Which video speaks best about Reproductive Health? Vote now!

Mulat Pinoy’s “We are Right Here. We are RH.” video contest now has its ten finalists.

This amateur video competition sought to focus on young people and their take on responsible parenthood, reproductive health, and population and development. All the video entries were screened and judged by representatives from the film industry, pro- and anti- RH bill camps, population institutes and religious groups. Videos are judged based on their creativity, visual impact, clarity of message, and social relevance.

Videos which made it to the top 10 are:

Ang Nasa Isip Ko
Mulat Kabataan
RH Bill: Kahirapan o Kaunlaran?
The Game

Entries from as far as Cavite, Davao, Iloilo, Quirino, Quezon City and Makati City made it to the top list, and the finalists used a variety of styles: infographic video, animation, drama, experimental.

Most video entries centered on subjects like premarital sex, condoms, teenage pregnancy and overpopulation, showing us the issues in which the youth are most interested or concerned.

Watch the ten finalist videos by logging on to http://www.mulatpinoy.ph/wearerh. To vote for your favorite video, simply click Online Voting on the website.

You can also vote via text. Simply text RH VOTE to 2256, where you will be asked to register with RH VOTE <entry number>/<your name>/<age>/<email add>. You can vote everyday. Each text costs Php 2.50.

The voting period is from November 4 to November 26, 2011.

Don’t forget to watch the “We Are Right Here. We Are RH.” TV special on November 20, 2:00 PM on the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC).

Aside from fame and nationwide reach, winners shall also get cash prizes, cool and sleek video cameras and trophies.

Special awards shall also be given by the United Nations Population Fund and the Knowledge Channel.

Only the SMS and the online votes can determine the winners, so vote now!

Taken from a press release provided by Mulat Pinoy

RHAN Dismayed that RH not in SONA

The Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN) is dismayed that President Aquino did not mention the RH Bill in his SONA. He had spoken strongly on the measure twice, at UP Diliman’s commencement exercises in March and the Philippine Medical Association’s annual meeting in Davao in May. The RH Bill is also an integral part of the legislative agenda in the president’s Philippine Development Plan. Was the omission a Freudian or political slip? Ironically, he singularly and generously mentioned Catholic hierarchy officials, the same ones, who make governance difficult for him—who question his integrity and threaten him with damnation and civil disobedience.

PNoy, we hope that your special mention of cardinals and bishops does not mean you will allow them to dictate health and population policies, like they did during Arroyo’s time. We hope it will not mean turning your back on the RH policy and funding that poor families need so direly.

Obstinate and dogma-based obstruction to the RH Bill for the past nine or so years has caused irreparable damage to the lives and wellbeing of poor women and their families. On that one day of the SONA alone, 11 pregnant women and 21 infants died because of inadequate and out-of-reach RH services. Five thousand unplanned pregnancies took place, many to poorest women and couples. Some 2,800 of those pregnancies will become children who will suffer hunger, deprivation, and possibly neglect because their parents are not ready for them. Some 1,600 of those pregnancies will be ended by mothers after much agony, through desperate and unsafe procedures.

All of the loss of life and suffering are preventable; through the RH program and health system improvements provided in the RH Bill.

PNoy, it is not right, not matuwid na daan, to allow a fundamentalist faction of the Catholic Church to hold hostage Congressional hearings on the Bill.

Many of our people—your boss—have already taken a stand in favor of the RH Bill. Religious leaders, lawyers and human rights advocates have stated that the bill conforms to contemporary moral and legal standards, whether religious teachings, human rights instruments, medical ethics, and Philippine laws. Scientists and science practitioners have stated that RH Bill strategies are in accord with current scientific evidence in the fields of economics, medicine, demography, sociology and ecology. Moreover, majority of respondents to respected national polls, such as the Social Weather Station and Pulse Asia, have repeatedly backed RH policies, programs and funding; even those residents in “purported Catholic bailiwicks” like Manila, Paranaque, Bohol and Cebu.

Now is the time for Congress to vote on this measure.

PNoy, we hope that even if the opportunity at SONA has passed, you will still make sure that the voice of the people on this measure will not be thwarted again, but will be heard and counted in this Congress, this year.

Contact persons: Junice Demeterio-Melgar 0949-4432628; Joy Salgado 0915-4079894

What Do Paranaquenos Really Think?

By Janina Santos

Here in Paranaque, thankfully someone who intends to get some action can still walk in the nearest drugstore or 7/11 to buy some rubbers without having to divulge her name or what condom flavor she particularly enjoys.

Anti-RH ordinances have gotten many paranoid, so we worry: are the Paranaquenos the next object of questionable rules and regulations that invade the most intimate privacy? Are they the next victim of the Alabangistans? We have seen the effects in other places—inspired by Ayala Alabang, contraceptives are now closely monitored in as many as seven barangays in Balanga City, Bataan.

