lifestyles and, best of all, seizing the courage while rattled by an incurable ailment that they would have to confront all their lives.

They migrated to Angeles from Quezon, Negros Occidental and Surigao del Sur. They finished elementary or high school. All entered the flesh trade in their teens to support their younger relatives or their own children, working in bars that catered to foreigners.

Tough work

Tough is their newfound work. So it is for the RHWC, Angeles City AIDS Council, nongovernment organizations and the city government.

The industry’s character is one problem. As a “rest and recreation industry,” it catered mainly to the US military at the nearby Clark Air Base until 1991. Since then, the red light district has lived on both the US military soldiers that come for some 30 or so war exercises yearly, and sex tourism, according to Susan Pineda, executive director of the Ing Makababaying Aksyon (Pro-Women Action).

For another, the figures are unsettling. The city has 180 “R & R establishments” as of March 2007, or more than double the 78 “entertainment establishments” that the defunct Social Hygiene Clinic recorded to be the highest in June 1996.

Citing estimates by insiders, Pineda pegged the number of registered sex workers at 12,000. The unregistered ones are more or less that same number.

Ayuyao said that between 6,000 and 7,000 had renewed health licenses as of March to work in entertainment establishments. The number will climb in the next few months, she said.

Monthly consolidated reports by the RHWC showed that 38,312 women and 302 men made “initial visits” to the center in 2007 for tests to show proof of clean health. The RHWC administered 120,402 smear tests, but the figure did not indicate the number of women who repeated the test.

‘Most at risk’

The RHWC’s “most at risk population” can, in itself, be considered a large group. The number of registered female sex workers starts from a low of 3,509 to a high of 3,738. Men having sex with men number from 957 to 2,871. The clients of female sex workers reach a low of 1,630 to a high of 5,706.

HIV-positive cases have been on the rise. Twenty-three cases were recorded from 1985 to 1993 (the years when the US Naval Medical Research Unit II funded the HIV surveillance program in Angeles); 53 more cases were recorded from 1994 to 2007.

Two more cases were recorded in the first three months of 2008, bringing the total to 78.

STD cases rose five times. The RHWC treated 1,421 cases in 2005, 2,516 cases in 2006 and 6,229 cases in 2007. Most of the afflicted were women; there were only 69 men among the recorded cases.

Conditions encourage women to sell their bodies.

Inquirer sources say the bar fine system, or the sale of sexual services through the bars, is still in practice. From the current rate of P1,350, women get P650 while the mama san (pimp) gets P50 as commission. The rest goes to the bar owner.

Women are drawn to the bar fine system at one point or another. Wages are below the government-set minimum wage of P240 to P260. A dancer is paid P130 nightly and a waitress, P80.

In the recent AIDS summit, regulators dealt with two concerns: How to increase the competency of health providers and regulators to prevent the epidemic rise of HIV/AIDS “which may lead to the downfall of the tourism industry and the economy of the city.”

Angeles Mayor Francis Nepomuceno has acknowledged the problem.

“We admit having HIV cases and that prostitution may be flourishing. We’re taking decisive actions to protect the people in the red light districts, especially the minors,” he said.

Dr. Cheryl Tuazon, the city health officer, said the city government has allotted P3.9 million, or 10 percent of the gender and development fund this year, for “strengthening the delivery of health care services of the RHWC.” At least 30 percent of that is appropriated for medicines, she said.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

R We Ready for the RH Law?

By Clara Rita A. Padilla
Philippine Daily Inquirer - Sunday Magazine
First Posted 03:28:00 03/23/2008

Six more reasons why Filipino women need a Comprehensive Reproductive Health Law

1. To prevent maternal deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth

About half of all pregnancies in the Philippines (approximately 1.43 million a year)[1] are unintended. The Health Department has noted that Filipino women on average have one child more than they want. According to the UNFPA State of the World Population 2007 report on the Philippines, at least 200 Filipino mothers die for every 100,000 live births, compared to only 17 deaths in the US, six in Canada, four in Spain, five in Italy, 41 in Malaysia, 30 in Singapore, and 44 in Thailand. These preventable deaths could have been avoided if more Filipino women have had access to reproductive health information and health care.

