It has been my desire during the past summer to make a statement (however inconsequential it would turn out) about the much-talked-about Reproductive Health (RH) Bill. Such desire was born not out of the want of higher blog traffic but rather out of that need to look more critically into the affairs confronting the Filipinos. The RH Bill has created allies and enemies amongst the churchmen and politicians. And the citizens in general still have no coherent take on this proposed bill.
This short entry would only contain my own personal views, naïve and not so extensive, but I think enough to convince myself that I understand the issue, free from influence of organizational affiliations, religious convictions, or political leanings. After all, I am not a religious or a politically active person. I am just a citizen (hence the title). My attempt to settle my take on this issue is also an attempt to free myself from national affair musing so that I could understand well the upcoming State-of-the-Nation Address of the President. But enough of this lengthy introduction.
The Bone of Contention
The root of all dispute is of course this certain bill, labeled as 4244: “An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development, and for other Purposes” which has precursors in the earlier passed bill numbers 96, 101, 513, 1160, 1520, and 3387. The lobbying of this bill has gone a long way already, stretching from the previous Congress up to the Congress which would open this week.
Composed of 34 Articles, the bill is basically a laying down of provisions to what we could call reproductive health assistance of the government, from the pregnancy period of the mother; proper health and sexual education for the husbands, wives, and children; employer-employee responsibilities with regards to health education and benefits; among others. The proposed bill is quite extensive; having a lengthy discussion of the mechanism on how it will be implemented once passed into law.
The Catholic Church Takes its Side
The evil as seen by the others is the seemIng disregard of the bill to life. The bill, in all its forms and manifestations, is against life. It sees its aims as a direct assault to the sanctity of life. The basic idea is: preventing conception is tantamount to preventing life, to stumping out life.
Thus on January 2011, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines thought it better to come out with a Pastoral Letter detailing their rejection of the bill. The Pastoral Letter opened with a few quotations from the Philippine Constitution, saying that it would show that their view is not solely for the benefit of the Catholic faith but rather of the Filipinos in general. The core principle shared by the believers in ‘God’ was discussed side by side with the objections against the bill, point by point (there were six actually). In response they also came up with six items on which the CBCP stand for, ending with a call the legislators to trash the bill.
Besides this, the CBCP also produced a three-part module aimed at orienting the individual on the importance of life and how to properly understand the bill and see its supposedly faulty premises.
The Fight Continues
But of course, open letters and messages did not prevent the bitter fight to continue. Mud slinging was done in the open, with one side saying the proponents are ‘anti-Christian’ while on other side, words about the failure to understand the merits of the bill can be heard.
A Citizen’s Take
Shedding that sickening prejudice about killing life in its conception, I am supporting the drive for the passage of the bill. By all means, it would aid the government in addressing the needs of the citizenry in general, without having to worry much about the ballooning population each day. I see the bill as a deployment of a defense line so that it could pool its resources to facing other aspects.
This is not to mean that we are seeing that population is the reason for poverty; such thinking can only come from for those quarters who are offended with this revolutionary idea. As Conrado de Quiros said on one of his columns, population control (which the detractos say can be equated with the RH Bill) will not solve poverty. But neither is education only. The country produces PhD graduates each year but we are not still anywhere near the stature of Singapore.
The problem as I see it is the corruption and misconception about the term reproductive health. It will not, in anyway, promote teenage sex and/or abortion (which was clearly indicated in the bill). It will not also make the subject of sex a triviality. The health and sex education and programs that the bill proposes is to formalize or knowledge about sexual and health care. Those who say that sex education must not be taught to the children or be learned in the level of couples are perhaps those who have fully understood sex, who have not experienced making love, and worse, they are the ones who do not believe that the Filipinos in general are not mature enough to understand ‘it’. Do they believe that we will be stuck with the popular (mis)concept(ion) that sex is dirty and cheap? I believe it is all about the misalignment of perspectives. You look at the bill through an evil spectacles, you will never see its merits.
So with this approach can I readily say that I am prolife, having given a positive view about the bill? I think so. I have passed through that level of uncertainty when we l;eared that a life has just been conceived. We made the necessary adjustments. It may have been screwed at the start but nevertheless we were able to cope with it. But that’s exactly what the bill wants to avoid, so that we free ourselves with some unnecessary worries and be well-equipped and informed citizens about the ins and outs of marriage, sex, pregnancy and eventual child rearing.
If towards the end of this narrative I have been unclear, my thoughts and emotions overcome the fingers typing these words. But I do hope I was able to say my take.
“Critics laud P-Noy for RH stance” by Cynthia D. Balana, Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 19, 2011, p. A2
“Churchmen bash P-Noy; unfair, says Malacañang” by Inquirer Southern Luzon, Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 20, 2011, pp. A1, A8
“Bishops step up anti-RH fight”, Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 25, 2011, p. A2
“Palace welcomes support for RH bill from religious groups” by Madel R. Sabater, Manila Bulletin, April 26, 2011 p. 6
“Vidal says Church-Palace dialogue on RH bill futile” by Jocelyn R. Uy, Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 26, 2011, pp. A1 and A15
“Civil disobedience not an option on RH bill passage – Palma”, Manila Bulletin, May 23, 2011 p. 21
‘Go easy on RH measure’ by Hannah L. Torregoza, Manila Bulletin, May 23, 2011 p. 18
“RX” by Conrado de Quiros, Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 28, 2011, p. A14