Fortunately, Paranaque has not yet been infected by the ideas of Manila’s and Barangay Ayala Alabang’s officials; Paranaquenos can still buy their monthly stash of the Pill without being asked for a prescription. But this does not mean that RH has no opposition here.

In a recent Twinterview, anti-RH congressman Roilo Golez claimed that Paranaque’s voters don’t really care about the bill, as proven by his landslide victory in the election of May 2010. Golez, who ran under the RH opposition banner, won the votes of 96% of District Two’s Paranaquenos. In his Twinterview, Golez also said that he is against the RH Bill because his constituents do not need it. Why spend money on contraceptives when his people need food, shelter, and health care? Nor, he said, is the RH Bill needed to provide reproductive health information.

Surveys, however, are saying something different. Numbers tallied by Pulse Asia tell us that 69% of Pinoys are for the RH bill. To add to the confusion, an SWS survey taken in March 2010 shows that 90% of Paranaqueno respondents are pro-RH.

What exactly is going on here? What do Paranaquenos really think? Well, those of you who think they’re just tight-lipped southerners will be surprised—SAS got some talkative locals to spill their thoughts on RH.

Michelle Ortega, Student and Mom, 25

“Of course I am pro [RH].  Because I am a woman, I know the advantages of the RH Bill.”

Michael Lacson, Registered Nurse, 23

“For me, neither the government nor the Church should control [the people]. They should try their very best to convince people how to deal with the population issue, but nothing should be mandatory. The people are the ones who are directly affected. It is a never-ending battle of idealism and practicality; neither is fully right or wrong. It’s like a salad; it has good parts and bad parts. The people are the ones who will choose what to eat, and the chefs should quit shoving their salads into people’s mouths.”

Maria Victoria Jo, Household Helper and Mother, 42

“I think [The RH Bill] is good. If I was to suffer from a miscarriage or an abortion, and the doctor does not give me anesthesia when giving me treatment, or does not take care of me well, then it is my right to complain.”

Joselle Corpuz, Engineer, 23

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea to go for the RH Bill as long as no lives are threatened… then again, why use contraceptives if we can do the natural methods? It takes mature people to know how and when [to have sex]. Sex is the best gift God has given us. We should be doing it at the right time with the right person for the right purpose, and not just for lust. Imagine having only a few minutes of reaching the pinnacle of lust and later realizing you’ve been impregnated. Most likely, you’ll ruin your dreams! And obviously it is better to abstain than do the deed if you’re not yet ready for the future responsibilities as a parent.”

Kris Gerard Alvarez, Microbiologist, 23

“Why do I support the RH Bill? Basically, as emphasized by Risa Hontiveros in her ads, it is a chance for each and every Juan to have a sustainable living for his family’s needs. It is an undeniable truth that the majority of the Filipino people are below the health and decency index, so I guess RH bill can contribute greatly into upgrading the lives of Filipinos. After all, what is the RH Bill compared to the one child policy that China once implemented to control its growing population? What is a single sheath of latex if it determines the course of your life, preventing you from getting life-threatening diseases and unplanned pregnancies rather than raking up the uterus for completely formed fetuses and then flushing them down the toilet like poop or throwing them in the garbage bin? I believe that the RH Bill is just a rational scientific movement, correctly implemented, and may help alleviate our problem with population. No moral questions here, just pure ethical applications of rational scientific thought.”

Ace Borja Laguinlin, Aviation Electronic Mechanic, 23

“I agree with Golez. Instead of focusing on the RH Bill, why not focus on how poverty will be lessened (it can’t be prevented), and how every child can have a good education. I am personally against the RH Bill. Why? First, real men don’t force women to abort. Second, control corruption, not population. And lastly, the RH Bill can’t help the Philippines out of poverty… it will only make it worse.”

Gary Rolnet Mojica, Nursing Graduate, 21

“I am in favor of the RH Bill because, as a member of the country’s health team, I am exposed to the different effects of unprotected sex and the effects of not practicing proper family planning. The Church may say that the bill is an ‘abortionist bill’, but let us look at the effects of these ‘sacred virtues’ on the country’s economy and families.”

Amy Daura Gumboc, Physical Therapist and Mom, 36

“I believe that [the RH Bill] is one of the factors that can alleviate poverty, and the major factor hindering economic growth – overpopulation. Even if you put together the best economists in the entire world, an overpopulated country will find it very hard to progress. Also, parents should be responsible. They are the ones who know their limits in terms of giving their children a comfortable life – how many they can feed three times a day. Those kids that parents cannot support are problems of the government.”

Though Paranaquenos certainly have a range of opinions, it appears that the overwhelming one is this: Pass the RH bill, and pass it now. Maybe now we’ll all listen a little more closely when politicians try to put words into our mouths.


