Published in Manila Standard Today on 12 May 2012
By Elizabeth Angsioco
MOTHERS are unimportant.
This seems to be this administration’s Mothers’ Day message.
I cheered when on CNN, President Aquino said that he expects a vote on the reproductive health bill. I thought that with this aired all over the world, the bill will at last be voted on.
Then came other statements.
House of Representatives Speaker Feliciano Belmonte told media that the bill would NOT be voted on before the President’s State-of-the-Nation Address. This is not a priority compared with economic measures that they need to address. They lack time.
Lack time, my foot! The RH bill has been pending for well over a decade now. They could have voted on it IF they wanted to.
Particularly, the House has been very lax in exacting responsibility from its members. It has wasted many precious days because members were absent and quorum could not be achieved.
The House has been too busy playing politics—“trapo” politics. It is possible that the RH bill is used as a political gambit for anti-RH representatives who signed the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Corona. This is consistent with the pronouncement that the bill has to wait. Surely, until after the impeachment trial.
Time is not the problem, wasting it is. Traditional politics is.
Also, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, known to be anti-RH, said that Senate would have to delay the bill because of other priorities.
Despite this, Senate resumed consideration of RH last Wednesday with Senator Koko Pimentel interpellating. And what questions he asked!
This Bar topnotcher wanted to know if RH is connected with human rights and what specific provisions of human rights instruments are relevant.
First, this aspect of the bill has been established from Day One when author Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago delivered her sponsorship speech. This heavily dealt with RH as a human right, and is part of Senate records.
Second, Senator Pia Cayetano has repeatedly touched on this as she answered questions from previous interpellators. Pimentel was in the plenary many of those times.
Third, as a topnotch lawyer, Pimentel is EXPECTED to know this simple thing.
Last, what is Google for? As an experiment, I googled “RH as human right” and instantly got numerous answers. The good senator has an entire office of intelligent people to research for him.
And Pimentel has just started. He will ask questions on a per-provision basis, he said.
Clearly, the name of the game is DELAY FURTHER. After all, Pimentel has on his side the two most powerful Senate officials, the Senate President and Majority Floor Leader Tito Sotto. Between them, the game is on.
And then, Malacañang said that the pacing of the bill’s passage is already in the hands of Congress even as it reiterated support for its passage. Double-talk.
IF President Aquino really wants the bill to pass, the only thing he needs to do is to TELL Congress to immediately put it to a vote. But no, Malacañang has other priorities. Other political considerations need to be finished first before RH.
These pronouncements from our honorable officials came almost simultaneously with the release of various reports stressing how depressing the situation of Filipino mothers is, and by extension, how infants suffer.
Over the past two weeks, news reports indicated that:
1. Teen-age pregnancies in the country are about 11 percent of annual births as of 2009. This translates to about 192,500 girls aged 15-19 giving birth yearly. (UNFPA 2011 Annual Report).
2. The Philippines is one of the ten countries in the world with the highest numbers of premature births. Of the world’s 15 million preterm births, 60 percent happens in these countries. Some identified causes are: adolescent pregnancy, hypertension, anemia, and pregnancies that are spaced too closely. These are rampant in the country. (Born Too Soon, WHO, May 2012).
3. Philippines is ranked 92nd of 162 countries in terms of the status of mothers. Mothers in the following countries are better situated: Vietnam (62), Thailand (63), Tunisia (71), and Sri Lanka (86). (State of the World’s Mothers 2012, Save the Children).
No wonder, eleven mostly poor women die from pregnancy and childbirth complications daily in this country.
Additionally, the Social Weather Stations’ recent poverty and hunger survey results further prove how difficult it is to be a poor mother in this country.
1. Self-rated poverty is 55 percent (estimated 11.1 million) families claiming to be poor. This is a 10-percent increase from the previous highest result since this administration started.
2. Involuntary hunger is at record high where 23.8 percent (4.8 million families) experienced hunger. Severe hunger affected 5.8 percent (about 3.7 million) families.
It’s a no-brainer, poor mothers with many children suffer more than those with less.
Millions of Filipino mothers are poor, hungry, unhealthy, and many, dying.
The RH bill contains specific provisions that will address these problems, even overcoming poverty. The Filipino public and the whole world are telling government how urgent its passage is.
Yet, Congress and the Executive have other priorities.
Happy Mothers’ Day? Pass the RH bill!
firstname.lastname@example.org and @bethangsioco on Twitter