Will he or won’t he?
This question about the inclusion of the reproductive health bill in President Noynoy Aquino’s upcoming State of the Nation Address has been foremost in the public’s mind.
People have been incessantly calling on the President to strongly push for the RH bill’s passage. My organization wants PNoy to certify the bill as urgent to assure its passage, and for good reasons.
ONE, all recent studies point to the fact that the situation of Filipino mothers has significantly deteriorated.
The Philippine’s ranking in Save the Children’s 2011 State of the World’s Mothers report is lower by several notches than previous ones. This means that comparatively, motherhood is safer in some African, South and Southeast Asian countries than it is here.
The United Nations Population Fund’s studies indicate that we now have the highest number of teen-age pregnancies in Asia with more than 200,000 adolescents getting pregnant annually.
The National Statistics Office’s 2011 Family Health Survey reported a very significant increase in the number of women dying from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications. From 162 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006, it has jumped to 221 in 2010.
The FHS also said that unmet need for family planning INCREASED and the biggest need is among poor, uneducated, and young married women. While the need increased, there was a corresponding DECREASE in family planning practice and those who use FP the least are also those who need it the most.
The same survey noted a drastic shift in the sources of FP supplies from mainly public in 2006 to the present private sector sources. This explains the problem of access of those needing FP. Whereas before, they could get contraceptives for free, now they need to buy and there is no money for it.
An effective FP program can reduce maternal mortality rates by more than 30 percent because high-risk and mistimed pregnancies are prevented. Isn’t this a good enough reason for PNoy to push hard for the RH bill?
TWO, the bill has been pending in Congress for more than one and a half decades. Its minutest detail has been subjected to scrutiny and questions have been more than adequately answered. No new arguments against it have surfaced as everything has been discussed repeatedly and exhaustively.
Isn’t it time for the President to take this matter into his own hands?
THREE, the RH bill is overwhelmingly supported by the Filipino people, even by Catholics. All credible surveys including those done in areas of legislators who are staunchly against the bill like Cebu, Manila and Parañaque cities and Bohol clearly showed very strong public support for a government-sponsored FP program and the passage of the bill. Catholic respondents to these surveys ranged from 81 percent to 94 percent of total respondents.
Isn’t this enough assurance that the President has popular support on this issue?
FOUR, the RH bill is a campaign promise and part of the President’s Social Contract with the Filipino People. It is no secret that many organizations voted for then-candidate Noynoy Aquino largely because of his pro-RH stance.
His Social Contract has two RH-relevant items. “A Commitment to Transformational Leadership” says, “4. From treating health as just another area for political patronage to recognizing the advancement and protection of public health, which includes responsible parenthood, as key measures of good governance.”
On “Gender Equality”, the contract says, “13. From a lack of concern for gender disparities and shortfalls, to the promotion of equal gender opportunity in all spheres of public policies and programs”.
Clearly, the President promised and now needs to deliver. Isn’t the coming Sona the best time to do this?
FIVE, the President, in a meeting with RH champions in Malacañang already recommended and discussed specific amendments to the bill. Virtually all those were accepted by the authors who formally wrote the House leadership to put the amendments on record.
It is, therefore, incumbent upon the President to follow this through in his Sona.
These and other reasons show the urgency of the bill’s passage. Any bill that will save women’s lives, bring down the numbers of adolescent pregnancies, provide for the poor opportunities for a better quality of life, while at the same time fulfilling a Presidential promise deserves to be certified as urgent.
If the President wants the RH bill to pass, it will. As Rep. Edcel Lagman said, the problem is not time, it is political will.
Malacañang-backed initiatives like the postponement of ARMM elections and impeachment of the former Chief Justice have been approved by the HOR in record time. Why not use the same political will on a life-saving measure like RH?
Indeed, this is the acid test for PNoy’s third Sona.
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