My Vagina, My Rules — And Other Reasons the RH Bill Matters for You

By Elizabeth Fox, Sex and Sensibilities.com Summer Intern

When people mention the Reproductive Health bill, a select number of images probably come to mind. Perhaps a mother, struggling to make ends meet, with five children and a sixth on the way. Perhaps the slums and the sad conditions in which so many Filipinos live. Perhaps the funeral of yet another woman who has died while giving life, just one of an estimated 4700 women annually. Regardless of the image, I can tell you one thing: poverty is probably in there somewhere.

And it’s true, for poor Filipino women, the RH bill contains untold hope and promise. Once passed, it will save lives—hopefully many of those 4700—and make countless more lives easier.

But what if you’re also a woman, though instead of impoverished, you’re well off, you’re well educated, and you already have complete access to the services and resources provided by the bill? It’s easy just to write the whole thing off and say to yourself, “Forget it. This is a poor woman’s bill, not mine.” But it’s high time we all realized that this bill is a lot more than a simple social welfare program affecting a fraction of the population. It is a cause for all of womankind and all of humankind. The RH Bill matters for you too.

To start, one of the most important provisions of the RH bill is mandatory reproductive health and sexuality education. This means that, from grades five to twelve, whether in public school, private school, or an alternative learning center, students will receive age-appropriate, non-fraudulent information about their sexual wellbeing from trained professionals. These classes will not only include lessons about puberty, safe sex, and contraceptive methods, but also lessons about sexual violence, responsible relationships, and children’s and women’s rights. You may say that your son or daughter will be educated about all this at home. But what about the people they become involved with? Can you honestly say that your child’s boyfriend or girlfriend will know to use to a condom, or will know the proper way to treat someone they’re romantically involved with?

The bill also provides for universal access to contraceptives. Not only will this increase your child’s chances of practicing solely safe sex, but it will also allow him or her to make wise decisions about starting a family. You may be perfectly willing to give your teen condoms, but don’t you remember being there yourself? Though this is a sad consequence of adolescence, often embarrassment, regardless of the child’s upbringing, outweighs a desire to make responsible choices. With contraceptives and sexual education easily accessible, your son or daughter will be able to seek information and resources in a situation more anonymous than approaching his or her parents.

But besides your children’s lives, this bill also has a very important effect on your own life—it forces your employer to respect your reproductive rights. As stated in Section 21 of the bill, entitled “Employers’ Responsibilities”, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) shall ensure that all employers provide reproductive health services to their employees, as well as written information regarding the reproductive health benefits in their contracts, and any reproductive hazards associated with their work. Furthermore, all employers must grant their pregnant employees a paid half-day of prenatal medical leave for each month of pregnancy.

Finally, though you may have complete and total access to all the reproductive resources, services, and education you could ever need, the symbolic importance of this bill for all Filipino women—poor, rich, and in between—cannot be ignored. No one is forcing the use of contraceptives; no one is demanding that you renounce your beliefs. All that the bill does is provide you with a choice. Health is a human right. Your body belongs to you and you alone and it is your right to be educated about it, provided with the resources to care for it, and freed to make your own decisions about what you put it through—especially when that decision concerns bringing another person into this world. Your vagina, your rules. If passed, the RH bill will mark a significant victory for supporters of women’s rights everywhere. We may have the vote, we may hold an amazing portion of public offices, but are we really free—each one of us—to take full advantage of our rights as humans and make our own decisions about our own bodies?

If not for the eleven Filipino women who die each day from pregnancy or childbirth related causes, if not for the thousands of others who wish to delay or avoid their next pregnancy, if not for your own children, then for yourselves and for the global cause of womankind and human rights, support the RH bills. It matters for you too.




Purple Ribbon Launch Attracts Power Personalities

By Janina Santos

As if heading off to a fight, former President Fidel V. Ramos pulled off his formal top and, sporting a shirt that said, “No Woman Should Die Giving Life,” mounted the stage. “For you to do the right thing,” he said, addressing President Noynoy Aquino, “you must certify the RH bill as urgent.” Upon hearing his words, the audience broke into thunderous applause. For all those there, it was indeed a fight—one more fight in the ongoing battle for the controversial Reproductive Health bill.

A gathering of champions

Ramos is only one of the powerhouse of RH advocates who attended the Day of the Purple Ribbon: A Gathering of Leaders, Artists and Public Figures for RH, held in Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ortigas, on May 11. The event, hosted by RH leaders Jim Paredes and Leah Navarro, who were joined by Tuesday Vargas, gathered various leaders, artists, public figures, and advocates together for the launch of the Purple Ribbon. Designed by Team Manila, the Purple Ribbon is the insignia of the fight for the RH Bill, a proposed law that could save the lives of the thousands of women who die each year from complications of childbirth and pregnancy.