2. To help couples choose freely and responsibly when to have children

Knowing which medically safe and effective methods of contraception to use will help couples determine freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children. This in turn should ensure that all children are wanted and loved and will be properly provided for by their parents.

3. To prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce abortion rates

Increased access to, and adequate information on, contraceptive methods—both natural and modern—will reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, eliminate the need for abortion and prevent maternal deaths.

4. To give rape victims a better chance to heal from their ordeal

Giving rape victims access to emergency contraception (EC) like levonorgestrel can help them prevent unwanted pregnancies. So far, the Arroyo administration has deliberately failed to act upon a request to register levonorgestrel since it was made in December 2006. The denial of access to EC has no basis in medical science. The World Health Organization defines EC as a method of preventing pregnancy. It does not interrupt pregnancy, and is therefore not considered a method of abortion, according to this respected health institution.

5. To prevent early pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases especially among adolescents

The Comprehensive Reproductive Health Care Law recommends that the government provide sex education targeted at girls and boys, with special attention to the prevention of early pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. According to our obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which the Philippines ratified more than 25 years ago, “adolescent pregnancies present a significant obstacle to girls’ (when it comes to) educational opportunities and economic empowerment.”[2]

6. To free women’s bodies from being held hostage by politics

For the longest time, foreign donors have provided for the contraceptive needs of Filipino women, until the phase-down of condoms in March 2003, pills in 2007, injectables in 2008, and IUDs on a later date, with projections that stocks will run out six months after the last shipment. It is now up to the government to take up the slack. But rather than antagonize the Catholic Church, our politicians toe its line of prescribing only natural family planning methods, no matter how inadequate, unsuitable or ineffective they are to most women.

The administration’s policy of refusing to give women access to contraceptive methods that suit them has seeped down to local politics and ordinances, as in Exec. Order No. 003 Series of 2000, which has the city of Manila refusing to dispense modern contraceptives in government clinics.

Such policies reflect religious fundamentalism in our laws, where the beliefs of the majority are imposed on others. But shouldn’t government respect plurality in our society and respect the rights of its citizens, no matter what their faith? Why are politicians allowed to sacrifice women’s health to forward their careers? The passage of a Comprehensive Reproductive Health Care Law in the 14th Congress should address these anomalies. Hopefully, our senators and representatives will do their part to help change women’s lives. Or you can write them and make it happen.

[1] Singh S et al., Unintended Pregnancy and Induced Abortion in the Philippines: Causes and Consequences, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2006.

[2] August 25, 2006 Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Concluding Comments on the Philippines

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

QC dad pushes for P25M women’s welfare support fund

By Jeannette Andrade
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:28:00 03/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines – A Quezon City councilor has asked the city government to put up a P25 million support fund for its women residents who are victims of domestic violence.

In her proposed ordinance, Councilor Janet Malaya pointed out that the establishment of a “women’s welfare support fund” would be consistent with the city government’s policy to promote and protect the dignity of women and guarantee full respect for human rights.

Malaya defined “violence against women” as acts committed by a woman’s partner which could likely result in “physical, sexual, psychological harm or suffering or economic abuse, including threats of such acts, battery, assault, coercion, harassment or arbitrary deprivation of liberty.”

She likened the establishment of the fund to financial aid or assistance, which the city government provides to displaced families in times of calamity or demolition operations. She said it would be a form of maximizing the city’s humanitarian services for its constituents.

Under the proposed ordinance, the Quezon City Social Services Development Department is tasked to formulate its implementing rules.

Once the ordinance is passed into law, the funds will be sourced from the city treasury. Subsequent allocations would then be included in the city government’s annual budget.

Home study for Baguio’s pregnant teeners

Below is an article about curative measures undertaken in Baguio re: concerns on teenage pregnancies. This is truly commendable. However, I must stress that advocacy for preventive measures such as Adolescent Reproductive Health Education should be strengthened so that it will be included in every High School Curricula, just like in Quezon City, thus avoiding unwanted pregnancies among teenagers.

Home study for Baguio’s pregnant teeners
Desiree Caluza
Northern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 06:08:00 03/11/2008

BAGUIO CITY—Pregnant teenagers can still finish high school under a home study program offered by a public school here.

The Baguio City National High School (BCNHS), one of the best performing public high schools in the Cordillera Administrative Region, has been conducting the program since 2003 when it was chosen by the Department of Education as pilot school, said its medical officer, Dr. Jocelyn de Jesus.

