This is Part 2 of my series of blog entries regarding my thoughts on the Reproductive Health Bill. I thought of putting down into recorded words my thoughts on the matter as a way of fulfilling my accountability to the public.
Some people advised me not to be so public about my thoughts since the issue is a highly charged political question. Some “political experts” even told me that the best position to take in this controversial discussion is to be vague so as not to agitate either side of the debate. They also said if I write down my thoughts, there wouldn’t be a way for me to weave my way out of a situation that I might get into.
But isn’t that contrary to having accountability as a public official? Don’t I have the obligation to clearly state what my position is on the matter and explain why it is so? On important discussions where ultimately I will have to take a vote, isn’t the public entitled to know what my considerations on the subject are?
Anyway, at the risk of drawing the wrath of certain sectors, I decided to put on record what I think of the issue at hand. So I started Part 1 and posted it. Since I knew that my thoughts on the matter were quite lengthy, I intentionally cut up the whole thing into a series of entries.
I already had in mind what I will write down for Part 2 and how to present it. But a reaction from someone who read my Part 1 compelled me to amend my Part 2 and conform it to the reaction posted by the reader, who goes by the Multiply name of romanza2005.
(For those who have not read the reaction of romanza2005, please refer to my entry entitled My Take on the Reproductive Health Bill—Part 1)
First of all, romanza2005 worries about “undertones” in the blog entry I made. She even “takes offense” at the story of Grace, a constituent of mine.
I think it is incorrect to start a discussion based on undertones because there is no basis to that argument since undertones are merely perceptions of the reader. It cannot be said that such perceptions are the thoughts or intent of the writer. One would have to take what is written at face value, especially if the way the thoughts are written are straightforward and simple in presentation.
With regard to the story of Grace which romanza2005 feels there are undertones, it is clear to anyone who will objectively read it that I simply related the situation where Grace is in right now. That she has four children and one more on the way. That if she was able to stop having kids after her second child, she would have not gotten herself pregnant for a third, fourth and fifth child.
There was absolutely no suggestion whatsoever that she should “get rid” (as romanza2005 put it) of any of her children. IT was a narration of Grace’s desire to have limited her children if only she had the chance. Obviously, she did not contemplate abortion or getting rid of any of her children since she still has her first four kids and that she is now pregnant and will give birth soon. If she had wanted to “get rid” of any of her children, she could have availed the services of an abortionist , a hilot or patronized the “pang-pa regla” vendors beside
I do not see why romanza2005 is offended by a simple narrative of another person’s desire. After all it is Grace’s desire, and she is not imposing her desire or belief on anyone else.
My point in relating that story was to highlight the fact that there are those who desire to limit their children in accordance to what they can afford but there are no reproductive health services available for them. And while some sectors are pushing for the natural family planning method, NFP is not applciable to everyone, especially in cases where one of the partners is not willing or incapable of following the method.
Romanza2005 is correct in pointing out that Grace’s alcoholism is a problem. Because of his alcoholism, NFP is not applicable to them since Grace’s husband is incapable of waiting for the right time to lay with Grace especially when he goes home drunk. Romanza2005 is also correct when she suggested said : “If the Congressman really cares about the Filipino family and their 'quality' of life, why doesn't he help the community by counseling the people on their addictions - whether it's substance abuse like alcoholism, or gambling, or excessive shopping”.
It is obvious that she doesn’t know me personally and the work that I do in my district because if she did, she would know that in the community work that I do for my constituents, I integrate values formation and promotion of responsible parenthood, citizenry, and Christian living.
Even before I became congressman, I was already doing community work in these urban poor areas in my district, particularly the informal settler communities along the railroad tracks. In the seven years that I have been congressman of Muntinlupa, I have consistently gone to the grassroots as part of the social preparation for their eventual relocation out of the railroad tracks.
Unlike traditional politicians who would tell informal settlers that they will not be removed from where they are squatting, I went against the grain and convinced them that the best way for them to attain a better way of life is for them to be relocated. And the more challenging aspect of that is to convince them the relocation site will not be given to them free but they will have to pay monthly amortizations (although at an extremely low cost). Part of that social preparation is to teach them that instead of spending their money on booze, cigarettes or gambling, they should learn how to save and only spend for the basic needs of their families.
I must beg the indulgence of the readers if I had to wave my own flag a bit---but I think the statement which questions the work I do in my district by someone who obviously is speaking from a lack of information needs to be put in the right perspective.
Once again, romanza2005 is correct when she extolled the virtues of the Natural Family Planning Method. Nobody is disputing the fact that NFP is effective, if, as romanza2005 put it, “if couples learn to communicate, sacrifice and abstain from sex until a later time when the woman is infertile”
The key word in her statement that NFP works is IF. Because it is an affirmation of my position that NFP is only effective and applicable in situations where both the man and the woman are willing and able to use that method. What about situations where there is no mutual cooperation?
Which brings us back to the case of Grace. How can NFP work for them? Romanza2005 suggests that we cure Grace’s husband of his alcoholism first. It doesn’t take an alcohol rehab expert to tell us that curing alcoholism does not take place overnight. More so to teach him and Grace how to communicate. Even if it was to be provided free by the government, it would take a lot of time and effort to cure him. In the meantime, he will still be laying with Grace once in a while even during her fertile days….