Event hosts Jim Paredes and Leah Navarro. Photo from Spot.ph

Former President Fidel V. Ramos and Ex-Secretary of the Department of Health Esperanza Cabral were the primary speakers of the event. They were joined by other prominent figures including ex-Akbayan partylist representative Risa Hontiveros, who unveiled the Purple Ribbon, authors of the bill Hon. Edcel C.  Lagman and Janette L. Garin, and current DOH Secretary Enrique Ona, whose speech delighted the hundreds of RH supporters present.

“The Aquino administration has not wavered on its vow to enact a policy on responsible parenthood,” said Ona, implying the continuous support of Malacanang for the bill, despite the delays and the opposition of some groups, the most prominent of which is the Catholic Church. Ona’s statement reinforced President Aquino’s desire for passage of a law combating overpopulation and maternal deaths. In an effort to speed the process along, Malacanang has invited the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to engage in dialogues to settle differences and pass a bill that complies with the needs of both parties. The bishops, however, have given up on the talks, proclaiming them useless.

Former DOH Secretary Esperanza Cabral. Photo from Spot.ph

In her speech, Representative Cabral expressed concern over the delays in passing the bill. “Our country’s political leaders have been dilly dallying over this very important piece of legislation for more than ten years now, and this has caused the deaths of many women, especially poor mothers.” As mentioned by Cabral, 4,700 mothers die every year due to pregnancy complications.

Other speakers at the event decried the opposition’s refusal to deal fairly. “They do not even pretend to listen; worse, they put words in our mouth,” Representative Garin stated during her speech.

More than criticisms, however, speakers harped on the necessity for action and effusively praised the vision of RH supporters. In response to the common misconceptions of the bill, Lagman called on all advocates to band together in educating the people about the bill’s actual contents. “Together,” he said, “we will achieve a common dream that every child born in this country is wanted.”

Artists for the Purple Ribbon

The program of events also contained quite a few star-studded performances, including one by internationally acclaimed actress and singer Lea Salonga, who has been dubbed ambassadress for the RH movement. In a short speech, Salonga stated her belief that it is the government’s responsibility not only to provide contraceptives and related services, but also to educate its citizens about all birth control methods. Salonga also takes it upon herself to educate people about the bill through social networks like Facebook and Twitter and through her blog.

“I would love to see our country become something so great,” she said before singing the Beatles’ classic “Imagine”. “There are many ways to get there. This is just one of the many ways, but we still have to take it.”

Popular local singers Noel Cabangon, Cookie Chua, Imago and The Dawn also performed during the launch to show their rock-hard support for the bill. The massive turnout of such notable public figures added great power to the voices of people clamoring for the RH Bill. At present, however, the fight continues, and the bill is still under scrutiny in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Article homepage photo taken from Spot.ph






Damasos and ovaries (part 1)

by Elizabeth Angsioco

Re-posted from Manila Standard Today.

Damaso lives. He mingles with us exacting obedience even on personal matters, women’s ovaries included.

Damaso epitomizes the Spanish friars’ powers and abuses in Jose Rizal’s famous novel, “Noli Me Tangere.” Father Damaso’s powers went beyond the spiritual realm. He also dominated politics. Thus, Damaso controlled heaven and earth, the body and soul of Filipinos.

Centuries later, Damaso’s significance was made current by Carlos Celdran’s protest. His call for the Catholic Church to stop meddling in politics reverberated in the halls of the Manila Cathedral. If Rizal were alive today, he would have surely written about this as well.

Controversies surrounding the reproductive health bill are significantly because of present-day Damasos who vigorously oppose its passage. This despite the clamor of those who are primarily affected—the women whose ovaries they want to control.

Recent developments like the anti-RH ordinances approved by Barangay Ayala Alabang and the seven barangays in Balanga, Bataan, the ongoing black propaganda against the RH bill particularly using the pulpit, all these show us how modern-day Damasos and their allies work.

I received copies of minutes of meetings of the BAA Council and we gathered information from women’s groups in Bataan about the ordinances. I was also sent a flyer distributed in Our Lady of Consolation Parish in Tandang Sora, Quezon City. These places are far from each other BUT events there are clearly related. I highly suspect that Damasos are behind these.

The BAA documents are explosive. Thanks to the meticulous documentation of the Barangay Council, we see a clear picture of what could have transpired in its approval of the “no prescription, no condom” ordinance.

For instance, item 9.3 of the 13 December Notice of Meeting was “Ordinance on RH bill.” Moreover, item 8.6 of the minutes of the same meeting says, “In connection with the RH bill, Chairman AX Burgos instructed the Kagawads to start conferring with the BEC District Coordinators and get their approval/comments. This will serve as our basis in passing the ordinance prepared by Sen. Pimentel.” (itals and emphasis mine)

Note that the Council used “RH bill” and not the ordinance title in reference to it. Moreover, was former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel the author of the ordinance? Note that the former Senator defended it during the subsequent public hearing called after the ordinance became controversial.

