by Justin David Pineda

Tourist guide Carlos Celdran’s association to the church as “Damaso” and to himself as Jose Rizal, a hero for freedom is a fallacy. [20] First of all, priests today neither live extravagantly nor have control on the law. That’s why their stating their stand. Second, we’re no longer colonized and Celdran was not shot at Luneta after what he did. (with pun intended)

But seriously, a lot of people who are skeptics always tend to conclude that the stand of the church is very close minded and conservative. May it be written that these assumptions are true. However, that doesn’t conclude that whatever they say has no merit or point because that’s just one big hasty generalization. Further, we should treat religion as a concept and don’t judge it based on the people; because people (even fictional character) like “Damaso” commit mistakes. But the concept of religion remains and it has something good in it. You don’t judge a stand guilty by association to the church and just go to the other side and proclaim that it’s okay to get excommunicated. It’s just not logical.

Objective of the RH Bill

Obviously, before we can make an opinion regarding the RH Bill, we should have read the whole bill first. I’ll base my stand on the bill itself supporting it by factual data. So as a start, we must define what the Reproductive Health is. And as the bill defines: [1]

(Sec. 4, c.) …as the state of physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. This implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life, that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so, provided that these are not against the law. This further implies that women and men are afforded equal status in matters related to sexual relations and reproduction.

The definition of reproductive health in the context of the bill relates to “satisfying and safe sex.” There is nothing wrong with that. But later on, we will use this definition in application to the bill’s provisions.

So in summary (assuming you’ve read the bill), the main points that the bill wanted to achieve are to educate the people regarding reproduction (i.e. sex and its factors) and to promote responsible parenthood to manage population and reduce poverty. [3]

Fuzzy Logic

If the argument of the bill is when we reduce the population, we reduce the poverty then these pro-RH legislators believe that population is the cause of poverty. But is the population the real cause of poverty? Let’s say that the population is reduced from 100 million to 50 million (hypothetical). Do you actually think that even reducing the population by half (well, I exaggerated it), poverty will be reduced in percentage (not on number of people of course)? I won’t dwell on comparison and contrast between other countries that are populated and yet far with the country’s economic status because it’s very relative and very debatable. But the bill’s premise does not necessarily follow this logic. I would like to stress out that population is not the cause of poverty. If you don’t agree, tell me what kind logic will result to reducing population equals reducing poverty. If you say Singapore, then why are they paying the people to give birth to children and ask foreigners to live in their land?

Practicability of Contraceptives

 

As per the RH bill, it considers contraceptives as “essential medicines.” [1] 

SEC. 10. 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 lord hospitals and other government health units.

These essential medicines will be available to every part of the country, which will be distributed by the baranggays to the people. As of writing, there’s no amount yet stating how much should be allotted for these medicines. But if it’s for the whole of the country, surely it will range from about hundred millions to billions of pesos. That amount of money is not just something that we can easily get.

Let’s now try to dig on some historical account on the effectiveness of contraceptives. During the ’90’s, until the late 2000’s, USAID has supported the Philippines by giving budget to contraceptives costing $3.1M US annually. [11] DoH on its part, has also been giving budget for family planning and responsible parenthood annually. As planned on 2010, Sec. Enrique Ona said that P931M is his budget for family health program where P400M of it will be used to buy contraceptive pills, condoms and injectables. [10]

If I may ask, there already have been efforts already by the government and other organizations about population control and responsible parenthood. But are there any positive changes on the growing population of the country? What I’m saying is, there are already existing efforts and it’s pointing out to saying that contraceptives are not the answer to population control and poverty reduction.

Hence, why is the government giving so much budget and attention to contraceptives and treating them as essential medicines when according to the World Health Organization (WHO) the top ten causes of death in the Philippines are: lower respiratory infections, Ischaemic heart disease, tuberculosis, hypertensive heart disease, perinatal conditions, cerebrovascular disease, violence, diarrhoeal diseases, diabetis mellitus and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. [8] There is not one disease that is related to the use of contraceptives. Why not instead of looking for ways to treat these diseases, the government is focusing on these things? That’s just unfair. According to Atty. Jo Imbong of the CBCP, the primary cause of maternal death is pneumonia. [18] Were they able to put the cure for pneumonia an essential medicine for the mothers?

