Wake Up, Philippines!

Surveys of Manila and Parañaque on RH bill

Posted in Abortion, Contraception, Family Planning, Reproductive Health, Surveys by Erineus on March 16, 2009

By Mahar Mangahas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:04:00 03/07/2009

Last Wednesday, at “Usapang PopDev” of the Forum for Family Planning and Development, SWS reported on its February 2009 survey in Parañaque City, showing public opinion on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill as very favorable. This means it is the same as the public opinion on the RH bill in the City of Manila and the Philippines as a whole, as polled in December 2008 and September 2008 respectively.

Among the items of the three surveys were probes into agreement, disagreement, or neutrality on the four key attitudinal statements found below. After each statement are the percentages that agreed versus disagreed; balances from 100 percent pertain to those who were neutral or who did not answer.

1. “The use of condoms, IUDs and pills can also be considered as abortion.” Parañaque: 33-53; Manila: 29-56; Philippines: 33-50.

Thus, at most, one-third of respondents classify condoms etc. as forms of abortion, as claimed by many in the Catholic hierarchy. Abortion is, of course, constitutionally illegal. The surveys make it clear that most Filipinos would not bother to dispute the legal status of these contraceptives on the basis of the abortion argument.

2. “There should be a law that requires the government to distribute condoms, IUDs, and pills to people who want to avail of them.” Parañaque: 70-19; Manila: 64-22; Philippines: 68-15.

This shows an overwhelming public rejection of the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to governmental provision of the above-mentioned contraceptives for those who want them. Of course, most people know what church officials are up to — 66 percent in Parañaque and 62 percent in Manila agree that “The church interferes in the affairs of the government, especially in the issues of reproductive health and family planning” — and yet they still maintain high trust in the Catholic church. Fortunately for the faith in the Philippines, there is much more to being a Catholic than following every wish of one’s bishop.

It may be noted that only 15 percent of Filipinos object to having a law requiring the government to distribute condoms etc. to those who want them, even though as many as 33 percent regard such contraceptives as abortion. This means that, even among those personally opposed to condoms etc., most are open-minded enough to let others have an effective freedom of choice.

3. “If family planning would be included in their curriculum, the youth would be sexually promiscuous.” Parañaque: 25-58; Manila: 29-59; Philippines: 25-54.

4. “There should be a law that requires the government to teach family planning to the youth.” Parañaque: 85-9; Manila: 88-7; Philippines: 76-10.

The above are consistent with agreements that “Students of age 15-24 should be given adolescent health education in school” of 87 percent in Parañaque and 92 percent in Manila. They are also consistent with percentages agreeing that “Men and women 15-24 years old should be given family planning information and services” of 86 in Parañaque and 89 in Manila.

Filipinos who know of the RH bill pending in Congress are almost half in the entire nation (46 percent), and exactly half in Parañaque (49 percent) and Manila (51 percent). The bill was described in the survey as “giving the government the duty to promote responsible parenthood through giving enough information to the people and having safe, legal, affordable and quality reproductive health care services for people who want it.”

The bottom lines of the three SWS surveys are the percentages in favor of, versus opposed to, the RH bill: Parañaque: 84-9; Manila: 86-8; Philippines: 71-8.

The basic reason why opinions are overwhelmingly in favor of the RH bill is the widespread recognition that the problem of overpopulation in the Philippines is critical. Here are percentages that agree with the following statements: “Population growth increases poverty incidence” — Parañaque 71, Manila 74; “Population growth worsens environmental degradation” — Parañaque 65, Manila 69; “Population growth slows down economic growth” — Parañaque 68, Manila 70; “There is a population growth problem in the Philippines” — Parañaque 64, Manila 69; “There is a population growth problem in our city” — Parañaque 60, Manila 69; “The government of our city should have a policy on reproductive health and family planning” — Parañaque 86, Manila 88; and “The government should provide free supplies or service to the poor who wish to use any family planning method” — Parañaque 87, Manila 90.

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The first of the three surveys was done on Sept. 24-27, 2008, on a nationally-representative sample of 1,500 persons of age 18 and up (error margin of 2.5 percent). The second survey, on Dec. 27-29, 2008, had a sample of 600 persons of reproductive age (meaning, 15-54 years old for males and 15-49 years old for females) from the City of Manila. The third survey, on Feb. 14-17, 2009, had a sample of 600 persons of reproductive age in Parañaque City. The city-level error margin is 4 percent.