De Jesus, however, clarified that the school did not condone teenage pregnancy through the program. “What we are concerned about is the health and welfare of the pregnant student. It should not even be an issue of morality. We do not care anymore what others say.”

The official spoke in a press forum on the celebration of Women’s Month on Wednesday.

Students who get pregnant at an early age should not be condemned but should be educated on the risks of early pregnancy, De Jesus said. She said the BCNHS had intensified the education on reproductive health and sex as part of the school curriculum.

“Sometimes, we ask ourselves if we are at fault. After some serious evaluation, we think that we do not fall short of educating our children,” she said.

Last year, the BCNHS reported nine cases of teenage pregnancy. The youngest mother, who was 13, was a product of arranged marriage, De Jesus said. “This was a case of culture, so all we could do was support her.”

She said pregnant students should be prevented from dropping out of school by providing the home study program. Sometimes, they get discriminated against but have the moral support of peers and teachers, she said.

Under the program, a student could file for maternity leave for a week to one month to rest before or after her delivery. She still gets to study at home when a teacher sends her the module to cope with the lessons taken up in class.

The school also provides counseling to the students.

Compared to private schools, public high schools have been more accommodating to teenage pregnant students, according to De Jesus.

Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda, chair of the city council’s committee on women and children, said some private schools would expel pregnant high school students because of issues on morality. “Some private Catholic schools expel pregnant students for violating school regulations. But these schools now are re-examining this policy because views on pregnant women are changing already,” she said.

QC ordinance promotes Adolescent Health Education

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:27:00 03/11/2008

I AM writing to clarify some matters regarding the approved ordinance in Quezon City promoting a comprehensive population policy and reproductive health management. ("Reproductive health policy for QC not pro-abortion," Inquirer, 2/19/08)

The ordinance has amended the provision on the teaching of sex education. Its Sec. 7 takes into consideration the formation of the youth's positive moral and spiritual attitudes and beliefs with respect to sex, sexual identity, interpersonal relationships, affection, intimacy and gender roles.

This holistic approach has resulted in what is now called Adolescent Health Education which will be included in the public school curriculum. Adolescent Health Education will be taught in age-appropriate manner by adequately trained teachers, from first-year to fourth-year high school, under the competent supervision of the Division of City Schools. Private educational institutions, on their own initiative, may also include Adolescent Health Education in their respective curricula.

Adolescent Health Education covers topics such as reproductive health care and services; responsible parenthood; the attitudes, beliefs and values on sexual development, sexual behavior and sexual health in the context of positive and holistic moral and spiritual development; and the prevention, treatment and management of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.--JOSEPH "SEP" JUICO, city councilor, District 1, Quezon City

Speedy approval of IRRs for gender code pushed

By Jeannette Andrade
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:58:00 03/10/2008

MANILA, Philippines--Following Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte’s statement that every day was Women’s Day in the locality, a councilor has pushed for the approval of the proposed implementing rules and regulations of the Gender and Development (GAD) Code which was signed into law almost four years ago.

Councilor Bernadette Herrera-Dy of the first district reminded the city government that the approval of the IRRs is long overdue.

The GAD Code was the first to be passed by a local government unit in Metro Manila. It was passed on Feb. 17, 2004, and signed into law by Belmonte on April 1, 2004. It basically tasks city officials with enforcing the laws on the protection of women and children.

The mayor, meanwhile, assured residents that the city government would always strive to keep Quezon City the center of gender equality and women empowerment in the country.

“Here in Quezon City, we already have more women than men as middle managers at Quezon City Hall,” he said.

“Here, we are very conscious of the need to uplift the status of women,” Belmonte added.

He cited the recent enactment of the ordinance on population and reproductive health management as among the measures passed by the city government to ensure the empowerment of women residents.

The ordinance gives women the freedom of choice in nurturing their health and fertility to help uplift their quality of living.

Belmonte expressed hope that the ordinance would contribute to poverty reduction by helping parents provide a better future for their children by way of family planning.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Int'l Women's Day protests highlight violence, inequality

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 09:44:00 03/09/2008

PARIS--Calls to end forced marriage, domestic abuse and job discrimination marked International Women's Day on Saturday as demonstrators took to the streets worldwide.