The minutes of the 23 December Public Hearing on the ordinance are equally revealing. The document tells us how the minds of some of our rich citizens work. For instance, lawyer Luis Sison (who defended the ordinance in media) is quoted as saying, “…I am honored to be here today because it has been said… that, ‘Where Ayala Alabang goes, so does the country.’ So, today, I hope this Committee… will also uphold that tradition. We are embarking on a very historic bill or ordinance that will hopefully transpire across the country and be a strong warning against the RH Bill.” Remember that lawyer Luis Sison was the same man who said that the BAA ordinance was inspired by their parish priest.

The minutes also indicate that when the need for the City Council’s approval of the ordinance was discussed, the Chair of Committee on Women’s Rights Ma. Soledad Tugade (who was chairing the hearing) reportedly said, “…with all the people around here, members of the church will pray for it, and I am sure Mr. Chairman, it will be approved. Malalakas sila.”

Clearly, the BAA Council passed the ordinance as a reaction to the RH bill. Also, it appears like some of them thought themselves to be so powerful that they can make the city council, and the whole country, follow their dictates!

The minutes also show that council knew the ordinance would be questioned. Worth noting too is the fact that many of those present in said public hearing were either Catholic-allied groups or anti-RH personalities, including former Representative Edmund Reyes, Atty. Luis Sison’s son-in-law.

Very recently, we heard reports that seven barangays in Balanga, Bataan (Puerto Rivas-Itaas; Puerto Rivas-Ibaba; Lote; Tortugas; Cupang Proper; Cupang West; and Tanato) likewise approved ordinances similar to BAA. My organization’s chapters in the province were instructed to gather as much information as they can on the matter. Our discussions indicated that:

On March 25, the City Mayor Jose Enrique Garcia III (known anti-RH personality) asked barangay officials to attend a seminar on the RH bill. Seven barangays were present. The speaker was former Representative Edmund Reyes who was also active in the passage of the BAA ordinance. Note that Reyes was in the HOR with the mayor’s father (also known anti-RH) now governor. According to the participants to the seminar, the speaker told them repeatedly that the RH bill is abortion.

Except for said seminar, no public hearing was called to discuss the ordinance. All of the kagawads our leaders spoke with said that they were just asked to sign the ordinance.

The most alarming information however, is the plan to have all the 25 barangays in Balanga pass the same ordinance. This allegedly, is what the Mayor wants.

Lote Bgy. Chair Richard Sioson told our leaders that on 29 March, officials of barangays that passed the ordinance were sent to Manila. They went to the office of former Sen. Pimentel to consult him about the ordinance. After meeting with the former senator, they also allegedly visited BAA and spoke with Chairman Alfred Xerez-Burgos who informed them that the BAA ordinance is on hold.

Our women leaders, in the course of their talks with barangay officials, requested for copies of the ordinance. However, despite repeated promises that these would be released and their daily visits to the different barangays, no copy was given them. Instead, they were told that the copies were collected by the city government.

Is this not most interesting? We see the same people moving in different places so anti-RH barangay ordinances are passed. The plot thickens. There will be more next week.

[email protected]

Sen. Pia Cayetano says P-Noy’s deprioritization of RH bill “indicates an indecisive leadership vulnerable to pressure;” DSWP’s Elizabeth Angsioco calls it “anti-women, anti-poor”

Senator Pia Cayetano, one of the advocates of the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, has expressed disappointment over Malaca?ang’s decision to exclude the bill from its list of priority measures, reportsPhilStar.com. Their decision “indicates a leadership that is indecisive and vulnerable to pressure,” she said earlier this week.

“What was worse was that President (Noynoy Aquino) pulled out the RH Bill from the list of priority bills at a time when the congressional hearings are about to be concluded and the plenary debates would commence,” Cayetano added. “This will be a true test of the political will of this administration, as well as the President?s sincerity and conviction.”

Meanwhile, Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) Chair Elizabeth Angsioco said in a statement released this week, “(The administration’s move) is not only anti-women, but also anti-poor. (The President) is betraying the millions of Filipinos who voted for him because he made a pact that he will listen to them. The RH bill was a campaign promise under his social contract with the Filipino people.”

DSWP added, “Women’s organizations have repeatedly requested for a dialogue with P-Noy on this issue, but we were, and are continuously ignored. Instead, he gave in to the whims of the Catholic hierarchy.” Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda earlier denied that the Malaca?ang has given in to the Catholic Church’s anti-Reproductive Health Bill stand, but said they “are not introducing the bill until after (they) finish the dialogue with the bishops.”