All samples were equally divided between males and females. The city-level samples were equally divided among congressional districts, so as to be of equal quality among them; the city-surveys found public opinion the same across districts.

Congresspersons who dispute the Social Weather Stations polls, but sincerely care about opinions in their own districts, should commission their own scientific polls at the local level. In the process, they may as well gather data on how their chances of being re-elected in 2010 might relate to their constituents’ opinions about the RH bill. How many can feel certain that, like their local bishop, they are so appreciated by the electorate that they can afford to openly oppose the RH bill?

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Contact SWS: www.sws.org.ph or mahar.mangahas@sws.org.ph


European Union backs Reproductive Health bill, warns vs rapid population growth

Posted in Abortion, Congress, Contraception, Family Planning, Legislation, Reproductive Health by Erineus on March 3, 2009

By Jose Rodel Clapano Updated March 04, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – The European Union (EU) has expressed its full support for the Reproductive Health (RH) bill.

In a speech delivered at a recent forum on Reproductive Health, Ambassador Alistair MacDonald, head of the Delegation of the European Commission in the Philippines, said the RH bill will enhance the anti-poverty and pro-development policy framework in the country.

MacDonald reiterated EU’s statement during last year’s Philippine Development Forum that the “continued rapid population growth in the Philippines is draining health and economic resources and slowing down economic growth.”

He said rapid population growth in the country also “threatens the sustainability of rural livelihoods and is inexorably destroying the remaining natural forest and marine habitats.”

The EU also stated “the poor are paying the highest price, both individually and collectively.”

“The European Union therefore calls for the effective implementation of a comprehensive national family planning policy, promoting access to family planning methods,” the EU further said.

MacDonald lauded Congress for preparing legislation that would enhance anti-poverty and pro-development efforts.

“In conclusion, therefore, I would like to put on record that I applaud the effort of legislators in the House and the Senate to prepare legislation intended to enhance the anti-poverty and pro-development policy framework in the Philippines, through a modern legal framework for Reproductive Health, and I wish you every success in your endeavors,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald said the European Commission has been, for many years, supportive of the fight against poverty in the country.

MacDonald pointed out that the EC’s current program in the country is largely concentrated on the health sector.

MacDonald cited a few “striking examples“ of grim statistics to present the social, developmental and personal consequences of the absence of an effective framework for reproductive health in the Philippines.

“It seems to me extremely unlikely that the Philippines will be able to meet its commitment under the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) under the present policy,” he added.

He pointed out that latest estimates suggest that of a total of 3.6 million pregnancies in the Philippines in 2007, just over half (1.9 million) were “unplanned” – and one quarter of these (500,000) ended in abortions.

MacDonald said that in the Soviet Union in the 1950s, abortion was considered to be a cheap form of contraception.

“Yet here in the Philippines in the 21st century, these high (if often invisible) rates of abortion are a direct and ineluctable consequence of the unavailability of modern methods of contraception.”

Does this mean that those who argue against the Reproductive Health bill are arguing in favor of abortion? Of course not, of course this is not their intention, and nothing could be further from their minds. – With Pia Lee-Brago

View previous articles from this author.


Anti-nuclear and ‘pro-life’

Posted in Abortion, Congress, Contraception, DOE, Energy, Entertainment, Family Planning, Legislation by Erineus on February 24, 2009

That was a most compelling photo on the front page of Monday’s Philippine Daily Inquirer. Hundreds of people seated on the grassy grounds of the Sunken Garden in University of the Philippines, Diliman, forming the words “No to BNPP,” their graphic way of declaring their objections to the re-opening of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.

The measure is currently being debated in the House appropriations committee, after it passed the committee on energy headed by Rep. Mikey Arroyo. Main sponsor Rep. Mark Cojuangco has argued that the only way to stop climate change and achieve energy security in this country is through nuclear power.

Speaking of the human graphic, which the group helped organize, the Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigns manager for the Philippines, Beau Baconguis, said it was “a statement of the people’s opposition to the revival of the BNPP. Congressman Cojuangco’s plans to ‘validate’ with the purpose of reviving, and commissioning, this nuclear plant is the height of irresponsibility and arrogance. The BNPP was mothballed for safety reasons which today still remain undisputed by any expert or study.”

