With an impressive performance of RH Bill champions in the House of Representatives, the 15th Congress wrapped up its 1st Regular Session with the RH Bill claiming resounding victory. Fresh from its triumph at the various committees, HB 4244 wast tackled in plenary deliberations which started on 17 May 2011. By 08 June 2011, the debates were put on hold as Congress declared Sine Die. But before that, Hon. Janette Garin took the floor for a privilege speech on the need for the legislation of the RH Bill. As if in rebuttal, Hon. Karlo Nograles gave a privilege speech as well centering on the inefficiency of the Food and Drug Administration but with contraceptives as abortifacients being the core issue. The latter merited an interpellation from Hon. Edcel Lagman who effectively debunked every theory of Hon. Nograles and concluded that he does not welcome the idea of conducting an investigation based on speculations citing that Hon. Nograles did not even know what he was talking about.
The plenary debates are on hold right now while Congress is in Sine Die. The debates will resume when the 15th Congress opens for its 2nd Regular Session come July. Below is a summary of what transpired during the HOR Plenary Deliberations.
Lagman vs. Bagatsing – 17 May 2011
On May 17, 2011, the much awaited exchange of thoughts, ideas and interpellations started between the principal author Hon. Edcel Lagman and Hon. Amado Bagatsing from 5th District of Manila. According to the Hon. Bagatsing, the RH Bill is a direct attack on the church teachings and dogma. Bagatsing also said that there is no need for a legislation that will provide funds to buy contraceptives because they are already available to the public a long time ago. Also, Bagatsing pointed out that there are some NGOs and government institutions such as DOH, which are giving out free contraceptives (condoms, pills, IUDs, etc) to marginalized people. He also stressed that contraceptives are abortifacients, saying that the use of contraceptives is abortion because according to him, when you try to prevent the meeting of an egg and an ovum, then you are preventing pregnancy, and therefore it is abortion. When you prevent, you abort. When you stop something from fulfilling its obligation, it is as if you are stopping life. The Hon. Lagman on the other hand, tried his best to answer every possible question thrown at him sensibly. Hon. Lagman stressed out that there are number of reasons why the RH Bill should be enacted into a law as soon as possible. First, it is a policy that will help alleviate poverty. Studies have shown that there is a direct link between population and development. Second, it is a rights-based legislation which upholds the rights of parents, and most especially women. Rep. Lagman also pointed out that the bill is not only about contraceptives; it is also about family planning, maternal and infant health and nutrition, which includes breastfeeding. The bill strictly prohibits abortion but manages abortion complications because even though abortion is prohibited in our country, there are a number of abortion cases yearly which causes death among women.
Lagman vs. Garcia – 18 May 2011
Session resumed the next day, May 18, 2011 at exactly 6:23 PM in the afternoon, continuing the RH Bill debates. This time it is between Hon. Edcel Lagman and Hon. Pablo Garcia of 2nd District of Cebu. According to Garcia, God is everywhere. Each and every one of us is a servant of God, and we should abide by His laws and commandments. Pursuing the enactment of this bill is a major disobedience to Church teachings and to God. What seems right to other countries does not automatically mean it is right for our country. The said measure is detrimental to the moral values of the Philippines. Garcia also pointed out that this bill is US imperialism in disguise, using as his reference the Kissinger Report, dated 1968. Garcia stressed out that the poor doesn’t need contraceptives; they need food, clothing and shelter. They don’t need condoms, they need education. On the other hand, principal author Hon. Edcel Lagman stressed out that he is a congressman who happens to be a Catholic, but not a Catholic congressman. He also said that he is not allergic to God but rather, he is allergic to the uncalled for homily of Hon. Pablo Garcia. Hon. Lagman also said that if this RH Bill is indeed a secret US imperialist agenda, he will be the first one to object.
Lagman vs. Pacquiao – 18 May 2011
Saranggani representative Hon. Manny Pacquiao gave his interpellations about the said RH Bill also on May 18, 2011. His arguments mainly revolved around poverty, quoting the Hon. Lagman, saying that the bill’s measurement as a “magic wand” that will eradicate poverty. He questioned Hon. Lagman about this statement, and asked him why not make a true poverty alleviation measure. Rep. Pacquiao discussed the effects of “two-child policy” in our future labor work force. He also said that enactment of this bill into a law might deepen the country’s worsening poverty situation, for it will use billions of government funds. Meanwhile, Hon. Lagman answered every question made by the representative from Saranggani. Lagman stressed that this bill will not totally eradicate poverty in our country but rather, be one of the component solutions to poverty together with other similar measures. Regarding the “two-child policy”, Lagman said that this bill is not a population control measure and does not contain any projected population or demographic target. The “two-child policy” is nowhere inside the bill but it is the ideal family size suggested to couples who are planning to start a family. Lagman also said that compared to other megaprojects that are being funded by the government, the RH Bill is nothing compared to those projects. The proposed bill estimates necessary budget allocation at 3 Billion Pesos.
