Clara Rita "Claire" A. Padilla, JD
Telefax: (+632) 3762578
Manila, February 22, 2009 --Attorney Clara Rita A. Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights, said, “We are calling on the Congress to the pass the reproductive health care (RH) bill into law in this present Congress and not later. She said senators and congresspersons should show their full support to the RH bill to manifestly express their political will.”
“The 2008 national and Manila City surveys of the Social Weather Stations both confirm that majority of Filipinos want the RH bill passed into law, 71% and 86%, respectively. Politically, it is popular for legislators to support the RH bill. With these statistics, a clear support for the RH bill increases the possibility of winning a seat in the coming 2010 elections. More and more voters are keeping tab,” Atty. Padilla added.
The national and Manila City surveys even show that majority of Catholics want the RH bill passed into law (71% and 85%, respectively). The recent walk-out of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) during the Senate Technical Working Group meeting only shows that the CBCP is not responsive to the needs of the Filipinos—Catholics included,” Atty. Padilla added.
In reaction to the CBCP’s statement saying that they will campaign against the reproductive health care bill pending in Congress, Atty. Padilla emphasized, “CBCP’s stance on the reproductive health care bill is detrimental to women’s reproductive rights.”
Atty. Padilla said, “The recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) findings on Manila City reflect the sentiments and needs of Manila residents. CBCP is completely disregarding the needs of Manilans and this is detrimental to the lives and well-being of Filipino families especially the poor residents of Manila City.”
“The SWS survey clearly showed the correlation between large family size and the very basic problem of hunger that the family experiences. The CBCP should instead heed the call of Manilans avowing for the need for reproductive health services, the enactment of a law protecting their reproductive rights, and for sexuality education,” continued Atty. Padilla.
“As can be seen in the survey, the residents of Manila want the reproductive health care bill passed into law. The poor of Manila took the brunt of former Mayor Atienza’s policy under EO 003 (Series of 2000) by restricting their access to contraceptives. And they are still feeling the impact of such restrictive policy even now under Mayor Lim’s term since the Office of the Mayor is not providing funding to buy free contraceptives for Manila residents. The impact of such a policy is especially felt by poor women who cannot even afford to buy a 25 peso kilo of rice for their families,” stressed Atty. Padilla.
“In my work with the community women from Tondo, I interviewed women who wanted to undergo ligation during Atienza’s term but they were completely denied access by the local public hospitals. They were told that such services were prohibited because Manila was ‘pro-life’. Now, under Mayor Lim’s term, we asked the Family Planning Services of the Manila Health Department for a measly P5250 to cover medications of 35 poor women who wanted to undergo ligation and we were flatly told that they did not have the funds. These are clear incidents of denial of women’s access to reproductive health care,” added Atty. Padilla.
“With political will and heeding the call of Manila residents, Mayor Lim should quickly overturn former Mayor Atienza’s policy. Otherwise, in the coming 2010 elections, he might suffer the same fate that Atienza had in the last elections,” Atty. Padilla pointed out.
Atty. Padilla stressed that, “The impact of the lack of reproductive health information and access to health care services is grave especially to poor women who do not have money to pay for their own contraceptive supplies and for counseling from private doctors.”
“The impact of such restrictive policies is also pervasive and damaging to the lives and health of adolescent girls. I have interviewed an adolescent who, due to lack of access to sexuality education and lack of access to reproductive health information and services, already had six children at the very young age of 21. There were also many adolescents who started childbearing at 14-18 years of age and continued childbearing successively,” continued Atty. Padilla.
“If we have a comprehensive reproductive health care law, we will not have these restrictive policies in place. We will have more women having access to sexuality education and reproductive health information and services,” says Atty. Padilla.
It is the obligation of the Philippine government as cited in the 2006 Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Concluding Comments on the Philippines to “strengthen measures aimed at the prevention of unwanted pregnancies, including by making a comprehensive range of contraceptives more widely available and without any restriction”; “give priority attention to the situation of adolescents and that it provide sex education, targeted at girls and boys, with special attention to the prevention of early pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.”
“Our representatives in Congress must realize that our very own Constitution states that, ‘Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.’ Elected officials must be reminded that they are mere representatives of the Filipino people and that their obligation is to the Filipino people and not to the Catholic Church and its bishops who are against the passage of the bill into law,” said Atty. Padilla.
“Elected officials must respect plurality in our society. They must uphold access to reproductive health information and health care services and give primary importance to a person’s right to reproductive self-determination. Our legislators should immediately pass a comprehensive reproductive health care law. That’s what we need.” Atty. Padilla added.