7/27/11 Manila, Philippines - A national advocacy group expressed their dismay over President Aquino's State of the Nation Address for omitting many important issues the country is facing under his term, such as the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) Bill.
The Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN), a national coalition of different RH advocacy groups, said PNoy 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 and that the RH Bill is also an integral part of the legislative agenda in the president’s Philippine Development Plan. However, was its omission from the SONA a Freudian or political slip?
Ironically, PNoy 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.
RHAN hopes the President's special mention of cardinals and bishops does not mean allowing them to dictate on the nation's health and population policies, like much during his predecessor's time. RHAN said "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.
RHAN reiterated that it is not right to allow a fundamentalist faction of the Catholic Church to hold hostage the 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." said Dr. Junice Melgar, the Secretary General of RHAN. She said that majority of respondents to respected national polls, such as the Social Weather Station and Pulse Asia, have also 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." Melgar said. RHAN is hoping that even if the opportunity at SONA has passed, PNoy 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.