The issues highlighted crossed a wide spectrum, including abortion rights in Italy, violence against women in Iraq and women hostages in Colombia.

Nearly 100 years old, the day marks the worldwide struggle for equal rights for half the globe's population.

Scores of women rallied outside a Baghdad hotel demanding an end to violence and equal social status with men.

"Stop neglecting women. Stop killing women. Stop creating widows," read a large banner that the women, from various ethnic and religious backgrounds, held at the Babylon Hotel in Baghdad's central Karrada neighborhood.

In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai spoke out against forced marriages and said threats from a Taliban-led insurgency were keeping girls out of school.

"I call on religious leaders, tribal elders and particularly men: stop forcing your under-aged girls to marry, stop marrying them to old men," Karzai said.

Up to 80 percent of Afghan women face forced marriage, and nearly two-thirds are married before the legal age of 16, according to the United Nations.

Events were also planned in neighboring Pakistan, where "honor killings" of women and punishment gang-rapes have been widely reported.

Gatherings took place in India, Indonesia and China as activists pressed for an end to discrimination ranging from abortion of female foetuses to workplace bias.

Australian women's minister Tanya Plibersek said the occasion was a chance to acknowledge issues such as women's lack of financial independence.

"From the moment a woman enters the workforce she is likely to earn less than her male colleagues, regardless of her career, industry or level," she said.

Communist North Korea marked the day in its own way by urging its women to reject Western fashions and to "set good examples" in their clothes and hairstyles.

In Europe, job inequality, domestic abuse and abortion rights were highlighted.

Tens of thousands demonstrated in several Italian cities in favor of the right to abortion -- legalized in that country 30 years ago, but unexpectedly a hot topic ahead of April elections.

Nearly 2,000 people gathered in Warsaw over abortion rights. Poland, like Italy a heavily Roman Catholic nation, has one of Europe's most restrictive abortion laws.

A demonstration in France drew attention to French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt, seized by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in February 2002 as she campaigned for the Colombian presidency.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for an end to pay inequality between men and women, and pledged to institute financial sanctions to address the problem.

Turkmenistan officially marked the day with a cash gift from President Gourbangouly Berdymoukhamedov worth nearly $10 to every Turkmen woman. It was the first commemoration of the day there since 2003, when then-president Saparmourat Niazov banned the festivities.

In Ukraine, Itar-Tass news agency reported, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko offered best wishes to her compatriots, saying: "It's the day when men recognize that they can not live without us!"

There were also reminders of persistent difficulties facing women on Saturday.

Two women were attacked in the northern South African province of Limpopo because they were wearing mini-skirts, public radio reported. A group of people surrounded them, pushed them and yelled for them to undress before the women took refuge in a nearby hair salon.

In eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, thousands of women protested to demand punishment for those who commit sexual violence, including rape.

"The law on sexual violence is not applied," said Esperance Katungu. "Women are often not informed of their rights."

More than 7,000 cases of sexual violence were reported in 2007 in the eastern Nord-Kivu province of the DR Congo, which was also hit by heavy clashes between the army and militias last year.

United Nations officials in Port-au-Prince took the opportunity to highlight the role of some 226 women in military and police roles in the 9,200-strong UN mission in Haiti who are charged with helping reduce violence against women.

In Latin America, the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez saw several husbands of the more than 400 women murdered in the city since 1993 march to demand justice.

And hundreds of women in Brazil calling themselves "anti-capitalist feminists" took to the streets in downtown Sao Paulo.

A lot to learn from the poor and the lowly

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:45:00 03/01/2008

Months ago, there was a report about fishermen who, at great risk to their lives, scour the depths to gather sea cucumber for livelihood. On a daily average, a diver produces one to two kilos of the exotic seafood and earns P150 for the effort. However, without any value added, the same item commands a price averaging P1,400 per kilogram in Metro Manila.

The inequity of an economic order where labor is not fairly rewarded is manifest almost everywhere. In Eastern Samar province, where I come from and where I worked for a World Bank-funded anti-poverty project, a great number of upland farmers toil all their lives but still end up without adequate means to meet their basic needs. A farmer sells a 50-kilogram sack of bananas in the “poblacion” [town proper] at P150 but loses P120 of that amount to transport cost. It is even tougher for farmers in western and northern Samar, whose farms have been rendered largely unproductive due to soil erosion brought about initially by massive commercial logging and, in later years, by “kaingin” [slash-and-burn farming].

