BY MARK MERUEÑAS, GMANews.TV
10/15/2008 | 07:53 PM
MANILA, Philippines - Fears that the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill would only foster a new venue for corruption should not deter lawmakers from passing the measure, a former National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) official said Wednesday.
"[RH bill critics] refuse to believe that the government can help the poor (who most need family planning). Kasi iniisip nila na kapag ginamit mo iyong pera, mananakaw lang," former NEDA director general Felipe Medalla told GMANews.TV.
The remark came as anti-RH bill groups - aside from waving the immorality flag - have bucked the measure for fear that giving government a separate budget for a reproductive health program could only lead to a misuse of public funds.
This was contested by Medalla who said that the RH Bill or House Bill 5043 is most unlikely to be plagued with corruption since the fund allocated for it would be small compared to other big-budgeted government projects.
"Small time lang naman itong RH Bill para panggalingan ng pera (The RH Bill would command too little a budget to encourage corruption)," he said.
The fears of corruption destroying the RH Bill is a bit overblown, Medalla added.
Benjamin de Leon, president of the Forum for Family Planning and Development Inc (FFPDI), told GMANews.TV that around P2 billion is needed yearly for the RH Bill.
Why not RH bill?
Medalla said if the government could spend billions of pesos to fund public works and fertilizers, why should it think twice on a relatively smaller budgeted RH Bill.
The former NEDA official was referring to past controversial government deals namely the P200-million double insertion mess and the P729 million fertilizer fund scam.
Asked where the government could save more money, Dr Luis Garcia - medical director of the Friendly Care Foundation - said distributing contraceptives would be cheaper than campaigning for natural family planning.
"Nagmumukha lang walang pera sa natural family planning kasi wala kang nakikitang supply. Puro footwork at talking lang," Garcia said.
He said a bigger budget would be spent in mobilizing volunteers who would educate families about natural family planning methods. These would include training, allowance, and transportation expenses that could be incurred along the way.
Meanwhile, in artificial methods of family planning, all the government should do is distribute contraceptives like condoms, pills, and IUDs, Garcia added.
Medalla, De Leon, and Garcia all spoke during a forum in Quezon City that revealed the results of the latest Social Weather Station (SWS) survey which showed seven out of 10 adults agree there should be a law mandating the government to distribute legal contraceptives.
Proponents of the RH bill in the House have already expressed delight over the results of the FFPDI-commissioned SWS survey, saying that these figures validate the fact that the public is open to the idea of the government stepping in to remedy the countrys supposed population problem.
Some pro-life personalities slamming the reproductive health bill have insisted the country is not really suffering from a population crisis and that family planning through artificial methods would not rid the country of poverty.
Supporters have already admitted that a tough battle still lies ahead of them despite the SWS survey, saying they are up against a much intense and more organized critics, led by the Church.
Still, FFPDI advocacy officer Chi Laigo Vallido remained confident that the SWS study would still have a bearing in shaping public opinion and influencing decision-making by the countrys lawmakers.
"Sige, gamitin niyo ang survey na ito pagbalik ng session sa Congress," Vallido said during the population development forum. Congress goes back in session in November 10.
Plenary debates on the RH Bill were earlier set aside to give way to the 2009 budget deliberations. A counterpart bill is pending committee approval at the Senate.
Aside from family planning, the bill also tackles other reproductive health issues like abortion, maternal deaths, child nutrition, reproductive system-related infections, RH awareness among the youth, and even violence against women.
Contrary to popular belief, the measure promotes both natural and modern methods of family planning.
Numbers of volunteer workers, midwives, and skilled attendants deployed in communities across the country are also sought to be augmented with the RH Bill.
- Mark Merueñas, GMANews.TV