By: Elizabeth Angsioco
Published in Manila Standard Today
Dated February 12, 2011
“Deadma” is a popular Filipino expression. It comes from “dead malice,” translated into “‘patay malisya” or “patay mali,” commonly used in the ‘90s.
We are “deadma’” when we ignore something or someone, usually, something that persists or someone persistent. When we “deadma,” we act like a dead person: unfeeling, unseeing, unhearing. At other times, we “deadma’”when we distance ourselves from a controversial or sticky situation. This brings to mind another common expression: “iwas-pusoy.”
Recently, reproductive health advocates were shocked because of one big deadma act: President Noynoy Aquino dropped the RH bill from his list of legislative priorities. “Dinedma ni PNoy ang RH,” said a friend. This came despite the President’s initial pro-RH pronouncements and the persistent pro-responsible parenthood positioning. Removing the bill from his list of urgent measures was a big disappointment at best, and a betrayal at worst.
Some disclosure is needed here. I did not vote for Noynoy. I considered him a good-hearted person BUT not good enough for the Presidency. However, when he overwhelmingly won, I accepted the fact that he was note the President of the country. I even wrote a note on my Facebook account saying that I would want to be able to say that Noynoy is MY President. I had a big reason for this: the RH bill.
Thus, I will “deadma’” anyone who will accuse me of being critical of the President because I did not vote for him.
Two days ago, Malacañang issued a statement that PNoy NEVER pushed for the RH bill. WRONG. We need to go back a bit here.
Shortly after then-Senator Noynoy announced that he was running, he was asked about his positions on issues, including RH. He came out as being pro-RH. A news item on 28 September 2009 entitled, “Aquino defies Church, backs controversial bill” quoted him as saying, “Whatever they say about my position on the RH bill, I am sticking to it despite the pressure from certain quarters. If I get the support or not of the Church and pro-life groups, it is secondary for my advocacy to get everybody educated on reproductive health.” Those were big, brave words from the man of the hour.
So how did responsible parenthood come about? As expected, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines pounced on Noynoy and threatened to not support his candidacy. The Senator retreated by saying he was mistakenly labelled as a co-author of the bill. Soon after, I received messages from some of his people — they were looking for a way to handle the situation.
In October 2009, a few pro-RH leaders were invited to a meeting with Campaigns and Grey’s Yolly Ong to brainstorm and help Noynoy’s positioning on the RH issue. We went, wanting to help despite the fact we were still mostly undecided on the candidate to support. Ms. Ong was surprised upon learning that we were not all for “the only pro-RH candidate,” meaning, Aquino.
She said they didn’t want Noynoy to be targeted by the CBCP. She suggested renaming RH into something more palatable to the bishops while at the same time repeatedly assuring us of support for the bill. Soon after, responsible parenthood surfaced as Noynoy’s official position. This became a campaign promise and even included in his “social pact with the people” – his BOSS.
The change in terminologies did not worry many. Most of us voted for him convinced that he was for RH. The CBCP, on the other hand, NEVER supported candidate Aquino.
Fast forward to the present. Malacañang’s claim that PNoy never pushed RH is, therefore, untrue.
RH advocates continued to trust PNoy. After all, he always spoke of respect for couples’ choice, availability of information, not having any bias for any family planning method, availability of contraceptives especially to the poor, even RH education — all important components of the RH bill.
Advocates were repeatedly assured by some Cabinet members, specifically, Secretaries Soliman, Ona, and Carandang that the President was pro-RH. We were not about to doubt these credible officials. RH/RP was always included in the list of possible priority measures.
Then, deadma time began.
Malacañang initiated the dialogue with the bishops to the exclusion of more important stakeholders like women and civil society organizations. Deadma.
Women requested to dialogue with the President. Deputy Spokesperson Valte’s statement that she did not know of any request (despite being sent to at least three intermediaries) betrays the Palace’s attitude on women which is: Deadma.
Palace excluded the RH/RP bill from its priorities. Biggest deadma.
Does the President really believe that the men in robes will budge from their position? Does he think bishops will ever agree to contraception? Isn’t this naive?
We have information that PNoy dropped RH/RP not because of the unfinished dialogue with the CBCP but because HE DOES NOT WANT THE CBCP TO BE IN THE OPPOSITION. PNoy is only in the first of his six years in office and he cannot run for re-election. Why be scared?
The best time to make tough decisions on controversial issues is while the political capital is high. People are more accepting. Trust is there. The time is now.
All is not lost for the RH bill. Congress’ work is commendable and we are quite optimistic that the bill will be passed. However, if PNoy wants to fulfil his campaign promises and prove that the Filipino people is indeed his boss and not the CBCP, he can still do it.
If he wants to save women’s lives and not have the eleven DEAD MAmas daily on his head, he can still do it.
I previously wrote that the litmus test for PNoy’s political will is the RH bill. Slowly, his credibility is eroding with questions about his indecisiveness.
Mr. President, prove to us that you can make tough decisions. Certify the RH bill as urgent.
Stop this game of deadma. Otherwise, you fail.