* * *

And if anyone has reason to fear the presence of an operational nuclear power plant, that would be the people living near it, who would arguably be the first to feel the effects — including being killed — as a result of any accident, mishap or neglect involved in running the plant.

Yesterday, residents of Bataan, among them members of the Catholic clergy and hierarchy, took part in a rally against the plant’s reopening. The march and rally drew various sectors from all corners of Bataan, among them youth and parish delegations and civil society groups, converging at the Balanga Cathedral.

Among the invited speakers were Msgr. Tony Dumaual who was parish priest of Morong, Bataan, where the BNPP is located, in the 1970s when construction on the power plant began. Dr. Nicanor Perlas, who headed the presidential commission tasked to investigate the safety standards of the nuclear power plant in the 1980s, was also invited.

If the intent is to delay or reverse the effects of global warming, then reviving the BNPP makes little sense, avers Green Peace. Said Baconguis: “Our congressmen must face the simple, indisputable facts: 1) Nuclear power is the most dangerous way to generate electricity, there is also no known scientific solution to safely storing plutonium and its deadly radioactive waste-product which remains radiotoxic for 200,000 years; 2) it is the most expensive source of power: aside from pricey construction costs, nuclear power involves expenses for decommissioning, as well as storage for nuclear waste, each of which can cost as much as a new power plant; 3) it cannot solve climate change — the contribution it can potentially make is negligible, especially if you consider that the processing of uranium as fuel uses so much electricity; and 4) importing more fuel, in this case uranium, is not the way to achieve energy security.”

* * *

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has been quoted as saying that he “had always been pro-life” and that he would only support so-called “artificial methods” of family planning “as long as it will not destroy life.”

The Senate president was referring to recent developments in the ongoing committee deliberations on the Reproductive Health Bill, with the representative of the bishops angrily walking out of a recent technical working group meeting. The House version of the bill has already been reported out of committee but faces a very long queue of interpellators who are bent on wasting the time of legislators rather than shedding more light on the measure.

Enrile was perhaps referring to the contention of some conservative groups that some methods of contraception are actually “abortifacients,” that is, they induce abortion. There is a clash of opinion on this matter, based on one’s belief on when “life” begins. The religious right insists that life begins the moment sperm and egg meet. The scientific community, though, considers a pregnancy “viable” only when the fertilized ovum successfully implants itself in the wall of the uterus.

I find myself agreeing with the evidence-based argument, for there is no way a fertilized ovum can develop into a fetus unless it is first implanted in the mother’s womb. We must also contend with the large numbers of fertilized ova that do not develop further, most probably because they were “blighted” from the start. And what do we do about ectopic pregnancies, a condition that endangers the mother’s health when the fertilized ovum stops its journey to the uterus and remains in the fallopian tube?

A woman I met recently told me about the time she had an ectopic pregnancy and her doctor opted to wait until the zygote grew big enough to threaten her life before she was operated on. Was it part of the doctor’s “ethics” and “conscience” to put her patient in peril because of her qualms about excising “live” tissue?

* * *

But while conservative forces and their allies dither about the fate of fertilized ova, women are dying by the hundreds each year in this country as a result of getting pregnant or while giving birth. In a policy outlining new guidelines for maternal and newborn care, the Department of Health said one of the factors that put mothers and babies at risk is that of “having mistimed, unplanned, unwanted and unsupported pregnancy.” A healthy pregnancy and safe delivery actually begin with choice, with the free decision of a woman to get pregnant given her ability to look after herself and the baby sheltering in her womb.

But when policies withhold contraceptives from the women who most need these, then the policies could only result in more women “dying to give life.”

By Rina Jimenez-David
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:02:00 02/24/2009


Magna carta for women

Posted in Congress, Legislation, Women by Erineus on February 21, 2009

A commonly held belief is that Filipino women are a most privileged sector, enjoying the same rights and opportunities as the men. On the contrary, there are many areas in which women are not so privileged. The recent approval of the Magna Carta for Women in the Senate is thus a milestone piece of legislation. A similar bill in the House of Representatives, once joined with the Senate version and passing into law, will remove the discriminatory biases and practices against women.

Sen. Jamby Madrigal, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations, was jubilant over the approval on second reading of Senate Bill No. 1701, also known as the Magna Carta for Women, saying that the “milestone legislation (defends) the human rights of the poor women who have no access to proper health care, who are marginalized and victims of discrimination and abuse.”