Ramon San Pascual, executive director of the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development Foundation Inc., told PhilStar.com, “We urge him (Aquino) to reconsider the inclusion of (the) RH bill as a priority bill.” He added, “This is the time that the President must act on behalf of poor women and families by standing firm on his promise to pursue responsible parenthood… It would be unfair for women to continue to become hostage of a dialogue and debate that has been going on for the past 10 years.”

For more on this story, log on to PhilStar.com.

If this bill could talk

by Elizabeth Angsioco

Re-posted from Manila Standard Today

I am the Consolidated Reproductive Health Bill. My six parent bills gave birth to me after the House of Representatives’ committee on population gave me its seal of approval. This is the 16th year of my family’s struggle to pass Congress and I have become quite controversial though not by design. What we really want is to help address the Filipino people’s needs, especially those of women in poverty.

Soon, I will be the subject of Plenary debates. But before that, I first want to be introduced to people who want to know me. Let me tell you what I offer and what I can do if I become a law.

I am pro-life.

ALL my provisions are about upholding your right to life. I am particularly protective of the poor and marginalized. I come with services that will address reproductive health-related diseases and make pregnancies and childbirth safe. These include:

Section 5- Training of midwives for skilled attendance which will result in better care for women who deliver babies at home or in health centers;

Section 6- Emergency obstetric care which are crucial life-saving services that will attend to childbirth complications;

Section 8- Maternal and newborn health care in crisis situations which mandates government to provide maternal, neonatal and other RH services even in temporary shelters, evacuation centers, and refugee camps;

Section 14- Benefits of serious and life-threatening RH conditions which tells PhilHealth to provide maximum benefits in cases of HIV and AIDS, breast and reproductive tract cancers, obstetric complications, etc.;

Section 15- Mobile health care service which will bring RH and other health services to our people especially to those of you who are in hard-to-reach areas; and

Section 19- Capability building of barangay health workers so they can help even in RH-related matters. This provision recognizes the reality that these workers are among the first who assist you in times of problems.

I want to make these important services accessible because these can help in keeping our people healthy and address the causes of deaths of mothers. The reality is women die from preventable and curable pregnancy and childbirth-related complications. I want to, and I can help save lives.

I am pro-choice.

You all have the right to make informed decisions, to choose from among options that should be available to you. Those who attack me say that I will coerce you into doing things that you do not want. They cannot be more wrong. Let me show you why.

I have the following provisions that will enable you to decide freely and intelligently, and actually put these decisions into action:

Section 7- Access to family planning which provides for the availability of ALL modern methods, including Natural Family Planning. This will ensure that you will have a full range of options to choose from;

Section 16- Mandatory Age-Appropriate RH and Sexuality Education. This provision of mine will educate our young people in an age-appropriate manner on RH-related matters including: physical, social and emotional changes in adolescents; fertility awareness; self-protection against discrimination, violence and abuse; STI, HIV and AIDS; and FP.

Moreover, this provision will help develop life-skills such as responsible decision-making among our young people as they learn values formation; children’s and women’s rights; responsible relationship; gender and development; and responsible parenthood;

Section 24- Right to RH care information which ensures that you will be provided with comprehensive and non-fraudulent information about available RH care and services; and

Section 28- Prohibited acts. Because I protect your right to know your options and freely make decisions, I prohibit: healthcare providers from withholding or restricting dissemination of information or providing incorrect information on RH programs and services; public officials from restricting the delivery of RH services, or coercing anyone to use such services; and employers from requiring employees to use or not use any FP method.

You see, there is nothing in me that coerces anyone. All I will do is make RH information and services available to you should YOU DECIDE to use them.

I am pro-poor.

I admit I have a bias for those in poverty. After all, those with money can readily pay for whatever service or supply they need. I am alarmed that many who die from pregnancy and childbirth complications are poor women. Thus, besides the above-mentioned provisions that will benefit our poor citizens, I offer a lot more including:

Section 12- Integration of family planning and responsible parenthood component in anti-poverty programs. Because of the expressed high unmet need for FP among the poor, I mandate government to include FP in its multi-dimensional approach against poverty.

Section 13- Roles of local government in FP programs is my provision ensuring that LGUs will prioritize the poor in terms of delivery of FP services.

Section 21- Employers’ responsibilities. This provision strengthens the Labor Code’s policy requiring big companies to provide RH services to employees. Smaller ones on the other hand, are asked to enter into partnerships with healthcare providers so they are able to do the same.

Section 22- Pro-bono services to indigent women. I ask RH care providers to give 48 hours of free service to indigent patients to further increase the poor’s access to RH programs.

Section 23- Sexual and RH programs for persons with disabilities (PWDs). Because RH is a right, PWDs will not be discriminated against in terms of the enjoyment of this right. Through this provision, I am mandating government to remove existing barriers to PWDs’ access to RH services.