And yet the poor have been a profile of resilience and hope, whether they are in Samar or elsewhere. In ways that sometimes enlighten the rich, they have shown a capacity to win their daily battles through hard work, integrity and genuine concern for others. They are willing to sacrifice everything they have to earn an honest living, as the Sumilao farmers have shown. The World Bank-funded project I mentioned has helped the poor communities gain not only skills and experience in planning and managing projects that address their socioeconomic needs, but also the discipline to conduct procurement processes in a transparent manner, free of graft and corruption.

Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr., in his Senate testimony, recounted an encounter he had with a poor farmer gathering guava fruits to sell in the market. When Lozada saw that the farmer was not picking all the fruits, he asked why. The farmer replied that he had to leave some fruits for the birds to eat.

Lozada said the farmer’s concern for the birds touched him. More so because the farmer himself looked like in need of help.

By his courage, Lozada has shown that there is in every person a capacity to respond positively to an inner calling, like serving the ends of truth at the expense of personal comfort, liberty, and even physical existence.

It seems that, despite the demoralizing morass we’re in, there is nothing which is really beyond redemption. A “probinsyanong Intsik” [provincial Chinese], named Lozada, can teach the government how procurement involving public funds should be conducted. The farmer can teach us how to put in practice our concern for others, for nature and for the environment.

Who knows, maybe next time we have elections (don’t laugh), the poor might just show to everyone that money could no longer win votes. When that happens, officials of the Commission on Elections will lose their part-time jobs as sales agents, and they can therefore focus on counting the votes right.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

'Puro-poor' growth

By Cielito Habito
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 17:59:00 03/09/2008

A FORMER government statistician wrote me a note describing our economy's recent growth in the above terms (rather than minus the "u"), in light of the recently released report that poverty had worsened between 2003 and 2006.

The latest official poverty statistics, based on the Family Income and Expenditures Survey (FIES) of the National Statistics Office (NSO), affirms what many observers had been lamenting for some time.

Not only has the supposed brisk growth of our economy in recent years not been felt by the majority of our people; worse, it had actually pushed an additional 700,000 families, or almost four million Filipinos, into poverty!

Ruthless growth

This outcome where poverty actually worsens with economic growth is the worst form of what has come to be labeled in the development literature as "ruthless growth."

Closely related to this is the phenomenon of jobless growth, where GDP growth is not accompanied by commensurate growth in employment.

The data speak for themselves: Jobs grew by only 11.9 percent within the six year period 2001-2007, when real GDP grew more than three times faster by 38.4 percent.

Note that in the same period, the number of working-age Filipinos grew much faster, too (15 percent), not counting those who had already gone overseas.

It should be no surprise, then, how poverty can rise in the face of the economy's recent growth.

These dismal poverty numbers give rise to two types of questions. The first type has to do with the veracity of the statistics, particularly those on economic growth. The second type concerns the reasons for the worsening poverty situation.


In his latest analyses on our economic data, former Neda Chief Philip Medalla points to stark inconsistencies in the official statistics.

He notes in particular that GNP/GDP statistics say our economy has attained the "highest economic growth rates ever," achieving "higher average economic growth rates under the Arroyo administration than those attained under Presidents Aquino, Ramos and Estrada."

On the other hand, data from the FIES, a survey taken every three years across more than 41,000 households, paint exactly the opposite picture: Family income and expenditures grew the slowest in the Arroyo years, i.e., in 2000-2003 and 2003-2006.

Administration apologists insist that the GNP/GDP accounts and the FIES do not measure exactly the same things. Still, Medalla points out that from 1988 to 2000, GDP growth and FIES statistics painted the same economic picture; now they actually contradict each other.

And this is just one among several contradictions in the statistics he notes to have emerged only in the Arroyo years. "Given all the guesstimates that enter the GDP statistics, I'm inclined to believe the FIES," he notes. "In other words, the economy is not doing as well as government propagandists would like us to believe." And the worsening poverty picture in 2003-2006 seems to lend credence to his suspicion.

Real income losses

Why has poverty worsened? What has pushed close to four million additional Filipinos into poverty?

