Tag Archive | "Responsible Parenthood"

Why PNoy’s SONA is Not a Triumph for the RH Bill

Yesterday, SONA day, a few of us Freethinkers marched down Commonwealth as pregnant PNoys—enormous face masks, pillows for bellies, juggling plastic babies—to allude to the president’s negligence towards the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill. Our banner read, “PNoy, kung nabubuntis ka, ang RH batas na.” (PNoy, if you could get pregnant, RH would be a law by now.)

We wanted to point out that if our president could literally get pregnant, could experience first-hand the immense hardship so many Filipinas go through raising multiple children on a less-than-meager budget, he’d have stuck to his promise to speed up the long-delayed passage of the bill, and not be the dilly-dallying, passive-aggressive politician he’s being now. Give the man a uterus and see if he’ll still pander to the bullying bishops of the CBCP.

Later that day, my Facebook newsfeed tittered with reports that PNoy had actually expressed his desire to pass the RH Bill during his SONA. Media accounts and FB friends alike sang praises for the following sound byte:

“Ngayong paubos na po ang backlog sa textbooks, sana po ay maiwasan na rin ang backlog sa estudyante. Sa tingin ko po, responsible parenthood ang sagot dito.” (Now that our textbook backlog is growing smaller, I hope that we soon get to avoid a backlog in students as well. In my view, responsible parenthood is the answer to this.)

It was reported that this blip in his speech garnered the loudest and longest spell of applause in the entire event. Some present even gave him a standing ovation. People were ecstatic. People were claiming PNoy had finally put his foot down regarding RH.

But I don’t buy it. And neither should anyone else, most especially fellow pro-RH advocates.

By sneaking the term “responsible parenthood” into a statement about education, PNoy remains the dilly-dallying, passive-aggressive politician we’ve been frustrated with since RH became a LEDAC priority measure last year. Not only did he not elaborate as to why responsible parenthood—itself a watered-down, wishy-washy euphemism for reproductive health—would help with the student backlog, but he also worded the statement itself to be quite safe and retraction-friendly.

In his speech, responsible parenthood was a mere aside to a larger concern. Moreover, the phrase “sa tingin ko po” or “in my view,” wraps responsible parenthood in a sheath of self-confessed personal bias. (It’s just his own humble opinion; he’s definitely not setting anything in stone, so to all the anti-RH out there, don’t get all huffy just yet.)

I confess that this last part may be reading too much into things, but regardless of this, what PNoy said still appears very much to be lousy lip service to all the pro-RH begging him to grow a pair. What he said was just a bit of cat nip to tide everyone over for a while. He and his Communications staff likely hoped that the crowd would react the way they did, because this would earn him a respite from all our criticism, would make us temporarily forget that it is partly due to his negligence of the RH issue that the bill continues to be woefully delayed.

Realize that he didn’t promise us anything in that speech. In fact,  what he said could very well help to delay the bill’s passage even more, as we would spend so much time waiting for something that actually wasn’t assured to us.

PNoy should have just said, “I will work to get the RH Bill passed.” Straightforward, to the point, definitive, crystal clear.

At the pro-RH demonstration earlier that day, the crowd was introduced to a 19-year-old girl who had to take care of her 10 younger siblings herself. Their mother had died upon giving birth to the 11th child—one of the 12 women who die each day from maternal complications. And this 19-year-old girl was pregnant as well. Unless PNoy actually acts on his promise to make the RH law a reality, nothing else from him can assure us that this young girl’s plight will no longer be repeated with other women again and again and again.

That so many of us praised this blip in his speech to the highest heavens simply betrays how desperate we’ve become at this point. We’re starting to hear the things we want to hear, and not see the situation for what it really is. We still have quite a ways to go, and until the president actually says–and, more importantly, does–something directly, unmistakably in favor of reproductive health, we have no reason to celebrate anything just yet.


Photos c/o Frank III Manuel

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The Height of Hypocrisy: CBCP Proactive Against HIV/AIDS

We need to construct a compelling prevention narrative… One that inspires countries to mount permanent prevention campaigns that are socially inclusive, that combat public hypocrisy on sexual matters, that build AIDS competencies, and that systematically promote sexual and reproductive health and rights.

~Mr. Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director

In the fight against HIV and AIDS in the Philippines, UNAIDS has found a new ally: CBCP.  In a meeting this morning,  Steve Kraus, Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific, met with Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo. This collaboration might seem like the kind of thing you’d read about in The Onion.