Rep. Liwayway Chato has a point in saying that the bill is not applicable at most cases for couples. She says that what if the couple wanted to have intercourse at that particular time, would the girl care to say stop and let’s go to a baranggay and ask for a condom? [18]

Legal Issue

Eric Manalang, President of the Pro-Life Philippines, says that the main source of the RH bill didn’t come from Philippine legislators. The RH bill was initiated by the US as a form of aggression to preserve resources for America. [20] Atty. Imbong points to the same thing. She further states that the country has accepted the idea of Reproductive Health as discussed in the international context which involves abortion. Although the bill doesn’t explicitly say abortion, it adapts the idea without even scrutinizing it properly. Thus, during international meetings about it, no Philippine delegation was present. [18]

During an interview with Tomas Osias, executive director of the Commission on Population, he admitted that the bill might involve abortion. Later on he apologized for saying such, for he was pressured. Benjamin De Leon, professor at UP and the president for Forum for Family Planning & Development Inc, says that abortion is just a definition of term. But if we’re to apply the definition, we are killing already. [19] Both the former and the latter are pro-RH and have been involved with meetings and fora about the bill.

For this matter, there may be some grey area whether or not abortion is present in the bill implicitly. That’s because both the church and the pro-RH have different definitions of start of life. But what we know is that abortion is killing. Abortion is bad.

Not using the grey line of abortion, there is one law that overrules the RH bill. And this is Article 15 of the Philippine Constitution. Its excerpt: [17]

Section 1. The State recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation. Accordingly, it shall strengthen its solidarity and actively promote its total development.

Section 2. Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.

This concludes that the bill wanted to be passed is unconstitutional because of human life prevention.

Medical Issue

The bill states that contraceptives are defined as essential medicines. [1] Aside from pregnancy prevention, it also helps in menstrual disorders like lack of blood, excessive blood, menstrual cramps etc. [12] But in the context of the bill, it seems like these other features are just “added features” because the main premise of the bill is for population control. That’s why I don’t see the point of calling it an essential medicine when your intention is not to get pregnant. Medicine is something you take in order to get well and remove sickness.

Manalang states that when you take a chemical or mechanical is not healthy. [19] Probably that’s right. But what are the effects of contraceptives? According to Medicine.NET, here are some of the side effects: dizziness, headache, lightheadedness, stomach upset, bloating, or nausea, severe depression, groin or calf pain, sudden severe headache, chest pain, shortness of breath, lumps in the breast, weakness or tingling in the arms or legs, yellowing of the eyes or skin. [13] Further research says that it increases carbohydrates in your body. [15] Another research states that contraceptives saturate the gallbladder bile with cholesterol. [14]    

Chato on her part says that the natural state of a woman is to get fertile. In the context of the Reproductive Health, it doesn’t promote reproduction healthy. The bill mainly states in favor for safe and satisfying sex. She further says it is unhealthy. [18]

For my part, you don’t connect maternal problems that are naturally occurring to the problem of population or poverty. It’s a very different case. When they promote the use of contraceptives, they don’t include its negative effects. Now tell me, is that healthy?

Moral Issue

 

Since there is a grey line between the start of life then let us not use that as an argument. A good question to ask is: What is the implication of giving away contraceptives for free to individuals who are not even married and say, college students? What is the implication of giving the law to the hands of the youth to protect them from their parents who are stopping them to have sex and use contraceptives?

Rep. Janette Garin, pointed out that there are 12-15 year old girls whom she assisted to give birth and she said it was pitiful. She also mentioned cases of abortion because of unwanted pregnancies and experiments. [18] But I don’t agree that giving them contraceptives is the answer. On the other hand, I agree with Manalang that these things that Garin mentioned are effects. These already happened because of a cause. Let’s just put it this way. How can you promote responsible parenthood when you morally allow and uphold unmarried couples or individuals have casual sex? I hope we’re at the same page here.

Rep. Luz Ilagan, another pro-RH legislator was asked by Karen Davila if there is an age appropriation when for example a girl would like to have a pill or any kind of contraceptive. She answered that the bill is giving an informed choice. So, if the girl is educated and undergone their seminars then she is free to get what she wants as mandated of their bill [20]

A gun pointed at one’s head

Well, if you don’t believe that it’s God’s will not to follow the RH bill, I’ve given you other reasons why. I still have to go back to the main premise of this bill: What is the cause of poverty? Is it population? In my 21 years of existence in the country, I found that the country is rich full of resources. I found that we have the agriculture and also the brains. But why is it that we’re still in poverty? Again, I think it still boils to corruption and lack of opportunities. Is the problem with corruption and lack of opportunities resolvable? I think so. But not through the RH bill.

