Despite shameless dithering and outright bullying of resource speakers by anti-RH congressmen, isolated and dated studies presented as ‘conclusive evidence’ and yet more spouting of the misinformation opponents of the RH bill fear they’ll be jailed for should it pass (condoms don’t prevent AIDS, they spread it! Oral contraceptives will give everyone cancer!), the house population committee this week passed the motion to terminate congressional hearings and move to a technical working group, bringing the process to pass the RH bill one step closer to fruition.
The 3rd and last congressional hearing on the RH Bill saw the petty, the ignorant and the absurd. Honorable House Representatives bereft of valid arguments against the bill wasting time with long rambling speeches about arcane procedural loopholes, ganging up on resource speakers and demanding they answer questions outside their fields of expertise while ignoring the actual experts’ advice, facts and figures. In blatant breach of congressional decorum, audience members in opposition to the bill laughed derisively, incredulous at the assertions of the representative of the Catholics For The RH Bill that she could indeed be a Catholic and in support of the bill. At one point a three foot high poster of the Blessed Virgin Mary was raised up out of the audience area in the hands of a Pro-life Philippines member trying to distract a resource speaker, the same lady who at the last hearing called the bill’s supporters ‘Pro-death’.
That hearing also saw the brave, the well-informed and the just. A simple poor working mother, brought in as a resource speaker to relay the plight of the urban poor for whom ‘natural’ planning methods had failed so miserably, daring to speak out of turn and address a Congressman directly, chastising him for insinuating that oral contraceptives cause cancer by challenging him to come across the table so she could show him just how strong she still was after 20 years on the pill. Doctor after nurse after statistician after economist putting their professional expertise at the public’s disposal. Other congressmen, perhaps more mindful of the mandate of their office, remembering to simply thank the gathered resource speakers for their time and reminding their fellows to treat those citizens with respect.
Because it is too rare for the public to see these elected officials outside of a TV studio interview or campaign rally, here are the names of the congressmen who acquited themselves well in the meeting, perhaps the exceptions that prove the rule*:
Hon. Rep. Walden Bello, Akbayan
Hon. Rep. Rogelio Espina, Biliran
Hon. Rep. Janette Garin, Iloilo
Hon. Rep. Teddy Casino, Bayan Muna
Hon. Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, Gabriela
Hon. Rep. Edcel Lagman, Albay
And here are those who fuel cynics/realists everywhere:
Hon. Rep. Karlo Nograles, Davao
Hon. Rep. Pablo Garcia, Cebu
Hon. Rep. Irwin Tieng, Buhay
Hon. Rep. Victorino Socrates, Palawan
In the much delayed interest of brevity, specific examples of their hot-or-not behaviour may be saved for either a future article or bought through a semi-inebriated dinner conversation with this author, who enjoys spicy food and cheap red wine.
The bias in this piece is obvious, and if it seems like those politicians against the bill are caricatured as arrogant know-nothing gloryhounds on a bully pulpit, any tax payer should be free to have a peek at the documented footage or transcript of the hearing. And what of the esteemed medical, educational or civil rights experts that must have been brought in by the opposition? In the interest of, or perhaps as a mere sop to, fairness, presented hereunder is the first resource speaker brought in to present her formal position paper in opposition to the RH Bill.
Despite all the ugliness on parade, at the end of the day we won. For at least that one day, government worked, and it worked because of all of you, you with your hours sacrificed on the altar of civic participation. It might even continue to work, if we all can keep making it so.
*The rule which states that in the event of a nuclear apocalypse, survivors are to eat their legislators first.