Because this is the same UNAIDS that, in a position statement with UNFPA and WHO, said that

  • The male latex condom is the single, most efficient, available technology to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
  • Condoms must be readily available universally, either free or at low cost, and promoted in ways that help overcome social and personal obstacles to their use.
  • HIV prevention education and condom promotion must overcome the challenges of complex gender and cultural factors.

And this is the same Church lead by a Pope who said that

HIV/Aids is a tragedy that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem.

When two organizations with diametrically opposed opinions work together, one of them makes a compromise. In this case — like in many others — it was the CBCP that didn’t budge. If this is any indication of what the responsible parenthood bill will contain, things don’t look so good.

In the four-hour meeting, “controversial issue[s] such as condom use” were not discussed. How can you play a “more proactive role in the fight against HIV/AIDS” without even trying to bring up condoms? It seems that Kraus knew what he was getting into.

Which is why his focus seems to be on getting the Church to help fight the stigma against people with HIV/AIDS. Kraus said that the meeting was “more about acceptance of people infected or living with HIV.” Sometimes you have to focus on things you can agree on if you want to get anything done. In this case, it’s that people living with HIV/AIDS do not deserve to be discriminated against. I fully support UNAIDS, CBCP, and any other organization in this endeavor.

It would have been fine if Kraus left it at that. But Kraus made some statements that are so patently false I suspect they could have been misattributed to him by the CBCP reporter:

Kraus said it’s high time to “speak on” about the epidemic because what drives the disease at present is “stigma and discrimination.”

By promoting community solidarity, the UNAIDS official said, the church can prevent new HIV infections

So if there were no stigma and discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS, new infections would stop spreading? Like I said, I fully support ending discrimination in these cases. But doing this will not significantly control the spread of the disease. What really needs to be addressed is the stigma against sex, sex education, and contraceptives — all perpetuated by the CBCP.

On the other hand, Archbishop Lagdameo made it clear that although they said they would now be proactive in fighting HIV/AIDS, their decades-old position remains:

“Our support is selective which means to say we’ll help in raising awareness to the people, and address stigma and discrimination,” said Lagdameo, former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
“We will not join in the promotion of condom use; it will just worsen the problem.”

Even after hearing that, Kraus went on to refute “claims that the church is a hindrance to the campaign against HIV/AIDS.” Is Kraus really a representative of an organization that thinks “condom use is a critical element in a comprehensive, effective and sustainable approach to HIV prevention and treatment”? Either Kraus was misquoted (several times) by the CBCP reporter, or he went too far in pandering to the CBCP. Now I don’t know who’s the bigger hypocrite.

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Let Me Be Wrong

I will readily admit that my previous writings have been possessed of the sort of presumptive self-assurance that only a complete lack of professional credentials can bring. Regarding Malacanang’s recent proposal to put up a Responsible Parenthood bill to replace the Reproductive Health bill however, I find myself hoping to God that I could be wrong.

I want to be wrong in thinking that this constitutes more than a simple name change or rebranding. I want to believe that this new bill will not gut the existing RH Bill’s vital provisions on ensuring access to modern effective contraceptives, pre/post natal care and age appropriate sex education. I want it to be a coincidence, the way that recent Palace lines about ‘natural family planning centers’ echo the previous administration’s rosary bead rythm method bracelets.

I fervently wish to be wrong about suspecting our good President of conducting exactly the sort of shady backroom deal-making he criticized his predecessor for doing. Perhaps the CBCP officials that he keeps admitting to meeting with behind closed doors are moral exemplars embodying the best Christian values of honesty, humility and kindness. Good men and wome… well, just men actually, who are honest and humble enough to present and accept the best scientific evidence for their arguments, and are kind enough not to try bullying publicly elected officials into crafting public policies without public discussion. You know, different people from the ones they keep letting out of their compound to talk to everyone else.

In my ideal world, this article and others like it raising concerns about these developments will turn out to be silly and pointless. Six months into the future, I want everybody to point and laugh at me for having worried as we all stand triumphant on a meaningful, substantive and effective bill. I want to be dead wrong in thinking that Responsible Parenthood might be a huge public relations bait-and-switch and the ultimate betrayal of everything that everyone has fought for all these years.

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