Friday, February 25, 2011

On Why Marcos Should Never be Buried in The Libingan ng Mga Bayani.

What are these talks about Marcos being buried at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani? It seems that the son of the late dictator is now resurrecting the issue after Gen. Angelo Reyes was buried there. And the response? We will study it. What?  We just celebrated the 25th anniversary of EDSA One!  If this burial is allowed of a man who put back the Philippines a hundred years in terms of economic and social progress behind other Asian countries, what do we celebrated EDSA for? The mere idea that this is a possibility is enough to make me break out in hives! And that there are even some  sectors who seem to favor this is beyond comprehension. I shake my head in disbelief.  How short our memory is.  I was 16 when Marcos declared Martial Law and 29 going on 30 when he left the country...that is 14 years of my life.  A life lived in fear and trepidation.  I was in first year college and I remember being told to be careful with what I say, do or even look like. Friends were picked up by the military for arbitrary reasons.  Travel was restricted, curfew was in place for all and we could not move around as we wished.  As time passed, we got used to this lifestyle and maybe even forgot what life was like before.  Pockets of dissent still existed and contrary opinions were whispered but life went on and if people's lives suffered, nobody dared complain. Corruption was rampant and because of this, moral degeneration among the people became an obvious consequence...people learned to live and deal with it and this became a culture that continues to this day.  The "Bagong Lipunan" (New Society) that Marcos envisioned never came to be. What happened instead were years of political repression, crony capitalism, graft, unbridled corruption, racketeering, human rights violations, bribery, embezzlement, land grabbing, control of the press and many more abuses, the name of some are not even invented . People became poorer while Marcos, his cronies and cult followers became richer.  And then, they murdered Ninoy Aquino.  

So, NO, please, please not even consider giving Marcos a place in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani...this will be an act of betrayal against all Filipinos who suffered the despotic Marcos years. Those were our lost years...years when we could have become the people and country that we deserve to be...time lost that will never come back again. Even for that alone, Marcos should never be buried in the place of heroes.

Memories of People Power - EDSA I

We haven't slept straight for 4 parents and brothers were all huddled over our radios listening to what was happening in Manila.  The atmosphere in the province was tense and everyone stayed at home waiting to see what would happen.  Those of us who volunteered for Namfrel during the snap election two weeks before were waiting for the signal to gather.  I remember it very as around 8 or 9 PM, we just had dinner and my family and I were all gathered at the dinner table listening to the news...then the commentator calmly said..."wala na si Marcos?"...we all looked at each other thinking...are we hearing it correctly? And then, a stronger voice..."The Marcoses have left MalacaƱang!" and then, another "It's over! Marcos is gone"!  I could feel the tears coming and then I saw my Dad with his silly grin, a look he had every time he felt strong emotions and to keep himself from mom was in tears and we all started hugging each other and jumping for joy.  Then the church bells started to ring and my dad took the car keys, got us all into the car to go to the city center...upon reaching the area...we can see hundreds of people laughing, jumping, hugging and shaking each others' hands.  Almost all were in their night clothes and even one neighbor did not have her teeth on! The church bells kept on ringing and car horns were honking.  As I write this, all those memories comes back and even until now, I could not describe the feeling...a feeling of happiness that until today, 25 years later remain unsurpassed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

On Why I Do Not Support The RH Bill

I finally got down and wrote my thoughts about the RH Bill on my Facebook page.  Since I already talked about this last year, I decided to copy the note here too.

There is a lot of conflict going on today regarding the the RH Bill and so many people pro and con talk about it, asks my opinion, that I felt I should put on record where I stand.  First, I want to be clear that I am for family planning and responsible parenthood. I agree that reproductive health, especially maternal and child care are important.  But I do not agree with the way the RH Bill is worded and made.  So simply put, I do not support the RH Bill...which one?...frankly, I don't know anymore which RH bill people are talking about because there are so many.  So I will just limit myself to the one I am familiar with and that is RH Bill No. 5043, 2008 version.  As someone coming from the health sector and familiar with the DOH programs on reproductive, maternal and child health, one does not need to read further to see and understand the real purpose of this so called "new" bill.  I could take it apart point by point.

From it's very title...AN ACT PROVIDING FOR A NATIONAL POLICY ON REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH, RESPONSIBLE PARENTHOOD AND POPULATION DEVELOPMENT, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.  The other purposes here being: to promote gender equality, women empowerment and human rights, specifically reproductive health rights.

