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

http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20090307-192802/Surveys-of-Manila-and-Paraaque-on-RH-bill

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.”

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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.”

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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?

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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

http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20090224-190656/Anti-nuclear-and-pro-life

Exploiting our culture

Posted in Congress, Legislation, Reproductive Health, Women by Erineus on February 20, 2009

Filipinos are known worldwide for their strong family ties and filial love and respect for elders and as staunch defenders and protectors of their women and children. Their respect and care for mothers, wives and children are relatively much more intense and intimate than that of people in any other country.

This admirable trait is deeply embedded in our culture. No law is even necessary to bring about such kind of respect for, as well as care and protection of our women and children. But just to preserve, enhance and support this desirable Filipino culture, and to assure that it will not be eventually set aside and disregarded, our legislators chose to enshrine it in the legislative annals by enacting Republic Act 9262 otherwise known as “Anti Violence against Women and Children Act” in 2004.

Lately, our legislators seem to have gone a step further by drawing up what it considered a “Magna Carta for Women” that on its face looks laudable or even badly needed in this present modernistic and materialistic day and age. Unfortunately on closer scrutiny, the said Magna Carta is turning out to be another insidious attempt to sneak into our statute books some of the toxic provisions of the RH bill. Vigorously campaigning for its approval is an organization known as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Watch Philippines. Working closely with it is the Philippine Legislative Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) the same foreign-funded NGO which is the architect and principal promoter of the still pending RH bill. The backers of the “Magna Carta” betray the hidden agenda behind it.

It is really quite deplorable that these groups where some members of Congress belong are exploiting our own Filipino culture to advance their anti-life and anti-family, pro-abortion-population control agenda under the guise of a bill purportedly empowering women, upholding their dignity, protecting their rights and assuring their equality with men in economic, political, social and cultural life.

Because of their subtly altered form, some unconstitutional, anti-life and anti-family provisions of the Magna Carta went unnoticed, enabling it to breeze through second reading in both Houses. The report is that an appallingly large number of the members of Congress were not completely aware that the versions of the bill in their chamber were already approved on second reading and what remained was the pro-forma approval of the printed version on third reading.

In the Senate, the approval on second reading was reconsidered to accommodate new amendments. But it appears that some of these amendments worsened the objectionable features in the bill and rendered it all the more unconstitutional, anti-life and anti-family. But as expected the bill has also been approved on third reading.

The remaining step in the legislative mill is therefore the reconciliation of the Lower House and the Senate versions of the “Act providing for the Magna Carta of Women” by a Bicameral Conference Committee (BICAM) which will come out with the final version for signing into law. This should be one of those times when the existence of this Committee as some sort of a Third House of Congress further refining the products of both chambers can be appreciated. But again this largely depends on the BICAM’s composition. In this particular bill, most of the BICAM members designated by both chambers are also listed as “members” of the PLCPD. So they will expectedly insist on their “pet” provisions which are similar to the objectionable portions of the RH bill but in subtler more appealing form because it is supposedly pro-women.

Indeed one of the Senate BICAM members and principal sponsor of the Magna Carta, Senator Pia Cayetano has already come out with a press release warning that the BICAM should not “emaciate” the said bill. Cayetano insists that there is nothing in the bill which would allow abortion as abortion remains illegal under the 1987 Constitution. Yet in almost the same breadth she is batting for the use of contraceptives by women for the “reproductive health” citing in the process the high maternal mortality rate among Filipino women especially the poor. Obviously Cayetano (Pia) is using the same fallacious and deceptive argument advanced by the proponents of the RH bill. She still refuses to see that the “reproductive health care services” she is promoting that allows the use of contraceptives may cause abortion or cancer among women; and that “reproductive health” is neither about reproduction or health as it prevents or terminates pregnancy and may lead to death due to breast, cervical or liver cancer according to the studies conducted by WHO itself.

In the Lower House, Congressman Edcel Lagman, the principal sponsor of the RH bill is also the staunch backer of the Magna Carta. According to highly reliable sources Lagman suggested at a pre BICAM meeting the bill’s provisions be anchored solely on their adherence to the CEDAW and other international instruments which are in direct collision with our Charter and existing laws. Lagman also reportedly suggested the retention of provisions formally objected to by the Episcopal Commission of Family and Life and the CBCP Office on Women. He also reportedly wants to remove the word “ethical” qualifying the family planning methods made available in the bill as one of the comprehensive health services while insisting on the retention of “management of abortion complications” obviously to bring them fully in line with his RH bill.

The BICAM should therefore be more careful and should not rush the drafting of the final version of this bill just to have a photo-op for its signing on Women’s day celebration this coming March. There may not even be any signing at all if the final version is adopted in similar fashion as the versions of the Upper and Lower Houses; or if there will be a signing, its unconstitutional portion will just be invalidated by the Supreme Court.

Note: Books containing compilation of my articles on Labor Law and Criminal Law (Vols. I and II) are now available. Call tel. 7249445.

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E-mail at: jcson@pldtdsl.net
View previous articles of this column.

A LAW EACH DAY (Keeps Trouble Away)
By Jose C. Sison
Updated February 20, 2009 12:00 AM
http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=441886&publicationSubCategoryId=64