I am pro-life, pro-choice, and pro-poor. These are what I stand for. All I want is to address people’s RH needs and prevent women from dying from preventable and curable causes. “No woman should die in giving life,” is a line I take seriously.

I hope that after telling you these, I will be better understood. I am tired of being lied about. Support me and I will serve well. To members of Congress: Vote for me, I am the reproductive health bill.

Quezon City and Manila and the bill that can equalize them (Part 3)

“In the legislative history of the Philippine Congress, there has been no time like now!,” Congressman Edcel Lagman confidently declared, stating his optimism that the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill will be passed during the 15th Congress.

Lagman, who is one of the principal authors of the RH Bill has says that he has many reasons to be optimistic – one of them being that the present Aquino government has publicly stated its support for “responsible parenthood” and the RH Bill.

The RH Bill, which has undergone various revisions and changes, has been waiting to be passed for more than 15 years.  Its main purpose is to set the guidelines and standards for reproductive health care, specifically:

* Information and access to both natural and modern family planning methods which are medically safe and legally permissible.

Women and couples will have the freedom of informed choice to decide on the mode of family planning they want to adopt based on their needs, personal convictions and religious beliefs.

* Hospital-based family planning.

Family planning methods requiring hospital services like ligation, vasectomy and IUD insertion shall be available in all national and local government hospitals.

* Contraceptives as essential medicines.

Reproductive health products shall be considered essential medicines and supplies mandating government hospitals to include these products in their essential inventory.

* Reproductive health education.

This will be taught by adequately trained teachers from Grade 5 to 4th year high school in an age-appropriate manner. Core subjects will include responsible parenthood, natural and modern family planning, the hazards of abortion, reproductive health and sexual rights, abstinence before marriage, and responsible sexuality.

Reducing maternal deaths

In the Philippines, there are 11 mothers who die every day due to childbirth related causes.

According to RH advocates and health experts, one of the main benefits of the RH Bill is it has three pillars which will help reduce the number of maternal deaths in the country:

1) family planning and contraception;

2) access to quality health care (which means shifting from the services of a “hilot” or traditional birth attendant to a qualified midwife;

3) and access to emergency obstetric care which includes care for post-abortive complications,

If it will be so beneficial, why is the RH Bill so hotly contested and why is it taking so long to pass?

In a nutshell, the strong influence of the Catholic Church has waylaid the passage of the bill.

The Church will not support modern forms of contraception. It will only support natural family planning methods like the rhythm method, which have high failure rates.

No time like now

More and more Filipinos recognize the need for a reproductive health law in the country and Lagman is right to say that there is no time like now to pass on the RH Bill.

A survey conducted by the Social Weather Station in 2008 shows that 71 percent of Filipinos favor the passage of the RH Bill and 66 percent of adult Filipinos want family planning education in the public schools.

After Carlos Celdran’s infamous Damaso stunt last September, even closet supporters of RH came out on the Free Carlos Celdran Facebook fan page. Members reached the thousands in a matter of hours.

Another group, “Excommunicate me, I support the RH Bill”, was formed shortly after.

NGOs picking up the slack

With no RH Bill, there is no national legislation to institutionalize budgets and services for RH care services. This allows for varying RH policies, subject to the whim of the local government officials and their own moral biases such as the notorious Executive Order 003 in the City of Manila, which bans all forms of contraception except natural family planning methods.

Junice Melgar, executive director of Likhaan, an NGO that provides RH services to women in marginalized communities, reported that during Mayor Lito Atienza’s time, some RH workers were harassed. One NGO, Women’s Health Care, shut down their operations.

Melgar added that since then, Likhaan and other NGOs have been picking up the slack, putting in “sweat equity” and contacting patients, spreading the word, making sure they establish roots in the community.

“We were forced to scout for resources ever since we did a research assessing the impact of Atienza’s ban in 2006-2007. We felt it was our ethical duty to respond to the problems that women had shared with us at great risk to their security.”, explained Melgar.

With external funding from the Packard Foundation and supplies donated by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Likhaan is able to fund small clinics and programs in parts of Manila like Vitas, Baseco, Magdalena and Paco.

“We tried to talk with Mayor Lim and the Community Health Office, but they have refused to spend money [on Rh] and provide services; they want the NGOs to do it.”, said Melgar.

In Vitas, Tondo, one the communities that Likhaan serves, the main source of livelihood is the production of charcoal from burning old wood. There are parts of the community that are literally enveloped in smoke. There is garbage and mud everywhere. It is impossible to take a step and not have your foot sink into garbage or mud.

It is here where 31 year old Beth, lives.

Beth is pregnant with her fifth child. She stays at home to take care of her four other children while her husband works as an aide in construction sites.