But what about Republic Act 6365 which is AN ACT ESTABLISHING A NATIONAL POLICY ON POPULATION, CREATING THE COMMISSION ON POPULATION AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES ... doesn't it state that it is a "national policy" as well? and there's PRESIDENTIAL DECREE No. 79 December 8, 1972 REVISING THE POPULATION ACT OF NINETEEN HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-ONE. There is also Republic Act 7600 which is The Rooming-In and Breastfeeding Act of 1992 and Executive Order 209 or THE FAMILY CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES as well.  Plus the RA 9710 or The Magna Carta for Women, as well as the Violence against Women and Children laws.

Is there a difference between these laws and the RH Bill?  If you read through all of them, I would say not much and fact is, the RH bill more less just summarizes them all.  All the above previous laws addresses population, gender equality and equity, reproductive health care, et al.  Now I am not a lawyer, nor do I profess to know the law but in my layman's opinion, this RH Bill actually reads more like an inadequate and ambiguous IRR of all of the above laws rather than a law itself! It is redundant to say the least.

I find the following sections coercive and dictatorial. Are we not allowed conscientious objection here?

SEC. 9 of the RH Bill states: Hospital-Based Family Planning. -Tubal ligation, vasectomy, intrauterine device insertion and other family planning methods requiring hospital services shall be available in all national and local government hospitals, except: in specialty hospitals which may render such services on an optional basis. For indigent patients, such services shall be fully covered by PhilHealth insurance and/or government financial assistance. 

So, what happens if there doctorsdo not want to do these procedures?

And SEC. 10 states: Contraceptives as Essential Medicines. – Hormonal contraceptives, intrauterine devices, injectables and other allied reproductive health products and supplies shall be considered under the category of essential medicines and supplies which shall form part of the National Drug Formulary and the same shall be included in the regular purchase of essential medicines and supplies of all national and local hospitals and other government health units.

This one does not even need to be included here.  WHO has already listed contraceptives, IUDs, injectable hormonal contraceptives in their model list of essential drugs. My issue on this is simple.  Why in heavens name should hospitals include contraceptives in their regular procurement of essential drugs when they cannot even provide the complete course of antibiotics and other life-saving medicines?  Why should our taxes pay for contraceptive use which is basically cheap and available over the counter when our hospitals are in dire need of upgrading their facilities and services?  Why should I, a taxpayer pay for other people's birth control?

And then, this...
SEC. 21. Prohibited Acts. – The following acts are prohibited:

a) Any health care service provider, whether public or private, who shall:

1. Knowingly withhold information or impede the dissemination thereof, and/or intentionally provide incorrect information regarding programs and services on reproductive health including the right to informed choice and access to a full range of legal, medically-safe and effective family planning methods;

I interpret this as meaning that if I advise the patient on family planning/ responsible parenthood programs that I adhere to and not on other methods, then I am violating this law. Whatever happened to my rights?

2. Refuse to perform voluntary ligation and vasectomy and other legal and medically-safe reproductive health care services on any person of legal age on the ground of lack of spousal consent or authorization.

Very indiscriminate and random!  So, if a 21 year old with 2 children whose ages are 1 and 3 wants to undergo tubal ligation, this should be done just because?

3. Refuse to provide reproductive health care services to an abused minor, whose abused condition is certified by the proper official or personnel of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or to duly DSWD-certified abused pregnant minor on whose case no parental consent is necessary.

What exactly does "reproductive health services" constitute here?

4. Fail to provide, either deliberately or through gross or inexcusable negligence, reproductive health care services as mandated under this Act, the Local Government Code of 1991, the Labor Code, and Presidential Decree 79, as amended; and

What can I say....we cannot provide what we do not have in terms of skills, manpower and facilities. Does that constitute deliberate, gross or inexcusable negligence on our part or the government's?

5. Refuse to extend reproductive health care services and information on account of the patient’s civil status, gender or sexual orientation, age, religion, personal circumstances, and nature of work; Provided, That all conscientious objections of health care service providers based on religious grounds shall be respected: Provided, further, That the conscientious objector shall immediately refer the person seeking such care and services to another health care service provider within the same facility or one which is conveniently accessible: Provided, finally, That the patient is not in an emergency or serious case as defined in RA 8344 penalizing the refusal of hospitals and medical clinics to administer appropriate initial medical treatment and support in emergency and serious cases.