The reason, clearly, was that personal/family incomes failed to catch up with the rising cost of living. The FIES data show average family income rising by 16.3 percent in 2003-2006, but cost of living had far outstripped this, with a growth of 22.3 percent in the same period.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, in his presentations to explain his proposed economic stimulus cum social rebalancing program, itemizes the sources of the real income loss suffered especially by middle and lower income groups.

These are: Higher petroleum prices, which took P118 billion away from family incomes; the E-VAT, which took away another P76 billion; the increase in power tariffs charged by National Power Corp., which took P56 billion; the peso appreciation, which took away P39 billion, and removal of the cross-subsidy on residential power by commercial/industrial establishments, which took away P34 billion from household incomes.

All told, these account for the bulk of the estimated P461 billion drop in household incomes tracked by the FIES between 2003 and 2006.

Not just from OFWs

Even the much-touted remittances do not really go to the poor, according to emerging results of a study by the Asian Development Bank shared in a public briefing last week.

This affirms the clarification that former Commission on Filipinos Overseas Executive Director Joe Molano has repeatedly been making, i.e., that the billions of dollars in remittances coming in from abroad are not just coming from contract workers, but also from long-term Filipino migrants abroad who are likely to be more affluent.

That a substantial part is evidently coming from this group is supported by the data showing that half of all remittances come from the United States.

These are the remittances propelling brisk sales of condominiums, rather than stimulating the rural economy where most of the poor are.

It seems the government has attained yet another first, this time an unflattering one: For the first time, we see poverty rise even as the economy grows.

We badly need to turn this "puro-poor" growth into a truly pro-poor one.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

UN calls on member states to 'invest in women and girls'

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 10:28pm (Mla time) 03/06/2008

-- Noting that "progress for women is progress for all," the United Nations is urging the world to invest in its women and girls.

In a statement released ahead of International Women's Day, celebrated Saturday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon lamented the gap too often seen between policy and practice regarding women's empowerment and gender equality.

"A lack of political will is reflected in the most telling way of all: lack of resources and insufficient budgetary allocations," Ban's statement said.

"That is why the theme of this International Women's Day is 'Investing in Women and Girls'," he said.

"This failure of funding undermines not only our endeavors for gender equality and women's empowerment as such; it also holds back our efforts to reach all the Millennium Development Goals," he said.

These eight objectives, approved by world leaders in 2000 to halve poverty by 2015, include combating HIV/AIDS and malaria, improving maternal health, reducing child mortality, eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and promoting gender equality.

"As we know from long and indisputable experience, investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect on productivity and sustained economic growth," Ban wrote.

"No measure is more important in advancing education and health, including the prevention of HIV/AIDS. No other policy is as likely to improve nutrition, or reduce infant and maternal mortality," he said.

But he took note of some progress, including allocation of financial resources to increase women's employment, enhance use of microfinancing, and extend credit for women's businesses.

"More than 50 countries have launched gender-responsive budgeting initiatives. The private sector is scaling up efforts to finance women's economic empowerment, and women's funds and foundations are emerging as innovative sources of financing," he said.

"But we must do more," he added.

"All of us in the international community -- Governments, multilateral organizations, bilateral institutions and the private sector -- need to calculate the economic costs of persistent gender inequality, and the resources required to remedy it," he said.

2008 marks the mid-point in the effort to accomplish the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, Ban noted. That can only be done by investing in women and girls, he said.

"On this International Women's Day, let us resolve to unite in this mission."

ADB cites key action points to lift Philippine growth

Thomson Financial
First Posted 14:15:00 03/06/2008

MUMBAI -- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said the Philippines must raise revenues, improve infrastructure, strengthen governance to build investor confidence, expand its industrial base, and improve access to employment and development opportunities to increase growth and reduce poverty.

An ADB report identified several critical constraints to economic growth and the fight against poverty in the next 5-8 years for the Philippines. Targeting and removal of the most critical constraints will lead to the highest returns and will spur investment, which will lead to sustained and high growth and create more productive employment opportunities, the ADB said.

Firstly, the fiscal situation remains tight despite the government making good progress to reduce deficits and aims to balance its budget in 2008.