To anyone who has really spent time in the urban poor communities, it is common knowledge that many of the men drink not because they developed from social drinkers to habitual drunks, but because it is their escape from the daily struggles they face in life. It is their way of forgetting their troubles, a way of enabling themselves to go home and sleep and avoid looking their waiting families in the eyes because it reminds them of their responsibility to provide. But the harsh reality is they are unable to do make ends meet. So liquor becomes the convenient escape.
Romanza2005 is once again correct in saying that proposed Reproductive Health Bill will not solve the problem. It is not seen by the proponents to be the miracle drug that will cure society’s complex problem. But it offers a solution that, when combined with others, will give the struggling Filipinos the ability to deal with the multi-faceted problems that they face.
Another suggestion by Romanza2005 is for Government to “train counselors and psychologists that can help these families overcome domestic abuse, alcoholism, debt”. A good proposition. In fact, government does have counselors and psychologists. But unfortunately, the number of families in such circumstances are so numerous and widespread around the country. It is unfortunate that the Government cannot afford to hire enough counselors and psychologists to cater to all these families. Right now, the Government’s priority is to hire more teachers who will teach the increasing number of students who attend public schools. It is a number that increases dramatically every year.
Romanza2005 got it wrong when she said the bill doesn’t mention abortion. It does. The bill categorically says that abortion remains illegal in the country. It reiterates the position that government will not allow abortion and neither do any of the bills sponsors and supporters espouse the legalization of abortion. Once again, it will be erroneous to insist on an interpretation that the bill will open the doors towards the legalization of abortion.
What the bill provides, however, is a policy of non-discrimination against the treatment of those who underwent illegal abortion.
It is a sad fact that even though the law prohibits abortion and society basically disapproves abortion, there are women who, faced with an unwanted pregnancy, avail themselves of the services of an illegal abortionist. This despite the very strong position of religious groups, society and the law against abortion. We simply cannot predict the confused and disillusioned pregnant woman who is scared of the stigma of a teenage or unwanted pregnancy if she decides to go to an illegal abortionist. AT this present time, it cannot be denied that there are those who offer and there are those who avail of this illegal service.
But matters are made worse when institutions or health practitioners aggravate the stigma of an illegitimate pregnancy terminated by an illegal practice when they refuse to give service to someone who has been in such unfortunate situations. Some get away with it without incident, but some also encounter post-illegal abortion complications. Where do these victims go to for care?
The absence of a policy on Reproductive Health, which includes post-abortion complications, denies these women the health care they rightfully deserve, and even aggravates the condition they are in. Many have even succumbed to such complications, which in the end results in the loss of life of not only of the baby, but of the mother as well.
There is no disagreement that the Natural Family Planning Method should be taught to the people. Romanza2005 even said that “the country would be better off by infusing every high school with lessons on The
What the bill proposes is to provide the people with the correct information on all the methods that are safe and effective for family planning. Ultimately, it will be the choice of the couple which method to follow, in accordance to their beliefs, convictions and acceptance. The bill does not prescribe any specific method to be imposed on anyone. It only provides for the availability of correct information and the services that couples decide to avail of.
It is incorrect to think that the bill will set aside the NFP method and only allow modern methods. Romanza comments that “The proposed policy on reproductive health as endorsed by the Congressman, though in rhetoric may sound 'well-intentioned' doesn't address the issue of abstinence and the importance of monogamous relationship, so no wonder one can't help but to question its ulterior motives.”
The bill does not need to prescribe abstinence because it is not the intention to prescribe a specific method to anyone. The simple language of the bill only prescribes the availability of correct information on reproductive health and the various methods of family planning. Although not stated, it includes NFP, abstinence, values education for monogamous relationships, and modern family planning methods.
The language of the bill is simple. It doesn’t prevent the promotion of monogamy and abstinence. The insistence on ulterior methods is misplaced.
There is one statement of romanza2005 which puts the blame on the incidence of teenage pregnancies on parents. She said “These teenage pregnancies could've been avoided if the parents taught them that sex should be between a husband and a wife..These teenage pregnancies could've been prevented if the parents taught their children to delay gratification, to wait, sacrifice, etc....”
I fully agree with romanza2005 that parents have the responsibility of teaching their children moral values and the correct attitude towards sex and pre-marital sex. There is no argument against that. Unfortunately, sometimes even the parents themselves have a wrong set of values when it comes to sex. They can’t teach their children about pre-marital sex because they themselves are involved in extra-marital sex. What moral values would you expect from such?
And what about the role that society plays? How many responsible and upright parents have had to face their son or daughter who engaged in pre-marital sex which bore fruit? What kind influence does society play in those situations?
That is why I am wary of studies on this matter that were undertaken in another country. Because there are differences in culture, traditions, practices, norms, values, and even legal frameworks which may have contributed to what the findings of the studies are. What we need are studies that are done in the Philippine setting so as to put everything in the right perspective.
I arrived at my position on the matter based on first hand, actual experience on how the people live, especially the marginalized sector. While others will insist their points based on studies made in other countries with cultures and societies alien from ours, and arguments that are detached from the real situation on the ground, I rely on what my five senses get from the ground.
If there is any question to my motives, I invite those who doubt to join me and see it for themselves.