Golez vs. Marcoleta – 25 May 2011
Plenary debates regarding the RH Bill resumed on May 25, 2011, this time with Hon. Roilo Golez of 2nd district Paranaque and ALAGAD partylist representative Hon. Rodante Marcoleta. Hon. Golez arguments revolved mostly about the conception of the unborn child. According to him, conception begins when the sperm meets with the ovum, and stated that conception is the same as fertilization. Hon. Golez also espoused this idea that the constitutionally-guaranteed non-interference of the Church on the State, it should be the other way around. He said that the State should not interfere with the Church matters, especially on the Church teachings, simply because the Church has been here in our country, long before the State was established. Golez also stressed out that most of the provisions of HB 4244 are all included in the Magna Carta of Women, and enacting this bill into a law will be redundant and unnecessary. He also presented the numerology used in the HB 4244 is a number of the devil and it possess bad luck according to the Chinese numerology. Hon. Marcoleta, on the other hand, rebutted that because of the delay of the enactment of the bill, the Magna Carta of Women had to copy some provisions in the RH Bill and not the other way around.
Golez vs. Garin – 31 May 2011
Another interesting plenary debate happened last Tuesday (May 31, 2011) between the Hon. Anthony Golez and Hon. Janette Garin who happened to be both medical doctors. Arguments of the Hon. Golez mainly revolved about the reproductive cycle of a woman, ovulations and contraceptives. He presented in a systematic way what happens in ovulation and what are the effects of contraceptives especially a pill when a woman takes them. Sad for him, Rep. Garin was a very skilled OB-GYN doctor who is very exposed in almost all kinds of live births and also aware of the presentations made by Hon. Golez. The debates run mostly like a biology class according to the Hon. Kimi Cojuangco that interfered the debates of the honorable doctors. Garin stressed out that life is very unique that only God can determine when does life begin. She also stressed out that this bill will give informed choice to couples especially women how to plan their family and how to space their children. At the end of the debate, both have clearly shown their points on the effects of the contraceptives, what the country needs and how to eradicate poverty. Rep. Garin’s answers were very realistic, timely and most all believable for she had been immersed in a different community situation and is currently practicing her profession as medical doctor.
Bag-ao vs. Nograles – 01 June 2011
On June 1, 2011, Wednesday, AKBAYAN Partylist representative Hon. Kaka Bag-ao and Davao representative Hon. Karlo Nograles took the floor for the resumption of the RH Bill Plenary Debates. Nograles’ arguments revolved mainly around contraceptives being abortifacients, and that they are harmful to women’s health, especially pills. To support his arguments, he bought various kinds of pills that can be bought without a physician’s prescription. He stated that he cannot allow government funding this kind of bill that will risk the health of the consumers. On the other hand, Rep. Bag-ao made it clear that only FDA-approved pills are allowed to be distributed commercially, and these pills are medically-proven safe and effective according to various health institutions. She also stressed that this bill is not only about contraceptives or pills, contrary to what the gentleman from Davao has been stressing, but it is more importantly about informed choices, services and health care needs of the people. What is important is that the government can support them in their chosen way of planning their family, may it be natural or artificial. She also stressed that different medical studies show that there are only a limited number of pills that can be harmful to women’s health, and such pills have been pulled out in the market a long time ago because it was classified by the FDA as harmful. She reiterated that there is no reason for women to stop using contraceptives, and this is all according to the World Health Organization.
Tinio vs. Magsaysay – 07 June 2011
The series of plenary debates about the RH bill ended on June 7, 2011 between Alliance of Concerned Teachers or ACT Partylist representative Antonio Tinio and 1st district Zambales representative Milagros Magsaysay. The debate mainly revolved around Magsaysay questioning why is there a need for enacting this RH bill, when the bulk of the provisions included in the bill are also found in the Magna Carta for Women. Hon. Magsaysay said that enacting this bill into a law is unnecessary, redundant and a waste of time and money. On the other hand, Hon. Tinio rebutted that even with the Magna Carta for Women, he firmly believes that enacting the RH Bill into a law is still necessary and urgent. Tinio stressed out that even though there is Republic Act 9710 or the Magna Carta for Women which has the same provisions in some sections, this law still lacks implementation. He also stated that the reason why some provisions of the RH Bill are in the Magna Carta for Women is because the Magna Carta actually borrowed, or patterned, such provisions from the draft of the pending RH Bill, since the RH Bill is taking forever to be passed, and that the copied provisions are urgently needed by women and children, hence the duplication. In this light, Tinio explained that this duplication is an affirmation of the fact that RH Bill is not only primarily focused on contraceptives and family planning, but also on health care services as well, and it is actually a big bulk of the bill.
Lagman vs. Nograles – 08 June 2011
Plenary debates ended with Hon. Antonio Tinio of ACT-Teachers partylist and 1st district Zambales representative Hon. Milagros Magsaysay on June 7, 2011 but a surprising twist of interpellations happened between the Hon. Edcel Lagman and Hon. Karlo Nograles. It started out when Hon. Nograles gave an interesting privilege speech entitled “Devices of Death”, pertaining to the hazardous side effects of contraceptives. Hon. Nograles gladly welcomed Hon. Lagman’s series of inquiries about the said speech, and thus started their debate. The Hon. Lagman gave no mercy in asking his questions, and at the same time interpellating the Davao Representative. Hon. Lagman did not welcome the idea of conducting an investigation based on speculations citing that Hon. Nograles did not even know what he was talking about. The interpellation ended when Hon. Crisologo made a parliamentary query – which was an attempt to save Hon. Nograles from further exposing himself unprepared to the interpellations of Hon. Lagman.
by Tin Rocas