Secondly, declining public and private sector investments in infrastructure have led to inadequate and poor infrastructure and bottlenecks, which have raised the cost of doing business and eroded the country's competitiveness and attractiveness to foreign and local investors, ADB said.

Thirdly, poor performance on key governance aspects, in particular, control of corruption and political stability, has eroded investor confidence.

Poor infrastructure and weak investor confidence have led to weak flows of foreign direct investment (FDI), ADB said.

The report said the government's inability to address effectively market failures of various kinds may have also hampered expansion and diversification of its industrial base and noted the need for the government to play a more proactive role in overcoming coordination and information failures.

The report said the government can support its development agenda through broadening access to education, training and health services, instituting more effective and better funded development programs at local levels, and improving targeted social protection and disaster relief.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Belmonte OKs new QC population policy

Tuesday, March 4, 2008 / Philippine Star

Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte Jr. announced yesterday that he has approved a controversial ordinance that sets the city’s population and reproductive health policy.

“The final choice on (the size of) their family is for couples. The government just provides guides and the necessary support,” Belmonte told city hall employees during yesterday’s flag-raising ceremony.

Council Majority Leader Ariel Inton said the proposed ordinance was approved by the city council after a series of consultations, including meetings with church officials, who initially opposed the measure.

He said the ordinance “provides no penal provision but will guarantee access to safe, affordable and quality reproductive health care” and relevant information.

Under the new ordinance, the city government shall promote natural and artificial methods of family planning and provide couples and individuals access to relevant information and resources to enable them to make sound and responsible family planning decisions.

The new measure also provides mandatory training of city health workers and barangay officials on delivering the family planning services. – Perseus Echeminada

'Filipinos could number 150M if you don't act now'

By Jeannette Andrade
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:14:00 03/04/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- Even if a two-child policy is enforced by 2010, the Philippine population is expected to reach 150 million because the poor lack information and access to family planning services, according to a nonprofit organization based in Berkeley, California.

"Even if the country reached replacement level fertility (prescribed number of children per family) by 2010, the ultimate population of the Philippines would be 150 million people," said Martha Madison Campbell, founder president of Venture Strategies for Health Development.

According to its website, Venture Strategies is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health of low-income people in developing countries by using business mechanisms and building on the power of local market forces.

"There is no time to waste to ensure that the country has enough land for growing food for today's families and also to have remaining forests for tomorrow's children," Campbell said Monday at a press conference at Sulo Hotel to announce the Third National Conference on Population, Health and the Environment to be held in Tagaytay City on March 5-7.

She warned that unless the country gave greater emphasis to family planning, there was a danger of increasing poverty. "Poor people have big families [not] because they want to but because the poor have no access to contraceptives and health education."

She said United Nations demographers in 2002 projected that the Philippine population would reach between 75 and 85 million. But the population overshot the high projection and now stands at 89 million.

Faster than expected

What the figures show, Campbell stressed, "is population growth is faster that anyone expected."

"If there is another delay... if the Philippines waits another 40 years before reaching an average of two children per family, that will mean 100 million more people living in these beautiful islands [compared to] if every family [would] have only two children two years from now," said the political scientist and health specialist from the University of California.

She said that in the 1960s, Thailand and the Philippines each had a population of some 20 million people. Today Thailand has 66 million people compared to the Philippines' 89 million.

"In Thailand, where there is access to contraception, uneducated women use family planning methods just like women with a college education. In the Philippines, where there is no clear national government support for a family planning program, contraceptive use is less -- especially among poor and uneducated women, leading to more unintended pregnancies and larger families," Campbell said.


International Programs Director Richard Skolnik of the Washington-based Population Reference Bureau said there were many environmental risks to health due to increasing pressure that population growth and migration to cities put on the environment.

"These problems are best seen in the large number of Filipinos who still lack access to safe water and sanitation and who are subjected to indoor and outdoor air pollution," Skolnik said, adding that diarrhea and respiratory infections, especially among poor children, made up 20 percent of the causes of death in the country.

Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) executive director Ramon San Pascual said the impact of population growth on the environment cannot be ignored. "A law on population management and reproductive health is urgently needed."

For his part, Conservation International-Philippines country executive director Romeo Trono said: "The question is not what needs to be done, but whether or not government units and agencies, the business sector, support agencies and communities will actually do it with a serious sense of urgency as high priority is required."