You don’t correct a mistake by another mistake. Meaning, Garin’s reasoning that in order to prevent unwanted pregnancy then you should use contraceptives is very incorrect. [18] You should teach them that to prevent unwanted pregnancy (which might lead to abortion, poverty and maternal disorder) is to teach them not to have casual sex and not to have sex and use contraceptives.

Celdran accuses the church of being anti-poor because they protest against distribution of contraceptives for free which targeted the poor. He further says, “Why not rally in 7-11 or Mercury Drug or Forbes Park?” [20] Well, I say that they all have the right to protest not only the church but any taxpayer who works very hard. Why will the government use the people’s money to buy contraceptives to tolerate the libido when in fact what these people need is livelihood? Hence, the government is trying to institutionalize it, mandating its office to provide these services. Isn’t this something to think about?

If allowing unmarried couples and the youth to have access to contraceptives then again, this makes the bill promiscuous and unconstitutional as per Article 15 of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines. [17] In relation to this, Prof. De Leon and Rep. Garin say that Pulse Asia and SWS survey reveal that 9 out of 10 people wanted the bill to be passed. In reply, Manalang said that little noises like surveys are politically motivated. More importantly, he noted that surveys are incomparable to a constitution ratified by at least 76% of the Filipino people. [20]

I agree with Rep. Chato about the importance of people- that people aren’t hindrance to development and are the nation’s investment. [18] The problem lies on opportunities. Once you’ve given opportunities and challenges to people then they will stop thinking about immoral stuff like casual sex. They will think with goals. At the end of the day, the population will reduce naturally.          

References:

Articles

[1] Full text of House Bill No. 5043 (Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008) from http://jlp-law.com/blog/full-text-of-house-bill-no-5043-reproductive-health-and-population-development-act-of-2008/

[2] The RH Bill: A Legislation with Good-Sounding Objectives by Jen Yoro from http://jlp-law.com/blog/full-text-of-house-bill-no-5043-reproductive-health-and-population-development-act-of-2008/

[3] Reproductive health bill: Facts, fallacies by Edcel Lagman  from http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/talkofthetown/view/20080803-152296/Reproductive-health-bill-Facts-fallacies

[4] Church, Palace agree condom not abortifacient from http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/03/30/11/church-palace-agree-condom-not-abortifacient

[5] 2010 World Population Data Sheet from http://www.prb.org/pdf10/10wpds_eng.pdf

[6] Ang panukalang batas na Reproductive Health and Population Development Bill from http://www.popcom.gov.ph/RH%20BILL/Layout%20of%20Q&A%20on%20RH%20Bill%20(for%20inputs%20of%20partners).pdf

[7] POPCOM History from http://www.popcom.gov.ph/about_us/index.html

[8] Mortality Fact Sheet 2006 from http://www.who.int/whosis/mort/profiles/mort_wpro_phl_philippines.pdf

[9] Doctors warn DOH on contraceptives from http://ph.news.yahoo.com/doctors-warn-doh-contraceptives.html

[10] DoH Sets P400 Million for Contraceptives by Hannah L. Torregoza from http://www.mb.com.ph/node/280901/doh-

[11] US keeps hands off RH row by Alcuin Papa from http://philippines.usaid.gov/newsroom/us-keeps-hands-rh-row

[12] Oral Contraceptives from http://www.medicinenet.com/oral_contraceptives/article.htm

[13] Medical Uses of the Oral Contraceptive Pill from http://www.youngwomenshealth.org/med-uses-ocp.html

[14] Effects of oral contraceptives on the gallbladder bile of normal women from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1244533

[15] Some effects of oral contraceptives on carbohydrate metabolism from http://journals.lww.com/obgynsurvey/Citation/1967/04000/Some_Effects_of_Oral_Contraceptives_on.39.aspx

[16] Effects of Oral Contraceptives from http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.pa.09.040169.002051?journalCode=pharmtox.1

[17] 1987 Philippine Constitution from http://www.chanrobles.com/article15family.htm

 

Videos

[18] Strictly Politics: Reps. Janette Garin, Liwayway Chato and Atty. Jo Imbong from http://www.youtube.com/user/casarnold

[19] Headstart: Eric Manalang and Benjamin De Leon from http://www.youtube.com/user/neilmarion

[20] Headstart: Carlos Celdran and Rep. Luz Ilagan from http://www.youtube.com/user/neilmarion

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