Friday, August 26, 2011

Bill co-sponsor admits RH is a population control measure

MANILA, August 26, 2011―The plenary debates at the House of Representatives on August 24 was an unexpected demonstration in unparliamentary behavior by a neophyte solon, but outshining the condescension exemplified was the equally unexpected admission that House Bill 4244, or the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, targets population control.
Pangasinan Rep. Kimi Cojuangco, co-sponsor of the bill, at times responded with arrogance to Zambales Rep. Ma. Milagros Magsaysay’ interpellation, over points in which she apparently was not well-versed but swiftly making an admission that surprised even her co-RH proponents.
“Is [the RH bill] a population measure?” Magsaysay asked.
“Of course,” Cojuangco asserted.
“Of course? It’s a population measure? To curb poverty, do you need to curb population? In your eyes?” Magsaysay further asked.
“Definitely,” came the sure reply.
“In other words, you are contradicting the position of all your other co-sponsors there who said that this is not a population measure, that this is not a poverty alleviation measure.”
The Pangasinan congresswoman paused for a few seconds before saying, “Well, it’s not a population… ay, it is a population measure but it’s not population control.”
After a few more moments of silence in the hall, Cojuangco insisted, “It’s a population measure but it’s not population control.”
Misunderstanding the IRR
Prior to the population control measure admission was a lengthy discussion on the Magna Carta of Women (MCW), which Magsaysay repeatedly pointed out was an existing law that already addresses the concerns Cojuangco mentioned as reasons why an RH law in her opinion was necessary, such as the need for more birthing facilities, maternal health services, to name a few.
To the Pangasinan solon’s insistence that the MCW’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) did not carry the weight of the law and were mere guidelines, Magsaysay explained, “When we have a law in the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and there is the IRR on how to implement the law, the IRR is the one being used by the BIR to implement the law that we passed through Congress. So you cannot say that an IRR cannot be implemented, because it is in fact a law.”
Magsaysay then mentioned other departments such as the Bureau of Customs and the Department of Health (DOH) tasked with law implementation and how the IRR for each law determines how this is to be done.
“So I beg to disagree with the Madame Sponsor when she said that the IRR is not a law and that the IRR does not carry the weight of the law.”
Magsaysay continued to enumerate the agencies tasked with implementing the MCW, which is specified in the law’s IRR. According to her, the National Commission on Women (NCW) takes charge of overseeing the proper implementation of the Magna Carta’s provisions by the different agencies–the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Department of Education (DepEd), Commisision on Higher Education (CHEd), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
“Now if there are no funds being allocated by the national government through the budget of the Department of Health, then you can question the national government for not providing these things in the budget, “she added.
Apparently, Magsaysay’s pointing out the government’s failure to implement the law signed in 2009 upset Cojuangco, resulting in a manner uncharacteristic of legislators in plenary discussions.
“You’re saying that the national government failed. And as a member of the 14th and 12th Congress, where were you? Where were you when the budget allocation was being talked about with regard to the Magna Carta? What happened? Why was nothing asked? Why did you not raise your hand and say we need an allocation for this?” Cojuangco asserted.
After repeating the necessity of a reproductive health law and insisting that the Magna Carta IRR was useless, she got a quiet response from the Zambales lawmaker.
“Madame Sponsor, I would just like to inform you, in case you don’t know, that the lady behind you seated at the table was a member of the group that crafted the IRR of the Magna Carta of Women. How can you say now that nobody… why don’t you ask her?”
Magsaysay was referring to Elizabeth Angsioco of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP), a prominent RH supporter.
The need to implement the Magna Carta of Women
After several more exchanges that tackled the MCW’s provisions on maternal and child health, and the redundancy of the RH bill due to the MCW, the Pangasinan solon again allowed the obvious difference in perspectives and her probable dissatisfaction over the law’s non-implementation to get the better of her.
“Maybe we can agree, do you agree with me? Something is wrong because nothing has happened. Am I not right? Nothing has happened. Tell me, has anything happened?” she said in clipped tones.
“All the beautiful things you talked about, just answer me ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Has anything happened?”
“That’s precisely my point…”
“Exactly! Has anything happened?”
A new law is what is needed, Cojuangco stressed, to which Magsaysay replied, “We can make laws here, we can even pass that RH bill if you want to. But that does not ensure that the national government will provide you with what is necessary to implement it. Why don’t you compel the government to provide what is necessary to ensure maternal health care as mandated by the Magna Carta of Women?”
“There is an existing law, so compel the national government to provide the funds to ensure that there are birthing facilities in all rural [clinics], that these are equipped with medicines and vitamins as far as pregnant women are concerned, that they also have doctors, nurses and midwives in rural clinics, and that they can also provide free medical services in case the mother has no money to deliver her baby safely,” Magsaysay added.
“You do not need to pass your RH bill to ensure that there are doctors, nurses and midwives because [these are] already provided by law,” she continued.
“All we have to do is to compel the present government to provide proper maternal health care to all the mothers, to provide the proper neonatal care to all the mothers and babies, to provide the proper gynecological care to all women… just to make sure that the mothers do not die, that children do not die. But we don’t need to pass the RH bill; we need to compel the national government to implement the provisions of the MCW,” Magsaysay said.
Plenary sessions at the House of Representatives continue on September 5. (Diana Uichanco)

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