Ask ko lang....since when did contraception fall under emergency medicine?  Meron ba?  Has there ever been a case of "contraceptive emergency"? SO WHAT FALLS UNDER "EMERGENCY AND SERIOUS CASES"?  Maybe in cases of bleeding due to an IUD but otherwise, seeking reproductive health service specifically for tubal ligation, IUD insertion, et al... are all classified under elective procedures. There are already laws addressing emergency cases and penalties for doctors and hospitals refusing to treat such cases. This provision will only result in arbitrary interpretations and only create confusion.

b) Any public official who prohibits or restricts personally or through a subordinate the delivery of legal and medically-safe reproductive health care services, including family planning;

c) Any employer who shall fail to comply with his obligation under Section 17 of this Act or an employer who requires a female applicant or employee, as a condition for employment or continued employment, to involuntarily undergo sterilization, tubal ligation or any other form of contraceptive method;

d) Any person who shall falsify a certificate of compliance as required in Section 14 of this Act; and

e) Any person who maliciously engages in disinformation about the intent or provisions of this Act.

SEC. 22. Penalties. – The proper city or municipal court shall exercise jurisdiction over violations of this Act and the accused who is found guilty shall be sentenced to an imprisonment ranging from one (1) month to six (6) months or a fine ranging from Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00) to Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) or both such fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court. If the offender is a juridical person, the penalty shall be imposed upon the president, treasurer, secretary or any responsible officer. An offender who is an alien shall, after service of sentence, be deported immediately without further proceedings by the Bureau of Immigration. An offender who is a public officer or employee shall suffer the accessory penalty of dismissal from the government service. Violators of this Act shall be civilly liable to the offended party in such amount at the discretion of the proper court.

The Department of Health have programs in place for reproductive health, responsible parenthood, population development for the longest time.  The problem is efficient implementation and budget.  A new law to address all these is unnecessary and redundant.  Take a look at these DOH programs:
  • Family Planning
  • Breastfeeding Program / Mother and Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative
  • Natural Family Planning
  • Child Health
  • Adolescent and Youth Health and Development Program
  • Safe Motherhood and Women's Health Project
  • Newborn Screening
Moreover, the rate of population growth in the Philippines decreased from 3.1% in 1960 to 1.8% in 2009. This rate remained comparatively steady, and was consistent with the decrease in population growth rate worldwide.  A paper published in 2003 asserted that the population program was "ineffectual," not because of lack of population programs and policies but beacuse of "inadequate institutional and financial support".   

And what about the Catholic Church?

The argument by pro-RH people is that the reason why responsible parenthood is (as they perceive) not working is because of the Catholic Church.   Huh?  What is the evidence for that pronouncement? I invite you to visit the OB wards in hospitals and you will find that 75 to 80% of mothers giving birth in the hospital does not regularly attend mass, do not know their priest, have not gone back to confession since their first confession, are totally unaware of what actions the Church is doing against the RH bill. So what has the Church got to do with the failures of the population program?    In fact surveys show that Catholic women are very much aware of family planning methods and only a mere 5% has cited religion as their reason for not using contraception. This further tells me that the Church is actually ineffective in advancing Catholic teaching on contraception and sterilization.

So, is there a need for the RH Bill?  For me, a definite No

The RH Bill is something our lawmakers and government is pushing for to cover up for past failures in the implementation of their population program.  It is also a way of diverting attention from the real problems of this country. If they are serious about population management, then they should realize that what is needed is proper implementation, enough budget, committed health workers who will make these family planning services available during all working days of the week.  Information, accessibility, and availability of services is the key to success...not a new law.  People who want to avail of the services should have access to them. A older friend told me that the law is needed to ensure implementation...that LGU's will now be compelled to implement the law.  I think not.  This country has too many laws and more often than not, implementation is sadly lacking.  What is needed is political will and commitment to make any health program work. What is needed is good education, accessibility to the poor of effective health services, transparency in governance and no to graft and corruption. Only then can we minimize poverty...and then, the problem of overpopulation becomes moot and academic. This law is not empowering women, rather it disrespects them.

Related Post: The Filipino and Catholicism