For her fourth and her current pregnancy, Beth received no pre or post natal check-ups. She is afraid of health clinics because she says she is afraid of injections.  One might think that when she mentioned “injections”, she meant “injectables” as a form of contraception. But when asked about family planning, Beth could only give a blank stare; like she had only a vague idea of the concept of planning and spacing pregnancies.

“The RH Bill is a national statute. It would naturally repeal other policies that are not in accordance with it such as Executive Order 003.”, said Lagman.

“It’s time we lower maternal deaths and give every woman an opportunity to finish her education, find productive work and elevate her self-esteem so that she may achieve her full potential. It is time we pass the RH Bill.”, Lagman concluded.

It is time to make women like Beth matter. It is time to pass the RH Bill.

This concludes the three part report on  population and development under a media fellowship grant awarded to Sex and Sensibilities.com by the Probe Media Foundation.

Condoms are for everyone, including women and Catholics

by Joy Lynn Alegarbes
Global Director of Operations for The Condom Project
SAS Guest Blogger 1


Hello, Sex and Sensibilities readers 🙂  

It was my pleasure to meet SAS founder and editorial director Ana Santos while in Bali, Indonesia this past summer at the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific; she recently invited me to be a guest blogger on this site, and I could not have been more excited to contribute to the sexual health and sensibilities of Filipinas worldwide.

I emailed Ana with a few ideas about blog posts for the month of March, and she encouraged me to focus my first post on the benefits of condoms and their help in reducing HIV transmission in Asian communities.  Given the current controversy with Philippine Department of Health Secretary Cabral, I thought this to be a particularly relevant subject. 

In a recent email, Ana wrote from the Philippines:

It was on the news yesterday that the HIV numbers for Jan 2010 are in and they are again the highest recorded number in a month — overthrowing Dec 09 the previously proclaimed highest number. It just means that the numbers are on a consistent rise and we may no longer be classified as a low-incidence country soon. =(

A simple Google search of the phrase “Condoms in the Philippines”  yielded the following results:

“The Great Hypocrisy About Sex and Condoms in the Philippines…”
“Philippines sits on HIV time bomb”
“Philippines: Anti-Condom Policies Could Spark AIDS Explosion”

So if 1) HIV transmission in the Philippines is on an unprecedented rise, and 2) latex and synthetic condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV transmission during sexual activity… then why is there a such a controversy over making condoms free and available to the Filipino population, especially on a romantic holiday such as St. Valentines Day?

In my research for this first blog post I found much evidence on the positive effects of condom use in the LGBT community, among sex workers and with intravenous drug users in Asia.  While these are all wonderful findings, I was disappointed that I could not easily access more information about the benefits of condom use in other Asian populations.  My first post as a Sex and Sensibilities guest blogger is a personal attempt to make that gap of virtual information a little less wide 😉  

Condoms are for women.  Taking a condom with you for a night out should be as normal as taking your mobile phone, your keys, your purse.  We are responsible for our own health and well-being 🙂  Gender norms and attitudes about sex, particularly in relation to roles and responsibilities, have changed significantly in the past few decades.  We are living at a time when we can enjoy a happy and healthy sex life!  Women who carry condoms are not loose – we’re just smart.  Like men, we cannot predict the future, but we should try our best to be prepared for it.

Condoms are for Catholics.  An enormous part of being a good Catholic is caring for and respecting those around you.  By using condoms, you are demonstrating the deep care you have for both yourself and your partner.  You are showing that you respect the right to live a healthy and happy life; the right to family planning and to have children only when you are ready; the right to choose how, when and with whom to engage in sexual activity; the right to decide what is best for you.

St. Valentine is the Catholic Patron Saint of Love, Young People and Happy Marriages.  In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom.  In 2006, National Condom Week was celebrated for the first time from February 14th to February 21st in California, a state that is populated by nearly 480,000 Filipinos.  As I was raised a Catholic and taught to pray to the Saints for strength and hope, I’d like to believe that St. Valentine helped to conspire in this happy, week-long observance 😉  Click here to download Sex in the HIV/AIDS Era: A Guide for Catholics and to read about why Good Catholics Use Condoms.

Condoms are for everyone.  We should all learn about condoms, their health benefits as a medical device and even their added benefits beyond prevention.  If you are sexually active, then you should know that condoms are highly effective in preventing both unintended pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.  If you are not sexually active, you should still know this life-saving information so that you can pass it along to the people in your life who are sexually active.  You don’t need to know how to drive a car to understand the benefits of wearing a seat belt, right?

Sex is a choice.  You can choose to not have sex, and the people that truly care about you should respect your decision; but if you are going to choose to be sexually active, then you need to know the options you have to protect yourself and your partner.

I love your emails!  Write to me with your questions and comments: SaferSexy [at] gmail.com
Check in on my blog:  http://CircaJoyLynn.wordpress.com
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