The proposed bill had been languishing in the Senate since the 12th Congress, said Madrigal, and, thanks to the “decisive leadership” of Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile, it got approved in the 14th Congress. Enrile, she said, “is not afraid to reckon with the various pressure groups opposing this bill.”

Enrile said the bill was “part of Congress’ effort to revise the discriminatory provisions against women in various laws existing in the country.”

These laws include provisions in the Family Code that pertains to a husband’s decision prevailing over the wife’s disagreements involving conjugal property, and in cases of parental authority and legal guardianship over the person and property of a common child. Also to be revised are provisions in the Labor Code and the Revised Penal Code covering night work prohibition for women workers and the Anti-Rape Law which defines marital rape and its penalties.

I don’t know how the House of Representatives will react to amendments of the provision that defines marital rape, and to the Revised Penal Code’s articles on concubinage and adultery, where women can be easily charged with adultery. The Muslim legislators may also have reservations about amendments covering polygamy, early and arranged marriages and unequal inheritance for women in the Code of Muslim Personal Laws.

The bill was sponsored on the floor by Madrigal’s committee. It was authored by Senators Pia Cayetano, Edgardo Angara, Panfilo Lacson, Ramon Revilla Jr., Richard Gordon, Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Manny Villar, Loren Legarda, and Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Sen. Pia Cayetano, principal sponsor of the measure, said that the bill seeks “to boost the government’s commitment to uphold the human rights of women especially small farmers and rural workers, fisher folks, the urban poor, women in the military, migrant workers, indigenous people, Muslim women, senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and solo parents.”

The bill further enumerates the rights of marginalized women such as the right to food security and productive resources, housing, decent work, employment, livelihood, credit, capital and technology, education and training, and right to information and social participation. It also provides that the Commission on Human Rights can now oversee and hear complaints of discrimination against women.

A statement from Madrigal’s office said the senator considers the most important aspect of the bill its defining in the law of the meaning of “discrimination,” thus making unlawful all forms of discrimination against women. “Many Filipino women continue to suffer discrimination despite the enactment of pro-women laws, like the International Bill of Rights laid down by the United Nations in its general assembly on the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.”

Zubiri said gender equality is always on top of the international agenda. “The approval of this bill will strengthen gender equality and empowerment of women in the Philippines,” he said.

The bicameral conference committee has been meeting to reconcile differences between the Senate and House versions of the measure. Senator Cayetano has warned against attempts to emaciate the bill, saying that a watered-down version of the Magna Carta will render it toothless and ineffective in advancing women’s empowerment and welfare in the country.”

Both Madrigal and Cayetano are wary of Catholic forces which have blocked the passage of the bill since the 12th Congress.

As in the Reproductive Health Bill now pending in Congress, these forces have interpreted the Magna Carta for women as seeking to legalize abortion through various provisions upholding safe motherhood and women’s access to reproductive health information and services.

“Abortion is strictly prohibited under the 1987 Constitution,” said Cayetano. “Legislators will not allow it to be included in the Magna Carta, explicitly or otherwise.”

Cayetano said, “But with respect to contraceptives, which is allowed in some religions but considered taboo in others, I don’t think any religious group should impose its belief on what lawmakers should and should not legislate.

“Moreover, legislators, policymakers and local government units must realize that there are so many barangays across the country where women have little or no access to maternal health care. They do not receive pre-natal care, or give birth while attended to only by a ‘manghihilot’ who does not have the skills to ensure a safe delivery.”

Cayetano said the Philippines has the distinction of having one of the highest Maternal Mortality Rates (MMR) in the Southeast Asia Region.

Citing latest official data, she said the MMR in the Philippines was recorded at 163 maternal deaths per 100,000 births as of 2006. But the country’s target under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to reduce MMR by three-fourths from 1990 to just 52.3 maternal deaths per 100,000 births by the year 2015.” At the current rate, the Philippines will be unable to meet this target.

“Ten to 11 Filipino mothers die each day while giving birth. This will not happen if the public health system is sufficiently able to provide reproductive health services to our people, especially the women.”

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My e-mail:dominimt2000@yahoo.com
View previous articles of this column.

By Domini M. Torrevillas

Updated February 21, 2009 12:00 AM